Can the T’au Deal with the New Marines?

It’s been a great weekend for 40k. Not only do we have the pre-order of the 9th edition Space Marines and Necrons codex books, but we’re also spoiled with variety of articles and videos discussing the new content and what it means for 9th edition.

As usual, the top lads over at Tabletop Titans have already released some excellent content, including a battle report featuring the two new armies. I’d highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Any new release prompts players to gaze enviously over at shiny new box-sets and books if they don’t play the army in question. Obviously, most 40k players have a Space Marines army in one form or another, so most of the community will get something from a new Space Marines codex.

Games Workshop will know this, of course. GW is a model company before it is a games company, meaning that players need to buy models in order to keep GW in business. Space Marines are the most popular faction, so they get the first release of 9th edition and a whole host of great new models. Such is life in this hobby.

We can only hope that GW releases 9th edition codex books sharpish. While Psychic Awakening did a great job of giving something to every faction, there are nonetheless certain armies that look quite poor in the current 9th edition meta.

Indeed, if you’ve been reading my articles over the past few weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been looking at how T’au are performing at the moment, and how GW could improve some of the weaker and lesser-taken options in the codex. I’m going to continue on this theme in this article, but I’m going to specifically discuss how the T’au can deal with the new Marines with the tools that we currently have available.

Moreover, I’m going to suggest a handful of improvements to the units, weapons, and abilities that I discuss that will bring them up to speed for the 9th edition meta.

Before I go on, let me issue the following spoiler alert: in this article I’m going to discuss the Commander and the Riptide. Yes, we all know that these are the two best units in the codex, and they have been for a good couple of years, but when it comes to fighting Marines, we need the Heavy Burst Cannon and we need the Cyclic Ion Blaster. There’s really no way around it.

With this is mind, then, let’s briefly mention one of the biggest changes in the new Marines book. We’ve known about it for a few weeks now: Firstborn Marines now have two Wounds. First things first, I think that this is a great change. Not only does it make the army as a whole much more interesting, but it will prompt players to take some classic units that they probably wouldn’t have taken otherwise. I would argue that this is a great direction to take the faction.

What does this mean for T’au players? Put simply, it means that the Riptide is still as good against Marines as it ever was. The Riptide’s main armament, the Heavy Burst Cannon, is an absolute Marine killer. When coupled with the Advanced Targeting System, at Strength 6, AP-2, Damage 2, the HBC wounds a Marine on 3s, drops his Save down to a 5+, and slays a Marine for each failed save. This is very strong.

But that’s not the whole story. The HBC is a Range 36″, Heavy 12 weapon. The Riptide has, of course, the Monster Keyword, and therefore does not suffer the penalty for moving and shooting a Heavy weapon. But while 12 shots is respectable, 18 is better. When the T’au player Nova Charges his Riptide, for the cost of a Mortal Wound, the HBC increases from 12 to 18 shots. This will happen most every turn.

The Riptide has the tools to do the business. But we can make it even better. A full stack of Markerlights will increase the Riptide’s hit roll from a 4 to a 3 and grant re-rolls of 1. Now we’re really doing some work.

However, this brings me to my first point to improve. We T’au players have been banging on about this for years, and I’m certainly not going to break that tradition. T’au Battlesuits should have Ballistic Skill 3.

I’m sure you’ve all read this before somewhere, so I won’t bore you with the arguments here. But I will make two points: first, in the 9th edition meta, BS3 Battlesuits would not be too strong. Second, a shooting army’s elite units should be able to shoot straight.

Right, that’s that. Moving on.

Next up, the Commander. Armed with three Cyclic Ion Blasters and an Advanced Targeting System, the T’au Commander is a very effective tool against Marines. Indeed, it’s a very effective tool against a lot of opponents, but there are couple of key assets that really help out against the Emperor’s finest.

First, the native Ballistic Skill of 2 is excellent, of course. There are precious few units in the codex that can get down to a 2+ on the hit roll, so we need to leverage these models as efficiently as possible.

But second, it’s the weapon itself that really does the work. The Cyclic Ion Blaster is an Assault 3, Range 18″ weapon with a Strength of 7, AP-1, and Damage 1. However, the CIB’s overcharge profile brings the weapon up to a Strength of 8 and a Damage of D3, and its here that we see its utility against Marines. Indeed, if you’re shooting at Marines, the overcharge profile really is the only way to use the weapon. Wounding on 2s is just too good to pass over.

Furthermore, with the Advanced Targeting System, which adds a point of AP to the model’s attacks, we’re dropping that 3+ down to a 5+.

We’re hitting on 2s and we’re wounding on 2s. It’s not difficult to see why a Commander armed with CIBs is so valuable.

But it’s in the Damage roll that things can start to get a bit tricky. On a roll of a 3+, we’re killing a Marine, but on a roll of a 1 or a 2, we lose a significant amount of efficiency because we need to use another Damage roll to kill the Marine that we just wounded.

In fact, rolling a couple of 1s or 2s when rolling that Damage with the CIB can be a real pain. When it goes hot, which it is more likely than not to do, it’s going to do a lot of work, but when we start to roll those Aussie 6s, things go downhill very quickly.

How could we improve the CIB for 9th edition, then? I think that a couple of simple changes would go a long way. First, improve the AP to -2 on the overcharge profile. Again, given the context of 9th edition, this would be an appropriate upgrade. Moreover, would free up the slot that the ATS would’ve taken. Of course, the T’au player could stick with same loadout and take a healthy AP-3 on the overcharge profile. Or he might opt for another CIB, taking the extra shots in exchange for less AP. Or he might choose a different Support System altogether. Improving the weapon itself makes these choices a lot more feasible. At the moment, the most likely choice is the ATS with the three guns.

Second, in order to make this weapon reliable, we need to look at the Damage. In the current meta, D3 Damage can be quite difficult to work with. The best units in the game are the ones upon which players can rely to do consistent damage across many turns. The Commander with CIBs doesn’t quite offer such consistency because of the nature of a D3 Damage roll.

However, it’s a tricky problem to fix. Should the overcharge profile simply change to a flat 2 Damage? What about a D3 +1? We need the Commander to be able to do a lot of damage when it shoots — it is one of the main units in the army, after all — but the model still needs to be balanced in the context of 9th edition.

I think that this would be an ideal opportunity for a new stratagem. For the cost of a Command Point, allow the T’au player to throttle the Damage roll, turning a D3 into D3 +1, for example. This would certainly be a very popular stratagem, but I think it would serve as a reasonable trade-off.

As I said earlier, it’s no surprise that when T’au players discuss Marines, we consistently bring up the Riptide and the Commander. At the moment, there’s really no way around this. We know that T’au are in a tricky spot right now, so we need to leverage the strongest units in the codex to best effect.

But I hope that when the 9th edition T’au codex is released we have a host of new models and units that bring the faction into contention. I’ve written before about how the T’au codex isn’t particularly well written — put simply, there’s no depth — so we can hope that GW remedy this issue with more interesting, effective units and models.

Until that time, practice your 3+ Damage rolls.

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



About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

15 Responses to “Can the T’au Deal with the New Marines?”

  1. Spera October 5, 2020 5:14 am #

    Marines fall under category “bring enough daka”. CiBs are ok, burst cannon is great, and for anything heavier new melta will do.

    Now tell me how the hell we are supposed to deal with new Ctans?

    • Castle October 5, 2020 11:41 am #

      Think you just have to ignore them. Use your greater mobility to avoid it with your important stuff and just feed it your less important units.

      Literally takes 4 turns for a 1 phase army to kill it so don’t even try.
      It’s 350pts so you can play around that, just don’t let it charge your big suits and you should be fine.

      • Spera October 5, 2020 1:49 pm #

        Technicly yes, but here come ctan powers, and with them Mortal wounds. And Our defenses against those are very thin. So we have model that is very disruptive, and we cannot rely deal with. Now opponen only have to push it forward around center of the map, and bully us out from the objectives. Not ideal situation if you ask me. Its not Castellan where we had defenses. Its Bad/bad situation.

      • abusepuppy October 5, 2020 7:51 pm #

        >greater mobility


        Good luck outrunning those Wraiths and Doomsday Cannons, my dude. And good luck scoring objectives when your entire army is hiding in one corner of the board cowering.

  2. Ukelesh October 5, 2020 10:28 am #

    Rather than make the CIB more powerful, you would probably want to give plasma rifles D2 or let some firewarriors carry ion rifles. An overcharged ion rifle is pretty good against two wound marines. Pity it only comes on pathfinders and aircraft drones.

    • Dakkath October 5, 2020 10:32 am #

      Agreed on plasma rifles. T’au plasma should have gone to d2 the same time that imperial plasma did while also getting a safe mode.

  3. D3viat0r October 5, 2020 4:47 pm #

    First of all, Riptides are not “marine killers,” they are garbage for their points. I get you’re trying to say that they need to go up to BS3 (which they obviously do), but even then are they good? Let’s look:
    BS4 (current) HBC
    Riptide takes a mortal wound
    Shoots regular intercessors
    18 shots = 9 hits = 6 wounds = 4 dead intercessors
    300 points kills 80
    Then there is transhuman, apothecary, light/dense cover that all make that efficiency much worse along with the apothecary
    Shoots intercessors
    18 shots = 12 hits = 8 wounds = 5-6 dead
    Again 300 points kills 100-120 stock which gets only worse when you add in marine buffs

    Don’t kid yourself with using markerlights, T’au players know they have been a joke for a long time. Too easy to kill the things that have them. And they require more points than the efficiency you get from them.

    Let’s take another army that is getting “nerf’d” supposedly. let’s try space marines?
    What does 300 points of shooting get you there?
    7.5 eradicators, that’s what
    T5, 3+ sv, core (so a squad of 6 that can now happen getting new chapter master buff is insane, and lieutenant wound rolls of 1 re-roll, salamanders +1 to wound), transhuman access, salamanders can increase to T6, -1 to hit, 5+ invuln with new psychic spell, etc
    I could go on for days with the choices.
    But anyways, let’s go with a 6man 240 points (saving around 60 from riptide depending on exact loadout), enough for 3 additional intercessors elsewhere making 300 points get you 24 wounds vs a riptide with 14 that mortal wounds itself. A shield drone? Nope, can’t use those anymore. You can get a 2 wound marine for 3 points more than a shield drone that can shoot, fight, and us obsec. Laughable GW.

    Back to the 6 eradicators:
    shoot with just a captain and lieutenant against intercessors
    12 shots = 10 hits = 8-9 wounds (S8 vs T4, 2s to wound), no save (-4) so 8-9 d6 dmg. Probably 7-8 dead intercessors.
    And they can get better than that offensively
    Defensively can get the buffs I’ve said before
    And they can kill tanks so they are more versatile (S8 -4 vs S6 -2), work better with the army, easier to hide, don’t take mortal wounds to shoot, still have enough attacks to fight cheap hordes, etc etc etc
    I’m not convinced GW has the right people on the game balance thing. Stuff like this shouldn’t happen in the game. Hire people, ask us (we’d love to point this what needs to be fixed if you’re willing to see how broken things are), or something before you continue to allow this level of disparity between factions and units. Many people (myself being one of them) are getting kind of tired of the seemingly lack of vision when it comes to balancing the factions and new releases. Check forums, comments sections of batreps, see what lists keep winning, etc
    You even had a chance to nerf eradicators and you chose not to with the codex. Or an FAQ by now. Same thing with the struggling factions. I get it, you’re now charging 50$ for codexes that you fail to balance. You care about money. But care about the game, I want you to do that. I read the FAQs and one of the factions twin heavy bolter was S6. The app still has errors and things just not there. This should be unacceptable to a company, any company, to have glaring errors like that. Your thoughts shouldn’t be “let’s put this out and change it 20 times until it’s kind of ok or at least isn’t riddled with errors and inconsistencies.” Put out an acceptable product in the first place. One that’s well thought out and properly tested.

    • zarlus October 6, 2020 9:51 am #


  4. abusepuppy October 5, 2020 7:52 pm #

    Fortunately, when Marines doubled the number of wounds on their units Tau also got an upgrade to make our Flamers 12″ range.


  5. Cthoss October 5, 2020 11:02 pm #

    Firstborn getting 2 wounds is a good example of being promoted into retirement. There is no reason buying a 18-point Tactical if a 20-point Primaris has +1 attack, better guns and more stratagems.

    • Dakkath October 5, 2020 11:49 pm #

      Tacticals still have access to special/heavy weapons and much cheaper transports over primaris.

  6. kaixaukyr October 6, 2020 5:54 am #

    the nightbringer hard countering tau for 350 points is definitely what 9e needed

    • abusepuppy October 6, 2020 6:47 am #

      Yeah when a single model invalidates an entire army, that’s a pretty cool look.

      • kaixaukyr October 6, 2020 8:25 am #

        all i want is some indication that they actually thought about the consequences like “hey we know this is harder for some armies to get thru than others right now very early in 9e before all codexes are out” but im not brimming with confidence

        • Ken October 6, 2020 3:30 pm #

          I doubt that they have. The “no more than 3 wounds taken in any given phase” thing means that to fight a C’tan effectively you need tools to inflict damage in psychic, shooting and assault phases. If your army only performs in two phases – say a Guard army that does shooting and assault, you’ll struggle. If you are only performing in one phase – say a melee Tyranid build, forget about it.
          The big problem for Tau of course is that we simply do not have tools for psychic/assault, so unlike Guard or Tyranids it’s not a matter of diversifying your list – you just can’t do it. Nor is a new Tau codex going to help, as there is nothing in previous editions or the fluff that could be used to fill that gap.
          So while this is a bit of an issue for most armies, it’s just crippling for Tau. Plus the cost of the C’tan seems really, really low. It’s the same price as a Riptide and a couple of Drones, but is far more survivable and deals far more damage.
          As for the Marine issue, yeah… Tau don’t seem to have a unit for much less than 250-300pts that can on average drop 5 Marines in one round of shooting. That is not a good thing.
          Think I might bust out my Guard and Wolves armies for a bit, put Tau on backburner. Shame.

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