Since the release of 9th edition, I’ve been writing about how the T’au need to change in order to be competitive in the new meta.
In fact, that isn’t quite true. When the new edition was released, I was actually fairly optimistic about the faction’s chances. I turned out to be very wrong indeed.
While the faction itself didn’t change much at all with the new rules, the game changed significantly around the faction. And it wasn’t all bad. Some rules really helped in areas that the T’au really needed help. I remember reading about the changes to hit modifiers, for example, and thinking how good a change it was going to be.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s now very rare that a Riptide goes below 5s to hit, and this has been a great improvement. Hitting on 6s with such an expensive model was not fun.
But, all things considered, the change to the hit modifier rules haven’t made a huge difference to the T’au. We have much bigger fish to fry.
And let’s not forget the changes to the Vehicle and Monster keywords. Our Riptides can now shoot in combat. Again, I thought that this was pretty great news when I first read the article on the Warhammer Community page. Indeed, it sounded pretty cool. It was new. It was something different.
The reality, however, hasn’t really gone the way that I would’ve liked. Sure, shooting into combat is great. Every now and then there is a great opportunity for a Riptide or a Ghostkeel to do the business at Engagement Range, and that is always a cool moment, but the cost has been much too high.
Losing the ability to Fall Back and shoot has been, I would argue, the most damaging change to the faction.
Again, I was optimistic when the change was announced. I advised caution. We shouldn’t judge the new edition of a game without knowing all of the changes. We lost this cool ability, but we might gain that cool ability.
It didn’t exactly turn out that way.
Every faction has its day in the sun. And, conversely, every faction has its day near the bottom of the pile. This is a normal part of playing a game — any game — that features periodic updates.
How, then, will Games Workshop remedy this situation? If you would like specific examples of how GW could update the faction, read any of my articles about the T’au from when 9th edition was released.
But for the rest of this article, I want to briefly discuss a couple of broad themes. I want to discuss firepower and objectives.
The first of these two items is pretty simple: the T’au need more firepower.
In the 9th edition meta, I would argue that the T’au simply do not do enough work in the Shooting phase. Of course, the T’au only have the Shooting phase in which to do serious damage, and it is this lack of power in this area that makes T’au so troublesome to play at the moment — well, one of the things that makes them so troublesome to play at the moment.
Look, I’m not arguing that the T’au don’t have units that can do the business. The Commander can still do some serious work when armed with Cyclic Ion Blasters; three Broadsides armed with Smart Missile Systems and High-Yield Missile Pods can still put some heat downfield.
But I would argue that, for the points that T’au players spend on it, the Riptide should do more damage. And I would say that the Ghostkeel should be a far more threatening presence on the board than it is at the moment.
And there are plenty more examples from the codex. Indeed, the T’au codex has been quiet a shallow affair for a little while now. Throughout most of 8th edition, there was really only one competitive list. Granted, it was a very powerful list, but there wasn’t a lot else in the book.
Here’s my comparison: the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Admech has some absolute heinous shooting. The Kastelan Robots, for example, put out some of the most deadly firepower in the game. It’s powerful, accurate, and there’s a hell of a lot of it. I won’t go into any more detail right now — it makes me very jealous — but I think that most readers know just how strong these models are.
Should the T’au be able to shoot as well as the Admech? I would argue that, if not as well, then the T’au should be able to get pretty close to Admech levels of output. I say this because the T’au has other interesting aspects that could be improved in order to make the faction competitive.
I’ve said it handful of times: each faction should be as unique as it can be. Of course, there’s always going to be crossover to one extent or another, but, broadly speaking, the factions should be distinct.
If, for example, Crisis Suits could do 80 percent of the damage that Robots do but had access to a couple of interesting new abilities, that would be a good outcome. Simply increasing the firepower of Crisis Suits would be fine, but I think that there is more to this classic unit than just shooting.
That’s firepower. What about objectives? Again, my point is going to be very simple: we need a way to take and hold objectives.
To be fair, I have touched on this issue a couple of times over the past two or three months, but, as it’s such an important part of the game, I think that it bears repeating.
And I’m not particularly concerned about how it gets done. New infantry would be cool. Adding the obsec rule to current units would work fine. A way to move in the Charge phase without getting into a fist fight would be great.
Whatever the case, we need something. We need a way to stand on objectives and not immediately be bullied off.
Here’s another comparison to make my point: any good army in the game. What do I mean by this? Simply put, a strong faction can flip objectives. That’s it. Harlequins, Space Marines, Admech — take a look at any faction at the top and you’ll find some tools to deal with the problem of objectives in 9th edition.
And that’s pretty much it. We need to be able to stand and we need to be able to shoot. At the moment, we can shoot to a decent degree but we certainly can’t stand. If the faction is going to be competitive in 2021, GW could do a lot worse than starting with these two themes.
I’m looking forward to 40k this year. As I mentioned last week, we’re going to get back to normal at some point during 2021, and I absolutely cannot wait to get playing again. Even if the T’au are one of the last few factions to be updated, there’s still plenty to look forward to this year.
As I mentioned earlier, each faction has its day in the sun. We had a great run throughout 8th edition. But for a chunk of 9th edition we’re going to have to make the best of it. Things will get better.
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