Charlie here from 40kDiceRolls, here again, to discuss the powerful and efficient T’au Commander Shadowsun! As always, for more tactics articles, check out the Tactics Corner!
This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect Chapter Approved 2018 changes.
Today we’re talking about Puretide’s star pupil, the Spearhead of the Greater Good, Commander Shadowsun. Bitter rivals with O’Shovah (Commander Farsight) from the very beginning of her tutelage under Puretide, Shadosun has made herself into a T’au legend with countless victories through brilliant, patient strategies. Now forced to recognize Farsight as a traitor to the Greater Good, Shadowsun leads the T’au sept forces as their Supreme Commander, expanding their empire and hunting down her former rival.
On the tabletop, Shadowsun is an HQ choice for T’au sept armies. Not only providing raw lethality, but Shadowsun’s patient hunting style of strategy is also embodied through her special rules and optional drones.
MV52 Shield Drone
MV62 Command-link Drone
Shadowsun is equipped with two Fusion Blasters, each of which is 18″ Assault 1 S8 AP-4 D[D6], rerolling damage if the target is within half range. She may be accompanied by up to three Command Drones, of which one MV62 Command-link Drone and up to two MV52 Shield Drones are permitted.
Shadowsun is a unique model of which only one can be included in your army. Shadowsun’s special abilities include:
- For the Greater Good
- Allows units within 6″ of a charged unit to fire overwatch as if they were the target of the charge, at the cost of not being able to fire overwatch again that turn
- Master of War, once per battle choose one of the below choices by declaring Mont’ka or Kauyon
- T’au sept units within 6″ of Shadowsun can both advance and shoot as if they have not moved
- For the remainder of the turn, Tau sept units within 6″ of Shadowsun can reroll failed To-Hit rolls, but cannot move for any reason
- Genius of Kauyon
- Once per battle, Shadowsun can declare Kauyon even if Mont’ka or Kauyon had already been declared, but Mont’ka and Kauyon cannot be declared in the same turn
- XV22 Stalker Battlesuit
- 5++ save
- Camouflage Fields
- Subtract 1 from To-Hit rolls that target SHadowsun or her drones
- Defender of the Greater Good
- Roll a D6 each time Shadowsun loses a wound while within 3″ of a friendly Stealth Suit team. On a 2+, the model from that Stealth unit intercepts the hit – Shadowsun doesn’t lose a wound, but the Stealth unit suffers a mortal wound.
- During deployment, Shadowsun and any accompanying drones can be set up anywhere on the battlefield that is neither in your opponent’s deployment zone or within 12″ of an enemy unit
Special abilities of the Command Drones include:
- For the Greater Good
- Same as above
- MV52 Shield Generator
- 3++ save, plus roll a D6 each time this unit loses a wound – on a 5+ that would is negated
- If the Command-link Drone is within 3″ of Shadowsun, you can pick a unit with 12″ of the Command-link Drone. That unit can reroll To-Hit rolls of 1 for the remainder of the phase.
- Drone Support
- These drones are deployed along with Shadowsun. After deployed, they count and act as a separate unit.
- Savior Protocols
- If within 3″ of a T’au sept <Infantry> or <Battlesuit> unit when that unit is wounded by an enemy attack, roll a D6. On a 2+ that wound is transferred to the unit of Drones and the damage is changed to a single mortal wound instead of the normal damage.
With the BS2+ and a couple of Fusion Blasters, Shadowsun can pose a threat to any medium or heavy vehicles that she is within 18″ of, especially within 9″ due to being able to reroll damage. If you want to use her Command-Link drone on herself, then you’re going to be hitting about 97% of the time, which is phenomenal. The negative To-Hit modifier on both her and her drones means that it will take more than a few stray shots for your opponent to deal with them. The framework is there for Shadowsun to be a force to reckon with even when operating solo, but her true potential lies in the synergy and benefits that she brings to the rest of your units. This even truer now that she received a hefty points drop in CA2018. Where she was a strong candidate previously (albeit at a bit of an investment), now she is nearly an auto-include for any T’au sept detachment.
The Genius of Kauyon ability is where most of the value is found in Shadowsun. Rerolling misses with the usual BS4+ present in T’au armies results in a 50% boost in efficiency and a 75% chance to hit. Considering you can pack a lot of units within the ~12″ bubble around Shadowsun, and also considering that units don’t have to be “wholly within” the bubble means that you will be hard-pressed to not have enough room for a majority if not all of your firebase with careful positioning. Just the toe of a Riptide or a single model from a Strike Team will confer the ability to reroll missed To-Hit rolls for the entire unit. Any <Commander> can use the Kauyon ability, but Shadowsun is the only way to use it twice. Further, she is the only method by which you could use a Mont’ka on one turn and then a Kauyon on the following turn, which can be quite beneficial. Much of the T’au weaponry is most effective in the 18″-9″ range and having the ability to move, advance, and then fire as if you had not moved to get into that band of effectiveness on your first turn, followed by a second-turn Kauyon at an optimal range can be devastating.
The Command-Link Drone doesn’t have to be used on Shadowsun herself, in fact, it probably shouldn’t be. It confers the same benefit as having a single markerlight, which shouldn’t be hard to get for most of your units. For units that have varying weapon profiles that will probably not be shooting all of their weapons at the same target, using the Command-Link Drone on them can make a lot of sense. For instance, a Tiger Shark, with its various-strength weapons, makes a great candidate for the Command-Link Drone. Even something like a Riptide with potential S9 and S5 guns between primary and secondary weapons could benefit from this. However, the point remains that it is the equivalent to a single markerlight counter, so if you feel confident you can get all they markerlights you’ll need, you might want to pass on this optional drone. If you do decide to take it, make sure to consider also taking the two MV52 Shield Drones as well. This is because the Drone Support special rule will create a single unit out of all the Command Drones you take. Since only Shadowsun herself will have the <Character> keyword, the drones unit will be legally targetable once deployed. By combining the 3++ invulnerable save, 5+++ FnP save, and extra bodies of the MV52 Shield Drones to the Command-Link Drone, you can increase its lifespan on the tabletop by first assigning wounds to the shield drones in the unit.
Most situations would probably call for passing on the Command-Link drone and probably only taking the MV52 Shield Drones, which are better (3++ compared to 4++) than regular Tactical Drone Shield Drones. These can be used to pass off wounds from Shadowsun to the Shield Drones via the Savior Protocols ability, just like usual for T’au drones. It’s a difficult decision for your opponent to choose between shooting at the 3++/5+++/-1 To-Hit unit of MV52 Shield Drones to first try and clear them out or to shoot directly at Shadowsun with her -1 To-Hit/3+/5++ and then potentially just have the wound passed off to the drones anyway. If you’re really worried about protecting Shadowsun, you could also consider taking Stealth Suits deployed near her to take advantage of her Defender of the Greater Good ability, allowing you to pass off each individual wound from Shadowsun to a nearby Stealth Team on a roll of a 2+. This differs from Savior Protocols in that it is “loses a wound”, i.e. each point of damage taken where Savior Protocols is “is wounded” which happens before damage is rolled. Compared to Savior Protocols, it is less than ideal, but by far more preferable than losing Shadowsun.
Regardless of whether you choose to take advantage of Savior Protocols or her stealth bodyguards, Shadowsun will be reasonably resilient due to the fact that she is <Infantry>, -1 To-Hit, and has a 5++. Deployed in cover, even in a forward position, will give her a 2+/5++. Combined with her 5 wounds, this results in a unit that is difficult to dig out of whatever piece of cover she is hiding in. Furthermore, she and her drones both have the <Fly> keyword so disengaging from combat and then shooting is always possible.
Several notable stratagems require the <Commander>, <T’au sept> keywords, or both. Since you can feel reasonably safe about deploying Shadowsun nearer the enemy, she is excellent at using the Neuroweb System Jammer stratagem (2CP) that allows the T’au player to pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ and then that unit suffers a -1 on all To-Hit rolls for their Shooting phase. This is great for helping mitigate a “big and scary” enemy unit. Another useful stratagem for Shadowshun to use is the Command and Control Node (1CP) that lets a <Battlesuit> unit within 6″ of a <Commander> reroll failed To-Wound rolls. This can turn the Heavy Burst Cannon, Heavy 18 S6 AP-1 D2, on the Riptide into a threat to even high-toughness targets. This comes at the cost of not allowing the <Commander> unit to fire that turn, but if you use this stratagem on your first turn (possibly combined with a Kauyon) then Shadowsun is not likely to be in range of many targets that would be very suitable for her Fusion Blasters, so in some cases it isn’t a huge loss. Lastly, the T’au sept specific stratagem Focused Fire (3CP), described here, can be initiated via Shadowsun’s Fusion Blasters somewhat reliably due to her BS2+ and high Strength Fusion Blasters.
Despite all of the great things about Shadowsun, she can be countered. She is not terribly point-efficient on her own even with the point drop in CA2018, so if you can kill the things she would buff with Kauyon or her drones, then she will struggle to do a ton with just her two shots each turn, especially against hordes. Like most T’au units, close combat can be her demise, even with the -1 To-Hit and 5+++, against dedicated assault units. Poor positioning on Shadowsun’s part could result in something like Genestealers wiping Shadowsun easily. Furthermore, if Shadowsun is using Kauyon twice a game, that’s two turns that she and a large chunk of the T’au forces are not moving. In games that feature progressive scoring or needing to hold midfield objectives, this could prove difficult for the T’au player who has not to move a model from their deployment zone. Shadowsun promotes a static gun line and she features similar weaknesses to most gun lines.
Overall, Shadowsun brings a lot to the table and complements many of the tactics that T’au sept players will want to be using anyway. With careful positioning and a sound strategy, she can prove resilient and frustrating for your opponent to try to remove from the game. Due to the strengths of the T’au sept, and her own inherent strengths so seems like she will be a popular choice, deserving a spot on the table in strong T’au lists. She’s not immune to many of the weaknesses that her special rules and the T’au in general exhibit and far from overpowered. Like many of the T’au units, she has a strong toolset that in the right hands, can be utilized to great effect.
Will you be using Shadowsun after her recent point reduction?
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