9th Edition Points and T’au

Today I want to discuss the points changes going into 9th edition, as well as take a brief look at how a couple of key T’au units have done with these updates.

Let’s begin with a broad point: as far as I can see, there isn’t any rhyme or reason for these points changes. We know that the game is getting smaller and quicker, but we don’t know what logical framework Games Workshop used to assess which units should take an increase and by how much.

Indeed, we don’t even know that there was a logical framework at all.

But before we go too far down the path of GW-bashing, let’s take a brief pause. I think it’s useful to acknowledge that we don’t have all of the information yet, not even close. 9th edition represents a significant change to the game. Granted, we’re still using six-sided dice and toughness characteristics and hit modifiers and so on, but 9th is certainly more different to 8th than I thought it would be.

This is to say that we’re playing the game in a new framework, in a new context. It shouldn’t be at all surprising, then, that some of these points changes look at least somewhat arbitrary. And maybe some of them are, but I would guess that many of them are not.

However, I will say that whatever method GW used to assess these changes is necessarily imperfect. What do I mean by this? Let’s take a hypothetical example. GW could have written a simple formula: if the model’s toughness characteristic is 3 and its save characteristic is 5+, increase its points by 20 percent.

These figures are entirely arbitrary, but you get the idea.

Such a method of increasing points costs would be a blunt instrument. By only considering two variables, GW would have ignored all sorts of important aspects of models that fit into the above categories. For example, the two variables above apply to both T’au Pathfinders and Aeldari Rangers. While these units share linguistic and thematic similarities, they each have distinct uses to the player choosing to field them, as well as important benefits and drawbacks. Moreover, the way in which these units interact with friendly models is entirely different, as is their offensive output and their defensive capabilities.

Put simply, T’au Pathfinders and Aeldari Rangers are different, and points changes could reflect this difference.

However, a blunt approach to this endeavor might be the most appropriate given the circumstances. Consider the amount of time and effort that the designers would have to put in in order to accurately update each and every unit in the game. I’ve absolutely no doubt that the design team is particularly busy at the moment. I don’t know what they are working on, but if I had to guess, I’d say that they’re working on 9th edition codex books. To me, this would be the logical choice.

Any time spent on a complicated system to update 8th edition points costs to 9th edition would take away from time spent on rules and points costs in the new codex books. Why would the designers spend a significant amount of time assessing new points costs when a whole new codex might be just around the corner?

But to play devil’s advocate, players might be waiting a good few months for their 9th edition codex, and in the meantime they’ll be playing with points costs that aren’t quite right given the context of the new edition.

This is a reasonable argument, but between the two options — spend more time on a detailed, comprehensive points update or spend less time on a broad, imperfect update — I would choose the latter. GW needs to sell new models and new codex books to stay in business, and I think it would be prudent for their staff to spend more time on products to be released soon than products that have already been released and will be updated regardless.

But let’s have a look a some practical example of the updates. How do the points updates affect a couple of key T’au units?

First things first, the Riptide hasn’t come out of this too badly at all. In 8th, a Riptide armed with a heavy burst cannon, a pair of smart missile systems, an advanced targeting system, and a velocity tracker would’ve cost 278 points. In 9th edition, a Riptide with this loadout costs 305 points, an increase of 27 points, just under ten percent.

If, a few weeks ago, someone were to have offered me a ten percent increase on my Riptides going into 9th edition, I would’ve snapped their hand off. All things considered, ten percent is very reasonable.

Consider what we have gained for that: we can move and shoot without penalty, we can shoot in combat, and we can see a lot more of the board with the new terrain rules. Compare that to what we have lost: we can no longer fall back and shoot. That’s not a bad trade-off.

What else has changed? There are a couple of interesting points to make on Drones. Veteran T’au players know that there are a dozen or so Drones available — most of which are quite obscure — but the ones with which we need concern ourselves are Gun, Marker, and Shield Drones.

Shield Drones increased by 50 percent, from 10 to 15 points. There’s no other way to slice it: this is a significant bump. It’s a pretty big deal for T’au players, but that’s not the whole story. Gun and Marker Drones stayed the same price, which means that, relative to the rest of the game, these two units became cheaper.

This prompts some very interesting choices for the competitive T’au player. For the cost of two Shield Drones, 30 points, we could take three Marker Drones. For the cost of four Shield Drones, 60 points, we could take six Gun Drones. The more we spend, the more we save, so to speak.

Shield Drones are a brilliant unit, but are they 50 percent better than a Gun or Marker Drone? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I like that we have it ask it now. Anything that prompts us to look at seldom-taken units with a fresh pair of eyes is a good thing.

One of the strongest aspects of the Shield Drone is its 5+ Feel No Pain save. Gun and Marker Drones don’t have this ability, meaning that when we pass off wounds to a Gun or Marker Drone using the Saviour Protocols ability, the Drone itself takes one mortal wound and is slain. With a Shield Drone, of course, we have a 33 percent chance of ignoring the mortal wound entirely. This is a fantastic ability, and it has saved my bacon on more than one occasion, but are we better off spending fewer points and simply taking more Drones?

There’s a lot more to go into here, but overall I think that these points updates offer yet more evidence that 9th edition could see T’au become an even stronger faction than they were in 8th. It remains to be seen whether other T’au units will come to the fore in terms of competitive builds, but at least for now we know that Riptides and Drones remain at the top of the pile.

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



About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

19 Responses to “9th Edition Points and T’au”

  1. Ohlmann July 19, 2020 11:29 pm #

    One of the worst part is the feeling that they play favorite, with favorites getting understandable point cost, like space marine, and the unfavorite getting a random and generally skewed toward unplayable set of change.

    The dark eldar stand out as particulary unfavorite.

  2. Dakkath July 20, 2020 4:47 am #

    How about comments on the other 90% of the book that’s not riptides and drones?

    • abusepuppy July 20, 2020 8:12 am #

      Those units, sadly, remain mostly irrelevant.

      • Ukelesh July 21, 2020 2:12 am #

        Paying CP for extra detachments to get more commanders is not something I am looking forward to.

        • abusepuppy July 21, 2020 5:59 am #

          Taking a Patrol for a second Commander seems pretty reasonable, as does a Supreme Command (if they end up giving out the necessary keyword to at least one of our units.) But the “one per detachment” rule is something of a relic of 8th, so I wouldn’t expect it to stay around forever.

          Of course, Commanders aren’t nearly as powerful of units as they used to be, so there’s that to consider as well.

      • Shas’O July 22, 2020 5:28 am #

        Devilfish with SMS got a lot better, as did hammerheads. Riptides are not an auto take anymore since they cannot fall back and shoot. And if you’re not talking multiple riptides, drones aren’t as necessary. Tau lists will be different, but still good.

        • Kim February 4, 2021 11:04 pm #

          THose of us who have invested heavily will obviously be taking less shield drones, but will move to more quad-tides lists as the whole army as a whole has been nerffed hard with points increases so we have to rely on more and more resilient units (riptides, storm-surge) none of which play into the new move/hold-objectives type of play, (for those asking you take 3 Riptides as normal then ad the “8” and you get your 4th).

      • Asher Anantham September 4, 2020 6:11 am #

        Do you know what a broadside is? Also in 9th there are many viable choices for tau. For example, vespid. They are actually really good in 9th if used well, since they can punish your opponent´s mistakes. Since there´s alot more terrain in 9th and they have 14´´ move they can hide until your opponent until they leave an objective under-defended, then kill all their obsec, and then your opponent is 5 pts behind you. Also Pihrannas can work too by sight blocking and pestering big stuff.

        • abusepuppy September 4, 2020 9:07 am #

          Broadsides are pretty marginal. They seem okay as solo models, but really aren’t very durable given their points cost unless you invest into drones, at which point you’re just replicating the old stand-n-shoot lists in miniature.

          Vespid are… not bad. Their ability to move quickly or come in from reserves is nice, but their firepower is still extremely lackluster. A squad of five does about one wound to a Primaris marine out of cover, which is not… terribly exciting.

          Piranhas are potentially good, though their lack of obsec makes it harder to steal objectives from people. Lack of good obsec is a problem for Tau in general.

          • Asher Anantham September 17, 2020 9:38 am

            Broadsides with drones is viable. You have a shooty castle that takes out threats to obsec and fast stuff like outriders for space marines. Honestly for good obsec I will admit t’au are lacking but Breachers can work. You can also use Pihrannas really well with move and sight block to protect the breachers. T’au are now harder to play but they can definitely work.

    • Matt July 22, 2020 12:22 pm #

      This is why I have zero confidence in Tau for 9th ed, because it feels like most of the playtesters and public faces keep talking about how great riptides and commanders are, instead of criticizing GW for letting the internal balance of the codex be this bad for this long.

      • Reecius July 22, 2020 3:48 pm #

        What good though, does it do to point out something that can’t be changed at this point? Someone beating a dead horse makes you think their opinion is more valuable? I think everyone knows that dex has some issues that isn’t a brand new player, saying it over and over and over solves nothing and, further, if they are a playtester they have and are working to make it better doing their job. By providing information on what does work they are being productive and helpful.

        • Matt July 22, 2020 5:31 pm #

          I hear what you’e saying, but there’s multiple ways to go about that. You can recommend units whilst also saying its only because the balance isn’t in a great state. Bone over at TableTop Tactics does that really well, which makes him feel authentic. AP here also does that well.

          Articles like this, and certain community faces who I won’t name, really don’t do this enough or at all. And it makes them sound fake or like they don’t understand how the game should work. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing behind the scenes, because we don’t see that. The optics of what we do see is what matters. Like it or not, that’s how social media and the internet at large works now.

          I’m not saying that beating a dead horse makes a person’s opinion more valuable. But the riptide/commander spam was a problem before the Psychic Awakening and the last Tau codex. So GW has passed on two opportunities (three include the 9th points changes) to fix this problem, and they haven’t. So I think its not an issue the community should drop, same with JSJ.

      • Kimberly February 4, 2021 11:09 pm #

        There is also the fact if you want 3x Riptides you have to spend round about $600 for 3 models (in Canada) Same for storm Surge another $200 for that beauty, it is easy to see these army lists being playable by only the rich as normal people cannot afford such items (and multiples) in their lists.

  3. kaixaukyr July 20, 2020 6:59 am #

    “Riptides became slightly more expensive but are still the best non-Commander unit in the codex. Shield Drones are now less of an autotake.”

    There, dude. I wrote the entire content of your article in two sentences. You can now cover the rest of the army and maybe even have time to defend scalpers.

    • David July 20, 2020 1:30 pm #

      You know you can submit articles to FLG too.

    • Jace July 20, 2020 8:51 pm #

      I know this is super negative, but I literally laughed out loud at the last line.

    • Matt July 22, 2020 12:31 pm #

      This sadly also sums up most of the Tau 9th ed “hot takes” floating around the internet.

      • Wayne July 24, 2020 6:26 pm #

        Really makes me wish they had put Inna rule saying things like drones can’t hold objectives. I’m so sick and tired of seeing these lame spam lists that ignore 90% of what’s available.

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