The biggest, baddest suit of them all (as long as you ignore the others), the Stormsurge- Tau’s ultimate Gundam. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Tau answer to enemy superheavy units (in the fluff) and general purpose smasher (on the tabletop), the Stormsurge is the only Lord of War option available to Tau in many formats, as the Tau’nar Superemacy Suit is generally banned and the various superheavy flyers are somewhere between bad and unusable.
Compared to most gargantuan creatures, the Stormsurge has a fairly modest statline and weapon profiles; its numbers are high, but not outside the usual range of values seen in the game, with a small number of exceptions. For the most part, one could be excused to think that a Stormsurge is simple a normal monstrous creature- strength and toughness 6 are very par for the course, as are WS2 and BS3. Initiative 2 and two attacks mean that its normal swings are actually worse than a Riptide’s are… if it were limited only to normal attacks, at least. The big surprises are 3+ armor, which is quite lot even for Tau, and eight wounds, which stands out as excellent for a model with its price tag.
Special Rules, Wargear, and Options
Alright, settle in because this one’s a doozy- the Stormsurge is armed to the absolute teeth and possesses a plethora of special rules. As a gargantuan creature, it benefits from a huge list just on its own- Feel No Pain, Unstoppable (can’t be insta-killed and instead takes d3 wounds), Fearless, and Stomp are the ones that will come up most often from its basic list. Do note, however, that unlike battlesuits the Stormsurge (which is technically a “ballistic suit”) does not possess a blacksun filter and thus is not immune to the Blind rule. It does, however, get to move 12″ per turn, making it one of the fastest Tau units in the movement phase.
Its armament is no less impressive, with a large number of different gun options and the ability to fire them at any targets it pleases thanks to being a superheavy. All Stormsurges come standard with a Cluster Rocket System (48″ S5 AP5 4d6 shots) and four Destroyer Missiles (60″ S8 AP1 one-use, expend a Markerlight to make it Str D.) The former has a very scary-looking set of numbers but is actually usually only going to kill 1-2 MEQs per volley of shooting unless given some kind of bonus to accuracy or wounding The latter are where its superheavy-killing prowess comes from; if you can “activate” them and fire a volley into a big target, it will usually go down in pretty short order even with the ITC nerfs to Str D shooting. In matches where you don’t have any big targets to smash down, the missiles can also be useful for giving you options on charges- firing a single missile into a target while your other guns go elsewhere lets you assault it later in the turn if so desired. As a matter of course, players who want to get full mileage out of their Stormsurge should familiarize themselves with the multiassault rules and the FAQs allowance for single-model units to make multiassaults in particular, as you’ll want to be making use of it a lot. A twin-linked Smart Missile System also comes on the basic chassis, giving you another versatile gun for sniping off infantry models at decent ranges.
The Stormsurge’s main and backup guns both have options for swapping them out depending on your preferrence- the main gun starts as a Pulse Blastcannon but can be changed to a Pulse Driver Cannon for 15pts. The Blastcannon is a scaled-up version of the gun carried by Breacher Teams; its maximum range is 30″, quite short, but it gets two shots at all times and hits with a different profile depending on how far away the initial target was. At 0″-10″ it is Str D AP1, making it a fantastically-effective vehicle killer; at 10″-20″ it is S10 AP3 blast, which unfortunately is a bit on the weak side in most cases but can still pop Thunderwolves, characters on bikes, and penetrate vehicles; at 20″-30″ it is S9 AP6 large blast, which is a very versatile set of numbers able to get through to tanks while also piling wounds onto infantry with equal facility. The Pulse Blastcannon is great for aggressive Stormsurges that want to be in the thick of things, as it gives you the potential to pour out large volumes of high-quality shooting that can scare almost any unit in the game.
The Pulse Driver Cannon, on the other hand, has only a single, static profile: 72″ S10 AP2 ordnance large blast. While it lacks the second shot of the Blastcannon as well as the potential for Str D at short ranges, the Driver has the advantage of consistency with an excellent set of numbers- there is nothing that it is bad against, and with the ability to reach far past the Blastcannon’s range it can be a great reach-out-and-touch-someone weapon. It is particularly well-suited to be used with Stabilizing Anchors, which we’ll get to in a second here.
Finally, the backup weapons: all of them are twin-linked and fairly short-ranged, though they have their own advantages. The basic unit comes with a Flamer- normally a great addition to a Tau unit, but with the Stormsurge’s inability to fire overwatch, it is kinda useless for the most part and really only works as a way to open up a charge target. The Burst Cannon is a decent upgrade for 5pts, giving you a handful of fairly-accurate shorts into a target, but for my money the prize goes to the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, an uncommon weapon not usually seen with Tau- although the same range as the Burst Cannon, it gets you a S4 AP6 large blast with Barrage and Ignores Cover. A large blast alone would be great (since Tau don’t actually have a ton of those), but being able to shoot without LOS and do wound allocation shenanigans is just amazing; I honestly see no reason not to go for it, since it’s the same price as the Burst is.
All of the above is a pretty impressive swathe of gear, but it’s just the starting place- Stormsurges have access to the usual Tau armory and can take up to three support systems (although some of them, like Stims, are completely redundant and some others you have to pay extra for.) As with all big suits, Early Warning Override (Interceptor) is pretty much mandatory at all times- you have the guns to give anything showing up unexpectedly a nightmare. Advanced Targeting System (Precision Shots) is also great, since you have several guns with a bucket of dice in them to try and snipe off a heavy weapon or whatnot. Velocity Tracker can give you a really solid anti-air platform, especially with the Pulse Blastcannon; Str D shots against flyers is no joke. The Shield Generator is another “really should be mandatory” option, even at 50pts- while it hugely increases your price tag, the ability to shrug off anything on a 4+ with eight wounds and FNP to back it up makes the Stormsurge insanely resistant to those AP2/3 weapons that think they’re getting cute.
All Stormsurges come with Stabilizing Anchors; these can be deployed in the shooting phase or retracted in the movement phase and while deployed prevent the Stormsurge from moving or making Stomp attacks. However, on any turn following the one it has “planted” itself the Stormsurge can make two full rounds of shooting with all of its guns, firing all weapons once before making a second set of attacks. Though many of the guns are a bit short-ranged for this to be practical at all times (and, indeed, many Tau players will hardly use it at all) it can lay down a devastating amount of shots in the right circumstances.
The Stormsurge is unique amongst superheavies in that it can be taken in units- up to three models at 360pts a pop, though anything beyond two is pretty prohibitively expensive.
The Stormsurge in most ways works like a bigger version of the Riptide, especially since you can get very similar loadouts for the two of them in terms of main/secondary weapons. However, where the Riptide is merely okay in close combat the Stormsurge is an absolute champion thanks to Fearless and Stomp. Stomp absolutely cannot be underestimated when taking things into account- it never “misses,” ignores effects like Invisibility, and will get anywhere from two to eight hits per blast marker you put down, depending on the enemy’s exact placement. The S6 AP4 hits it generates on a 2-5 result will put consistent wounds onto MEQs and other mid-tier units wile quickly crushing weaker targets, but the real gold is in the 6 result, which instantly removes everything under the marker- no wound rolls, no saves, just a bunch of dead models (though under ITC rules you can Look Out Sir its effects.) This alone makes the Stormsurge a huge threat to even the toughest of combat units, as being forced to pull upwards of 400pts of models is not a pleasant thought for the owner of a deathstar. Stomp is even more deadly against vehicles, since a 2-5 causes a penetrating hit and a 6 automatically explodes the vehicle- don’t charge your Dreadnought into anything capable of Stomping.
This fantastic melee prowess, combined with heavy firepower (including the all-important Str D) and excellent mobility allow Tau to bring a very hard-hitting unit to deal with units that would otherwise be problematic- even just a handful of MEQs can spell the end of most Tau squads if they charge them, but for a Stormsurge they handled in combat with almost trivial ease. This ability to wade into midfield or even the enemy backfield without worry of getting killed is extremely powerful in an army that normally struggles with such things.
We should also take the time to note just how resilient a Stormsurge is against many weapon types. While T6 and 3+ armor mean that it goes down much more easily to stuff like Warp Spiders and Scatter Bikes (or anything else that relies on volume of shots to do damage), against the sort of “high quality” guns that are typically used to kill big targets- up to and including Grav- the Stormsurge is much more resistant. Since it relies more on having a big pile of wounds that the enemy has to chew through (rather than being innately hard to get a wound onto, like the Wraithknight) it can soak up a large amount of fire before going down even from the best guns the enemy can muster. Being taken in units can make this even more terrifying, since a heavily-wounded Stormsurge can retreat to the back (or simply start putting wounds elsewhere) allowing you to soak up to fourteen wounds before losing a model; in other words, the first sixty-four Lascannon shots against the unit don’t do jack squat. Needless to say, this is NOT something you can allow the enemy to do.
The Stormsurge is not without weaknesses, however- unlike most superheavies its middling statline mean that almost every gun in the game can hurt it, even just basic Boltguns. While your chances of taking a wound from such a weapon aren’t particularly high, having to roll the dice every time means that occasionally wounds will slip through and do damage that other units might simply ignore. BS3 (and no immunity to Blind) are also significant sources of concern- without support from Markerlights a Stormsurge has a pretty weak damage output even when firing every gun, so bringing support for it is absolutely critical. (This is even more true when the Destroyer Missiles are needed, since each of them also takes a Markerlight hit to “activate.”) When taken in units they also become extremely expensive quite quickly, leaving you with a nontrivial potential to have the whole unit locked into combat with a small handful of enemies such that your 900pt suits have to miss a shooting phase- a rather damning loss in many matches.
Of all the superheavy units in the game, the Stormsurge is arguably one of the most fair ones- unlike the others it is not really immune to any of the normal weapons included in an army and its own guns, while strong, are nothing that you couldn’t potentially see on a “normal” unit. While Stomp is a hilariously-overpowered mechanic, taking full advantage of it means playing a rather specific sort of army list and involves a number of risks of its own. It can be annoying to play against, but not in the same “nothing I have can even damage this unit” way that is so common with superheavy units and thus I think it is a better design than them, all things considered.
Remember, whether you’re looking to expand an existing army or start a new one, Frontline Gaming offers up to 25% off on GW products everyday.