Impressions of Tau in 8th

your_move__imperium_by_commissarmuskeg-d5k10lmand then 8th dropped

With the tournament concluded, and with it a bit of a crash course in 8th edition T’au completed, I thought I would give some impressions of what I observed. I played a lot of Tau in 7th, and they had a very distinct style and way to play if you wanted to maximize their salty tear inducing overpoweredness efficiency. Oh how things have changed…

Loss of Twin Linked

We are no longer the ‘kings of the shooting hill’ as it were. Tau can still be pretty good however, it just takes way way way more investment to be as efficient as we once were. In 7th, I would run almost entirely markerlight free lists, due to the fact that twin linked was so readily available on the best Tau units. With that USR no more, and GW seeming to reign in the abundance of full rerolls in 8th (rerolling 1’s seems far more common now, and probably for the better), Tau shooting has significantly nosedived.

tau_empire_by_blazewing217-d4aq63lSadly no longer true. Its more like 5 seconds now…


Markerlights are now key to T’au lists as they never were in 7th – sure, in 7th they could push your shooting efficiency to eye watering levels of pain for your opponent (‘oh its 2+ to hit, rerolling misses, ignores cover, and a partridge in a pear tree’) but now they are a mandatory requirement to lift any unit out of the mediocre tier of shooting to a slightly better one. To make them great you need 5 markerlights on the target, and while I had no problem getting that during the tourney, I had to invest heavily in enabling it (two Mark’Os and two units of pathfinders, as well as marker lights on all the shas’vre’s).

For me this is actually an overall improvement to T’au, as it reigns in some of the shooting power while lending itself to playing the Tau more in accordance to their fluff, which is something all armies in 8th could benefit from.

21zhfcThis guy gets it

Power levels

This was the first time I had played Power Levels, and I am massively in favour of it. It simplifies list building to a ludicrous degree while allowing you to explore the full breadth of upgrades and accessories that you might not normally bother with. A case in point was the Mark O’s. These guys had three missile pods each, which would have made them very expensive if played on points (almost double the cost of the basic commander before drones). The marker drones also still only hit on 4+ even with drone controller on the commander (making pathfinders a cheaper and arguably better alternative on paper), but the combination of the two mean that I was able to sit back and pump accurate long range shooting downfield with markerlight support where I wanted it, helped by the fact that all units now have ‘split fire’ built in. I found it a potent combo and would definitely use it again, as long as I don’t have to pay through the nose for it.


The Mark O example is indicative of how power levels can allow you to approach list building from a different perspective too – sure, I like to build fluffy lists and play them as much as anyone, but they almost always underperform and usually it is just something you have to suck up and accept – the ‘fluff tax’ as I like to call it. For me Power Levels allow a middle ground to be achieved, giving you the fluffy feel you want from your list but not punishing you for taking the ‘inefficient’ upgrades. It also allows you to explore options you may not have ever felt inclined to take before – seeker missiles for me were always seen as a waste of points, but having taken a full load out of them where I could in this list I will definitely use them in future games.

Loss of Deep strike scatter/Random reserve rolls

The removal of both these core rules has been a massive windfall to the Tau. No more deep strike mishaps kissing goodbye to you commander or massive blob of Crisis suits, no scattering wildly off target at a key juncture in the battle to ruin your Mont’ka, and no more waiting for your elite troops to finally stop getting lost and find their way to the battlefield all too late.

The benefits of this to T’au are pretty obvious, but it also enables fluffy play to be rewarded. In the past the Kauyon was just another word for gunline, but now the true Kauyon strategy of lure and trap is achievable and effective. It also allows you to adapt to the situation in front of you, being either reactively defensive or proactively aggressive as you see fit –like a true Shas O’!


Combat Phase

Changes to the combat phase have, ironically, also really benefitted T’au in my opinion. For starters, swinging at Initiative never really mattered as we were always pretty much last, so at least that part of the phase it much smoother and easy to work out. The biggest benefit for T’au though is the removal of the ‘losing combat’ mechanic, as now our units no longer suffer from being ‘swept’ all the time, leaving our guys in the fight for a little bit longer at least


Fly key word

The other bonus for T’au in the combat phase is the Fly Key word. This applies to almost all suits, and makes them really difficult to pin down in combat. Sure, if they do get engaged by some heavy hitters then they are going to be taken down with ease, but now there is a way of getting our surviving suits out of combat and subjecting your assailants to another round of shooting and overwatch if they come back for more – very fluffy and exactly how I expect T’au would want to react to the prospect of hand to hand combat


Savior Protocols

Drones were always ok in 7th and had a wide variety of uses, their best by a long margin being ‘look out sir’ roles. Well, now with savior protocols the role is no longer required meaning they are guaranteed to take that hit for the team. It also applies to all battlesuits, meaning an increase in survivability across a wider range of your most important units. The change in wound allocation also makes savior protocols a very strong mechanic for keeping them alive – you can effectively negate large damage count weapons (say a couple of Thunder hammer hits – three damage each time) into single mortal wounds for the cost a drone, helping to keep your elites & characters alive for much longer.

untitled2But not for drones…


Anyway, that’s my observation of how T’au have been improved by 8th in general, now let’s look at how the units themselves have changed. Obviously limited to what I used in the tourney so no in anyway exhaustive. In no particular order:


A bit underwhelming for me. On paper it looks great, especially with the changes to flyers making it hard to take down, but in practice I found it didn’t have much punch. Going for Cyclic Ionic Blasters on the turrets definitely helped matters, but overall it didn’t contribute too much in my games beyond being a distraction.


Now with extra awesome! All Cyclic Ionic Blaster / Fusion builds are all the rage and I can see why, but even my multipurpose fusion/plasma/missile pod Warlord did a great job for me. I can see why these are the new spam go-to unit for many players, but I wish they were more of a general buffing character rather than ‘I got this!’ style commando.


These mercs have taken a big hit in this edition. Still cheap and with an improvement to their close combat weapon profile, but the loss of sniper rounds and infiltrate has seriously downgraded their usefulness for me. Pretty much only a bubble wrap/speed bump role for these chaps now which is a shame as they used to be far more versatile.


So the big fella is now very tough thanks to the profile changes for tanks / MCs, but they lack the punch they used to have and could do with some rebalancing of their defensive/offensive potential to be worth cost. Maybe the Heavy Burst Cannon is a better choice, I will see in my next outing.


Much improved in my book – slower than they used to be, but more durable thanks to the vehicle changes. They are still a great option for a quick objective grabbing unit, and free seekers when playing Power Levels is nothing to be sniffed at.


Probably the only unit it the codex to get significantly cheaper, this does make them usable again as a cheap and expendable source of markerlights. I resisted the temptation of putting Rail rifles on these chaps solely because I wanted to tiles the markerlights to full effect, but next time I will definitely include some to see how effective they are.

Anyway, there we have it – if you read the forums a lot of T’au player seem to think that the sky has fallen and we are in desperate need of a new codex. I don’t really buy into that – yes, the ability to play ‘point and click’ style has been removed but I think that is for the better. Some issues exist with balancing and costs (looking at you riptide/broadsides!) but overall I think T’au are in a pretty good place currently.

Still, it will be nice to get a few more relics and stratagems to play with when the codex finally drops!

And no more memes, i promise.

7ccc4dcfb715a2dd8c6fb575c836b41b--tau-empire-warhammer-kAbout T’au memes!




8 thoughts on “Impressions of Tau in 8th

  1. Very nice summary! I must admit, I haven’t actually played a Tau army in 8th edition yet, but have heard a lot of complaining about them. Good to see you are finding some positives with the army.


  2. Thanks! I think 8th and the Index has polarised T’au players into two very different camps. In one camp you have the T’au players who enjoy the background, aesthetic and subtle synergies which have been emphasized rather than diminished by 8th and the index.

    In the other camp, you have those Tau players who enjoyed being on autopilot, point and clicking there way to victory with the most ‘efficient’ units and simple yet devastating combos. It is the latter camp that also went out and bought broadsides and riptides en-mass during 7th, and are now understandably aggrieved that they no longer dominate in the way they used to.

    Its a good time to be a T’au player, as we can no longer be accused of being OP yet still be competitive in games and fluffy. The new codex may change all that though, which would be a shame.


    • I couldn’t agree more – until I got distracted by the shiny of the Eldar once more I was fully committed to putting together a T’au army and I was really enjoying the list building, it was proving tricky to fit in everything I wanted and so I was having to make decisions again instead of just looking at the book and knowing what would work best and simply needing to know how many of each I could get into my army.

      I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into the T’au once more when their new book comes.


  3. It’s actually refreshing for them to be a bit crap. The old codex didn’t really have a bad choice in there so list building was devoid of skill. Now it takes a bit more know-how to get them to work. It’s putting off the net listers but die hard players will stick with them.

    I’ve been playing them since before they were good so them being subpar again isn’t a big deal.


  4. An interesting read 🙂 I never really got into Tau, they still seem very much like the new kids on the block to me. I have always liked the idea of their mercenaries though, so it is a bit sad that the Kroot have taken a hit.


    • Cheers! Yeah, the whole Mercenaries side of the Tau needs some work to develop it properly (ruleswise at least, the fluff seems far better developed). Last time it was looked at in any detail was for Imperial Armour 3: Taros, but even then it was only a couple of new Kroot units and rules for human auxiliaries. I just wish that if GW don’t want to bother making Merc rules they would at least give us the means to do so ourselves, like some kind of ‘build your own’ rules chart so we can represent what we want on the tabletop.


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