More T’au Troops Talk

In my article last week, I discussed the problems that the T’au has with the Troops slot. In this article, I’m going to talk about how Games Workshop could improve Fire Warriors in the upcoming 9th edition T’au codex.

Most competitive players are aware of the main problem in this area: the T’au don’t have a reliable way to flip objectives. I’ve written about this issue before, and it often comes up in discussions about the faction.

Improving Fire Warriors doesn’t really solve this issue, however. Even if Fire Warriors became the most lethal Troops units in the game, T’au players would still struggle to flip objectives.

Assault Intercessors are one of the best Troops units in the game for this very reason. They’re tough to significantly damage with anti-infantry firepower. They pack a serious punch in combat. They’re supported with some of the most useful stratagems in the game. But most importantly, Assault Intercessors can be relied upon to do the business in the Charge and Fight phases of the game.

Marines players know that the target at which Assault Marines are pointed is going to take some serious damage. And what’s more, that target is going to be overwhelmed with high-quality obsec models.

However, as I mentioned last week, variety is the spice of life when it comes to the game’s different factions. Most players probably don’t want every faction to have an equivalent of Assault Intercessors. The factions should be as unique as possible.

Where does this leave T’au Fire Warriors? I want to begin by suggesting a simple stratagem that would make Fire Warriors just a little more resilient.

The Guardian Drone grants a 5+ invulnerable save to Breachers and a 6+ invulnerable save to Strike Teams if the unit is within 3″ of the Drone. Increasing this invulnerable save by one for the cost of one Command Point would be a good start.

Of course, this wouldn’t make Fire Warriors much more resilient. It would certainly help, but the Fire Warrior’s stat-line itself is the problem. Increasing the models’ invulnerable save from 6+ to 5+ or from 5+ to 4+ isn’t going to make a huge amount of difference, but it’s a start. And what’s more, it’ll give T’au players an extra arrow in the quiver when it comes to keeping those vital obsec units alive.

Again, a 4++ isn’t going to drastically change the unit, but it does provide a disincentive for opponents to shoot at Fire Warriors if there are a variety of targets available. And it will force opponents to use more firepower than they otherwise would have in order to remove that pesky unit of Fire Warriors.

A few weeks back, I discussed more general updates to the faction that GW could implement with the new codex. I talked about giving T’au players the option to double-shoot certain units under certain circumstances, and I still think that it would be a good option given the overall power of the game at the moment.

However, when discussing Fire Warriors in particular, I think that there is more scope to increase the unit’s output that doesn’t involve a double-shoot mechanic.

To this end, I could see a stratagem that works with the Cadre Fireblade’s Volley Fire ability. At the moment, this aura allows Fire Warriors armed with Pulse Rifles, Pulse Carbines, and Pulse Pistols fire an extra shot when firing at half range.

Volley Fire is very useful, but I think that there is scope to improve it with a a stratagem. We could keep things simple and improve the range of the aura; at the moment, it’s 6″, and increasing it to 9″ or even 12″ would be a good use of a CP.

Or we could significantly improve it by increasing the Damage or AP of the Fire Warriors’ shooting. Again, it would be a simple upgrade, but it would no doubt be effective. Of course, increasing the Damage or AP of a significant amount of guns would probably need to cost more than one CP, but you get the idea.

Furthermore, such a stratagem could be used reactively as well as proactively. T’au players could use it when firing Overwatch, for example. This would be another disincentive for opponents to attempt to get into combat with Fire Warriors. Granted, Overwatch from Fire Warriors only tends to plink a couple or three wounds from a lot of targets, so it wouldn’t be a huge disincentive, but it would certainly be something.

Indeed, the potential for more deadly Overwatch forces opponents to make difficult decisions, which is exactly what a good defensive ability should do. T’au Overwatch shouldn’t be a panacea, but it should be deadly enough to make players think twice.

These two ideas would be simple, effective upgrades to what is at the moment an average infantry unit. There is a lot of scope to do more here, and plenty of different directions to take these upgrades. But such improvements wouldn’t do much good when it comes to the factions’ problems that I mention above.

Indeed, Fire Warriors aren’t going to be able to flip objectives unless the unit is significantly improved or significantly changed.

And they probably shouldn’t be able to, all things considered. Or, to put it more precisely, that shouldn’t be what Fire Warriors are for. Of course, if you want want to rapid fire the stuffing out of something on an objective with your Fire Warriors and then heroically charge whatever remains, more power to you. The rule of cool is the way to play.

But realistically, that strategy isn’t going to do a lot of good a lot of the time.

We’re going to need something else. A couple of weeks ago I talked about a new transport for the T’au, and I still think that would be a great idea. A good few weeks back I discussed how the Vespid could play in the new codex. Simply put, they would be a quick, shooty unit with some play in the Fight phase. Both of these options would take the faction in the right direction.

Moreover, plenty of T’au players talk about a close-combat oriented Battlesuit, which would definitely do the business if it were written properly. I’m not sold on this idea yet. I think that the faction should have a little play in the Fight phase, but it would be more interesting to have, for example, Battlesuits shooting into combat in one form or another rather than an out-and-out close-combat Battlesuit.

That said, something’s gotta give, so perhaps GW will go in this direction for the new codex. This remains to be seen, of course.

Whatever the case, I do want to see Fire Warriors improved in the new codex. There are a lot of different directions to take them, and I think that it would only take a handful of little tweaks to the datasheet to bring them up to speed.

However, these changes would need to be made in the context of a significant update to the faction. Of course, I think it’s fair to say that this is going to happen. If it doesn’t, T’au players will be in real trouble throughout the course of the edition. But I think it’s safe to be at least somewhat optimistic.

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

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About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

8 Responses to “More T’au Troops Talk”

  1. Dakkath December 7, 2020 12:33 pm #

    What might help is making the kroot warriors cheaper, actually survivable, and able to do something in melee like they’re nominally supposed to. They don’t have to be hormagaunt clones, but something along those lines would be a step in the right direction.

  2. Dominik December 7, 2020 11:54 pm #

    I want to see a breacher-like unit with some kind of stormshield and heavy pulse pistols that can charge onto a marker, survive the punch in numbers and kill the enemy in the shooting phase instead in combat. The tau way of close combat.

  3. Shas’O December 8, 2020 1:26 am #

    Tau troops have issues to be sure. That said, I’ve actually been winning games with Tau lately running a farsight list with 8-12 remoras escorting coldstars. Remoras are VERY good now 🙂

    • Rhys Jenkins December 8, 2020 8:54 am #

      Nice! I haven’t properly looked into Remoras since the IA update. It’s cool to hear that you’re having success with them though.

    • abusepuppy December 8, 2020 9:06 am #

      Any army _can_ win games, especially in the hands of a good general. But winning five consecutive games at a tournament, playing against opponents of similar skill, is another matter entirely.

      • Shas’O December 8, 2020 11:13 am #

        Ha! I’m not going to win a tournament with Tau right now. Marines exist 😂

        I’ve been able to beat daemons though.

        Since the new IA, remoras got cheaper (including missiles), hit markets again, almost doubled in wounds, and got a better save.

        They can’t hold objectives, but coldstart can and they can swim around the coldstar to make it hard to remove him and impossible to get onto the objective.

        With drone controllers, they are some of the most accurate fire power tau have, while also not suffering from any grot being able to tag them and prevent them from shooting.

  4. Dave K December 8, 2020 12:29 pm #

    The Tau have been my preferred army since they debuted. I hated that they only had one competitive build in 8th, and in 9th, they just don’t have the tools to consistently perform reliably.

    Statistically, a squad of 10 Fire Warriors with a Cadre Fireblade in support, will only inflict on average 3.33 damage on a squad of Space Marines at 15″ or closer (less if they’re further away and lose the Volley Fire boost). In Overwatch, even with the benefit of 5+ to hit, that number drops to 2.22 damage against a Marine or Marine equivalent (T4, 3+ save). Add in debuffs to hit or better armor saves, and things get even worse. Even with a second 10 man Fire Warrior squad firing supporting Overwatch through FTGG, that only double the damage to 4.44. That kills 2 Marines and wounds another (and that’s without any Feel No Pain wound avoidance or stratagem/character support to further mitigate damage. The remaining 3 Assault Intercessors/Vanguard Vets/Assault Marines, etc. will, in turn, annihilate the entire Fire Warrior squad in the ensuing Combat phase.

    Yes, this is all just Mathhammer-ing averages, and yes, in practice dice rolls can turn out better results… they can also turn out worse results. Either way, for a unit in the current edition to be competitive, it either needs serious staying power, or it needs to be able to put out more hurt in a single round of shooting/combat to make the opponent have to stop and really consider their next move.

    Yes, Broadsides, Riptides, and Missile Commanders are all options, but that goes back to the “One True Tau Build” problem, and in the current meta, even that build suffers for a variety of reasons that would merit multiple articles themselves.

    So, turning back to the focus of Rhys’s article, I think that Tau Fire Warriors need a couple of very specific upgrades: Pulse Rifles need to have a -1 or -2 AP and/or they need to be bumped up to Rapid Fire 2 weapons. Assuming that GW wants to maintain the theme that Fire Warriors are a glass cannon that put out a volume of accurate rifle fire from their line infantry units, they won’t likely want to give them a huge boost to their armor or survivability. I agree that Guardian Drones and/or Shield Drones need to be re-worked to add a bit more survivability, but to really hone in on what Fire Warriors are supposed to do (i.e. be mere mortals wielding the best technology in the universe), that tech needs to be better:
    > increasing Pulse Rifles to Rapid Fire 2 would alter things so that, with the Fireblade in support, a squad puts out 50 shots at half range (15″) instead of 30. That adjusts the Mathhammer averages that I outlined above from 3.33 to 5.55 damage inflicted in the shooting phase and 3.7 damage inflicted on Overwatch.

    Alternatively, they could improve the Pulse Rifles to do AP -1, and now your squad of 10 will inflict 5 damage on a MEU or 8.33 if you combine this with the Rapid Fire 2 option. That seems a bit extreme, perhaps… or perhaps not, when you consider that this is Damage inflicted, which means that 8.33 damage only kills 4 Marines. That definitely something to now fear on the attack and could blow a minimum sized Marine unit off of an objective. In this way, you could also see a single objective go back and forth in particularly bloody battles (which might also encourage Marine players to take the Shock Tactics secondary). And these changes wouldn’t have as serious of an effect on Gravis armor, Terminators, Centurions, and it wouldn’t turn Fire Warriors into Eradicators.

    Okay, that’s enough numbers crunching. I just wanted to jump in and agree with Rhys in these articles and suggest that GW could make Fire Warriors better by simply improving their weapons a touch.

  5. Draaen December 8, 2020 2:18 pm #

    I agree I don’t think fire warriors will be running onto objectives and clearing people off. Kroot if pointed and ruled well could but I am not holding my breath.

    One option which would make a huge difference would be to give jet pack units JSJ with a 2d6″ assault move and then make gun drones or drones in general troops. Follow that up with a stratagem to allow a battlesuit unit to fall back and shoot or make jet pack units be able to fire weapons in combat at -1 to hit.

    Seems to me you would get a good fast relatively tough unit which could hop onto an objective with obsec bodies after clearing them off in shooting. It would also give play to things like stealth suits which while not being obsec can hop on objectives. The additional stratagem or shoot into combat would allow Tau to play aggressively and pay a cost when tagged in combat.

    The pessimist in me feels there is no combat tau suit in development atm which means it is a year or two away if the dev team though heck yeah and went to work. So moving an existing unit to troops or fixing what we have are probably the only real options for most of 9th.

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