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Friday, 27 November 2015

Army List: Extreme MSU Tau (a.k.a. Drone-Net ftw!)


One new Formation has just fundamentally changed the way Tau can build competitive army lists: the Drone-Net VX1-0.

The Old Problem

For a long time now, Tau have relied heavily on their super Relic combo: the Command and Control Node, Multi-Spectral Sensor Suite and Puretide Chip. Loading up a Commander or squad leader with this trinity of toys reliably gave one unit of your choice—typically a Crisis or Broadside squad—all the best shooty buffs: Twin-Linked, Ignores Cover, Tank/Monster Hunter. But whilst efficient, this ubiquitous feature of every competitive Tau list (yawn) had two big drawbacks:

  • It forced you to build around one or two big, expensive shooty squads, instead of a more tactically flexible MSU approach
  • It significantly devalued Markerlights and the synergistic aspects of the Faction
The 'new' codex did not change any of this; the super Relic combo persisted unchanged, and the increase in squad size made the pseudo-deathstar approach even more attractive than before.

And then an innocuous handful of Drones came along and changed everything.

The New Solution

The new Drone-Net Formation in the Mont'ka campaign book is pretty easy to overlook; it's just a Formation of four or more Drone squads, and they get +1BS and a few USRs. Nothing as sexy as the Formation of up to nine Riptides, or infinitely re-spawning Piranhas. No, nothing to see here, move along...


But the Drone-Net is actually stealth awesomesauce of the highest calibre. Why? For 56 pts you get four BS3 Marker Drones. That's an average two Markerlight hits per squad per turn—read this as BS5 or Ignores Cover for the unit of your choice every turn. Ok, not bad, but is that really worth 56 pts? For a similar investment you could give a model the super Relic combo and get both boosted accuracy and impact every turn without variability.

Sure, but the super Relic combo only buffs one squad—and you can bet that a competent opponent is going to treat that one buffed squad as target priority numero uno. A couple of on-demand Markerlight hits from one of these Drone squads can be used by any of your units.

Now if you just parachute a Drone-Net into an army list built with your old mindset, then you aren't going to get much value. But what if we fundamentally changed how we built our lists to exploit this new gift?

Extreme MSU Tau

With the disclaimer that this is an intentionally extreme list, and not in any way refined, here we go!
Formation: Drone-Net VX1-0
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
4x Marker Drone [56]
Formation: Rapid Insertion Force
Riptide with Ion, SMS, Early Warning [190]
3x Stealth Suit [90]
Crisis Suit with 2x Fusion [52]
Crisis Suit with 2x Ion, Early Warning [57]
Crisis Suit with 2x Ion, Early Warning [57]
Formation: Rapid Insertion Force
Riptide with Ion, SMS, Early Warning [190]
3x Stealth Suit [90]
Crisis Suit with 2x Fusion [52]
Crisis Suit with 2x Ion, Early Warning [57]
Crisis Suit with 2x Ion, Early Warning [57]
Formation: Rapid Insertion Force
Riptide with Ion, SMS, Early Warning [190]
3x Stealth Suit [90]
Crisis Suit with 2x Fusion [52]
Crisis Suit with 2x Ion, Early Warning [57]
Crisis Suit with 2x Ion, Early Warning [57]
1842 pts
Taking advantage of another new Formation—the hilariously inappropriately named Rapid Insertion Force—we can cover the table in MSU Tau. This list brings a ridiculous 25 units; if nothing else, most armies will find it very difficult to table you! More importantly, it answers opposing unit spam (like double Demi-Company) with a similar quantity of much higher quality individual manoeuvre elements.

If you haven't checked it out yet, the Rapid Insertion Force (lololol) forces the Stealth Suits to deploy, then allows the Riptides and Crisis Suits to no-scatter Deep Strike within 6" as if they had free Homing Beacons. The Riptides and Crisis Suits also get free Twin-Linked on the drop. It's basically a more efficient (and hence more spammable) version of the Retaliation Cadre that featured in my last attempt at MSU Tau (only twelve units? lol).

With nine Drone squads, you will usually have nine buffs (+2BS or Ignores Cover) to hand out per turn amongst your fifteen shooty squads. That is a hell of a lot harder to predict or stop than a single buff-dork babysitting a single big, expensive squad. And it gets better—if you're willing to gamble with your dice, you can spread your Markerlights around even more by using the Split Fire conferred by the Drone-Net on all its members.

The weapon mix for the Crisis Suits can be refined, but at first cut we have this sort of firepower:

  • 3x 1x S8/9 AP2 pie plates (Riptides)
  • 3x 2x S8 AP1 Melta (Crisis)
  • 6x 6x S7 (Crisis)
  • 3x 12x S5 shots (Stealth)
  • 3x 4x S5 Ignores Cover non-LOS (Riptides)
That's pretty respectable, but not beyond a more conventional Triptide build with Broadsides. And thanks to the good old Target Lock you can achieve threat distribution even without a MSU build. But no conventional Tau list achieves damage compartmentalisation like this one.

Podder's Worst Nightmare

And since we're running a whole mess of small units, we don't need to spend 5 pts per model on Target Locks to get threat distribution. Instead, we'll spend those same points giving our shooters Interceptor.

So what? Any Tau build can spam Interceptor, what makes this any different? Again, the marvellous Drone-Net is what makes all the difference: all your Markerlights have Interceptor too.

I'm going to state that again, because it's so damn important: all your Markerlights have Interceptor too.

What do Podders hate the most about facing Tau? Interceptor, obviously. But what gives Podders a fighting chance against Tau? The fact that—until now—Tau had to shoot un-buffed when firing outside their own shooting phase. But now, you can fire all your Markerlights with Interceptor, then follow-up with Ignores Cover S8 AP2 pie plates and mass BS5 S7 dakka, and end some games on turn one. In fact, if you expect to face lots of Podders, you might even want to bring some Crisis Suits with Plasma too, just to really ensure your opponent's entire strategy is fundamentally invalidated. Because you should always go balls-deep.

Conclusion

An extreme army list like this certainly won't resonate with every one, but if you're a seasoned Tau player with a big collection, and you'd like to try something very different in your next tournament, a truly MSU build like this might be what you're looking for. And for everyone else, beware: Tau can now MSU with the best of them, and Podding will never be safe again...

And finally, consider that the Drone-Net makes the Heavy Retribution Cadre a threat to watch out for: tax-free Markerlights plus low-tax Destroyer Missiles is a match made in non-Tau hell.

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