T’au Tactics in 8th Edition: Part 2

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.

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.

Counters Benefit
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.

Did someone say “Skyray”?

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.

Cadre Fireblade gives no quarter, takes no quarter!

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!

secondhandhsop

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About Charlie A.

Mathhammer is best hammer. Follow Charlie on twitter @40kDiceRolls for mathhamer, painting pictures, and a generally good time.
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ironchefzod
ironchefzod
4 years ago

Going from no markerlights to 4 markerlights isn’t 50% to 77%. It’s 50% to 89%.

NinetyNineNo
4 years ago
Reply to  ironchefzod

Is it? It’s reroll 1s, not reroll all misses. Hitting on 4s with +1 to hit and rerolling 1s gives 28/36 odds of hitting, or 77.7% with 5 Markerlights. BS3+ rerolling all misses would give 8/9 to hit (going by the rerolls before modifiers rule).

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

Yeah, it should be ~76%, not 89%. 66% chance to hit with the initial shot, 16% chance you roll a ‘1’ on the die and reroll it, of which 2/3s (or 10%) manage to hit.

ironchefzod
ironchefzod
4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

Derp. Yeah I did full reroll. 78% was right to begin with. Apologies.

Michael
Michael
4 years ago

One trick i’ve used a few times is have a detachment of Sa’Cea with a cadre, a few squads of fire warriors, and a couple of firesight marksmen. The Sa’Cea trait lets each squad re-roll one hit. As each cadre and firesight is its own unit, thats a lot more surety of hitting. In the squads of fire warriors you give each Shas’ui a markerlight and reroll his hit if he misses. Pocket markerlights all over the place.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Since Tau really, really want to bring bringing 3x Coldstar Commanders and you are limited to one in each detachment, I find that a Sa’cea Vanguard with a Commander and 3x Firesight Marksman is my go-to. Also saves the trouble of finding ways to differentiate which of your Strike Squads are Sa’cea and which are a different affiliation.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

I think the big difference between the Shield-Captain and the Commander is that the Shield Captain does a job that can potentially be done by many other units, whereas the Commander offers Tau a type of firepower that they can’t realistically get anywhere else.

I actually don’t run Brigades anymore because 3x Battalions has easier requirements to fulfill (as troops and HQs are two of the strongest parts of the Tau codex) and actually gets you more CP. In fact, triple Battalion even gets you more CP than Brigade + 2x of Outrider/Spearhead/Vanguard, which is the other option you’re likely to look at. It does have the disadvantage of not making it as easy to mix septs, but all that really means you’re losing out on is the Sa’cea stratagem/trait.

Tim
Tim
3 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

The big reason why 3 shield captains aren’t an autotake is because you put the 3++/reroll charges relic on one, the regular 3++ relic on the 2nd, and you get diminishing returns on the vanilla-equipped third.

In the case of Tau, at least when we are talking about direct offensive power, the 3rd Commander is just as good as the first two.

Shas’O
3 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

I only run 1 or 2 coldstars. Cyclic ion commanders are too good to be ignored, and with the pt reduction shadowsun is powerful for 2 turns of full rerolls to hit.

Faitherun
Faitherun
4 years ago

One thing I have thought about doing is a drone port or two. Chuck a BS 2+ character in with 4 marker drones, and you now have a unit of 5 markers hitting on a 2+!

Reecius
Admin
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

I find taking some T’au forts is no big deal as typically I am only using 2 detachments, anyway and the Forts are pretty cool. They’re mobile, you can shoot out of them, you can deploy characters in them to reduce your number of drops and keep them safe from snipers and such.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

The problem with fortifications in a Tau army is that Tau really should be bringing three Commanders in most every army, unless there’s a really good reason to do otherwise. Obviously in a list that isn’t meant to be fully competitive you can get by with less, and some armies don’t _need_ to have all three of them for various reasons, but you do need a pretty good excuse not to start out with them.

The forts are neat, but I don’t think they’re good enough to go in a tournament army. I’ve played around with all three and they just don’t make the cut.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

If the Tau forts could hold multiple units (rather than just one), that would certainly help them. Also, being able to carry battlesuits- Crisis at the very least, and ideally Broadsides would make them a lot more valuable, because as it stands spending 70pts to protect 70pts worth of infantry is not a particularly enticing prospect.

Improving the “unique” features of each terrain piece would also give them a lot more mileage. Why doesn’t the Shieldwall have an invulnerable save? It’s got a force field on it. Why can’t the Gunrig use the ballistic skill of an embarked model? It would make sense, if they’re shooting it. Why does the Droneport have to pay extra points for its drones? They really should be rolled into its cost (at a discount), since there’s no reason to take it if you aren’t including the drones. Etc.

Dakkath
Dakkath
4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

If I had to implement a fix it would be to make the forts a DT or maybe a HS. They’re not like imperial structures, they move.

Ethan
Ethan
4 years ago

The fireblade forgot to take his knife out of it’s scabbard. And people wonder why T’au suck at close combat…

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Ethan

Or maybe it’s a ritual weapon. You know, like it says in the description of the Talissera section where it talks about Bonding Knives. Could possibly be something like that.

Ethan
Ethan
4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

Chill dude, it’s just a joke. I’ve read the codex I know what the knife is actually for.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Ethan

I know it’s a joke, it’s just not a very good joke.

Ethan
Ethan
4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

Not really helped by snarky responses though.

Dakkath
Dakkath
4 years ago

“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.”

Hit the nail on the head right there. One main issue with markerlights is how much of your army to devote to them vs everything else. T’au can’t get away with just 50-200 pts worth of support characters like other armies can.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Dakkath

Most Tau armies I’ve run have 50-200pts of support characters in them. Markerlights are actually a more efficient way to buff units than auras are, most of the time.

Dakkath
Dakkath
4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

Auras, sure. But psyker powers blow them out of the water.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Dakkath

*shrug* Psychic powers are great, no argument here. Markerlights are also great- no other army in the game can get an unconditional +1 to hit bonus across multiple units. Comparing psychic powers and the Tau bonuses is apples to oranges; you’re better off looking at how the army functions as a whole, and at this point I would say that the Tau army has a strong place in the 8E meta.

BK
BK
4 years ago

I like the marker drones myself, although it does mean you need a drone controller – I use a xv-8 commander with Dc and 3 Cyclic Ion blasters for this.

The increased mobility, durability and fly rule is worth the extra points I think. Of course they can also take hits for suits which is handy.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

The point would be that the unit serves a dual role- it is a Markerlight source _and_ a way to protect suits. And honestly, if you’re getting to soak those Lascannon or Volcano Cannon shots with a singular Marker Drone, I would say you’re coming out ahead overall despite losing a Markerlight.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

Well, like I said below, I think characters should be your “core” Markerlight sources, because they are going to be the most reliable and survivable ones, yes. But you also can’t get them in the volumes necessary to consistently get those 5 hits on a target, so I think having supplemental sources can be useful.

That said, I find that I very rarely have a unit that can effectively take a Drone Controller without making some awkward sacrifices, so they aren’t a unit that I have made use of much yet. But I think that there does exist a potential niche for them to fill.

Dakkath
Dakkath
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

I like mixing single marker drones into any sa’cea drone units I take for starting the chains.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

Yeah Sa’cea really can make use of that single drone, even with just BS5+, but I don’t find I’m often taking drone units with Sa’cea, so it hasn’t been relevantly for me.

Andrew
Andrew
4 years ago

My favorite source of marker lights is this:

Cadre Fireblade + Droneport+Tactical drone squad (Marker Drones)

You get a transport that can fit the fireblade +10 breachers (I use them because they don’t benefit from the fireblade anyway so i don’t have to disembark them to get most effectiveness), and a total of 5 BS2+ Marker lights (after the drones disembark). If you’re using a sa’cea Fireblade, then you get his reroll so make him the first shot, and when he hits, then the drones all hit on 2+ and reroll ones. It’s a damned reliable source of 5 markerlights without the use of any command points. The whole thing is only 152 points without the breachers, and 187 with them.

doktor_g
doktor_g
4 years ago

Thanks for the article. Overall, I have not found the Tau markerlights useful in this edition. For instance, scoring one ML hit is about 50% in and of itself. Then a BS 4 going to reroll one is what… about 50% to 58%? But to get that you STILL have to hit with the ML…. Also at 50% (mostly). So, a stationary BurstTide accompanied by a unit with a ML may have a 50% chance of increasing the odds of a hit by 8%? That has always seemed like a pretty hefty points premium for poor return on investment. Furthermore, you have to POSITION those ML carriers somehow, likely forward. Since the ML is a heavy itself, if they have to move-and-mark their point effectiveness decreases even further. But I’m not a very good player and no one ever accused me of making “novel” lists. Just my dos centavos.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

^ All very good advice.

Characters should provide your “basic” Markerlights in a Tau list- that is to say, the ML hits on the 2-4 units you will be aiming most of your guns at in a given turn. In that regard, Marksmen/Fireblades fairly easily cover the same role as Captains and their ilk, and for a very comparable price. You want at least some of these Markerlights because they are well-protected and can keep firing for most of the game, not to mention fairly reliable.

Stratagems are your second layer, as both of the ML stratagems are excellent for helping to fill out your count. I use Uplinked Markerlight almost every turn of most games, since it is quite cheap and really helps push you into those 3, 4, and 5 hits on targets.

Pathfinders, Marker Drones, and other targetable sources of Markerlights should be viewed as supplementary. As Charlie points out, they are very prone to being killed off early in the game, so you can’t always rely on them- but they are also some of the most efficient possible sources of ML hits, so they can be great in the first 1-2 turns while they are alive. Some lists also lack effective ways to get rid of them early on in the game (e.g. Nurgle or Cultist-heavy melee armies) and so they will sometimes stick around a lot longer than you expect.

Green Guy
Green Guy
4 years ago

It’s funny that the most interesting and useful parts of these tau articles are abusepuppy’s comments

Contingency
Contingency
4 years ago
Reply to  Green Guy

One of the thirty-six stratagems is “toss out a brick to get jade.” As someone who doesn’t play Tau, I find each article topic a good 100-level lecture (“brick quality” is an unfair characterization), but there is definitely additional value here from people weighing in with their expertise. The articles served as the impetus.

abusepuppy
4 years ago
Reply to  Green Guy

Hey man, don’t be hatin’. As Contingency says, they’re good intro-level articles on Tau strategy- and that’s very useful to players who are just starting the army, or who don’t play it but are still looking to understand how to beat it. I don’t agree with everything in the articles, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless.

happy_inquisitor
happy_inquisitor
4 years ago

An article on markerlights which does not mention the stratagems? Weird.

If I want 5 markerlights on something I will nearly always burn a CP on uplinked markerlight to help me get there. Without doubt the most durable source of markerlights the T’au have; CP should be in plentiful supply and it is only eliminated when the last on-table markerlight is killed which is usually a good sign you have just been tabled anyway.

The Sa’cea Orbital Marker Distribution Uplink is one of the main reasons to take a Sa’cea detachment, any one of those Firesight Marksmen can trigger it.

Dakkath
Dakkath
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

Please when you get to the sept article, do each sept’s tenet, relic, stratagem, and characters together. It’s much easier reading them grouped together rather than having to cross-reference several article.

Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

no reason to write an article about markerlights and ignore two of the most prominent sources of them. Sacae strat and +1d3 strat.

Robby
Robby
3 years ago

I bring 2-3 Remote Sensor Towers with Sacea sept. They hit on 4s, rerolling, with a heavy markerlight. all for a little over a hundred points.

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