Imperial Armour: What’s New for the T’au?

Well, the opening of this video from Invasive Wargaming pretty much sums it up.

Pour one out for the T’au. Fs in the chat.

It ain’t a pretty picture. Not only is the T’au Empire already the worst-performing faction in 9th edition, but Games Workshop has decided to kick us while we are down by removing a handful of models from the T’au Forge World range and making many of the remaining units less powerful on the tabletop.

Granted, it’s not all bad news. Some units did get some interesting upgrades that should prompt T’au players to give them a look, but overall this update will leave a sour taste in many a T’au player’s mouth.

Let’s begin by assessing which models have been removed from competitive play. Shas’o R’myr is gone. Commanders in the XV81 and XV84 Crisis Battlesuits have gone. The DX-4 Technical Drone has gone. The Piranha TX-42 Light Skimmer has gone. The Heavy Gun Drone has gone. The TX7 Heavy Bombardment and the TX7 Fire Support Hammerhead Gunships have gone. The Orca Dropship is gone. The Remote Sentry Tower is gone. And the Drone Sentry Turret has gone.

First of all, I want to speak to the economic nature of the decision to stop producing these models. Put simply, if people aren’t buying these kits, there is very little incentive for GW to continue to produce them. This much is obvious. First and foremost, GW is a model company. Models that do not sell will soon be discontinued.

The Forge World T’au models are a niche in a niche. Many of the above models are undoubtedly great models that add a lot of flavour and character to a T’au list, but there are many reasons that most T’au players wouldn’t choose to include them in most of their games. With a couple of exceptions, these models existed for one-off friendly games in which players bring cool, unusual models.

It should come as no surprise, then, that GW has removed these models from its range.

While the loss of most of these models won’t be a significant problem for most T’au players, I do think that it’s a shame that GW have discontinued the Hammerhead variants. If you wanted to go heavy into a mechanised T’au list, these models gave you a fine alternative to the standard Hammerhead unit. Indeed, because the TX7 Hammerheads were separate datasheets, T’au players could field quite a few Hammerhead Gunships with an interesting diversity of weaponry. Was it particularly strong? Not really. But it was a cool way to play T’au nonetheless.

But let’s get to the bigger story here. Let’s check out a couple of the models that made the cut.

The Y’vahra Battlesuit has a been a staple of Forge World T’au units for years. It’s a great kit — an upgrade to the Riptide chassis — and was absolutely deadly on the tabletop, especially when used with the Bork’an Sept, increasing the range of its flamer from 8″ to 14″.

That flamer is now 12″, but it’s a lot less deadly. Honestly, this one took the wind out of my sails when I read about it. The Phased Plasma-Flamer used to be a Strength 6, AP-2, Damage 3 weapon. It is now a Strength 6, AP-2, Damage 1 weapon.

In the world of Heavy Intercessors and Terminators, not to mention standard Primaris Marines, Damage 1 is very tough to take. At Damage 3, the Y’vahra would have a powerful tool to deal with these threats, and while it would be strong, I would argue that it wouldn’t be too strong. But as it stands now, the Y’vahra is a lot less threatening to elite units.

Here’s my ray of hope: in the 9th edition T’au codex, there will be a way to increase the Damage characteristic on this or that weapon. It’s a long shot, but I think that there is a chance. The new Markerlight system, for example, could offer increased Damage on a certain amount of Markerlight hits.

This would certainly make up for the lacklustre Damage characteristic on the Y’vahra’s flamer. Damage 1 with the potential to get to Damage 2 is probably more sensible than Damage 3 with the potential to get to Damage 4. Again, it’s probably not going to happen, but we T’au players can dream.

What else has change with the Y’vahra? There is some good news and some bad news when it comes to the Nova Charge ability. The 3++ against melee attacks has changed to a flat 4++ against all shooting and melee attacks. This is a little disappointing, but it’s not entirely surprising. Does the mean that in the codex the Riptide’s invulnerable save will drop down to a 4++ as well? Again, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. **

But there is some good news. One of the Y’vahra’s Nova Charge abilities adds 12″ to its Move characteristic and allows it shoot if it fell back from combat. This replaces the ability that allowed the Y’vahra to be taken off the board and placed back on the board next turn under the normal reserves rules. Between the two, I’ll take extra speed and fall back and shoot every day of the week.

And what’s more, what does this say about the potential for a fall back and shoot ability in the codex? Granted, the Y’vahra must use its Nova Charge ability to get access to it, but at least its there. This does offer a small glint of hope that we will have some form of fall back and shoot ability in the codex.

Finally, the Y’vahra is significantly cheaper than it was previously. T’au players are going to be spending somewhere in the region of 330 points for this model. That’s a decrease of over 70 points, which, all things considered, isn’t too bad.

I must say that this new version of the Y’vahra is looking pretty decent. The points reduction is great, and while it isn’t as powerful as it was, I really like the Nova Charge bonus to moving and falling back and shooting. All T’au players know that the lack of this ability army-wide is really hurting us at the moment, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with my Y’vahra.

Let’s take a look at the the Y’vahra’s slightly bigger brother: the R’varna Battlesuit. If the Y’vahra is built for danger-close firefights, the R’varna is built for long-range fire support. And this new incarnation of the R’varna does have some teeth. Its Pulse Submunitions Cannon now has two profiles, one standard and one Nova Charge. The standard profile is a range 60″ Heavy 3D3 weapon with a Strength of 6, an AP of -2, a Damage of 2, and the Blast keyword. Previously, this was a Damage 3 weapon, so again we see GW taking chunks out of the Damage profile.

But the Pulse Submunitions Cannon really gets quite tasty on the Nova Charge profile. We go up to Strength 7, which is always a plus, but go from Heavy 3D3 to Heavy 9. Nine shots with this gun is going to do some work. And remember that the R’varna has two of them. There is, however, one irritating drawback: this profile also takes the Blast keyword, meaning it gets none of the benefits of Blast but all of the downsides. Not being able to shoot in combat with these weapons is tough to take.

Regardless of poor rules writing, with 18 shots, we’re in Riptide territory. In fact, the R’varna’s Pulse Submunition Cannons hit at Strength 7 when Nova Charged; the Heavy Burst Cannon hits at Strength 6.

Of course, the R’varna isn’t a replacement for the Riptide, but in this new guise it offers some very strong firepower on a solid defensive platform: whereas the Riptide is a Toughness 7 model, the R’varna is Toughness 8.

It’s a little more expensive than the Riptide, however. The R’varna will cost T’au players around 350 points, depending on which Support Systems are taken. But, again, we see a significant reduction in points, roughly 80, which makes the R’varna a reasonably attractive option at the moment.

At the beginning of this article, I implied that, overall, the T’au lost out in this new update to Imperial Armour, and I still think that such an assessment is correct. The changes to the Y’vahra and the R’varna look net positive to me, but I’m sure that other T’au players will disagree. And I think that’s fair. Losing the Damage on the Y’vahra still stings.

And we lost out in some other important ways as well. I really don’t want this article to be a downer — goodness knows there’s been enough of that on the T’au forums and chats recently — but I will mention a couple of things.

Yes, the T’aunar no longer takes the Battlesuit keyword. And to add insult to injury, it now hits on a 3+. This one was hard to take. Very few T’au players use the T’aunar, but that isn’t really the point. It was a very powerful unit that didn’t need to be hit with the nerf bat. Perhaps make it a touch more expensive. I think that would have been fair enough. But these changes simply seem unwarranted.

And while we’re on the subject of Ballistic Skill, pour one out for the Tiger Shark. Going from hitting on 2s to hitting on 4s really stings. It really stings. Why you gotta do us like that, GW? There’s not much to say here. It makes sense neither from a lore perspective nor from a gameplay perspective.

These two changes aren’t great, and there’s more to go into here, but I want to end this article on a positive note. I really do think that the Y’vahra’s fall back and shoot rule should give us a slight ray of hope. It means that the design team know the predicament we’re in as a faction. Whether this predicament is fixed in the new codex remains to be seen, but there is at least some cause for optimism.


About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.
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1 year ago

Hey Ryś. You forgot about hazards and drones and tetras. Even if those are small buffs, it brings them to playable level. Noting to save tau, but nice new toys at least, and something of a positive accent I this overall bitter update.

1 year ago
Reply to  Spera

The changes to the Tetra definitely bring it into the realm of being useable or even good. It’s obviously not going to change things for the faction, but if and when they get a new codex (July or August 2021, I’m betting) it’ll be a nice option to have.

The Remora I’m more skeptical of, because even though it gains noticeably in a couple areas, it’s still an aircraft and aircraft kinda suck this edition.

1 year ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

Well its aircraft that isn’t vehicle, so it doesn’t give up secondaries easily, 2+ sv is nothing to sneeze at with t5 and 5 wounds. it still can somewhat protect something from charges if charger doesnt have fly, and benefits from drone controller Decently durable, mobile, and some firepower its good. In FSE it might even get niche of cheap mortal wound delivery with stratagem. Would it be able to control objectives it would be autotake, but as of now its ok. I know that it isn’t high benchmark, since tau fliers are kinda bad, but as of now it might be best of them.

1 year ago
Reply to  Spera

Yeah, it’s easily the best of the vehicles. I can imagine a list where it could be useful, blocking the enemy’s movement to a limited degree while having decent firepower and survivability. Lack of the vehicle keyword is critical, since it helps you avoid bleeding secondaries, but like the Tetra I think the problem is that it while it does a useful thing, the rest of the army just can’t back it up well enough for that to pay off.

1 year ago

Remoras got a buff, and might see competitive play, so that’s good!

1 year ago

I’m pissed about the Y’vahra nerfs. It’s my favorite model, and dropping from D3 to D1? That’s not balancing, that’s just vindictive (and a probable punishment for the couple weeks throughout 8th where it was good due to GW’s lack of foresight). It even got a big nerf to the other gun, which is just the nail in the coffin. The R’varna looks cool in practice, but it remains a near Knight-cost model that gets turned into an expensive paperweight the moment it gets so much as brushed by a grot. Hazards seemed like they might have had a shot, but the update really doesn’t do much for them.

The more worrisome part is that these updates speak tacitly of Tau remaining more or less the same as they are now in terms of systemic rules, if the reports of the 9th ed codices being mostly written already are true. Not gonna cry that the sky is falling till we get the eventual codex, but right now it looks like instead of the helping hand Tau needed they got a slap to the face.

1 year ago
Reply to  NinetyNineNo

I think it’s fairly clear that the IA Index exists to give rules to Forge World’s various products without having the balance problems that plagued previous versions. Almost every unit in the book is solidly in the “ehhhhhh you could use it but there’s probably better” zone, which speaks a lot to GW playing it safe here. I honestly doubt that they have even started writing the Tau codex at this point, so expecting it to showcase a bunch of fancy new design tech is pretty unlikely, especially since they’ve never done that sort of thing with IA products in the past.

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1 year ago
Reply to  abusepuppy

The Codex T’au soon 2023 …..

1 year ago

nice review there mate, I pretty much agree with a lot of your assessments though i do have some observations on why I think the FW Flyers lost BS and the Taunar Battlesuit. Its less that its a deliberate nerf on those factors but rather bringing in line with their equalivents in the codex. In the codex proper T’au Flyers always have hitted on a two and the Taunar is the same type of series as the Stormsurge which is classified as a vehicle. On thing to note that for years FW rules were written by a different team thus why they never lined up with the stuff in the codex proper, 9th has been the first time they are being written by the same team thus means everything is being made in line even though that sucks given people’s reliance on the power of the FW models.

But well heres hoping for a revamped codex then. They did it for Necrons so I think they won’t screw it up as much as they did in 8th but here’s hoping anyway

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