The Curious Case of T’au Behind Cover

While we’ve yet to see the release of the entirety of the 9th edition rules, we’ve got plenty of resources available to see how the new edition is shaping up. Tabletop Titans have a few excellent battle reports up already, as well as in-depth faction review videos. Tabletop Tactics have a couple of battle reports up as well. Striking Scorpion 82 has some great resources available. The list goes on. 9th edition is all but upon us, and I’m sure many players have already started to play games with the new system.

There is a lot to look forward to with 9th edition. Our armies are certainly going to change, but all things considered I think that T’au players are going to be up on where we were at the end of 8th. Indeed, throughout most of 8th edition T’au were a mid to upper tier army. While Richard Siegler and Brian Pullen had a lot of success in many tournaments, most T’au armies didn’t make much of a impact. T’au hasn’t been a point n click faction for a good while.

Going into 9th, I can see the T’au remaining in a strong position. Yes, we might have to take fewer non-monster Battlesuits — as much as I want Commanders and Crisis Suits to be feasible choices, unfortunately I don’t think they will be. The Fly keyword was key to these units.

However, I’m really looking forward to using ultra-aggressive Riptides. Shooting in combat at -1 isn’t too bad. Granted, it means that the opponent can dictate what the Riptides shoots at, but a Riptide in combat isn’t being shot by anything, which is a big plus.

Last week I mentioned a couple of ways that Games Workshop could allow T’au Battlesuits to fall back and shoot, but for the moment I’m going to presume that we won’t be able to, or at least not until the 9th edition codex is released. It’s perfectly acceptable for GW to want armies to change in playstyle — indeed, good players will expect it and adapt their game — and I think it’s reasonable that the change to the Fly keyword applies across the board. Other armies are obliged to deal with this change as well.

We must, therefore, embrace combat. Or to be more precise, we must learn to love engagement range. Riptides are super tough. 9th hasn’t made them easier to kill. And what’s more, getting up close and personal with a Riptide is more difficult in 9th — players can’t re-roll one dice of a charge roll with a command point, for example But to be fair, neither can we re-roll savior protocols. It comes back around.

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve seen how the edition is shaping up, I’ve been thinking that the changes to the terrain rules and the Fly keyword would mean that the edition as a whole would be a lot less shooty, but as far as I can tell so far, this isn’t the case.

Take the changes to the terrain rules. I would argue that these additions make the game more deadly at range. For example, consider the line of sight rules. In 8th, the first floor of a ruined building would block line of sight (I am of course talking about ITC rules in particular here). This rule applied to both models inside the ruin and behind it. A Primaris squad on the bottom floor of a ruin, then, was considered completely out of line of sight. The openings through the windows and the doors didn’t grant anything in 8th.

Moreover, if this squad were behind the terrain piece, the ground floor would continue to block line of sight, and the Primaris would be impervious to enemy firepower.

In 9th edition, in only one of the above circumstances would our loyal servants of the Emperor be safe from harm. When the Primaris are inside the building, if you can see ’em, you can shoot ’em.

What does this change means for the T’au’s key assets? Put simply, it’s very good news for the Riptide. Now we can dictate when we engage with the enemy by choosing — or indeed not choosing — to move into one terrain piece or another.

Let’s take the above example of Primaris infantry and apply it to a Riptide. In 8th edition, the ground floor of a ruined building wouldn’t grant any bonuses whatsoever to a Riptide. The model is simply too big. And nor would standing behind the terrain piece. Again, the model is simply too big.

But in 9th edition, our noble Battlesuit is completely shielded from incoming firepower when he stands behind the terrain piece. The Obscured terrain keyword blocks all line of sight unless the target model is a Flyer or has 18 or more wounds. The Riptide has 14 wounds. Of course, the Riptide takes the Fly keyword, but this is a different category than models with the Flyer keyword.

This key change to the rules brings plenty of benefits for our Riptides — and of course many other of our key assets as well. Of course, like any significant change, there are some drawbacks, but I would strongly argue that the benefits outweigh the costs.

For some excellent examples of the ways in which the T’au can use these new rules to great effect, check out this Tabletop Titans 9th edition battle report between the T’au and the Imperial Firsts. It’s a long boy, but if you’re interested in how the T’au can take advantage of the new rules, I’d highly recommend checking it out. Pullen uses the new terrain rules to great effect in order to shield his key assets until he chooses to engage with them.

Moreover, Tabletop Titans also released this video on how to play T’au to best effect in 9th edition. If this article has peaked your interest in the T’au’s new way of war, I’d highly recommend giving it a go.

The ability to reliably dictate when and where our key assets engage is a significant boost to the T’au. While it won’t be effective 100 percent of the time — there are of course plenty of fast units that will be able to maneuver in order to draw line of sight — it is nonetheless effective enough to shake up the T’au meta and force us to ask questions about our key units and our army composition.

Indeed, it’s too soon to tell how this change will affect the way we build our lists. It is safe to say that the Riptide remains an alpha unit. There’s no getting around it. 9th edition made the Riptide slightly worse in one or two areas, but 9th also made the Riptide much better in other areas. In balance, I think our Riptides got better.

But T’au players might very well be thinking about Broadsides again. These chonky chaps can now move and shoot without penalty, and they do get a lot of missiles. We T’au players love a good missile.

Or we might take another look at Crisis Suits. Just kidding.

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

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9 Responses to “The Curious Case of T’au Behind Cover”

  1. Avatar
    Zweischneid July 6, 2020 7:20 am #

    “Tau were a mid- to upper-tier army”?

    Um, no.

    Tau were crushing everything 2017 up to the release of Marines 2.0 everywhere that wasn’t using the “first-floor-blocks-LOS” houserule.

    There’s a reason Tau won GW’s own GT three years in a row, won the German national tournament league 2 years in a row, 9-Broadsides Builds dominating the UK during the time Fly-charges couldn’t jump over Drones, etc.., etc.. pre-Marines 2.0

    ITC sidestepped the Tau for a long while with their ruins-houserule and instead people worried about Ynnari and Castellan and other things. For the rest of the world, Tau ruled all those years undisputed.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy July 6, 2020 6:17 pm #

      Quite a few tournaments would dispute that claim.

  2. Avatar
    zarlus July 6, 2020 2:21 pm #

    Riptide, riptide, riptide. Ugh, I’m so beyond over that model. We have a codex full of other things to use, but no, gotta have a riptide.

    • Avatar
      Dakkath July 6, 2020 3:44 pm #

      I second that motion. Ever since the firebase support cadre got printed in 6th, the darn riptide is all anyone (either pro- or anti- tau) associates the army as. I feel like it’s getting worse than flyrants were for nids.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy July 6, 2020 6:18 pm #

      Unfortunately, GW keeps writing and changing rules such that most of their other units are subpar. It doesn’t help that Strike Teams have a huge disadvantage in being unable to take any anti-tank guns at all.

      • Avatar
        Matt July 6, 2020 9:48 pm #

        It seems to be that while the “flavour” of most factions is protected by codex-specific rules, many of the historical key mechanics of Tau (JSJ, mixed T units, charging, overwatch etc) were written as core rules.

        So GW couldn’t really change those rules without fundamentally changing how Tau played, thus disproportionately disrupting their playstyle between core rules editions. Particularly in the shift to 8th, a lot of those rules needed to transition to being codex-specific. The internal balance of the 8th ed Tau codex speaks volumes about how well that went.

  3. Avatar
    Josh July 6, 2020 5:00 pm #

    Wait did I miss something? Why can broadsides move and shoot their heavy weapons without penalty? The heavy weapon change is for everything but infantry and Broadsides are infantry right?

    • Avatar
      Zweischneid July 7, 2020 1:55 am #

      No. Broadsides are not Infantry. Just Battlesuits.

      That’s traditionally been one of their weaknesses, as Battlesuits without fly, they couldn’t move through walls, deploy on the first floor, etc.., etc.. yet struggled to see stuff as they were slow and suffered for moving (especially under the first-floor-blocks-LOS-ITC-rule).

  4. Avatar
    BillyBobby July 6, 2020 6:35 pm #

    “Or we might take another look at Crisis Suits. Just kidding.”
    And this is why I stopped playing my Tau. I didn’t wanna have to buy tons of infantry just to play a faction that I already owned 6k worth of models for. I didn’t own any Fire Warriors, Pathfinders, or Kroot. Pure mechanized. Yet I couldn’t play them in 8th without just handing my opponent the win,

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