Charlie here again with more T’au tactics, this time focusing on “those annoying laser pointers” – also known as “markerlights”! Check the Tactics Corner for more great content.
This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect Chapter Approved 2018 changes
The biggest change that Chapter Approved 2018 brought to markerlights is the cost of the Sky Ray which went from a situationally costed unit to what I consider to be a very considerable option now. The other markerlight sources remain the same point costs, which given how much most other things got reduced, they are relatively more expensive now. Markerlights remain a vital part of any T’au army and the best way to get them, via <Characters> remains unchanged. Read on below to find the in’s and out’s of Markerlights post-Chapter Approved 2018.
Last time we scratched the surface of the T’au Empire – if you haven’t read that, make sure to go check that out. This time, we will continue in that vein by talking about something near and dear to every T’au player’s heart – Markerlights.
Basically high-powered laser pointers, Markerlights are the whole method by which the generally BS4+ T’au units can compete with other BS3+ and BS2+ armies. While they no longer give a flat 1+ to hit for each markerlight like they did in 7th edition, they are still useful at the best of times and absolutely necessary at the worst. Markerlights now give a myriad of cumulative bonuses starting with a single markerlight and capping at 5.
Markerlights are Heavy weapons carried by several infantry and vehicle units of the T’au Empire. To add a markerlight counter to a unit, a unit equipped with a markerlight only has to hit with their markerlight, not actually wound. The benefits listed below apply to any T’au Empire unit that shoots at the unit that has markerlight counters on it.
|1||Reroll To-Hit rolls of 1|
|2||Destroyer and Seeker Missile hit using the firer’s ballistic skill instead of only on 6’s|
|3||The target doesn’t gain bonus to its saving throw for being in cover|
|4||T’au Empire units attacking this unit don’t suffer the penalty for moving and firing a heavy weapon or advancing and fire assault weapons|
|5||Add 1 for To-Hit rolls|
All armies have some sort of reroll 1’s to hit, and a single markerlight is how T’au do it. It makes a BS4+ T’au Empire unit go from hitting 50% of the time to ~58% of the time, which isn’t game breaking, but fits the general theme of T’au – adding up a bunch of little things to make to a big difference.
Destroyer and Seeker Missiles normally only hit on 6’s regardless of what ballistic skill the firer has. Obtaining two markerlight counters lets you instead hit the target with a Destroyer or Seeker Missile on their own BS instead of just a 6. Any time you fire either of these two missiles, you want to have two markerlight counters on the target.
Three markerlight counters will ensure that your target cannot benefit from cover, which is mostly nice at flushing out Guardsmen from cover. This won’t come up all the time and, to be honest, allocating enough resources to get three counters on a unit of Guardsmen to clear them out is usually not justifiable unless they’re camping on a valuable objective.
While there are other ways to move and fire a heavy weapon or advance and fire an assault weapon without penalty, four markerlights give you options, which is always good. Being able to move a XV104 Riptide Battlesuit and still hit on 4’s (rerolling 1’s) as opposed to hitting on 5’s will definitely be useful in many games. I’ve personally found that the “moving and firing a heavy weapon without penalty” part of this tier is used far more than the “advancing and firing an assault weapon” part because of the lists that I run. PLUS, if you want to be regularly advancing without penalty, just take the Vior’la Sept, which lets you do just that.
The clear winner of the markerlight table, a simple 1+ for To-Hit rolls is much appreciated for nearly all T’au Empire units. It seems that T’au units are priced assuming that they will get this bonus often, so it’s important to capitalize on it. Statistically, going from zero markerlights to five goes from hitting 50% of the time to hitting 77% of the time (66% for BS3+ plus ~11% for rerolling 1’s and hitting on 3’s). As an example, this means that a Nova-Charged Riptide will hit nearly 14 of its 18 shots with its Nova-Profile Heavy Burst Cannon with 5 markerlight counters, versus the 9 of 18 hits without any markerlights. Since the Heavy Burst Cannon is AP-1 D2, this can certainly make a difference.
In most scenarios, you can get by with a single markerlight for the reroll of 1’s. Seeker missiles are great, but not included in every list, so at least part of the time, you’ll have no need for two markerlight counters. As we’ve discussed, the benefit of three counters is situational, as is four. Five counters are always great, but because tiers 2 through four are so situational, it’s not likely that you’ll often invest the resources to get all the way to five. Typically, a well-rounded T’au list can get one or two targets to 5 markerlight counters, but not usually more than that.
Now that we all know the benefits of markerlights, let’s talk about what units have them. The immediate unit that comes to mind is the Pathfinder Team. These are infantry with both Markerlights (Heavy 1) and a Pulse Carbine (Assault 2 S5 AP0 D1), but the biggest reason you’re taking these is specifically for the markerlight. For models other than Vehicles that fire a markerlight, they can’t fire any other weapons that phase, so Pathfinders have to choose between the markerlights or the Pulse Carbines whenever they shoot. Pathfinders die to a stiff breeze due to their Sv5+ and T3, so a skilled opponent will be able to quickly remove them from the table. They’re the cheapest source of Markerlights but also the most fragile.
Another possibility for getting markerlights on the table is Marker Drones, exactly what it sounds like – a drone with a Markerlight. Because the T’au has more important things to do than to develop a better targeting algorithm on their drones, Marker Drones have the standard BS5+ and need to benefit from at least a Drone Controller (+1 to hit for nearby drones) to be able to pull their weight. Luckily, they can ignore the penalty to moving and firing a Heavy weapon, plus they are T4 and have a Sv4+, so they are a bit more resilient than the Pathfinders. They are also more expensive than Pathfinders, and like I previously stated, need further support in order to be somewhat reliable. For that reason, you can do better for a markerlight source than Marker Drones.
More resilient sources of markerlights include giving a Fire Warrior Shas’ui’s (basically T’au equivalent to sergeants) a Markerlight in addition to their standard issue Pulse Rifle. The fact that you can choose which models to pull when a unit suffers an unsaved wound means that you can choose (and should choose) to keep your markerlight-wielding Shas’ui around until the very last man. This means that your markerlight sources will be more spread out and harder to remove. This is the type of strategy that a good T’au player must be aware of.
More durable sources of markerlights are those that are on vehicle chassis like the Skyray (which is made from the same kit as the Hammerhead Gunship) or the Sun Shark Bomber, which are T6 Sv4+ and T7 Sv3+ respectively. In the case of the Skyray, it actually comes with two markerlights and hits on 3+ to help provide markerlight counters for the rest of your army while also getting a +1 To-Hit against targets with <Fly>. Before Chapter Approved 2018, I would have situationally recommended the Sky Ray. Now with it’s point reduction, I think it deserves solid consideration when building your lists. The two markerlights on a T7 Sv3+ W13 chassis is the most directly-durable way you can take markerlights and the alpha strike potential with the 6 Seeker Missiles and 2 Smart Missile Systems should not be ignored. For the right list, the Sky Ray Provides some useful tools. As for the Sun Shark Bomber, let’s revisit the fact that markerlights are Heavy 1, and the Bomber has no rule that negates moving and firing with a Heavy weapon, so you’ll be hitting its markerlight on 5’s and higher. I can’t, even with my optimistic disposition, recommend you take the Bomber for its Markerlight. The rest of its kit can be good in certain circumstances (dishing out mortal wounds are always good), so it might be a decent unit to take in general, but should not be taken specifically for the Markerlight.
The most universally durable markerlight sources take advantage of the <Character> keyword to stick around for longer, namely Cadre Fireblades, Marksmen, and Darkstrider. A big benefit to these markerlight sources is the fact that they’re BS2+ (in the case of the Cadre Fireblade and Darkstrider) or BS3+ (Marksman) so you’ll be hitting those markerlights more often. You can even do something fancy like put the Cadre Fireblade and/or Marksman in the Sa’cea sept to be able to reroll their markerlight shot and, in the case of the Fireblade, then hit ~97% of the time. Unfortunately, Darkstrider is locked into the T’au Sept, so this won’t work for him. Still, these are solid choices for markerlights due to the fact that most armies either don’t have access to weapons with the Sniper rule or don’t regularly bring them to competitive games. This results in you having markerlight sources that simply can’t be targeted at all until everything else around them dies – and if that happens, you have bigger things to worry about.
For the sake of completeness, we’ll also mention the High Intensity Markerlight, which is a variant of the standard markerlight and only available on some Forgeworld models like the Remote Sensor Tower and the Tetra. For each successful hit with a High Intensity Markerlight, the target receives not one, not two, but THREE markerlight tokens. It’s very much an “all or nothing” scenario but when combined with the Sa’cea sept reroll, it can be quite effective.
What is your strategy for getting Markerlights on the table and on target?
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!