This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect Chapter Approved 2018 changes.
Imagine turning down the opportunity to pilot an advanced battlesuit like the Riptide or Broadside because you’re too much of a badass for one robot to contain? That’s exactly what you have with the case of a Cadre Fireblade (CFB). Forgoing prestige and any hope of further advancement, CFB’s are valued as experienced veterans and force multipliers in the fluff. Lucky for all the T’au players out there they certainly live up to that role on the tabletop as well. The CFB is an affordable HQ choice and one that you’ll find yourself taking multiples of.
Cadre Fireblades come stock with a markerlight (36″ Heavy 1), pulse rifle (30″ Rapid Fire 1 S5 AP0 D1) and photon grenades (12″ Grenade D6). I can take up to two Tactical Drones (Markerlight, Shield, or Gun Drones).
Special abilities include For the Greater Good (FtGG) and Volley Fire. We have mentioned FtGG before and will often. It allows units within 6″ of a charged unit to fire overwatch as if they were the target of the charge, at the cost of not being able to fire overwatch again that turn. Volley Fire allows <Sept> models within 6″ of the CFB to fire an extra shot with pulse pistols, pulse carbines, and pulse rifles if their target is within half range. Each model receives one additional shot no matter the number of applicable weapons it is equipped with.
Cadre Fireblades are excellent all-around. While it saw no change in CA2018, it didn’t need it and you’ll still take them just as often. They will reinforce the backbone of your army (presumably Firewarriors) through the dedicated, reliable markerlight support as well as through the Volley Fire ability. Any CFB will be hitting their markerlight on 2’s providing he doesn’t move but put him in the Sa’cea sept and he’ll be hitting 97% of the time thanks to the Sa’cea reroll. Want a more mobile gun line? Have the CFB move forward with your Strike team that will still result in it hitting its markerlight 88% of the time while each member of your Pulse Rifle wielding Strike Team is firing 3 shots a model while at half range (18″ with Bork’an sept). Should you go with the aforementioned Sa’cea sept for the CFB, you’ll be able to utilize the 2CP Orbital Marker Distribution Uplink stratagem to automatically place markerlights on any unit the CFB has line of sight one.
You’re hearing me throw out several ideas for what septs benefit the CFB most, which is all well and good – but remember that the CFB has to be in the same <sept> to benefit the surrounding units, i.e. Strike Team. Most of the notable T’au abilities are “sept-locked” and Volley Fire is no exception. When running multiple-sept lists, always 1) have your different septs clearly marked for both your and your opponent’s benefit and 2) make sure the sept-locked abilities are well tracked.
The <Infantry> keyword helps give the T3 model some much-needed beefiness thanks to easily benefitting from cover (thus saving on a 3+ to AP0 attacks) while the <Character> keyword and proper positioning ensure that it will be unshootable most of the time. If you’re really concerned, take a couple of Shield Drones to help pawn off any sniper wounds to the drones via Savior Protocols.
Should you find yourself more in danger of being assaulted, remember that the CFB has photon grenades as is the perfect candidate to use them through FtGG rule. Versus the prospects of having to hit and then successfully wound with the two shots from the pulse rifle or hit with the single markerlight, choosing to throw the D6 Grenade can often time make more tactical sense, given that it confers a -1 To-Hit for the remainder of the turn if the charging unit is <Infantry>. This combined with the fact that Volley Fire ability works even in overwatch, and you can potentially kill off some charging forces and then survive to the next turn against some lighter assault forces.
One other point to mention is that the CFB makes for an excellent candidate for the Puretide Engram Chip relic, which lets you roll a D6 each time a stratagem is used and, on a 6, you gain a CP. It’s not quite as good as some of the other options out that *cough cough* Astra Militarum, but it still a good tool and a relic that you’ll end up taking most games. Since several of the other relics require the <Battlesuit> keyword directly or indirectly by requiring a weapon on they can take, any Commanders you have will usually already be spoken for relic-wise. That leaves the CFB a prime candidate to hold one.
The best way to counter a Cadre Fireblade is to kill it and if you can get into close combat against one, you won’t find much resistance. It does have five wounds and a 4+ save, a slight improvement on the Ethereal, but offers no melee competency for retaliation. A Cadre Fireblade will be quite happy to stand still in cover next to an objective for the entire game, so don’t give it that opportunity. Toughness 3 also results in a very real threat to dying to moderate Sniper fire, so if you can peel back the shell of inevitable Fire Warriors, drones, etc., or deep strike something into the backfield turn two, you could disrupt the backfield camper. Lastly, negative To-Hit modifiers will make a T’au cry and despite the BS2+, the CFB is no exception. There are definitely ways that a T’au player can mitigate against this, but they are usually costly and not over-aching. By deploying the main targets out of his line of sight, the Cadre Fireblade will have to move to target them and thusly reduce his chance to hit with the <Heavy> weapon.
The T’au Cadre Fireblade is a reliable, affordable HQ choice that can both excel at backfield objective-holding as well as supporting mid-field advances. Left uncontested, it drastically increases the efficiency of nearby troops that can lead to an ungodly amount of dice rolling by the T’au player. A high priority should be given to both protecting or eliminating the CFB, depending on which side of the table you’re on. The optional Tactical Drones that it can take can be helpful at providing a few more drone units on the field without violating the Rule of 3 but do make the T’au player more susceptible to excessive kill points. All in all, the CFB is good enough as what it does to justify its presence in just about every list. Your question, normally, will not be “if” but “how many?”
Will you be running multiple Cadre Fireblades?
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