9E Tau Codex Review: HQs- Longstrike

Today we look at the last of the Tau HQ units, Longstrike. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

Longstrike has the most unique profile of the Tau HQs, being based as he is on the Hammerhead chassis, though with some notable improvements. Movement 12″ (degrading to 8″/4″ as he is wounded) gives him a healthy ability to move around the battlefield, especially with Fly. Weapon skill 6+ and three attacks (also degrading, pointlessly) mean he is abysmal in close combat, but this is to be expected from a tank. On the other hand, ballistic skill 3+ is excellent, especially combined with other features, and while it does degrade down to 4+/5+ as he is injured, there are ways around this. Strength six is mostly meaningless, but toughness seven does off a solid level of protection. Fourteen wounds and a 3+ save back this up, and while neither are exceptional, they do mean that the unit is mostly only threatened by heavier classes of weapons. At 160pts Longstrike is definitely expensive, but given the price tag on most Tau HQs he is not unreasonably so.

Special Rules and Wargear

Longstrike comes with a number of special rules, most of which offer significant upgrades over a standard Hammerhead. He does, of course, have the basic rules inherent to the chassis- Hover Tank means you measure to the hull, Drone Dock governs the use of his Gun Drones if he is equipped with them, and Explodes has a chance of doing mortal wounds to any nearby models when he perishes. Like a standard Hammerhead, he also has Targeting Array, allowing him to reroll one hit roll each round, which is especially nice given his typical loadout.

Beyond that, Longstrike also comes with Gunship Ace, which gives him +1 to wound against monsters and vehicles that he shoots- this is fantastic, as it means he will almost always be wounding on 2s even against Knights and other tough targets. In addition, he also has the XV02 Pilot Battlesuit rule, which lets him choose one nearby Core or Hammerhead unit, and that unit counts all their targets as having an extra markerlight on them for the turn- very handy if you are splitting fire with a big Crisis squad, but also just generally nice to have as a free markerlight that is guaranteed to work.

Longstrike starts armed with a Railgun (72″ S14 AP-6 DmgD3+6 Heavy 1, no invulns, successful wounds cause 3 mortals also), which has one of the most comically-strong profiles of any weapon in the game, bar number of shots. It can be exchanged for an Ion Cannon (60″ S7 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy 3d3), which can be overcharged to improve its strength and damage by one each but also risking mortal wounds on any hit rolls of 1. Although the Ion has some advantages, the sheer reliability of the Railgun by virtue of punching through all defenses makes it invaluable, especially since Longstrike makes it almost guaranteed to wound as well.

For secondary armament, Longstrike starts with two Gun Drones (each with their normal complement of two Pulse Carbines), but you will generally want to upgrade this to either a pair of Accelerator Burst Cannons (18″ S6 AP-1 Dmg1 Assault 8) or a pair of Smart Missile Systems (30″ S5 AP-1 Dmg1 Heavy 4, ignore LOS and cover). The Accelerator is a bit more aggressive and hard-hitting, but the value of ignoring line of sight is invaluable, so the SMS tends to be slightly favored overall. He can also take up to two Seeker Missiles (72″ S9 AP-3 Dmg2d3 one use) if you want to maximize his alpha strike.

Hammerhead #1

Uses

Although he does come with some additional utility from his XV02 and warlord trait (Through Boldness, Victory), the real point of Longstrike is basically just to be a Hammerhead++. Obviously he is based entirely on the chassis, so comparing them is a natural start, but it really does boil down to Longstrike being a Hammerhead that is just better at its job. The extra point of ballistic skill means that he will land hits more often (on a 2+ even, if you can get him a markerlight from somewhere else) and the bonus to wound means that he will turns those hits into damage more often. He does what a Hammerhead does, but he does it better for a higher price tag. Easy.

So what, exactly, is that? Well, when you see a solo model on the field that you want deleted… Longstrike does that. Airplane, tank, monster, battlesuit, anything he can legally shoot at, he will ruin. He’s not quite strong enough to delete a Knight in one shot by himself… but he also isn’t that far off, either, if you are counting his Seeker Missiles and secondary armament. He’ll kill pretty much anything with 10W or less outright and even 11-15W targets are well within striking distance for him- which is to say, most things you see in the game these days. And while he may not be at his best against smaller targets (e.g. Terminators), he can still take down a pair of them very, very reliably, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Remember, not only does he have access to a reroll from his Targeting Array, but he will also have the reroll from Tau Sept as well on either hit or wound, meaning that on a target with a markerlight Longstrike is going to hit on a 2+, wound on a 2+, and have the option for a reroll on both of them- this pushes the odds of failure down to less than 5%, which are about as good of odds as you’re likely to see in this game.

Just as importantly, Longstrike is mobile enough to stay hidden behind a piece of terrain and threaten to annihilate something if it comes into view. This ability to threaten a wide swathe of the board is critical- while he can no longer abuse the Bodyguard rule to protect himself (and let’s be honest, he pretty clearly was never intended to be able to), he absolutely can tell the opponent “any model you put into this section of the table is going to die on my turn, and there’s essentially nothing you can do about it.” This is how Tau project threat despite not having a melee presence; they take advantage of firing lanes to “occupy” sections of board despite not having a physical presence there. Of course, the enemy can move into those areas if they so choose, but they will pay the price for doing so,

This strategy of denial works best when the Tau player has several such pieces, however- the enemy might be willing to commit one of their big targets to an area and sacrifice it if they can be assured of destroying Longstrike in return, and to be honest it won’t be all that hard to do so as he has no significant defenses. But this gets a lot harder when the Tau player is threatening multiple areas of the board (forcing the enemy to make more decisions about what they are willing to avoid) and if they have multiple units that can do the same thing as Longstrike and annihilate anything that enters their field of fire. In this respect, then, you most commonly see Longstrike fielded alongside one or more standard Hammerhead tanks, so if the enemy decides to put a “trade” piece out into the open, the Tau player can open with simply exposing a regular Hammerhead to get rid of it. That forces the opponent to chose yet again- will they move another big unit out into the firing lane to get rid of the Hammerhead, which will then inevitably be lost in the consecutive turn when Longstrike or one of his other companions moves out? Or do they simply accept the loss and concede the area? It can be a serious dilemma for any player with fewer large targets than the Tau player has hover tanks, and with most lists trying to bring only limited numbers of such units in order to dodge giving up points on secondaries, it can easily neuter 200-400pts out of your opponent’s list right out of the gates, putting them on a seriously bad footing.

Final Thoughts

Although he is restricted to Tau Sept, which has limited his play somewhat, as Warzone Nephilim shifts the way armies are built and the sorts of units that players are bringing, I think Longstrike’s stock is only going to rise, as he is a fantastic solution for Tau to some of the problems they are going to be facing and he requires little to no support from stratagems or buffs in order to to his job. Along with Shadowsun and other named characters, I think he is going to be a major part of what may end up pushing Tau players towards using the core sept for their armies, as he is absolutely excellent on his datasheet and offers the army a powerful counterpunch tool.

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.

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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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