Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tau Army Feature with Mark F.

Fellow Tau Player Mark F. went undefeated in the Inner Circle Holiday Beatdown in December and took second place for Best General. I was able to take lots of photos of his army and even managed to persuade him to write some comments on this army and tactics. It's always insightful to get another player's perspective on the Tau in Warhammer so without further adieu, Mark F: 

What is your overall strategy when you play a competitive game?
      With this army, the entire strategy is to take out transports as fast as possible. If there are no transports to shoot, it makes my job that much easier. Once the transports are disabled, the enemy’s ability to get right up next to me with melta guns and the like is severely reduced. I find that my tanks die from melta shots A LOT. And my goal here is to keep my devilfish alive in order to transport my scoring fire warriors to objectives. So keeping melta weapons away is a high priority
      The two broadside squads are set up for transport killing. Both have targeting arrays so they’re hitting on 3+ and have twin linked weapons. They also have the leader upgrade so I can take a target lock. This allows me to potentially kill 4 vehicles per turn. Also, if I want a transport to die and one squad fails to kill it, the other one can give it a go and still have a chance at destroying another vehicle by splitting its fire. At this stage in the game, pretty much all my crisis suits are unloading their missiles on transports as well. Shooting strength 7 shots at AV 12 is not all that effective, but with so many shots, there’s a decent chance that a couple will do some damage. AV 11 is much easier to crack.
      So when transports start going down, the Devilfish chip in and start taking out the passengers, along with the crisis suits and hammerhead. My command squad is tasked with taking out any high priority targets like terminators or daemon princes. Anything that requires AP 2 is their job.
      Since these missions were part kill point, part objective, I decided to focus on getting the 5 Kill Points before I worried too much about objectives. For the Kill Points I tried to choose units that I knew I would want to destroy completely and would always be a threat. For this reason, I tried to stay away from picking transports. Yes I’m already shooting them, but if I immobilize one and the guys jump out, the transport is no longer a threat. I don’t want to have to divert valuable firepower to a useless transport just to get a kill point when I could be killing the guys charging headlong at me.
      So that’s my main strategy. Kill the transports as fast as possible and whittle away at the survivors.
How do normally deploy your army? Do you put any units in reserve and if so which ones?

      My deployment really depends on my opponent.  If they are going to be charging at me, I like to set up my broadsides on the flanks, along with a squad of pathfinders each, so the enemy has to choose one to go for or split their forces. Then I put the rest of my army in the middle and start pulling to one side or going up one flank.
      If it’s a shooty or mobile army, I like to castle up on one side with my broadsides on the flanks so there’s nowhere for enemy vehicles to hide.
Are there any units that you have assigned as a distraction? Being not essential to the overall plan, but meant to distract your opponent from your real game-winners.

      The three distraction units in this army are the squads of pathfinders, the crisis suits with fusion guns, and the hammerhead. The Pathfinders are helpful to have, but if the enemy chooses them as a kill point, I can leave them in reserve and still be just fine. They’re not overly expensive and I don’t lose any firepower by not having them. The crisis suits are a deep strike suicide squad. They are there for taking out AV14 or far away tanks. With 2 Pathfinder Devilfish, I can land anywhere and still get the scatter die reroll. I don’t want to have to diver Broadside fire at AV 14 since they really aren’t very good at killing it. Surprisingly enough, my Hammerhead made this list. For the longest time, I saw this thing as the crux of my army. The fate of my game seemed to hang on the well-being of this tank. I found out, during my third game of this tournament, that it is much better as a distraction unit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for dropping pie plates on infantry, but it’s more useful as a bullet magnet. People are always very afraid of Hammerheads and direct a lot of fire their way. AV 13 and a 4+ cover save is not easy to get rid of. I realized just how much people fear the hammerhead when my opponent sent a Wave Serpent full of Fire Dragons after it. The Fire Dragons and Wave Serpent were both Kill Points that I had chosen, while the Hammerhead was not a Kill Point for my opponent. They destroyed my tank, and I realized that I was totally fine with it. He brought 2 Kill Points to my doorstep while I gave him none in return. I wasn’t too sad about losing the tank because I no longer depend on it for any single task. There’s nothing it can do that other units can’t.
You've got two units of four pathfinders only, pretty vulnerable units on their own. How did they fare in the tournament?

      The Pathfinders were great. I pretty much said it before but they were either in reserve denying the enemy 2 of his 5 kill points, or were markerlighting whatever was the biggest threat. A bonus with keeping them in reserve can be had when combined with the positional relay. I can send the Fusion Gun Crisis Team in on turn 2 and keep my Pathfinders out of harm’s way even longer. 

What armies did you play against in the tournament?

      I really only played 2 armies out of the 3 games I played. The first was a Space Marine army with 15 Terminators and 3 Ironclad Dreadnoughts in Drop Pods. He also had 2 squads of marines and some scouts. For this game, I just sat back and shot his guys as they tried to get close to me. His Ironclads dropped right on my lines so I was able to melta them the turn they arrived. He did have 5 Assault Terminators though which were impossible to kill. I gave up trying after 2 rounds of not killing any. One of my secret missions in this game was to win without inflicting any wounds in close combat, which I got. The only combat in the game was his Assault Terminators dominating some Broadsides and Pathfinders.
      The second 2 games were against Mech Eldar. I hate the Eldar. However, the first game went really well. I castled up in one corner and made him come to me. I actually got ridiculously lucky this game and killed all of his grav tanks really fast. Just about every time one got shot, it blew up. I was rolling 6s all over the place. I ended up almost tabling him while only losing a few of models. I felt kinda bad. But hey, it’s a tournament! No mercy!
      The last game was a bit more interesting. I castled up again since it worked so well the first time, but I wasn’t quite as lucky. We exchanged a lot of fire and were killing each other at about the same rate. It was a long game back and forth killing in which we both ended up with like 3 models on the table. He tank shocked me a whole bunch of times and I lost a Crisis Suit squad and a Fire Warrior squad in this way. This game came down to the very last roll. My commander was locked in combat with his Dire Avenger Exarch on one of the objectives. We both had 5 Kill Points and this was the last TROOPS choice on the board. I wounded him once and he had to make a save. If he makes it, he wins for having a TROOPS choice on an objective. If he fails, I get a victory by the smallest margin ever. Luckily, he failed it. An epic end to an epic game. I actually ended up getting 2 of my secret mission in this game. One was “end up with fewer than 2 squads at greater than half strength at the end of the game” or something, and the other was “cause an enemy unit to flee twice”. I got this one, surprisingly, on his farseer. He was in combat with a crisis suit and failed his leadership test twice.
Even though you won every game, were there any army types that caused you the most difficulty? What units cause the most trouble to your army?

      The biggest problem units for me to deal with were the Assault Terminators and Fire Prisms with holo fields. Assault terminators are just too tough and getting past holo fields requires me to shoot at that tank a whole lot. And there were 3 of them in my third game. I had to just ignore them and minimize their effects.

If you were to choose one unit for an MVP award, which would it be?

      This one’s rather difficult. Just about my entire army contributed in at least one of the games. I guess I’d have to give it to my command squad. I love those guys and I always look to them to take out the enemy’s most important units. And they usually don’t let me down. Plus, my commander won me the last game so that’s pretty awesome.
The Tau Army can be a difficult army to master for some players. There's often talk of the Tau Learning Curve on various forums. What would be your advice to a new player starting out with the Tau Empire?

      I agree that there is a decent size learning curve with these technologically advanced, physically inept, little blue men. I think the two most important things to keep in mind when playing the Tau are target priority and unit roles. The Tau aren’t like the Space Marines who they can sit and shoot if they want, or charge an enemy if the opportunity presents itself. The Tau have to do what they are good at and avoid everything else like the plague. Keeping your distance is very important, leading to target priority. Take out fast moving units first and kill foot sloggers at your leisure. Using a unit in its intended role ties in directly with target priority. Fire Warriors and Devilfish shouldn’t be shooting Rhinos. And Broadsides shouldn’t be shooting marines. I try to keep these two ideas in mind when I’m making my lists, and it is most evident in my Crisis Suit loadouts. I made sure to give them all a primary and secondary role (except for the fusion gun guys). Take the squad with fusion guns and missile pods for example. Their primary role is to throw strength 7 shots down the field at transports and high toughness targets. But they also have melta guns in case I have to deal with any tough tanks that get up close. This worked perfectly the first game when Ironclad Dreads were dropping right next to me. 

I put the roles of each squad next to their entry to give you an idea of what each unit is meant to do. Most units have two useful roles in case one of them isn’t needed. It also shows the redundancy in my list and the fact that totally different units fill the same role.

296 Shas’el – plasma gun, missile pod, positional relay, multi tracker, 2 shield drones
2 Crisis Bodyguards – plasma guns, missile pods, multi trackers, targeting arrays – Primary: things that require AP 2, Secondary: light vehicles

141 3 Crisis Suits – twin linked missile pods, flamers – Primary: transports, Secondary: close troops
118 2 Crisis Suits – missile pods, fusion guns, targeting arrays – Primary: transports, Secondary: close in armor
106 2 Crisis Suits – twin linked fusion guns, targeting arrays – Primary: heavy tanks

135 12 Fire Warriors – shas’ui, bonded – Primary: objectives, Secondary: small, isolated infantry squads
135 12 Fire Warriors – shas’ui, bonded – Primary: objectives, Secondary: small, isolated infantry squads

168 4 Pathfinders –Primary: markerlight support, Secondary: distraction
Devilfish – smart missile system, multi tracker, targeting array, disruption pod –Primary: FW protection, Secondary: killing infantry
168 4 Pathfinders –Primary: markerlight support, Secondary: distraction
Devilfish – smart missile system, multi tracker, targeting array, disruption pod –Primary: FW protection, Secondary: killing infantry

180 Hammerhead – railgun, smart missile system, target lock, multi-tracker, disruption pod –Primary: Infantry, Secondary: tanks
200 2 Broadsides – targeting arrays, leader, HW target lock, 2 shield drones –Primary: Transports, Secondary: heavy stuff
200 2 Broadsides – targeting arrays, leader, HW target lock, 2 shield drones –Primary: Transports, Secondary: heavy stuff


Pete W said...

Really good post OSH and thanks to Mark for all of the insights on his army.

It seems like he has really thought through the best ways to play and really works to the strengths of the Tau. I like the using the hammerhead as bait and the careful use of mass crisis suits is very clever too.

Are the photos of his army in general rather than the specific list he gave? I only ask because I see a skyray and the deathrain suits are modelled with one MP and twin flamers, rather than TL-MP and flamers.

In any case it's a great looking army and I love the tactical insights.


Soundwave said...

Very enjoyable read and a well put together post. Don't want to boost your ego too much, but this is my favourite Tau blog I follow, and posts like this are the reason why!

The questions asked of the guy are relevant and his answers are actually of tactial use :D

Rathstar said...


Excellent army overview. It's nice to hear of a Tau army doing well, and the general's thoughts on their army make-up.

I've noticed my hammerheads absorb loads of firepower as well, however my experience is that I normally lose one to deepstriking meltaguns, so I have two for some redundancy. I may try out dropping one for a unit of 2 broadsides (you can never have too many railguns).

Congrats again to Mark on the tournament performance.


NockerGeek said...

It's always interesting to me to read about how other Tau players build and run their armies, so I really like this article. I especially like how Mark breaks down the roles for each unit and how he uses them. I hope that we get to see more interviews like this in the future!

I find the Pathfinder units to be interesting. I've never had much luck with them myself, but it's good to see some different loadouts for them. I wouldn't have thought of putting minimum-sized squads in Warfish. I might have to try it and see how it goes. They do seem to fit a hybrid list like this rather well.

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Pete, Some of the photos are to this army list but the one taken outside of the whole army is a different army build. Not sure if everything is WYSIWYG.

@Soundwave, Thanks. We strive for quality here at Tau of War. Glad you like it.

@Rathstar, It is nice to hear of a Tau army going undefeated isn't it. Mark's a great player.

@Nockergeek, I'm thinking of bringing out my pathfinders again from this article! Hopefully, I'll be able to do more posts like this in the future. I think I got lucky because Mark happened to be a real good writer! :P

MFerek said...

Hey thanks for all the good comments! The army picture isn't the same list as what I took to the tourney, but it's the best picture i had of a whole force. I try to keep my stuff as close to WYSIWYG as possible, which leads me to my next project. I started this Tau army a while ago, in 4th ed, and didn't plan on ever changing my weapon loadouts. So i'm planning on magnetizing everything. I know, nothing revolutionary, but it should be a fun little project.

Anonymous said...

Although I wouldn't be comfortable running that list because I think there's too much bait for there to be any bait at all, I liked the gentleman's responses to your queries. It's always interesting to see how other Tau players approach things.

Ko'Vash Tau'Va!

Flekkzo said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I look forward to more great material. Feel free to do this again:)

I also enjoyed your video, though I didn't comment on that post. Some musings though: Music is nice. If you have the software for it, some editing can do wonders. Recording comments after the video can also be neat (requires editing). That said, that is usually my thoughs on all 40k videos:)

Great looking models in the article. Is the Tau easier to paint or do you two guys just rock?

Adam said...

Hey OSH and MFerek,

I'd be interested to see what you guys would take in a 1500pts Tau army as that's the UK standard tournament size. I've found that it really restricts what you can take.

Pearlygates said...

That was a great interview OSH, and glad to see someone with a Tau army come out on top.

I may use my two broadside squads in the same setup with Target Locks, though I'll still give the Target Arrays a miss.

That's a good insight to how he used his Hammerhead as bait, though I'm now currently in favour of the Skyray for the time being!

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Adam, 1500 points that's rough for Tau. I'll try to see what I can come up with.

@Pearly, I hope to have more intereviews as time goes on. Was supposed to have a Combat Patrol battle report up today but I need some more time.

Kroxitau said...

@OSH, @Adam I like 1500 pts, I usually field something like this:

2 squads of 3 suits, 1 suicide suit, 2 units of 6 fw in devilfish with D-pod, squad of 5 pathfinders in a devilfish with D-pod, 2 piranhas with 4 seekers, 1 squad of 10 kroot, 2 kitted out hammer heads.

The suits can be tailored to whatever you like them to accomplish in a game, I generally run fire knives or super knives.

Just posted a battle report using this versus a Lysander army, it was a fun game, although the suits did almost nothing (at least nothing in the shooting phase) :(


Kroxitau said...

Keep more articles like this coming OSH it was well written and fun to read. I think that tactics articles are pretty fun, but I am also interested in reading interviews from people who are crazy good at painting or converting their models.

Anonymous said...

How do those Elites survive without shield drones?

Old Shatter Hands said...

Cover, range and the jump-shoot-jump dance I'm sure.

MFerek said...

Yeah, OSH is right. If you just stick your tanks our front, you can give your entire army a cover save by hiding behind them. It's actually hard to get a large number of shots off at them because they are generally faster than regular infantry and hide all the time. So the enemy can shoot heavy weapons at them, but they'll get a cover save and that means your tanks aren't getting shot.

On a side note, i'm thinking of trying some Piranhas instead of the suicide crisis suit squad and running some kroot. I'm not sure what I'll take out though. I like the idea of setting my fire warriors up to shoot a few shots the first turn or 2 and then hopping in the devilfish to run away. hopefully the kroot will infiltrate or outflank close enough to enemy objectives to act as my capturing/contesting squad.

Xanadu said...

I like playing at the 1500 level, but it is large enough unfortunately for überunits to happen, like veteran assault squads, huge nob bike squads and *shudder* A Jetbike mounted Seer council - (What can you do against one of those.) I Say that because one successfully butchered literally my whole army whilst his troops and falcon just sat on a ridge taking pot shots at my tanks.

@OSH I'll be very interested to see your take on a 1500 point list, and how similar it is to my own.

@MFerek I always take a few piranhas, it is amazing to see how many people are so scared of that kind of unit, and if I DS my crisis suits, I always mishap even if they are nowhere near any enemies, they'll manage to scatter 12" and die horribly.

Kroxitau said...

@Xanadu: I get tatored by seer council lists, I have the biggest problems with them.
I will have to second you on the piranhas, I always try to make room for them.

Pearlygates said...

Kroxitau...I am now one for fielding Piranhas too (mainly due to OSH's influence).

I am now always finding that i'm fielding the same old' same old list; I'm now trying out 1 t/l fusion suicide unit of crisis along with Shadowsun too. I am beginning to like this new concept to my army and it will also become a regular "same old" set-up for me!

OSH, I just thought, did you not say in the previous blog that the tourney was an 'infantry only!' game?

or is that Inner Circle tourney yet to happen?

Old Shatter Hands said...

Naw, Pearly, that was a different tourney. A combat Patrol one that I missed due to traffic. I got there late and started without me!

Flekkzo said...

@Kroxitau If you have trouble with councils check out Fritz's blog. He knows how to run 'em and how to stop 'em.

oniakki said...

A very useful post. Being a new Tau player myself, it's nice seeing a breakdown of what someone actually uses particular individual units and load outs for.