A Respectable Finish with a Low-tier Faction

On the weekend of March 13-14, something rather interesting happened at the Clutch City GT down in Katy, Texas: a player finished a very respectable 7th place with a T’au Empire army.

Today I’m going to analyse the list in order to decipher just how this unusual occurrence might have come about.

But let me first credit the user named ConsciousX from the T’au channel on the excellent Tabletop Titans Discord server for providing the list.

Let’s get into it. We begin with a Vior’la Sept Patrol detachment. This Sept choice is interesting for one particular reason: it unlocks the T’au Empire’s only double-shoot stratagem, Hot-Blooded. For the cost of two Command Points, a Vior’la infantry unit may shoot twice, provided that the unit shoots at the closest enemy unit each time it does so. We’ll come back to this in a moment.

The HQ choice for this detachment is none other than Aun’shi himself. While Aun’shi offers little in the way of offensive abilities, his Failure is Not an Option ability coupled with his Vior’la-specific Warlord trait, Academy Luminary, grants him a 9″ aura in which friendly T’au Empire units may use his Leadership.

Note that this is not a Sept-locked ability, meaning that T’au units in the army that do not belong to the Vior’la Sept can still benefit from Aun’shi’s inspiring presence on the battlefield.

This leadership bubble is going to come in useful for many of the units that we find in this army list. While most T’au units auto-pass Morale tests on a 1 and a 6 thanks to the Bonding Knife special rule, a Leadership of 9 is nonetheless a very useful thing to have,

And as we get into the Troops for this detachment, we see why a 9″ Leadership bubble is so handy. We find two units of Breachers, each containing ten models. As well as the Pulse Blaster, each is armed with Photon Grenades and a Pulse Pistol.

As a T’au player who usually runs a maximum of three six- or seven-man Fire Warrior units, this is a particularly refreshing choice. It’s great to see a T’au player go heavy into infantry, and Breachers are a fantastic pick here.

Of course, a Breacher’s defensive profile isn’t going to cause opponents any concern, but their offensive profile is interesting. The Breacher’s weapon, the Pulse Blaster, gets more deadly the closer the target. At 10″, it’s a Strength 5, AP -1 weapon; at 5″, it’s a Strength 6 AP -2 weapon.

The player gets real style points here. And, more importantly, these Breachers will have earned actual points on the Primary, which is arguably just as valuable.

Let’s finish up the detachment before we discuss tactics. This Patrol contains another very cool choice: 14 Kroot Carnivores.

Everyone and their dog knows that the Kroot aren’t a particularly strong option, which is why I’m so impressed that the player decided to take a unit of 14. I would imagine that the 7″ pre-game move was the interesting option here. Kroot have very little to offer offensively and their defensive profile is dire, but a 7″ pre-game move does offer the T’au player some options.

If nothing else, this move might force an opponent to deal with a pesky Kroot squad far sooner than he would have liked. Granted, it doesn’t take much firepower to remove a unit of Kroot, but forcing the opponent to deal with an obsec unit is nothing to sniff at.

Finally, this detachment contains a Devilfish transport. The Devilfish has couple of uses in this list. First, it provides protection for a Breacher team, and second, it provides two Gun Drones.

The first item here is obvious enough. Either the Devilfish gets the Breachers to where they need to be — on an objective — then goes and makes a nuisance of itself, or it is destroyed before in can get the Breachers where they need to be, in which case at least the Breachers will have had some protection.

As for the second item. While Drones have become much too expensive to take in any significant quantity, a small unit of two Drones can still be a nuisance. Whether beep-booping up to an objective and hovering menacingly or advancing up the board to tag a table quarter for the Engage on all Fronts Secondary, a couple of Drones can be a useful little asset to a skilled T’au player.

Those are the units in the first detachment, and I think we can clearly see what the player is thinking with these choices. We’re playing the Primary, and we’re playing it well.

And that’s one of the intriguing aspects of this list. The T’au is notoriously poor at playing the Primary game in 9th edition, and yet, judging by the scores that the player posted in this GT, he managed to hold objectives and hold them well.

Lots of obsec models helps, of course. But Breachers and Kroot aren’t particularly tough at all. In theory, most factions have the tools to remove these models from the table relatively easily, but there’s clearly something else going on.

With that in mind, let’s continue on to the next detachment: a Farsight Enclaves Vanguard.

And we begin with a very interesting choice in the HQ slot. We have a Coldstar Battlesuit, which is perfectly normal in most T’au lists, but this Coldstar doesn’t have any guns.

Instead we find a Drone Controller, the Puretide Engram Neurochip, and a Shield Generator, in addition to a couple of Marker Drones.

This one really made me look twice. T’au Commanders are the main damage dealers in the codex, aren’t they? These boys hit on 2s and have access to a wide variety of deadly weaponry. Why would someone take a Commander without any weapons?

The answer is simple: the Command and Control Node stratagem. For the cost of one CP and the Commander’s Shooting phase, the T’au player may choose one Battlesuit unit within 6″ of the Commander. This unit can reroll Wound rolls in the Shooting phase.

The C&C Node is a useful stratagem. There’s no doubt about that. But is it enough to warrant sacrificing all of the Commander’s output? I’m quite sceptical of this point, but let’s continue on through the list in order to find something that makes the trade-off worth it.

Next, we have two more ten-man Breacher teams. This gives the player a total of 40 Breachers in this army. Again, I think this is a great selection, and clearly the player was able to do some work with pure numbers here.

But let’s briefly consider what those Breachers can do at close range. I mentioned the profile of the Pulse Blaster above, and recall that the faction can Overwatch for free, meaning that whenever his opponent charges into the Breachers that are up on the objectives, there’s a good chance that some of the charging models are slain on the way in.

What’s more, remember the stratagem that I mentioned near the beginning of this article. Hot-Blooded allows Vior’la infantry to shoot twice. If these Breachers are up close to the enemy and each model has four shots in total — the Pulse Blaster is an Assault 2 weapon — we’re going to see some damage.

And that’s not all of it. There’s another very handy stratagem that makes Breachers yet more deadly at close range: Point-Blank Volley. For the cost of one CP, a Fire Warrior unit may count any non-Pistol weapons as Pistols for the duration of the phase. This means that each Breacher in the unit may fire both its Pulse Pistol and its Pulse Blaster — recall that a model may fire all Pistol weapons — when it is in Engagement Range.

Each Breacher, then, shoots with one Strength 5, AP 0 shot and two Strength 6, AP -2 shots. That is nothing to sniff at — especially if the opponent didn’t know that is was coming.

But there’s icing on the cake. The Point-Blank Volley stratagem lasts for the duration of the phase, meaning that the T’au player can use the Hot-Blooded stratagem to allow the Breacher unit to shoot twice while in Engagement Range.

I’m starting to like the sound of this list.

On to the Elites slot. And here we find some options that at least slightly more conventional.

First of all, we have a Riptide armed with the Amplified Ion Accelerator. This Prototype Weapon System was introduced in the T’au Psychic Awakening supplement, The Greater Good, and is a popular choice for T’au players who want a break from the classic Heavy Burst Cannon.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the quick version: it’s overcharge profile is a Heavy 6, Strength 9, AP -4, Damage D3 +3 weapon. Against targets without an invulnerable save, this thing is likely to do some work.

And what’s more, the player takes a Velocity Tracker on the Riptide, granting +1 to hit against targets with the Fly keyword, making those six shots all the more likely to hit some of the more elusive targets in the game.

We also find a Counterfire Defensive System on the Riptide, which, considering that I’ve been discussing the merits of the T’au at danger-close range, is another excellent choice. The CDS allows the T’au player to reroll hit rolls in Overwatch. Granted, this isn’t a T’au Sept Riptide, so it only hits on 6s in Overwatch, but those rerolls will come in handy every now and then.

Next we find two three-man Stealth Teams, each taking one Marker Drone and one Shield Drone along for the ride. I do have soft spot for Stealths. The ability to deploy up the board is always useful, and with a respectable defensive profile — Toughness 4, -1 to hit, and 2 Wounds — they’re not always particularly easy to remove.

In the fourth Elite slot we find a Ghostkeel armed with two Flamers, a Cyclic Ion Raker, and a Shield Generator. Again, the Ghostkeel can be quite tricky to remove when armed with a Shield Generator. Don’t get me wrong: most armies have the tools to do it, but it might just take a little more doing than one would expect.

I could see the player using this mini stealth Cadre in a relatively aggressive fashion. Deploying these models on an objective, for example, forces the opponent to deal with them, and these Battlesuits can be quite tricky to remove. As I said, most factions can do it, but it takes resources that are not pointed at, say, the Breachers that are quickly advancing to take those mid-board objectives.

Moving on to the Fast Attack selections, we first find a five-man unit of Pathfinders accompanied by a Recon Drone and two Marker Drones. Again we find a unit that can make a pre-game move, and while Pathfinders are very easy to remove — Toughness 3 and a 5+ Save — we’re forcing the opponent to deal with models advancing up the board turn one.

What’s more, that Recon Drone has a couple of Wounds and Toughness 4, meaning that it too can be nuisance.

Let’s move on to the second Fast Attack choice. Here we find an Y’vahra Battlesuit. The Y’vahra is a great choice that complements this particular T’au army very well. It’s quick, which means that it can be into the mid-board quickly, threatening the opponent’s key units.

The player also takes it with an Early Warning Override, which allows the Y’vahra to shoot at enemy units that come in from Strategic Reserves if these units arrive within 12″ of the Y’vahra. Granted, these shots must be resolved at -1 to hit, but when one of your guns is a Phased Plasma Flamer that hits automatically, this isn’t much of a concern.

Not only is this Battlesuit thundering around the mid-board with a couple of very powerful weapons, if an enemy deepstrikes onto the battlefield within 12″, it’s going to feel the heat.

Let’s return to the Coldstar that I mentioned earlier. It’s here that we can see the utility of taking a Commander that doesn’t shoot but instead buffs other Battlesuits. Both the Y’vahra and the Riptide will benefit greatly from rerolling Wounds, and Coldstar is quick enough to be able to get where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

For my money, the player gets style points for taking a Commander that doesn’t shoot but still does the business. It’s a very cool choice.

Finally, we round off the list with another Devilfish, meaning that half of the list’s 40 Breachers will begin the game mounted in a transport. For a list that wants to be up onto the mid-board quickly, this is another solid selection.

And that’s that. Put simply, I’m very impressed with this list. the player clearly knows what he’s doing in 9th edition and has built a T’au list that does the business.

I’ve written many articles over the last few months discussing how Games Workshop can improve T’au in an edition that really doesn’t favour the faction, but I think that I’ve been overstating the case perhaps just a little.

Look, this is not to say the the T’au is all of a sudden a great faction and that the problems have all disappeared. It’s not and they haven’t. But the faction clearly has more play than I was giving it credit for. It’s still near the bottom of the power curve, but there’s something to be found here for players who want to find it.

I want to give a whole lot of credit to the player, then, for demonstrating that with a little bit digging in the codex and a lot of skill on the tabletop, the T’au can do some work in 9th edition.

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



About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.
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Kevin Lantz
Kevin Lantz
1 year ago

Glad to see a write up and critique about this, but perhaps list the army list in a regular bullet fashion for readers so we’re not mentally writing the list but can just look at it?

1 year ago

1. it’s really bad for tau if it’s news when a top tier player comes in 7th in a random GT with tau
2. maybe im crazy but texas should not be having 40K tournaments period covid is not over
3. this might be the worst list writeup ive ever seen. you didnt even post the army list. next time just post the list. you dont need to rewrite the units’ datasheets in your own words

1 year ago

OK, let’s start with the fact that you missed the biggest reason to take a Yavahra: It can fall back and shoot.

You keep putting out these articles saying how tau can’t compete, but they can – you just have to rethink things. They might not be top-tier, but they are still very effective provided you put in the time to figure it out a new way to play instead of just complaining all the time and not understanding the things you’re writing about.

Check out this article by Vanguard tactics:

1 year ago

It’s basically the same list I was playing around with (sans kroot, more breachers)

But please, just do a bullet pointed list, not in paragraph format.

1 year ago

This person’s performance should be taken with a huge grain of salt. The person who ran this list was disqualified from the tournament retroactively because they had confirmed played rules incorrectly and or cheated. I had high hopes when I saw a tau list that performed well. Then I found out who was piloting the list and it raised suspicion. And then my suspicions were later confirmed. Tournament performance is invalid due to cheating and the author of this post should remove this post or edit it heavily.

1 year ago
Reply to  Greatergouda

Oof that’s a bummer. Do you have a link for more details on the misplays/cheating?

1 year ago

Hey, this is ConsciousX from the TTT discord server. Just as a disclaimer, I am not the genius of this list, nor its commander for the Texas GT. Unfortunately I don’t have his name either, as the list was shown to me by a friend who got it from a friend and so on, shortly after the tournament had ended. However, I am still glad to see an article and more notoriety surrounding this. There is yet hope for the Tau’va, and I have taken some inspiration from this list and incorporated it into my own. Sorry for any confusion however, I just don’t want any false credit.

1 year ago


1 year ago

The army balance so bad it’s a headline one makes 7th is such a sorry state for the game it should be an onion article. I love the new gw minis, I really want to give them a shot but how it’s even possible to get to a point like this is utterly beyond me. And yet I’ll hear the game is in a good place and once again I can only think of spouses with black eyes saying “he’s a good guy, he’s just having a hard time”

1 year ago
Reply to  AngryPanda

This is my relationship with 40k in a nutshell. Not only is my chosen army non-competitive (and has been for years b/c I refused to stoop to commander and riptide spam) but I can’t even play it the way I want to (monat crisis wing with JSJ was the high point of Tau for me).

I would love to have and play an Elysium Drop Troop army, or an Ork Kommando army. But I don’t want to invest the time and money because I feel like at any arbitrary point in time, GW could nerf or remove the rules that make those lists possible. Or they could introduce some broken space marine unit that makes my list non-competitive.

I want to trust GW, but I only see a future with more black eyes.

1 year ago
Reply to  Matt

So… the army was “bad” because you refused to use the good units? You’re sad because you can’t play them “the way you want to” even though they haven’t had that since several editions ago? And you don’t want to get a different army?

… these all sound like “you” problems lol. Can’t blame GW because you don’t want to change your list/style!

1 year ago
Reply to  Shas’O

Well, yes. People might refuse to play space marine, SHOCKING SURPRISE.

And people play to have at least a chance to win, SHOCKING SURPRISE TOO !

Shas’o, you seem quite out of touch. It is completely a GW problem to have a very low regard for balance. Perfect balance isn’t doable, but having entire armies “only for fun and losing” is a real problem. As is blatantly favoring some factions.

1 year ago
Reply to  Ohlmann

Who said anything about playing space marines? 🤣

He said he refused to use commanders and riptides all last edition, which last time I checked were Tau units (not marines) that gave a VERY good chance to win back then.

No matter how well balanced the game is, some units will always have an edge. How can refusing to use them be GWs fault?

1 year ago
Reply to  Shas’O

I did use (1) riptide and (1-2) commanders. Because that’s what I thought was reasonable. What’s not reasonable is having to take the max allotment of riptides and commanders because it’s the only competitive build available.

Also “several” is not less than two editions ago 🤣

That aside, you’ve completely missed my point. My point is that a well written and balance game is one which provides a number of (viable) paths to victory, and allows the player to choose the one they enjoy the most.

A poorly balanced game is what we have – where the viability of any given faction or build changes on the arbitrary whims of the designer. Thereby leading to situations where players can’t play the way they want to, and are disincentivized from investing in a new faction or build because the way that build works may break at a moments notice.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x