9E Tau Codex Review: HQs- Commander in XV8 Crisis

Today we look at the premiere HQ choice for the Tau codex, the first of the Commanders. Click to read on or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.


The Crisis Commander, as the most “basic” of the three codex Commander variants, starts off with a statline of pretty much what you would expect from an HQ version of a Crisis suit. Movement 10″ makes them fairly speedy on the table, while weapon skill 3+ and ballistic skill 2+ means they have some serious offensive output. Strength and toughness five give a good baseline for interacting with weapons and six wounds is a touch above average for HQ units in the game in general. Four attacks and leadership ten are both surprising standouts in the profile, and 3+ armor is perfectly acceptable. Coming in at 90pts base the Crisis Commander is an excellent deal for the statline and abilities you get and it is only the very rarest of Tau armies that won’t include at least one type of Commander or another. Note that only one Commander can be included per detachment in an army.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Commander comes with a huge swathe of useful abilities, some innate and some from its gear. At the most basic level it follows all of the normal battlesuit rules, allowing it to shoot in combat and so on, and also can go into reserve for free via Manta Strike. The old Master of War ability has also been replaced, and now functions as a static 6″ aura that allows friendly Core units to reroll results of 1 to hit- note that this works in both shooting and melee, should you be unfortunate enough to get stuck in.

The Crisis Commander’s unique ability that distinguishes it from the other two variants is Tactical Acumen, which lets you pick one Crisis unit in your command phase and give them two significant benefits: they can shoot and/or charge after falling back, and they can ignore all negative modifiers when shooting. Being able to fall back and act normally is strong enough on its own, but also being able to ignore modifiers is a fantastic way to stop enemy shenanigans as well as bypass Dense Cover, one of the banes of any Tau army.

In terms of gear a Crisis Commander can equip up to four weapons or support systems in any combination, although unlike the Coldstar they do not get any for “free” without using up one of these four slots. As a result, it is usually best to give the Commander four weapon systems in order to maximize their firepower and make good use of their high ballistic skill, although this is not absolutely mandatory. The escalating cost of taking more than one of the same weapon means that generally be unattractive as choices, although this isn’t absolute- certainly taking a pair of some weapons is fairly common in order to keep the unit firmly within a single role, so the choice will have to be made case-by-case.

The weapon loadouts for XV8 suits will be discussed in more detail in the article on Crisis suits, but we can give a general rundown of it here. There are seven weapons that a Commander can equip, as follows:

  • Airbursting Fragmentation Projector (24″ S4 AP-1 Dmg1 Assault d6 ignores LOS)
  • Burst Cannon (18″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Assault 6)
  • Cyclic Ion Blaster (18″ S7 AP-2 Dmg1 Assault 3, can overcharge for +1 Str/Dmg and 1s cause mortals)
  • Fusion Blaster (18″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Assault 1, melta)
  • Missile Pod (30″ S7 AP-2 Dmg2 Assault 2)
  • Plasma Rifle (30″ S8 AP-4 Dmg3 Assault 1)
  • T’au Flamer (12″ S4 AP0 Dmg1 Assault d6 hits automatically)

Commanders can also choose from the list of support systems, with the only notable choice being the Shield Generator (4+ invulnerable save.) Note that they cannot take the Drone Controller anymore, but do still have access to Iridium Armor (2+ save), which can be considered a mandatory upgrade due to its price. Commanders can take up to two Drones, in any combination of Shield, Gun, and Marker.


A Crisis Commander serves two purposes in a Tau army- first, it is a force multiplier, giving all-important rerolls to the rest of your army in order to maximize your firepower from these units. Given that Markerlights no longer provide this benefit- indeed, it is almost impossible to get it from any other source- this makes the Commander a vital part of any Tau strategy, as they can keep up with the main body of the firepower while providing support.

However, unlike many HQs that provide auras, a Commander is more than just a source of buffs- they are themselves a very strong firepower piece due to their high ballistic skill and ability to equip powerful weapons. This makes them even better-suited to escorting other shooting units, because they can provide supporting fire to finish off wounded foes or hit secondary targets where the opportunity arises, increasing the flexibility and lethality of your shooting teams. They also can act as a natural counter to enemies that rely on -1 hit penalties or reroll denial in order to shield themselves from your shooting- even with either or both of these applied, a Commander can be a fairly consistent way to apply damage to targets, especially depending on their loadout.

However, in considering a Commander one also has to consider the other options- namely, why would you take a Crisis Commander over a Coldstar or Enforcer? Both the Coldstar and Enforcer come with much better-defined roles than the Crisis does, with the Enforcer being incredibly resistant to damage (especially when given relics) and the Coldstar having fantastic mobility both in general and in the one-time cases. Since both of these units can do pretty much anything a Crisis can do, why would you ever prefer them?

The answer largely comes in flexibility. The Coldstar and Enforcer are both specialized frames, and come with disadvantages of their own- the Enforcer is slower and may not always be able to keep up with units to the degree that you would like, whereas the Coldstar cannot equip the Cyclic Ion Blaster nor Iridium Armor, leaving it both more fragile and with less firepower than the Crisis can wield. For all of the strengths of these two Commander variants, they also come with weaknesses as well, and by taking a Crisis Commander you can walk the middle path- not too slow, not too fragile, just right.

This flexibility is reinforced by the Crisis Commander’s unique ability, Tactical Acumen. Each of the three Commanders has its own similar ability that can only be applied to Crisis suits, and the Crisis version is probably the most generally-useful of them; it may not be applicable every turn, but none of the three are likely to be and I think the Crisis one has the broadest application because it is secretly two different abilities stapled together. Being able to ignore all modifiers and penalties and fall back while still acting normally is huge, as it shuts down two of the major ways that enemies can try and fight the Tau- by denying them their shooting, either via making it ineffective or not letting them shoot the targets they want. A Crisis Commander says “no, I will get to play my game no matter what” and there is very little your opponents can do about it if you are smart about keeping the Commander alive, and with the Tau being so good at their core game plan this edition that is a very powerful tool to have in your arsenal.

We should also note here that two of the Tau subfactions particularly benefit Commanders, which is part of the reason that they are so popular. Farsight Enclaves has a direct and explicit benefit- you can take two Commanders per detachment rather than just one. With Ethereals being off-limits for them, this is a pretty huge edge to have and can contribute to Farsight having some absolutely tremendous firepower outputs from their lists. Tau Sept, on the other hand, has a somewhat more subtle benefit- it expands the range of all auras and command abilities by 3″. That may not sound like a lot, but bringing a 6″ aura to 9″ more than doubles the area that it covers- which means even with just one or two Commanders, a Tau Sept army can easily keep all of its relevant units inside the reroll bubbles.

Final Thoughts

Commanders have always been a mainstay of Tau armies ever since the faction was first created, and this edition is no different- it’s almost unheard-of to see an army without at least one and sometimes as many as four in it. But for all of that, I don’t think that the Commander is particularly undercosted or overtuned as a unit; they are effective, but generally feel pretty fair when played on the table, as they are by no means cheap when fully-equipped and can absolutely be neutralized by many of the tools that armies have in their arsenal. A Crisis Commander simply does what they do quite effectively and syncs up well with the general Tau army strategy without being completely over-the-top or absurdly piled with rules, and I think it is a good template for where they should try to point things in general.

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.


About abusepuppy

I was there, reader- I was there three editions ago. When Games Workshop released the Ynnari. When the strength of men failed.
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Namon Allen
Namon Allen
1 month ago

That picture is of an enforcer

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