Alors toujours pret pour plus? Over the weekend I took a new Tau army to a very small but highly competitive ITC event in Oakland California at the downtown store called Endgames. It was run by our local 40k patron, the one and only TastyTaste from Bloodofkittens.com and be sure to check the Tactics Corner for more great articles.
The roster had 16 players but it was filled with Top faction players of the bay area, we had Geoff Robinson, Alexander Gonzalez, Jim Yeh, Paul McKelvey, and many more. The game was afoot! The event did not allow for experimental rules but did allow the new Mont’Ka book which meant I had roughly 24 hours to decide on a list to take to the event with my brand spanking new Tau army (barely painted in 3 colors for the event, thank you thanksgiving!). Thanks to the leaks online, I had a rough idea of what I wanted to take and knowing my competition was going to be challenging, I needed to take units I had already practice with and had some experience with since the rounds were short and thus no time to be making thought out decisions and more depending on your experience and instinct with the army.
The original theme of my Tau army was trying to anchor it in a thematic format while still retaining a lot of oomph. In the Tau lore, I have always loved Puretide background because I view him as what would Bruce Lee would have aged like in the philosophical manner. His philosophy of Balance through Kanyon (Patient Hunter) and Mont’ka (The Killing Blow) reminisces a lot of Mr. Lee’s Jeet Kune Do so I went to work on a list. I adore the Ghostkeel model so much that I bought 5 when they came out, not sure if I would use all of them at the time, but from their Rules and aesthetic they appealed to me drastically. They fit the Kanyon strategy perfectly, exchanging long range Tau firepower for brutal midrange firepower while retaining mobility but most important of all they punish armies without wide availability of ignore cover. Originally I had practice with 2 Optimized Stealth Cadre that used a unit of 2 Ghostkeels each and minimum Stealth Suit units but with the arrival of the Ghostkeel Wing formation rules, I thought why not take 1 Optimized Stealth Cadre and 1 Ghostkeel Wing. It allowed me to have 5 Ghostkeels in 4 units (maximizing their Holophoton Countermeasures from 2 usage to 4 usage) and surprisingly the Ghostkeel Wing formation rules ended up being pretty useful for the rest of my army with their Stealth granting.
Now that I had figure out 2 of my 3 sources, I was ready to work on the Mont’Ka piece of my theme. I either had a choice to go in the route of Farsight CAD or using the new Dawn Blade Contingent but in the end I chose the Dawn Blade Contingent to unlock the Drone Net XV0-1 formation which I wanted to try out. For those who do not know how the Drone NetXV0-1 works, it is a formation of 4 units of Drones that gain for themselves Jink, Precision Shot, Split Fire, Outflank and most important of all Interceptor. It also grants +1 BS to all Drones on the table (including those outside of the formation) as long as they are 2 units from the Formation on the Battlefield. I immediately decided that 4 units of 4 Markerdrones with this combo was where I wanted to go. Not only did it provide me with 16 Markerlights but 16 Markerlights that were mobile and had interceptor while still retaining a defensive mechanic in the open with Jink. Of course, to continue with the Mont’Ka fluff, I chose the Retalation Cadre as my Core formation allowing me to have an effective hard punching and reserve formation. The question is how to equip them at this point. I already dropped a large amount of points into the Drone Net and the Ghostkeel Formations while trying to retain the bonuses granted to me by the Retalation Cadre formation rules. Sadly, GW still thinks that Xeno factions should not be able to share relics from cross supplements and my Commander was left with rather expensive Signature system options that do not synergize well with my going army design. The resulting list was as of follows:
Optimized Stealth Cadre:
- Unit of 2 Ghostkeels with TL Fusion Blaster and Cyclic Ion Raker, 2 Early Warning Overrides and 1 Target Lock.
- 2 Units of 3 Stealth Battlesuits with Burst Cannons
- 3 Units of 1 Ghostkeel with TL Burst Cannon and Cyclic Ion Raker, 1 Early Warning Overrides for each.
Dawn Blade Contingent:
Retaliation Cadre (Core):
- Commander with Plasma Rifle, Forgeworld XV84 Battlesuit Signature System (Network Markerlight & Target Lock).
- 1 Unit of 3 XV8 Crisis Battlesuits with 3 Plasma Rifles, 3 Burst Cannons, 3 Bonding Knife.
- 2 Units of 1 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit with TL Fusion Blaster, Target Lock, Bonding Knife and 2 Marker Drones
- 1 Riptide with Ion Accelerator, TL SMS, Stimulant Injector, Bonding Knife, and Earth Caste Piloting Array (I know it’s currently not able to take it but I didn’t catch that until later, it would appear to be an oversight from GW)
- 1 Broadside with TL High Yield, TL SMS and Bonding Knife.
Drone Net XV0-1 (Auxiliary):
- 4 Units of 4 Marker Drones.
I decided to try having deep striking Marker Drones with the Cadre with the single XV8 Crisis suits so they would benefit from +2 BS on arrival (Drop Zone Clear & Drone Net) so it would bump me to 20 Markerlights in the list while keeping the ability for the TL Fusion Blaster Suits to try popping open some backfield transport then evolving into another mobile Marker support unit that can fetch maelstrom points. I was really on the fence about the Commander and his Plasma/Burst Cannon Crisis team because I do not have Homing Beacons for such a large footprint and they felt like an expensive 1 hit wonder since they are only T4 with 3+ and they range are short to mid which means that to bring their guns to bear they might in harms way. I chose to keep the Broadside unit down to a minimum since I had to pick either the Crisis Team or the Broadside unit to spend points into. Honestly, in hindsight keeping the Broadside unit to a larger size would have been probably the better choice but I really wanted to have more AP2 in the army other than the Fusion and the Ion Accelerator from the Riptide.
I only put Early Warning Overrides (interceptor) on the Ghostkeels as defense versus Drop Pod armies since my counter play was deploying the Ghostkeels and the Drone Net to blast them with anti infantry fire with markerlights on the turn they came down. In hindsight, equipping the Broadside with it as well would have been useful but I thought the Broadside would be in reserve until turn 2 in most games.
Rolling on the Strategic Table allows me to gain like many armies multiple new tactical vectors for the army. Master of Ambush is probably my favorite as it allows me to infiltrate the Ghostkeels from the Optimized Stealth Cadre, the Riptide and the Broadside or most of the Ghostkeels if I chose. My second favorite would actually be the modifier to enemy reserve followed closely by Master of Ruins for the move through cover in ruins which just saves time for the Drones and Stealth Suits. With the Dawn Blade Contingent having a re-roll, its not unlikely getting the trait you want since half of them are pretty useful.
The event Round 1 Big Guns Never Tire versus Doc’s Sisters of Battle CAD/AM Allied Detachment/Flesh Tearer Strike Force
Doc’s list was basically a Drop Pod army using Dominion & Basic Sister Squads from the Sisters supplemented by a Large Combat blob with FNP Sanguinary Priest and Hit & Run Queen Celestine and 1 large conscript blob with a Priest. Effectively his list was bodies and table control. Unfortunately for Doc, most of his army on the drop was 12” to 24” which is the effective range of my intercepting Ghostkeels. I ended up rolling the Master of Ambush Trait and decided to outflank the commander and his squad as well as the Broadside. I infiltrated the Riptide and the Stealth Suits while deploying the Ghostkeel and 3 of the 4 Drone Squads. The Fusion Crisis suits will stick to their original plan of deep striking and chasing pods while providing marker support. Doc had deployed his blob and had first turn. He deep striked a Company Command Squad, a Platoon Command Squads (Plasma to chase the Riptide), 1 tact squad with a Heavy Flamer to chase the Drones and 1 Basic Sister Squad for Maelstorm. On my interceptor I removed the Company Command Squad, killed 3 of the 5 Sisters but with 10 total wounds to the Tactical marines only killed 1 which was not the Heavy Flamer. The Sister broke at the end of the Movement phase but his blobs moved unopposed as the only model that did not fire was the Riptide. He did manage to put 3 wounds on the Riptide with his Plasma even though it was in Ruins with Stealth from the Ghostkeel Wing and Feel No Pain. His Combat Blob blasted off the table 1 of my Stealth Suit squad.h His surviving Heavy Flamer managed to clip 1 drone from each Drone unit and killed all 3 causing me to take 3 morale test and only 1 unit of Drone stuck around.
On my actual first turn, I split the 2 of the Ghostkeels from the Wing to support the Riptide as they flanked towards his conscript squad. The Riptide dropped only 4 of the 5 from the Platoon Commander squad with its Ripplefire SMS leaving 1 lone Plasmagun. The Stealth Team Team worked on the Blob a bit while the third Ghostkeel from the Wing prepared for a Charge into the Tact squad. The OSC Ghostkeel maneuvered out of charge range for the Blob but charge change of the Drop Pod on my home objective. On turn 2, 1 Dominion and 1 Sister squad hit the table on his turn 2 but this time I focused only the Sister squad with my no marker support Interceptor, I ignored the Dominion as they only had the Ghostkeels from the OSC in target range which meant even with Ignore Cover the Snap Shot defense counter measure should save them from taking too much damage. The interceptor was effective causing the Sisters to take another LD test and failing (LD8), the Dominion got 1 hit on the Ghostkeels and did one wound.
On my turn, his Conscript blob started taking ripple fire SMS with Ghostkeels clearing Drop Pods near the center for King of the Hill. The Reserve came in and assisted in clearing the smaller squads on the table while leaving effectively the Combat Blob alive. Doc was very sporting about the way the game was shaping up considering by the start of his turn 3, he had his Combat Blob nearing my deployment and saw that the flanking riptide and Ghostkeels were out of his reach from the rest of his army and his conscript blob was desperately trying to pling away the last wound on the Riptide to prevent it from decimating the blob with his SMS. We played it through to turn 5 which saw Doc’s combat blob taken to about half size and lost Celestine to an overwatch from a Broadside. The game ended with full points my way.
Round 2 Emperor’s Will versus Paul Mckelvey’s Hunter Contingent / Firestream Formation / Farsight CAD
I was now up against the current top Tau player in the ITC ranking which was domineering enough since I was literally getting a feeling for this army myself but thankfully so was Paul. His list consisted of a Hunter Cadre as Core with a Retaliation Cadre as Aux for his Hunter Contingent, in addition a 4 unit of 1 Piranhas Firestream Formation loaded with Seekers and Fusion Blasters. His Farsight CAD was 2 lone suits with 2 lone tetras and a commander. The list had a lot of MSU and a lot of reserve shenanigans. I ended up getting Master of Ambush again for my warlord trait and won the dice off to go first. Knowing of Paul’s play style, I was fairly confident he would keep the Retaliation Cadre in reserve for their auto arrival on turn 2 which led me to choose to not using my own auto turn 2 arrival so I can try to arrive in later turns to counter reserve his own. With that in mind, I infiltrated the Ghostkeels from the OSC, the Broadside, the Stealth Suits and the Riptide near the middle of the table to cover 1 Maelstrom and the riptide on the other. I deployed 3 of the 4 Drone Squads as well as the rest of the Ghostkeels. I outflanked the Warlord and his Crisis team while deep striking the other.
Paul’s own deployment saw through my infiltration before it happened tried to make sure he had enough models on the table that if he chose to drive off the battlefield with his Firestream, he wouldn’t get tabled. I was looking at the 4 Lone Piranhas, 2 of the Breachers teams, a Sniper drone unit, a Drone unit with a Commander and a Ghostkeel. His seized failed, and I surged forward to accomplish as much damaged as I could while completing the Maelstrom. I chose not to fire at the Piranhas because I had misinterpreted the rule that they would all come back if at least 1 unit was able to fly off. The first turn of fire saw me destroy the Breachers, put some wounds on the commander and really that was about it. Pretty lackluster but I had the center of the table and his objective within my grasp. I chose to forgo my own because I wanted an obvious place for his army to enter and with my position in the middle, I thought I could readjust accordingly. His Piranhas flew off the table in his turn and I believe he was able to dispatch 1 unit of Stealth suits with Markers and Ghostkeel fire.
I took the Maelstorm lead easily and thankfully only outflanking Crisis came in. They unfortunately entered on the short table where his objective was. They did however with Markerlight support finished off his Drones and Commander while the rest of the army finished off the Ghostkeel and the Marker Drones. I used this turn as well to reposition the entire army for his upcoming arrival. Paul use my limited 24” interceptor to hide away in the corners of the table and now the game looked like an hammer and anvil mission but none of the Maelstorm objective where on his table half. His combined fire during that turn removed 1 Ghostkeel from the Wing and 1 Marker drone unit. On my turn 3 only 1 of the crisis team entered and risked a dangerous deep strike to attempt to remove 1 of his Objective secure suit while providing marker support to my Deathblow target: theBroadside team with the Warlord Commander. His lone interceptor model, the Riptide, managed to remove both the drones from the Crisis suit robbing me of 2 crucial markers. My reserve Markerdrone unit had not arrived leaving me only Markerdrones of a distance away. I managed to get only 1 marker hit out of 4 into the Broadside unit, 1 short of allowing my Riptide own Ion Accelerator to ignore cover. His blast was accurate though and saw me remove a few Missile drones but did cause them to hit the ground.
The rest of army pushed on to bring their guns to bear on his solo crisis teams all the while ignoring his riptide. The game turned into an epic firefight and tactical maneuvering but in the end my mistake was that never once fired at the Piranhas. By turn 5 with the clock running out, his Piranhas re-entered the table to contest their home objective while my Riptide was busy failing to hit his lone warlord in melee combat (I could never get 2 marker hits on them which meant his blast could never ignore their cover) but was sadly only a few inches away to contest my home objective while the Ghostkeels from my OSC failed to get on the home objective by 1” to contest allowing his Riptide to claim my home ojective. At this point, I had Maelstorm, he had Primary but I had Big Game Hunter & Linebreaker to his Linebreaker. Unfortunately, his Piranhas shot all of their Seekers without marker support into my Commander attached to the Stealth Suits with 2+ cover and I managed to fail a lookout sir and its proceeding cover save (1/36 chance) to give him Warlord while his was dodging all of my Riptide attacks. (It’s not that unlikely since I was smashing with a WS1 Riptide to his WS4 Commander. Had I been able to roll even average on Markerlights, I would have probably removed him from the blast shots but after all this is a game of dice). The game ended with us drawing at a 6 to 6. Learned some very valuable lessons in that game which the Firestream don’t come back at full strength for the formation but come back at full strength for the units in that formation. Also we played our game with my Drone NetXV0-1 giving +1 BS to all Drones, including his which was probably not the right interpretation but that is the Rules as Written. A tough game against a tough opponent. Sad to think we knocked each other out for the top table with that draw.
Round 3 Relic versus Vincent Mordago Astra Militarum and Skitarii
Vincent’s had taken some of the new formations from the Mont’ka book for AM/IG that included 2 Valkyries, 1 Vendetta, 4 Chimera and a Banewolf. Vincent made me go first due mostly to my lack of long range fire on a Hammer and Anvil deployment but basically guaranteed me the relic with the Stealth Suits infiltrating on it. My Warlord trait this game was Princept of Deceipt aka Trash. I wont write a long expose on this game mostly because this was about as 1 sided as it could get, I believe by the end of the third turn, Vincent had 2 Valkyrie left and the Skitarii inside. The Ghostkeels kept surging forward into his line and just removing units with markerlight support. He made a play in the later part of the game with his Skitarii to grab the relic from me but the game didn’t end and the returning volley of fire finished off the rest of his army. I seriously hope that the new AM/IG codex will bring some life back into that army. I just feel that IG today have to either go body heavy or mobile and can’t see to do both at the same time. Since the mission had First Strike, I did not manage to get it.
In the end, Jim Yeh took first after beating Alex Gonzalez on the top table while Geoff took second after beating Paul and I took third. Jim took a traditional Jim list, a Lord of Skull, a Blood Thirster, Fateweaver, a Demon Prince and some horrors if I recall. Thank you to TastyTaste for running the event and Endgames to accommodate us!
I did not suffer a loss and was fairly happy with the performance of the list. Granted one could make the assertion that the only tough match-up it had was against Paul but I did get some practice versus Geoff Robinson’s War Convocation’s army and it was a brutal game (this was before the Mont’ka). Now with the Drone NetXV0-1, I am fairly sure it would tip the match up even more my way. One comment I will make with that army is that your turns are long as quite literally every model in the army Moves, Shoot and Moves again which can result in long turns. And with the fact that I can keep half of it off the table and auto enter on turn 2 with all those interceptors, the first two turns can be painstakingly long. I definitely don’t think I should be running my commander with a trio of suit as it feels like I am throwing away my Warlord away too easily since he can’t Iridium armor, he is fairly squishy. I will definitely invest in Early Warning Overrides in my Broadsides, just for that additional extra range threat for reserves. Will play around with different formats of the list but at the moment, I think it has the making of fairly brutal and flexible Tau list.