Tau Empire: Fast Attack: Pathfinders

HEYO EVERYONE, Hotsizzle is back with the reviews. Today I’m here to talk about an often neglected support unit for the Tau Empire. The Pathfinders. Remember, if you want to figure out how to beat Reece’s OP Militarum Tempestus list, check out Tactics Corner for more fun stuff.


Pathfinders find the path for your Tau. They are the scout and reconnaissance units of the Tau empire. They are meant to paint the target with a giant laser pointer so that the big guns can sit in the back and take your enemies down a few notches. These guys are considered the lynch pin of a tau cadre and are an entirely volunteer part of the tau military. Joining a Pathfinder Team is meant to exemplify the tenants of the greater good: selflessness for the cause.

Pathfinders used to be one of the only ways to get marker lights, and they were a staple in most armies. They have gotten outclassed in recent years, but they are still a solid unit that can cause saturation of marker lights on their foes. They are best kept on the cheap side as to not spend points on worthless gear you barely ever get to use.


  • Pulse carbine: Not bad at all, decent weapon, but you will rarely shoot this
  • Markerlight: Why you are taking these units, for those sweet Ignore Cover shots.
  • Photon grenades: Defensive grenades are nice, they are unlikely to do much as you are likely to get chopped and ran down. Don’t forget you can throw them for a blinding 3” blast.


  • Ion Rifle: A weaker version of ion weapons from crisis suits. Kind of meh. It is just not worth it.
  • Rail Rifle: Nice, but still not worth it. Can pick off stray models which is nice.
  • EMP Grenades: No, these don’t exist

Drones: They come with 3 unique drones

  • MB3 Recon Drone: Really expensive homing beacon. Ignore it.
  • MV33 Grav Inhibitor Drone: Reduces assault moves by D3: Not bad. But they are likely to be shot off the table, so just OK.
  • MV31 Pulse Acceleration drone: +6” to any and all pulse weapons. You should be shooting markerlights, not guns.

Special Rules

  • Scout: Pretty good to get them into the area they need to be in.
  • Supporting Fire: Yup, you can markerlight a unit that is charging you, than have the broadsides fire with a higher BS.


So with that out of the way, how you play these units is pretty simple: they’re marker-light support. These guys are not the special forces or snipers of Tau. They sit back and light up the target so you can fire more rockets than a Chinese New Year celebration. You have to keep the guys cheap, so no superfluous upgrades. They are already expensive at 11ppm for what you get. The ideal unit size I find is 7-8. It averages about 4 marker light hits. This is enough to give one unit both ignores cover and BS5. Not that bad, that will wipe out most units.

These guys have no built in defenses against shooting. They are only T3 with a 5+. Bolters eat them for breakfast. So you have to be smart with how you play them. Anyone who faces Tau knows that without their support units, they’re nothing. So the first thing you gotta do is alpha strike down the stuff that has the chance to kill them easily. This means anything with Ignores Cover and Template Weapons. Make sure they are kept beyond arms reach and you will be good. Ignore transports for these guys, they are a trap. You at best won’t be firing at full effect until turn 3.  They should be hoofin it…..eh? Eh??? No? I’m sorry, moving on.

Deployment is key for this unit. Their marker lights only have 30 inch range and are heavy weapons, so moving and shooting is not a good option. I find the best place is in a ruin that is off to the side. Never place your marker lights in the middle, because that is where fighting is the thickest. If you are rolling on the strategic table, and you get infiltrate, Pathfinders are a good choice to use this on. Their static nature means you have to put them in the right place during deployment, so give this a great deal of thought. There are a few formations that give them shrouded. Such as the Ranged Support Cadre or staying near a Ghostkeel Wing, but Ignores Cover is super common these days. Now you can take the Tide-Wall Rampart for them, and it will keep them safe, but its questionable movement at the expense of defense. This is because it is a fortification that can move, but those occupying do not count as moving.  It will make your Pathfinders mobile, but will cause you to be exposed and in the thick of the fighting.

One thing I tend to put my Pathfinder squad near is the Tau Sensor Tower. The tower is a cheap fortification that is 1-3 towers. Any unit within 2 inches of any tower can re-roll failed to hit rolls of 1. It also comes with a Twin-Linked Markerlight. So you set up your Pathfinders near one. What you do is then shoot the tower’s Markerlight. If you hit, you than use it’s token for the Pathfinder’s Markerlights. This will allow them to re-roll 1s with BS4. This will allow for more Markerlights to hit. So if you really want to kill something, this is how you do it.



As to formations, the pathfinders belong to several. But they tend not to be the focus or an afterthought. One where they really shine is the Ranged Support Cadre. The formation gives them shrouded as long as they don’t more or shoot anything other than marker lights. The Broadsides can always supporting fire the pathfinders regardless of range and double the value of any marker lights shot by the formations pathfinders. Not bad at all. Solid formation here. Positioning with this formation is key. you have to make sure all units will have line of site of the same units. This is very much a static formation as none can can move without incurring a penalty. The best thing is to keep them in the same ruin and on different levels. This also gives the Pathfinders Infiltrate. So if you are willing to split the formation, putting them up in a forward position with good lanes of fire is really good. But again, be careful of putting them to close to the midfield.

Pathfinders are not a garbage unit, they’re just outclassed in the current meta. But they are a cheap source of Markerlight saturation. If played right and in the right type of army (avoid ninja tau with them) they can be pretty good. Give them a chance. As always, share your opinions in the comment section.

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About HotSauceMan

HotSauceMan is a mediocre and lower tier player, but he makes up for it in spunk and Jazz. When not writing for Frontline, He can be found huddled away in his dorm watching cartoon, or fighting DareDevil.

6 Responses to “Tau Empire: Fast Attack: Pathfinders”

  1. Dakkath June 18, 2016 12:49 am #

    Pathfinders are basically the quantity over quality option for markerlights. You can take a bunch of em, but they’re basically immobile and die the second something looks at them.

  2. Happy_Inquisitor June 18, 2016 1:23 am #

    In any discussion of pathfinders we have to accept that for competitive gaming their core role of markerlight support is filled better by drones – and especially the Drone Net VX1-0.

    That does not mean they have no place.

    They are inherently less specialised than marker drones, if your opponent takes down your big guns rather than your marker light sources a pathfinder squad can still put damage out in the shooting phase in late-game. The blind grenades are hilariously good against Necrons.

    Unlike marker drone squads pathfinders can score objectives and make good backfield objective campers if you are running an otherwise highly mobile Tau force.

    The best enabler for Ninja Tau are Tetras but if Forge World is not allowed the Pathfinders + Recon drone combination makes that tactic work for less points than a Stealth Suit team.

    These are niche advantages and the Drone Net VX1-0 will be first choice markerlight source for most competitive lists but I added a small pathfinder team into my 1850 list after the drones and they were usefully flexible. In a hunter cadre they get to move D6″ and shoot which is not exactly mobile but usually good enough to shuffle around in cover to get a clear shot.

  3. Vankraken June 18, 2016 3:59 am #

    Definitely outclassed by the Drone Net formation which can spam much more durable and mobile markerlight sources. For the points pathfinders are really useful and cheap but almost always targeted first which can be used to your advantage. By having a lot of MSU pathfinder teams that cost around 50 points and draw fire purely because of their markerlights. Pathfinders need lots of redundancy to be effective as a markerlight source but the odd MSU pathfinder unit coming in outflanking with their pinning carbines might actually be a useful tool for going after objectives and disrupting the enemy backfield. Still not well suited for competitive play but can still be of use in a more casual setting.

  4. Kevin Lantz June 18, 2016 12:00 pm #

    the problem with pathfinders is that markerlights are heavy… it just makes them unable to do much but sit where you left them.

    • Dakkath June 18, 2016 11:15 pm #

      I’ve been theoryhammering changing markerlights to salvo 1/1. That way they can be used on the move, but you lose a lot of range.

  5. TheMostGood June 19, 2016 11:29 am #

    Pathfinders have a lot of cool lore around them. It is an all volunteer corp that has something like a 79% casualty rate. To be a pathfinder is an honor that many Tau soldiers try to uphold. Their job is to go to the front lines and beyond to light the path for the rest of the cadre, For the Greater Good. It is unfortunate that their tabletop presence is all but gone as they lack the equipment to survive or do well in most games.

    Pathfinders are in a weird spot on the tabletop. They are the cheapest source of markerlights in the Tau codex, but they are also the weakest and least mobile of any of the options. They are BS3 meaning that half their markerlights will miss on average. If they move at all they fire snapshots. One way to get around this problem is to “cascade” markerlights. That is, you fire a few markerlights from one source and use those markerlights to increase your pathfinders shooting.

    Their survivability is also very low. T3 ensures that wounds will be easily put on them, and a 5+ armor save ensures that they do not survive most attacks. You shouldn’t be relying on your armor save though, as these guys should be in cover (where possible). In cover they only get a 4+ cover, and there are plenty of armies that have access to ignores cover. A simple solution would be to put an Imperial Bunker in your list and throw some pathfinders in,

    Their place is seemingly in small point matches where they do not have to worry about getting wiped off the board on your enemy’s first shooting face. You will also still get the benefit of having markerlight support on the cheap.

    The Tau codex is lucky in that we have so many options that are often eclipsed by BETTER options in the codex.

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