Tau: Psychic Awakening Review

Hey everyone, this is Richard Siegler from Art of War, and I am here to talk about the new T’au rules and how the faction is well-positioned to fit into the new 2020 meta.

Psychic Awakening: For the Greater Good has finally arrived. The T’au Empire has received some new and useful tools, including custom Septs, prototype weapon systems, stratagems, updated Shadowsun, The Eight datasheets, and new rules for Farsight Enclaves detachments. These are welcome changes because T’au has found it challenging to compete with the top tier lists since the release of Faith and Fury and the Iron Hands and Imperial Fists supplements. 

For much of 2019, I had successfully competed in the ever-changing 40k meta with my T’au list revolving around three Riptides, three commanders, and at least 40 shield drones. I won the NOVA Open, Warzone Atlanta, and the Atlanta Open in the span of a few months using the supreme durability of the list to dominate the mid-board against most factions and survive with much of my firepower intact for six turns. This style was even successful after the release of the Space Marine Codex. I was able to match the durability of Nick Nanavati’s Iron Hands brigade and largely ignore the power of devastator doctrine, with most of my units having good invulnerable saves. 

However, the early Psychic Awakening books and Chapter Approved fundamentally altered the meta, with Chaos gaining an even more powerful build relying on multiple negatives to hit and a stratagem to make dangerous units like Obliterators and Possessed untargetable. Craftworld Eldar received significant efficiency buffs with their custom Craftworld traits like expert crafts and masterful shots, flipping their match-up against my list from unfavorable to favorable. Additionally, marines and Iron Hands, in particular, received the Chief Apothecary, which dramatically increased the durability of their infantry and allowed for the ridiculous “Broviathan” (credit to Mitch Pelham for the nickname) combo that I piloted to become the LVO champion.

With this brief synopsis of the last couple months of the meta, let’s delve into the new T’au rules and see if we can come with several new competitive archetypes to bring T’au back to the summit.

Custom Septs 

The two standout Septs are “Stabilization Systems” to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons with Battlesuits and “Hardened Warheads” for granting an additional -1 ap for smart missile systems, missile pods, seeker missiles, and high-yield missile pods. The combination of these two custom Sept traits increases the power of my existing triple Riptide build. Ignoring the penalty for moving and firing the heavy burst cannon and smart missiles means that target lock is no longer in consideration for a support system slot, making the Advanced Targeting System (ATS) and Velocity Tracker (VT) combo the de facto choice. 

The triple Riptide build is designed to be a highly mobile midfield force and so the ability to move and shoot without penalty while still taking the two most important support systems is significant. VT, in my opinion, is still mandatory in this meta with so many FLY-keyword based lists ranging from Iron Hands or Imperial Fists flyers and Eldar vehicle spam to the T’au mirror match-up. Additionally, smart missiles gain a nice boost in becoming ap -2 with the Sept trait and ATS, allowing them to easily pick off chaff hiding out of line of sight and quickly whittle down durable units like Paladins that are now taking 4+ saves instead of 3+. Any extra damage you can do to these units before engaging them directly is invaluable.

“Hardened Warheads” also opens up the option of missile pod Coldstar commanders. Before Psychic Awakening: For the Greater Good, missile pod commanders had to choose between 3 weapon systems and ATS or 4 missile pods but remain only ap -1. This new custom Sept allows each missile pod Coldstar to fire eight strength 7, ap -2, damage d3 shots with a ridiculous 56-inch total threat range without advancing.

Now the custom Septs do have the disadvantage of missing out on powerful abilities like the T’au Sept trait to overwatch on 5+ or their Sept specific stratagem to add +1 to wound against a wounded target. However, I believe that the increased mobility and added bit of offense offset these losses in the current meta. The few armies that will charge a T’au defensive formation will do so with the ability to ignore overwatch, and switching to custom Septs offers two abilities that will be useful in every single match-up, unlike the 5+ overwatch. Good positioning and screening with drones will still be the most helpful tool for preventing powerful melee units from assaulting the central portion of your firepower.

Prototype Weapons Systems

Instead of receiving a new page of relics, T’au has received a set of rules that can take the place of the mostly subpar signature system section of the T’au Codex. These new systems range from auto include to utterly pointless, but by and large many will find a use in a variety of lists. The real standout is “Cross-Linked Stabilizer Jets,” which allows a commander, crisis battlesuit unit, or crisis Bodyguard unit to reroll hit and wound rolls of 1. Instantly useful, this will be by far the most commonly used system.  

Other interesting choices are the “Reactive Countermeasures” system, which can be placed on a battlesuit model with airburst fragmentation projectors allowing it to ignore -1 or -2 ap from ranged weapons. In combination with iridium armor within a crisis unit, this could be a compelling way of tanking significant amounts of damage.  

For those Ghostkeel users, the “Advanced EM Scrambler” prevents enemy reinforcements from being set up within 12 inches of the model. With this ability, a centrally placed Ghostkeel can have a tremendous impact on your opponent’s ability to deploy units from reserve, especially massive combat threats like Grey Knights, Sanguinary Guard, and Zephyrim. I am also a fan of the “Accelerated-Photon Grenades,” which force an enemy infantry unit that is hit by the grenade to subtract one from their hit rolls as well as preventing them from advancing and halving all charge rolls. Both the “Advanced EM Scrambler” and “Accelerated-Photon Grenades” are tools that can be utilized in combination with custom Septs to assuage losing out on the T’au Sept benefits.

So, if I were to rewrite my old list to mesh better with the “Stabilization Systems” and “Hardened Warheads” traits, it would be something like this:

Custom Sept Tripletide List

  • Custom Sept Battalion (Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads)
  • Cadre Fireblade, Markerlight, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone, Warlord
  • Ethereal Honour blade, Hover drone, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone, MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone, MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone, MV4 Shield Drone
  • Custom Sept Outrider (Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads)
  • Cadre Fireblade, Markerlight, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 8x MV4 Shield Drone 
  • Tactical Drones, 8x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 8x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Custom Sept Vanguard (Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads)
  • Cadre Fireblade, Markerlight, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
  • XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
  • XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker

Pre-game decisions

1) Free relic will be the Puretide Engram Chip

2) Spend 3 command points to purchase two additional signature systems, which will become prototype weapons. Usually two instances of Cross-Linked Stabilizer Jets for two of the Commanders, but potentially accelerated photon grenades on a Fireblade.

Stratagems

The selection of new stratagems offers a few new utility options to the T’au army, with one incredible stratagem that will have an entire list built around it. The main stratagems that will see play are “Aerial Targeting” to count as having one more markerlight on a target, “Wisdom of the Many” to allow an Ethereal to invoke a second elemental power, “Pulse Onslaught” for anyone running Breacher units, “Coordinated Engagement” for anyone running crisis suits, and “Promising Pupil” to gain access to an extra warlord trait, allowing you to have both “Through Unity Devastation” and “Exemplar of the Mont’ka” in the same army.

The standout stratagem is “Modulated Weaponry.” For 1 command point, this stratagem allows a non-Titanic model to gain the maximum number of shots with heavy weapons that have a random number of shots. The real winner here is the Y’Vahra, which can now pump out 18 shots with the flamer and 9 with the shotgun. While the Y’Vahra did not go down in points with Chapter Approved, this stratagem almost single-handedly makes it a viable option if you want to build an entire list around it. To do so, we would have to select Bork’ an for the extra range and supplement it with enough firepower that even when the Y’Vahra dies, we can still win the game. I ran a Bork’an list centered around a Y’Vahra at the Crucible major in Orlando last October defeating pre-nerf Iron Hands but losing out to White Scars in a close game. This stratagem dramatically increases the power of that list archetype, so, if I were to run it again, I would do something like this:

Bork’an Y’vahra List

  • Bork’ an Outrider Detachment
  • Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 12x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 12x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 12x MV4 Shield Drone
  • XV109 Y’vahra Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 2x MV52 Shield Drone
  • Bork’an Vanguard Detachment
  • Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Ethereal, Honour blade, Hover drone, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14 PL, 278pts]: 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
  • XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14 PL, 278pts]: 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
  • XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14 PL, 278pts]: 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker

As you will notice, this is intentionally low on command points, with most of them reserved for as many Modulated Weaponry” activations as possible. I might even forgo the Puretide chip in order to trade the free relic slot and one command point for an extra relic in order to grant two commanders the Cross-Linked stabilization Jets system. But the list is designed to give the Y’Vahra at least two, if not three, turns to trade as efficiently as possible while the commanders and Riptides pick off units and control the middle of the board and ensure a win on the mission. If you wanted more markerlights in the list, I would switch a cyclic commander to triple fusion and a drone controller and then swap some of the shield drones to marker drones.

Farsight Enclaves Rules

Now we get to my favorite part of the For the Greater Good book: Farsight Enclaves rules. In my opinion, these are the most powerful set of rules in the book. Yet, because of that, it will take quite a few practice games to fine-tune the most robust lists. So, what makes them so compelling?

First, Farsight Enclaves benefit from a loosening of the commander restriction from the main Codex. Instead of being limited to one commander per detachment, Farsight detachments can have no more than two commanders. This rule is incredibly potent as it allows for a six commander list with some variation between Cyclic Ion Enforcers, Fusion Coldstars, and Missile Coldstars. Additionally, Farsight detachments also gain a further ability, “Aggressive Footing,” allowing your models within 12 inches of enemy units to count as having one more markerlight than the target actually has. So, any of your models within 12 inches of enemy units count as having at least one markerlight to reroll hit rolls of one. This ability is fantastic on ballistic skill 2+ commanders. 

On top of this, Farsight detachments unlock a further set of stratagems. The highlights here are the “Veteran Cadre” stratagem used pre-game to increase the ballistic skill of a crisis unit to 3+ and their weapon skill to 4+. In combination with the “Coordinated Engagement” or “Drop Zone Clear” stratagems, a unit of crisis suits coming from deepstrike can be ballistic skill 3+ and have +2 to hit, almost single-handedly solving the T’au issue with stacking minuses to hit. The “Defense in Numbers” stratagem also allows Farsight crisis suit units to ignore wounds on a 5+, increasing their durability when ablative drone wounds begin to run low. And finally, “Focused Fury” allows a character model to reroll wound rolls for 1 command point, which is incredible on any of the cyclic ion commanders, especially against high toughness models.

The unique relics and warlord traits for the Enclaves are also fairly interesting, with the MirrorCodex providing a pseudo-markerlight benefit against models within 18 inches. At the same time, the Talisman of Arthas Moloch offers a deny the witch attempt that will find use in a meta with so many incredible psychic powers. The Goonhammer staff made a big deal about the Seismic Fibrillator Node, which is activated once per battle at the start of your opponent’s turn and does mortal wounds on a one each time an enemy model starts and ends a move within 6 inches. I do not want any enemy models getting within 6 inches of my characters because, at that point, your drone screen is likely dead or severely diminished, meaning your characters are in grave danger. Most things that will move fast enough to get within 6 of your characters earlier than that are single model units like Smash Captains or Solitaires, which can take a mortal wound or two with their charge and pile in moves, and still trade for the damage your opponent wants. I feel like the relic slots are at such a premium between the Puretide chip and the prototype weapons that this will be very niche. I would be happy to be proved wrong, though.

So, what does my Farsight Enclaves list look like?

Farsight Enclaves List

  • Farsight Enclaves Battalion 
  • Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Fusion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  •  Commander inXV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Fusion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, Markerlight, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
  • Farsight Enclaves Battalion
  •  Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit [8 PL, 156pts]: Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
  • Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
  • Farsight Enclaves Vanguard Detachment
  • Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2xMV4 Shield Drone
  • XV25 Stealth Battlesuits, 5x Stealth Shas’ ui w/ Burst Cannon, 1x Stealth Shas’ vre, Burst cannon, Shield generator
  • XV8 Crisis Bodyguards, 1x Crisis Bodyguard, Airbursting fragmentation projector, Shield generator, XV8-02 Crisis Iridium battlesuit, 5x Crisis Bodyguard, Advanced targeting system, 2x Cyclic ion blaster, 6x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 4x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 4x MV4 Shield Drone
  • Tactical Drones, 4x MV4 Shield Drone

Pre-game decisions

1) Veteran Cadre -2 command points on the Crisis unit.

2) Free relic slot is “Reactive Counter Measures” on the Crisis model with the Airburst Fragmentation Projector so that he ignores ranged attacked with ap -1 and ap -2. Because he has Iridium armor, he is meant to tank most enemy firepower when I begin to run out of drones.

3) Spend -3 command points on purchasing two further signature systems, which will become prototype weapon systems. Likely “Cross-Linked Stabilization Jets” on either the crisis unit or any of the commanders depending on the match-up.

4) Promising Pupil if I feel the need for a second warlord trait.

If I end up dropping down to a single battalion, I would be more selective with pre-game decisions. With a double battalion, you can more comfortably spend those command points for as many pre-game buffs as possible. It feels nice to finally do anything pre-game after a year of basically selecting a free relic and warlord trait and letting your opponent explain an avalanche of pre-game decisions. How the list functions is that the stealthsuits, breachers, and shield drones act as the central screen for the commanders who play the angles and herd the opponent into firing lanes. The Coldstars also force your opponent to screen characters and vulnerable units like Thunderfire cannons continuously.  

The Crisis unit will often come down with the cyclic commanders and/or some of the tactical drone units dropping a ridiculous amount of strength eight firepower hitting on 2s rerolling 1s. The cyclic ion blaster is one of the most efficient guns in the game as it is fantastic against any type of unit—whether horde or toughness eight monstrosities. Depending on the meta, I could see the potential for missile pods, gatling burst cannons, fusion, or a mix of these. I also decided to go with Crisis bodyguards because late game they can essentially double as drones for the commanders with their bodyguard rule.

Conclusions

These are, of course, my initial impressions of the Psychic Awakening: For the Greater Good book and some potential lists I think we can see doing well in the current meta. I plan to play a significant amount of test games with all sorts of new lists so if you are interested in hearing more of my thoughts on T’au or the meta, check out Art of War 40k on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Nick Nanavati, Mark Perry, and I will be live streaming matched play games on Twitch very soon, but we will also be offering personalized coaching and list design through Art of War.  

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

secondhandhsop

Tags:

10 Responses to “Tau: Psychic Awakening Review”

  1. Avatar
    NotreDameGuy February 19, 2020 4:37 pm #

    No mention of Amplified Ion Accelerators on Riptides? I feel like that is an auto include now. (and with the way prototype weapons are currently written, there is no limitation on one of each maximum. Meaning taking 2 extra relics for -3 CP, you can take an amplified ion accelerator on all 3 riptides).

    • Avatar
      Richard S. February 19, 2020 6:28 pm #

      I just don’t value 6 shots of the ion over the 18 of a heavy burst cannon (and its cheaper) in the current meta. There are too many good invulnerable saves in the meta and because markerlights will be less prominent in many builds, it’ll be hard for it to hit at full efficiency. I don’t think its a bad choice by any means and if armies like Guard and Admech come back into the meta in a big way I could definitely see it having a lot of value there.
      – Richard

      • Avatar
        abusepuppy February 19, 2020 8:15 pm #

        Yeah, the HBC is in a very good place to deal with many kinds of Marines, whereas the Ion is much less so. I think I still would’ve rated it a mention, but I don’t believe it’s the auto-include that people tend to think it is unless we see a big tilt back towards T7+ vehicles.

        Speaking of which, for your “main” build here, are you worried at all about vehicle-heavy lists? With no S8+ and no Focus Fire I feel like some lists are going to present some potential problems, although with most all Knights being Thermal versions I suppose perhaps it’s not a huge issue. Is it a concern at all, or do you not see that kind of list featuring significantly in the meta at this point?

        • Avatar
          MLS February 20, 2020 2:42 pm #

          The relic ion 1 shots centurions and paladins, even through their stratagem. It has respectable game vs other hard targets. While I certainly don’t advocate for a complete replacement of the HBC, would it be wise to replace one of the three?

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy February 20, 2020 6:09 pm
            #

            There is an argument for it, but I don’t feel I’m sold. The HBC gets three times as many shots as the improved Ion does, while dealing half as much damage- meaning that its maximum output is 50% higher. The Ion obviously has better AP (reducing Centurions to a 6+, unless they have invulns, rather than a 4+) but is more vulnerable to bad runs of dice and is vastly less useful against standard Primaris bodies as well as hordes, enemy Tau, etc.

            The Ion is great, don’t get me wrong, and in a different meta I think it could see a lot of use, but Centurions and heavy vehicles aren’t what’s dominating play right now.

        • Avatar
          NotreDameGuy February 21, 2020 11:53 am #

          I still do not agree. Mathhammering it out, the amplified ion is better against anyone with 3 or more wounds, 4 or more toughness, 2+ armor save. Centurions come to mind. Add in double the range, and the ability to have a 3++ EVERY turn with the amplified ion without having to use a stratagem on it is invaluable.

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy February 21, 2020 9:30 pm
            #

            Keep in mind that high-investment squads like Centurions will probably be activating Transhuman Physiology to reduce you to wounding on a 4+ at best, which downgrades a lot of the advantage of the Ion.

            The Ion _is_ better against heavy targets. The question is, is it _enough_ better that it justifies the resources you have to spend to take it and the losses you take against other targets?

  2. Avatar
    Dakkath February 19, 2020 7:57 pm #

    Curious why you’ve got breachers over strikes in all your lists.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy February 19, 2020 8:16 pm #

      Strikes at range just bounce off Marine infantry, and the troops are mostly just intended to score and hide anyways. If they absolutely have to engage something, the extra AP gives them a small chance of being able to do something.

  3. Avatar
    Shas’O February 21, 2020 3:21 am #

    First, if you want a competitive Tau list Take two small farsight detachments for extra commanders.

    Second, reroll 1s to wound is just better than +1 ap on missiles. Highly recommend!

    Third, you can now get two ghostkeels for the price of one riptide, and they are really good, especially with deep strike deny for board control.

    Fourth, the prototype ion accelerator is amazing. Folks are overlooking that it means you never need to use the nova charge on the gun! The extra mobility or invul is very good!

    Finally, consider technical drones. They can heal in both shooting phases, so they often get their points back. If nothing else they draw your opponent’s ignore LoS fire!

    My list would look something like this:

    Farsight supreme command:
    Fireblade
    Ion commander
    Ion commander

    Farsight battalion:
    Ion commander
    Fusion coldstar
    3x 5 fire warriors

    Custom vanguard: (move and shoot and reroll 1s to wound)
    Ethereal on hover drone (2 drones)
    XV84 commander with missile pods (2 drones)
    2 technical drones
    HBC riptide
    Ion riptide
    2x ghostkeel with ion, BC, shield gen, ATS
    2x 9 shield drones

Leave a Reply