Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tau Codex Review: HQs

Overall, I'm quite happy with the choices we have in the new HQ slot.   Last edition it was pretty much only Crisis Suit Commanders as a viable choice, but now... sooo many tempting options.   So lets dive into them:

Commander Farsight:

Pros:   No Deep Strike Scatter.  Best Tau close combat option.   Can take 7 bodyguards to free up Crisis Suit elite slot.  AP2, 2d6 penetration close combat weapon.  Preferred Enemy vs Orks.  Model looks awesome.   Has 4+ invul save.

Cons:  Can't add systems.  Pricey. 

Notes/Tactics:  I really like the idea of taking Farsight, 6x bodyguards with Fusion Blasters, Plasma Rifles and Target Locks.  Then one bodyguard with a Command and Control node (squad can reroll failed to hit rolls), Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite (squad ignores cover), Puretide Engram Chip (Monster Hunter, Tank Hunter or Stubborn for squad) and no weapons.  Deep strike this wherever you like and murder heavily armoured infantry, monstrous creatures or tanks.    Its definately expensive, but it's also definately scary too.

I really like Farsight.  He's a definate improvement over the last codex and has no silly limitations to FOCs that he used to have.  I really like how you can play him in a very aggressive manner too, which is a nice contrast to the typical "sit back and shoot" tau mentality.  Plus the new model is very nice with a great pose.  Overall I give him B+.

Commander Shadowsun:

Pros:  Gives unit she is with a +3 to their cover save.   Stealth suits auto-Look Out Sir for her.  Jet Pack units she joins get 3d6" Jump Shoot Jump move.   Can fire Fusion Blasters on different units.   Shield Drones confer 3+ invul saves.  Has Infiltrate.   Precision Shots on a 5 or 6.  Not a bad points cost for a somewhat durable IC.

Cons:  Only Toughness 3, can be insta killed with lucky shot.  Drones are pricey.  Only a 18" range on guns.

Notes/Tactics:  Initially you would think putting Shadowsun in a unit of Stealth suits would be the best option, and to be honest its not a bad option.  But, put Shadowsun in a unit of crisis suits, broadsides or a riptide and you give them Stealth/Shrouded.  So units that already have 2+ and 3+ armour saves will also have +3 added to their cover save. Awesome!.   

Personally I like the idea of putting her with Crisis Suits/Riptide because they also benefit from the 3D6" jump move.  Maybe the best option would be a unit of plasma rifle/fusion blaster Crisis Suits with the Puretide Engram Chip on a Shas'vre?   Give the rest of the suits Target Locks and you have lots of options.   That 3d6" will really help your suits get out of charge range after laying down Plasma Rifle and Fusion Blaster shots, which dont exactly have the longest range in this army.

Overall I like Shadowsun A LOT.  She's a great support HQ that can really benefit your heavy hitting firepower units.   I give her a B+.



Pros:  Very cost effective.   Flexible invocations give you nice options that can be different each turn, Storm of Fire (extra Rapid Fire shot) is a particularly useful Invocation especially in overwatch.   12" leadership bubble is very nice.

Cons:  Awards an extra Victory Point if slain.  NO ARMOUR SAVE.  Low Toughness 3, easy to instakill.  Only 2 wounds.

Notes/Tactics:   Most Tau players are going to be playing a lot of firewarriors this edition as your only Troops options are Firewarriors and Kroot.   Ethereals are a great support unit for your Firewarriors.  They help them with their leadership and they also help them get more shots on the enemy.   As opposed to the Fireblade, they can help more than one squad too.

I would suggest either putting your ethereal in a 12 man squad of firewarriors to soak up wounds or better yet, put him in a Devilfish with a Firewarrior squad to prevent him from being instakilled by a plasma cannon.  The Devilfish will also increase his 12" leadership/invocation bubble reach (Devilfish is MUCH bigger than the Ethereal model heheh).    If you dont have any immediate Ethereal instakill threats you can have a Firewarrior squad ride the Devilfish to a distant objective with that mobility.

Overall, I love the new Ethereal rules and if it wasn't for his lack of armour save and generall weak stats I would say he should be an auto include in every army.  But I still give him an A overall.


Pros:  Can perform 2 Invocations per turn.  All Tau units on the ENTIRE BATTLEFIELD can reroll failed Fear, Morale, Pinning and Regroup tests.  Relatively cheap HQ.  Resistant to high AP weapons with Paradox of Duality.   Stubborn.  Can regroup if below 25%.  Has a total of 6 wounds in the unit.

Cons:  If killed he awards enemy 2 victory points.   No shooting attack.  5+ armour save, somewhat susceptible versus mass small arms fire.   Not an Independent Character so can't join units, so he is an easy target.   Very Bulky so can't hide in vehicles.  Only Toughness 3, easy to instakill.  Can't take additional gear.

Notes/Tactics:  First off, this HQ is tremendously improved over the laughable unit from the last codex.   If he dies you only give away 2 victory points instead of the possibility of your ENTIRE ARMY running off the board.   His leadership and invocation abilities make him a great support HQ option to boost the rest of your army.

But with that being said, his low toughness, lack of Independent Character status and inability to hide in a vehicle make him rather vunerable so you'll have to take care in how you deploy him.   Try to avoid line of sight at all costs, especially versus horde armies with low AP weapons.   Overall though I think he's pretty good and I'd give him a B-.


Pros:  4+ invul.  Good WS and Initiative.  Honor Blade gives +2 Str, making him Str 5.  Same powers as Ethereal.  Can get rending on his Challenge attacks.  Can reroll failed saves on his Challenge attacks.

Cons:   Expensive!  More expensive than Aun'va and twice as expensive as a regular Ethereal all just for some pretty good close combat abilities? Meh.   Toughness 3 makes him easy to instakill.  No Shooting attack.  Can't take additional gear.  Gives 2 Victory Points if slain.

Notes/Tactics:  Aun'shi just seems really out of place in this codex.  He's basically an Ethereal with some added close combat skills and stats, but honestly why the heck would you ever want to have your ethereal in close combat?  Not only is he out of place he's rather expensive compared to the other Tau HQ options, again twice as expensive as a regular Ethereal.  

Aun'shi seems to me like a leftover rule from an early version of this codex.  I remember hearing rumors that there was going to be an Honor Guard close combat unit in Tau and it seems like Aun'shi would have fit well with that at least fluff wise. 

But honestly he doesn't really benefit the army that much.   I could see maybe adding him to a Battle Brothers Ally contingent for challenges, but both Eldar and Space Marines have much better close combat options.   I think Aun'shi is pretty much pointless and I give him a D-.  The only reason he doesn't get an F is because of his Ethereal powers but honestly I'd rather pay half the points cost for those with a regular Ethereal


Pros:  Has power that can subtract 1 from Toughness for unit you are shooting at.  BS5 markerlight.   Him and unit can Consolidate D6" after Overwatch shot.  Can give Scout to Firewarrior squad.  Has 3 wounds.

Cons:  Can only join Pathfinders and Firewarriors.  Armour save only 5+.   Toughness 3 makes him easy to instakill.  Unlike ethereals, he can only benefit one squad.   Not that cheap.

Notes/Tactics:   I really like the idea behind Darkstrider and I really like that he helps keep charging enemy units.   Putting him with a squad of Firewarriors will help them Wound better (and maybe instakill some weaker T3 Independent Characters), give them the Scout rule and help them escape enemy charges.   With Pathfinders you can load up on Ion Rifles or Rail Rifles to again try and instakill some multi-wound models or independent characters.  Add a Grav Inhibitor Drone and your Pathfinders will be hard to charge.

Unfortunately I think Darkstrider suffers from being in an FOC slot that is already pretty full with good options.   I like the fluff behind him and I think he really adds character to the army, but from a strictly pragmatic viewpoint there are better options.   I give Darkstrider a C+.

Cadre Fireblade:

Pros:  BS5 markerlight is nice.   3 wounds isn't bad.   Pretty cheap price.  Can Split Fire with his markerlight.  Can take drones.  Volley Fire gives an extra shot to your unit pulse rounds, if you don't move.

Cons:  Can only benefit one unit, unlike ethereals.  Toughness 3 makes him easy to instakill. 

Notes/Tactics:  The Cadre Fireblade is pretty darned good.   His support abilities focus on the strengths of the Tau... more shooting!   Put him in a rear objective-holding unit of Firewarriors and just shoot away at people as they get close.  Better yet pair him with an Ethereal and get both extra shots for not moving AND an extra shot in rapid fire range.  With proper Support Fire positioning, very few units will be able to effectively charge you.  

A Fireblade with a Firewarriors unit in a Devilfish is one of your better troop choices to take distant objectives as well, seeing that you probably wont be within your Ethereals bubble of influence on the other side of the table.   Plus at 60pts he's very cost effective. 

Overall I give the Cadre Fireblade an A-.

Crisis Suit Commander:

Pros:  BS5.   Leadership 10.  4 wounds.  Can take 4x ranged/support systems.  Can take any number of Signature systems.  Can take drones.   The ability to take Bodyguards frees up elite slots for Riptides or more crisis suits.   Bodyguards can take drones, signature systems too.  Bodyguards can auto pass Look out sir rolls.

Cons:  To make the most of Commander you need to take more equipment, which can get expensive.   Doesn't offer buffs to other units like Ethereals do. 

Notes/Tactics:  While a Crisis Suit Commander doesn't really buff your other units like an Ethereal, he can be a valuable addition to your army.   First off, the Tau Elites slot is even more crowded with choices with the addition of the Riptide, but Crisis Suits are still a necessary addition to Tau armies.   So the Commander's ability to add Crisis Suits without an Elite slot is very valuable. 

His ability to load up on special support and signature systems is another great reason to take him.  Puretide Engram chip is a great choice with lots of options for your Commander and Bodyguards. 

But the commander is also one of the more cost effective ways to get some very good BS5 marker support.   Take 2x Bodyguards and you can get up 6x BS5 markerlights if you give the Commander a drone controller.   Plus you dont have to take another Fast Attack slot with Pathfinders if you do this.

Overall I give the Crisis Suit Commander a B+.

The HQ section of the new codex is much improved over the last codex.  I think the Ethereal and Fireblades are your best bang for the buck (and a great combo btw), but both Shadowsun and Farsight also give lots of great perks and are still considerably cheaper than Special Characters in other codexes.  You'll have plenty to choose from when you are creating your army lists.

If I missed anything or if you think I'm flat out wrong on my opinions, PLEASE comment below and let me know what you think.  Did I not see an awesome combo that you found?  Let us know below!

The next codex section I review will be Elites...


  1. One thing you missed with Darkstrider is his ability to give a group of Fire Warriors outflank. Combining this with a positional relay is great for bringing on your troops choice next to your opponent's objective. I've almost always struggled getting objective in my enemy's Deployment Zone, but this gives me a 100pt upgrade to do just that.
    Then again that unit is behind enemy lines without backup, but they will be a major distraction to your opponent for a turn.

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