The mecha that started it all, the Tau Crisis suit. No longer the biggest or baddest gunner around, they’re still a very functional part of even top-tier Tau armies these days. Click below to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Crisis suits are perhaps the most iconic part of the Tau army and a mainstay of many armies; their flexible weapon loadouts, excellent mobility, and reasonable statline and survivability all combine to form a pretty good general-use unit. The ability of Farsight Enclaves armies to get them as Troops only magnifies this usefulness. It’s one of the units that are going to come up most often in Tau and any player worth their salt will have at least a box or three of them.
The basic Crisis statline is fairly solid, although not without its weaknesses. BS3 and WS2 are standard for the Tau, along with I2. However, S5 and A2 make them surprisingly good in combat against weaker foes (Guardsmen et al) and a 3+ save with two wounds makes them reasonably able to shrug off damage from basic weapons. Ld8 is a bit on the shabby side, however, and means that you really don’t want to be taking big squads unless you invest in a sergeant (Shas’ui) or attach a character of some kind.
Crisis are unusual in the game in that they do not come with any weapons equipped; your 22pt Crisis suit has nothing but punches for armament, a state that it is not recommended you leave it in. You can take a total of three “hardpoints” worth of gear- weapons and support systems take one each, twin-linked weapons take two, and Signature Systems (relics) take one on a squad leader. Unlike in past editions, you are not limited in how you combine gear, so you’re free to take three different guns or even three of the same gun if you please. All Crisis suits do come standard with a Multitracker (can fire two weapons) and Blacksun Filter (ignore Blind and Night Fighting), though, so you will be hard-pressed to find loadouts that don’t feature at two or more guns in most cases.
Wargear and Special Rules
The big question when looking at Crisis loadouts is what weapons you want for what role. Because of their extremely flexible equipment, Crisis can fill a wide variety of different jobs in an army- however, you need to know what it is that the rest of the army can (and can’t) do and where their talents fit best. Crisis often don’t want to be too close to the enemy, which can limit the utility of some of the shorter-ranged guns; on the other hand, their ability to Deep Strike (via the Jet Pack rules) and move and shoot to full effect can allow them get in and out of dangerous situations fairly reliably, so there is a tradeoff to be made.
Although there are a variety of opinions on how to best equip Crisis, I hold myself to one fairly absolute rule: never mix weapons. It can be fine to give different members of a squad their individual weapons (provided you have Target Locks liberally spread around), but no suit should realistically ever have two different weapons on it- a single gun is simply too unreliable for doing a job. It seems clever to put one Fusion Blaster alongside, say, your Missile Pod so you have a chance of killing that Land Raider… until you miss or fail to penetrate with it and suddenly the unit is sitting in a bad place. Redundancy is king in this game and that means having more than one gun on the same target if you want to get results. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the different weapons and support systems available.
Missile Pods are typically my go-to weapon choice in the absence of specific other needs; the long range, multiple shots, and high strength value all combine into an excellent general-purpose gun. It unfortunately is outranged by comparable Imperial weapons (Autocannons, etc) but your mobility and the finite size of the board often make this a tolerable issue. Missile Pods excel at cracking open light-to-medium tanks and putting saves onto high-toughness targets; they function reasonably well against many kinds of infantry, but are far from exceptional and can sometimes find themselves struggling. Missile-equipped Crisis (sometimes called “Deathrain”) typically want to be hiding behind terrain in the backfield and avoiding contact with the enemy. However, this setup does compete with the missile-equipped Broadside variant and is much less efficient, if a lot more more mobile; consider what you are getting out of them and what slots you have available.
Fusion Blasters, though seen several other places in the codex, get a lot of play on Crisis suits because of the unit’s ability to Deep Strike in with multiple of them (often 4+) and vaporize a whole unit of tanks in one go. Though the extra 6″ of range compared to Imperial melta weapons gives them a bit more stretch room, without benefit of a Homing Beacon or the Through Boldness Victory warlord trait it can be very dicey to get them where you want with any degree of reliability. However, even outside of double-penetration range Fusion Blasters are not a weapon to be scoffed at, especially on the AV11 tanks that predominate in the meta. Markerlight support is highly recommended for Fusion suits, since you will rarely get a second chance to shoot with them before they get destroyed.
Plasma Rifles are another solid option, providing a lot of AP2 firepower with a decent range. Although they lack the reach and volume of fire of Missile Pods, Plasma Rifles get a lot better when within Rapid Fire range, a feat easily managed when Deep Striking. Plasma benefits the most from the use of Markerlights and can erase heavy infantry or monstrous creatures in short order and can even do some damage to light tanks, especially if they luck out and roll a penetration. However, with the buffs to the Burst Cannon the Plasma rifle often suffers a bit in comparison, especially since you pay a higher premium to get it. While Tau plasma is a lower strength than its Imperial counterparts, it doesn’t suffer from Gets Hot results.
The Burst Cannon is the dedicated anti-infantry weapon of the Tau armory. With the standard S5 AP5 profile that is so common for the army but a newly-improved four shots and 18″ range, Burst now compares very favorably with many of the other options due to being 5pts cheaper than the others- and that adds up quickly when you’re buying many guns for a squad. Burst Cannons actually work out to be comparable or superior to Plasma at most ranges when you aren’t ignoring cover and especially against horde units or those that rely on invulns (e.g. Daemons.) Although they’re not designed for it, Burst Cannons can also do a number on AV10 vehicle facings, including the rear arc of anything they sneak behind, so it doesn’t pay to underestimate them.
Flamers are the final “standard” entry in the armory; they are extremely cheap (only 5pts per), but the abysmally short range on a platform that hates being in melee means they will not often get a lot of work done. Flamer suits are almost forced to Deep Strike if they want any chance of using their guns, and even that is a risky proposition due to the need to be so close to the enemy. Most often you will see Flamers as either a placeholder weapon (nothing else to put in a 3rd slot, etc) or on a suit that is being kept as cheap as possible without being completely useless (33pts to fill a Troop slot in Farsight is pretty acceptable.) Remember, though, that a Flamer can be used to Support other Tau units with surprising efficiency- a squad of two of them is an average of eight autohits on anything that charges a nearby unit.
The Cyclic Ion Blaster is one of the two “new” weapons that can now be taken freely on Crisis suits, unlike previous editions. With the same price, strength, and AP as a Missile Pod but one extra shot it has a lot of potential use… provided you can keep within the 18″ range, that is. While it’s hardly the only weapon to be so limited, since the Missile Pod is typically used for sniping vehicles and whatnot I am somewhat skeptical of the CIB and haven’t made a lot of use of it- however, there are many who like it and very much prefer them, and I can certainly see the advantages. It also technically has an “overcharge” mode that makes it S8 and small blast, but I have trouble imagining why you’d want to use it.
The other gun is also an 18″ blast weapon, but a very different sort; the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector is a S4 AP5 pie plate with Barrage and Ignores Cover built in; it’s the only barrage weapon in the Tau armory and one of their few large blasts. As a dedicated anti-infantry tool it’s not dissimilar to the Burst Cannon, although it’s a little more expensive; it’s a good incentive for your enemy not to bunch up and can occasionally snipe key models, but you won’t see it too often because it’s a bit less flexible than the Burst overall (can’t kill vehicles, etc.)
In addition to the guns, Crisis suits can take support systems and a Shas’ui can even take Signature Systems. Target Locks, as already alluded to, are one of the most common options- 5pts lets you shoot a different thing than the rest of your squad. No roll needed, no limit on one squad member per unit, just shots where you need ’em. Drone Controllers can share you BS with any drones in the squad, which is decent but more often taken for a Commander (BS5 > BS3). Vectored Retrothrusters give Hit and Run, which is very useful for the shorter-ranged weapons; they also give Fleet, which is easy to forget. Early Warning Override is popular on other units and so often not needed on Crisis; their weaker weapon loadouts compared to the big suits also make it less attractive. Advanced Targeting is an option not often seen, but it’s very cheap and the ability to pick off heavy/special weapons with Precision Shots is very nice to have. Most of the other systems are either too niche or too expensive to see any real use, though there are always exceptions.
One other thing to note about Crisis- their squads can get big. Although the minimum unit is just a single suit, every suit can bring along up to two drone friends (of the Gun, Marker, or Shield variety) and the squad maxes out at nine suits total, a big change from the old teams of three. Now, you won’t usually want to go anywhere near this high- too big of a footprint, too easy to catch in close combat, too vulnerable to blasts, too much investment in a single unit, etc- but it’s worth remembering that you can if you have the right setup. How many suits you want will depend a lot on how you choose to use them.
We aren’t going to try and cover every possibility here because, frankly, that would be a pretty exhaustive article and this one is already long enough as-is; the combinations of armament, squad size, support systems, and attached characters are almost endless and can fill an enormous variety of purposes. Instead, I’m going to try and talk about more general “types” of squads and how they are best fielded.
Small units of Crisis suits (1-2 models) are typically either filling a mandatory slot at a minimum cost or performing one-off duties such as Deep Striking with melta/flamer weapons to annihilate a vulnerable target. The big advantage to these suits is the good firepower output per investment; you get a lot of guns for your points and very little wasted space. You might occasionally plunk a drone or two onto the unit if you have some points left over, but typically short-and-sweet is your preferred option here because the unit is likely doomed to die if the enemy gets a chance to shoot at it anyways.
Mid-sized units (2-4 models) are more typically what you will see dancing about the field shooting at the enemy over multiple turns; while such squads are certainly more than capable of Deep Striking when the need arises, their typical operating plan is more commonly to find a piece of blocking terrain and use their Thrust moves to stay hidden behind it during the enemy turn while sniping at their preferred target on their own. Such units are very commonly accompanied by some drones (usually 2-6, depending on loadout) and can make up a significant part of the bulk of an army’s firepower- and as they run anywhere between 100 and 300pts, this should be expected.
And then there’s the really big units; usually, these only come in one size- nine suits and a significant accompaniment of drones, to maximize the benefit of the squad’s shared abilities. By utilizing squad-wide buffs (Multispectrum Sensor, Command/Control Node, Puretide Chip, etc) and the abilities of attached characters (Shadowsun, Farsight) combined with Target Locks to fire freely at whatever targets are needed, they can put out a blistering amount of firepower. However, this comes at a consequent price as well and even the largest of these squads is still pretty easy prey for an enemy deathstar or even just some well-placed blasts.
No matter their configuration, it does one well not to overestimate the abilities of a Crisis suit; without benefit of Markerlights or other bonuses, they are a mere BS3 and T4/3+. Concentrated fire from basic weapons or any hits from S8+ attacks are a serious threat to them and with their weak morale, it is very easy to lose one or two squad members and book it off the table. Either run them alongside other units that can support them- Kroot to screen, Riptides/Stormsurges to countercharge, other squads to bring Supporting Fire- or put them down understanding that they are very likely to die. Their concentrated firepower is an asset, but it can also be a liability; short of splurging on drones, you don’t have any ablative bodies in your squads.
The Crisis suit is still quite functional as a unit; it might not be the mainstay of the Tau’s hyper-efficient firepower anymore, but they can still be a very strong contingent in an army or even a central part of it in the right lists; their huge array of options and customizations mean that you can always fit them to do what you need if you’re willing to spend the points (and have the right parts magnetized.)
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