T’au Codex Review – HQ: Darkstrider

Charlie here from 40kDiceRolls, here again, to discuss The Shadow that Strikes, Darkstrider! 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 sept sub-Commander, El’Myamoto, otherwise known as Darkstrider (in case the Japanese influence over the T’au wasn’t obvious enough by now). Repeatedly turning down promotions and having a track record of borderline insubordination, Darkstrider rubs many in the T’au Empire the wrong way. However, his proven ability to provide successful results, his prototype structural analyzer, and his leadership abilities to rally those around him have all ensured his place as a valuable tactician and tool of the T’au Empire.

On the tabletop, Darkstrider is a T’au sept HQ choice with several special rules that bring value to most strong T’au sept lists.


7″ 3+ 2+ 3 3 5 3 8 5+


Darkstrider is a single model equipped with a markerlight, pulse carbine, and photon grenade.

Special Rules

Darkstrider is a unique model of which only one can be included in your army. Darkstrider’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.
  • Structural Analyzer
    • In your shooting phase, pick a friendly T’au sept <Infantry> unit within 6″ of Darkstrider. Also pick an enemy unit visible to Darkstrider. Until the end of the phase, add 1 to To-Wound rolls made for the chosen friendly T’au sept <Infantry> unit’s attacks that target the chosen enemy unit.
  • Vanguard
    • Pre-game 7″ move that cannot end within 9″ of an enemy unit.
  • Fighting Retreat
    • Friendly T’au sept <Infantry> units within 6″ of Darkstrider in the Shooting phase may attack with ranged weapons even if they fell back this turn.


In a lot of ways, Darkstrider functions similarly to a Cadre Fireblade. Darkstrider is a solid and reliable source of markerlights thanks to his BS2+. That means that even after moving, you’ll still be at least hitting his markerlight on 3’s if not better. Because he’s a Pathfinder in fluff, he shares their Vanguard, pregame 7″ move. This can be useful to shift him into the ideal position to target something with his markerlight and not have to even take the penalty to move (in the movement phase) and firing a Heavy weapon. Though you’ll be utilizing his markerlight most of the time, his Pulse Carbine is worth remembering for occasional use and the fact that he can advance for an average 11″ movement and still hit on 3’s. Furthermore, as it was pointed out for the Cadre Fireblade, Darkstrider is an excellent candidate to use the EMP Grenade stratagem for mortal wounds against <Vehicles>, should you find your Darkstrider model close enough to utilize it.

Apart from his solid markerlight reliability, the most obvious reason to take Darkstrider is his Structural Analyzer ability. The possibilities to use this effectively are numerous and it pairs well with Strike Teams,  Stealth Suits, Shadowsun, Pathfinders, and Breachers – obviously any T’au <Infantry> unit. Imagine combining a unit of 12 Strike Team Fire Warriors with a Cadre Fireblade and Darkstrider, shooting at something at half their range – that’s 36 S5 AP0 D1 shots with +1 To-Wound not factoring in Darkstrider or the Cadre Fireblade’s shooting. All that for a bit more than 150 points. Combine this with the T’au sept Focused Fire stratagem to have those 7 point Fire Warriors wound even a Knight on 3’s and Darkstrider’s worth is apparent.

How about having Shadowsun or a Fusion Blaster-wielding Stealth Suit wound a Leman Russ on a 2? With his Vanguard movement, it’s possible to position him near enough Infiltrating Stealth Suits that were forwardly deployed. That same pregame movement could also rendezvous him with Rail Rifle (30″ Rapid Fire 1 S6 AP-4 D[D3]) or Ion Rifle (either 30″ Rapid Fire 1 S7 AP-1 D1 or 30″ Heavy D3 S8 AP-1 D2) Pathfinders, threatening basically whatever you aimed them at.

Another valid strategy is to load him up into a Devilfish with a unit of 10 Breachers (or two units of 5 if you prefer). As soon as you can get the Devilfish in range to unload them, you’ll have up to 20 S6 AP-2 D1 shots with +1 To-Wound. You’ll notice that many of the tactics involve getting somewhat close to an enemy unit to take advantage of rapid fire or short range profiles. While normally this is quite dangerous, and truth be told it still is, keep in mind his Fighting Retreat special rule. For all of the examples above except the Stealth Suits and Shadowsun which have the <Fly> keyword, this will let any surviving models fall back and still shoot the following turn. Whether this lets your remaining Breachers fall back and fire point-blank range or lets a more static Darkstrider/gun line combo recover from an untimely assault, Fighting Retreat is not a rule to forget about.

It might be worth noting that although he is a pathfinder in the fluff, the Recon Sweep stratagem which allows pathfinders to move 2D6 in the Shooting phase in place of their shooting does not work on Darkstrider. It specifically is worded to affect a <Pathfinder Team>, which Darkstrider is not. Sorry, buddy.


As with most T’au support characters, Darkstrider is only T3 and because he’s supposed to be a Pathfinder, he only has a Sv5+. He’s a prime target for enemy snipers, should they take them. He also folds like a wet paper towel in close combat, possessing no invulnerable save or FnP save of any kind (except if he happened to be near an Ethereal using the Sense of Stone invocation). He does have Photon Grenade as well, so keep those in mind, should you try and charge him. Make sure that you can kill everything you need to kill in close combat with him and any units around him, just due to his Fighting Retreat rule. The last thing you want is a T’au salvo at point blank range.

Since his structural analyzer has no range and is based on line of sight, if possible, try and force your T’au opponent to not have line of sight on the thing he really wants to bring down. For something like a Knight, that might be hard. For something like Mr. Smash Captain or a Dawn Eagle Jet Bike, that’s feasible. If you force him to use Structural analyzer on sub-optimal targets or have to move to see what he wants to use it on (thus taking a penalty on his To-Hit roll for his markerlight), then you can use that to your advantage.

Another counter to Darkstrider is the Vindicare Assasin, as Darkstrider is basically his ideal target. Very careful positioning on the part of Darkstrider will be necessary or else the T’au player will end up giving the Imperium player an extra CP from Darkstrider. Unless the T’au player is very cagey and careful with Darkstrider, you will be able to punish your opponent quite easily.


Overall, Darkstrider is a great support character for T’au players who are taking a T’au detachment. He brings a few unique tools to the table that most T’au players will find beneficial and easily justify his points. Though he didn’t go down in points in CA2018, I don’t think he needed it. He’s still just as worth taking as before. Like your typical support character, he’s really no threat on his own, so removing the real threats or finding ways to mitigate his synergy can be vital for opponents and demoralizing when using him.

How often do you take Darkstrider in a T’au detachment?

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Charlie A.

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

13 Responses to “T’au Codex Review – HQ: Darkstrider”

  1. Alex August 2, 2018 1:12 am #

    Thanks for the great article.

    Probably sensible the +1 to wound is infantry – if it worked with snipe drones that could cause a very dangerous amounts of mortal wounds, and the big suits can lay down plenty of hurt already.

    I assume Reece includes Dark Strider in his T’au infantry list.

    • Charlie A. August 2, 2018 3:51 am #

      If he’s running T’au sept, I would assume so. I haven’t heard much about his T’au list in awhile though, he’ll have to update us 🙂

      Yeah I mean if the +1 To-Wound applied to everything, that would be bonkers. Modifying the To-Wound table is a pretty big deal even just for Infantry. While I personally would love to be able to have my Riptide wound a knight on up to 3’s (a hypothetical +1 To-Wound from Darkstrider and another from the T’au stratagem Focused Fire), that hardly seems fair and balanced.

      Thanks! Glad it was helpful.

  2. Dakkath August 2, 2018 12:27 pm #

    One of my preferred Darkstrider combos would be sticking him with some rail rifle pathfinders to double the chances of getting those mortal wounds.

    • Charlie A. August 2, 2018 1:01 pm #

      Yeah the +1 To-Wound on things that do mortal wounds on a 6 is worth mentioning, good point!

  3. happy_inquisitor August 2, 2018 1:58 pm #

    Darkstrider is well worth his low cost and will buff up a gunline nicely.

    Even moreso than the Cadre Fireblade his ability to start a Focus Fire off with an EMP grenade against tough vehicles like Knights is great; after all as a T’au sept character you pretty much always have access to Focus Fire if you take him. Now use his Structural Analyser on a unit of Rail rifle pathfinders and do mortal wounds on a 4+ for the lulz.

    Like any T’au HQ he is as durable as the number of drones nearby, his poor save is only really relevant when you run out of the helpful little bin-lids to throw in the way.

    I feel like if you are taking anything like a typical balanced T’au sept list it is hard to justify not taking Darkstrider. He just adds so much utility for such a reasonable cost.

    • Charlie A. August 3, 2018 4:04 am #

      Well-stated and I agree.

      I’m not sure I ever considered or built a strategy around him starting Focused Fire with an EMP grenade, but now that you mention it, it’s an interesting strategy. You’re going to go second more often than not against a list with multiple knights, so for that reason, running him up on foot to get close enough to use his grenade might be difficult. Would you put him in a Devilfish and try to hide it behind a building during deployment so at least you had a turn of jetting up the board for a turn two EMP/Focused Fire? Even if they blew up your devilfish on their next turn (before he could get out), it’s pretty likely he will survive, unless the focused a lot of firepower into the survivors, which means there’s a lot of firepower NOT shooting at your firebase (Riptides, Hammerheads, etc.). An interesting idea!

      • Dakkath August 3, 2018 6:27 am #

        A pair of devilfish rushing up together sounds like a better plan. One with Darkstrider, a fireblade, and 10 breachers and the other with a dozen strikes.

      • happy_inquisitor August 4, 2018 8:22 am #

        If the threat of his EMP grenades stops Knights from closing the gap to tap-dance on the heads of my T’au then he is more than paying for himself anyway. He has a 19″ threat range on that grenade and hits 5/6 times (plus that is the best use of a CP re-roll) so a well placed Darkstrider/Fireblade tag-team can protect the whole line from Knights that do not want to deal with EMP. I would not be putting him in a devilfish unless I was building a full mech list anyway; no need to redesign a list to avoid a “failure” which is having my opponent hang back and reduce their damage output while gifting me control of mid-table objectives.

  4. Rob Butcher March 13, 2019 12:15 am #

    I stopped reading when you printed the stats line – without any permission from the IP holder.

    That’s illegal use of GW IP. Why should someone have to buy their product ie the Codex when FLG chooses to print them in parts.

    I choose to spend my time and money on legally responsible websites.

    • Charlie A. March 13, 2019 3:30 am #

      Aaaaand DRINK!

      I think the banhammer is appropriate at this point.

    • Strob Blutcher March 13, 2019 5:20 am #

      I, also, am furiously angry that someone wrote down numbers on the internet. Doesn’t he know that Games Workshop copyrighted numbers YEARS ago? I didn’t even take a class on copyright law and I know that! In fact, I haven’t done any research on copyright at all, nor do I have even the most casual of understandings of what “fair use” means, how what concepts are or aren’t protectable, or even what “IP” stands for. Is it “invisible pennies”? I think it has something to do with money, but I’m too angry to find out!

      Also, I pluralize phrases like “stats line” because I’m not terribly familiar with how the English language works either, if I’m being entirely honest.

    • ghostvalley March 13, 2019 7:35 am #

      So are you just a troll, or do you imagine yourself an anointed champion of Games Workshop, a company that is more than willing to defend its IP legally should they see fit? Do the GW tattoos compel you to write this nonsense all the time or are you hoping gw names you an official brand ambassador? I really dont understand this particular compulsion.

      • Charlie A. March 14, 2019 2:20 am #

        Just a troll. I’ve seen no other comments from him but this copy/paste in months.

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