Hi folks! Rhys here with a look at how the T’au Empire updates in Chapter Approved 2019 might affect T’au list building. Check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
The latest update to 40k, Chapter Approved 2019, was released a few days back, and, as we all expected, plenty of factions received some interesting points adjustments, bringing into consideration often overlooked choices and making some powerful units and abilities slightly less threatening.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the main points updates to the T’au Empire codex and what these changes might mean for competitive T’au lists in the current meta.
I’ll begin with the big one: Riptides, Drones, and Commanders did not increase or decrease in points cost.
However, the Fusion Blaster decreased from 18 points to 14 points, so, in practice, the quad-Fusion Coldstar Commander is now 16 points cheaper. Anything that competes with the Cyclic Ion Blaster for a place on the only 2+ platform in the T’au arsenal is a good thing in my book.
What does this mean? Put simply, the alpha dogs in the T’au codex will remain the alpha dogs. While some big units in the codex received significant points decreased — we’ll come to that shortly — that this triumvirate didn’t become more expensive means that the T’au meta won’t change much.
When I say that it won’t change much, I mean that top-tier T’au lists will still feature three Riptides, three Commanders and over 30 Drones, but they may now feature a couple of supporting units that most players won’t necessarily be familiar with.
So what else? There is one big boy that received significant decrease in points: the KV128 Stormsurge.
Before I discuss the points decreases themselves, let me first point out that the Stormsurge is a damn cool model. And it’s a real shame that it doesn’t see any play in the competitive scene. There are a number of reasons that the best T’au players overlook this behemoth, but one stands out above all others: the Stormsurge is not a Battlesuit. And this means that we can’t use Shield Drones to block incoming damage.
Don’t get me wrong: the Stormsurge is no paper tiger. With toughness 7, 20 wounds, and 4+ invulnerable save, it’s reasonably tough, but compared to a Riptide with even a modest complement of Shield Drones, it really doesn’t hold up.
But even with these shortcomings, is the points decrease sufficient to see them on the tabletop? I don’t think so, but it’s good to see that GW have at least acknowledged the problem.
Pre-CA 2019, a Stormsurge armed with a Pulse Driver Cannon, two Burst Cannons, an Advanced Targeting System, a Shield Generator, and a Velocity Tracker — plus, of course, the in-built weapon systems — would’ve cost 409 points. Now, that same loadout costs 349 points, a saving of 60 points, which is nothing to turn your nose up at.
But let’s dig a little deeper into those points decreases.
The Stormsurge’s main weapon is either the Pulse Driver Cannon or the Pulse Blastcannon. Both of these weapons were significantly reduced in points: the first from 50 to 30 and the second from 43 to 20. But neither received the rules rewrite that they require in order to make them effective on the tabletop.
With 72″ range, strength 10, AP-3, d6 damage, the Pulse Driver Cannon would be a great option if it weren’t for its one fatal flaw: d6 shots. T’au players are unable to rely on the Stormsurge’s main weapon when they really need to. And this is a significant problem. Regardless of whether the T’au player spends 409 points or 349 points, not being able to rely on the output of such a big chunk of your army is a serious flaw.
Compare this weapon to the Riptide’s Heavy Burst Cannon. On a Nova Charge, the Riptide puts out 18 shots. Of course, these shots aren’t nearly as strong individually when compared to the Pulse Driver Cannon, but T’au players know that they’ll be rolling 18 dice. Good players will plan their turns around this factor. The Stormsurge doesn’t allow players to do this.
So what about the other main weapon? The Pulse Blastcannon is an interesting beast. Its profile varies depending on the distance of the target. At 10″, it’ll give you two shots at strength 14, AP-4, and six damage. At 20″, you’ll get four shots at strength 12, AP-2, and four damage. And at 30″, you’ll have six shots at strength 10, AP0, and two damage. While T’au players know exactly how many shots they’ll get each turn, the problem is that to really put the hurt on a big, nasty enemy unit, it’s got to be right at your doorstep, and by that time it’ll probably be too late to really do anything about it.
And that’s the rub: for 349 points, T’au players still don’t get enough bang for their buck with the Stormsurge. To make it competitive, the Pulse Driver Cannon and the Pulse Blastcannon need a rewrite in order to increase its offensive output. And to make up for the lack of Savior Protocols, toughness 8 certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The Ghostkeel is another model that just doesn’t see competitive play at the moment. And, much like the Stormsurge, this is a shame because the model itself is fantastic. But there are a number of reasons why the top T’au players would overlook it, principal of which is, I think, its somewhat middling offensive output: neither of its main weapons options is anything to write home about. And while a natural -1 to hit is solid, it won’t stand up to any sustained firepower without the support of Shield Drones, and a Shield Drone that sacrifices itself for a Ghostkeel isn’t a Shield Drone that sacrifices itself for a Riptide.
But, despite the problems with the unit, do the points decreases indicate a renewed surge of interest in the Ghostkeel? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t imagine so.
One thing is for certain, the Ghostkeel won’t be competing with the Riptide and the Commander for the main offensive output in a T’au army. Here’s the headline news: a Ghostkeel armed with a Cyclic Ion Raker, two Burst Cannons, an Advanced Targeting System and a Target lock and accompanied by two Stealth Drones now costs 148 points. Pre-CA 2019, T’au players would’ve payed 168 points. While a 20-point reduction is welcome, it just isn’t enough to warrant inclusion in a competitive list.
But what about a unit of Stealth Battlesuits? These guys have been a staple of the T’au codex since it was first released way back when in 2001. And I must say that I do have a soft spot for the original metal sculpts of the Stealthsuits.
But we’re starting to see a theme emerging. The best T’au players in the world don’t use Stealthsuits. Pre-CA 2019, they were just too expensive for what they did. And in comparison to some of the elite choices that we see in the new Space Marine meta — I’m of course referring to Aggressors — they really didn’t cut the mustard at all.
But what about post-CA? Will we begin to see more Stealthsuits in the T’au lists that make it to the top tables? Actually, I think we might do.
The Stealthsuit chassis, so to speak, has seen a reduction from 20 points to 14 points. The Burst Cannon didn’t change points cost, so when we add 8 points for that we come to 22 points. The minimum squad size of the Stealth Battlesuit unit is three, so we’re paying 66 points for a minimal three-man unit. That same unit would have cost a T’au player 84 points pre-CA 2019.
Don’t get me wrong: Stealthsuits aren’t going to be tearing up the tabletop. 66 points gets us 12 Burst Cannon shots — strength 5, AP0, and 1 damage, so there’s nothing too worrisome there. But Stealthsuits do have the Infiltrator special rule, allowing them to deploy anywhere on the battlefield outside their opponent’s deployment zone, as long as it is 12″ from an enemy model.
When deploying first, this gives the T’au player scope to force his opponent back into his deployment zone if he deploys his Stealthsuits high up the board. And as the best 40k players in the world know, the game is won in the movement phase.
At 168 points, many T’au players will have decided against taking six Stealthsuits in order to attempt to play the board control game even before the first turn, but now that six Stealthsuits cost 132 points, I think that we might start to see some T’au players taking another look.
While there are a handful of other minor points reductions here and there, the three units I talk about here stand out the most. However, before I finish, I do want to mention one particular unit that was reduced in points again: the Crisis Battlesuit. This absolute classic was reduced from 27 points to 24 points. And that means that they’ve done the double: in CA 2018 they were reduced from 42 points to 27 points.
Still, virtually no one takes them in either competitive or casual play. It’s a real shame. The Crisis Battlesuit is the quintessential T’au unit, the original, the classic. And at 24 points will anyone take them? No. But if you listen carefully enough, across the boundless reach of T’au interstellar space, you’ll hear the faintest whisper: jump-shoot-jump.
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