What Do the IA Updates Mean for the T’au?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve discussed some of the updated T’au units from the new Imperial Armour book. This week, I’m going to talk more generally about the faction. Do the updates in IA tell us anything about the 9th edition T’au codex?

Obviously, there’s no way to know for sure, but a little speculation can be good fun, and there are one or two changes that I think might at least point in the direction of the new codex.

Let’s begin with the Y’vahra’s Phased Plasma-Flamer. While this weapon’s range was increased from 8″ to 12″, its Damage was reduced from 3 to 1. This really didn’t sit well for many T’au players. Many of us thought that Games Workshop was kicking us while we were down. Not only is the T’au the worst performing faction in the game at the moment — and it isn’t particularly close — but GW has nerfed one of our most powerful close-range weapons.

Overall, I think that the Y’vahra is still worth a look, but I’ve discussed this issue already over the past couple of weeks.

The question, then, is why? Why would GW nerf this weapon that didn’t need to be nerfed? I can think of a couple of reason, one of which is somewhat cynical and the other of which is somewhat hopeful. Let’s begin with the cynical answer.

GW did it because the new Space Marines hotness is a three-Wound model, the Heavy Primaris Marine. GW can’t have T’au players incinerating Space Marines players’ shiny new unit. That simply will not do.

Is there some merit to this point? On the face of it, there certainly is, but I would argue that, all things considered, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

There’s no doubt that the Y’vahra’s Phased Plasma-Flamer was an excellent weapon for combating three-Wound models, and the increase in range would have made it all the more deadly. Furthermore, the Y’vahra’s improved Movement with one of its Nova Charge abilities makes it easier still to get the weapon into range (note that in my article last week I mistakenly said that the Y’vahra’s Movement characteristic itself had increased; see the end of this article for the correction).

Damage 3, then, would have been particularly tasty on this new version of the Y’vahra. And it’s true that it would’ve made light work of most Space Marines infantry targets, let alone the new Heavy Intercessors.

But I don’t think that GW made it a Damage 1 weapon in order to protect Heavy Intercessors. First of all, most T’au players don’t own an Y’vahra Battlesuit. Of course, this could change if the model were to become particularly strong, but at the moment, I would predict that most T’au players don’t own one. In fact, I would hazard a guess that most T’au players don’t own anything from the Forge World range. Granted, I don’t have any facts or data to back up this assertion; I only have anecdotal experience.

Second, the Y’vahra itself is now slightly less robust than it was. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a tough Battlesuit, but a couple of its rules have changed slightly, making it just a little bit easier to kill.

That is to say that while an Y’vahra with a Damage 3 flamer would be a very dangerous prospect for Space Marines, most Marines players would have access to tools to deal with it.

That’s the cynical explanation, then. Let’s now take a look at different answer, one that offers T’au players some much-needed hope for 9th edition.

GW nerfed the Phased Plasma-Flamer because the T’au codex will allow Battlesuits to increase the Damage on their weapons.

What might this look like? How about this: one of the custom Sept tenets increase the Damage of all flamer weapons by one? This would be a very interesting option for a lot of T’au players. Would it be too good? Possibly. There would be a significant opportunity cost to take such a Sept tenet, so I could see T’au players foregoing this option if it were to exist.

What else? The new codex might offer a new stratagem that increases the Damage of a Battlesuit’s weapons for a turn. This would, of course, be a very powerful ability that T’au players would probably use every turn. It would need to be costed appropriately — at least two Command Points — but it would certainly go some of the way to solving the problem of the Y’vahra’s flamer.

You get the idea. This is, I think, the more likely scenario. GW knew that the T’au codex would offer an ability or two that would make the Y’vahra too powerful if the flamer stayed at Damage 3, so they toned it down until the new codex arrives.

There is a third option: GW just did it. Someone in the design team looked at the flamer and thought that it was too good. Another person in the design team had a look and broadly agreed. Then they moved on to the next issue.

Honestly, if I had to put money on it, I’d probably go for this version of events. There was no nefarious intent one way or the other. No one wanted to keep the T’au from beating the Space Marines. Someone simply made a decision and moved on.

Whatever the case, we’ll probably never know for sure. However, we will know whether the new codex gives us tools to improve the Y’vahra, so until that time, we’re stuck with speculation.

Let’s discuss another issue, one that has vexed T’au players for years. Why does my Riptide shoot as well as a Guardsman?

The Imperial Armour update didn’t increase the Ballistic Skill of any of the Battlesuits in the book. In fact, it decreased the Ballistic Skill of the Tiger Shark and the T’aunar. I can just about stomach the change from BS 2+ to BS 3+ for the T’aunar, but the change from 2+ to 4+ for the Tiger Shark really stings.

Here’s the question: does this mean that the codex will make it easier for Battlesuits to shoot straight? I’m quite hopeful that it will.

I’ve already discussed what GW could do with the Markerlight table in the new codex, so I won’t repeat myself here, but I would say that however the new system will look, it will be easier to get +1 to hit than it is now.

At the moment, T’au players need to hit with five Markerlights in order to increase their units’ accuracy by +1, and while there are stratagems to help in this endeavour, it can often be quite tricky.

In 9th edition, not only could I see the Markerlight itself be a lot more prevalent across the board, but I could see the best effects of the Markerlight system be much easier to get.

Simply put, Battlesuits need to hit on 3s most of the time in order for the army to function properly in 9th edition, and I think that it’s a good bet that GW is aware of this. As a whole, the T’au community has been quite vocal about the problems with the army in 9th edition. The design team must have some idea of the problems with the faction, and getting Battlesuits up to BS 3 will be a good start.

If GW were going to make some Battlesuits hit on 3s natively in the new codex, there’s a pretty good chance that the XV9, the Y’vahra, and the R’varna would have got BS 3 in the IA update. That this didn’t happen doesn’t necessarily give us information one way or the other, but I would argue that we can presume from the context of the edition so far that it will happen.

Of course, this is all speculation, and it could certainly turn out to be the case that GW doesn’t go in this direction with the faction. That would, I think, be a real shame. All things considered, I don’t think it’s likely. With any luck, 9th edition will prompt GW to rework the faction from the ground up, providing T’au players with engaging new ways to play the game.

That would make up for a Damage 1 flamer.

Correction: In my article last week, I mistakenly said that the Y’vahra’s Move characteristic had increased from 12″ to 18″. It was 18″ in the previous version of the rules. Furthermore, I mistakenly said that the XV9’s Charge reduction ability changed from D3″ to 2″. It was 2″ in the previous version of the rules. My thanks to the commenters who pointed out these mistakes.

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3 Responses to “What Do the IA Updates Mean for the T’au?”

  1. Avatar
    Spera November 16, 2020 5:34 am #

    I think it was survivability of Space marines. GW had to give them another wound because sv3+ just doesn’t cut it. Lets be honest, 3d6 s6 ap2 dmg3 flamers makes short work of most defensively stacked marines like bladeguards. They can’t now just produce many weapons that do well against them, otherwise whole balance will be for naught, like in the beginning of 8th. Thats also why dreads got permanent duty eternal, so weapons that are effective against SM troops would be garbage against them. This forces you to bring different profiles instead just plasma equivalent everywhere. Beside few bonkers combos like chief apothecary SM imo feel right in terms of survivability right now. Random low quality shoot dont bring them down easily, you need to dedicate quality guns at them.

    could they reduce number of hits instead to d6/2d6 and maybe dmg 2? yeah they could, but it seams that they have little to no idea what to do with tau.

    Also, for article about what Index could mean for tau, you strangely forgot to mention rail weapons that got buff in both mortal wound generation and dmg. Going from d6 to 3+d3 is big.

  2. Avatar
    SP November 16, 2020 5:48 pm #

    Well judging from the new battleforce boxes that have just been advertised, it looks like nothing in particular will change for the Tau. More of the same. Stay classy, GW.

  3. Avatar
    Rob Butcher November 17, 2020 12:37 am #

    Tau won both Adepticon 2019 and GWGT Finals with different Tau armies. Why keep forgetting that ?? And that Iron Hands won LVO 2020 with an army that can’t be fielded any more.

    None used any Tau from GW … the simple truth is that FW deal in 100s at most, whereas GW plastic is in the 1000s or 10000s.

    Dropping a flamer to damage 1 is sensible looking at the number of shots. And it’s worth looking at how other heavy flamers have changed in both the Codexes, Indexes and this FW tome as a whole, noth just in isolation.

    And what’s a tournament ? Try running one in England .. that’s a £10000 for each of the organisers.

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