Guest Tactica by North: Red/Blue Control – 1850 Tau/ Marines List and Tactica

Image courtesy of Librarium Online.

Image courtesy of Librarium Online.

North here with a write up about the list I’ll be running in this year’s GT circuit. I’ll be taking this list to the Feast of Blades Qualifier, TSHFT and maybe a few others.

So let’s look at the list first…

Total Points: 1849

Total: HQ-2.0 E-2.0 Tr-4.0 FA-3.0 HS-3.0 Fo-1.0

(Allies: HQ-1.0 E-0.0 Tr-1.0 FA-0.0 HS-1.0 Fo-0.0)

HQ – Ethereal (1 model) – 62pts

Other Options: Shield Drone

Troop – Kroot Carnivore Squad- Sniper Rounds (10 models) – 70pts

Troop – Kroot Carnivore Squad- Sniper Rounds (10 models) – 70pts

Troop – Kroot Carnivore Squad- Sniper Rounds (10 models) – 70pts

Elite – XV8 Crisis Team (3 models) – 234pts


Crisis Shas’ui (Type 1) – Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, Target Lock, Marker Drone, Marker Drone

Crisis Shas’ui (Type 2) – Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, Velocity Tracker, Shield Drone, Shield Drone

Crisis Shas’ui (Type 3) – Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, Target Lock

Elite – XV104 Riptide (1 model) – 210pts


Weapon1: Ion Accelerator

Weapon2: TL Fusion Blster

Other Options: Early Warning Override, Velocity Tracker, Riptide Shield Generator, Nova Reactor

Heavy Support – XV88 Broadside Team (2 models) – 194pts

2 Broadside Shas’ui (Type 1)

Weapon1: TL Heavy Rail Rifle and TL SMS

Weapon2: Velocity Tracker

Other Options: Missle Drone, Missile drone

Heavy Support – XV88 Broadside Team (2 models) – 109pts

1 Broadside Shas’ui (Type 1)

Weapon1: TL Heavy Rail Rifle and TL SMS

Weapon2: Velocity Tracker

Other Options: Missle Drone, Missile drone

Fast Attack – Pathfinder Team (4 models) 1x Ion Rifle- 54pts

Fast Attack – Pathfinder Team (4 models) – 1x Ion Rifle 54pts

Fast Attack – Pathfinder Team (4 models) – 44pts

HQ (Allies) – Captain Darnath Lysander (1 model) – 200pts

Heavy Support (Allies) – Land Raider Redeemer , MultiMelta(1 model) – 250pts

Troop (Allies) – Space Marine Tactical Squad (8 models) – 153pts

Options: Frag and Krak Grenades – 0pts1 Space Marine Sergeant – power weapon, bolt pistol.

Fortification – Skyshield Landing Pad (Tau) (1 model) – 75pts

About the list

The above list looks a little scattered at first glance, like maybe it’s doing too much so it doesn’t do any one thing quite well enough but as they say the devil is in the details. This list is not built from the point of view of doing something really, really well and crushing your opponent, it’s built from the approach that if you can neutralize an opponent’s strengths you can expose his or her weaknesses. Its like trying to beat a boxer with Akido: you don’t win by a lot of punching and ducking you win by the counter and the killing strike.

This is the “control” approach and is likely familiar to those of you who used to or still do play Magic: The Gathering. The goal of playing control is that you counter all your opponent’s plays, draw a bunch of cards and then when he is out of steam you play some big nasty thing and punch his lights out. So to do this in 40k we need a few key elements.

Elements of Control

  • Advantage
  • Counters
  • Answers
  • Win Condition / Beat Stick

Advantage : Advantage is any resource that lets you do something better than your opponent, or improves something above a base line. This might mean greater volume of fire or buffs from marker lights or Ethereals. The important thing to remember with advantage is that like a night out drinking moderation is the key. You usually only have a finite amount of advantage resources and this means that they need to be spent wisely. What this looks like practically is instead of going for one big giant buff its usually better to spread the buff across as many units as possibly to improve the overall quality of the army or play rather than just one unit. Think of this like “the greater good” marginal improvement over 4 units ends up being worth more than mass improvement of a single unit (usually).

Advantage Units In the Army

  • Ethereal
  • Pathfinders
  • Marker Drones
  • Lysander (Bolter Drill, Reinforce, Stubborn for Marines)

Counters: Counters are anything that removes / reduces the effectiveness of an opponent’s plays. So anything that takes the wind out of his sails is a counter. This would be things that bestow invo saves to units that would normally be om-nom-nommed by a Hell Turkey or Doomscythe. Ignore cover stuff falls here, although it could also be considered an advantage element of control, ignore cover here more than just makes you better; it removes a distinct advantage from your opponent.

Counter Units / Gear in the Army

  • SMS
  • Night Vision
  • Sky Shield
  • Kroot (via deployment options)

Answers: answers are pretty straightforward. These are specialty gear or units that deals with something that normally you would not be able to handle. Melta for AV14, sniper rounds for monstrous creatures, skyfire for flyers, mass shots for hordes, etc.

Answers in the Army

  • 30x Sniper rifles (Monstrous Creatures and nurgle)
  • 5X Melta with 18 inch + range (AV14)
  • 4x Skyfire units (Necrons / Dragon)
  • Up to over 130 shots a turn (depending on range) (Horde)
  • Flamestorm cannons (Horde)
  • STR10 CC Weapon (Everything)
  • 20+ Ap 1-2 shots (Termies)
  • Distributed the Marker lights to improve supporting fire (Assault Armies)

Win Condition / Beat Stick: The win condition is what you strike big grandiose killing blows with. This is something that can go toe to toe or shoot down their 250+ pt HQ, wipe an entire unit out with, etc. You use the win conditions to draw their fire, direct their movement and lay on the hurt in a big way once your opponent has had his momentum stolen by your counter maneuvers and other units.

Win Conditions In the Army

  • Lysander
  • Riptide

How the List Actually Works

So playing this list starts at deployment. Once you have generated your warlord traits for your ethereal

Note: The Ethereal can only get 3 of the 6 Tau traits, all 3 of these warlord traits help

The first step is to identify your opponent’s Threats and Exceptional Threats

Threat: Something that is dangerous but not exceptionally hard to remove/ counter

Bolters against Kroot

Exceptional Threat: Something that is VERY dangerous and hard to remove

Hell Turkey, Doom Scythe

So once we have identified these threats our goal is to neutralize their impact for the first 2 turns that they are in play. So after we determine if we are going first or second we place our models in such a way as to remove them as targets (outflank, deep strike) while keeping as many in optimal strike positions as possible. If going second especially, it’s OK to compromise strike position for survivability. Our main goal in deployment is to survive the alpha strike or / receive the assault and make them pay for both dearly. An example of that follows below

Example Deployment – Hammer and anvil, 5 objectives

My opponent has range on me with 48 inch weapons and deploys in a strong section of ruins with scoring units holding objectives on the ruin’s right and left flanks . He has 2 Dragons in reserve as well as 2 squads of blitz. Due to the deployment we are some distance apart and there is a bunch of no-mans land between us.

I reserve 2 squads of Kroot outflanking and a squad of Crisis Suits deep striking. I place my Rail Sides on my Sky Shield, hide the Riptide behind a ruin, put my Pathfinders in cover forward but within reach to ditch to the sky shield and spread out to minimize dragon effects. My Ethereal joins the big squad of Broadsides and is out of sight but still well placed on the center of the Skyshield which is forward and central in my deployment zone giving a strong buff bubble to my back field units. Lysander’s Land Raider places middle left blocking line of site to my path finders while my places squad of Kroot are on the Sky Shield/ ground providing a screen against assaulters.

It is night fighting and my opponent is going first. This deployment has screwed my opponent out of first blood attempts as well as denied sneaky approach by a consolidated but still wide arching spread of units. My avenues of fire deny any full on approach and he now sees that is best option is to stay where he is and hold what he can.

By negating his advantages and forcing him into a course of action for the first 2 turns at least I have already started to set the pace for the game. This is key because though his advantages are removed, I still have range with marker lights, good line of sight, and lots of play options. Essentially my game is still fluid while his is static which is a victory in itself. My next challenge will be to receive and neutralize the Dragons while minimizing their impact for the turn or two they are on the table.

Step 2 is to gauge his reaction / impact of your actions

If everything worked and you took control of the pace of the game your opponent has only 2 real choices 1) attempt to break your control of the game or 2) decide to weather the storm.

If he attempts to break your control it will come in the form of a devastating offensive or surgical removal: targeting your key assets intending to take your momentum and leave you reacting to him. This could come in the form of his nasty reserves showing up, or of him coming out of a defensive position to come after you. If you followed my advice above you have been waiting for this. When he extends himself your placement and first turn of moves should have put you in a good position to neutralize or at least mitigate his attempts giving him only marginal success. That marginal success leaves him exposed . His offense will have to bring him into range of the bulk of your fire and you lay it on him hard, use your anti-flyer to decimate his air force, smash volume of fire and low AP shots into his exposed units then retreat to an advantageous position with your jet pack infantry. Ideally you survive his counter, counter his counter and move to a position that baits him further from his safe zone and exposes him further as he presses the attack. If he is smart he will pull back and reconsider but if he does you have essentially stolen a turn from him.

When it is all said and done the biggest addition to the list is Lysander and the Tac Marines because during all this maneuvering and play countering you have a resilient threat of a scoring unit going out to take objectives which gives you a strong table presence.

Basically we are playing Beta strike to the hilt except that if they let us we can alpha strike the crap out of him.

In this play style the real game is won in the first 3 rounds and then its clean up.

Cinematic Example of play:

The Chaos Host descends on the planet with all the wrath of the void, tearing the planet apart and surging for the planetary strong points. The planetary defenders were expecting this. as the tides of gibbering horrors crash on the walls of their bastions their well placed counter elements emerge from covert position and unleash a torrent fire. The enemy redoubled its efforts to crush the now exposed counter elements. The counter elements slip behind friendly lines and the horde is rebuked one more time. Their momentum stolen the planetary defending bring the full force to bear on the expose assets and wipe out the primary offensive element allowing their troops to move into position.

A note on Kroot VS Fire Warriors

So most people preach fire warriors with a splash of Kroot for sniping but I don’t agree. I personally feel at least for my play style kroot are superior. Lets look at them compared

Fire Warrior – stronger base weapon, better armor save, better leadership, lower weapon skill, initiative and no ap to weapon. No mobility unless your purchase an 80pt transport.

Kroot – Sniper rounds!, bad armor save, advanced deployment options, close combat ability. Additional mixed unit composition

For this army Fire warrior don’t add anything that another unit doesn’t already contribute. They have no ability to counter enemy deployment and their weapon while superior to bolters etc does not fill any roll other than mass fire which you can get from kroot. Sure str5 is goodb ut str5 might aswell be str 1 against toughness 9 flying monstrous creatures.

Yes they are fragile but Kroot give you options and with the level of threats your presenting focussing on Kroot early on could open the door to getting tabled for your opponent.


While this list provides a lot of options and still dishes out some powerful damage it does have some significant weaknesses.

  • Requires a skilled player / Unforgiving list
  • Your sweet spot for range is 30 inches which means you can get out ranged. The railguns and riptide help this thought but not a lot.
  • Infantry based list – So against venom spam there are some issues, ramming a land raider down their throat an help but your still contesting with lance weapons.
  • Distributing marker lights means that shooting order is KEY if you mess it p you can through away entire shooting phases.
  • The playstyle is so meticulous that you can get called for slow play if you haven’t practiced a lot with this list.
  • Key Tau Tactica Principles for my play style
  • Kroot over fire warriors
  • skyfire interceptor and fusion blast and ion on the riptide
  • Rails on the broadsides (missile are good but 30’ range can hurt)
  • Shield drones as ablative wounds for high priority units
  • Marker Light Cascade (see below) / Distributed Marker Lights

Marker Light Cascade

This in my opinion is key with Tau. It in fact is the key most of the time. Marker lights are good but marker lighted marker lights are better. Essentially a marker light cascade is using previous marker light hits to improve the ballistic skill of other shooters with marker lights ideally units with kill power and marker lights.

Supporting Fire Example: You have a line of kroot as bubble wrap upfront, your units are arrayed behind it, each unit within 6 inches of a kroot model spread over a 20 inch line. You enemy assaults the front kroot. The first squad to shoot would be pathfinders. If they score 1 hit you dump that marker light to another squad of pathfinders, if they score 2 you dump both to the squad of crisis suits with 2 marker drones. This squad now fires 6 plasma or 3 melta depending and the drones shoot 2 markers all hitting on 4’s idealy we put a marker light back on and do some damage. Now we rinse a repeat dumping marker lights to other marker units to increase hit ratio, then dumping NET gain marker lights to units like broad sides or Kroot using fire storm. Maximizing shooting order and marker lights allows you to do some serious damage on assaulting units. I in fact killed a squad of Thunderwolf cavalry on the assault recently this way.

Flyer Example: I did this in a game recently. My ethereal got the “one use per game his unit gets skyfire” warlord trait (remember with an ethereal as your warlord its a 1 in 3 chance) I used it and joined him to a squad of pathfinders. I then used the marker lights on a Dragon I shot the dragon with a skyfire crisis suit along with 2 marker drones the hit on 4’s and the suit hit on 2’s to rear armor with plasma and fusion. I put two glances through but he made the 5 up invo on the fusion. I then dumped those marker light to a sniping squad of kroot and pushed through 2 more glances. Meanwhile my Railgun sky fire broadsides took down the other one.

The road so far

This list started Mono Tau, but due to being a dad with a new born and working 60 hours a week I decided to conserve time and money and use my already collected Marine army as allies. The list grew into what it is now based on my control approach and I took it to a local tourney. I played 3 really great players one of which I had never beaten before. Game one was against Blood Angels I ended up taking all but 1 of the 5 objectives, first blood and slay the war lord. Game 2 was IG with SW allies I ended up taking 2 objectives, line break and first blood and contesting 2. My last game was against 5 flyer Necrons and this was before I had added skyfire. I only had one at the time. It wasn’t enough. The game only went to turn 4 and I just wasn’t positioned right by then as I was counting on 5 turns.

So I added anti flyer and tweaked the list. Next I played my brother who is my tourney buddy and one of the better players I have ever met. He rocks a Nurgle Chaos Marines list with 2 dragons, 2 squads of zombies, plague Marines, 3 squads of Nurgle blitz and Typhus. Against this list I was able to nuke the dragons, annihilate the blitz and out Maneuver the army, Turn 7 it went to a tie but the entire game had been going back and forth by the die roll despite some big hickup for me early on. I added a little fire power after that game and did some revisions.

I have played 10+ games against Chaos, Chaos Daemons, Gaurd, Dark Angels, and some others in addition to the above games and I am feeling very good about the list and its chances.

I am not worried about 5 flying monstrous creatures mostly just due to the sheer volume of sky fire I have and sniper rounds. Similar reasons I am not worried about dragon or Doom Scythe. On the ground massed fast moving Daemons could be an issue but with 140ish shots at 12 inches I feel that given good placement I can make an army think twice about coming after my line.


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

5 Responses to “Guest Tactica by North: Red/Blue Control – 1850 Tau/ Marines List and Tactica”

  1. Avatar
    dr.insanotron July 14, 2013 9:55 am #

    Oh cool a fellow TSHFT player. Have you been playing in it for long, and are you going to the Rose City Rumble in September?

    • Avatar
      North July 14, 2013 2:27 pm #

      I played in the Emerald City Slaughter with my Marines and intend to hit Rose City this year in September.

  2. Avatar
    olddog July 14, 2013 11:23 am #

    Looks very interesting, I’d love to see a batrep with this army to watch it in action.

    • Avatar
      North July 14, 2013 2:30 pm #

      I plan to send R eece some batreps here soon. If anything I will definitely have a batrep from the feast of blades qual at the end of the month.

  3. Avatar
    North July 14, 2013 2:32 pm #

    Oh I should note I have a 1750 of this I intend to play at TSHFT and have a second version of this 1850 where I dumped a squad of path finders, the 2 ion cannons and a few more points and included a skyway.

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