Irontau: Fun with Battle Brothers by Anonymou5


Anonymou5 brings us Irontau: Fun with Battle Brothers. As usual, check out the Tactics Corner for more in-depth tactics, lists and strategies!

For the record, this is just theory hammer.  I don’t play Tau, and when I’m feeling the mood for power armor, I run the Rout.  My Marines don’t follow some silly old book and they’re always drunk.


I think we’re all familiar with the “O’vesa Deathstar” or the “Ripstar.”  However, just in case you’re not.  It’s a Toolbox Commander and the Independent Character Riptide attached to a normal Riptide.  This gives you two twin-linked, ignores cover, monster hunter/tank hunter Riptides with hit and run.  It’s obviously an extremely powerful unit.  A version of that unit won the Nova Open.  However, I think there’s a more powerful version of this unit.

Toolbox Commander, Riptide, Chapter Master.  In short, you trade a few turns of Riptide firepower for added assault capabilities.  However, you also gain “Army Support” value.  The interesting thing about this unit is that it works well for both a Tau Primary and a Space Marines Primary Army.

The Unit:

In general I would build it with a Chapter Master on a Bike (Iron Hands obviously, if running Tau Primary), a Riptide with two Drones (to make sure you maintain majority toughness 6) and an Iridium Armor Toolbox Commander.  If you’re really worried about Grav Weapons, you could give the Commander regular Armor to grant majority armor save of 4.

So turn 1, the Chapter Master and Commander start attached to the Riptide.  In this turn you can shoot both a 72 inch range Ion Accelerator and an infinite range Orbital Bombardment.  They will both be twin linked, ignores cover, tank/monster hunter (as needed) and they don’t have any cares about night fight whatsoever.  That’s a pretty insane alpha strike.  That’s a pretty good chance of instant killing Fateweaver or a Daemon Prince.  It’s a good way to prevent your opponent from shooting off his serpent shields.  It’ll even put a solid dent in a horde.  It’s quite the opening salvo.

From there you have a few options.  You can keep the unit together and advance, or you can break them up and spread out the love in a variety of ways.  If you keep the unit together they can advance to midfield and engage targets as needed.  The Riptide can keep shooting, obviously.  The Chapter Master can hang out until he needs to break off and go smash something.  If he stays in the unit, you never have to worry about picking Stubborn, because you have And The Shall Know no Fear.  This is a big deal against Daemons, who are generally capable of catching a Ripstar.  The unit actually moves pretty fast, if you leapfrog it.  The Chapter Master moves 12 and takes the lead, then the Tau units Assault Move past him (with either the Riptide or the Commander in the front, depending on who you want to tank).

The unit can get really silly.  It can sit at midfield and plink away.  If something charges it, it can break out with Hit and Run (testing at I5), then the Chapter Master can break off from the unit and charge back in while the Command and Riptide go on their merry way.

Obvious Synergies for a Tau Build

Using this unit offers a few advantages over a traditional Ripstar (or Eldar allies)  for a Tau Army.  The first is obvious, you have a Chapter Master.  He can put out fires wherever needed.  I’ve beaten plenty of Tau Armies by getting a Daemon Prince or Fleshound squad into their backfield.  The Chapter Master can easily step to a Daemon Prince, and has a decent chance of smashing a whole pack of Hounds (especially if he gets the charge).  It also offers you an offensive unit.  If the IronTauStar moves to mid field, he can break off and threaten your opponent’s backfield.  He is a threat that MUST be dealt with.  After he pops his orbital bombardment, he can roam your backfield alone or he can advance alone.  He could also go forward and join a Kroot squad, turning them into an unbreakable speed bump.  He is a mobile problem solver that handles things a Tau Army cannot easily handle otherwise.

Another huge plus for a Tau Army is that the Chapter Master brings Biker Troops.  At a minimum these guys work as mobile scoring.  They’re not as fast as Eldar Jetbikes, but they’re slightly more durable, better in a fight, and they’re at least comparable at shooting.  You can give them Melta, and have a fast moving, scoring, anti tank platform.  You can give them Grav and go Monster Hunting (and add the Chapter Master if needed for more punch).  Just like the Chapter Master they have the ability to intercept fast assault units and protect your gunline.  They can shoot down specific threats.  They can turbo boost to objectives.  There is literally no downside to these guys in a Tau list.

You also gain access to a Thunderfire Cannon.  Tau don’t have Barrage organically (not really, SMS is good but limited range, and the upgrade on the Commander doesn’t count).  The Techmarine can provide boosted terrain for Broadsides to utilize, and the Thunderfire can snipe out Heralds, Bikelocks, etc.   Plus against another Tau build, all those pinning checks can be the difference between victory and defeat.

A Chapter Master, two squads of Bikes, and a Thunderfire is nothing but value added.  They fill holes in a Tau Army, and have no downsides.

Obvious Synergies for a Marine Build

The Toolbox Commander is instant win with any unit.  Attach him to Sternguard and have twinlinked, monster hunting, ignores cover, wounds on a 2 bolters.  That’s ridiculous.  One squad of Sternguard can kill a Tervigon in one shooting phase.  You can attach him to Centurions and tank wounds (plus the obvious twinlink/ignores cover).  He can bounce from unit to unit as needed, and increase your lethality dramatically.

Kroot offer the same upside to Space Marines as they do to Tau.  First and foremost, Infiltrate is one of the best rules in the game.  With scouting Dogrush builds and White Scars Armies everywhere, it provides you an additional turn of breathing space.  Infiltrate is outstanding.  Kroot bring cheap sniper rounds to the match and the ability to outflank onto the objective on top of everything else.

Finally, Broadsides are still available in an allied detachment, and I don’t think I need to waste any space discussing how effective they are.


For both sides, modeling opportunities abound.  I have a friend who plays Salamanders, and he is building “Ad Mech Advisors” to run this deathstar.  He’s using a third party Dread Knight with an Ion Accelerator for his Riptide.  He’s heavily modeling a Terminator to turn into a Commander.  He’s taking Necron Warriors, giving them Kroot Rifles, and slapping a bunch of Imperial Logos on them.

For Tau, you can use Tau Jetbikes to make Space Marine Bikers as seen here.  (scroll to the bottom of this link for an example)

Plus, and here’s the most important part, you can use a Lightsaber to represent your powerfist/thunder hammer on your Chapter Master.  Let me say that again.  A lightsaber.  It’s fluffy enough, a “Tau” unit built for close combat; using that fancy tech.  Call it a focused Ion Blade.  Done.


You get a powerful deathstar.  A game winning alpha strike.  Awesome synergies to fill holes in your existing army.  And, potentially, a lightsaber.  I feel like a properly built Tau/Marines or Marine/Tau build is stronger than Tau/Tau or Tau/Eldar.  When my buddy finishes his “Admech Advisors” I’ll be sure to post them; because it will be awesome.   Well, as awesome as sober Marines can be anyway.


About Reecius

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

27 Responses to “Irontau: Fun with Battle Brothers by Anonymou5”

  1. Avatar
    Salamanders4lyfe October 22, 2013 6:02 am #

    You’ve thoroughly convinced me of this combo’s power. That toolbox commander gives marines so much utility its insane. Can’t wait to start on the Ad Mech project.

    • Avatar
      anonymou5 October 22, 2013 1:23 pm #

      Yeah he doesn’t go without guns because of rules, but because he knows he’s so badass he doesn’t need them.

  2. Avatar
    Tiber October 22, 2013 9:32 am #

    To get Majority 4+ armor just take 2 gun drones on commander

    Your majority toughness will be 6, 6 riptide 6 riptide drone 6 riptide drone 5 commander 5 chapter master 4 drone 4 drone

    Saves will be 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+ 2+ 2+ 2+

    • Avatar
      anonymou5 October 22, 2013 1:22 pm #

      You my good man, are a genius. Or better at reading the Tau codex than I am (which is likely, because I just can’t make myself do it, I have had an irrational hatred for Tau for a long time, before that was the trendy thing to do, haha)

  3. Reecius
    Reecius October 22, 2013 2:41 pm #

    Some of the combos in here are devastating. I think SM/Tau may be the new hotness.

    Another team to consider is UM/Tau and then you get Tigurius as well, who then also brings Divination to the table.

  4. Avatar
    Tangentical October 22, 2013 3:02 pm #

    Lots of UK tournaments have ruled (rightly or wrongly) you can’t assault move unless all models in a unit can assault move which makes that deathstar a bit less manoeuvrable but still lots of punch and hard nut to crack!

    • Avatar
      anonymou5 October 22, 2013 3:11 pm #

      True, I had heard some tournaments ruled it that way. We had a Farsun bomb on my ATC team so we made sure to double check before the tournament started, watching all the Tau units jump around the Librarian was prettty funny.

      Even if you can’t leapfrong the Iron Tau Star, it’s still pretty solid. Just break the CM off when you need more speed (from both units)

  5. Avatar
    jadedknight October 22, 2013 7:17 pm #

    Bah why stop here? Get that IC Riptide into the mix.

    • Avatar
      anonymou5 October 22, 2013 8:17 pm #

      Haha, but then you can’t take the Buffmander (Codex Tau) and he’s more important than the IC Riptide (Codex Farsight). You could do CM with two Riptides, but it’s not nearly as gross as Buffmander, CM, and Riptide. Riptides without support aren’t actually that killy.

      • Reecius
        Reecius October 22, 2013 8:22 pm #

        Do you find that most players in your are go with the Ion Accelerator? Here we see more of the Burst Cannons with maybe 1 Ion Accelerator and the Burst Cannon is fucking brutal.

        • Avatar
          anonymou5 October 22, 2013 8:31 pm #

          I find most players around here use the IA, and I agree the Burst Cannon is generally better. However, I think with the IronTau Star the IA is better. For one, it synergizes really well with the orbital bombardment (STR 10 AP1 infinite range, STR 9 AP2 72 inch range). Plus, it synergizes better with the Buffmander IMO, twinlinked, ignores cover, Monster/Hunter Tank hunter often means your target is getting no save and is just hoping you aren’t rolling 2s on the to wound.

          • Reecius
            Reecius October 22, 2013 9:06 pm

            Good point. I would personally take a mix of the weapons as I think they both add so much to a list.

        • Avatar
          Tangentical October 22, 2013 10:07 pm #

          I only see burst with the earth caste pilot upgrade to reroll nova and 1s to hit to avoid the multiple gets hot results. It’s like Eldar serpents with holo fields, it seems to be a standard upgrade if someone goes Burst.

          • Reecius
            Reecius October 23, 2013 7:34 am

            Or if you have Guide/Prescience to mitigate the overheats and misses.

      • Reecius
        Reecius October 23, 2013 7:34 am #

        Good points.

    • Avatar
      Rawrgyle October 23, 2013 11:25 am #

      I’d like to mention the Enclaves may not be able to bring in the Twin linked/ignore cover/Hunter aspect, but with a tailsman in the mix with a shield eternal on the chapter master you have a 4D6 deny the witch roll on 5+. Earth caste array and a target lock on the riptide will still provide a nice punch. Hell, with the tailsman you only have to be within 12″. Can provide some nice anti drop pod options turn 1 at least.

      • Avatar
        anonymou5 October 23, 2013 1:26 pm #

        That’s absolutely valid too. I just think the super Orbital Bombardment is too good to pass up on. Plus the Commander goes really with other Marine units too (Sternguard and Centurions being the obvious examples, but he can spread his love everywhere)

        • Avatar
          Rawrgyle October 23, 2013 1:37 pm #

          not doubting the awesomeness of the “buffmander” with other marine units, just pointing out a reliable str 9 ap 2 blast that is an ordinance blast (basicly tank hunter?) sporting a tailsmain on a large base model giving 4D6 DtW with the iron hands defensive buff (6+ FNP) is a good arguement for enclaves players to support this instead of feeling like they gotta go empire to make it work.

          • Avatar
            anonymou5 October 23, 2013 1:51 pm

            No doubt. It also stacks well with Black Templars, with the Army Wide Adamantine Will. You could take some BT Tech Marines to add to expensive Tau units and make them effectively psychic proof.

          • Avatar
            Rawrgyle October 23, 2013 8:38 pm

            black templars aren’t battle bros 🙁

  6. Avatar
    Baal Viper October 23, 2013 6:53 am #

    Cannot believe the Tau Buff Commander has not bee FAQ’ed to prevent just such an OP combo as this… Space Marines allied with Xenos (as battle brothers) good job GW.

    • Reecius
      Reecius October 23, 2013 7:32 am #

      I don’t think he should be able to join MCs (apart from the IC MC from Farsight, of course).

  7. Avatar
    anonymou5 October 23, 2013 8:45 pm #

    Rawrgyle, for some reason I can’t reply to your comment directly anymore (guess we overdid that thread), but arguably BT are Battle Brothers now. There’s a lot of debate both ways, IMO they are. Because Codex Space Marines supercedes Codex Black Templar.

    • Avatar
      Rawrgyle October 23, 2013 9:58 pm #

      You are probably right there lol, just rechecked and the section I was thinking about and it says something different, thought they still held their old allies matrix still.

      Either way I’m a Tau and Marine player (very small marine army atm) and trying to decide between Enclaves and Empire is just plain annoying when bringing in Marines. But, bringing in a chapter master espeically on a bike, just makes so much sense.

      If you are going marines primary the “Buffmander” feels like the right choice. He is one guy spreading the love and it is hard to really pick just one unit sometimes, or which unit he will benifit the most with a tau list and markerlights everywhere. So I would say with limited markerlights he works the best as the allied detachment.

      If going Tau main, I’d definitly look more at the enclave direction. Crisis as troops means a lot more here for their mobility to keep pace with a marine list that can move, vs a more general static line that normal tau OFTEN bring (not always). Plus the other cool toys in ECPA which is just awesomesauce and the tailsman helps defensively. Plus the markerlights floating around don’t cause as much hurt from the loss of the “buffmander”.

  8. Avatar
    Cycluv October 28, 2013 11:29 am #

    What is a Toolbox Commander?

    • Reecius
      Reecius October 28, 2013 12:37 pm #

      He is a commander with no weapons but all buffing upgrades like the Puretide Engram Chip, etc.

  9. Avatar
    Tarnag April 24, 2014 9:15 am #

    I know this post is old, but could anyone help me in identifying the bits used on that Jetbike conversion that was linked? Or maybe a thread with more pictures of it? I’d love to be able to recreate it!

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