Games Workshop released a variety of FAQ and errata documents this week, and while there are many significant changes to game to discuss, in this article I’m going to focus on the updates to the T’au Empire.
Here’s the long and short of it: these updates have improved the faction. Indeed, of all of the factions that were updated, the T’au have gained the most.
Granted, that isn’t saying much. Everyone knows that T’au were really struggling in 9th edition, and, all things considered, T’au are still going to have a very tough time of it. But the faction has definitely been improved.
What has changed? Let’s begin with what is, in my view, the biggest change to the faction. Mont’ka now grants Fall Back and shoot. Here’s the text:
“Mont’ka: In a turn in which a <Sept> Commander unit from your army declared Mont’ka, at the start of your Movement phase you can select any friendly <Sept> units within 6″ of that unit. Until the end of that turn, the selected units can shoot as if they did not move this turn.”
I’m going to put to one side the on-going discussion in the T’au community regarding whether this new rewrite of the rule actually does grant the ability to Fall Back and shoot. If you’d like to get into the minutia of that debate, more power to you, but for the purposes of this article I’m going to presume that we can indeed Fall Back and shoot.
Why is this the biggest change to the faction? Back in 8th edition, T’au units with the Fly keyword could jump into and out of combat with impunity. Not being able to tie up Commanders and Riptides in combat was one of the things that made those two units so powerful. As I’ve written many times before, the removal of this ability did serious damage to the faction.
And with this new update, GW has gone some of the way to fixing this problem.
Interestingly, this new version of Mont’ka actually allows more units to disengage from combat and shoot than the Fly keyword did back in 8th edition. Any Sept units that are in range of the Commander at the beginning of the Movement phase may Fall Back and shoot. In 8th, only units with the Fly keyword could Fall Back and shoot.
Of course, this new rule isn’t as powerful as the 8th edition Fly keyword, but it’s a solid upgrade to an army that was in dire need of good news.
Some of our most powerful units now have a way to escape the bad touch. For example, I could see backfield Broadsides supported by a Commander armed with Missile Pods become a popular choice. Indeed, one of the best ways to deal with Broadsides was to tag them in combat, but now we have a way around that. Granted, it isn’t always going to be the best use of a valuable Mont’ka, but it’s certainly a solid option.
This new rule allows T’au players to play the game with much more freedom than we did previously. We can now play far more aggressively with our key units, safe in the knowledge that, for one turn at least, we can mitigate the effects of combat on our shooting output.
Indeed, coupled with our built-in Overwatch ability, we can now play ball in the midfield with much more confidence. Situations in which we would have had to be much more conservative with our tactics now look much more appealing.
The faction is going to play much more dynamically. We’re going to see Riptides and Ghostkeels be much more aggressive, surging into the centre of the board supported by a handful of Drones and a Commander or two. This moving castle will have a fearsome Overwatch capability and, for one turn at least, will be impervious to enemy assault units.
Okay, “impervious” is probably a bit of a stretch, but you know what I’m getting at. The change to the Fly keyword really did a number on aggressive T’au tactics, and now we’re going to see them make something of a comeback.
In my view, this is the biggest change to the faction from these updates. The Mont’ka ability has now become significantly more valuable, which means that one named character in particular has also become significantly more valuable.
Commander Farsight can declare Mont’ka twice per game. He is the only model in the codex who can do so. For clarity’s sake, let’s briefly go into how this works.
T’au Commanders have the Master of War ability. This ability allows them to declare Kauyon or Mont’ka once per game. If a Commander declares Kauyon, he may no longer use the Master of War ability. Ditto if the Commander declares Mont’ka.
However, Commanders Shadowsun and Farsight may declare Kauyon or Mont’ka twice per game. Specifically, Shadowsun may declare Kauyon twice and Farsight may declare Mont’ka twice.
In terms of output, Farsight really isn’t much to write home about. His combat ability, while interesting on occasion, isn’t particularly threatening to most high-value targets, and his shooting ability actually quite poor compared to a standard Commander.
But with this new update Commander Farsight has become one of the most important units in the codex. Taking Farsight increases the number of times that your models can Fall Back and shoot by 100 percent, which is certainly nothing to sniff at.
Of course, most T’au players would prefer the ability to Fall Back and shoot on their key units for the entirety of the game, but two thirds of the game is a lot better than what we had a few days ago.
And what’s more, the Farsight Enclaves was strongest Sept choice before the update — taking two Commanders per detachment was too good to pass up for many T’au players — and these new rules make the Enclaves an even more attractive choice. I myself was never particularly keen on taking Farsight. As I mention above, his shooting output is poor, and he takes up a valuable Commander slot, meaning that the opportunity cost was simply too high in my opinion.
But now I’m going to have to seriously reconsider that decision. Fall Back and shoot twice per game is easily more valuable than the shooting output from another Commander.
There’s much more to go into with these new updates, and I’m going to discuss other updates to the faction, as well as the changes to the game in general, in coming articles, but to wrap up I want to again highlight an area that needs to be improved: GW’s editorial quality.
I’ll note that, generally speaking, I think that GW does an excellent job with this game, but we should offer constructive criticism when appropriate, and I would argue that it is certainly appropriate to do so now.
Above, I mention that the T’au community isn’t in agreement on this issue. Some players, quite rightly, disagree with the reading of the new Mont’ka rule that grants Fall Back and shoot. As I said above, I’m not going to get involved in that debate here.
But I will point that GW should have caught this issue before the FAQs and errata were released. It would have taken very little time and effort to add a line confirming that Mont’ka does or does not grant Fall Back and shoot.
I’m not in the business of GW-bashing. I want my articles to be positive. Goodness knows it’s easy to find people in the community who are very critical of GW. That’s not the tone that I’m going for.
But I think that’s it’s reasonable to point out that this issue — and, to be fair, quite a few others — should have been caught before these documents were released.
That said, I’ll finish on a positive note. For T’au players, 9th edition has become slightly less difficult, and, I would hazard a guess, slightly more enjoyable. Let’s hope for more of the same when the codex is released.
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