Tau Codex Review: Fast Attack: XV109 Y’varha Battlesuit

One of the most polarizing units available to the Tau Empire, the Y’varha is either super-amazing and broken or a complete waste of time, depending on who you ask. Which is it? Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.


The XV109 Y’varha, as one might guess from its designation and appearance, is a development of the XV104 Riptide chassis. Following the success of the Riptide, a rogue scientist by the name of Sho’Aun began development of variants of the heavy battlesuit for use in battling other types of enemies; though his initial efforts were supported by the caste as a whole, they were eventually considered too wasteful and the project was ordered stopped. However, Sho’Aun refused the direct order of his Ethereals and continued the work in secret, eventually resulting in both the Y’varha and R’varna chassis, with their variant weapon loadouts and alternate engine arrangements.

On the tabletop the Y’varha is extremely similar to a Riptide; it has an impressive 18″ movement (with Fly, unsurprisingly) and is extremely resilient, with toughness seven, fourteen wounds, and a 2+ armor save. Its ballistic skill has dropped from the previous version for some reason, now the more common 4+ that most Tau units have, but of course its melee profile is still pretty bad despite having four attacks, as it needs 5+s to hit anything. Like most monsters, the Y’varha degrades as it is damaged, losing movement very quickly (18″/12″/6″) but only going down one pip in ballistic skill at the first tier. However, where the Riptide might be considered a bit pricey, the Y’varha is absolutely prohibitive, clocking in at 395pts before any upgrades, comparable with a full-sized Knight Titan in price.

Special Rules and Wargear

Like its cousin, the Y’varha comes with a number of special rules, not the least of which being For the Greater Good, which allows it to support nearby units when they are charged. We’ll come back around to this one later, but suffice to say that it’s a very good rule on the Y’varha. The chassis also comes with a built-in 5+ invulnerable save, which increases to 4+ against attacks originating from within 12″. (The text also redundantly notes this applies to melee attacks, although I’m not sure how you would make a melee attack from more than 12″ away.)

Like a Riptide, a Y’varha can activate its Nova Reactor to gain one of several different special effects during the movement phase; if it does so, it suffers a mortal wound, but no dice roll is required. There are three modes available: Overcharged Burst (which lets you use improved profiles on its guns), Nova Barricade (which improves its invulnerable save against close combat attacks to a 3+), and Escape Thrust (which removes the Y’varha from the table and places it back into reserves, to be returned to the field in the usual fashion more than 9″ away next turn.) All three have their uses, although Nova Barricade is obviously less useful than the Riptide’s version, which works against all attacks.

The Y’varha’s real selling point is its main guns, however. Unlike a Riptide, it comes with two primary weapons rather than a primary and two secondaries, which arguably works quite a bit in its favor. The most notable of the two is the Phased Plasma Flamer, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Normal mode gets you an 8″ range with 2d6 automatic hits at S6 AP-2 Dmg3, which is pretty horrifying on its own. But if you nova charge it, the gun goes up to 3d6 autohits, which is absolutely monstrous. Its other main weapon is the Ionic Discharge Cannon, which is also quite terrifying. Normal mode is just a 12″ range weapon with three shots at S8 AP-3 Dmg1 (with 6s causing a mortal wound on vehicles), but when nova charged it instead gets 3d3 shots and goes up to Dmg3 with its hits, plus the haywire effect instead triggers on a 4+, with 6+ causing d3 mortal wounds. In short, at close ranges the Y’varha is a beast, though it is costed to match.

Somehow it also ended up with Flechette Pods, which are a 6″ range pistol weapon that makes d6 shots at S4 AP0 Dmg1. I’m not sure that anyone has actually ever used it due to it being a pistol (and thus prohibiting the use of any other guns at the same time), so you should probably just forget it exists.

A Y’varha can take up to two support systems, just like a Riptide can, and tends to favor the same choices- Advanced Targeting System is absolutely fantastic for the types of targets you want to be shooting at and Target Lock can help keep your haywire shooting at full efficiency, though there’s an argument to be made for perhaps a Drone Controller or Early Warning Override instead. It also can take up to two drones, either MV52 Shield Drones (the kind that come with the improved 3++ save) or Shielded Missile Drones (exactly like the ones available with the Riptide, and thus trash.) However, as neither of these are particularly exciting options, I don’t find myself leaning towards them, as I think you can get drones more efficiently other ways.


I’ve tested the the chassis out in a number of games, and a number of lists, and I’ve come to what may be something of a surprising conclusion if you were reading the above sections and being very impressed with the statline: the Y’varha is a trap. A very enticing trap, but a trap none the less.

Now, I’m not saying that on its own merits the Y’varha isn’t a great unit; although it is a bit fragile for its point cost, Savior Protocols pretty easily sidesteps that issue and works quite well combined with the armor/invulnerable saves on the unit. And its hitting power against almost all targets, especially multiwound targets, is absolutely absurd- not only does it bypass the usual Tau weakness of hit penalties, but the good strength, AP, and damage on it mean that it is terrifying to almost any unit you can name. Moreover, since both its guns are Heavy weapons, they can benefit from the Bor’kan sept trait and thus push their ranges out to 14″ on the flamer and 18″ on the haywire- an even more frightening prospect. It’s hard to argue that the Y’varha won’t be devastating to anything if it’s in range to shoot.

But that “if” is a big part of its limitations- with a normal range of 32″ (with a full move + shoot) and an absolute maximum of 38″ (if you activate Mont’ka and roll a 6 on the advance) , which is simply not all that far in the scheme of things- it’s pretty easy for opponents to simply place their units far enough back that you can’t reach them, denying you a turn of shooting. Worse yet, the Y’varha generally wants to be pushing itself extremely far forward, leaving it isolated from the rest of the Tau army- and an isolated unit, no matter how powerful, is usually dead. This is especially true for Tau, who rely on overwatch to protect themselves from enemy assaults- and while the Y’varha has powerful overwatch, it is not necessarily enough to stop powerful units like Shining Spears or those with tons of expendable bodies like Tzaangors. And that’s even assuming that you have drone support in range- without its drones, the Y’varha is incredibly vulnerable for its points and will die almost immediately.

That’s where the Y’varha runs into its main issues; as an isolated element in a Tau list, it is inherently vulnerable despite having very good numbers on paper. And since it is quite expensive to boot, the issue is multiplied by the fact that even just a single Y’varha is a large chunk of the points from a list, which winnows down the other solutions you can bring alongside it. I’ve seen some armies have success running a singular Y’varha alongside other units (e.g. Riptides and other common units), but more often what you see is an extremely focused strategy that tries to push two of three Y’varhas forward with some support from a handful of other suits. And unfortunately, like most highly-focused plans, this strategy works fine in some matchups, but when you come across the army that is resistant to it, your game can fold up in short order, since you don’t really have any kind of backup plan at that point.

Interestingly, despite the great numbers on its weapons, the Y’varha actually struggles a bit with targets that you might not expect it to. Marines, for example, are wounded on 3s by its flamer- meaning that it kills an average of 5ish of them with a standard roll (and assuming you took ATS), which is not particularly exciting for a 400pt model; even factoring in the Ion, its overall numbers there aren’t great.  Similarly, against most vehicles it finds itself only wounding on 5s with the flamer, which is not a great place to be- though the Ion adds quite a bit of damage there. A lot of the Y’varha’s value comes in the threat it projects more so than the actual damage it does- with random shots and fairly random wound rolls, its damage can vary wildly from turn to turn. There are ways to mitigate this- the Experimental Weaponry stratagem for Bor’kan is useful here, as it largely prevents you from rolling that dread five-on-3d6 roll with the flamer, and the Command/Control Node strat also may cost you the shooting of a Commander, but will nearly double the expected damage output against a lot of tough targets.


If you’re facing up against a Y’varha, or three, there are a number of things to keep in mind. First up, they are vulnerable– if you can start putting mortal wounds on them with psychic powers they will fall apart almost immediately, and if you can kill off their drones they will go down reasonably easily to other weapons; staying outside of 12″ to avoid their Shield helps a lot, if possible. Melee strategies are often more hard-pressed to bring down a Y’varha, but even they do have some options; charging from out of line of sight (or with units that innately ignore overwatch) can be a big one, since you only need to get one model in contact to shut down all of its shooting for the remainder of the phase. Do not, however, presume that you will be able to lock it in combat; with an 18″ movement and fly (not to mention the ability to bounce back to full wounds for 1CP) it is all but impossible to trap in place, even by the strategies that work against Knights and the like.

If you don’t have psychic powers or other special attacks, you’ll need to get rid of the Y’varha’s complement of drones before targeting it- most lists should be bringing enough anti-infantry to do the job these days, but it is still going to need to happen in short order, which can be a strain. As with all high-investment strategies, remember that a Tau list running a Y’varha is probably lacking in other things; be on the lookout for what these are and you’re already a long ways towards beating the Y’varha.

Final Thoughts

The Y’varha, although not a bad unit by any means, I think misses the mark quite a bit in terms of its design. It’s costed and written like a superheavy but very clearly isn’t one, which puts it in a very odd place overall. I think a better design for it might be to bring the cost down significantly (to more like Riptide levels, so a good ~150pts or so) and lessen the impact of its weapons somewhat- Dmg3 weapons shouldn’t be getting large numbers of shots and most certainly not with automatic hits. The Y’varha is also notable for being a contributors to the problem of damage inflation, i.e. the reason why Terminators are bad- when every “strong” weapon in the game does multiple damage, models with extra wounds lose a lot of their value, a trend we’ve seen a lot of lately as horde-style armies have become vastly favored over any kind of vehicles or other big target. I think GW needs to reign this trend in and reconsider the damage values it puts in the game, though I suspect it’s too late to solve the existing issues (which will need to wait until 9E is released, in all likelihood.)

As always, remember you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.


About abusepuppy

I was there, reader- I was there three editions ago. When Games Workshop released the Ynnari. When the strength of men failed.
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3 years ago

great review ! I also love the model but it is costed in a way that makes it so much worse than the classic gatling tide… Gatling tide works in all match ups and targets, nothing is safe from a gatling tide except a wave serpent and the other few unit that lower damage by a “minus 1 dmg” (thus effectively making the gatling a dmg 1 weapon).

If commanders and riptides were not so good, perhaps that XV109 Y’varha could be an option…

You are also just so spot on about GW needing to reconsider the damage values ! But I think unlike you that they could simply cost some of the dmg 2 and dmg 3 weapons we see all the time in a better way, no need for a 9th edition.
I mean those we see all the time are the only ones which are an issue no ? To illustrate, Ion heads are not an issue, gatling on riptide is. Gatling on knights are an issue, etc. all these “usual suspects” should just go up like 50% (more or less, discretion is advised) in cost

3 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

I do think that the amount of units that fall under “Knights can kill them in one turn without breaking a sweat so why bring them?” comes up to a significant portion of the whole game’s roster, though.

I really wanna know what that book’s designers were thinking.

Denzal Zarinelli
Denzal Zarinelli
3 years ago

I think, just to stir the pot, GW should increase all wounds of models, 11pts – 155pts by 2. That’ll make some waves.

As far as the Y’varha, it needs a drop in points. Currently, I can run a riptide and two broadsides for about the same; hands down a better option.
Do something: drop the price, include the drones in the price and movement profile, BS3, +1 toughness, change the weapon types~ all assault, or…drop the price.

3 years ago

I agree with much of your assessment; and look forward to your thoughts on the sunshark, the less incompetent flyer in the codex.

Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
3 years ago

My favorite over priced unit… I was so sad to see CA 2018 not decrease it’s points, or give it a 20inch advance putting it abreast the commander…. or giving it’s drones a rule to keep up with them as well.

I completely gotta disagree with the assessment of the 3++ drone. it’s a single point for going from 50% stopping to 2/3rds stopping of dmg. Obviously this means little against small arms fire, but long range the only things that matter are high ap/dmg weapons.

I also feel like you said ATS is mandatory, and that EWO is the next mandatory. The things I assume tau worry about are castellans and smash bros and models that ignore overwatch… many of these have ways of getting to us quickly so EWO nips alot of that in the butt. Almost any other piece of gear we have can be replicated with support except for that one.

Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lantz

yeah and the operation range of your yvhara vs the knight vs markerlights is often lacking in alot of match ups barring marker drones moving around. If this unit was 100pts cheaper it’d be a very difficult choice to take/not take. But at 400 it’s a difficult choice to take it vs just run for a hundred more two riptides…

3 years ago

Look on the bright side, at least it’s not the R’varna.

Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

Oh dear God, talk about an absolute beast in 7th edition (except vs invisible guys) who is now a expensive nothing burger.

Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lantz

yeah it’s one of those models that didn’t convert well. I really liked the ability of it to escalate the dmg vs different targets. I was honestly expecting similar rule…

Something like if unit is jump/calvary/bike use middle profile if it’s mosnter/vehicle/building use last profile the hits ap -3 str 6/7/8 depending on it’s target dmg 1/2/3

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x