Charlie here from 40kDiceRolls, here to discuss one of the biggest flier models available to the T’au, formerly known as the Tiger Shark Fighter Bomber. As always, for more tactics articles, check out the Tactics Corner!
This post has been updated since its original publication to reflect points changes in CA2018
The product of both utility and firepower, the Tiger Shark can be a godsend for just about any T’au mission. It is able to ferry tactical drones across the field to deposit them just where the ground-based Fire Caste warriors need them. The Tiger Shark is also able to provide an impressive amount of firepower, tailored to the target at hand, whether that is thick armor or squishy ground troops. Many neck-in-neck battles have been turned in the T’au’s favor by the mere presence of a Tiger Shark.
On the tabletop, a Tiger Shark is a single model unit, Flyer choice.
The Tiger Shark comes stock equipped with two Ion Cannons, two Burst Cannons, and two Missile Pods. It may take up to six Seeker Missiles. It can sub out its main two Ion Cannons for either two Swiftstrike Burst Cannons or two Swiftstrike Railguns. The two Burst Cannons can be swapped for two Cyclic Ion Blasters. Finally, it can swap out its transport bay (and the associated transportation ability) for a pair of Skyspear Missile Racks.
- Ion Cannon (60″ Heavy 3 S7 AP-2 D2 or 60″ Heavy [D3] S8 AP-2 D3 but To-Hit’s of 1 cause a self-inflicted Mortal Wound)
- Swiftstrike Burst Cannon (36″ Heavy 8 S6 AP-1 D1)
- Swiftstrike Railgun (36″ Heavy2 S8 AP-4 D[D6], To-Wound rolls of 6+ cause a single additional Mortal Wound in addition to other damage)
- Burst Cannon (18″ Assault 4 S5 AP0 D1)
- Cyclic Ion Blaster (18″ Assault 3 S7 AP-1 D1 or 18″ Assault [D3] S8 AP-1 D[D3] but To-Hit’s of 1 cause a self-inflicted Mortal Wound)
- Skyspear Missile Rack (72″ Heavy [D6] S6 AP-2 D2)
- Seeker Missiles (72″ Heavy 1 S8 AP-2 D[D6])
- This model can’t charge and can only be charged by <Fly> units. It can only attack and be attacked in the Fight phase by <Fly> units as well.
- Tiger Shark Dispersion Field
- 5++ invulnerable save
- Standard Flier 90-degree rotation before moving. When it advances, add 25″ instead of the normal D6.
- Hard to Hit
- Your opponent must subtract 1 from To-Hit rolls made against this target in the Shooting phase.
- Crash and Burn
- When reduced to 0 wounds, it explodes on a 6 on a D6. Units within 12″ suffer D3 mortal wounds.
Let’s get this out of the way now – the Tiger Shark is good. Even after you factor in the recent change to its Swiftstrike Burst Cannons. Previous to the FAQ2, they were called Heavy Burst Cannons, the same weapon the Riptide is infamous for (36″ Heavy 12 S6 AP-1 D2). With two of those, it was burning up the dance floor. Even after the name was changed to Swiftstrike Burst Cannons and the profile reverted to 36″ Heavy 8 S6 AP-1 D1, the Tiger Shark is still decent – just not the insane auto-take that it was before. CA2018 gave it an incredibly minimal price decrease thanks to the drop in points to missile pods but overall that doesn’t change my verdict.
It’s not cheap, coming in at a few pips above 400 points fully loaded out with Ion Cannons, Missile Pods, Seeker Missiles, Cyclic Ion Blasters, and the Skyspear Missile Rack – which is my recommended loadout. But what you get for that ~1/5 of your list is substantial. For starters, you get a massive amount of firepower all at strength 6 to 8, all with at least some AP which makes it a threat to light/medium/heavy infantry as well as light/medium vehicles. The Ion Cannons are its best and most reliable source of damage thanks to their AP-2 and flat 2 and 3 damage (depending on profile used). The overcharged profile also changes to Heavy D6 versus the Heavy D3 against targets with 10 or more models which is nice, but seems superfluous as that will most often be a misallocation of weapon to target – you will probably find that the optimal targets for your Ion Cannons won’t have that many models per unit. The Missile Pods are non-negotiable since they come stock and you have to take them, now not quite as expensive as they once were. Seeker Missiles are fantastic and normally you would need to take multiple vehicles to be able to take 6, so take them all and often. The Cyclic Ion Blasters provide additional S7 and S8 shooting and offer more versatility than the Burst Cannons do, though you do pay for that versatility. The Skyspear Missile Rack should always be taken as its a free upgrade that gives you 2D6 additional attacked. There are few and far between times that you’ll be in a situation where you need drones dropped in where you couldn’t just Manta Strike them in so taking the Drone Transport Bay (normally capable of caddying around up to 14 Tactical Drones) is ill-advised.
A further point on the Tiger Shark’s firepower is that a large chunk of it comes from Heavy weapons. Since the Tiger Shark has no “hover” mode, it must move each turn and therefore take a hit to its BS for all the Heavy Weapons. This means that usually, at full wounds, it will be firing at a mixture of BS2+ and BS3+. One way around this, at least for a turn, is to deploy it next to a Commander and turn-one cast Mont’ka. This will give you a turn of moving and “firing as if you had not moved” which will let you fire all its Heavy weapons without penalty.
Pack all that shooting (basically a Sky Ray plus two Hammerheads and then some) onto a T8, Sv3+/5++, W16, -1 To-Hit chassis and you have a lot of firepower that will require dedicated enemy shooting to remove. The -1 To-Hit is great obviously for staying alive longer but it’s also great for things like triggering self-inflicted mortal wounds on enemy overcharged plasma, doubling the chance that will happen. For the rest of its stats, you get slightly better attacks and WS than is typical for T’au vehicles. Not that you should plan on being in melee with your Tiger Shark, but I guess the fact that it’s a super-massive flying gunship has its perks.
Apart from being a decently good source of firepower, the Tiger Shark (or multiple Sharks) are large, fairly resilient models with high movement. This means that they can be useful for blocking off charge lanes and restricting the movement of your enemy’s non <Fly> units. Getting in your opponent’s face and in their way can force them to waste valuable movement moving around you instead of directly towards some valuable objective marker or target. The movement of the Tiger Shark should also be remembered in case your opponent leaves any holes in his backfield. The Tiger Shark can be used in this way to character snipe or zoom downfield to take out key targets. The 36″ range on several of its guns is by no means short range, but it can be restrictive if you’re looking for optimal targets on every weapon (which you should look to do) so keep that in mind.
The most likely sept choice for a Tiger Shark is probably T’au sept as although you hope it doesn’t need the increased hit change in overwatch often, it better synergizes with some of the other benefits of the sept – namely the Focused Fire stratagem. With its 6 Seeker Missiles, it’s adequate at doing the first wound for the stratagem as well. Since you might already be taking a Brigade or Battalion of T’au sept, adding in a T’au Tiger Shark is nearly trivial. Other choices would be Dal’yth or if you’re feeling extra creative, even Farsight Enclave. Dal’yth sept is beneficial for the 1st turn cover bonuses since the Tiger Shark is an obvious target for your opponent and a 2+ save is nice. This same benefit can be obtained with the Prepared Positions stratagem for 2CP though, so it’s hardly something to prioritize to build into. FSE would be beneficial because the Tiger Shark’s movement can virtually ensure that it can end a movement within 6″ of the enemy and thus reroll 1’s To-Wound. The real problem with this strategy is what you fill out the rest of the FSE detachment with, as it’s definitely one of the weaker and harder to use septs at the moment.
A brief note about the rules for the Tiger Shark. The most up-to-date data slate (we know this because of the renamed Swiftstrike Burst Cannons) can be found on the FW webpage here. That data slate also lists CIB’s to have an overcharge profile of Assault D3 and Seeker Missiles to do a single mortal wound instead of using the weapon profile I listed above. The general consensus is that when that data slate was updated to reflect the name change on the main burst cannon weapons, an oversight was made and neither the Seeker Missile nor the CIB weapon profiles were updated to reflect the published profiles in the T’au Codex. The original Tiger Shark data slate that was published in the Imperial Armour: Xenos book did not feature CIB’s and adding them to the Tiger Shark’s data slate has not been included in that book’s errata. By the strictest RAW sense, CIB’s are not able to be taken by the Tiger Shark, despite the model being sold with them and there is a data slate on the official Forge World site that lists them. Again, this is 99% surely a simple but frustratingly confusing oversight. However, if you plan on bringing a Tiger Shark to an event, it might be worth checking with the organizer to see how they plan on ruling this. I know I’ve personally seen lists in BCP featuring Tiger Sharks with CIB’s, so I know at least some organizers see the common sense in this ruling. Even some 7 months after this article was originally published, this is still the case. Terrible QA, GW.
It’s no denying that the Tiger Shark is not as good as it was now that the main weapon burst cannons were nerfed. However, it still represents a decent source of firepower and must be mitigated. When facing a larger-point single model like the Tiger Shark, the question is always: to ignore it or not? With the updated and nerfed main burst cannons, I’m more likely to suggest ignoring it. If you can take away its support (markerlights) and eliminate your opponent’s objective-scoring units, the Tiger Shark will struggle to make enough of an impact on its own. It’s not a one-man army, despite all the firepower it has. It takes approximately 10 lascannon hits (not shots, and remember it’s got a -1 To-Hit) to down a Tiger Shark. If you think you can do that and not suffer elsewhere, go for it. In my personal games when my opponent has removed my Tiger Shark support, I’ve struggled so take that for what its worth.
Like all fliers who must pivot and then move, it is subject to the tricky placement and restrictive movement. By not leaving holes in your backfield and by using screening units to restrict the options it has for movement, you can force it to either fly much further away than it likes (remember the main weapons and several of its secondary weapons are 36″ or less, with some only being 18″) or even to have to fly off the table resulting in it being destroyed. Speaking of movement, if you have some method of mind-controlling an enemy unit based on leadership, the Tiger Shark would be susceptible with its leadership of only 7. Other psychic powers that do damage or otherwise take advantage of middling leadership values would also be useful here.
Lastly, because fliers are so commonplace in the meta nowadays, many lists are already geared towards handling them well. It is feasible for the Tigershark to be caught in the crossfire, per se, in that if you’re already countering lists with significant Eldar fliers, a Tigershark is not going to represent a significant challenge.
Despite the reduction in firepower that the Tiger Shark recently was subject to, it remains a considerable T’au choice. If you have one, you can still feel good about bringing it to even semi-competitive games though it will struggle to compete against other T’au powerhouses such as Riptides. If you don’t have one and are looking to purchase one, it’s a great model and a centerpiece for any table. Because it’s a fairly sizable chunk of cash with recently nerfed rules, I don’t think you will be seeing too many of them but when you do, now you’ll know what to expect.
Are you willing to take the Tiger Shark in a meta that already assumes it will encounter fliers?
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