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Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, HQ Units

Let's analyse the HQ options available to Astra Militarum . Like all my reviews, this will be from a competitive play perspective, ...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Army List: Tau Empire 1850 pts All-Suit All-Stars


In advance of my full review of the new Codex Tau Empire, here is a first draft army list of an all-suit build to get you thinking.

Mass Dakka


The combination of Crisis Suit squad size increasing to nine, and the un-limiting of the Cyclic Ion Blaster, have resulted in Tau gaining access to 117% more efficient S7 shooting—as if they needed more! I'm not normally a fan of building around deathstars, but in these early days of the new codex, I don't think you can really go wrong by starting your build with a full-size, full-buff Crisis Suit squad:
XV8 Crisis Battlesuits [682]
Crisis Shas'vre with Command and Control Node, Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite, Puretide Engram Neurochip
8x Crisis Shas'ui with 2x Cyclic Ion Blaster, Target Lock
12x MV7 Marker Drone
Yes, that is a massive 48 S7 AP4 shots per turn, with Twin-Linked, Ignores Cover and Monster/Tank Hunter, that can split their fire eight different ways. Facing a Space Marine double-Demi Company with ten or more vehicles? This single squad can clear the board in a couple of turns without much difficulty. In fact, most vehicle-based armies will simply evaporate in the face of this magnitude of firepower, and normal infantry won't fare much better.


Leadership is a key weakness of this unit (and most Tau), and Drones as ablative wounds can be detrimental in the Morale Checks their deaths will force. Combined with the mediocre resilience of Crisis Suits, investing in this otherwise very tasty unit could be a liability to your army. But luckily Tau do have a suitable tool to mitigate both these weaknesses: Commander Shadowsun. For a reasonable 135 pts you can add Ld10, a pair of split firing melta shots—and most importantly Stealth and Shrouded for a 2++ cover save on the entire unit most of the time.

Destroyer of Worlds

While Tau have no problems ganking most 'normal' targets, hard threats like Knights, Wraithknights, certain deathstars and AV14 can be extremely difficult to answer without compromising the overall strength of your army list. The old solution used to be suicide melta—the new solution is Destroyer Missiles!


A KV128 Stormsurge with Pulse Driver Cannon is only mediocre for its 375 pts—unless you can back it up with sufficient Markerlights to buff its four missiles to D status. But investing in this big expensive guy and a bunch of supporting Markerlights is well and truly worthwhile for the pressure it relieves from the rest of your list when you encounter those hard threats.

Target Acquired

When I first looked through the changes in the new Tau book, I lamented the lack of any newer or better ways to get those invaluable Markerlights on resilient, mobile, efficient platforms. And while this remains strictly true, when I holistically considered list construction for the new Tau I realised that things may not actually be that bad.


A Drone Squad of four Marker Drones costs only 54 pts, can move and shoot (and then move again!) and should score one or two hits per turn—which is actually all you really need just to bump up your BS or confer Ignores Cover. Four non-Scoring Drones represents a fairly low pay-off for your opponent to shoot—especially if they are not built MSU style—and given the rarity of 'kill point' missions these days, there is really no reason not to take a few such squads.

Now this unit is actually no different from the old codex, so why is it now a viable solution? Here are three reasons:

  • Markerlights are now more valuable (due to Destroyer Missiles) making them more efficient for equal cost
  • Three Fast Attack slots are now cheaper to unlock with the 'two-Troops-tax' (Fire Warriors have come down to 45 pts per unit, Drone Sentry Turrets from Imperial Armour Volume 3 Second Edition are only 30 pts per unit)
  • The Fortification slot can be exploited for another Drone Squad by taking the Tidewall Droneport for 60 pts
The Droneport is a great little hidden gem for the new Tau; for only 6 pts more than a squad of four Drones, you get a mobile Fortification with its own squad of four Drones! Put a Fire Warrior squad with a DS8 Support Turret (55 pts for an Objective Secured Smart Missile System with ablative wounds) onboard and float over an Objective, forcing those pesky Windriders to man-up and assault your valiant warriors if they want to steal their prize!


When it comes to quantity, 12 is the 'magic number' of Markerlights that you should be aiming for. Why? Simply because 12 shots at an Invisible or Zooming/Swooping target should result in two hits, which will boost one of your big-hitters back up to their base BS3. Since we have two big-hitters in this list (the Crisis-star and Stormsurge) we want at least 24 Markerlights in the army; 12 go into the Crisis-star for supporting the Stormsurge, and we need at least 12 more elsewhere in the army to support the Crisis-star.

It's looking pretty obvious now that we'll be taking a Combined Arms Detachment to get access to Shadowsun, a tax-free Stormsurge and the Droneport; so at this stage our army is looking something like this:
Combined Arms Detachment: Tau Empire
HQ
Commander Shadowsun [135]
Elites
XV8 Crisis Battlesuits [682]
Crisis Shas'vre with Command and Control Node, Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite, Puretide Engram Neurochip
8x Crisis Shas'ui with 2x Cyclic Ion Blaster, Target Lock
12x MV7 Marker Drone
Troops
Strike Team [55]
5x Fire Warriors
DS8 Support Turret with Smart Missile System
Strike Team [55]
5x Fire Warriors
DS8 Support Turret with Smart Missile System
Fast Attack
Drones [56]
4x MV7 Marker Drone
Drones [56]
4x MV7 Marker Drone
Drones [56]
4x MV7 Marker Drone
Lord of War
KV128 Stormsurge with Pulse Driver Cannon [375]
Fortification
Tidewall Droneport with 4x MV7 Marker Drone [60]
1530 pts
So far we have a very shooty, fairly resilient big Crisis squad and a Stormsurge as our primary manoeuvre elements, with enough Markerlights for mutual support. We also have a couple of backfield Objective holders, one of which has token mobility. However, we have spent 1530 pts to really only get two units that can decisively interact with your opponent. Our last 320 pts must be spent on more interactive elements.

Midfield Presence

Our list has a Gargantuan that likes to sit still in the backfields, a couple of small Scoring squads that want to hide out of LOS where they can still fire their SMS from safety, and a handful of Drone squads that want to skirt maximum Markerlight range to the enemy in order to try and avoid destruction... and then we have a big shooty deathstar with 18" weapons and no hope of surviving melee. This army is simply not going to work unless we can stall an aggressive opponent in midfield.


The ideal midfield presence for this army will get into position faster than the Crisis-star and delay the enemy for at least a couple of turns, to buy your heavy-hitters time to neutralise the bulk of your opponent's threats. Something with Infiltrate will achieve the former, and we need good resilience to achieve the latter. Kroot make a good cheap midfield speedbump, but really can't be expected to delay the enemy for more than one turn. Instead, let's look to the new Optimised Stealth Cadre Formation:
Formation: Optimised Stealth Cadre
XV95 Ghostkeel Shas'vre with Cyclic Ion Raker and Fusion Blaster [140]
2x MV5 Stealth Drone
3x XV25 Stealth Shas'ui with Burst Cannon [90]
3x XV25 Stealth Shas'ui with Burst Cannon [90]
This gives us a couple of units that can Infiltrate (or rapidly move) into midfield cover and force your opponent to assault them to bypass their 2++ cover saves. They screen your Crisis-star and also contribute a healthy quantity of Ignores Cover S5, S7 and melta shooting, that can seriously threaten most vehicles thanks to their special rule that makes all their shots hit rear AV regardless of 'real' facing.

Conclusion

Putting all this together, here is the final list:
Combined Arms Detachment: Tau Empire
HQ
Commander Shadowsun [135]
Elites
XV8 Crisis Battlesuits [682]
Crisis Shas'vre with Command and Control Node, Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite, Puretide Engram Neurochip
8x Crisis Shas'ui with 2x Cyclic Ion Blaster, Target Lock
12x MV7 Marker Drone
Troops
Strike Team [55]
5x Fire Warriors
DS8 Support Turret with Smart Missile System
Strike Team [55]
5x Fire Warriors
DS8 Support Turret with Smart Missile System
Fast Attack
Drones [56]
4x MV7 Marker Drone
Drones [56]
4x MV7 Marker Drone
Drones [56]
4x MV7 Marker Drone
Lord of War
KV128 Stormsurge with Pulse Driver Cannon [375]
Fortification
Tidewall Droneport with 4x MV7 Marker Drone [60]
Formation: Optimised Stealth Cadre
XV95 Ghostkeel Shas'vre with Cyclic Ion Raker and Fusion Blaster [140]
2x MV5 Stealth Drone
3x XV25 Stealth Shas'ui with Burst Cannon [90]
3x XV25 Stealth Shas'ui with Burst Cannon [90]
1850 pts
This list has a total of eleven units, which is not bad for an 1850 pts list but does not really fall into the MSU category; it could be described as a 'hybrid' army, with a couple of big-hitters with MSU support. If played well, this list should perform ok in Maelstrom missions (by Tau standards) and will be quite capable of tabling a lot of opponents with its overwhelming firepower.

Now I know this is not truly an 'all-suit' list—those ten Fire Warriors are quite out of place! But I think this is a good 'suit-heavy' list. The only really feasible way to build a truly all-suit list is to base it on the Retaliation Cadre Formation, but I'll save that for a later post.

Finally, you may have noticed that there is not much in the way of Support Systems in this list—I have taken a 'bodies over toys' approach. But if you were going to build a list like this then you should probably cut one Drone squad to free up the points for a suitable selection of Support Systems; adding Interceptor to a few units is probably a very good idea given the current power of various Imperial Reserve-based lists (Skyhammer, Skitarii Pods, Ravenwing, Raven Guard, etc.)

Stand by for the full codex review in the coming week!

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