Tau Review Part 2: Changes for Tau List building


Hey everyone, DevianID here with part 2 of my Tau review! You can read part 1, here. Check out the Tactics Corner for more articles.

Howdy all, I am back out of my cave in New Jersey to continue the review of Tau units that are new as of Montka’s release.  We already went over the basics of pre-update Tau in a previous part, and we finally got both Montka and Kauyon with all their updates and formations, so let’s look at what has been gained unit wise, starting with new HQ options, before diving into formations in the next part!

The Suit Commander gets a new Coldstar armor that makes him half a flying Hive Tyrant for a bit more than half the points.  Sadly, the flying Hive Tyrant only works as a complete package.  The base t4 is too susceptible to Instant Death, such as from grounding checks, and with no assault punch or toughness boost available (Coldstar takes away upgrades like Iridium), landing the Coldstar endgame to charge a small unit off an objective is risky at best.  Thumbs down on this guy.


The Ethereal gets a big boost with the new named character from the Burning Dawn box set, Aun’do.  As the first and best way to get Fearless in a squad of Tau, and with failing ld10 Stubborn checks being a loss condition for my tournament Tau army in at least 10 games over the years, this guy is a must have for any large squad based Tau tactics.  Even though Fearless is only on a single unit, it makes a huge impact on the Tau army.  Multi-assault is the classic answer to Tau shooting firepower, and despite already having a Stubborn bubble effect, failed Leadership 10 can and does still happen.  When your Stubborn, Hit and Run, 500+ point Broadside unit breaks you lose the game at worst and lose a whole turn rallying at best.  Now not only can that not happen, but any other units in a multi-assault that would have been swept on a failed Leadership are left alive due to the enemy being in combat with a Fearless unit.  25 points even gets you some other nifty bonuses, but Fearless alone give the new Ethereal a huge thumbs up!

Strike Teams are the new name for Fire Warriors, and while they are mostly the same, being a minimum squad of 5 instead of 6 is effectively a 9 point buff when fulfilling minimum Troop requirements.  Whats more, they gained the ability to buy Smart Missiles as a weird turret thing that certainly is advantageous to take several of.  A turret that can’t die that allows your Troops to shoot from behind a line of sight blocking wall is a great addition to Fire Warriors–this makes them as good as Kroot now (but not better), who were long the undisputed kings of the Tau troop slot.  Thumbs up!


Breachers are a weird experiment to give Tau a shooting close combat unit.  While s6 ap3 certainly isn’t bad, sacrificing 15 inches of max range and 20 inches of effective range means you will shoot this weapon less than half the time of a Pulse Rifle.  This means the weapon would need to be more than twice as good as a Pulse Rifle to even consider, and three times as good to bring in as a replacement.  Simple math shows us that versus Space Marines out of cover this is true, but versus Space Marines with a 5+ cover save, which is easy to get, this is not true.  Versus flying Hive Tyrants it’s true, but not if they Jink.  Versus anything with Invulnerable saves, like Demons, or 2+ armor, like an Iron Priest/Centurions, they are not better.  So overall, Breachers are not good enough to strictly replace Strike Teams, however they are good enough to consider versus power armor you catch out of cover and non-Jinking Hive Tyrants.  I would say a 1 to 2 ratio of Breachers to Strike Teams would be the maximum, thus if you were planning to take 3 units of Fire Warriors, you can consider swapping the 3rd Strike Team for Breachers and still be roughly equally effective over the course of several games.  Devilfish seem to be made for Breachers, but consider that you get almost 10 more  Strikes/Breachers for 1 Devilfish.  With vehicles being easy to glance out, and Skimmers being vulnerable to both ground and Skyfire weapons, we see that trying to protect Breachers is less good than simply having more of other units.  Final result, as a unit that only works on a substitution level, thumbs down!

jeremy Tau

Crisis Suits boy oh boy!  Crisis suits get to go up to a 9 strong unit now!  This is a huge buff, as stacking rules on this unit with characters and then splitting fire was moderately successful before, but with a 10 point tax per model on top of 165 for Farsight being needed to unlock a unit of 7 strong Crisis Bodyguards.  Now Crisis suits get to 9, get to use the 10 point cheaper but mostly identical suit, and don’t need to pay for the Farsight tax.  This unit will definitely see play at a competitive level with Shadowsun, buff Commander, Fearless Aun’do, a huge slew of Drones, and a bunch of Target Locks.  It’s not even that costly considering other death stars, clocking in at 1100 points with full upgrades, while shooting at 11 different targets, being Fearless with Hit and Run, Stealth and Shrouded, having some Invulnerable saves, 6+ Feel No Pain, ect ect.  It’s by no means an auto win army, as Ignore Cover will chew through the ablative drones pretty quick, and more and more armies have Ignore Cover without relying on psychics (looking at you, White Scars!), but opponents unable to muscle through a Shadowsun 2+ cover will be extremely frustrated.  Thumbs up!

Farsight Crisis Suits: At 23 points each you get a Deep Striking, fairly mobile Troop with Objective Secured and 2 weapon options.  Farsight Crisis Suits also no longer have a minimum size of 3 in one unit inflating their cost.  This makes them the cheapest Troops in a Farsight list while also packing decent upgrade options.  At 67 points for twin Burst Cannons and 2 Gun Drones, you can get 12 decently priced s5 shots on an Ob Sec Deep Strike platform that you can comfortably spam 6 of.  53 points gets a double Ion/Fusion/Missile suit, not as efficient but easier to hide and better versus armor.  In the right list, using Reserve manipulation and Homing Beacons on allied Aun’do and Tetras, Farsight Crisis Teams have great potential and shore up the Tau objective grabbing weakness.  Thumbs up!

Ghostkeels are an interesting beast.  The Cyclic Ion Raker is a good weapon hampered by a 24 inch range, the mandatory Drones grant Shrouding and Stealth, plus outside of 12 inches give a 2+ cover in the open, but make you vulnerable to break checks if one dies.  Toughness 5 is a bummer, but Holophron means you can usually dodge one turn of a unit’s shooting that would otherwise kill you with Ignores Cover.  S6 ap2 with 4 attacks on the charge but a 3+ armor makes for a decent but fragile counter assault unit, something Tau need, and the low price point keeps the unit an attractive option.  If a unit of 3 grants 3 separate Holophron uses, instead of just one for the unit, then the 1-3 option becomes interesting, but ultimately a Riptide granting ap2 Ion with a longer range and t6 is just better, since many other units get massive s7 ap4 shooting and Fusion access, and a Riptide with a 3++ invuln can tank pretty well.  Still, 3 Ghostkeel suits at 390 base being used as skirmishers and counter assault units is about as good as it gets for aggressive Tau close combat where you want to kill models in assault–as opposed to tanking with a Riptide.  Final word, with low range and redundant attack profiles, thumbs down!


Fire Teams: Riptides/Hammerheads/Skyrays being able to take units of 1-3 is a fun option, but ultimately pointless since Tau can take enough slots to always have room for another single Riptide/tank before having to double up on a unit.  This goes double for the Hammerheads and Skyrays too–units don’t make sense over singletons regardless of 1 BS when tanks don’t get Target Locks and thus will waste a lot of fire power over-killing units.  Space Marine tank squadrons at least get new rules in compensation.  Thumbs down on Fire Teams of 3 outside of Ghostkeels depending on how Holophron is ruled.  (Special note: if playing full power Hunter Contingent, this special rule is awesome since your Fire Team can be 3 separate units combining into one for both the Fire Team and Hunter Contingent bonus, making 3 seperate Riptides for example BS 5.)

The Stormsurge are the big addition to the book besides formations.  As Gargantuan Creatures they are Fearless, and like I mentioned before having a Fearless unit has a multiplicative effect when you are assaulted.  They can also Stomp, which for Tau is the best way to remove extremely durable but not that aggressive units such as 2++ Tzeentch Screamers, Fortuned Eldar Seer Council, and huge blob units with Fearless granting characters hiding in the back.  Most people already know this, but other features include access to D strength weapons, which are a huge boon, and the longest range on multiple shot weapons for Tau at 48 for Cluster Missiles.  This in my opinion is huge.  Tau shooting at 36 previously was unrivaled even by the dreaded Scatter Laser Jetbikes thanks to Twin-Linked Ignores Cover s7 ap4 Tank Hunter missile units.  However, this was a mostly static 36 inches… Moving and shooting with the run Ethereal order increased your range by up to 12 inches, but it was an unreliable way to hit something hiding far away, like said Scatter Jetbikes for example, and sometimes you need to hit something far away while not advancing any closer to your opponent’s assault forces.  Now that Stormsurges have a 48 inch range gun, we finally can put weight of fire shots across the table while not needing to advance forward–this is a huge deal.  Pre measuring 43 inches away from Broadsides and Markerlights was a constant tactic used against me, but a Stormsurge can move 12, then plant heels in the shooting phase and fire 48 inches away with a respectable number of shots.  An almost guaranteed 60 inch threat range makes many counter tactics against Tau no longer viable.


On the other hand, the Stormsurge has an ugly side to counter it’s strong offensive abilities.  Many formats that include super heavies also contain some remnant of Escalation, meaning each 3 wounds done to a ‘Super Heavy’ gives up an additional Victory Point, plus allows you to Seize the Initiative with a +1.  When combined with warlord traits on the super popular strategic chart that allow you an additional +1 to seize with relatively common characters like Coteaz who grants a Seize the Initiative re-roll, the Tau force that includes Stormsurges can find themselves 2 to 8 victory points down when they lose turn one to a seize and get their 3+ armor Gargantuan shot off the table.

The end verdict is still overall positive for the Stormsurge, as when it’s heels are down without buffs/Markerlights it shoots as good as the previous Tau shooting king, the Firebase Cadre, while being Fearless and possessing a longer range.  It’s a shame they don’t get the Fire Team rule, as they could make great use of it.  2 Stormsurges cost the same as a fully upgraded old Firebase Cadre as well, so they make a clean transition if the old Firebase goes away, and give D strength attacks to help counter other monstrous super units.  That said, their drawbacks will cost you games from time to time in formats that still use the Escalation rules, presenting a point of failure a good player will need experience to try and make up for.  Thumbs up for the Stormsurge, but not an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Before we go onto formation reviews in part 3, I should mention that the Cyclic Ion and Airburst Frag are no longer unique.  The Airburst Frag is a bad weapon when compared to Smart Missiles, which have a longer range, Twin-Linked, more strength, also ignore LOS and Ignore Cover, and don’t lose effectiveness when the opponent hides under a ruin.  That said, with Barrage weapons you can snipe at models under the center of the Barrage Large Blast.  Coupled with a 3 man Crisis unit taking 6 of these for example, this weapon becomes a short range sniper gun.  Thus despite being a weak weapon, it’s something to keep an eye on for assassinating characters.


The Cyclic Ion Blaster is a bit better, as it shares the Missile Pod profile while halving the range and getting an extra shot.  With half the range but only ap4 this gun is only as good as a Burst Cannon (aka bad for general use), but the catch is when Deep Striking.  When Deep Striking range is less of an issue, thus the weapon profile and alternate fire mode mean Ion is superior to Missile Pods on the drop turn.  Still, Broadsides do S7 better anyway, so you need a double Cyclic Crisis suit all buffed up and Deep Striking to make effective use of the new Cyclic Ion.  The alternate s8 Blast doesn’t hurt either.ed a double Cyclic Crisis suit all buffed up and Deep Striking to make effective use of the new Cyclic Ion.  The alternate s8 Blast doesn’t hurt either.





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22 Responses to “Tau Review Part 2: Changes for Tau List building”

  1. NotreDameGuy December 16, 2015 7:40 pm

    Sorry, but as soon as I saw you put Ghostkeel thumbs down I stopped reading as you lost all credibility. Ghostkeel (especially in OSC) is widely considered to be on of the best units in the entire codex.

    • Reecius
      Reecius December 16, 2015 8:46 pm

      DevianID is a good Tau player, I am sure he can justify his stance. I agree the Ghostkeel is solid, but I am curious to read his counter.

    • DevianID December 19, 2015 4:03 am

      So these are basic unit reviews… When you qualify that Ghostkeels are especially good in OSC then you are unfairly evaluating the Ghostkeel for rules it doesn’t have. If the basic Ghostkeel had +1 BS, ignore cover and rear armor hits without needing a formation I would evaluate the unit MUCH higher. End of the day, my point is why would you ever heavily invest in Ghostkeels NOT in the OSC?

      In the formation review I talk more about the Optimised Stealth Cadre, and conclude that in ITC format it is a good formation.

  2. RauPow December 16, 2015 9:55 pm

    Just curious how you are planning on using Shadowsun (Infiltrate) to get the Stealth/Shrouded bonus on the Crisis Suit Death Star? Are you just going to put her close and then attach on your turn? Because that is a risky proposition to leave that many points open to first turn shooting where you don’t go first and have a solid cover save.

    • DevianID December 19, 2015 4:07 am

      Shadowsun will commonly go in reserve if using the ‘Deathball’ crisis suit approach, or deploy with Kroot if you win the roll for first and have some LOS blocking terrain for the Crisis team.

  3. DirtyDeeds December 16, 2015 9:58 pm

    I would like to point out an error in your review, the ITC community ruled against rule-sharing within the Hunter Contingent, so thtee separate Riptides firing at the same target would not benefit from Fire Team.

    • Happy_inquisitor December 16, 2015 11:23 pm

      That needs a FAQ from the ITC as each model already has the rule and is not relying on it being shared. There is a lot to FAQ after that vote.

      • abusepuppy December 17, 2015 1:28 am

        If they aren’t considered to be “the same unit” for any other rules purposes in Coordinated Firepower, I can’t imagine why they would be for that specific one.

        • Happy_inquisitor December 17, 2015 5:17 am

          The question is left open. For which – if any – purposes are we to treat them as one unit or has the rule been rewritten for ITC without that clause.

    • DevianID December 19, 2015 4:11 am

      In the Fireteam section I qualify it is for when playing full power (non ITC) Hunter Contingent. For ITC, the FAQ is clear that they only benefit from +1 BS and Markerlights, thus ignore the Fireteam buff when forming 3 Riptides together.

  4. X078 December 17, 2015 12:11 am

    Good you have 2 choice more or less.
    JMC – [Drone Controller, Target Lock] Join and jump between jinking ML drone units.
    FMC – [Stims, Shieldgen] Flying, skyfiring, AA harassment unit.

    Really good, specially part of the OSC.

    Good but a tad expensive for the dakka you get, really good in Riptide wing

    Of course all of this depends on playing RAW and not ITC.

    • abusepuppy December 17, 2015 1:44 am

      With Stims and Shield Generator the Coldstar is nearly 200pts, but is still only T4/3+. One hit from a Lascannon, one failed Grounding check, or even just some unlucky saves against random Bolter fire and he’s done for.

      Coldstar is kinda bad.

      • X078 December 17, 2015 1:53 am

        In a Tau Empire detachment i agree that he is a bit worse since you can get Iridium but in a FSE detachment i think he is a good choice. T4 is kinda meh yeah, but with flying/jink/Stims/Shields he is annoyingly tough to bring down. And if someone dedicates that amount of fire towards him then hopefully some other unit gets away.

        • abusepuppy December 17, 2015 7:45 am

          Or they roll a 6 with one Lascannon and you roll a 3 and now you’ve given up Warlord.

          I realize Farsight has kinda shoddy warlord choices, but I’d much rather have something hiding in a unit or a transport than a guy flying around daring the other guy to get one lucky hit in.

  5. abusepuppy December 17, 2015 1:43 am

    Strike Teams can take more than just Smart Missiles on their turret. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Missile Pod is a universally-superior option due to finally be able to crack transports with your Troop units and also that extra 6″ range.

    Breachers are middling, but for more casual play they are pretty brutal when popping out of a Devilfish. Tau have a lot of access to Ignores Cover, so they can easily cut up most infantry 9and even MCs/vehicles) at short range.

    I would agree that the Ghostkeel is mediocre… until you start putting it in formations. Ghostkeel Wing and Optimized Stealth Cadre are both potentially fairly strong and shouldn’t be ignored.

    A Seer Council will shred a Stormsurge pretty badly in combat, bar lucky Stomps (and only that if you ever get to it.) Stormsurges are very resilient against high-strength low-AP firepower that many armies field, since their huge pile of Wounds, decent invuln, and native FNP make them very resistant to that sort of thing. However, with only T6/3+ they come apart fairly quickly when rolling against Boltguns, Krak Grenades and the like- in fact, they are only a bit tougher than a vanilla Riptide against that sort of weapon.

    I agree that the 48″ range and Str D missiles are the big features of the Stormsurge, though. Both of those are big problem-solvers for Tau armies and give them a fighting chance against Eldar and superheavies. However, I think a lot of people are overestimating it, so we’ll see how it actually does in tournaments.

    • Kevin lantz December 17, 2015 4:16 am

      Some of the storm surge spam I have seen so far, I just removed all the markerlights and then was able to handle the stormsurge output just fine

      • abusepuppy December 17, 2015 5:16 am

        Yeah, exactly. Without Markerlights or other support abilities, most Tau lists fold up pretty quickly- and Markerlight sources are inevitably pretty fragile. Don’t shoot the T6/3+/W8 Stormsurge, shoot the T4/4+ Marker Drones.

        • Kevin Lantz December 17, 2015 5:52 am

          that’s probably one reason I like the marker light drone formation soo much, finally have a cost effective MOBILE markerlight option. (I didn’t like them before because of bs 2…)

          • X078 December 17, 2015 6:43 am

            Run it together with the Ghostkeel Wing, you now have stealthed Marker Light drones capable of Jink and go to ground.

          • Kevin Lantz December 17, 2015 8:01 am

            assuming you keep them that close… which means the ghostkeels are probably not doing what they need to considering their 18-24inch range you’re utilizing

          • abusepuppy December 17, 2015 8:18 am

            The Stealth bubble has a 12″ radius. Ghostkeels have a 24″ range. Markerlights have a 36″ range. Seems like it works out reasonably well to me.

    • DevianID December 19, 2015 4:24 am

      Abuse, I didn’t mention the missile pod on the Strike unit because the math isn’t there to support it IMHO. S7 is of course better than s5, but Twin-linked Ignore LOS/cover with double the shots is a huge deal. Tau have many, many sources of Missile Pods, but Smart Missiles are much harder, and more valuable, to get. This is especially true in the major tournaments that almost always feature abundant LOS blocking terrain.

      As an aside, did you know that the Strike team with a Smart Missile does the same expected damage but with more positive variance to the front of a Rhino as the Missile pod strike team, but also Ignores Los and cover?

      As for a seer council, yes it does a lot of wounds to the Stormsurge, but the Stormsurge is literally the only unit capable of dealing with them once they get Buffed up. Without the Fearless Surge holding them up or stomping them the Council will run through the Tau.