9th edition 40k is a deadly game. Every codex that has been released so far in 9th has made the game more deadly, with each book upgrading existing units to be all the potent and providing the tools that players need to get these units where they need to be in order to do the business.
It’s not all surprising, then, that many of the factions that have yet to received a new codex are really starting to fall behind.
And it will surprise no one to learn that the T’au Empire is one of the hardest-hit factions in this regard. Indeed, the T’au is probably the faction worst affected by the changes that 9th edition brought to the game, but I’ve talked about those issues enough in previous articles.
In this article, then, I want to discuss how Games Workshop could improve a classic T’au weapon: the Burst Cannon.
For all intents and purposes, the Burst Cannon is a Gatling gun. It’s a Gatling gun that fires blue-ish pulses of energy at a high rate. Purely in this regard, it’s a very cool weapon.
But not so much on the tabletop. In fact, the Burst Cannon is quite underwhelming. It’s a range 18″, Assault 4 weapon with a Strength of 5, no AP, and Damage 1. As I said, it’s underwhelming.
When paired with a near army-wide Ballistic Skill of 4, these weapons really don’t cut the mustard.
The Burst Cannon is the standard armament across a variety of T’au models, including the Stealth Suit, the Devilfish, and the Piranha, and players may choose to equip it to yet more. They seldom do.
It’s a real shame. The Burst Cannon is a cool weapon, and it’s been with the faction since the first codex was released 20 years ago.
How, then, could we improve it? What would a Burst Cannon fit for the 9th edition meta look like?
Actually, I think it’d be a pretty simple job. Make it Assault 6. Give it AP -1.
Well, that’s that. Thanks for reading.
Just kidding. Let’s take it one at a time. Should the Burst Cannon be Assault 6? Should it get 50 percent more shots? Put simply, I see no reason why it shouldn’t. It wouldn’t actually make the Burst Cannon that good. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an improvement, and it would be welcome. But it wouldn’t break the game.
And what about the AP? Should the Burst Cannon get AP -1 built into the profile of the weapon? Again, I don’t think that it would break the game.
We’re playing in a meta in which Drukhari can walk up to almost anything in the game and slice it to bits with three or four different units, all of which are very reasonably priced.
We’re playing in a meta in which Space Marine Plasma Inceptors can drop down and take a serious chunk out of most units in the game.
We’re playing in a meta in which Kastelan Robots can absolutely shred anything that their opponent is foolish enough to leave in their line of sight.
All right, that last one might change when the Admech codex comes out in the next few weeks, but you get the idea. 9th edition is deadly.
And three Stealth Suits can have 18 shots? They’ll only hit nine times. If they’re shooting at Space Marines, they’ll score six Wounds. Of those six Wounds, three Saves will be failed, resulting in three points of Damage.
Or, to put it another way, those three Stealth Suits with this cool new Burst Cannon profile still only kill one Space Marine Intercessor. Of course, another will have taken one point of Damage, but he’s still alive.
What about the Devilfish that is armed with one Burst Cannon? Or the Piranha that is armed with one Burst Cannon? If we’re still shooting at Space Marines, the math is pretty simple. We hit three times. We score two Wounds. Our Space Marine Opponent fails one Save.
Or, to put it another way, we don’t even kill one Space Marine Intercessor.
Granted, I’m being a little hyperbolic here. That Devilfish and that Piranha have two Gun Drones to shoot, so they’re likely to at least pick up one Marine, but that’s not really my point. These two units are not designed to slay Marines.
And nor are Stealth Suits. Would it be nice if the Stealth Suits were more deadly against Marines? Absolutely. But, considering the other benefits that T’au players get from Stealth Suits, 18 shots that, on average dice, score three points of Damage to a Space Marine unit is probably about right.
One of the many problems with the faction at the moment is that the damage output is concentrated. That is to say that there are only a few units in the codex that can really do work. Commanders can still shoot. Broadsides can still shoot. Veteran Cadre Crisis Suits can still shoot. You get the idea.
But most other units in the codex really don’t offer much at all. Fire Warriors at range are poor. Stealth Suits, with the current iteration of the Burst Cannon, do very little. The Devilfish has very little offensive capability. The Piranha has very little offensive capability. You get the idea.
One of the things that makes a strong army in 9th edition is depth. The top-tier factions have tools right across the list.
Let’s return to the Drukhari. Not only do these murderous space elves have some of the deadliest combat units in the game, but there is strength in depth right down the list. Those Raiders, for example, will likely be armed with a Dark Lance, an absolutely vicious weapon. Reavers and Hellions are hyper-quick, tough, and can do far more in combat that they have the right to. Scourges are a fantastic utility pick, with strong weapon options and the ability to perform actions wherever you need them.
Can you tell I’ve been thinking about Drukhari recently?
But in all seriousness, the Drukhari has depth. There is power, threat, and utility across the army.
The same cannot be said for the T’au, but this new Burst Cannon profile would go some way to solving that problem. It wouldn’t go the whole way, but would be a step in the right direction at least.
Finally, there are a lot of different ways that the codex could further increase the power of the weapon. If the Advanced Targeting System remains the same, for example, making it AP -2 would be a very interesting option. At that point, it’s really going to do some work on the right platform.
Indeed, a Commander armed with three Burst Cannons and an ATS would be a horde clearing machine. However, he would only pick up three or four Marines.
And while three or four Marines isn’t nothing, I think that a T’au Commander should be as deadly in the Shooting phase as some of the best melee characters are in combat. Granted, it’s slightly easier to shoot than it is to fight — you’ve actually got to get there — but most armies have effective means of getting their combat threats up the board reliably. A T’au Commander should be absolutely ruthless in the Shooting phase, but that’s another article for another time.
As with any speculation about an upcoming faction, we don’t know how different the army will look, so it’s very tricky to predict how these classic weapons will play. We do know, however, that the faction needs a ground-up rewrite, and with any luck the humble Burst Cannon will get a fresh coat of paint.
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