With my second tournament fielding T’au now completed, and with a few new units included in the ranks, I thought I would offer some further humble insights into my impression of T’au in 8th. These may well prove to be moot as the new codex is just around the corner, but since the last codex was barely an update of the previous one, it could well be that nothing much changes at all and therefore my impressions may remain valid. Plus I’m snowed in and have nothing better to do.
For me this is still the best edition for playing T’au fluffily. I know I said it in my last review of the T’au, but I feel it is worth reiterating. Being able to pull off a proper Kauyon or Mont’ka without having to pay the fluff tax is a great thing to behold, and has really excited me about playing T’au like nothing in 7th edition ever did (well, beyond the salty-tear-inducing-pain they could dish out).
This tournament was the first time I had faced a lot of vehicles in multiple games, and something really stood out for me. T’au really suck at putting out consistent, reliable multi wound damage. We have lots of weapons that dish out D3/D6 damage, which on the surface looks great. However, random is not nearly as much fun as GW liked to once claim, and a series of badly timed 1’s and 2’s can really put a disproportionate dent in your performance. We have almost no reliable 2/3/4 (or even 2D3) damage weapons, that so many other factions seem to have in abundance.
Also our only reliable source of Mortal Wounds is seeker missiles, which require a lot of investment im markerlight support to be usable – while almost every other faction has at least Smite (sorry Necrons) to access them, as well as other weapons. I don’t really want this to turn into a wish listing thread, but I think this needs to be sorted out as it makes T’au very weak against what they are supposed to be great against – armour.
Ah, where to start? There has been a lot of doom and gloom on them there interwebs about these chaps. The main bone of contention seems to be that they are now very expensive – and they are, there is no denying that – but this impression might have been made worse by the fact that they were probably undercosted in 7th. Come on, be honest. You know this is probably true.
When it comes to the base stats these guys have definitely received a buff in 8th. The loss of ‘Instant Death’ USR and changes to how Morale / Close Combat works means they are already much more resilient than they ever were in 7th – no more legging it off the table because they lost a drone, or being swept in combat for the same reason. They also gained four wounds, T5, and kept their oh so sweet 2+ save. However where they probably now lose out is in their shooting.
It used to be that these guys could just about hose down any enemy with enough missiles to finish them off – either glancing vehicles to death, peppering characters/multi-wound models with enough wounds to force failed saves, or just plain remove any unit with a 4+ or worse save. With a single markerlight and ‘Twin Linked’ rerolls, they were about as close as any Tau unit got to being ‘point and delete’ threat (with the notable exception of the Riptide Wing, which was just obnoxious).
A number of factors have seen that threat diminished in 8th. It is worth pointing out that the number of shoots they put out has actually doubled in this edition – 8 HYMP and 8 SMS shots per model, which is none too shabby. However, the changes to markerlights means that you are going to need at least 5 on a target before you reach anything like the level of lethality previously achieved. The changes to vehicles has also downgraded their effectiveness – the S7 HYMP is matched by T7 on most vehicles, meaning you are only wounding on 4’s (and on 5′ for SMS) while the -1 AP means most vehicles are going to get a save too. All this diminishes the amount of damage getting through, and even though those that do slip by are causing D3 wounds, it is just not enough to make up for the rest.
Arguably, where their strength now lies is in taking down multi-wound models like Primaris marines, or carelessly placed characters. They are also pretty good at whittling down poorly armoured hordes such as Orks and Guardsmen, thanks mostly to the increase in output. Oh, and this maybe the first edition ever that you bother to take seeker missiles on them, as bonus mortal wounds are not to be sniffed at.
The much maligned alternative build for Broadsides in 7th, these chaps have now come into their own in 8th. Packing a lighter version of the railgun mounted on hammerheads, they are reliable damage dealers from range with a chance of extra mortal wounds built in. The loss of the old ‘Advanced Targeting System’ pseudo sniper effect has made them less effective against infantry squads, but where they now shine is in piling on the wounds for vehicles, monsters and poorly placed characters. Slightly cheaper than a hammerhead, they are not straight up as durable, but their ability to be in cover and use savior protocols means they are pretty survivable when positioned wisely.
Passing the Mark’O mantle
Mark O’s were a popular build in 7th, allowing accurate markerlight support from a mobile base at efficient point cost. The changes to Drone Controller no longer make this such an efficient build, but the same change does open up the roll for other suits to fill. Most popular at the moment is probably Stealth Suits in the role (mainly due to cheapness), but Broadsides can also fill the roll surprising well.
I used two in the tournament last weekend, both as missilesides with 4 marker drones each. The idea was for them to just sit back, guard an objective, put markerlight support down field and pepper anything that came to close with missiles. On the whole, this tactic worked quite well, improved no end when an initial markerlight was placed by a strike teams Shas’ui to give reroll 1’s. They also duly punished a number of flyers who strayed to close, thinking themselves safe at -1 to hit.
The only issue was the limited range of the missilesides – in hindsight the rail rifles may have been a better option for sitting back with, and would have assisted the hammerheads in their long range duels. Overall I felt like they worked well in the Mark’O role, but the cost can feel prohibitive when you look at other markerlight options in isolation. Their strength is the ability to do that role, while being resilient enough to hang onto objectives and give your Kauyon a bit of an anchor to build off.
I like hammerheads. I like the model, I like the fluff, and I even liked them when they were being popped by melta gun totting space marines squads coming out of drop pods. In short, there performance would have to be pretty bad for me to stop taking them. And luckily, it wasn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, their performance was hardly stellar, but it was certainly adequate. In 7th, it used to be that their biggest weakness was that the railgun only got one shot. This would lead to misses more often than not, and every miss felt like a massive blow to their performance overall in a game – after all, if you only get 5 shots per game, you have to make them all count.
That in itself hasn’t changed, but with abundant command point rerolls, the ease of achieving a single markerlight for rerolling 1’s, and buffs from a certain character (see below) it does feel like they are more accurate on the whole than before. Its biggest weakness now is that it only deals D6 damage if it successfully wounds (see ‘Damage Output’ above). Sure, the extra mortal wounds if you roll a 6 to wound is nice, but a couple of 1s and 2s on the damage roll in consecutive turns makes the hammerhead feel like it is underperforming again, just like it did in 7th. The loss of instant death and the ability to ‘one shot’ vehicles compounds this further, making them feel a little bit underwhelming, if not disappointing, if the dice are not with you.
However, they do have other strengths to play to – they are far more resilient in this edition, and the fly keyword means they are not going to be bogged down in close combat. The ability to overwatch also means they are no longer the weak link in the defensive line facing a charge (because no one wants their close combat monster risking a railgun round to the face). The increase in SMS shots (again doubled) is also nice, and as a platform for seeker missiles they are very effective.
So all the above counts for Longstrike as well, except that he obviously buffs both hammerheads and himself to an extent where his performance (and those around him) does improve drastically. Accuracy is suddenly very good, and Longstrike himself becomes great at wounding vehicles and monsters. But it still all falls down around the D6 damage. A stack of Command rerolls saved up just for this will mitigate things somewhat, but only until they run out.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. OK, so maybe ‘mighty’ is a bit strong, but these guys were my go to choice for Troops slots all day long in 7th. The loss of Infiltrate and sniper rounds has really hurt these guys. Sure, they were never anything more than bubble wrap before, but at least they could infiltrate and give someone a fright on the flank or in the rear, or dish out some rending hits from their sniper rounds.
Now they really have been reduced to one a trick pony – their only use is as bubble wrap, either to deny charges or deny deep striking. And I will still continue to take them solely on that basis – as it is a valuable role for T’au – but it would be nice if they had a bit more of their old variety back when it comes to the new codex
So there were have it, more grossly subjective musings, based on a laughably small subset of information, presented for your consideration and possible derision! Please do let me know if you have had any comparable experiences with your T’au (or against them).
I know a lot of people in the T’au community are looking forward to the new codex, some even going so far as to say it is needed to bring the T’au out from the 8th edition Dark Ages and back to being ‘competitive’. Well, first up, I think they are currently competitive – if played right. Secondly, I don’t think the new codex is going to suddenly elevate them to being demigods of the gaming tables (that’s what Primarchs are for after all!).
Sure there will be some cool stratagems, and it will be nice to have some more ‘relics’ beyond the PENchip, but I do not expect the new codex to be the ‘saviour’ of the greater good – nor do I want it to be. All it needs is a bit of tweaking and massaging around the edges, and we will have a fully rounded, fluffy faction capable of holding its own and wining without reducing our opponents to bitter, twisted, salty tear filled T’au haters.
Which would be nice.