Three Ways to Fix T’au

Earlier this week, Invasive Wargaming released a video in which he discussed the three things that Games Workshop needs to do in order to fix T’au for 9th edition, and in this article, I’m going to discuss my thoughts on the changes Mike suggests in the video

If you’re a T’au player and you’ve not checked out the Invasive Wargaming YouTube channel, I’d highly recommend taking a look. It’s a great channel, and I’m always interested to hear what Mike has to say on the latest developments to come from the Eastern Fringe.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Mike sums it up in the first few seconds of the video: “The T’au Empire is a faction that is essentially dislodged in time. They are a relic of an earlier version of Warhammer 40k that just does not function in 9th edition.”

This is, of course, absolutely true. The main theme throughout many of my articles that I have written on this topic is that the T’au Empire is a faction that simply does not work properly in 9th edition. Many commentators and players have said the same thing over the past few months, but it certainly bears repeating.

Now that we have established the theme of our criticism of the faction, let’s get into the three things that GW needs to do in order to bring the faction up to speed. These issues are: doing damage in melee, making Markerlights work, and fixing durability and Drones.

I will point out at this stage that there are many more than three issues to fix in the current T’au codex. This much is obvious. But we have to start somewhere, and I entirely agree that GW really needs to address these three problems.

Why these issues in particular? First of all, 9th is a melee-focused edition. That’s not to say that shooting isn’t an effective tool for a lot of factions, but for the business of taking and holding objectives — the core of 9th edition — a powerful melee unit is a strong asset to have.

The T’au has virtually no play in the Fight phase. Even the famed Commander Farsight is a mediocre option when it comes to fisticuffs.

And this has proved to be a significant problem. I have written previously about how we really struggle to flip objectives. Most armies have a powerful melee unit that players can march up the board in order to contest the important centre objectives. We simply do not have an equivalent to such a unit. T’au players can’t rely on defeating an already-weakened opponent in the Fight phase. Even a couple of Intercessors would cause problems for most T’au units.

And what about the Markerlights? Markerlights are certainly a problem at the moment. As Mike points out in the video, Markerlights really only offer T’au players two main benefits: rerolling 1s and +1 Ballistic Skill. In order to get these bonuses, a T’au player must hit the target with one Markerlight and five, respectively.

The rewards for hitting a target with two, three, and four Markerlights really aren’t particularly good, and this certainly needs to change.

Finally, durability and Drones. I wrote a couple of articles earlier this month on this issue — or, at least, something similar to it.

I think that Drones are great, but the Saviour Protocols rule doesn’t quite work at the moment. Or, to put it another way, it works a little too well, which has had the effect of significantly increasing the points cost of Drones.

What’s more, competitive T’au lists in 8th edition relied almost completely on this unit. Almost everyone reading will remember T’au Drone spam. I’ve written many times that the faction needs a new identity, and fixing the issue with Drones will certainly go a long way here.

These are the problems discussed in the video. But what about the solutions? Let’s begin with the issue of the Fight phase again. Mike suggests in the video that the T’au should get some method of shooting in combat for some units. I really like this idea, and it’s one that has been floating around the faction for a little while.

I would argue that allowing certain T’au units to shoot in combat to one extent or another would be better than, say, a combat-focused Battlesuit unit. I think that the combat should be left to the alien auxiliaries — certainly the Kroot, but perhaps Vespid as well — which is another option that Mike mentions in the video.

Of course, this would be a tricky mechanic to balance. T’au should have some ability to do some work in combat, but we don’t want to see T’au units go toe-to-toe with the elite combat units of other factions. That wouldn’t quite feel correct.

There’s a balance to be found between a powerful melee unit and one that simply crumbles under any and all pressure in the Fight phase. The job of the 9th edition T’au codex is to find this balance for at least a few units in the codex.

Before we move on to the issue of Markerlights, let’s first acknowledge that the Kroot really should play a bigger role in many T’au lists. At the moment, we seldom see any Kroot models whatsoever, and there’s good reason for this: the Kroot perform poorly on the battlefield at the moment. Many people in the T’au community, myself included, would love to see Kroot come to the fore in a 9th edition T’au meta.

Next, Mike discusses Markerlights in the video. And, again, I very much agree with his analysis. There’s a lot that GW could do with the Markerlight system. At the moment, there are really only two benefits to using Markerlights — rerolling 1s and +1 BS, as I mentioned above — but I would really like to see Markerlights do a lot more.

One particular example that caught my eye from the video is the idea of Markerlight granting +1 BS on Core units. This would serve as a great incentive to take Core units in a T’au list, and while we don’t know which units will be Core and how this rule will affect them on the tabletop, I could really see, for example, Crisis Suits becoming a lot more valuable under such circumstances.

I would be very surprised if Crisis Suits were not Core in the 9th edition T’au codex. They are a classic unit, and, like the Kroot, many T’au players want to see them take a more central role in competitive T’au lists.

Finally, we come to the issue of Drones and durability. As usual, I agree with what Mike has to say, and there’s one point that jumps out at me again: in order to offset the defensive power that Drones offer, make Battlesuits more tough.

This would go a long way to making Drones less appealing. Of course, the Saviour Protocol rule should change to one degree or another, but if we had another way to keep a Ghostkeel alive or to keep a Riptide alive, then Drones start to become less appealing.

Getting this right is, of course, the issue here. Would more Wounds and higher toughness solve the problem? It’s possible, but many armies have ways of dealing a lot of damage to high-toughness targets that would negate a small increase in a model’s Wounds.

It’s a tricky one. I don’t know exactly how GW will make our key assets more tough in order to reduce reliance on Drones, but I would argue that it should happen. I think that Drones should remain a good option in the codex, but I want to see an army that moves away from taking dozens of Drones as the only competitive option.

There’s much more nuance in the video that that which I’ve discussed here, and if this article has peaked your interest and you haven’t checked Mike’s channel, I’d highly recommend doing so.

The T’au need a lot of work for 9th edition, and it’s great to see content creators like Invasive Wargaming get involved in the conversation with content like this.

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

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6 Responses to “Three Ways to Fix T’au”

  1. Avatar
    Kevin Lantz March 1, 2021 7:06 am #

    I’d actually like to see drones become cheaper myself, like gun drones lose savior protocol and markerlights and auxilaries become a thing they don’t trust (because of the warp thing in startide nexus)

    Farsight stratagem to fall back before d6 or more before a charge (old jump shoot jump basically)

    Alot of our cooler drones also need to be part of a unit, not an independent unit that’s easily removed (grav pulse drone/accelerator etc)

    I think also on the markerlight just letting it go back to a menu of options again, too many armies get static benefits from being in range of a captain/whatever and making us spend 100+points to maybe affect a single unit is ridiculous. Also markerlights should have sniper rules of being able to ignore look out sir.

  2. Avatar
    Paladin Wiggles March 1, 2021 11:14 am #

    Tau need a full redesign, personally I’m not against melee battlesuits (though it should be a weapon upgrade kit rather than a whole new battlesuit type, lord knows we have enough of those). And the heavy lifting of any melee fighting should be done by auxiliaries. (Kroot could definately use a range refresh with new Kroot Hounds and Krootox and maybe even something bigger). Some Kroot style vehicles could be great. I could see a weaponized dynasphere for example. (taking inspiration from the Kroot Warsphere)

    As for markerlights I think granting +X BS to core is nice but I think they should still affect non-core. Maybe to a lesser degree? (ie it takes 1 markerlight for +1 on core, it takes 2 markerlights for +1 on non-core). Also markerlights shouldn’t be heavy.

    For drones: Completely remove savior protocols and instead have them physically join the units they are bought with again allowing them to act as ablative wounds but you only get 2 per suit (so a 3 man crisis team might have 6 ablative wounds, while a commander only has 2). So now the most extra wounds a Riptide could sport would be 2 instead of 20+.

    (also either increase the speed of battlesuits or return jump-shoot-jump, which could be another way of granting us an ability to grab objectives, instead of actually charging into melee we can simply shoot them off then jump onto it, which would give another use for crisis & stealth suits)

    Anyways thats just my 2 cents

  3. Avatar
    Sir_Prometheus March 1, 2021 11:15 am #

    I’d ignore ignoring cover is a pretty good markerlight benefit, actually. It’s just that by the time you’re going for that, yes, you’re going for the full 5.

    Don’t count on auxiliaries. GW seems to be writing out auxiliaries in the fluff, and this will eventually be reflected in the tabletop. I doubt there will ever be any new auxiliary kits (there haven’t been any since Vespids came out, and that was like what, 15 years ago?), and I expect the current kits will eventually become legends.

  4. Avatar
    Donny March 1, 2021 3:02 pm #

    Increase all suits and vehicles toughness by 1 and Add a wound or two to suits.

    Make suits and hammerheads BS 3+

    Savior protocols on shield drones only – which must be attached to a unit like before and don’t count versus morale checks.

    Melee suits/fire-warriors unit with BS/WS reversed from “normal” stat line.

    Markerlights typically only hit on a 4+ (FW Sha’sui) or 5+ (ML Drone) so make them worth the points.

    My $.02

  5. Avatar
    David March 1, 2021 4:19 pm #

    I’m for a full redesign drones are a boring mechanic for your opponent your opponent wants to kill the thing their aiming at bit 70 other. Models. Shield drones shout buff the sv of their units

    Kroot are pretty solid infantry choices compared to other cheap infantry sure their not marines but if you make kroot solid melee you might make tau better you also make them more similar to other factions

    Markerlights are a bad mechanic they will always be too good or not good enough in the current format again making the middle options better buffs tau but it doesn’t make the faction more fun to play against

    The simplist fix is place codex in legends

    • Avatar
      Jace March 2, 2021 1:58 pm #

      Place codex in legends, do you mean delete the faction? 😀

      Or more place certain aspects in legends when redesigning (like your shield drone example) ?

      I think simple changes like that are solid, you could make a mark light a strict “improve ballistic skill of unit by 1” in the sake vein, although without fail people will whine that it’s boring with the reduction in complexity

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