T’au Tactics in 8th Edition: Part 4

Charlie here again with more T’au tactics, this time focusing on septs, warlord traits, relics, and stratagems! Check the Tactics Corner for more great content.

This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect Chapter Approved 2018 changes.

Last time we covered the common units seen in strong T’au lists – if you haven’t read that, make sure to go check that out. This time, we will continue coverage by discussing the T’au septs, warlord traits, relics, and stratagems.

A brief statement for clarity – T’au Empire refers to the faction keyword that all T’au units are battle forged under. <T’au Sept> is another faction keyword but this time refers to the specific sept that the unit belongs to. Don’t let that confuse you as we discuss both keywords below.

T’au Sept

T’au sept in their iconic ochre

The OG of septs, the T’au sept is where it all began and from where the army gets its name. Septs are synonymous with chapter tactics, kabals, etc. and help give the army as a whole additional flavor and tactics to work around. If your army is battle-forged, all <sept> units in T’au Empire detachments gain a sept tenet, as long as every unit in that detachment is from the same <sept>. The one exception to this is <Kroot> and <Vespid> units, which don’t benefit from sept tenets but also don’t deprive a detachment of their tenet simply due to their inclusion. Pretty similar stuff to what other armies have.

The T’au sept tenet (Coordinated Fire Arcs) allows for T’au sept units to use their For the Greater Good ability to overwatch on 5’s instead of 6’s. Technically, they have to be within 6″ of a friendly T’au sept unit to do this, but since aurae include the bearer, they are always within 6″ of themselves so you can pretty much always use this during overwatch. This can lead to some pretty formidable overwatch damage, especially when you realize things like Strike Teams (near a Cadre Fireblade for three shots each) and XV104 Riptide Battlesuits (including the usage of the Nova profile, Heavy 18 AP-1 D2) both have the For the Greater Good rule. Because of this, you could potentially kill off the charging units in overwatch before they make it into combat if enough of your units are grouped up within 6″ of one another.

Not nearly as beneficial as the tenet, the T’au-specific warlord trait (Strength of Belief) allows your warlord to roll a D6 for each mortal wound inflicted on it and on a 5+, the wound is negated. While it is nice that it specifically allows for the negation of mortal wounds, it ONLY negates mortal wounds, which limits its practicality.  As a warlord trait, it can only be taken by non-named T’au sept <characters> except for Longstrike, as this is the warlord trait that he comes with. There are plenty of weapons that can “reach out and touch” Longstrike since he cannot be shielded via the <character> keyword due to too many wounds, and plenty of weapons that do non-mortal damage. As such, he is a liability as a warlord with a warlord trait that won’t be nearly as beneficial as some others.

In general, however, Longstrike is amazing – providing that you can keep him alive. He buffs T’au sept Hammerheads with a +1 on To-Hit rolls (including himself), he adds 1 to his own To-Wound rolls against <Monsters> and <Vehicles>, he treats the number of markerlights that the target has as one greater than it really is (providing it has at least one), and has For the Greater Good ability. PLUS with his +1 on To-Wound rolls, he’s dealing mortal wounds with his Railgun on 5+ instead of the usual 6+, that’s a 1/3 chance to deal D3 mortal wounds. That’s a freaking amazing package on a T7 Sv3 W13 chassis and that’s the real problem – once your opponent realizes how good he is, he will be focus-fired down quickly.

Other T’au sept named characters include Shadowsun and Aun’va, who come with the Exemplar of the Kauyon (can reroll failed To-Hit rolls this turn if Shadowsun stayed completely still) and Through Unity, Devastation (in your shooting phase, pick a unit visible to your warlord – until the end of the phase, each unit that is both within 6″ of your warlord and scores a 6 on a To-Wound roll against that target, treats the AP of its weapon as one point better, e.g. AP0 becomes AP-1) warlord traits respectively. These are comparatively better choices of warlords than Longstrike. For starters, both of these <characters> have less than 10 wounds, so can be “hidden” via the <character> keyword. Shadowsun, due to the fact that she’s piloting a stealth suit, confers a -1 to all To-Hit rolls that target her, giving her a bit more resiliency. She is only T4, which is unfortunate, but she does have the ability to take a couple of special shield drones who have 3++ instead of the usual 4++ that normal shield drones have, as well as a special Command Link drone. This Command Link drone allows a unit within 3″ of it to reroll To-Hit rolls of 1, which can be handy if for some reason you aren’t using markerlights. Shadowsun herself sports only two Fusion Blasters but came down in points significantly due to CA2018. Due to her point reduction and the fact that she is the only Commander that can either use Kauyon twice or use Kauyon even if Mont’ka has already been used, I think she is a strong contender for any T’au sept detachment. This results in either two turns with all T’au units around her rerolling to hit or a first turn where she can use Mont’ka to move the entire firebase forward, then follow it up on the second turn with a powerful short-range Kauyon (my personal favorite). As such, she brings a lot of benefit to the rest of your T’au sept units and post-CA2018, I think she is nearly an auto-take for any T’au detachment.

The Aun’Va unit includes the Aun’Va model along with two Bodyguards, with the unit as a whole having the <character> keyword. Due to the fact that Aun’Va (model) has 6 wounds and his Bodyguards each have 2 wounds a piece, can keep heat from the Aun’Va model by allocating damage to the bodyguards first. Further, the unit benefits from the Paradox of Duality special rule that allows you to ADD the AP of the shooting weapon’s attach to the save roll, as opposed to subtracting it like normal. High AP, high damage attacks from the usual character snipers can either be saved via the added AP or just allocated off to the Bodyguards. If you’re running a list with a lot of infantry, you should probably consider taking Aun’Va thanks to the fact that he can use two Ethereal chants each turn as opposed to the normal single one as well as allows all T’au Empire (read: “all of your T’au units, even Kroot have the T’au Empirekeyword”) the ability to reroll morale tests. There’s no range to the reroll morale ability, which is very nice, should you be running large units of anything (did someone say “20 Kroot”?). Aun’Va saw no reduction in points due to CA2018.

Last but not least, Darkstrider is the last T’au-specific named character. A strong-willed pathfinder, Darkstrider makes a great compliment to any mass-infantry T’au list for a number of reasons. First, he is a reliable source of markerlight counters due to his BS2+. Even if you needed to move and reposition him (above and beyond his before the game 7″ move through his Vanguard special ability) you’d still be hitting your markerlight on 3+. His warlord trait (A Ghost Walks Amongst Us), should you decide to use him as your warlord, helps ensure he will be where you need him by letting him automatically advance 6″ instead of having to roll a die. But the real reason you’ll find him helpful in a list with lots of other <Infantry> is due to his Structural Analyzer special rule which lets him pick a nearby <T’au Sept> <Infantry> unit and adds 1 to all their To-Wound rolls. Coupled with a Cadre Fireblade and a unit of 12 Fire Warrior utilizing the below T’au-specific stratagem, you could be wounding knights on 3’s, which is astounding for a 7 point unit. Darkstrider saw no point change in CA2018 but remains a strong choice for T’au setp detachments.

Miss the “good ol’ days of ‘jump shoot jump’”? The T’au sept relic – Vectored Maneuvering Thrusters – is for you! Only usable on a <Battlesuit>, this relic allows the bearer to move up to 6” after shooting. Since named characters cannot take relics, you’re looking at sticking this on an Enforcer or Coldstar Commander most likely. A feasible tactic could involve advancing a Coldstar Commander 40” across the board to snipe some armored target, then using this relic to jump behind a building. If he somehow survives, it could be a real thorn in your opponent’s side the following turn.

The T’au sept stratagem (Focused Fire) is, while pricey (3CP), devastating in the right circumstances. The stratagems reads: “Use this Stratagem after a T’au Sept unit from your army has attacked an enemy unit in the Shooting phase and the attack resulted in the enemy unit losing one or more wounds. Add 1 to wound rolls for attacks made by other T’au Sept units from your army that target the same enemy unit this phase.” It’s not too hard to put a wound on even the toughest of targets thanks to access to Fusion Blasters and Railguns. Once that’s accomplished, the nearly-200 S5 shots you’ve also brought along due to your 60 Firewarriors will be wounding everything up to T10 on a 50/50 chance. You did bring along 60 fire warriors, right?

Overall, the T’au sept has a lot of flexibility and a lot of good tools at its disposal. It’s got the most named characters of all the other septs and it’s a great “all-comers” sept. Expect to see this sept common in tournament lists simply because of the tenet and stratagem along.

Vior’la Sept

Awesome Vior’la sept by the FLG Studio

Rooted in highly mobile and aggressive warfare, the Vior’la sept takes the fight to the enemy. The Vior’la sept tenet (Strike Fast) allows sept-members to advance and then treat all Rapid-Fire weapons as Assault weapons (e.g. can still fire but take a -1 To-Hit penalty) as well as advance and fire actual Assault weapons without penalty. Never before did you seriously consider taking Pulse Carbines on Strike Teams, but now you can with the Vior’la sept. This could increase their two-shot effective range to ~28” (6” base movement, an average of 3.5” advance, and 18” Assault 2 S5 AP0 D1 profile on the Pulse Carbine), which is greater than even the most synergistic Pulse Rifle-wielding Strike team (see Bork’an sept below). But at T3 and Sv4+, are those Fire Warriors rushing forward to kill the enemy or rushing forward to their own deaths, slaughtered in the ensuing and resultant enemy charges? Other notable units that can benefit from this include Enforcer and Coldstar Commanders (40” movement without any penalty on To-Hit rolls for those 4 Fusion Blasters sounds good, right?), Crisis and Stealth suits, and Piranhas.

Vior’la warlords have the option to take the Vior’la warlord trait (Academy Luminary) which increases their range of the following abilities if they have that ability: Master of War, Volley Fire, or Failure is Not an Option. In addition, if your army is battle-forged, you get an additional, free CP. Aun’shi, the Vior’la sword-wielding Ethereal, comes stock with this, but your own choice of warlord also could take it. Aun’shi does everything that a normal ethereal can do, but can also choose to have AP-2 on his melee weapon or reroll invulnerable saves during the Fight phase. Most of the time, you’ll want to keep your T’au HQ far away from combat, so Aun’shi is a bit of an unusual case in terms of T’au units and CA2018 didn’t improve his situation at all. The free CP from his warlord trait (or another Vior’la HQ) is nice, but the extra range feels hard to capitalize on. For instance, would you take this on a Commander for the 18” bubble for Master of War? That sounds great, but the usual 12” bubble feels like it’s probably sufficient most of the time. If you really needed to get a unit of 3 Broadsides, 3 Riptides, 6 units of 10-man Firewarriors, etc. etc. within the bubble for a devastating Kauyon, I suppose this would help you do it – but remember, the unit doesn’t need to be wholly within the bubble to benefit from Master of War, just “within” it, so I have a hard time believing you’ll leave too many units outside of the bubble in most scenarios. Same basic thought for Volley Fire and Failure is Not an Option, I just don’t know how to get stellar results with it like some of the other warlord traits.

The Vior’la relic, the Thermoneutronic Projector, takes the place of a regular 8” Assault D6 S4 AP0 D1 auto-hit Flamer and changes it to an 8” Assault D6 S6 AP-1 D2 Thermoneutronic Projector. The only option to take this relic is a Vior’la Commander of some sort, so you’re unfortunately wasting the exceptional BS2+ of that chassis. However, you’re making up for it by gaining a tool made to roast infantry and the like. I have seen success with Coldstar Commanders kitted out to go and snipe enemy <characters> and this is an excellent tool for something like that.

The Vior’la-specific stratagem (Hot-Blooded for 2CP) allows Vior’la sept <Infantry> to shoot twice in a single turn while mandating that they target the nearest enemy unit each time they do so. Did Stealth Suits not put out enough firepower for you? Fixed with this. Did you want to be able to unload Vior’la Breachers from a Devilfish (which came down 12% in CA2018) and have them somehow do even MORE work? Hot-blooded. Used at the right time and against the right target with the right positioning (requirements for most good T’au tactics), this will let a single unit shine.

Overall, the tools that the Vior’la sept offers allow for a starkly contrasting play style than, for instance, the T’au sept might encourage (somewhat of a gun line). There are a lot of tactics the sept lends it to that would take an opponent off-guard, were they more used to playing against “gun line, start back as far as you can from the enemy” T’au lists. I think Vior’la lists will be successful, but are a bit more difficult to play than other T’au lists might be, just due to having to tread that line of “close enough but not too close.”

Dal’yth Sept

The Dal’yth sept, known for their camouflage and sneaky traps, features the Adaptive Camouflage tenet which benefits sept units that do not Manta Strike, move, Fall Back, charge, pile in, or consolidate in its turn by allowing them to claim the benefit of cover in the subsequent turn, even if they’re not actually within cover. The T’au Codex made it clear that units benefit from this even if the T’au forces have the second turn. Did you want to deploy infantry out in the open, on an objective, or, heck, let a Hammerhead benefit from cover? Then Dal’yth sept might be the one for you. Stealth suits were already difficult to dig out of cover due to their -1 on To-Hit rolls (both in shooting and fighting), but give them that cover bonus anywhere and those two wound models are a nightmare for your opponent to remove. Or how about giving that 2+ save Riptide a 4+ save against las cannons? Yes, please! All of this is contingent that they don’t move in any way, which means that if you only have Dal’yth forces in your army, you could be at a disadvantage if you needed to go out and take an across-the-board objective, so consider that when making a Dal’yth list. Also, consider that the Prepared Positions stratagem gives you effectively the same benefit as the Daly’th sept for the cost of 2CP. Depending on your list that 2CP might not be a huge cost, but it’s something to keep in mind as to me, it seems like the Daly’th sept is a bit redundant (i.e. not very good).

A warlord trait that feels, at best out of place, the Dal’yth warlord trait (Gunship Diplomat) grants <Kroot> and <Vespid> units within 12″ of your warlord the For the Greater Good (FtGG) Ability. Kroot and Vespids are not “must have’s” anyway, but it’s not quite clear why you would take this over some of the other traits unless a large chunk of your list was built around utilizing it. And taking a large chunk of Kroot and Vespid would, at the very least, be…unorthodox. It’s worth noting that the charged unit doesn’t need FtGG, any units within 6” of the charged unit need to have it in order to fire overwatch as if they were the target of the charge. So even if you’re thinking of stringing out a unit of 20 kroot so that they’re within 6” of a lot of other T’au units, this warlord trait won’t necessarily benefit you.

Dynamic Mirror Field, the Dal’yth sept relic, certainly sounds cool. It confers a -1 on To-Hit rolls made against the bearer. Since only characters can take relics, you’re looking at one of your Commanders, Cadre Fireblades, or Ethereals to take this relic. All of those characters are protected already with the <character> keyword, so at best you’re just negating the mortal wounds that happen on 6’s To-Wound from some snipers, which honestly is not bad. Should you take your relic based on the assumption your opponent will take snipers? Doubtful. It would be of more use to you should you put it on something you knew would be taking some heat, like a Rambo 4 Fusion Blaster Coldstar Commander. Against dedicated firepower, it’ll still die, but it could provide enough of a distraction as to buy more time for your other units or even survive, should they make the mistake of not accounting for it.

For a single CP, Strike and Fade allows a Dal’yth sept unit from your army to shoot and then immediately move up to 6″ as if it were the movement phase (but not advance as part of this movement). This, unfortunately, means that you’ve just negated the requirements for its sept tenet and lose your cover save bonus (unless you’re actually in cover). This feels…weird to me. I mean, it’s useful, don’t get me wrong – it’s one of the few still remaining ways to replicate “jump, shoot, jump”. But it is at direct odds with the tenet and I dislike that. With careful positioning, you could set up a one-two punch of deploying in the open but near some sort of cover, so that you gain the benefit to your cover save even while in the open on your first turn, then use the stratagem to move into actual cover.

Overall, the Dal’yth sept can allow you to do some things that you would normally never be able to do (claim cover save for Riptides and Hammerheads, for starters), but it’s not a clear winner. I don’t think you’ll see whole armies that are Dal’yth sept, but rather, when/if you do see them, they will be clearly targeted at keeping certain targets save and more durable. There are no Dal’yth sept-specific characters, which is unfortunate both in terms of fun and army strength.

Sa’cea Sept


The Sa’cea reroll on Railsides is excellent

This tenet (Calm Discipline) adds 1 to the leadership characteristic of benefiting units. Furthermore, each sept unit may reroll one failed To-Hit die in the shooting phase. While the leadership bonus is nice to have, the latter part of the tenet is a “must have”. T’au has several units with strong weapon profiles that run the risk of missing their few and important shots like Railheads, Railsides, and anything with a single Fusion Blaster. As such, the ability to reroll a failed hit is paramount. The point reductions to Railsides from CA2018 make me want to take Railsides for another spin as they can function on their own for little cost when made Sa’cea sept. When a typical BS4+ T’au unit shoots, it’s got a 50% chance of hitting. But through the reroll that this tenet grants, they all of a sudden have a 75% chance to hit. This is huge and you’ve seen me mention the “Sa’cea sept reroll” numerous times before – this is why.

The Sa’cea warlord trait (Beacon of Honor) seems a little at odds with the tenet. The trait specifies that friendly units within 6″ of this model reduce the number of models that flee as a result of a failed morale test by 1. Why is it at odds? Well, in order to maximize the number of rerolls we get through the tenet, we need more units. This directly leads to MSU (minimum strength units), which normally don’t suffer severely from morale losses due to respectable leadership values and the few number of models in an MSU. This, combined with the leadership buff that the tenet grants could really help mitigate the morale losses of large units (who keeps saying “20 kroot”?), but then you’re missing out on the number of rerolls.

For the bearer of the Sa’cea sept relic, the Grav-inhibitor Field, enemies must subtract 2” from their charge distance if they target the bearer. This is great! until you remember that you’ve wound up in a situation where you Commander, Cadre Fireblade, or Ethereal is now getting charged. Using this would still allow for you to fire off your entire FtGG shooting in overwatch and THEN have them roll their charge distance, minus 2”, which is nice. It’s not ground breaking though and you have to hope that, even if you take this, you won’t be in a position to use it often.

For 2CP’s, Orbital Marker Distribution Uplink allows you to pick an enemy visible to one of your Sa’cea sept <Characters>. That unit and all units within 6″ of it gain a markerlight counter. This is the only way to get markerlights on a properly placed enemy <character>, should you desire to get reroll’s 1’s for any Sniper Drones you might have. The fact that you don’t have to roll anything is fantastic – it just happens. Plus, it can potentially put a single markerlight counter on several clumped-together units, to help thin the herd quite a bit if you need to take out several units that are near one another. With how good this stratagem is, it’s not uncommon to see a single Vanguard detachment of a single Cadre Fireblade and three Marksmen in strong lists just to gain access to this stratagem as well as have all those markerlights be able to reroll To-Hit rolls. For more information about markerlights and how the Sa’cea sept was made for them, check out one of our previous article.

Overall, the Sa’cea sept helps bring additional accuracy to T’au forces, either directly through the tenet reroll or indirectly through additional markerlights. This is vital to strong/competitive lists and explains why you regularly see its inclusion at events. Should you make your entire army from the Sa’cea sept? Maybe not – you’d probably be lacking for several of the other tools that other septs provide, like named characters for one (Sa’cea doesn’t have any named characters). However, the Sa’cea sept is analogous to the other septs like T’au is as a whole – working together for the greater good.

Bork’an Sept

54″ Rapid Fire 1, you say?

The fluff I’ve written for my personal T’au sept is related to the Bork’an sept and I was happy to see that the sept sported solid rules. The Bork’an sept tenet (Superior Craftsmanship) allows sept units to add 6″ to the max range of any Rapid-Fire and Heavy weapons they’re equipped with. Did you enjoy shooting three shots with a single Strike Team Firewarrior at 15”? Let’s make that three shots at 18” which is obtainable via a turn-one Mont’ka. Is that not enough for you? Let’s throw in a Pulse Accelerator Drone (special drone via Pathfinders) to make that three shots at 21”, which is obtainable for turn one with just regularly moving. Still not enough?? Let’s get crazy. Let’s put a Y’vahra in the Bork’an sept for a 14” auto-hit 3D3 Heavy S6 AP-2 flat-3 damage that can (hold on to your butts) essentially deepstrike in turn two and still hit with that and its other gun. However, despite all of this, I still don’t think the Bork’an sept is the clear winner. Just because you have this range doesn’t mean you’ll always use it – a Custodes army isn’t going to sit back and patiently let you shoot it while at max range. This is where I feel this tenet looks great on paper, but isn’t as good as it seems in reality. T’au struggle to routinely have lists that gain the +1 to go first, so will that extra 3” of rapid fire range really make the difference or will you have already been in range because your opponent moved forward on their first turn, you going second?

The Seeker of Perfection Bork’an warlord trait states that for each To-Hit roll of 6 made by your Bork’an warlord, add 1 to the To-Wound roll for that attack. In order to maximize the odds of this happening, you want to maximize your number of shots, which means either taking a an Enforcer commander and running four Cyclic Ion Blasters (total of 12 shots and cheaper thanks to CA2018) or running a Coldstar with four Burst Cannons (total of 16 shots again cheaper thanks to CA2018). The Enforcer seems like the better choice to me, especially since he could overcharge to then wound a Knight on a 3 with any To-Wound 6’s that were rolled. There are no named Bork’an characters.

Replacing a regular 24″ Rapid Fire S6 AP-3 D1 Plasma Rifle, the Bork’an relic is a 30″ Rapid Fire S7 AP-3 D2 Plasma Accelerator Rifle. Able to take on anything from infantry to light tanks with relative ease, this is not a bad relic. I don’t normally take Plasma Rifles, but if I was running a Bork’an Commander, this would make me consider it. Against properly screening opponents, I feel like this might largely be wasted though, as I would expect a competent opponent to be able to keep chaff and single-wound models in your rapid-fire envelope. Still, it’s a direct and obvious upgrade from the normal Plasma Rifle, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Using Experimental Weaponry, for just 1CP, you can declare that you have the option to reroll the random number of attacks before making the roll to determine the number of attacks made. Since you have to spend the CP before you roll, you might have wasted the CP, should you roll well initially. That’s a bit like “looking a gift horse in the mouth”, and I doubt too many people would complain excessively when a 6 is rolled initially for a D6 number of attacks, but it’s still unfortunate that the CP is wasted. This would be most beneficial when you’ve already used your normal once-per-phase reroll stratagem or if you are saving it for something even more important. If you’re spending the points (and money, let’s be honest) to run a Bork’an Y’vahra, then you don’t want that Heavy D6 Flamer to only put out 3 or 4 shots when you could be getting up to 18.

Overall, Bork’an look great on paper and are slightly less so on the tabletop. They have the tools and tactics to help give them a supporting or even fairly large role in a competitive list, but can clearly be helped some of the other sept tenet and tools.

Farsight Enclaves

Renegade T’au, the Farsight Enclaves (FSE), seem to pride themselves both in fluff and on the tabletop as being a bit different from your typical T’au. The FSE tenet (Devastating Counter-Strike) benefits bearers with the ability to reroll To-Wound rolls of 1 during the shooting phase for models within 6″ of their target. Reroll wound rolls is great. Being within 6″ of your opponent as T’au is not. Ignoring the fact that there are plenty of armies out that that can wipe most T’au units in the ensuing charge and fight phases if they were that close, let’s think about how you can even get within that range quickly: Breachers in Devilfish, advancing pulse carbine-wielding Strike teams that take the -1 on To-Hit rolls for turns they advance, Manta Striking >9″ away on turn two so that any surviving suits and commanders can then be within 6″ on turn three. In other words, it’s really hard for T’au to routinely and somewhat safely get within the 6″ to utilize this tenet. Compare this to other tenets that can benefit the bearer from their own deployment zone and you start to see some of the challenges in utilizing this sept effectively.

The FSE warlord trait (Hero of the Enclaves) follows suit of being “different” and allows the warlord to perform Heroic Interventions if they are within 6″ instead of the usual 3″ and then move up to 6″ instead of the usual 3″. Furthermore, if your warlord was charged, charged, or performed a heroic intervention, then until the end of the turn, you can reroll failed hit rolls made for them. Because, we all know we’ve been wishing to have our T’au warlord in combat more often, right? Right?? If you’re taking FSE, you’re probably taking Farsight as your warlord not just because you love the fluff but also because FSE can’t take Ethereals. For that reason, you can only take Commanders and Cadre Fireblades. Putting this trait on a Cadre Fireblade is laughable and Farsight comes stock with it. Luckily for you, Farsight is fairly respectable in melee, with four attacks that, while using his Dawn blade, would be S8 AP-4 D[D3]. He’s T5 and has a 4++ so is somewhat durable enough to be bouncing from combat to combat like the trait would allow for. The problem is that there aren’t really any T’au units that can keep up and help support him. This is still the big reason why you probably shouldn’t take Farsight nor FSE even though Farsight himself got a price drop in CA2018. Just dropping his points doesn’t fix the issue.

Do you feel continuously burdened by having to shoot your enemy? Do you wish you could do some damage in the Fight phase while still playing with your T’au? The FSE relic replaces two fusion blasters with the option to use the Fusion Blades’ ranged or melee profile. The ranged profile is essentially just two Fusion Blasters, no better than taking two Fusion Blasters separately from this relic. The melee profile is a melee Fusion Blaster, meaning that it’s a Melee S8 AP-4 D[D6] weapon. As you might imagine, it can really handle a lot of different targets, from infantry to tank, but the problem lies in that it is, of course, sept-specific, meaning that you’ve got to sign up to deal with all the other shortcomings of FSE in order to use it. Or, take a very small detachment of FSE just for this, just to be able to wound your friend’s Leman Russ in melee as T’au.

At the start of the shooting phase, a FSE unit that was set up on the battlefield using the Manta Strike ability this turn may, using the 2CP Drop Zone Clear stratagem, add 1 to its To-Hit rolls until the end of the phase. This could make for an amazingly devastating turn of shooting, were you to bring in 9 Crisis suits, each with 3 Cyclic Ion Blasters (CIB), and then use the Command and Control Stratagem to grant rerolls of To-Wound rolls for that unit, totaling 81 S8 AP-1 D[D3] shots that hit on 3’s and rerolled wounds. EXCEPT, you’ll have to wait until turn two to Manta Strike within that 18″ range of the CIB due to the changes in reserves. Further, just that one unit is 36 power level, so you’ll be down in points on the board considerably until they come in.

Overall, FSE struggles considerably to be effective within the rule set and FAQs to 8th edition. They’re a sept built around being able to run lots of crisis suits and being able to Manta Strike, but crisis suits are currently over-costed while Manta Striking is severely restricted in the current ruleset. They are even more hampered by the fact that it’s difficult to build them into many CP’s, due to the restrictions on Commanders being one-per-detachment and unable to take Ethereals. In effect, along with the Rule of Three, that means that your detachments will quickly use up the only two HQ types that you’ll be able to take.

In Conclusion

No one sept has everything that you’ll want to run in a fun and/or competitive list, though the T’au sept is a solid starting point should you wish to run a mono-sept list. In reality, most strong lists will feature a small Sa’cea sept detachment that supports one of either T’au, Vior’la, or Bork’an septs with Dal’yth and FSE septs proving to be a bit too unwieldy (though I’d love for some Dal’yth or FSE dark horse lists to make a strong tournament showing). T’au, Vior’la and Bork’an provide significant benefits to what could amount to your firebase but can be greatly enhanced by the strong accuracy and markerlight buffs that Sa’cea brings to the table through rerolls and stratagems. Dal’yth and FSE either seem to work against each other or against the current ruleset and point values, which is unfortunate, because both septs have a few clearly cool and effective tools at their disposal. CA2018 reduced the points of multiple units and weapons in the T’au Empire but didn’t change any of the rules so most of the above remained the same. The biggest change has to be the point cost of Shadowsun, a character I already wanted to take pre-CA2018. Now post-CA2018, I think it’s much easier to justify her inclusion.

What sept(s) will you be running?

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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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4 years ago

Personally I’ll be running all Sa’cea to take advantage of those rerolls. Single shots like a single markerlight buried in a strike team or drone unit will always get the reroll. Further, anything with 2 shots (railside, ghostkeel or stealth team with 2 fusions) will have a 50% chance to hit with both and a 37.5% chance to hit with one, before factoring in markerlights. A Sa’cea ethereal makes anything within range ld10 (hi kroot screens) in addition to providing the buffs, like 6+ fnp.

4 years ago

I have found in writing lists that I usually am running pure Tau Sept in order to make maximum use of their anti-overwatch feature and +1 to wound from the stratagem, although a single detachment of something else (Sa’cea, Farsight, or Bor’kan) is not uncommon. Tau Sept is far and away the most powerful of them, I think, and it comes with access to many excellent characters. Longstrike is, of course, great, but you forgot to mention Darkstrider- who is absolutely clutch for infantry-heavy lists.

Vior’la has gotten short shrift in a lot of cases, but I think it’s actually pretty solid. It’s very powerful when combined with Breacher Teams and Coldstars, and is useful in some degree to a large number of other units. It also gets a powerful stratagem- 20-30 extra shots coming off a unit is no small potatoes.

Sa’cea I find is great for a small detachment (say, of a Cold Fusion + 3x Firesight Marksmen) but a lot less beneficial for a whole army. Not that it’s bad, just that rerolling a single hit roll isn’t as exciting for a Riptide or Strike Team as it is for some other units; unlike Space Marines, Tau can’t bury a single heavy weapon inside units to maximize its effects.

Farsight Enclaves, while bad in the general sense, can be very useful in some niche cases, giving it a bit of leverage. Rerolling wounds is very strong when you can use it, so units like a Coldstar or flyer that can get up on the enemy will do very well with it; Breachers also can do nice work with it, though I think Vior’la beats them out. Crisis Suits, although they are extremely unlikely to actually use the sept trait, are fairly good in Farsight- the ability to drop in and hit on 2+s potentially is brutal.

4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie A.

Yeah, with the limiting of Commanders to one per detachment, it can be a real struggle to find enough HQs for non-Tau Sept armies. Farsight Enclaves has exactly two choices (Commander, Fireblade) and one of the is a 0-1 choice, but even the other septs aren’t a lot better off.

4 years ago

Great article! Very thorough and easy to follow. Just as a minor nitpick (as someone who likes running numbers on these thigs) — Railguns on Hammerheads are always worse than Ion Cannon except versus nonexistent T9 targets, even on Longstrike. 1 shot at d6 damage just doesn’t cut it, especially when you compare it to what other armies’ battle tanks get.

4 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

Yeah, I wish Rail Guns had the double shot option like Leman Russ tanks or something like that to make them more appealing. Ion Cannons are just so much better in the vast majority of cases.

4 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

They needed to up the Railgun’s strength to make it more relevant, or give it multiple shots, or be cheaper, or something. I was honestly very surprised that Hammerheads didn’t get the “move half speed fire twice” ability, but it would’ve made the Ionhead super-busted at the current price, so I guess it’s understandable.

4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

Yeah, the double-shooting Ionhead would have been silly, lol. As is, it is such a good tank, one of the better in the game, IMO.

4 years ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

I’m guessing they didn’t want to add that in because it’d make HRR Broadsides kind of redundant. But at the end of the day, single-shot weapons just don’t work, and S10 really isn’t worth much. Hell, a Railhead (without buffs) has a better than even chance of doing zero damage to a Predator, it’s insane.

If they really want to keep the single-shot tank-buster idea, then they might be well served by taking a page out of AdMech’s Neutron Laser — anything to lower the randomness. That, or up the D stat massively, or change the to-wound bonus effect — running some numbers, D3d3 and having the “poison” double damage on 6s effects would make them somewhat on par, for example. But that’s just empty wishlisting.

4 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

Copy knight chainswords and make them flat 6D.

Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
4 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

2d6 so they can match the fluff and actually blow away a rhino occasionally

4 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lantz

Well, lol, that’s a bit much, haha.

4 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

I dunno, if you stripped the “do mortal wounds” ability on the Railgun and upped its price a bit, I think that 2d6 damage would be entirely playsible- we already have multishot d6 damage weapons on similarly-costed platforms such as the Knight Armigers.

The Railgun really does suffer from having a statline that is just not as good as GW thinks it is. The Ion Cannon has very nearly as high of damage when overchared (3.5 average versus flat 3) and gets three times as many shots while ALSO being cheaper.

4 years ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

I think part of the problem of balance is all the variables that go in to T’au units, and in this case the Hammerhead Railgun option.

Stratagems, markerlights, Longstrike, Master of War, Warlord Traits, etc, all these things buff the Hammerhead. You may not have all of them in a list, but these are the potential scenarios that the model may find itself in and thus part of the reason it is priced and built a certain way.

This means a buff (or nerf) to the shooting, one way or the other, can be too strong or too weak when all the factors are considered.

The other side of the coin is trying to implement rules that are fun and interesting. I think “if the model doesn’t move shoot twice” deal might be an interesting buff, but it’s been done before. I think it would be fun to introduce other abilities or rules. Something to make the model unique and different.

Railguns shoot solid projectiles at super high speeds to punch through armor. So with that in mind, here are my dumb ideas.

1) Railgun – stats stays the same, but the solid shot hits everything in a line (up to 72”). The original target takes the normal damage roll, each target behind it takes a gradually decreasing damage roll.


the next X targets beyond the first. So an example might be it hits the next two targets beyond the first target so long as it “lines up”.

The damage to the other models could be a D3 or or a single mortal wound.

2) Railgun – stats stay the same, but the railgun solid shot can ignore LoS. Give it a negative BS (however much deemed appropriate) to account for not “seeing the target” if you use this profile. This would actually have some interesting gameplay and fluff because you could then use markerlights to help offset this negative.

3 years ago

I would suggest one other update from CA18 – crisis suits are not really overcosted anymore. I do not think this really affects your conclusion on FSE but it is worth mentioning.

I do not think the FSE warlord trait is bad, it is just bad on Farsight himself especially now that he cannot fly over intervening models to use that 6″ heroic intervention. On a Fusion Blades commander, almost certainly in a Coldstar suit, it is an decent warlord trait resulting in a very threatening warlord.

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