Frankie’s List Analysis: Tau and Space Marine Lists

Hello everyone, Frankie here with two lists that you don’t see on the tabletops that often. We have a Salamander Space Marine list and a Retaliation Cadre Tau list. Which one will come out on top in this week’s analysis?

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Dawn Blade Contingent
Retaliation Cadre (core)
173 Commander: irridium, C&C, M3S, PENchip, VRT, DC (warlord)
183 Crisis *3: double Plasma; Gun Drone *2
183 Crisis *3: double Missile; Gun Drone *2
183 Crisis *3: double Missile; Gun Drone *2
191 Riptide: Ion, Fusion blaster, EWO
237 Broadside *3: HYMP, SMS, EWO; Missile Drone *2

Drone-Net VX1-0 (aux)
Marker Drone *5
Marker Drone *5
Marker Drone *5
Marker Drone *5

Ghostkeel Wing (Tau Empire)
Ghostkeel: Ion, Fusion blaster
Ghostkeel: Ion, Fusion blaster
Ghostkeel: Ion, Fusion blaster

Soon as I saw the retaliation cadre I knew I wanted it to be the central part of my army. Though, I do kind of wish I could fit in some more crisis suits; they’re my favorite models. I’ve been going back and forth on interceptor on the Broadsides or Ghostkeels. Drone controller on the Commander only because I saw I had exactly 8 points left. I like the Ghostkeel wing for giving me access to multiples of them as well as the stealth aura to cover my other units. Ghostkeels and the riptide are my frontline units, due to their higher durability.


Alright, lets get started. So after looking into the Retaliation Cadre and the Dawn Blade Contingent I think you really have something here. Its piqued my interest and I am excited to make my own variation of this list. I like that you have resilient units on the table so that you can survive while waiting for your main force. The Drone Net is such a good formation and am happy to see you using it as your auxiliary choice. Suits are awesome and usually do quite a bit of damage. Especially if you have enough line of sight blocking terrain on the table to use JSJ tactics.


Some things I would change would be beefing up the suit unit with Plasma. I would drop the Gun Drones off of the suits and drop the Drone Network to 4 man units. I would also drop the Drone Controller off of the Commander at that point. After those drops you should be able to get the Plasma unit to five and maybe one more missile suit. The Commander will for sure drop down with that heavy hitting unit and soak up wounds for them. The Riptide should have a Burst Cannon in my opinion especially with the BS boost from the formation, it just has better odds of doing more damage.


I think this list would do very well against most lists. It will struggle against really resilient close combat units but since you Deep Strike you can stay away from them. But other than that type of list you should do really well. You will be able to pop open transports and kill the guys inside with your high volume of Plasma. The Ghostkeels will be able to charge into marine squads and beat them up along with grab you objectives. I really like this list and cant wait to play around with my own variation.

salamander 1

Salamanders Battle – Demi Company

Warlord VulkanHe’stan
Command squad
– Drop pod
– 5*melta guns
Devastator unit: 3*centurion devastator squad
– 3*grav cannons with amps – 3 comp (for grav and drop pod)
5*assault marines (no jump packs)
– 2 flamers
– Drop pod
10*Tactical squad
– Melta gun
– Combi melta
– Drop pod
10*tactical squad
– Melta gun
– Combi melta
– Drop pod
5*tactical squad
– Melta gun
– Combi melta
– Drop pod
Ironclad dreadnought
– Chainfist
– Heavy flamer
– Drop pod

2nd detachment combined arms detachment
Salamanders CT
– Librarian lvl 2 w/ auspex
– Librarian
5*tactical squad
– Flamer
– Combi flamer
– Drop pod
5*tactical squad
– Flamer
– Combi flamer
– Drop pod
Fast attack
Drop pod
Non standard deployment 9 drop pods, 5 first turn = 8 comp
Grav weapons 24 = 2 comp
Centurion in drop pod 1 comp
Command squad in pod with 5 melta guns = 1 comp
Total comp – 12


Alright, so looks like this list is made for a comp system (probably community comp down in Oz) and not sure if 12 is good or not. This would be a great list with 9 Droppods and Grav Centurions. I do really like the Ironclad Dreadnought and hope he can do well for you. You are for sure taking advantage of having Vulkan in the list which is a positive. Lastly the 10 man units are super strong as they can combat squad for more objective secured units or stay together for a resilient unit.

need more

First thing I would change would be to purchase a Dreadnought Drop Pod for the Ironclad. The ability to stay inside the pod for one turn is game changing especially since the pod has Shrouded. Next I would switch the Flamers for Melta Guns. Unfortunately Flamers twin linked or not, don’t do very much damage. I think overall you will be happier with some more Melta. Last change would be to switch the combi weapons to Plasma since Vulkan gives you master crafted weapons for your sergeants.

great job

This is a really strong list. The ability to null deploy is huge especially in tournaments. Drop Pods are also great for killing units that are pesky and are out of line of sight. The Devastator Centurions will have to do some heavy lifting as they are your only mass shooting unit. I think you will do really will at events especially due to the objective secured Drop Pods. You will have to watch out for Wolfstars and high model count armies.

Thanks for reading everyone, hopefully these lists get you guys excited to start some new lists as well. I think the Tau list in a one on one battle would beat this Salamander list but it would be a really close game. Which list do you guys think would prevail?


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Frankie is the greatest 40K player on the planet. Nuff Said.

15 Responses to “Frankie’s List Analysis: Tau and Space Marine Lists”

  1. Dakkath June 6, 2016 2:16 am #

    Thanks for the review on my Dawn Blade. I like having the option to deploy normally or reserve the retal cadre to beta strike. Admittedly, I used lots of drones to bulk up squad sizes to 5 because I’m paranoid about losing 1 model to small arms and then the rest failing leadership and running off the board. I like the Ion on the riptide for the ap2, but you make a good argument for extra plasma suits and burst’tide.

    Popping that in to army builder, looks like if I drop 4 marker drones, 2 gun drones from the plasma squad, the DC, and the ion accelerator I can make a squad of 4x double plasma suits + 3 target locks and stick a VT on the riptide and the onager gauntlet on the commander.

    Just spitballing, I’d say the Tau would need to move to EWOs from the broadsides to the ghostkeels to have a decent chance against that many pods. Actually, maybe I should do that anyway just to have more interceptor units period. Though it seems you might have to drop one of the 10 man tac squads to 5 in order to pay for the weapon and dreadpod upgrades.

  2. dantejr June 6, 2016 2:30 am #

    interesting analysis as always 😉

    i have few questions:

    1) how the following sentence is possible:

    “The ability to stay inside the pod for one turn is game changing especially since the pod has Shrouded”

    i think i miss something but i don’t know what…

    2) do you think, in this case, grav-cannons in tactics would be reliable?

    and for finish, my experience say: if you want kill with flamers, use LOT of flamers (re rolls change almost nothing with only 1 or 2 flamers): i often use command squad with 5 flamers.

    thank you.

    • Dakkath June 6, 2016 2:35 am #

      The Lucius Pattern drop pod aka “Dreadnought Drop Pod” is an open topped vehicle that doesn’t force you to disembark upon landing. In addition, it has a rule where the turn after it deep strikes it gains shrouded from the dust cloud it kicks up.

  3. Joshua Taylor June 6, 2016 4:37 am #

    The salamanders get wrecked by imperial knights, especially the dakka knight. Usually takes out 2.5 marine units and a drop pod in each turn, and can be easily kept out of melta range by other models in the army. I have played a similar version of salamanders, and every time i saw an imperial knight, i was struggling to not get tabled on turn 6.

  4. Heldericht June 6, 2016 9:24 am #

    I’ve been playing around with a similar Tau list with the Dawn Blade detachment and Retaliation Cadre core. I absolutely love the idea of the whole thing coming down turn 2 guaranteed. Guaranteed reserves coming down on the field is the one thing I really missed when going from Space Marines to Tau.

    After taking Drone Net as Aux (pretty much mandatory), you can fit a variety of things outside of the detachment to top up to 1850. Riptide Wing, Allied Detachments, etc.

    However, the best thing I’ve found to complement this setup is actually the Optimized Stealth Cadre. Not only do you get the awesome Ghostkeels as a unit of 3 (so +1 bs, don’t need markerlights as much), but you also gain infiltrating stealth suits. I know people don’t like Stealth suits, but think of them as scouts in an SM army, but better.

    Not only can they infiltrate and get on objectives from the very beginning of the game (and be super resilient in ruins to boot), but critically, they also can take homing beacons for 10 extra points. So now when your Retaliation Cadre comes down on Turn 2, you have the option of perfectly deepstriking some of the longer range units with huge footprints (trying to deepstrike a Riptide’s surfboard without sweaty palms is impossible).This is aside from Wall of Mirrors from the OSC, which is incredibly good.

    Overall the Dawn blade detachment with the Retaliation Cadre Core is pretty flexible and has a lot of potential to build around it. The only problem is assault heavy armies like KDK or Deathstars. Even an allied Culexus won’t solve that problem. Unfortunately, because of their prevalence, you are almost pigeonholed into bringing Stormsurges for the stomps or go full MSU suits and try to play to the objectives like Battle Company (in which case you’ll be out-MSU’d by a Battle Company).

    This is a great list for casual and even semi competitive games, but in a tournament setting I feel like it needs some more oomph to deal with Deathstars consistently.

    • Dakkath June 6, 2016 11:47 am #

      I have been tweaking the idea of an optimized steal cadre instead of the ghostkeel wing. You’re going to have to sacrifice a lot of stuff from the rest of the list if you want more than 1 ghostkeel.

      • Heldericht June 6, 2016 1:41 pm #

        I’m able to fit 1 riptide, 2 broadsides, 9 crisis suits in the Retal Cad. Plus Drone net, alongside the 3x ghostkeel OSC. It works great for me. I think you can easily strip down some of the bells and whistles to make room. Especially your commander at the moment is a bit bloated on points for what role he’ll play on the battlefield.

        • Dakkath June 7, 2016 11:30 pm #

          My commander only has 13 points worth of extraneous gear, the DC and the VRT. Everything else is pretty essential.

  5. westrider June 6, 2016 10:18 am #

    That Tau list is very similar to some ideas I’ve had kicking around the back of my brain. Need to finish up the Khorne and SW stuff currently all over my table and get back to the Greater Good for a bit, I think.

  6. Stro3560 June 7, 2016 9:16 am #

    Isn’t the Tau list illegal? I thought farsight (dawnblade) couldn’t take normal tau sig systems. Did something chage?

    • Heldericht June 7, 2016 9:53 am #

      This is a common misconception. I don’t know when it changed but it is definitely legal now.

      • Threllen June 7, 2016 11:32 am #

        It was probably when Farsight got updated in the new book. When GW originally released supplements, they almost all said “choose these relics instead of the normal ones.”

        But they’ve gotten away from that recently. New Daemons book allows you to take both. When they updated the digital versions of Crimson Slaughter/Black Legion they changed it to say you can take relics from both even though they had previously said “replace the old relics.” I think the Ghazghkull book still makes you only take from the supplement relics, but its one of the exceptions.

        • westrider June 7, 2016 12:33 pm #

          Farsight is a particularly weird case, because the Mont’ka book says instead, but then the updated FSE Supplement released a couple of months later says you can take both.

  7. Alex R June 23, 2016 3:29 am #

    hey thank you guys ive been fiddling with this list, ive even dropped pods added a imp knight and 1st company task force keeping with my comp core, yeah in oz on the eastern seaboard we agree to a comp limit and 12 is the max so we encourage for people to take the most powerufl you can make with 12 comp pts

  8. vAcjGUG November 13, 2016 5:54 pm #

    2642 481613Hey, are you having issues along with your hosting? I necessary to refresh the page about million times to get the page to load. Just saying 598718

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