Heavy Support is another rather crowded FOC slot for the Tau. Hmm seems we have a lot of FOC slots with lots of good choices in this new codex don't we? I guess I can't complain because that's a sure sign of a good codex. Decisions, decisions. Anyway, here is the breakdown:
XV88 Broadside Team
Pros: 2+ Armour save. Access to Skyfire with good weapons loadouts. Can bring mass amounts of missiles to the field. Only model able to take missile drones.
Cons: Not very mobile. No longer have Str10 Railguns. Missile drones can't benefit from drone controller. Only 1 support slot, can't take interceptor and skyfire.
Notes/Tactics: Broadsides (and the Tau anti vehicle arsenal) have gotten a bit of a nerf in this codex. While not a bad unit by any means, Broadsides no longer excel at anything like the railsides of old. Sure, you can get a lot of Str7 missiles out, but you can only use skyfire OR interceptor on a Broadside, where a Aegis Defense Line Quad gun can do a better job. The same goes with a Riptide or two with skyfire AND interceptor.
The Rail option is nice against flyers and ok against vehicles, but again the Hammerhead is a better option as far as anti-vehicles go, plus the submunition shot makes it a bit more versatile against infantry as well.
Broadsides seem to be a wierd jack of all trades, master of none type of option. And in a crowded Heavy Support slot, don't be surprised if you don't see them as much as you used to in the past. I give them a C+.
Pros: One of the few anti heavy vehicle options for Tau. Versatile main weapon options: Rails can shoot single shot or submunition and Ion Cannon can fire 3 shots or a Large Blast overcharge. Free Twin Linked Smart Missile System is very nice. Commander Longstrike adds some VERY nice bonuses especially being able to do multiple overwatches. Adding Sensor Spines and Disruption Pod makes it easy to hide a Hammerhead in terrain. Cheaper base cost than last codex.
Cons: Single Railgun shot not as reliable as the old Railside options. Its a vehicle so it can be one-hit killed.
Notes/Tactics: The Hammerhead with Railgun is pretty much mandatory in Tau armies now. With the nerfing of the Broadside's Rail weapon, its your only answer for heavy IG tanks and Land Raiders. The only problem is that the Hammerhead has only a single shot. So if you're prone to rolling ones at the wrong time, it may be your bane.
But thankfully the Hammerhead has some options. First off you can add the submunition shot that can let it take on infantry blobs with its Large Blast profile. Also, if you face a lot of MEQs, the Ionhead's Large Blast can be brutal, but honestly a Riptide can do this better (especially joined with an uber crisis commander).
As far as secondary weapon systems go, I would say always take the Twin Linked Smart Missile System over the drones or burst cannon. All 3 have the same strength, AP and number of shots but the SMS is far superior in range, Ignores Cover and doesn't need Line of Sight. If you love disembarking gun drones, I could see maybe taking those but honestly the Smart Missile System is the way to go, especially when combine with ...
Commander Longstrike. I'm gonna go ahead and say, if you have the points, ALWAYS take Longstrike. He boosts your Hammerhead's BS to 5, making it harder to whiff on your To Hit rolls. He has a blacksun filter, Supporting Fire and can fire in Overwatch. More importantly he is not limited to firing Overwatch once per turn, again making those SMS systems even more clutch. One other thing, mechanized Imperial Guard will be a tough matchup for Tau since Broadsides have changed. Longstrike has both Preferred Enemy: IG and Tank Hunter, so he will be especially usefull against heavy mech guard.
Overall I see the Hammerhead as the one mandatory Heavy Support choice for Tau players. I give it an A-.
Sky Ray Missile Defense Gunship
Pros: Cheap Anti-Vehicle and Anti-Air (has Skyfire). Can fire all 6 seekers in one turn. BS4 Skyfire Networked Marklights Access to free Twin Linked Smart Missile System. Adding Sensor Spines and Disruption Pod makes it easy to hide in Terrain.
Cons: In a crowded FOC slot. Its a vehicle so it can be one-hit killed.
Notes/Tactics: The Sky Ray has definately gotten buffed with this edition. Seeker Missiles no longer NEED markerlights to be fired and only get better if you do use markerlights to fire them. Plus unlike flyers, if you dont move your Sky Ray you can fire all 6 missiles in one turn if you want. Similar to the Hammerhead, SMS is definately the way to go for the secondary weapons, especially once you've used up all your missiles. The 2 skyfire markerlights are also very useful and give another viable markerlight option to your Tau army. Same as the Hammerhead, you'll want to put Sensor Spines and Disruption Pods on your Sky Ray and just deploy it in some ruins for a 3+ cover save. Overall the Sky Ray is a definate improvement and a good choice especially in larger point games, I give it a B+.
Sniper Drone Team
Pros: BS5 sniper shots. BS5 markerlights. Stealth for unit. 24" rapid fire range. Within 12" of Ethereal it can have 3x sniper shots per drone in rapid fire range. Rather cheap. Supporting Fire. Drones are Toughness 4 and Initiative 4.
Cons: Only Leadership 7. In a crowded Heavy Support slot.
Notes/Tactics: Its a toss up between these guys and Ethereals for the most improved Tau unit with this codex. These guys are among the best snipers in the game. BS5 with rapid fire at 24" is fantastic. You'll also want to max out your Marksmen because BS5 markerlights are no joke either. You'll pretty much want to just plop these guys in cover within 12" of your Ethereal, and take advantage of the extra rapid fire shot whenever you can. In Big Guns Never Tire games, these guys are the perfect choice to sit on a rear objective, freeing up your troops to try and get other objectives. This unit is also a good choice to man your Aegis Defense Line Quad Gun with BS5. To top it all off Sniper Drone Teams are one of your most cost effective units out there. I give them an A.
So again, we have another crowded FOC slot in Heavy Support. Can't really complain about that. I think in most cases I'll be taking a Hammerhead, Sniper Drone Team and a Skyray for most games, in that order of preference. How about you? Have you found great success with Broadsides? Am I off base with my judgements? Let me know in the comments below.