This Week in the ITC: The Secrets to Winning Tournaments with Tau, from the 3 Best Tau Players in the World.

Hello, fellow Warhammer 40k fans! SaltyJohn from TFG Radio, and one of the Las Vegas Open Head Judges, here to bring you a wrap up of this week in the ITC.

Last week I discussed the Code of Conduct, Terrain Guidelines, and List Format requirements for the ITC and LVO this year. Then I had an interview with Joshua Death and Nick Rose, two players who have been in and out of various spots in the top 10 all season. If you’re still looking for information on the Terrain Guidelines and Code of Conduct the Hyperlinks above go straight to them, also you can listen to the latest episode of TFG Radio where 3 of the LVO Head Judges, including myself, discuss them and answer some questions from our Twitch audience about the documents.

Neither the top 10 nor the Team rankings have changed but I like to throw them up there so there’s a reminder of where things stand. This week I wanted to focus on a faction, and the factions best players in the world right now according to the ITC. I picked Tau for a few reasons. The first is they seem to always be a much-maligned faction in the game, from their inception when they were poked fun at for being GW’s Trade Federation Star Wars knock-off race to Space Commies to their player base getting more heat online than seemingly any other. With all that in mind, I know we have a strong Tau presence in our local So Cal meta and I have experienced first hand what the Tau are capable of on the Table Top. I played two Tau players at the Bay Area Open this year, rounds 3 and 4,  and although I beat both of them they both went on to have winning records for the event, 4-2 and 5-1 respectively. It’s a good army, but seeing as I don’t play it I thought it would be best to go to the best players in the world right now for Tau and get their perspectives. All three of them, Todd Silber, Richard Windau, and Ken Coriale agreed to answer my questions, so big thank you to them upfront!

Each of them has at least one GT win with Tau this season which is impressive on its own, and although you can look at their lists if you subscribe to the BCP App that isn’t the same as understanding how they play it, and why they take what they take in the list. So I put together 10 questions to ask each of them to help give us insight into how the best Tau players in the ITC right now are finding success with their faction.

You are one of the three best Tau players in the world currently according to ITC rankings. How does that feel? Were you aware of it?

Todd: I was. It was a year start Goal, and to have hit it, even if for a short time is fulfilling.

Ken: I appreciate that the ITC tracks performance by faction, so that no matter how “strong” your faction is, you don’t have to feel handicapped by your faction choice – you can always compete to be the best among those who have chosen the same faction. I’ve closely followed the Tau ratings this season and I’m happy to show that Tau can still find success in Eighth Edition. I’ve particularly enjoyed winning two GTs so far this season.

Richard: Yes, I’m aware I’ve had some luck this year

What is it about competitive 40k and the ITC that has you playing Tau this season?

Todd: The constant haters on the internet, that claim an army can’t be good or competitive. The ones who know how bad an army is before the Codex even comes out, or playing a single game.

Ken: I got back into 40k at the start of Eighth Edition. When choosing a faction, I picked Tau as the combination of lore and playstyle that best suited me. They’re the only faction I’ve played competitively since then.

Richard: I’ve played tau since 4th, 8th edition coupled with the growth of competitive scene has helped the variety of armies, and tau has such a solid dex besides my other army is grav heavy marines…

What have you had the most success within the Tau codex this season?

Todd: Drones. And a distant second the Commanders with CIB.

Ken: I really think Commanders are underappreciated. 2+ Ballistic Skill and the ability to carry quite a few powerful weapons makes them a very heavy-hitting unit that can solve a lot of problems for a generally Ballistic Skill-challenged faction.

Richard: The usual suspect’s Riptides, drones, and fire warriors.

What if anything, stands out to you as issues that other Tau players face that you have overcome?

Todd: Patience I would say. Understanding that you will be outscored by a lot for the first 3 turns. Don’t get desperate if its 12-4 at the end of turn 2. Stay to your game plan, keep your army alive, and focus on scoring at the end, this goes with what secondaries to pick as well.

Ken: One of the big mistakes I see other players make is to play Tau as a static gun line. Tau are not the strongest faction for that – armies like Guard and AdMech will win a straight shoot-out nearly every time. Tau needs to be played as a mobile army to achieve the best results.

Richard: Because of the level of opponents in our area and the silly gotchas I feel the main thing is screening and wrap tricks that are really taus downfall if you don’t prepare for that you likely lose.

How do you prepare for events generally?

Todd: I try not to over think it, and just focus on what I think is my best playstyle, which is; Have no set game plan, never intend to rely on any one thing, and understand the harm and benefit in every action. Play out tons of different “what ifs” and scenarios in my head and have a counter for each.

Ken: I’m a meticulous planner. Before a large event, I’ll look at the better players (often the top 250 in ITC) that are attending and I’ll check BCP to see what lists they’ve been playing recently. It’s even better when events require pre-submission and post lists. I’ll then come up with the outline of a strategy for facing the different types of lists I expect the better players to bring.

Richard: Well, I wake up and take a nice shower, eat some blueberries if I procrastinated as usual and wrote my list the night before or finished throwing 3 colors on this sadly is a real insight.

What is the biggest strength for Tau competitively? What is their biggest weakness?

Todd: Savior Protocols by a mile are the biggest strength. With Chess clocks also, not playing 1.5 phases of the game is beneficial. The weakness is placement, based on your ability to fire overwatch and for the greater good. If a board has a lot of ruins of LOS blocking, you have to make sure to stay far so can always take Overwatch. IT is very difficult to do with how GT’s set up terrain, as it should be in all honesty.

Ken: Tau’s biggest strength is drones. Tau armies generally have very few damage-dealing models – drones allow Tau battlesuits to be immune to alpha strikes. Instead of being able to pick out my damage-dealing models, an opponent must grind through my army to defeat me. Tau’s biggest weakness is the range (and not, as people often think melee). Tau are easily outshot at long range by several other armies (most notably Guard, AdMech, and Knights). The most important, and perhaps most difficult, skill for a Tau player to develop is the ability to close the range to enemies without taking too much damage.

Richard: Their biggest strength is their damage output And their weakest is their lack of board denial/board control this seems to be the issue in most games I lose which is a lot. That tau late-game struggle to hold multiple objectives they never score the bonus points. The upper ITC score limits are really 37ish I’ve never scored a 42 with them so to me that’s a glaring weakness compared to really top tier armies who can score 42s also the fact they completely skip 2 phases of the game

What do you generally run in your Tau list(s)? Is there anything unique that you bring to the table?

Todd: GHOSTKEEL, only because it’s my favorite model in the game, recently dropped for a 3rd riptide however for the last 2 GT’s I won. So 50+ drones are probably my thing, including Grav Inhibitors and Pulse Acc.

Ken: I generally run 3 Riptides and 3 Commanders as the damage dealers of my army, supported by drones, fire warriors, and pathfinders – so nothing too unusual, though I am a stronger supporter of Commanders than most. The one unusual unit I sometimes use is Vespids, which I find to be great for their mobility and ability to deal with MEQs (though at the moment they’re not in my list, as the meta has moved away from MEQs).

Richard: All my tau list are totally original and never ever have I stole any ideas from any other tau players name Geoff , ever , Seriously though there are a few good tau lists and I’ve run most of them but there’s nothing unique; most good lists are similar Riptides and drones Firewarrior spam with sniper drones Cold stars And before the nerf tiger sharks.

There are a lot of “net lists” out there for Tau. In my experience the best Tau lists are centered heavily on Tau Fire Warriors as their base with marker light supported Rip Tides. I have found the amount of shots that the Fire Warriors can put out with the aid of some key characters to be truly devastating. Would you agree that the Fire Warrior is the backbone to a good Tau list? Why or why not?

Todd: It could be, but I do not like doing what everyone else does for starters. My list has 15 fire warriors in it. I find the list I play very challenging and unforgiving if you make a mistake but very potent and brutal at the same time. My opinion is that one of the best players in the world, Gonyo, plays that big fire warrior list I hear. So if that’s the case, If others find success based on what he can do with that list, how could you argue its not the go-to list? I just prefer to give it a go differently.

Ken: I like fire warriors and always take some, but I’m not sure they’re amazing. They can provide good firepower, but they have two key weaknesses: They are able to be locked in combat, which can be devastating to Tau, and they cannot be taken in large units so they give up a lot of kill points in ITC. I think the backbone of a good Tau list is the battlesuits, particularly those with the FLY keyword.

Richard: In majority of lists I would definitely agree In my ATC list I had 3 marker lights and 30 Fire Warriors the minimum for 2 battalions I hardly ever take more than 3 marker lights which would surprise most people Firewarriors are a great value for their ppm coupled with a Fireblade marker lights and warlord traits you can quickly have a 70 pt unit mowing down hordes of models which I expect to be the case moving forward with the prevalence of Orks.

Whether you are attending the Las Vegas Open or not, what do you anticipate will be key to a Tau player winning the whole event?

Todd: I think the Key is to just be patient with Tau and have no set game plan as I said above. Do not intend to rely on anything, and if the moment is presented to do some shock and awe, out of the box thing, seize it. In Pro-Fighting days there was a saying, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.” Now of course you are not going to physically punch someone over toy soldiers, but you can take the meaning of that phrase and apply it to competitive 40k.

Ken: I believe Tau have only two major wins this season, so I think winning the LVO will be a tall task. Nevertheless, the vagaries of dice, terrain, and matchups mean it cannot be discounted. I think the key to a Tau army having a chance is going to be to go into each match with a good battle plan and to execute it well. With Tau armies generally only having a few damage dealers, a mistake that exposes them or the failure to ensure they do damage where they are needed can spiral into disaster very quickly.

Richard: Honestly luck, getting good matchups and maybe squeaking a key win though I doubt tau could win the whole thing based off the reasons I’ve listed However whoever places the highest as tau probably ends up best tau so that’s exciting for tau players everyone has a shot.

Again, a big thank you to Todd, Richard, and Ken for agreeing to let me speak to them about their success with Tau this season. Let me know what you thought of the article in the comments, and let me know what you would like to hear about in the weeks running up to the Las Vegas Open! Remember for info about the new Terrain Guidelines and ITC Code of Conduct read the docs hyperlinked above and you can listen to 3 of the LVO Head Judges discuss it on TFG Radio’s latest podcast. There won’t be an article next week, I’ll be on vacation, but be sure to let me know who you’d like to hear from, or what about, before the LVO!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

18 Responses to “This Week in the ITC: The Secrets to Winning Tournaments with Tau, from the 3 Best Tau Players in the World.”

  1. Avatar
    Chad December 27, 2018 2:57 am #

    Great article. I love reading what successful people say about their army’s strengths and weaknesses.

    For the next round I’d add the question “What army do you least want to see across the table from you and how do you try to handle it?”

    Insight into bad matchups from good players is always valuable. Any decent player should be able to win a favorable matchup easily. It is the wins we aren’t expected to get that matter the most.

  2. Avatar
    BK December 27, 2018 4:42 am #

    Thanks for this, interesting stuff. In Europe it appears that people are going towards hordes of T’au.

    It is cool if T’au can be play a variety of ways at a competitive level.

  3. Avatar
    that1guy December 27, 2018 5:32 am #

    I felt like Ken gave the best advice. Like how he acknowledged firewarriors as being good but also a weakness due to the lack of flyer keyword and limited unit size. Overall informative though.

  4. Avatar
    Hotsauceman1 December 27, 2018 12:47 pm #

    This got me really thinking about how I play Tau again, I went 4-2 at BAO bit that’s a different Meta.
    One weird unit I have had decent success with is a remora drone with commander with drone controller.

  5. Avatar
    Kevin Lantz December 27, 2018 7:04 pm #

    It’s telling that they can rarely get a perfect 42… I know it’s hard to get consistently but a ceiling of 37 is rough.

    I echo what they have said, commanders and riptides. With ca changes we will see how other things shake out.

    The impact of Los with ruins in itc is just so rough for an army without super long ranges. It makes us go to sms hard, and aside Frome firewarriora, they don’t come on many cheap platforms in a good quantity

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy December 27, 2018 10:17 pm #

      Broadsides, Riptides, and Fire Warriors, arguably our three strongest units, all can carry SMS. It’s not as if access is particularly difficult. (Technically Commanders can get it as well, but it’s not worth it.)

      • Reecius
        Reecius December 28, 2018 9:01 am #

        Yeah, exactly, lol. The reaction here is so silly. It’s no different than a large LoS blocking object. The equation has not changed, you still have to come up with a way to hit units you can’t see directly.

        • Avatar
          Kevin Lantz December 29, 2018 10:48 am #

          Since Tau aren’t exactly capable cc… That leaves just sms…. The long range shooting isn’t really there to enable pulling back enough from ruins to shoot as they move about or come to you (if for some reason that would ever happen)

          I can’t think of another army that can’t Ally that has this sort of issue.

    • Avatar
      Dakkath December 28, 2018 12:03 am #

      Broadsides, riptides, fire warriors (can’t move), devilfish, hammerheads, and skyrays all can take them.

      • Avatar
        Kevin Lantz December 30, 2018 2:17 am #

        The big thing is to set up an equivalent to the mortar teams guard players love. Tau have to be a) 6 inches closer and b) on more expensive teams that by their nature need to be in LOS to begin with.

        I will grant though, SMS are better than mortars for the sake of ignoring cover.

        • Avatar
          Dakkath December 30, 2018 7:34 am #

          Unfortunately tau shooting falls pretty flat compared to IG shooting in a lot of areas. Mortar teams vs SMS, autocannons vs missile pods, lascannons (volume) vs railguns, plasma gun vs plasma rifle, etc.

        • Avatar
          Kevin Lantz December 31, 2018 5:24 am #

          not sure I agree in the SMS vs Mortar area, being able to ignore cover is really really big against targets you’re typically firing against, point for point for sure.

  6. Avatar
    Hess December 28, 2018 2:40 pm #

    I love the three guys represent totally different approaches to the game and sometimes even contradict each other. Guess the secret to their success does not lie in any of the answers they gave.

  7. Avatar
    Dave Harris December 28, 2018 7:11 pm #

    Is anybody aware of the types of drones that Todd uses in his lists? I’ve never been able to get a copy of one of his lists.

    Seeing that there has been a price decrease in gun drones, I’m wondering if they’ll start moving away from shield drones to gun drones.

    • Avatar
      Dakkath December 28, 2018 10:22 pm #

      I’m gonna hazard a guess you’ll see mixes. You still want shield drones for tanking high ap weapons going against the drone unit itself, as well as for the 5+ fnp when using savior protocols. But if you can spare a slot for a drone controller on a nearby unit, the extra dakka provided by gun drones will be very useful.

    • Avatar
      Todd Silber December 30, 2018 5:04 am #

      My list was uploaded to the “Battle for shield ” Event under my ITC winnings. Its a mix of everything. Top of my head, like 14 shield, 9 marker, 16 guns, and 5 assorted drones for both PF units.

  8. Avatar
    Dave Harris December 30, 2018 6:43 pm #

    How do you think the points changes will affect your lists heading forward?

    That 2 point drop in gun drones going make you want to take more?

    Any desire to bring Broadsides?

    • Avatar
      Todd Silber January 1, 2019 2:52 pm #

      No sir, It gives me just over 30 points. So Another drone for each Squad. 1 more marker, 1 more gun, 1 more shield. Maybe another marker light on Firewarrior Shas. Not really gonna change my list till meta changes. Thought about twieking to drop 1 riptide for 2 ghost keel, but gonna stick with it for now.

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