Charlie here from 40kDiceRolls, and I want to personally welcome you to the Church of the Sky Ray, where we all believe the Sky Ray is the best unit in the Codex: Sky Ray. As always, for more tactics articles, check out the Tactics Corner!
A specialized Hammerhead variant, the Sky Ray trades the rail or ion turret gun for an impressive armament of seeker missiles. It’s able to track even the swiftest enemy units and dispatch them quickly, sometimes before they can even take evasive maneuvers. While it’s been designed to take out airborne enemy units, it’s been proven a capable gunship when it comes to destroying land-based targets as well. According to the fluff, one such gunship took out 17 enemy vehicles in a single engagement! Their apparent armament coupled with their dual markerlights results in a vehicle that not only can personally eliminate targets but can support nearby units as well.
On the tabletop, a Sky Ray is a single model unit, Heavy Support choice. It is accompanied by two MV1 Gun Drones.
TX78 Sky Ray Gunship
|7 to 13||12″||3+||3|
|4 to 6||6″||4+||D3|
|1 to 3||3″||5+||1|
Gun Drone stats can be found here in the Tactical Drone article.
A Sky Ray is equipped with two markerlights (36″ Heavy 1) and six seeker missiles (72″ Heavy 1 S8 AP-2 D[D6]). It is accompanied by two MV1 Gun Drones. Each drone is armed with two pulse carbines (18″ Assault 2 S5 AP0 D1). The Sky Ray may replace the two Gun Drones with either two burst cannons or two smart missile systems (30″ Heavy 4 S5 AP0 D1, no line of sight needed, units attacked by this weapon don’t gain any bonus to saving throws for being in cover).
Sky Ray’s special rules:
- Attached Drones
- If accompanied by drones, they are considered to be embarked when the Sky Ray is set up.Whilst embarked, the Sky Ray is considered to be equipped with their weapons in addition to his own.
- Velocity Tracker
- Add 1 to To-Hit rolls for targets that have the <Fly> keyword
- Hover Tank
- Basically, measure (for the purposes of range and whatnot) from the hull instead of any base it might be on.
- Explodes on a 6 for D3 mortal wounds within 6″.
The Gun Drones’ special abilities can be found here in the Tactical Drones article with one exception:
- Both Gun Drones can detach at the start of your Movement phase by disembarking as if from a transport. From that point on, they are treated as a separate unit and cannot reembark or reattach.
Today we will be exalting one of T’au best-kept secrets, the Sky Ray. For those of you unaccustomed to T’au regularly, you might not even be too familiar with what a Sky Ray is. In a word: under-appreciated. In another word: up-and-coming. Yes, hyphenated words count as a singular word.
In your garage, beer in hand, a Sky Ray will serve you well. Each and every game it will bring you valuable tools like a potent alpha strike using its six seeker missiles or a hard-to-remove markerlight source. The only other T’au units that can take that many seeker missiles are Tiger Sharks from ForgeWorld and they cost nearly four times as many points and more than four times as many dollars. Does your so-called “buddy” like to harangue you with his Mortarion? How about six seeker missiles to his plague-ridden face? While you can hardly count on an unsupported Sky Ray killing said Primarch of the Death Guard, you can reliably do damage with it, setting you up to enact the T’au sept Focused Fire stratagem to have your measly 7 point Fire Warriors wound it on 4’s. This makes for a frightening alpha strike and can take out just about any single target in the game.
But the Seeker Missiles are one-use only, you must be saying. Won’t it be useless the remaining turns, I can practically hear you cry out. No. It’s a T7 Sv3+ W13 chassis with two markerlights, hitting normal targets on 3’s but flying targets on 2’s. What better to start a marker light chain against some hard-to-hit target and use the Uplinked Markerlight stratagem? Gee-wiz, how am I going to get marker lights on those Aliotoc jetbikes? Eldar are OP! The answer is clear: Sky Ray. Further, it’s much more resilient against the small-arms fire that obliterates your Pathfinders and is much less susceptible to snipers, which your Cadre Fireblade and Marksman cannot say. A good T’au player spreads their markerlights around and a Sky Ray is a perfect place to diversify your risk.
Now get out of your basement and set down your beer (depending on event). What if you want to use a Sky Ray in a semi or “real” competitive setting. Is that sheer insanity? Again, no. I already know I’m going to get flak for this, but this is what the Church of the Sky Ray has stood for, spreading the wisdom.
Let’s take a look at the top three list from the recent SoCal Open 2018. Taking first place is an Astra Militarum list with, surprise, surprise, a Castellan. With a T8 chassis and given a Sv3++, the odds of you getting at least some damage through from a Sky Ray are pretty possible. Could you do that other ways? Of course. You could spend twice the points for an Iontide. You could pay nearly 4 times the points for a giant Y’vahra target. You could also take an Ionhead for similar costs. You should seriously consider taking Ionheads anyway, but you can only take three of them after all so it’s good to know your options and diversify. My point is that the Sky Ray is a can opener for the rest of your highly efficient units to finish the job. In second place was a formidable Tyranid swarm with a flying Hive Tyrant. <Fly> is just SO good and useful, even after the FAQ 2.0, that ways of mitigating its utility for your opponent has to be a factor when making your lists. You’re virtually guaranteed to encounter key <Fly> units in your opponents’ lists at an event. Why not take advantage of it? And third place was a contingent of Dark Eldar making use of both Raiders and Venoms. Another situation where a T’au unit that gets +1 To-Hit against <Fly> units is very helpful, not just for the seeker missiles for damage, but for the markerlights and support.
Knowing how to mitigate against <Fly> is no secret for well-seasoned T’au players, as the 11th placing participant showed. This T’au list took triple Riptides (no real surprise there), but he did take Velocity Trackers on two out of the three. In this instance, the Velocity Tracker is an optional take, called a Support System, and not the unit’s special ability like the Sky Ray. It still gives +1 To-Hit against enemies that have <Fly> and, in my opinion, is one of the three best Support Systems to take on a Riptide, the other two being ATS (additional AP on all weapons) and Target Lock (no penalty to moving and firing Heavy weapons). I tend to agree with the previous Riptide article and think that the movement debuff is important to mitigate against. Yes, you can mitigate against it with 4 markerlights, but I don’t usually take enough markerlights to give each of my three Riptides 4 markerlights on each of their targets (that’s a LOT of markerlights). My point is not that this 11th place list is inferior, I’ve certainly never taken such a high spot at this caliber of an event. My point is that mitigating against <Fly> is very important at a competitive level and that the Sky Ray does that well and more, freeing up important Support Slots on things like Riptides, providing durable markerlights, and providing a bit of Line of Sight blocking with it’s decent size.
Look at it like an insurance policy. Best case scenario your opponent brings Magnus/Mortarion who is a large wound-count, multi-hundred point model with <Fly>. Focusing this down is the kind of thing that the T’au excel at, given the correct tools at hand. You can be hitting on 2’s, rerolling 1’s in all likelihood just by firing the Sky Rays’ markerlights and maybe even using the Uplinked Markerlight stratagem for a single CP. You’re going to be doing damage on average and, depending on the rest of their list and the scenario at hand, can be setting yourself up to aim the rest of your army (or at least a good chunk of it) at whatever you want removed. Worst case scenario, they have something like a Fire Prism or Leman Russ, which are both very acceptable targets for the Sky Ray. In either scenario, you have a modestly-pointed Sky Ray carrying its own weight in enabling the rest of your forces, which is what T’au is all about in my opinion.
Should you find yourself on the other side of the table from a Sky Ray, don’t let my pining for it lead you to believe that all hope is lost. There are still many psychic spells and “chapter tactics” that will negate the inherent +1 To-Hit it gets against <Fly> units. Without too much work, you can have it hitting on only 3’s, 4’s or even on 5’s in some cases. Know that it needs line of sight and range for the seeker missiles as well as markerlights so you can position yourself advantageously. Most of it’s ideal targets are large though, so trying to reliably hide Mortarion is not a sound plan. In that case casting the -1 To-Hit will still be preferred as it just cancels out the buff from Velocity Tracker and still results in a net loss for the rest of the T’au army.
Pay attention to the rest of the T’au’s markerlights too. Seeker Missiles all require the target to have at least two markerlights on them or else they only hit on 6’s. While the Sky Ray does have two markerlights, they’re not a sure thing with a BS3+ and your opponent might be required to spend a reroll or the Uplinked Markerlight 1CP stratagem on ensuring its target gets the required 2 markerlights. A conservative T’au player knows that he has to specify the target for all the Sky Ray’s weapons before rolling any dice, so in order to prevent against the target not having 2 markerlights as required, they’ll probably try and get markerlights on that target via some other source first (Pathfinders, Cadre Fireblades, Marksmen, etc.). Even by blocking LoS from the other markerlight sources, you can cause your opponent to spend CP unnecessarily and anytime you can get your opponent to overspend or overcommit resources, it’s a good thing. That adds up.
Lastly, you can try to use range and LoS to give your opponent inferior targets. Seeker Missiles are best against big and scary targets, not against Guard Infantry, 30 Boyz, etc. Use this knowledge to your advantage by forcing your opponent to make less-than-optimal decisions.
I know you won’t all agree with me on the Sky Ray. But when you look at what it provides and what the current meta is like, it seems more like a useful tool rather than the dust-collector many of you view it as. Take it for a spin and see how you like it before blindly treating it as the competitive pariah that it currently is.
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