Hi folks! Rhys here with a look at the new rules for Commander Shadowsun.
This past week, the Warhammer Community page previewed Shadowsun’s new rules, as well as new Sept options, stratagems and warlord traits for the T’au Empire. Moreover, we’ve seen previews of some of the content of the fifth Psychic Awakening book on Tabletop Tactics and on Goonhammer. While neither of these sources discuss everything that the T’au get in the new supplement, they do provide some great coverage, so I’d recommend that T’au fans check them out.
I’m sure we’ll have comprehensive coverage of the new rules in the coming few days, but for now, I’ll discuss what we know about Shadowsun.
First things first, the model itself. I must admit, I’m in two minds about this one. On the one hand, Shadowsun’s new XV22 Stalker Battlesuit is sleek and elegant. The pose of the model itself is dynamic, a far-cry from the somewhat static previous incarnation of the character. We have different head options, which is always welcome. And while the model is mono-pose, I think that most T’au players will accept that this is the way that Games Workshop produces most models at the moment.
But on the other hand, why does she have four arms? Cue the Goro and General Grievous memes. This aspect of the model strikes me as a little bit peculiar. Why are her additional arms in such close proximity to her actual arms? Couldn’t her Earth Caste engineers simply have added her new weapons to her existing limbs?
For me, the model is a bit of column A and a bit of column B. But each to their own. If you like the model and you’ll enjoy painting and playing with, more power to you. With any luck, I’ll warm to it when I see it in person.
But let’s turn to the rules. The Community article previews three new elements of the character: two new Fusion Blaster variants, new rules for the Guardian Drone, and a new Sept-wide rule.
First, the new Fusion Blaster variants. Put simply, I think that these two weapons are a strong addition to the character.
Indeed, we can see immediately that Shadowsun’s Fusion Blasters have been buffed whichever way you look at it. Of the two variants, the second, the High-energy Fusion Blaster, simply adds six inches to the range of the current Fusion Blaster. This is a simple change to the weapon, but it’s going to be a very effective one. First, increasing the range of a weapon by 33 per cent is nothing to sniff at, especially one as potent as the Fusion Blaster. Second, the Fusion Blaster is, of course, a melta weapon, meaning that the option to roll two dice for damage and pick the highest is now available at twelve inches, instead of nine. If there were nothing else that changed, this in itself would be strong.
But what about the other variant? This one is pretty cool: the Dispersed Fusion Blaster. At first glance, this could be a very effective anti heavy-infantry weapon: range 18″, assault 2, S7, AP-4, d3 damage.
T’au players will notice that we’re in the territory of the Cyclic Ion Blaster here. We have one fewer shot and three extra points of AP. But we don’t have the option to overcharge the weapon for an extra point of strength and d3 damage. We do, of course, already have d3 damage. For one fewer shot, I think this is could be a pretty good deal. For example, if a Commander were armed with four Dispersed Fusion Blasters, he would, on average, hit seven times. If he were shooting at Primaris Marines, he would wound five times on average dice. And it’s here that we see the utility of the Dispersed Fusion Blaster compared to the Cyclic Ion Blaster: at AP-4, Primaris Marines won’t get an armor save. We’d then see four or five Primaris Marines slain, as the d3 damage comes into effect.
This would offer T’au players consistent, reliable output at 18″, and it’s this kind of firepower that makes competitive lists. Indeed, one of the reasons that competitive T’au lists take three Riptides armed with Heavy Burst Cannons is that players can rely on the output. Even a below average roll can yield a respectable amount of hits. This is very valuable.
For the sake of clarity, note that these are two separate weapons, two separate versions of the Fusion Blaster. These are not two different profiles of the same weapon. Players must choose which version of the Fusion Blaster they want to use when they build their list.
But here’s the rub: all this won’t matter one bit if these weapons will only be available to Shadowsun. Above, I describe how effective four Dispersed Fusion Blasters would be if we could take them on a Commander, but this will be a moot point if Commanders can’t take them.
I’m sure we’ll find out for sure in a day or two, but right now we’re speculating. However, the two sources that I mention at the beginning of this article don’t mention that these new weapons make it into the T’au armory, so I’m going to presume that they will be available for Shadowsun only. Indeed, I’d say that restricting these new, interesting weapon options to one model would be a mistake. Why? Competitive T’au players don’t take Shadowsun, and I don’t think that this update will change that.
The reason is simple: to take Shadowsun is to not take a Commander. And the Commander gives players significantly more offensive output than does Shadowsun. Indeed, this has always been the problem. Opportunity costs dictates that in order to take one option we have to forgo another option. In the standard ITC tournament format, T’au players are limited to three Commanders. If we are to forgo taking one of these Commanders, the benefits had better be serious. Double Kauyon is good, but doing it means that for a third of the game, a significant portion of our army won’t be moving. In the current meta, this doesn’t cut the mustard.
Don’t get me wrong: this might change. Broadside Battlesuits have some tasty upgrades in this supplement, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we see the competitive return of a static castle with Shadowsun at the core, granting Kauyon twice per game. We will have to wait and see.
But, in the current meta, Shadowsun simply doesn’t give T’au players the offensive output that they need from a Commander, and the benefits she grants aren’t useful enough to forgo taking a Commander.
But let’s put that to one side for a moment. What other new rules does Shadowsun gain? This new incarnation of the model removes her two Shield Drones and replaces them with a MV37 Advanced Guardian Drone.
This new Drone comes with 4+ invulnerable save. This much we expected. But it also grants the following benefit: When a friendly T’au Empire model would lose a wound whilst within 3″ of this model, roll one D6; on a 6 that wound is not lost.
A 3″ feel-no-pain bubble is a welcome addition to the character. And let’s look a little closer at how this effect works. First, the aura is granted to all T’au Empire models, meaning that it’s not Sept-locked. Units of different Septs will be able to take advantage of this rule. Furthermore, notice that the rule applies to all T’au Empire models: not only Battlesuits or infantry. This means that vehicles within 3″ of the Advanced Guardian Drone will be able to take advantage of a 6+ feel-no-pain. This is a solid defensive upgrade. Ignoring one in six wounds is nothing to sniff at.
Finally, Shadowsun’s new Supreme Commander rules makes her available for all T’au Empire armies, regardless of the Sept. While I think it’s a little peculiar that they allow Shadowsun to fight alongside Farsight Enclaves units, I think that this is generally a good move. It makes sense both in terms of fluff and in terms of game mechanics that Shadowsun should grant her abilities regardless of Sept allegiance. The rule does limit the Sept tenet that Shadowsun can take advantage of to Coordinated Fire Arcs, the T’au Empire tenet. This is a sensible trade off.
All in all, Shadowsun has some respectable upgrades. But, as I mention above, I’m still skeptical that competitive T’au lists will include her. However, until we have the book in our hands and we can fully digest the new content, take any predictions with a pinch of salt.
I’m still not sure about the double arms though.
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