Tommy’s T’au Role Review – HQ Section

(or how I figured out there is more than one HQ choice)

Greetings, Shas’la! Last time, I wrote about my experiences on the table top on a local 2-day GT we had, you can find my short form battle reports here!

Today, we’re going to start with the first of the T’au unit reviews, starting with HQ’s! While I’m very excited to share my insights (and Farsights huehuehue) with you, some quick assumptions on my part:

  • Math is important to consider the effectiveness of a unit; this is a dice game after all. However, that will not be an emphasis of my considerations, although I might bring in some basic numbers on occasion in case it is important. My reason is that while what happens on paper and what happens on the tabletop should both be considered, the Dice Gods do not care for averages or statistics, so I’ll leave math to the math peeps and talk about what I see actually happening on the field. This is not to discourage math study; rather, it is important to remember math works best in a contained environment. In a universe with Orks and Tyranids, however, nothing is contained!
  • 8th Edition tactics, in my opinion for T’au, is actually the most based story or fluff-wise in one single sense: everyone working to The Greater Good. T’au cannot function unless you bring an army whose parts compliment all other parts. While Space Marines can bring all-star lone wolf units, Orcs can spam numbers, and Y’narri have amazing (if not broken) rules, T’au have to follow their own creed: all must serve the Greater Good. What this means for my review is that while focusing on a unit, a considerable emphasis I will have on each is what units they work well with, or how you would take them if you’re just starting a list with the unit as the first entry.
  • I’m not going to explain each units rules/abilities unless I’m making a point that might be overlooked, or needs further proof. These articles assume you know the dataslates of the units; my aim is to help show to look beyond that entry and apply it on the field. However, if I seem to miss something, or if you disagree, comment! I relish a discussion.
  • I’m not going into Forgeworld units at the moment. At the end of this series, there will be a forgeworld article containing my thoughts on those. However, in case you’re wondering, Burst Hazard teams are fantastic, so look into those if you have not already. Considering the popularity of the Y’Vharra, I will actually review that unit during the Fast Attack section.
  • I will make a Codex prediction for each unit I talk about. This isn’t to prove how awesome I am when I’m 99% correct. Rather, its to help prepare you for very different list builds and approaches later. For example, I firmly believe that T’au will be very strategem reliant. Practicing building Brigade lists (12 Command Points!) and practicing using them will be key prior to the Codex coming out (…October…please be October…)

With the foundations now laid down by the Earth Caste logician drones, let’s get this party started!

1) Commanders

Commanders; can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

This particular review will be quick. Commanders are simply a fantastic unit. Not just because you can spam the board with Characters that have drones to block shots or take wounds, but because they can fill needs in your list that most other units can’t, or can’t do as well. They are the Swiss-Army knife Crisis Teams should be. Fusion commanders are amazing for assassin or anti-vehicle roles, missile commanders are great at dealing with enemy elites, cyclic commanders can either murder hordes or dish out pain to lighter vehicles, and the list can go on. They are very good at killing whatever you want them to provided they have the necessary support and equipment load-out. In fact, you can find out more about the stats of of their weapon load-outs here!

If you’re not spamming them, you can take a commander as the lynch-pin of your gun-line or deep-strike teams, allowing for a first turn Kauyon (works AMAZING with a hammerhead oriented list), or a retaliatory Mont’ka. Obviously with deep striking you cannot do this the turn you come in, so positioning will be more key in this avenue.

Coldstars are very good commanders as well, and perhaps overlooked due to their constrained load-out. However, throw an ATS and a shield generator on this guy and he’s a pretty durable, deadly, and fast moving commander. This will allow you to contest/control objectives with more ease, help be in position to put those last needed wounds on a kill point, or act as the Kauyon-buff giver for your gunline, but then moving to where he’s needed, since his BS will be good enough where the rerolls shouldn’t matter for him.

Codex Prediction: based on the 7th Edition signature systems which will most likely turn into Relics, Commanders won’t be nerfed or price bumped (I hope) but rather given access to these relics that brings back the “BuffMander” concept, allowing other units to be brought in more effectively (e.g. Command and Control node could be a relic allowing nearby units to re-roll 1’s, or Multi Spectrum Suite could grant nearby units’ weapons the ability to Ignore Cover saves. Crisis bomb could live again…)

2) Ethereals

I mean, they did kind of prevent self-extinction…

Ethereals instantly got better in 8th due to the character rule, and that they don’t give up a game point when killed. As opposed to the T’au Commander, they can use their Elemental Invocation ability each turn, and each Ethereal can do so regardless if another is invoking too and they can even affect the same units (although no language allows for stacking similar bonuses). Further, their ability affects units regardless of what Sept they are from, while commander’s only affect their related Sept. This will be important to consider once the codex comes out, and if different Septs have different bonuses (like Chapter Tactics).

Ethereals really shine when you have a considerable amount of infantry, or static gunline strategy. Consider running them in an infantry heavy list, whether you have a static gunline behind an Aegis, in a Skyshield pad, or a mobile infantry gunline in Devilfish transports. For mobile gunlines, consider using Zephyr’s Grace or Sense of Stone, whereas Storm of Fire is only helpful if you don’t want to spend markers on the targets of the affected nearby T’au Units (who would have to stand still to get the re-roll 1’s bonus). Calm of Tides will only be helpful most of the time if you’re predicting an assault on your front rank gunline, and need the units to stay in place until your turn and not turn and break.

Ethereals are not as good in a list that is dependent on pinpoint strikes (using Crisis teams) as they are not able to drop nearby them. In addition, in a battlesuit heavy list, they tend to be out paced by the suits (Crisis, Ghostkheels and Stealths) or the suits they are trying to aid get focused very heavily (Broadsides and Riptides, if built incorrectly).

Codex Prediction: Ethereals will have a stratagem or two that increases their effective range, and/or increases the ability of their invocations (e.g. reroll all misses with Storm of Fire, or 5+ FNP on Sense of Stone, or perhaps a guaranteed 6” advance with Zephyr’s Grace, or an auto-pass of morale with Calm of Tides.) Of course, Sept Tactics could also upscale their effectiveness as well.

3) Aun’Shi

The only Ethereal who put his sword where his mind control powers were at

A specifically named Ethereal, this Vior’la Sept character likes to be in close combat. While not necessarily excelling at killing CC oriented characters, he can be useful as a nearby support HQ in a mobile gunline, which more often than not will get assaulted. His ability to deal out wounds to Guard Equivalent units easily could be what you’re looking for if you anticipate dealing with hordes and you need some answer to CC. Not too good for a static gunline or a “backfield counter assault” as he doesn’t quite hit the bigger enemies hard enough to be considered for that role.

Codex Prediction: Vior’la is a Sept known for producing more Fire Warriors than most other Septs, and having a fiery temper amongst T’au from there. If this translates into special Advance rules, or even some kind of bonus to assaulting, Aun’Shi might be a more clear choice for mobile gunlines, as they would then also perhaps be a sort of  “False-Assault” list.

4) Aun’Va

Ba-na-na-na ba-na-na ba-na-na-na SPACE POPE!!!

Aun’Va is the Ethereal Supreme for the T’au (and he’s also dead now, but we don’t know about that.) In essence he is a more durable Ethereal with almost twice the wounds, and the ability to be unphased by high AP attacks (due to Paradox of Duality). His abilities essentially allow for 3 invocations per turn, as Supreme Loyalty allows for board wide morale re-rolls (a better version of Calm of Tides) as well as two more invocations that he can do each turn.

If you find yourself bringing two Ethereals, it might be worth paying the extra 30 points and paying for Aun’Va as one of them,or replacing both of them with him depending on the range you need. Follows all the ideas mentioned previously for Ethereals, except he’s better at them.

Codex Prediction: I could see an old ruleset arise again where T’au Sept characters are not allowed in a detachment with Farsight Enclaves (or even army which could be worse). This could potentially affect list building drastically. However, I doubt this will happen, and more likely than not he’ll be subject to any Sept or Strategem rules that affect Ethereals, with no specific call-outs to him.

5) Cadre Fireblade

Seriously, any guy who voluntarily says “no” to a battlesuit must be hard as nails

Cadre Fireblades are a fantastic HQ choice for the Cadre-minded. While most people look to their Volley Fire rule and bring them for that, they’re also a markerlight that hits on 2’s, 3’s if they move, making them viable markerlight support for a mobile gun-line. Very cost effective as well, but subject to the Sept rules for his abilities. Lastly, he;s equipped withe the often overlooked Photon Grenades, as most commanding infantry types are, which makes enemy Infantry hit at -1 in CC, giving much needed anti charge (provided you hit a single 6 on your D6 Grenade attacks in overwatch.)

Codex Prediction: I don’t imagine there will be much change to the approach or utility of the Cadre Fireblade, unless its done to the units that he normally supports. However, I could see a single strategem being dedicated to whether or not you have a Cadre Fireblade on the field.

6) Darkstrider

OK so he doesn’t have a rail rifle…but it’d be freakin’ awesome if he did

Darkstrider is the Pathfinder Extraordinaire; he has a marker light that, like the Cadre Fireblade, hit’s on 2’s and 3’s if he moves, and is also equipped with Photon Grenades. However, for only 3 more points, he trades the Volley Fire ability for the Vanguard ability (allowing him to position without worsening his ballistic abilities first turn), and the Fighting Retreat ability AND the Structural Analyzer. Fighting retreat allows all nearby infantry to fire even after falling back (giving even more of your army the FLY rule, and paired well with an Ethereal with Sense of Stone who allows more longevity for your infantry). In addition, the analyzer allows the weakening of the toughness of a target that is fired at by a single friendly unit (making Rail Rifle Pathfinder teams a bit more terrifying, albeit expensive and easy to pick off). While pairing him with Breachers in a Devilfish is a very intuitive combo, the effectiveness of that is difficult to pull off, and should only be used if you feel confident you will use it to you advantage no matter what the game or the opponent.

Codex Prediction: Darkstrider will get better if the units he goes well with get better. If Breachers or Strikers get a Sept tactic or a stratagem that increases their effectiveness, Darkstrider will become a more obvious choice. If Broadsides or Sniper Drones gain the INFANTRY keyword (which I doubt) then helllllloooooo broadside/sniper-esque team!

7) Longstrike

He actually landed a role in Minority Report, but joined the army instead

Longstrike is probably the second or third best HQ unit at the moment. His ability to buff other T’au Sept Hammerheads (and himself per the most recent T’au Warhammer 40k FAQ) makes an already good heavy support unit even better. Not to mention his Tank Ace ability means he adds a 1 to each wound roll against MONSTER and VEHICLE units. You should always bring Smart Missile Systems on him. For an extra 22 points, you have the ability to hit AIRBORNE planes on 2’s and wound on 4’s. This could be key to shutting down key enemy vehicles, especially with other friendly Hammerheads nearby. While the Ion Gun is a heavy damage dealer, range is something the T’au use better then most, so I recommend the Rail Gun, fickle as it may be occasionally. Be prepared to face the wrath of the Dice Gods however; save a command point in the shooting phase to re-roll his missed shot (you should have it marked, but understandable if not), his missed wound (more likely if you wound on a 1 with his rail gun), or his damage roll. This is however made up by the fact that 30% of the time he is dealing a Mortal Wound to his target if it’s a VEHICLE or MONSTER. Also, even though he can be targeted, he’s pretty tough at T7 and 13 Wounds, and you can bring Bodyguard Crisis suits to intercept damage for him (since he is a Character after all).

Codex Prediction: Any stratagem or Sept Rule that makes Hammerheads better will make Longstrike even more so. Not much to say aside from that.

8) Shadowsun

Raven Guard might have -1 to hit at 12″, but we killed a Chapter Master. 

Shadowsun is a solid HQ. At -1 to hit for her and her command drones, the ability for MV52 Shield Drones to have a 5+ FNP after intercepting a wound, her double fusions, and her ability to potentially call Kauyon twice, she is the best choice for a static gun line commander if you have the points. While she won’t be able to handle melee combat well if you have enemy deep strike assault units, she can potentially melt a fool or two that gets too close (although the D6 damage is a bit wasted on 1-2 wound units). My only real issues with her are that her drones are easily targeted and killed, meaning that her Command Drone (which she comes stock with and which allows her to give one T’au unit re-roll 1’s) is easily dispatched, removing a whole special rule she has. While I could see a list being oriented around her with Stealth teams and similar advance units, it would be difficult to exercise that list against most enemy lists.

Codex Prediction: if she drops in points, gains another good special rule due to the T’au Sept, or if her drones gain the Character special rule, she will be a much more viable option. Especially if paired with her fellow student of Puretide….

9) Shas’O Vior’la Shovah Kais Mont’yr

The only character people respect of T’au; the only character T’au players want to be

You’re Aun’Damned right I used the full name! Commander Farsight is a solid character; full of strife, rebellious tendencies, and tactical brilliance, he is a very cool character in the grimdark as a whole.

How does this translate on the tabletop? I’ll tell you: he is the best commander T’au have.

The reason why is because of several minor things that, paired together, make him the only version of a Buffmander we have now. If you build a gun line, a false gun line (where half of your detachment is bait to enemy units and fire but with infiltrators or deepstrikers being the teeth), or a crisis drop list, he can be a commander that assists in any of those roles. Consider the gunline approach: you have an opponent you are a bit scared of if he goes first, so you deploy behind cover with key elements of your gunline. Whether he goes first or not, you Mont’ka out of cover and move further (with advancing) and fire at your normal ballistic skill. While target priority will determine the effectiveness of this, it allows you the benefit of taking advantage of an opponent who didn’t take as much caution as you did. Or let’s say you’re not afraid of your opponent going first. As he approaches, or if  you go first, you declare Kauyon, and fire away with ruthless abandon.

In any of the four scenarios, you now have another Mont’ka which you can use. A Mont’ka that can allow you to advance and fire or fall back and fire.

This is key due to the new movement and shooting mechanics that 8th edition Warhammer 40k has. The most effective T’au weapons are longer ranged, but suffer more often than not when they are moving. A commander who allows for re-rolls and ignoring those penalties (potentially twice) does more for their army than a commander who in concert with others of the Monat style of spam focuses down a single threat up close with Cyclic Ions or fusions. While they only rely on themselves and help themselves, Farsight can aid an entire detachment. Lastly, said detachment gets to re-roll 1’s against Orks all the time, which could come in handy.

His close combat abilities allow him to handle up close and person enemies as well; should a Scion squad, Raptor Sternguard, or Genstealer squad come too close for comfort for Farsight, he can heroically intervene or he can charge on his turn (while still giving a buff to others he might not care to use for himself), and make mincemeat of them. Granted, he’s not taking out Gulliman (although maybe a Broodlord…) but he is able to punish most who come too close. The only unfortunate thing is that while we envision Farsight dropping from the sky with Crisis suits for days, that strategy is not quite as effective against all lists in a form of “come one come all” style of build. Crisis suits are a tad overpriced at the moment (a tad mind you) and don’t quite have the ballistic skill to back up their price. But, that might not always be the case!

Codex Prediction: Whether or not Farsight Enclaves get the same separation treatment as they have in the past, a combination of relics, special Enclaves rules, and potential Crisis Team bonuses via role change (whether as a Troops unit a la Chaos Specific Marines like Beserkers or Noise Marines) or price drop (which I sadly doubt) will allow for a Battlesuit Spearhead to be a viable option. Further, there’s a damned decent chance that the Eight might be viable again, and with the disappearance of formations, it is more likely you’ll be able to choose the companion of Farsight you require for your efficient list. Further, since relics are free for the first and only of your list (per other codexes that have come out), the Talisman of Arthas Moloch could allow you to deepstrike a whole Crisis detachment within reach of Pskyers without fear, or use the MirrorCodex to gain advantages over any faction you play against (oh yea that tome he wrote because he figured out how Gulliman’s Codex Astartes worked, no big deal), or perhaps a stratagem that allows for a decent amount of deep striking within 9″, in the same vein (or God willing better) as the Alpha Legion and Raven Guard. Dynamic impact, anyone?

Well I’ve out spoken myself for today. Tune in next week for my Troop Reviews! And if you disagree with me, totally agree and worship my opinion, or want to argue the finer points of chain-restaurant dining, hit me up in the comments! I love a good conversation more than an Ork loves a good WAAAGH!

Thanks you for listening to my humble opinions! For more content about more than just the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy, be sure to check us out at Facebook, our  Twitch channel, and if you’re the truly supporting member of the Greater TFG Good, hit us up on Patreon!

For T’auva!