“The second-fightiest Tau character in print” is not exactly a high title to aspire to. Aun’shi… does not aim very high. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and info.
Aun’shi is what happens when someone who keeps relentlessly buying the shitty melee weapon upgrades for their Ethereal somehow creeps into GW’s development room and sneaks some text into the book. He’s not good or useful in really any way at all, but no one can deny that he is a character with a point cost that you are legally allowed to include in a Tau army.
Aun’shi has a surprisingly good statline for a Tau- Weapon Skill and Initiative 5 both make him a lot better than you might expect in combat and with four base Attacks he can actually throw down a lot of swings. He also comes with a bonus Wound compared to a normal Ethereal (for a total of three.) However, limiting all of this is the rest of his statline; with Strength and Toughness 3 he is ill-equipped to fight most sorts of opponents and can easily be punked out by any S6 weapon (of which there are plenty in the game.)
He also comes with the usual Ethereal equipment and rules; Stubborn and Failure Is Not an Option mean he boosts morale (but can cost you a VP) and Invocation of the Elements can grant various bonuses to your surrounding Tau units. His Honor Blade gives him +2 Str in melee combat, making him at least passable there- and pretty hilarious when it comes to punching vehicles, oddly. He also comes with a Shield Generator (for a 4++ save), something other Ethereals have no access to at all, as well as EMP and Defensive grenades.
Alright, so Aun’shi clocks in at 110pts- more than double the cost of a stock Ethereal. He probably gets some other stuff, right?
Well, technically he does. Or one thing, at least. His only unique special rule is Blademaster, which lets him pick one of two stances in a challenge- either Rending for his melee attacks or reroll failed saves. Neither of these are bad, but considering how fragile and weak he is to start (and how unreliable Rending is), they aren’t really selling the whole “combat Ethereal” concept as a whole. He can take on stuff like normal squad sergeants and stuff with a reasonable degree of reliability, but anything beyond that is going to be big trouble for him- a simple Chaplain is quite likely to smush his brains in pretty badly, for example, to say nothing of a kitted Chapter Master or Overlord.
How To Use Him
I got nothin’.
No, seriously. Aun’shi isn’t the worst character in the game, not by a long shot, but he suffers badly from being in the wrong faction in addition to having mediocre abilities. A Lucius or Lilith might not be the best at what they do, but at least what they do can be fit into the army they are a part of and other parts of that army designed so as to support them. Aun’shi does not have this luxury; there are no good Tau melee units that you can stick him with to support him (or for him to support) and his unique role in the army is not strong enough to generally justify his inclusion-a Riptide or Ghostkeel will bring far more melee support for not all that different of a price.
However, if you’re desperate to throw him in he’s not the worst thing in the world. He does everything that a normal Ethereal does just as well- he keeps your army’s morale more solid, he passes out a variety of bonuses, etc. He does also have a small buff to survivability compared to a normal one of his kind; the extra wound and 4++ won’t always matter (sometimes you’re just getting popped by S6 shots or artillery), but it can make it that marginal bit more difficult to claim the easy VP off of him, which is at least something.
Also, while I have pooh-poohed his combat stats here a number of times, it’s worth noting that he is at least able to cut down weaker foes with a decent amount of skill- S5 I5 WS5 attacks will do work on dudes without a good armor save pretty quickly, so throwing him into a unit of Guardsmen or the like will make short work of them. As noted earlier, he should also be able to take down most squad-level characters pretty easily, and a rerollable 4++ save can actually let him tank wounds decently well against guys with small numbers of powerful attacks or other S3 characters. Be wary, however, of fights where you can’t challenge or the opponent will refuse it- in a normal fight, Aun’shi is little more than meat for a blender.
Aun’shi isn’t very good- if I haven’t made this clear so far, let’s go ahead and restate it one more time. However, he’s also not very bad, so if you’re willing to throw 60pts in the garbage with your list entirely for fluff reasons, then hell, go ahead and use him- he at least is doing something. And hey, if you can’t be efficient with points at least be efficient with money by picking up your Tau (or any other GW model) at up to 25% off at Frontline Gaming.