In my article a couple of weeks back, I discussed how the change to Mont’ka in the latest update to 9th edition affects the T’au Empire. This was undoubtedly the biggest change to the faction, and I think that it certainly deserved its own article. But in this article, I’m going to discuss some of the other changes that Games Workshop made to the T’au.
I want to discuss the various points increases and decreases that we saw with this update. Some of them are a little perplexing, to say the least.
Tactical Drones — these are the Drones that are not attached to another unit or model at the beginning of the game — increased to 20 points per model. Put simply, this change makes this unit almost entirely unplayable.
When Drones are taken with another unit — for example, a Commander can take up to two Drones — the cost is as follows: 10 points for a Marker or a Gun Drone and 15 points for a Shield Drone.
Back in 8th edition, these Drones were 10 points each. At the beginning of 9th, the price of the Shield Drone increased to 15 points, a 50 percent increase.
It goes without saying that Shield Drones are one of the most powerful assets in the T’au arsenal. Indeed, the entire 8th edition T’au meta was built around this humble little Drone and the defensive capabilities that it offered to the faction.
In competitive play, it wasn’t uncommon to see upwards of 40 Drones in a T’au army, most of which would be Shield Drones. Both Brian Pullen and Richard Siegler had a significant amount of success with T’au lists built around Shield Drones, Riptides, and Commanders.
However, many people found their games against these lists to be quite frustrating affairs, and I can certainly see why that would be the case. Shooting an entire army’s worth of firepower into a Riptide only to see a dozen or so Drones be destroyed would be somewhat aggravating.
It follows, then, that GW would want to tone down this playstyle somewhat. And tone it down they did. In fact, GW did a lot more than that. As we all know, T’au have very little play in 9th edition.
But with this points increase, GW really twisted the knife. Not only do we see far fewer Drones on the tabletop at the moment — granted, most people aren’t playing much right now — but we see far fewer T’au armies on the tabletop at the moment. 9th edition has been so bad for the faction that much of the player base is playing with another faction.
I would argue, then, that GW didn’t need to further increase the cost of Drones. 15 points for a Shield Drone is already quite expensive, but 20 points for a Shield Drone is a bridge too far.
A couple of four-man Shield Drone squads will cost a T’au player 160 points. Even for the excellent defensive capabilities that Shield Drones offer, this is much too expensive.
If T’au players aren’t going to take standalone Drone squads, we’re certainly going to see fewer Drones on the tabletop. I would estimate that we’re going to see T’au armies with around 20 Drones of a variety of types — certainly Shield, Marker, and Gun Drones, but also Stealth Drones attached to Ghostkeels, Grav-inhibitor Drones attached to Pathfinders, and so on.
What other price increases did we see? Let’s take a look at the Commander. Commanders in the classic XV8 Crisis Battlesuit increased by 5 points and Commanders in the Enforcer and Coldstar Battlesuits increased by 10 points.
We seldom see Commanders in Crisis Battlesuits, so this increase isn’t particularly important, but we see many Enforcer and Coldstar Commanders. The 10-point increase to these units, then, isn’t particularly welcome.
Granted, Commanders are probably the strongest unit in the codex, but in a poorly-performing faction, it seems strange to increase the cost of one of the few units that does the business.
Fortunately, paying an extra 10 points for your Commanders isn’t such a big deal. All things considered, it won’t make a significant change to the way in which T’au players build their army lists at the moment.
For example, an Enforcer Commander armed with three Cyclic Ion Blasters and an Advanced Targeting System now comes to 159 points, which is certainly still worth it. A Coldstar Commander armed with four Fusion Blasters is 180 points, which is starting to look a little pricy, but it’s probably still worth a look.
Tactical Drones and Commanders are where we see the most interesting — and peculiar — points increases, but it’s not all bad news. A couple of classic T’au picks came down in points: XV8 Crisis Battlesuits and XV88 Broadside Battlesuits.
Let’s begin with the Crisis Suits. Each model in this unit decreased in cost by 5 points, and while this is welcome, it doesn’t do nearly enough to make the unit playable outside of Farsight Enclaves army lists.
For readers who are unfamiliar with the Farsight Enclaves, T’au players who choose this Sept have access to a two Command Point stratagem that increases Crisis Suits’ Ballistic Skill and Weapon Skill by 1. Simply put, it’s the only option that makes Crisis Suits worth taking.
Indeed, a reduction of 5 points doesn’t do nearly enough to core aspects of the unit to make it viable. The real problem of the unit is the weapon options — they’re all too expensive. A single Missile Pod costs 15 points, a single Fusion Blaster costs 15 points, and a single Cyclic Ion Blaster costs 18 points.
While each of these weapons can be deadly on the right model and in the right context, Crisis Suits must take at least two in order to have reliable shooting output. That is to say that before we add the cost of the Crisis Suit itself we’re already at 36 points for two Cyclic Ion Blasters. 66 points for a Crisis Suit armed with two Cyclic Ion Blasters and an Advanced Targeting System is just too much.
These models have been a problem for a good while now. With the release of the T’au Psychic Awakening book at the end of 8th edition, Crisis Suits started to look like they had some play, but the introduction of 9th edition and the subsequent increase in power to many factions in the game really knocked them down again.
We T’au players can only hope that the codex release does something interesting with this classic unit.
But it’s not all bad news. Broadsides came down in cost by 15 or 20 points, depending on the build. This was certainly a welcome change. A Broadside Battlesuit armed with two Smart Missile Systems, two High-yield Missile Pods, and an Advanced Targeting System now costs 115 points.
Even before this update, Broadsides had some play. The unit can put out a significant amount of high-quality firepower, and there are a couple of stratagems that T’au players can use in order to increase their firepower further.
This reduction in points, then, is good to see. I think that we’re going to see more Broadsides hit the tabletop before the codex arrives, especially given that the change to the Mont’ka rule — putting aside rules discussions — grants the unit even more flexibility than previously.
Overall, how are these changes going to change the faction? I would argue that while the T’au certainly have a bit more bite, we’re still in a bad place when compared to many other factions in the game. Indeed, we’re in a bad place compared to almost all factions in the game.
But I will say that these changes take the T’au in the right direction. No one expects the T’au to appear on the top tables at a tournament — 9th edition is simply too troublesome for the faction for that to happen — but with these news tools, T’au players can roll dice with a little more confidence.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!