T’au Tactics: Core and Master of War

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the changes to army composition and aura availability with the inclusion of the Core keyword. Simply put, some auras and abilities only work on units with the Core keyword.

I think that this is an excellent update to the game. Limiting the availability of certain units to take advantage of certain abilities will bring back into line some of the more powerful units in the game — or, in this case, in the Space Marines codex — while maintaining an incentive for players to design their forces around key auras and and stratagems.

Of course, many T’au players have been wondering how this change to the game will affect their units. While at the moment the T’au don’t have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to auras, there are a couple of key abilities that most T’au players take advantage of every game.

The Commander’s Master of War ability is, of course, the most important aura ability in the codex. Affecting all T’au Empire models within 6″ of the Commander, Master of War is a once-per-game ability that allows units to either move and advance and shoot without penalty or to re-roll all hit rolls if the unit doesn’t move. The strongest T’au players know when to leverage Master of War in order to best affect the game, planning their turns meticulously around its use.

Will this ability apply to Core units only in the 9th edition T’au codex? Before we get into that, we should first ask the following question: will this ability even exist in its current form in the next codex? Of course, we have no way to answer that question, but a little speculation never hurt anyone.

I could see it going either way, but I would quite like to see this ability updated in one form or another. In 9th edition, movement is everything, so the ability to move and advance and shoot without penalty — Mont’ka — is very useful.

Conversely, then, the downside for the re-roll hits ability — Kauyon — is much more troublesome in 9th. Sacrificing even one turn of movement can be a real hindrance, especially when the T’au’s obsec units, Fire Warriors and Kroot, are as fragile as they are, meaning that they often need as much support as possible.

There’s a lot of scope to update Master of War. For example, it could affect different units in different ways. Crisis Suits could gain an extra point of AP for the turn. Stealth Suits could gain a couple more shots on their Burst Cannons.

Or it could even affect different weapons in different ways. Assault weapons could gain an extra shot. Rapid Fire weapons could shoot twice at the weapon’s full distance. Weapons with a random amount of shots could shoot at their full amount.

Moreover, it could affect different Septs in different ways. This would be a further incentive for T’au players to take some of the lesser-played Septs. Of course, the Septs need a full rewrite in order to make them interesting in the codex of 9th edition, and this could certainly play a part in that.

You get the idea. Both the Mont’ka and Kauyon abilities could be made far more interesting if their effects were tailored to particular models, particular weapons, particular Septs — whatever the case may be.

Indeed, I very much hope that the Master of War ability is updated for 9th edition, and I think that it will be. There’s a great opportunity here to do some great stuff with an important tool in the T’au Empire’s arsenal.

With this in mind, should Master of War apply only to Core T’au units? The answer is simple: without the context of the new codex, there’s really no way to say. With the release of the Space Marines codex, we’ve seen with Centurions that GW can go too far in the other direction when toning down a unit.

Indeed, Centurions are one of the few infantry units in the new codex that do not take the Core Keyword. Along with one or two other key changes, Centurions really aren’t particularly interesting on the tabletop anymore.

And we could certainly see GW taking a similar approach with the T’au — or indeed with many factions. But I would argue that an over-zealous approach to, say, the Riptide or the Commander wouldn’t be right way to go.

Of course, these two units have been staples of competitive T’au lists for the past couple of years, but considering the changes to game that 9th edition brought in, Riptides and Commanders have really lost their shine. Don’t get me wrong: they still have some punch. But they’re not nearly as powerful as they were at the end of 8th edition.

GW ought to bring the rest of the codex up to speed. I’ve said it many times here on Frontline and elsewhere: the T’au codex lacks depth. There was only ever one properly competitive list in 8th edition, and this really needs to change.

I could see the Riptide not taking the Core Keyword. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. Again, we would need to see the 9th edition codex as whole before we judge the effect of Core on this unit or that unit.

I would imagine that Crisis Battlesuits will take the Core Keyword. Crisis Suits are a classic of the faction, and they’re in need of a serious rethink at the moment. The Core Keyword would certainly go some way to incentivise T’au players to include them again — as long as Core-only abilities were strong and powerful enough to have an effect on list composition.

We T’au players are going to be waiting for a good few months for our codex. Of course, other than the codex books that GW has already announced, we don’t know anything about which codex books are to be updated when. It would be great to have this information, but at the moment we simply do not know one way or the other.

One thing is for certain, however: the T’au Empire as a faction needs a rethink. There are a handful of key strategies and play-styles upon which T’au players used to rely that just don’t do the business in 9th edition. The next codex needs to shake up the faction significantly enough to bring in a host of new ways to play the game.

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