This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect Chapter Approved 2018 changes.
Today we’re talking about another hero of the Fire Caste, Shas’la T’au Sha’ng. Because that’s such a mouthful, you probably know him as Longstrike. Known to be the “Hammerhead pilot that cannot miss” Longstrike has made a name for himself by eliminating many Imperial threats to the T’au Empire in a dramatic and accurate fashion. His own excellent skill is enhanced by his XV08 Pilot Battlesuit which “blends advanced neural interface technology with a network of sub-dermal implants and adrenal stimulators” to enhance his reaction time and abilities.
On the tabletop, Longstrike is a T’au sept HQ choice with several special rules that amplify the strengths of nearby Hammerheads. Longstrike is a single model that may be added onto a Hammerhead model, much like many other tank commanders.
|7 to 13||12″||2+||3|
|4 to 6||6″||3+||D3|
|1 to 3||3″||4+||1|
Longstrike’s gunship is a single model equipped with a railgun. It is accompanied by two MV1 Gun Drones, each equipped with two pulse carbines. May replace its railgun with an ion cannon. May take up to two seeker missiles. May replace the Gun Drones with two burst cannons or two smart missile systems.
- Solid shot – 72″ Heavy 1 S10 AP-4 D[D6], D3 mortal wounds on a To-Wound roll of 6+
- Submunitions – 72″ Heavy D6 S6 AP-1 D1
- Standard – 60″ Heavy 3 S7 AP-2 D2
- Overcharge – 60″ Heavy D6 S8 AP-2 D3, bearer suffers a mortal wound if a To-Hit of 1 is rolled
- 72″ Heavy 1 S8 AP-2 D[D6]
MV1 Gun Drone Pulse Carbine
- 18″ Assault 2 S5 AP0 D1
- 18″ Assault 4 S5 AP0 D1
Smart Missile Systems
- 30″ Heavy 4 S5 AP0 D1, no line of sight needed, units attacked by this weapon don’t gain any bonus to saving throws for being in cover.
Longstrike is a unique model of which only one can be included in your army. Longstrike’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.
- Attached Drones
- If accompanied by drones, they are considered to be embarked when Longstrike is set up. Whilst embarked, Longstrike is considered to be equipped with their weapons in addition to his own.
- Tank Ace
- Add 1 for To-Wound rolls for Longstrike when he shoots at <Vehicles> or <Monsters>.
- Hover Tank
- Basically, measure (for the purposes of range and whatnot) from his hull instead of any base he might be on.
- XV02 Battlesuit
- If Longstrike shoots at something with a markerlight, treat the number of markerlights as one higher than it is for purposes of determining bonuses from the markerlight table.
- Explodes on a 6 for D3 mortal wounds within 6″.
- Fire Caste Exemplar
- Add +1 for To-Hit rolls for T’au sept <Hammerheads> within 6″ of Longstrike.
Longstrike is very reliable and all around great named character. Thanks to the fact that he adds +1 on To-Wound rolls against <Vehicles> and <Monsters> and adds 1 on To-Hit rolls for all nearby <Hammerheads> (himself included) he can reliably hit and, with a railgun get D3 mortal wounds on a 5+. Add that to the Focused Fire stratagem and you could get mortal wounds on 4’s. His +1 To-Hit counters the innate -1 To-Hit that you’ll find in competitive scenes (fliers, chapter tactics, etc.) to further help his reliability.
Should you find him in a tough spot, keep in mind that Longstrike is T’au sept and has For the Greater Good, which would allow him to fire overwatch (via a charge to himself or another unit within 6″) and hit on 5’s. Hopefully, your Longstrike isn’t charged often, but good to remember. Should that charge still make it in and Longstrike takes damage, also don’t forget about the Automated Repair systems stratagem to heal him back up D3 wounds. The icing on the proverbial cake is that he has <Fly> so even should all this happen, you can back him out of combat and fire point blank into your opponent’s charged unit (should Longstrike still be alive, that is).
As you can see, Longstrike can be quite self-sufficient as well as benefit from several notable stratagems, but that’s not all! Longstrike also brings a critical +1 To-Hit to other nearby <Hammerheads>. Why is this so important, you ask? Hammerheads are decent and reliable. Their Ion Cannon’s bring a versatile strength weapon to the table with flat 2 and 3 damage, depending on profiles – both with decent AP. They also have BS3+. For T’au, a widely BS4+ army, this is a very welcome outlier. Plus, at 13 wounds a piece and T7 with a Sv3+, they just might stick around for a turn or two. All this to say that Longstrike takes that solidly decent unit and makes it even better. Add Longstrike plus any single markerlight of your choosing and those Hammerheads will be hitting on 2+ rerolling 1’s with AP-2 D2 or D3. Nice!
What’s the best way to equip Longstrike? Ion Cannon and SMS. But don’t I want the mortal wounds on 4’s or 5’s? While that’s nice, it’s gimmicky. You’d be potentially spending 3CP to have a 50% chance at potentially 1 mortal wound. It’s not worth it. Plus, the railgun is inferior to the ion cannon thanks to the railgun’s D[D6]. I’ll take consistent 2 and 3 damage wounds over the variability a D6 brings. SMS is not technically as point efficient as the attached drones are (detached drones are BS5+, yuck), but the range is 30″ compared to 18″ and the SMS ignores cover bonuses while not needing line of sight. Even though the drones can detach and go score objective, I’m sticking with SMS for the reasons mentioned. The point reductions to Gun Drones and the Railgun from CA2018 do make alternative loadouts for Longstrike tempting, I’ll admit. If points are tight, you shouldn’t feel too bad about taking the drones, though on a table with appropriate LoS-blocking terrain, you will assuredly miss the indirect fire from the SMS. The Railgun’s nearly 25% point reduction in CA2018, while nice, just don’t seem to make up for the random damage with no way to reroll damage apart from spending 1CP.
As great as all this is, Longstrike does have some disadvantages. You’ll never want to make him your warlord because, although he’s a <Character>, he’s over the wound threshold to be untargetable. As a result, your opponent will probably take him out first thing if they’re even remotely aware of all the great things he can do. His warlord trait lets him roll a D6 every time he suffers a mortal wound and on a 5+, that mortal wound is ignored and has no effect. That only triggers on a mortal wound versus any type of wound, so it’s really not that good. As such, he might be great to take, but terrible to make your warlord. Don’t do it.
As mentioned above, he gains no protection from being a <Character> so kill him and kill him fast. T’au lists typically have more drops than others, so if you can get the first turn and destroy him before he can buff the inevitable nearby hammerheads, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. He’ll have them all within 6″ of Longstrike so if you get lucky and he blows up, you’ll be doing mortal wounds to a lot of nearby tough stuff. “Tough” is used loosely here as he’s only T7 which is really not all that tough compared to a Knight or Leman Russ. There’s also no invulnerable save so anything that’s high AP is just going to pass right through as damage. If he wants to be in range to use the SMS, he’s going to have to be within 30″, which honestly isn’t that far away for some armies. If he chooses to hang back and just use his Ion Cannon, he becomes less efficient himself. “Killing them” is obviously always a good counter, but in this case, because Longstrike not only buffs those around him but he also is a valid threat on his own, it’s best to take him out. Luckily, that’s far from difficult for most armies.
In an age where the Castellan rules all, it completely invalidates the Hammerhead chassis. If you were already taking a Castellan, worry not, as you’ll be able to reliably remove T’au vehicles consistently turn after turn. Even if you aren’t, the humble lascannon can do serious damage to Longstrike and those are found nearly everywhere.
Overall, Longstrike brings a lot of good things to a solid T’au list. He’ll buff nearby Hammerheads and be a real surprise to uninformed opponents. Luckily for them, he’s far from unkillable and as a result, should never be made into the T’au’s warlord. I’m currently playing around with a list of Longstrike and three Hammerheads, all with Ion and SMS as a good fire base for my overall list. I’ve seen other T’au players run this and I think the main draw is the consistency that it brings to the list, compared with the normal BS4+ that is so common to T’au. Longstrike is the perfect accompaniment to this and a solid pick overall. Just don’t expect to keep him on the board for more than 2 turns.
Would you ever take Longstrike given how popular a Castellan is nowadays?
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