Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Joining the Tau Empire Part 3: Army Lists

All too often, new Tau players get frustrated with the steep Tau learning curve. Many players give up after 20 some odd games of losing horribly to all the nasty things current codices can dish out. Their stealth suits get assaulted and annihilated after a disappointing first volley of fire, their broadsides get ambushed by Wolf Scouts on turn 2, their hammerheads get melted by Tactical Squads and the player leaves the table thinking, "Wow, Tau suck."


Most of the time, this comes from fielding an army list that sinks points into upgrades and units that are ineffective. However, instead of talking about mitigating their weaknesses, I'd like to focus on maximizing the Tau Empire's strengths. 


Autocannons on the move
Through a number of technological advances during the Second Sphere Expansion, the Fio'la of Tau'n developed a unique propulsion system that combines the best features of jet technology and anti-gravity systems. Fitted to XV Battlesuits, this system provides the pilot with a stable firing platform that is not compromised by rough ground or climatic conditionsTo maximize this ability, let's load the humble Missile Pod on it. Wait, no, that's not good enough, let's load two and twin-link them.


That's right. The Tau Empire is unique in its ability to field cheap, massed, mobile Missile Pods (equivalent to Autocannons). This weapon, mounted a durable Battlesuit, commands the respect of any general. Missile Pods have a high rate of fire, the strength to puncture most APC armor and the range to keep your suits a safe distance without sacrificing lethality. Use them, use lots of them.  


Access to Cheap (and sometimes free) Infantry Units
By putting finger to pen, Chief Angkor Prok secured the future of his people within the Tau Empire and ensured their rightful seat as some of the most numerous and esteemed infantry of the Empire's Armies. Their skill at arms  well makes up for their distasteful manners. 


Kroot are cheap, real cheap. At 7 points a pop you can flesh out your army with a good core of foot soldiers. These Kroot Warriors fill the role of front line fighters. As front line fighters, they often suffer the highest casualties but can also win the highest glories. Deployed in front of your battle line, they can protect your heavy hitters from meltaguns, enemy assaults and even enemy shooting by providing a cover save to units behind them.  




In addition, the "free" drones you get when you purchase Piranhas and Devilfish can also fill this role and tend to be better at getting in the way due to their mobility. Don't simply toss them aside because their stat line is weak, use them the best you can. Your drones and kroot are some of your biggest assets in 40k and cost little to nothing within your list. 


Long Range AP1 Weaponry
"Sir, incoming transmission. The Tau Commander is hailing us"
"Patch him through."
"General Alamaeda, this is Shas'O Lai-Ryn of the Bork'An Sept, Commander of Ground Forces on Genoshia. I hope, General, your men have made their peace with your God-Emperor because my XV-88s are now in position."


The most glaring advantage that the Tau have is access to Railguns. Strength 10 is enough to kill a Thunderwolf outright and make a mockery of armor. Being both twin-linked and AP1 ensures that tank commanders will cringe as your Broadsides take aim. This coupled with the option to get slow-and-purposeful on your Broadsides makes them some of the most deadly long-range units in the game. 


Army Lists
The above in mind, you've got to create a list that maximizes the good while minimizing the bad. If you're a beginner in 40k this is doubly important. You'll need a list that can rip an army to shreds with enough redundancy to lose a few units here and there without become combat ineffective. 


There are a few units which seem, on the surface, good and effective units but, in fact, are very difficult to use. Stealth Suits, Crisis Suits with Plasma Rifles and Missile Pods (this will make the internets angry I am sure), Pathfinders, Sky Rays, Fire Warriors, Sniper Drones and Ethereals. These are units that should be avvoided by beginners until your more familiar with the Tau Army, and more importantly, enemy armies. 


Then there are units which you should never spend points on; Vespids and Gun Drone Squadrons. The former are horribly ineffective and the latter you get for free on your vehicles. 


Here is a list I came up that I believe is a good one for beginners. It's got loads of long range fire, plenty of redundancy and doesn't rely on the difficult-to-use Pathfinders.


HQ- Shas'El Commander, Twin-linked Missile Pods, Flamer, Target Lock 77

Elites-3x Crisis Suits, Twin-linked Missile Pods, Flamers, Team Leader upgrade, +2 Gun drones 166
Elites-3x Crisis Suits, Twin-linked Missile Pods, Flamers, Team Leader upgrade, +2 Gun drones 166
Elites-3x Crisis Suits, Twin-linked Missile Pods, Flamers, Team Leader upgrade, +2 Gun drones 166

Fast Attack-1x Piranha with Fusion Blaster 65
Fast Attack-1x Piranha with Fusion Blaster 65
Fast Attack-1x Piranha with Fusion Blaster 65

Troops-10 Kroot, 3 Hounds 88
Troops-10 Kroot, 7 Hounds 112
Troops-6 Fire Warriors with Rifles, Devilfish with Multitracker, Disruption Pod 155

Heavy Support-3 Broadsides with Advanced Stabilization System or Targeting Array (your preference doesn't matter which and both cost the same, I am not sure which I prefer yet) Team-Leader Upgrade, Hard-Wired Target Lock, + 2 Shield Drones 280 

Heavy Support-3 Broadsides with Advanced Stabilization System or Targeting Array, Team-Leader Upgrade, Hard-Wired Target Lock, + 2 Shield Drones 280 

Heavy Support- Hammerhead with Burst Cannons, Railgun, Disruption Pods, Multitracker -165


Total Points 1850

This list has the fire power and mobility you need. It can knock out transports without trouble and even heavy armor needs to watch out because there are 6 twin-linked Railguns about. 

There's plenty of infantry to create Kroot Walls and null-drop zones. The army occupies lots of space which is important because you'll be able to block table edges so that enemy reserves can't come on behind you or to your flank, via outflanking or similar rules. Drop pods won't be able to melta your tanks and suits because they'll be out of range. 

The army can deal with hordes and mechanized armies alike although it does lack some good AP2-3 firepower. I believe it doesn't need it though because you've got the ability to put lots of wounds on any and all targets. Veteran Tau players will notice I've left Fire Knives out of the list. That was intentional. Fire Knives are difficult to use well because you have to stay within 24 inches to keep them effective. Deathrains can be at a safe distance away without losing fire. 

You can set up a firebase with Kroot out in front and then you just send Piranhas out one by one to block the enemy advance. Simple and dangerous. Loads of twin-linked shots and no silly upgrades like the ejection system.

A good list for beginners? You tell me. 




16 comments:

Kirby said...

" Crisis Suits with Plasma Rifles and Missile Pods (this will make the internets angry I am sure), "

The internets love you :).

For beginner Tau players I'd try and squeeze in more scoring. By dropping the Hammerhead and the Broadsides units to 3 units of 2 with target locks increases your fire saturation (6 targets) but overall number of railguns but saves you some points. Use these points to flesh out the Troops with FW in Warfish or more Kroot units.

Just some thoughts with the beginning in light but a solid list irregardless!

Heretic said...

It is a good list. It's not what I used when I played Tau, but I didn't do too well. I would recommend this to a beginner definitely, but it seems to be a bit weak against marines, but that's about all I play against.

Good post OSH.

Pete W said...

Solid looking list and I think it's a good start for new players.

I'm also not a fan of fireknives. I like Helios (Plasma + Fusion) suits since if I'm getting in close for low-AP then I want all the firepower to match up.

The only issue with deathrains in number is getting enough missile pod bits. Please let GW add additional missile pods when/if they remake the crisis suit model.

Swift Hunter said...

Honestly?

Please don't feel offended, but beginners don't play such huge battles, at least in my country.

I'm from Poland, and, besides completely different playstyle, we do not play that large battles very often. And I'm talking about guys -3-years-in-hobby. When I was a beginner I played 500-1000 points battles, 1250 was pico-apocalypse for me.

But as per list, it's pretty nice build for not-polish norms.

Again, please don't take it as offense, I really like your blog. =)

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Swift Hunter, I was worried that I was starting too big. But then I figured this list might give a new player a goal to reach while collecting an army. I could go smaller in future posts.

@Kirby, Good points. It does need more troops.

I really dislike units of 2 broadsides with 2 drones for leadership reasons. One drone dies and then whole squad runs off the board. You could, drop the broadside units down to 2 each, and then purchase a second deathrain commander and attach one to each squad though.

NockerGeek said...

Well, my first concern is that the list is 350 points too large. :) Seriously, though, for a beginner's first tournament list, it works.

The lack of plasma is also concerning to me, but that's mostly because I go up against a lot of MEQ armies. With nothing other than railguns that can penetrate 3+ armor, volume of fire will only go so far. This is doubly true against Blood Angels; plasma tears through them, but they can shrug off pretty much anything else with a Sanguinary Priest in tow. I'm just not convinced that Kroot Rifles and Missile Pods can throw on enough wounds that stick to get the job done.

Piranhas without Disruption Pods seem a bit odd at first, but considering that they're going to be blocking/in melta range, it makes sense. No good having a 12+"-only cover save if you're with 12" all the time. Still, they're likely to be shot to pieces, so there's no good way to contest with them later.

It still feels like too much of a "sit and wait" army for my style, but it seems like it would be solid enough. A little pricey dollar-wise (each Broadside unit retails for $105, plus another $10 split between them for a set of shield drone bits), so I don't know if _I_ would jump at it as a beginner, but it's definitely a start for someone who wants play the hardcore tournament scene.

Muskie said...

I would echo the Polish fellow. People talk on the Internet about big games and their huge unpainted armies, but in local stores and local tournaments, 1500 points is the norm around here (Vancouver).

If you really wanted to attract new players to the Tau you'd post 500 or 1000 point costs and you'd also consider the dollar cost of the army. Piranhas used to be ForgeWorld models for instance, also requiring much in the way of conversions would be unwise for beginners.

Muskie said...

I would echo the Polish fellow. People talk on the Internet about big games and their huge unpainted armies, but in local stores and local tournaments, 1500 points is the norm around here (Vancouver).

If you really wanted to attract new players to the Tau you'd post 500 or 1000 point costs and you'd also consider the dollar cost of the army. Piranhas used to be ForgeWorld models for instance, also requiring much in the way of conversions would be unwise for beginners.

Tau said...

Sounds like a solid list to me.

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Muskie, Sure thing. I can whip up some 500, 750, 1000 pt lists no problem. I can't help you on the costs of models though. If you want to make a tau army on the cheap, you'll probably have to dump a lot of points into upgrades and other expensive models. Unfortunately that will make the Tau less enjoyable to play because you'll have a tough time winning any games.

500, 750, 1000 point lists to come shortly.

Gredus said...

I want to try it OSH, but i'm going learn this army the hard way! I think the thing that's putting me off writing a 1750 list is I don't want to write a list based on models I need to buy. I have a pretty good idea of what i'll be doing now however.

atom said...

Really looking forward to the lower-point lists, as I'm a beginning Tau player.

Rus'El said...

Thanks OSH for your lists. Building a good list is probably the most important thing in winning a battle. The second most important thing IMO would be deployment. Get these two things wrong and you're literally fighting a loosing battle, reacting rather than directing.

These lists and tips are worth their weight in Ukoses (guess the Tau word?)

Rus'El

Pete W said...

Ok, for a (reasonably) monetarily cheap Tau army, I will put forth the following. It may struggle to win games against tough lists but a good player can make it work fairly well.

2x Battleforce ($180 retail)
2x Skyray boxed set ($80 retail)
4x Piranha ($100 retail)
2x Crisis suits ($45 retail)

$405, or ~$320 from the warstore at 20% discount

Making an army of:

- Helios Shas'El + Drones
- Helios bodyguard
- 2x Deathrains
- 6 stealth suits with 2 Marker drones
- 2x 9 Fire warriors
- 2x 12 kroot
- 6 pathfinders (made from FW bits) plus Devilfish
- 2 fusion piranhas
- 2 fusion piranhas
- Hammerhead (made from SR kit and Devilfish hull)
- Hammerhead (from SR kit)
- Skyray

I pointed up an army much like this that came to a neat 1850 points and was fairly balanced. The trick when doing this kind of force is knowing that you will have to work hard to make the most effect of your non-optimised force.

Curtis said...

Could you please explain your logic on using kroot as shields. Since tau have a good armour 4+ or 3+ armour save where's the advantage of a Kroot shield?
Orks with a 6+ save I can understand, but Tau?
Personally I prefer to outflank with my kroot and hounds - that is normally a death or glory charge but all my opponents at my club would put that as one of their main concerns/considerations when battling the Tau

Sean said...

Deathrains can be ammassed if you go to a club i got about 10 missile pods 8D i made a turret out of 4 of them and fitted the rest to my crisis team (The turret was a piece of interactive scenery... i gave it armour of a pirhanahs back so it isnt abused.)