Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Ethereal Council: The Tau Piranha

"Old Shatter Hands was unique in his methods. Untrusting of Tau Auxiliary Forces and untested technologies, few of his forces were drawn from other septs or alien allies. He relied heavily on the art of stealth and surprise. He often held Piranha Attack Wings under cloaking devices until the time was ripe to execute the killing blow." The Aun Elder stared out into the abyss of space. "Although some felt he took risks too great, his forces were successful in dislodging Gue'la elites and disrupting their armored spearheads. On the contrary, when his assaults were faulty, they lead to spectacular failures and loss of life. Over time, the lives he spent weighed heavy on his heart. The guilt eventually lead him to the path of the Monat."

Just a quick post about piranhas. Traditional Tau wisdom casts these great fliers into the category of over-costed and weak units. The last few games I've played with them suggest something else entirely. I've been using them to contest objectives, block the path of armored spearheads and threaten tanks (keeping the pressure off of my Hammerheads). In more than a couple cases, they allowed me to win games and keep my opponents guessing.

Are they weak? Vehicle squadron rules state that you use the Vehicle facing of the closest vehicle to the shooter (see page 64 of the main rulebook), positioning your Piranhas in a fan formation can effectively give you AV11 all around. That coupled with a 4+ cover save from either moving flat out or Disruption Pods, makes the Piranha very difficult to kill.

Even assaulting them becomes an issue. With each Piranha upgraded with a Flechette Discharger, even terminators are going to think twice about attacking them. Move 7+ inches and assaulters need a 6 to hit, but your flechette wound on a 4+.

What about the Drones? A squadron of 4 or more piranhas has the ability to drop off a pretty sizable unit of Tau Gun Drones. With twin-linked pinning weapons, the drones can do some damage in shooting. Strength 5 means you can also work to position them behind tanks to cause even more damage. This unit isn't going to be the best in hand to hand but it can tie up units with heavy weapons to good effect. Remember too that the Piranha is open-topped so explode results on Piranhas only cause S3 hits (pg70) and allows the drones to assault in the turn they disembark. With drones, a unit of 5 piranhas can pump out 5 melta shots and 10 pulse carbines shots. Not bad, eh?

How to use them? Let me first say that although I have been using Piranhas for a couple years, I've only recently been playing large squadrons in an aggressive role. If my opponent has a land raider filled with something nasty I set them up in Deployment and turn 1 I turbo boost them out to surround or block the Land Raider. My broadsides then pummel other vehicles and leave the LR free as next turn it'll be tied up with the Piranhas. My opponent will then pour everything he's got into the Piranhas but won't be able to kill them all unless he has lots of autocannons or ork lootas. Piranhas then disembark drones and meltagun the tank. Drones shoot the troops that pour out.

Other times, I've been putting them in reserve and turbo-boosting them out to clear objectives and contest. Because of the huge unit footprint you can manage to contest more than one objective.

The Cons - Cost. Piranhas upgrades with flechettes, fusion and pods can cost upwards of 400 points. You may scoff at this but I've been finding lately that Fire-Knives are the real points sink. Better to kit out your piranhas and go big than spend points on Fire-Knives. I'm looking to build an army of 5 piranhas and 2 squads of Deathrains instead of Fire-Knives.

Surprise! The Tau Empire traditionally isn't the army that gets up in your face as an opponent. People expect you to be holding back and firing from a distance. With 4 or more piranhas in a single squadron, you can move out from the get-go and get up in his face and force you to deal with something. FULL ATTACK. Most players are planning to do this to Tau players, they bring lots of fast assault specialists to the game and ram them right into your gunline. By throwing some piranhas at him, you are doing the last thing he expected. You know what you are doing but your opponent doesn't and that is the best way to win: the element of surprise. You can even hold them back, zipping around or in reserve until the moment is right and WHAM! Deal with this big unit of piranhas while the rest of my army pummels you with long range fire and claims objectives.

What do you guys think? Am I full of kroot droppings for taking some an interest in this over-costed and potentially weak unit?


Raptor1313 said...

I disagree with you on the missile-plasma suits, but I'm with you on the Piranhas.

I've been rolling with at least one squad of Piranhas; it'll be two once I go up to 2,000.

You've pointed out the unique offerings they've got:

1) Speed
What else has that kind of speed in the army?

2) Ability to take up space
The enemy HAS to kill vehicles that are where htey want to move, AND loses a turn in so doing.

3) Meltaguns
Suddenly, it's a blocking unit you have to pay attention to.

Add in the disruption pods, the +BS upgrade, and maybe the split-fire upgrade and you're in good shape. If they live long enough, they're also fine contestors, and just about the only real fast contesting unit.

The Gun Drones can be a pest largely because most of the time there's something more threatening to shoot at, though every now and then twin-linked BS2 on S5 does something, and you can at least threaten AV10.

You have to use the Piranhas carefully, but I think there's some serious mileage to be had from them.

Sholto said...

I love the piranha (both the model and the unit), and it always surprises me when other players are surprised to see two in my 1750 army.

I wouldn't use more in a competitive environment at that points level, as I don't like having that many points sunk into open topped AV11, especially when they cannot really kill that much for the points. They are good anti-armour but, for me, their value is in mobility, denial of enemy movement and last Turn contesting. And just looking damned cool :)

Sidestreaker said...

I love my pirahnas too and will try to place them in my army as much as i can, and I'm still trying to master them.

Flekkzo said...

I am all for unusual units. Sure some units might have gotten a cost that isn't fully balanced and all, but I sure hope the writer of a codex had some thought as to how each unit could be useful. (that said, Long Fangs from SW are now a fantastically nicely priced unit)

Since I don't have a Tau codex, how many would you use?When you are talking about "1", is that squad or vehicle? I feel like buying the codex just to keep up with your posts:)

Old Shatter Hands said...

I've been running a squadron of 2 for sometime now. I recently used a full squad of 5 to devastating results for my opponent. I'm thinking that 4 maybe 3 could have done the job though. I would only take a larger squadron in at least a 2,000 point game. At 1750, I suggest a squadron of 3. One of the key things with this unit, is using it aggressively to surprise your opponent. Tau Piranhas aren't used very much and player forget that they are AV11 in front so it often throws them off to have 4 AV 11 Skimmers with Melta-gun up in their grill. It's totally unexpected from a Tau player.

Hedzer said...

I've run 2 for a while now, both have FB and one has a seeker missile. On top of the abilities mentioned in the blog this also often gives me an early side armor shot.

They're great fun to play :)

Pearlygates said...

I think my main concern is as you already pointed out...POINTS COST!!!

But I do agree that although Battlesuits are the Bane of your army, speed and manouverability is a weapon in its own right especially with fletchettes and fusion.

But my concern is their general state of play; send them to soon to the enemy may but you time to arrange the rest of your army up but you could be saying bye-bye to an expensive unit too soon.

And unfortunately for me, the Gods not only don't favour me when it comes to dice rolls...they mock me! I'm prob the only person who can roll 30dice and they'll all be 1's.

But i don't knock piranha's, I think it's all down to knowing what your enemy has, scenario your playing and general experiece with using them. sometimes sacrifices are worth making (and can confuse the enemy too) and other times it's knowing that critical moment to call on them.

Pearlygates said...

Oh, I also forgot to mention not to rely on those fletchettes and +4 makes your piranhas good and realiable in close combat, it doesn't make them invincible!!! If your opponent gets alot of close combat attacks (eg worldeaters, wolves etc) then expect some 6s to be coming your way!

Old Shatter Hands said...

The piranhas are slated for more of an interceptor/distraction role. I'm actually expecting my piranhas to die. I want them to distract my opponent long enough so it throws his game plan out the window. I've also got three broadsides in the list and crisis suits to actually kill guys, while my three devilfish with fire warriors claim objectives.
I'm also talking about a big unit of them. like 4 or more. I've got to get more practice with them to give you guys some actual expereince to go off of, rather than just theory-hammer.

Pete W said...

I definitely like the idea of using Piranhas to corral and direct the enemy. My last game against an outflanking opponent made it clear how annoying it can be to end up with your forces tied up on the wrong side of the battlefield. If I had piranhas used against me to block off movement it could definitely cost a turn or more of forward pressure.

I've only got two of the little kits so far but I'm looking forward to seeing how/if Old Shatter Hands will use them in our upcoming game. The worst bit is that now I'll be wondering the whole time whether or not to respond to the Piranhas and that will probably affect the rest of the game.

It will be interesting to see nonetheless.

Pearlygates said...

OSH, what size games do you use your piranhas in?? I think I only use them in a 2000pts game or higher.

If I did play a game less than 2000pts;
1, Their purpose would be a reserve choice to capture objective or take out heavy vehicles.
2, I would not field more than two due to their cost.

Old Shatter Hands said...

For 2,000 points I would field 5 in a squadron. At 1850 or 1750, I am considering using 3, maybe 4. We'll see. I've a game with Pete W. on Thursday and I'm only bringing 3. Battle Report to come on Friday.

Sholto said...

It is worth remembering the cover rule for vehicles in squadrons. All you need is 1/2 your vehicles to be obscured to gain a cover save for the whole squadron, so no need to buy disruption pods for all of them. Also note that it is the armour value of the facing of the closest vehicle to the shooter that is used for all vehicles in the squadron, so you can have your squadron vehicles pointing in different directions to take advantage of this if the enemy is on more than one heading.

Pearlygates said...

So you (OSH)and Pete W know each other, that's cool; Pete (Or if you can speak on Pete's behalf OSH) what army are you using? Tau too?

I've never played Tau vs Tau, what are they like against each other? stalemate? or is it down to army choices?

Pete W said...

Hey Pearlygates. I've not met Old Shatter Hands yet but when I saw that he played a game a Dream Wizards in Rockville MD (my local store) I suggested a game.

I also play Tau but my force is still very much in its infancy. I'll definitely be expanding it as and when I have time (when you have two jobs, finding the time can be harder than finding the money). I'm looking forward to seeing how a good Tau player uses them so I can shape what I will buy for my army.

I'll be bringing my marines to the table on Thursday. It's a fairly basic force that is heavy on the infantry and guns.

I'm definitely interested to see how a slow-moving but resilient force will do against the more mechanised Tau of Old Shatter Hands' cadre. It will probably come down to some tactical deployment and moving. We've both got good firepower so it could be very deadly to either side depending on who rolls what and when.

If we get time when I've built up my force, I'm sure OSH and I will play some Tau vs Tau. I think how it plays will be dependent on what kind of force each side brings.

Mech vs gunline would probably be decided mostly in the movement phase to see if Mech can focus their force on weak points without getting shot up.

Mech vs mech would be extremely Cat and Mouse with the battle being nice and fluid.

Other setups would vary depending on the exact nature of the forces and the player styles.

Pearlygates said...

Well Pete, I'm sure that with all the variety that OSH has in his Tau army, you'll certainly get a good insight of what really works well for Tau.

Two jobs you say??? And with half the country made redundant too! You'll be a marked man if word gets out! Lol.

I hope there'll be a Battle report of your match.

Goodluck to both of you in the match!

Pete W said...

I consider myself very fortunate to have any work at all. Part of my full time job is dealing with applicant resumes and the number we get for any vacancy can be staggering (200+ sometimes). It helps also that my office is a crazy mix of fun things going on (5 radio stations).

I think that OSH is planning to make a battle report. I'll try to remember my digital camera so there will be plenty of chances for pictures. I might even give an opponent's perspective on how things went and what I was thinking.

Still, the 5 railguns he might bring are worrying me.

Fritz said...

Piranha = Vyper, only better. Squadrons of skimmer actually last longer. Following the squad rule for cover if one is in cover then both get a cover save- assuming you have two, etc. The art of vypers is using their speed to make sure one is always in cover either through blocking or LOS stuff. My vypers always last the battle.

Old Shatter Hands said...

Fritz, in light of that I think I might not need disruption pods on them. It seems I'll either be moving flat out or use cover to gain a save...It would free up some points.

The cool thing about piranhas too is that the squad-size max is 5 which is pretty daunting for some people. I can't wait to get more...

Pete W said...

Well I can say that having played against a squadron of 3 Piranhas, they can really lock down your movement. OSH used his squads to negate my Land Raider being able to move for a turn, which is important since his mech force had moved to the opposite side of the field, leaving me with 250 points that couldn't do a whole bunch for a few turns.

The vehicle squadron rules are pretty solid as well and helped him keep the little fish moving and messing with me. With a combination of disruption pods and skimmer moving fast cover saves they were tough to bring down.

Not being able to safely assault because of the Flechette launchers was tough too. One point we came up with though was the power of a IC assaulting with a suitable weapon. In my case it was a Chapter Master with a Power fist. At the worst, he could only take two wounds (one fish was dead by this point) from the launchers and could have hurt them badly with S8. Squads assaulting would suffer a lot more though.

Old Shatter Hands said...

Great point...I should watch for ICs attacking my piranhas

Sev said...

I have a question, do the drone squadron that comes with piranha give up a kill point? In the codex it says that the drones form an independent unit when they disengage for the piranhas. If so, smaller squads of piranha (1-2) doesnt sound that great as they are worth 2 kill points to your oponent.