Today we look at one of the named Ethereals from the Tau codex, Aun’shi. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Aun’shi is a unique version of the Ethereal, overall quite similar but with a few additional abilities thrown in. His basic numbers are slightly upgraded over an Ethereal- 6″ movement is the same as his counterpart gets base, as is ballistic skill 4+. He has an improved weapon skill of 2+, although his strength and toughness are standard for Tau models. He comes with additional wound (for a total of five) and two extra attacks (also putting his total at five) over a normal Ethereal, and a standard leadership of nine. Aun’shi costs 55pts, the same as a standard Ethereal.
Special Rules and Wargear
Aun’shi comes with all of the standard rules for an Ethereal. Failure is Not an Option allows nearby units to use his leadership value, while Invocation of the Elements grants an aura to nearby infantry and battlesuits that gives one of four benefits, which can be changed each turn. In addition to these two standard abilities, Aun’shi also has the Blademaster rule, which allows him to choose one benefit at the start of each Fight phase- either his attacks become AP-2, or he can reroll failed invulnerable saves.
Aun’shi comes equipped with a Shield Generator, giving him a 4+ invulnerable save, and an Honor Blade (S+2 AP0 Dmg1). He cannot take any drones or other upgrades.
Although Aun’shi costs the same as a standard Ethereal and has the same abilities as one (plus some), he can only really be considered a downgrade from them despite all of this. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, it comes down to a fairly simple issue.
The additional abilities Aun’shi has are largely irrelevant; offensively, a handful of S5 AP-2 attacks are unlikely to scare anyone, killing perhaps a single Primaris marine if you are lucky and presenting no real threat at all to an enemy character. Defensively, a rerollable 4++ is inconvenient, but not enough so that it will actually delay any kind of real combat unit for long. In neither case is Aun’shi good enough to actually make a significant impact on the battlefield.
But more problematically, Aun’shi lacks the ability to take a Hover Drone, which denies him the added movement and Fly keyword that a normal Ethereal has access to; this means he can easily be trapped in combat or blocked off by enemy units, and he will struggle more to keep up with Tau forces as they advance.
However, the most damning quality of all is his allegiance- Aun’shi is locked into the Vior’la sept. While Vior’la certainly does have some advantages in tricks it can pull, it is broadly inferior to Farsight Enclaves and other options in terms of list construction and it has very little use for Ethereals as a whole. You will virtually never want an Ethereal in your Vior’la army, and even if you do you are unlikely to want one that is slower and less mobile than a normal Ethereal regardless of what else they may have going for them.
An Ethereal’s purpose is to support the rest of the army, and their value is based on their ability to do so. Although Aun’shi has some advantages over an Ethereal, they are in ways and to degrees that simply are not relevant to the game at all, whereas his disadvantages will come up reasonably often. It is thus that despite being strictly better than an Ethereal, he is actually a downgrade in virtually all cases. He represents perhaps the nadir of design in the Tau codex, burdened by a poor concept, serving a role that brings nothing to the table, and with rules that don’t even make him good at what he does.
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