9th edition 40k has been out for nearly a month, and we’re starting to see something like a meta slowly beginning to take shape. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Space Marines are looking at least as strong as they did at the end of 8th edition.
In particular, the Salamanders are looking very powerful, but with high-quality, high-output units across the codex, Marines look good whatever the color of the armor.
As a T’au player, there are a number of fearsome lists to which my army simply wouldn’t have an answer. For example, my boys would struggle to deal with a fast, assault-oriented White Scars army. Our alpha units are just too susceptible to being tagged at the moment.
With that in mind, then, today I want to riff on some ways that the 9th edition T’au codex might improve the army.
I will point out that these suggestions are entirely my own. Reece and guys at Frontline haven’t given me the inside track on any secret T’au designs that Games Workshop is working on. I’m not privy to the Let’s Make T’au the Best Army project that’s going on at GW HQ. That project is definitely happening though, right?
Let’s begin with something broad: I think the army should have access to a 5+ Overwatch stratagem.
Hear me out on this one.
Hitting on 5s in the Overwatch phase is very strong. This is obvious. In fact, it’s so good that there isn’t much incentive to take anything but T’au Sept, which is the Sept choice that grants Overwatch on 5s to the entire army.
Granted, the Farsight Enclaves do have some strong abilities. Generally speaking, T’au players will either play T’au Sept or Farsight Enclaves.
This is a bit of a shame in my book. It would be great to see more variety when it comes to this aspect of the T’au army. But the problem is obvious enough: the other Septs don’t grant an army-wide bonus as good as hitting on 5s in Overwatch.
The Vior’la Sept, for example, allows units to treat Rapid Fire weapons as Assault weapons when they advance. Moreover, units do not suffer the penalty to hit rolls on Assault weapons when advancing.
This is cool little buff. It’s not super powerful, but it offers that bit of extra maneuverability that, in a game that rewards capturing objectives, could be really interesting.
But is it as good as hitting on 5s in Overwatch? It’s not.
And the Bork’an Sept gives an army-wide increase of 6″ to Heavy and Rapid Fire weapons. T’au players would occasionally take an Outrider detachment with this Sept in order to increase the range of the Y’vahra’s flamer, but other than that it rarely saw any play.
Why? It’s not as good as hitting on 5s in Overwatch.
You get the idea. The T’au Sept ability is excellent.
Now let’s say that any T’au army can hit on 5s in Overwatch — for a price. Other Sept options would start to look a lot more interesting.
What exactly would this stratagem do? I think that there are a couple of ways that it could go. It could grant hitting on 5s for everything in the For the Greater Good aura. This would be good-good, so it would need to be expensive. Such a powerful stratagem should cost at least three Command Points.
Or it could grant hitting on 5s for one unit in the For the Greater Good aura. This would, I think, be more appropriate. It would still be strong, however, so I would say that such a stratagem should cost two Command Points.
If T’au players had the option to Overwatch on 5s for a cost, I think that we would see far more variety in Sept choices, which in turn would give T’au players more scope to find more competitive options.
Let’s continue with army-wide abilities. I think that the T’au should have a Fall Back and shoot stratagem.
The strength of such an ability is obvious enough. T’au were so dangerous throughout a lot of 8th edition at least in part because of the flexibility that the Fly keyword allowed. And while I don’t think that T’au should entirely go back to that play style, I think that bringing a sprinkling of it into 9th edition would be a good move.
For the cost of one or two Command Points, one unit should be able to Fall Back and shoot. If it were to cost one CP, it should confer a -1 hit penalty, but if it were to cost two CP, the unit could shoot as normal.
Or perhaps the unit would only able to take half of its movement, or perhaps it would be obliged to shoot at the unit with which it was just in combat. There’s a lot of scope for some interesting rules writing here.
Conferring this ability army-wide would probably be too good, but including it in the form of a stratagem would be a good way to balance out one of the main weaknesses of the faction at the moment.
As changes go, these two would be a strong step in the right direction.
But let’s discuss something more specific. In my article on the Ghostkeel a couple of weeks back, I made three suggestions to improve the model: increase the wounds from 10 to 12, increase the Cyclic Ion Raker’s profile from Heavy 6 to Heavy 8, and give it a 12″ no-reinforcements aura. The first two suggestions here are pretty obvious. Increasing the stat-line of so-and-so weapon or so-and-so model will of course improve it.
And if we’re talking about a basic stat-line upgrade, there’s one weapon in particular that comes to mind.
The Burst Cannon has been a staple of the T’au faction since release, but in the era of double shooting Aggressors and Endless Cacophony Obliterators, this little cannon that could doesn’t really cut the mustard.
But a stat-line boost would be an easy way bring it into contention.
At the moment, the Burst Cannon is an Assault 4, 18″ weapon. Its Strength is 5, it doesn’t have an AP value, and its Damage is 1. All things considered, this is a pretty modest gun.
Increasing it to Assault 5 would be a good move.
It wouldn’t drastically change the T’au meta. T’au players wouldn’t immediately buy out your local store’s supply of Stealth Suits, but it would start to make the Burst Cannon a more appropriate weapon for the two-wound Marine era.
Three Stealth Suits would have 15 shots instead of 12. This would be cool, but it wouldn’t break the game. Three Crisis Suits each armed with three Burst Cannons would put out 45 shots instead of 36. This would be really cool, and with some Markerlight support it could start to look pretty tasty, but it still wouldn’t break the game.
Furthermore, this change would make a couple of the custom Sept tenets all the more interesting. Hybridised Weaponry increases the range of Assault and Grenade weapons; an Assault 5 Burst Cannon would make this more tempting. Up-gunned increases the AP of the Burst Cannon to -1; an Assault 5 Burst Cannon at AP -1 is starting to look a lot more competitive.
It’s interesting how seemingly small changes to one rule or another can have ripple effects throughout a meta. I doubt that an Assault 5 Burst Cannon would significantly change the T’au meta, but it would certainly make more units more interesting.
The T’au are in a bit of a tricky spot at the moment. And until a new codex is released, we’re going to have to make do with what we have. Fortunately, there’s still a lot to like in the T’au codex, but there are also some tough aspects that need some attention.
This is a subject that I’m going to return to. It’s good fun to speculate like this, and as the meta goes on we’re going to get more information about what is working and what isn’t working in the army. I’m sure that something will come up that no one is considering at the moment.
Here’s a prediction to finish: Crisis Suits with flamers are going to be banter.
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