Today we look at the Tau’s second-largest flyer, the Tiger Shark. Click to read on or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Tiger Shark is the just-shy-of-superheavy flyer for the Tau army. Its movement is standard for a flyer, starting at 20″-65″ and degrading from there. Ballistic skill 4+ is unfortunately a significant nerf from previous iterations, though toughness eight and eighteen wounds are at least nice. Weapon skill 6+, strength seven, and leadership eight are all exactly as meaningless as you’d expect them to be on a flyer. Finally, a 3+ armor save gives it an okay-ish defensive statline overall; unfortunately, at 375 points it is far, far too expensive to actually see any kind of real usage.
Special Rules and Wargear
Most of the Tiger Shark’s special rules are the ones you would think it would have- Airborne prevents non-flying units from fighting it, Hard to Hit gives -1 for shooting attacks against it, and Supersonic forces it to move in straight lines like most other flyers. Its version of Explodes is slightly different from others, doing d6 mortal wounds on a 6 with a 9″ radius. The only other special rule the unit has to its name is Dispersion Field, which gives it a 5+ invulnerable save- a nice bonus for such a large target, but not one that is enough to save it.
As a hybrid gunship, the Tiger Shark carries a pair of main guns in the nose; by default, these are Ion Cannons (60″ S7 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy 3), the same one carried by the Hammerhead tank. As is standard, they can overcharge for +1Str, +1Dmg, and d6 shots, but at the cost of potential mortal wounds. The Tiger Shark can also swap these out for either a pair of Swiftstrike Burst Cannons (36″ S6 AP-1 Dmg1 Heavy 12) for 70pts or a pair of Swiftstrike Railguns (48″ S10 AP-4 DmgD3+3, mortals on 6s) for 100pts. However, as with most such platforms, the Ion is pretty easily the best weapon of the bunch.
The Tiger Shark is also armed with a pair of Burst Cannons (18″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Assault 4) and a pair of Missile Pods (36″ S7 AP-1 DmgD3 Assault 2), giving it quite an array of weapons to point at various targets. It can also take up to six Seeker Missiles (S8 AP-2 DmgD6 Heavy 1, needs markerlights to fire) at 5pts each, allowing it to go all in on an alpha strike plan.
Unusually, the Tiger Shark can also transport up to fourteen Drones, although to what end I’m quite honestly not really certain. The more attractive option is to instead swap the drone bays out for a pair of Skyspear Missile Racks (72″ S6 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy d6) to give it even more flexible firepower- and best of all, they’re free.
Note that the Tiger Shark AX-1-0 variant also exists- though technically a different unit, it is so nearly identical that we can roll it in here. It is identical in profile to the normal Tiger Shark and carries nearly the same armament, but replaces the drone bay and main weapons with a single Heavy Rail Cannon (72″ S14 AP-5 DmgD3+6, Heavy 2, 6s cause d3 mortal wounds.) At 450pts, it’s even more expensive than the already-expensive Tiger Shark- though amusingly it is actually cheaper than the Swiftstrike Railgun variant despite having a superior main weapon.
The Tiger Shark is supposed to be a sort of aerial gunship in either form, bringing a variety of heavy weapons to bear on enemy targets with excellent speed and reasonable protection. Unfortunately, given its high price tag and the nature of 9th Edition, it struggles to do any of these things well- and this is especially true with its nerfed statline.
The fundamental problem for the unit is very simple- it has ballistic skill 4+ on a 400pt model. That’s absolutely backbreaking in terms of output, and a far cry from the BS2+ that it had in the past and which made it a fairly frightening aerial platform. While, yes, you can use Markerlights or other shenanigans to improve its accuracy somewhat, that is throwing good points after bad- the Tiger Shark is just a very, very inefficient unit at its most basic level and there’s not a lot that can be done about that.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that aircraft don’t really have a good place in 9th edition. While some factions (e.g. AdMech) can get away with them by virtue of being incredibly efficient, the Tiger Shark absolutely does not meet this standard even in comparison to other Tau units, which is a low bar to measure to already. The lackluster profiles on virtually all of the main weapons are a huge downside- the Burst Cannon doing only one damage is devastating in a world of Primaris marines, not to mention its poor AP value, and the Railgun’s low number of shots combined with the plethora of Transhuman effects and invulnerable saves mean that your odds of killing most targets are horrifyingly low.
Now add in the Tiger Shark’s own vulnerability to being shot down and you’re looking at some real trouble; T8 and a 5++ are both nice, but that’s just a basic Knight’s defensive profile, and most armies can kill one or two of those each turn- especially since the Tiger Shark can’t Rotate and only has 3/4 the wounds of a Knight. It’s very, very easy pickings for anything that wants to go after it and its large size and aircraft keyword mean that it will always be visible and shootable to the enemy, regardless of where it is on the table. If you’ve never actually seen a Tiger Shark, you probably don’t realize just how big it is- a foot and a half across from wingtip to wingtip.
While the Tiger Shark has never been a truly exceptional choice, its brief moment in the sun was brought crashing down pretty hard by the Forge World updates, leaving it little more than a display piece anymore- like most large resin units, unfortunately. With no further updates on the horizon, it is likely to remain firmly in the “does nothing don’t worry” pile of units for the foreseeable future. Which is sad, because it is actually a pretty cool model with a surprising amount of articulation and detail.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.