Today we’ll take a look at the Cadre Fireblade, an oft-forgotten HQ choice for the Tau army. If you’re looking for S5 at bargain prices, the Fireblade is your go-to man. Click to read on or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Cadre Fireblade is the Tau’s bargain-discount HQ selection; coming in at 60pts, they are slightly more expensive than an Ethereal, but as the Fireblade does not give up a victory point when killed it will often find itself an easier fit in some lists. However, a Fireblade has certain very specific units that it wants to be hanging out with and very specific battlefield roles it wants to take; if these don’t fit with your plan, it can be all but wasted. The Fireblade fills a similar role low-tier characters like a Chaplain or such, handing out some decent buffs to a unit of Fire Warriors while not being a complete waste on its own; in a pinch, it can take the mandatory HQ slot for you and fill it cheaply, especially as part of an Allied Detachment.
The statline on a Cadre Fireblade is nothing to write home about, but it’s not instantly dismissable, either. T3 and a 4+ save (even with three Wounds) make for a very, very fragile character in most circumstances and Leadership 9 doesn’t help that much. However, BS5 is pretty nice to have on such a cheap model and can be great when manning a Quad Gun or the like. However, like most Tau models it relies mostly on wargear to do the heavy lifting.
Special Rules and Wargear
Like all Tau infantry the Fireblade comes with Supporting Fire and Photon Grenades, which give it a bare modicum of melee defense. The real reason to be using the Fireblade is its Volley Fire rule, however- so long as it and its entire unit stay stationary, they can fire an extra shot with Pulse Rifles and Pulse Carbines. Now, this is a very niche ability, since you can only realistically use it with the Pulse Rifle- Carbines are simply too short-ranged for it to be functional. However, in that context it is quite powerful, letting a squad of basic troops unleash twenty-four S5 shots per volley- and heaven help the soul who closes to within 15″, since they’ll be facing thirty-six shots from the Fire Warriors alone. Even without Markerlight support that is an absolutely punishing number of shots and with just a basic +1BS it can really turn into a nightmare of saves for most units. This bonus works even during Overwatch, so you can lay down some serious hurt there as well.
The Fireblade actually goes even beyond that for utility, however; it carries a Pulse Rifle of its own should you want to toss in a couple more high-BS shots, but most of the time you’ll be making use of the Markerlight it carries in combination with the Split Fire rule to slap a counter down on a unit somewhere on the field in preparation for other shooting. Since it can do all of this while also buffing its own unit, it ends up being a pretty good deal in a lot of respects.
A Fireblade can also take a pair of Drones if you are so inclined, though there’s little reason to bother doing so. Gun Drones could be considered somewhat okay since they benefit from its Volley Fire, but really aren’t worth the trouble overall.
So, let’s not fool ourselves: the Cadre Fireblade is not taking top prize at any tournaments. he’s a cheap dork who wants to be on foot with a big block of the worst Tau troop unit and that’s about the best thing you can say about him. However, with that said he can find some uses here and there and has a couple jobs he does great work with.
One reason, already alluded to, is that he fills an HQ slot while being reasonably cheap and having no specific drawbacks. Although he is significantly less flexible and powerful than an Ethereal will typically be, he won’t ever cost you the game due to giving up a free point and he is at least slightly more resilient than his counterpart. Simply having the option to take a very cheap HQ can be useful to have around even if a Commander or other choice will typically be superior- but do take note, if you’re running an Imperial Bunker or other fortification for him to hide inside he can be a pretty cheeky little dude by just sitting in there firing his Markerlight at things.
Also, as noted, he makes a nice little package deal for an Allied Contingent if you aren’t expecting too much out of him. Taken with a full-strength unit of Fire Warriors he comes to 168pts, a fairly reasonable price, and lays down quite a bit of firepower while filling all the necessary slots very neatly. Again, this is not something that is going to take the tournament world by storm but it can be a pretty handy little way to open up some of the Tau units in the EL, FA, or HS slots to solve a problem for you while also providing some good medium-range shooting support for your army. The Markerlight is certainly not as useful in this case, but it’s still there and you don’t have to shoot it if you don’t want to; there’s always his Pulse Rifle in a pinch.
It’s also worth noting as a Warlord choice that the Fireblade is not “allowed” to get some of the traits on the Tau table, which gives him a better shot at many of the good ones. Unlike an Ethereal or gunless Commander he can still end up with the “no LOS rolls” one, but if you’re fishing for the one-turn Skyfire or ignoring Pinning, he has pretty good odds.
One final trick: in a Hunter Contingent the Fireblade is an optional choice that lets you gain another 12″ bubble of run/flat out + shoot with your units, which can be fairly sneaky. Since Volley Fire only requires you to stay stationary in the movement phase, the Fireblade and their unit can still take advantage of this ability along with any other units in range. Again, this isn’t something that will be taking the world by storm, but it can be a handy trick in more casual games.
If the limitation on his Volley Fire (i.e. no movement allowed) were removed, I think you might actually see the Fireblade in actual play more often; however, needing to be 100% motionless is actually pretty problematic, since it means you can’t reposition to get better line of sight, regain coherency after casualties, etc, etc. I’d certainly like to see him made a bit more useful, but I wouldn’t expect it happening anytime soon.
As always, remember that the Frontline Gaming Store sells GW product at up to 25% off if you’re looking to start an army or expand an existing one.