Tau Codex Review: Formations: Riptide Wing

The formation that singlehandedly makes everyone thing that Tau are WTF OP OMG BORKEN, starring everyone’s favorite Monstrous Creature to hate, the Riptide Wing! Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more strategy and reviews.



The Riptide Wing is relatively simple- it’s three units of Riptides, configured however you please. If you want to go really hog-wild, you can even max out the unit size of all three of them for a grand total of nine big honkin’ suits and eighteen drones- great for re-enacting your End of Evangelion narratives, but probably not a great choice for an actual tournament army. As it is not a part of either the Hunter Cadre or Dawn Blade Cadre, a Riptide Wing must always be taken as an independent detachment and won’t benefit from other “meta-formation” benefits.

Tau Riptide

Gear and Special Rules

Aside from a very solid core composition, the Riptide Wing has three benefits, all of which are fairly significant. First of all, any Riptide within 6″ of another model from the formation can reroll its  Nova Reactor attempts, which makes them a lot more reliable. Nova Reactors are normally a rather fickle thing, so being able to retest them brings them up to nearly a 90% success rate and means that you can reliably keep up the benefits on most/all members of the units pretty much every turn with minimal chance of attrition. Note that it is any other Riptide in the formation, even one from the same unit if you happened to take them in squadrons.

Second, you get +1BS when shooting at a target that at least one Riptide has fired at that shooting phase. While this won’t be huge for an Iontide (unless you’re blowing enough Markerlights to get it to BS6 for the reroll on Gets Hot), like the Nova benefit it is huge for a Heavy Burst Cannon variant and in combination with the above it makes this setup quite viable for them. Note again that this benefit only applies during the shooting phase and thus won’t help any during Interceptor attacks. It also won’t apply to attacks that are Snap Shots, due to the order of operations in modifying a value.


Third, and perhaps most famously, is the Riptide Hailfire attack. Once per game you can declare the attack and any Riptides that stand still during the movement phase (and assault phase) may make two full shooting attacks back-to-back, including double-doubling up with a secondary weapon if you successfully activated Ripple Fire mode. These attacks can even be at different targets if you choose, which can be useful for racking up that +1BS bonus from above.

The question of exactly how to equip the Riptides is an interesting one, as the formation benefits can push you in several different directions. The ability to consistently Nova Charge and make multiple attacks as well as getting bonus Ballistic Skill are all very nice for a Heavy Burst Cannon version; on the other hand, an Ion Accelerator variant is less likely to be hampered by the inability to move during a Hailfire attack turn. All three secondary weapons have their proponents and none of them is a bad profile; I myself prefer Smart Missiles for their versatility in a variety of situations and especially their ability to reach more-distant targets and those out of Line of Sight. However, getting to put two or four Fusion shots into a vehicle will all but guarantee its elimination and the Plasma Rifle can likewise put out a fairly absurd number of shots at point-blank ranges (not to mention both of their APs matching the target priority of the Ion better.)

Taking Early Warning Overrides on all suits in the units is essentially mandatory- 5pts for Interceptor is simply too good a deal to ever pass up and it shores up too many weaknesses to refuse. A second support system isn’t mandatory, although it can be useful- Advanced Targeting System is helpful occasionally and quite cheap, making it a favorite of mine. Target Lock is a requirement if running the Riptides in units of more than one- it allows you to distribute firepower more effectively and can net you two targets for +1BS against on successive attacks. Many players swear by Stimulant Injectors (for Feel No Pain), but I often find myself unimpressed by them- certainly, they can make a suit extremely difficult to remove, but compared to buying a Void Shield Generator or adding additional models to the unit the numbers don’t work out all that well. However, if you have a handful of points left over and nothing better to spend them on, go ahead.



The Riptide Wing is all about what Tau do best- apply firepower. The the base shooting output of a Riptide itself is merely comparable to a Leman Russ or other heavy tank, it does so while remaining mobile, reasonably resistant to melee interference, and most importantly protected against enemy counterfire. So while a Riptide Wing does little to enhance the other aspects, all three aspects of it work to push the firepower of its suits through the roof.

Networked Reactors mean that you will more often be able to use your Nova Charge profile or Ripple Fire with the suits, which means more shots and more damage. Bonuses to your Ballistic Skill mean that those shots will land more often. And the Hailfire attack, even if it is once per game, allows you to use your improved profile more often and hit more targets with your units (and thus apply the BS bonus more reliably.) All three bonuses play into the other two from the formation, which is what really makes it so powerful.

The question of when to unleash the Hailfire attack is certainly a relevant one for anyone running the formation; typically speaking, one wants to use it as early as possible, but the counterpoint to that is that it prevents you from moving that turn and thus can often compromise your shooting by putting some of your guns out of range. This typically means that, bar poor deployment on the enemy’s part of an unusual setup, you won’t generally be able to make full use of it on the first turn of the game like you might prefer to- often enough, you need to wait for the enemy to close in on you before activating your Hailfire. Remember also that using Interceptor may prevent some or all of your Riptides from participating in a Hailfire attack, another very relevant concern if the enemy is bringing down Drop Pods or the like.

riptide 01

However, even with all of that going for it, the Riptide Wing has one major limitation on it, and it’s the same one that all Riptides have- they are almost universally very Markerlight-hungry. With only BS3 natively and Gets Hot on most of their preferred weapon profiles, Riptides need to be seeing some bonuses to their accuracy or else they are likely to waste many or most of their shots; similarly, while an AP2 pie plate is hardly bad shooting, without Ignores Cover it is a much less frightening prospect and is merely in the realm of the everyday Battle Cannons that have never really shook up the game. So it is that a typical Iontide wants to be using up five Markerlights per turn (three for +3BS to avoid Gets Hot and mitigate scatter, two for Scour) and even a Bursttide wants to be seeing at least two most of the time. This means that a full Riptide Wing can easily consume twelve or fifteen Markerlights every turn of the game across three different targets- a rate that is all but unsustainable for the overwhelming majority of lists.

As a result, most Riptides will end up firing at significantly-reduced effectiveness from this level and will periodically be whiffing completely, suffering wounds from their own guns, etc, especially if the enemy has been able to degrade a list’s Markerlights (or if the list had few/none to start with.) This is typically the biggest limitation on the formation- without significant support, it will be a trio of very tough shooting platforms, but not terribly accurate ones and thus won’t be a particularly attractive way to spend ~600pts for a lot of armies.

However, with that said the ability to mix a significant amount of Interceptor into any army is nothing to be sneezed at. Many armies- such as Eldar- are very vulnerable to reserve-based strategies and the Riptide Wing can be a powerful solution to these problems as it can shoot down many problems before they even have a chance to affect the board. Though only Eldar and Necrons are Allies of Convenience with Tau, Imperial factions and Dark Eldar as well as Chaos Marines can also squeeze them in as Desperate Allies if they’re willing to accept fairly large sections of the board becoming very dangerous to move into due to the One Eye Open rule. There are other ways for such armies to access Interceptor attacks through Tau (including the Ranged Support Cadre and Firebase Support Cadre), but the Riptide Wing is perhaps one of the more attractive ones at the end of the day due to the durability of its units.

620126_md-Energy, Riptide, Tau, Warhammer 40,000


The Riptide Wing is definitely a strong formation, but also not one without weaknesses- it concentrates a lot of points into a relatively small number of units and is highly vulnerable to many of the typical weaknesses of Tau, such as Grav weapons and assaults. Without extensive support units to assist it (Markerlights, melee defense, additional scoring units, etc) it will struggle to hold proper control of the field, hence why many of the “big robots” lists for Tau  (such as double-Riptide Wing, Riptide Wing + Ghostkeel Wing, Riptide Wing + Stormsurges, etc) have failed to rank particularly highly at most tournaments. However, properly supported it can be a powerful tool and provide a good mix of elements to fill the gaps in a list while not skimping on firepower in the slightest- and for armies that can make use of these capabilities, it will be very dangerous.

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off, every day!



About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

13 Responses to “Tau Codex Review: Formations: Riptide Wing”

  1. Avatar
    Trueknight April 25, 2016 3:47 am #

    I’ve been rocking the riptide wing for a few months and a few tournaments. I run 2 burstides w ewo and velocity tracker and 1 iontide w plasma rifles and ewo.

    They typically are rockstars in my list, even without markerlight support. However, there are definitely games where they have killed themselves from overheating (hbc) or failed nova rolls (even with reroll). Lol

  2. Reecius
    Reecius April 25, 2016 8:33 am #

    Lol, 100% votes for tournament worthy, that might be the highest rated formation we’ve reviewed.

  3. Requizen
    Requizen April 25, 2016 12:19 pm #

    Been thinking of adding this to a Necron force (though leaning lately towards the Renegade Knight over it) as another source of shooting prowess. I’m worried that it’ll underperform without Markerlight support, though. Sure it gets the +1BS from the formation bonus, but is that enough to make up for the lack of supporting units?

    • Avatar
      AbusePuppy April 25, 2016 1:08 pm #

      I think the question, in my mind at least, would come down to how worried you are about unit count (since the Riptides will be three to the Knight’s one), melee (where the Knight will excel and the Riptides be merely okay), and reserves (where the Knight is actually weak and the Riptides excellent.)

      Riptides without Markerlights are definitely a LOT weaker- in particular, the Burst Cannon version with no Markerlights is… well, not _worthless_ but certainly not worth 200pts. Ion fares somewhat better, since it relies more on the scatter die than on actual BS values, but it can still be problematic when you lose your shooting for the turn due to Gets Hot or a 12″ scatter roll.

      I think, in the end, I would argue that if you can’t fit in any Markerlights at all (such as via a Drone Network or allied detachment), you’re better off with the Knight or some other option. A Riptide without Markerlights is just a Leman Russ, and no one is scared of a Leman Russ.

      • Requizen
        Requizen April 25, 2016 1:14 pm #

        Definitely considered doing the (Marker) Drone Network as well, but that’s another 224 on top of the Riptides, which is starting to get pretty expensive for what’s supposed to just be added on to the army, close to half if not more.

        Yeah, the Knight is probably better. Just like my options open!

        • Avatar
          Marandamir April 27, 2016 5:48 am #

          The drone net is pretty hoss. The key to interceptor is to ensure you really eff up whatever is coming in from reserves, or scare your opponent enough to make their reserve entry ineffective. Riptides are scary but BS3 is weak sauce and not enough to really put a hurting into the enemy. However, drone net get interceptor as well and can support riptide interceptor hate by applying the much needed markerlights on enemy reserves before you open up on them. That is invaluable and worth the investment.

  4. Avatar
    Axis of Entropy April 26, 2016 7:13 am #

    When 7th came out with Unbound, everyone joked that an all Riptide list would be unbeatable. That may even have been true at the time. Now it’s possible, and even with formation bonuses, it’s far from the most competitive.

    An Unbound list of wraithknights tho…

  5. Avatar
    Stylian_Sthugh April 27, 2016 12:54 am #

    They’re good, but for the needed investment of 600pts + Marketlight support (and several hundred pounds/dollars), I think a Supremacy Suit is much much scarier.

    As it’s been demonstrated the last year in tournaments, Tau are now a good mid-tier army but a rare top tier contender. Their dependency on Markerlights makes them vulnerable and have little in the way of counters to Assault and Psychic shenanigans.

  6. Avatar
    wighti April 27, 2016 7:38 am #

    Are you sure about the Riptide wing not benefitting frm the Dawn Blade bonus on rerolls? It does not specify anywhere who gets to benefit from the and just states that you reroll all to wound/armour penetration rolls against the target.

    Heck you could argue that your allied space Marines would get the reroll.

    • Avatar
      AbusePuppy April 27, 2016 4:49 pm #

      Frontline has ruled otherwise, although I don’t believe that it has been updated to the FAQ yet.

  7. Avatar
    Dakkath April 27, 2016 3:01 pm #

    The formation that singlehandedly makes everyone thing that Tau are WTF OP OMG BORKEN

    Truer words have yet to be spoken

  8. Avatar
    Alexander May 2, 2016 10:29 am #

    It’s one of our best formations in our book and I totally agree with you guys that it’s weakness is that high amounts markers need to be eaten but a good formation when supported by a commander ( Mark’O) and Flametides. I say this because target priority should come from what roles models take. The riptide wing can eat whole guardsmen blobs and kill OBSEC units while the flame tides focus on 2+ armor and AV 13/14 vehicles. It’s not a good formation on its own but with the right support it can do wonders even against battle Compony.

  9. Avatar
    GeorgeJetson June 10, 2016 10:39 am #

    I realize this article is old, now.

    As a Tau player, I have to agree that the points sink in markerlights is a balancing factor. However, if you were to play a unit with 3 Riptides, and then run the other two as “monats” (single suit squads) then you have at least one unit shooting at BS5 natively due to the “Fire Team” rule for Riptides, Ghostkeels, and the Tau Tank platforms. Pair this with Target-locks and you could have a formation that doesn’t necessarily need lots of markerlight support.

    I use this when I run an optimized stealth cadre. Take the Ghostkeel unit as a unit of three. In 1850 lists, you can run a 6 Riptide Wing (3, 2, 1 unit composition) and a 3 Ghostkeel OSC, then give your stealth units a pair of market drones and a drone controller. That should be all of the ML support you need (just enough to buff a squad of your ‘wing with Ignores Cover).

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