This post has been updated since its original publication to reflect points changes in CA2018
Responsible for negotiating the contracts that their kroot brethren fulfill, Kroot Shapers help coordinate strategies with their employers as well as help carry them out by leading their brethren into battle. Such a place of prestige (at least among other Kroot), is rewarded with access to higher technology weapons that would normally not be attainable, like the T’au Pulse Rifle which some Shapers are known to carry into battle.
On the tabletop, Kroot Shapers consist of a single model unit who is an Elite choice <Character>.
Each Kroot Shaper is armed with a Kroot rifle (30″ Rapid Fire 1 S4 AP0 D1 or Melee S+1 AP0 D1) and a ritual blade (Melee S[User] AP0 D1). If any models are destroyed by this weapon, friendly <Kroot> units within 6″ of this Shaper don’t have to take Morale tests that turn. The model can replace its Kroot rifle with a pulse rifle (Rapid Fire 1 S5 AP0 D1).
- Wisest of Their Kind
- When taking Morale tests, <Kroot> units within 6″ of a Shaper use its leadership instead of their own.
- The Shaper Commands
- Reroll wound rolls of 1 for friendly Kroot units within 6″ of this Shaper
As should be immediately clear from looking at the above stats and special rules, Shapers are support characters for blobs of <Kroot> units, which includes Carnivores, Hounds, and Krootox. The unit to benefit the most from the Wisest of Their Kind rule is the Hound, buffing their leadership from 5 to 7. That bump of 2 leadership will be noticeable on your Morale tests, but seeing as your Hounds are still T3 and Sv6+, they’ll still die in droves, just run away slightly less. Plus, an Ethereal would just do it a lot better, buffing those Hound’s leadership up to 9 or even 10, making a real difference for a small cost increase. Also, the Ethereal on a drone would even be more mobile (Movement of 8 versus 7), so the Ethereal has got that edge too.
The Shaper Commands rule will also potentially buff the Hounds the most in close combat. With their 24 attacks, Hounds will hit approximately (on average of course) 16 of those, wounding a T3 target normally for 8 of those. By re-rolling 1’s on the To-Wound, you’re going to be adding about 1-2 successful wounds to that, which isn’t earth-shattering. It’s the only way to get re-rolling Wounds on Kroot though, so if that’s your schtick, go for it (after a hard look at how questionable that general strategy is).
Kroot Carnivores can benefit from rerolling 1’s To-Wound not just in the Fight phase, but also in the shooting phase. 24″ Rapid Fire weapons with a 7″ pre-game movement (plus their regular 7″ movement) mean that they’ll be in Rapid Fire range most of your first turns. This could end up making an impact with a max unit of Carnivores is 20 models, firing 40 shots in Rapid Fire range. Of the 20 of those that hit (BS4+), you’ll be normally wounding about 13 of those on a T3 target. With the re-rolling To-Wound rolls, you’ll add about 2-3 successful wounds to that. Plus, you would also get to reroll 1’s To-Wound in the Fight phase for Carnivores too, so should you make that long turn 1 charge with them, you could again be doing a few more extra wounds to your opponent. Just keep in mind that the following turn, whether you successfully charged or not, you’ll be near enough to your enemy to be torn to shreds by shooting and melee attacks alike due to the fragile existence of all <Kroot> units.
The biggest thing to keep in mind with the Shaper is just to keep him with your other units. Carnivores will typically be moving 7″ before the game and then another 7″, which would put them 14″ away from their starting point if they all moved max distance. Our little Shaper is only capable of moving 7″, so unless you conga-line some Carnivores back to him, they’ll all be out of range to receive his useful buffs. It’s quite strange to me that the Shaper doesn’t get the pre-game movement. Hounds are in a similar boat, due to their 12″ movement. Unless you conga-line back, they can easily outrun his buffs. Plus with Hounds, when you make Charge rolls, be mindful that you’ll only be moving further away from the Shaper (more likely than the Carnivores thanks to their Voracious Predators special rule). That is unless the Shaper can make a successful charge too. You will want your Shaper in close combat to use his ritual blade though, so this will probably be something you’re actively working towards most games. Kroot Hound and Carnivore units suffer pretty mightily from poor leadership, even with the Shaper buff, but the Ritual Blade has the ability to completely negate this. While VERY far from guaranteed (a Shaper will kill 2/3 of a Guardsman while in close combat – factoring in the Shaper’s BS3+, S3 ritual blade, and the Sv5+ of the Guardsman), it can ensure your green tide holds fast at a key moment rather than suffering costly morale losses. Personally, I’d rather see it as something like a 12″ Pistol rather than a Melee weapon, because I think a ritual crossbow sounds cool, but also it would help overcome the already incredibly difficult time that <Kroot> units already have in terms of getting in close combat. Or at least give it some AP or something.
Chapter Approved 2018 did not adjust the points costs of the Shaper, nor the points costs of any Kroot unit, which is sad because they don’t do what they do very well.
If you think Shapers need a way to be countered, you haven’t been reading the article. Their buffs are lackluster at best and they have to clumsily keep up with their Kroot brethren. That being said, there are even more ways to put a damper on them. The can’t be embarked on a Devilfish because it doesn’t have the <Sept> keyword. Laughably, it can embark on the Tidewall Rampart components. Regardless, it isn’t especially fast, relying on its own M7″ – therefore it can be outrun or outmaneuvered. This dovetails with its lack of a pregame movement and no ability to reroll failed charges like the Kroot Hounds.
While a <Character>, it will most likely be surrounded by T3 Sv6+ low leadership models, so if you brought any anti-hoard weapons AT ALL, you’ll have no problem clearing a way to the Shaper itself. The icing on the proverbial cake is that even if it succeeds in doing exactly what it wants, which is to get into close combat with you while near several other <Kroot> models, any army with the exception of T’au will be able to wipe it in close combat. Do not be afraid.
“The be’gel had us surrounded, and the last of our ammunition reserves had run dry. We resolved to meet our deaths with honour. Then we heard the shrill baying of hounds, the crack of hard-round rifles. The Kroot emerged from the forest with howls that chilled the blood, and fell upon the be’gel. It was over in minutes. Our auxiliaries saved many lives that day, and I will not forget their bravery. Nor will I forget the awful sounds of tearing flesh and snapping bones that followed, as they butchered and devoured the bodies of their foes.”
– Shas’ui Dau, Vior’la Sept, T’au Empire Codex 2018
Now THAT sounds like the type of Kroot I want in my armies. I want fluff and rules to meet in a fun and exciting way. Unfortunately, Kroot Shapers keep up the trend of delivering a ruleset devoid of intricacy and are bland at best. Lack of a significant impact means that even should you heavily invest in them and <Kroot> in general, any decent list will just be able to gun/chop them down. Kroot do not live long enough to be buffed by the middling Shaper buffs.
What would it take to give the Kroot Shaper a proper place as Kroot leaders?
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