Charlie here from 40kDiceRolls, here again to discuss the Hero of the Fire Caste, Aun’shi! 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 T’au Ethereal – Master of the Blade, Aun’shi. One of the only T’au warriors (Ethereal, at that) to be either brave enough to dumb not go into battle with a ranged weapon, Aun’shi has won honors and victories across the T’au battlefront time and time again. Hailing from the hot-headed Viorla sept, Aun’shi chooses to lead his troops personally into battle and inspires hope and respect wherever he goes.
On the tabletop, Aun’shi is an HQ choice for Viorla sept armies. One of the few T’au choices with no ranged attack, Aun’shi’s martial prowess is embodied on the tabletop via his melee weapon and special rules.
Aun’shi is equipped with an Honor Blade (Melee S+2 AP0 D1).
Aun’shi is a unique model of which only one can be included in your army. Aun’shi’s special abilities include:
- Failure is Not an Option
- Allows T’au Empire units within 6″ of the Ethereal to use the Aun’shi’s leadership (Ld9) instead of their own.
- Invocation of the Elements, all friendly T’au Empire <Infantry> and <Battlesuits> gain the chosen chant’s benefit
- Calm of Tides
- Subtract 1 from any morale tests made for affected units
- Storm of Fire
- Reroll hit rolls of 1 in the Shooting phase for affected units that remain stationary in the Movement phase
- Sense of Stone
- Whenever a model in an affected unit loses a wound, roll a D6; on a 6, that model does not lose that wound
- Zephyr’s Grace
- You can reroll the dice for affected units when they advance
- Calm of Tides
- Shield Generator
- Aun’shi has a 4++ save
- Blademaster, at the beginning of each Fight phase, choose one of the following effects to last until the end of the phase:
- Aun’shi close combat attacks have AP-2
- Re-roll failed invulnerable saves for Aun’shi
With no ranged weapon, and costing noticeably more than a regular Ethereal, there’s really no way to use Aun’shi outside of combat. He can provide an invocation buff like a regular Ethereal (Sense of Stone is the obvious choice again here), but loses out on the option to take a hover drone, so he’s stuck at movement 6″. To help close the gap between deployment and the nearest enemy model, you’ll often advance him up the board on foot, though a Devilfish would do the job faster. He could be put inside a devilfish with a Cadre Fireblade and couple of MSU units of Breachers or Pulse Carbine Strike Teams to be a bit of a distraction when your opponent turns to swat the other units away.
He has the highest number of attacks of any T’au units at 5. He will be hitting on 2’s which is quite good but unless you’re willing to use the additional AP part of his Blademaster special ability, he won’t be doing a ton of damage as the Honor Blade has no AP on its own and is 1 damage. Let’s take a look at some average expectancies. With or without the Blademaster bonus, Aun’shi will hit 4.2 of his attacks. Against a GEQ (T3 Sv5+) target without the additional AP from Blademaster, Aun’shi can on average expect to do 1.85 wounds/damage. With the Blademaster bonus, that skyrockets up to 2.78 dead Guardsmen… Do we even need to consider other targets like a Demon Prince, Blood Angle Smash Captain, Custode, etc., etc.? I thought not.
The defensive part of his Blademaster ability is nothing to scoff at. By allowing him to reroll invulnerable saves, it jumps to a 75% chance of Aun’shi passing his invuln save. That’s not insignificant. But when you realize that you’re adequately protecting something that’s going to kill less than two Guardsmen, or realize that it’s just in the Fight phase, you start to realize that good ol’ Aun’shi might not be the best pick…
If you are a glutton for punishment, remember that he’s sept-locked to Viorla and things like Master of War, Volley Fire, Savior Protocols, etc. require all participants to be in the same sept. Don’t let my negative comments about Aun’shi discurage you from running the Viorla sept, it’s definitely got its merits (advancing and not suffering the penalty on To-Hit rolls for Assault weapons is one – hello! 40 inch movment Coldstar with 4 fusion blasters that still hits on 2’s), but I could not encourage you to include Aun’shi in said Viorla detachment.
The best use I can come up with for him is a single character tarpit. Stay with me here. With a 75% chance to save against wounds thanks to the defensive Blademaster ability, a Demon Prince with a double set of Talons, statistically, won’t kill him in a turn, which was surprising to me at first. You’ve got a ~70 point Tau model that can survive a round of combat against one of the game stronger units at the moment, (at least double his points) a demon prince. That’s something to appreciate, especially when you realize that demon prince won’t be swinging at your Riptides, etc.. This all falls apart, however, as soon as you start throwing weight of dice at Aun’shi, like large units with lots of attacks. It’s the same premise as killing Magnus – throw a lot of dice at him.
Bonus point – if you do feel like running Aun’shi, you can probably easily make a proxy for him out of the Ethereal that comes with the T’au Start Collecting, just don’t put him on the drone. Imagine this, but on-foot:
He pretty well counters himself, but if you’re looking for ways to further punish your opponent for taking Aun’shi, consider outrunning him and his 6″ movement or just killing him in combat, taking care to note the above resiliency. As he will likely be surrounded by other types of T’au infantry, advancing quickly up the board, it’s worth attempting to shoot or fight off the infantry units in front of him so as to just shoot him directly. If Aun’shi is proving to be a thorn in your side, then you might need to reexamine your strategy.
An update for “Codex” Assassins too. The Vindicare Assasin will give Aun’Shi a real hard time. As in, Aun’shi is the Vindicare’s primary type of target, low toughness, no FnP, a small-ish wound pool, etc.. Aun’shi should be looked at as free CP for your Vindicare. Note that Savior Protocols can still be used to intercept int Vindicare’s shots, so it’s not guaranteed, but sloppy play on their part or you clearing out the drones beforehand will allow you to easily threaten Aun’shi.
Overall, Aun’shi doesn’t bring anything of significant merit to a Viorla list that wouldn’t be provided better by or equivalently to an Ethereal on a drone – staying with your advancing stealth suits and other infantry. Aun’shi did not receive any point changes in CA2018 and as a result, remains just as much of a questionable choice as he was prior – he doesn’t bring much lethality to the table for T’au. At best, he provides a fringe-use-case character that can occasionally be difficult for your opponent to remove or enact a somewhat decent heroic intervention. By and large though, I think there are definitely better choices to consider than Aun’shi.
Can you justify using Aun’shi?
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