Friday, December 3, 2010

MSU and the Tau Empire

One thing that I think is missing from ATT is discussion of how Tau can best utilize MSU power. This post is going to discuss MSU, look at a few very competitive builds out there and give an example of a Tau MSU build that I am planning on fielding for the 2011 tournament circuit. I’d really like the community’s input and dare I say, army lists that utilize MSU power.

What is MSU?
MSU is the abbreviation of “multiple small units” and most often refers to an army that contains lots of minimum or small sized units where nearly every FOC slot is filled. It’s not a new concept in 40k and harks back to 3rd and 4th edition in which victory points were the major determining factor in winning games.

Lots of the newer 40k armies like Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Imperial Guard and Dark Eldar have flexible Codices that can really take advantage of MSU power. A good example is the 5-man Blood Angel Assault Squad unit armed with a meltagun, infernus pistol and power sword, dropping its jump packs for a rhino or razorback. This unit actually doubles up an FOC slot as it gives you two units, a 5-man infantry unit and its transport (which can be a weapon in and of itself). The unit has meltagun-power and can fight in the assault too, due to the fact there is typically a Sanguinary Priest nearby to provide feel-no-pain and furious charge. That’s an example at the single unit level. Looking at the large context of the entire army, we’ll likely see 4-6 of these in the army (at around 155 points, they’re cheap), with around 5 or so predators, both Baal and regular preds and so on. Typical builds have almost every FOC slot filled up in some way. Space Wolves have a really great ability to fill up their armies with MSUs due their cheap points cost and access to special weapons and dedicated transports.

What does MSU do for your army?
The most important advantage of MSU is that builds in redundancy to your list and makes your army more durable to incoming fire and assaults. Who cares if you lose an assault squad you’e got 5 more of them! Also as your opponent’s units can only target one enemy unit at a time, his shooting needs to be divided up among small units instead of being able to concentrate fire on a single large threat. Because you have multiple units, losing one unit has little effect on your overall army because you have so many small units to replace the lost one.

Offensively, it makes your army more effective as well because you can allocate your fire better. Instead of having a single large unit overkill an enemy unit with shooting, your small unit can apply their firepower as needed without wasting redundant shots. This plays out well for broadsides. Sometimes a unit of 3 broadsides overkills an enemy tank, wasting a railgun shot or two, while 3 separate Broadsides can fire one at a time without wasting any shots.  

You can probably find  better explanation of benefits of MSU on Kirby’s Blog or on Yes The Truth Hurts. Mike Brandt from Whiskey 40k also had a great section on the 11th Company Podcast discussing MSU in great detail.

Tau MSU 
The Tau Codex is structured well to take advantage of MSU. We have XV-8 Crisis Suits which by their nature are MSU and have access to special weapons. Broadsides work better when split up in to 3 units of 2, giving your army 6 railguns that can target 3 different enemies. Adding target locks to the Team Leader furthers this ability to spread railgun shots.

Piranhas are great too because not only can they be armed with powerful weapon, the fusion blaster, but they also come with a bonus of 2 drones as a unit. They’re also better off fielded as single units for blocking purposes. Fire Warriors while weak in general also fit into the MSU framework as well because they are cheap. What I also like about the Tau army is that for the most part, the units within it have lots of special rules without needing upgrades. For example, a Shas’El with two battlesuit weapons and a multitracker aleady has mobility, 3+ armor, the ability to deep-strike, counts as an infantry model and has acute senses. This is all without any fancy upgrades.

MSU is also important for Tau as having multiple small units builds layers of assault-protection and move blockers. Drones are great for this. Those little burgerbots are so useful in that they can be a serious nuisance to the enemy as you block their assaults with them and get in the way of enemy fire, providing cover for your units behind them.

The key is try and fill out all of your FOC slots with little units with minimum upgrades in favor of more guns on the table. It embodies the zen-like synergy that the Tau Empire aims to achieve. With Tau MSU, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

For me, perfecting Tau MSU is a work-in-progress so bare that in mind as you think about this post.

Sample Army List - 1750 points
Here’s a sample army list that after revisions from earlier will be taking to the field at The Conflict GT.

HQ- Shas’El with Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Multitracker, Hard-wired Target Lock 87
HQ- Ethereal 50

Elites – 3 XV-8s with Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Flamers. 1 upgraded to Team Leader with Drone Controller and 2 Gun Drones 166
Elites – 3 XV-8s with Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Flamers. 1 upgraded to Team Leader with Drone Controller and 2 Gun Drones 166
Elites – 3 XV-8s with Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Flamers. 1 upgraded to Team Leader with Drone Controller and 2 Gun Drones 166


Troops  - 6 Fire Warriors with Pulse Rifles 60
Troops  - 6 Fire Warriors with Pulse Rifles 60
Troops  - 10 Kroot 70
Troops  - 10 Kroot 70
Troops  - 10 Kroot 70

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

Heavy Support - 2 XV-88s with Advanced Stabilization Systems. 1 Upgraded to Team Leader. Drone Controller and 2 Shield Drones 195
Heavy Support - 2 XV-88s with Advanced Stabilization Systems. 1 Upgraded to Team Leader. Drone Controller and 2 Shield Drones 195
Heavy Support - 2 XV-88s with Advanced Stabilization Systems. 1 Upgraded to Team Leader. Drone Controller and 2 Shield Drones 195

This is pretty blatant departure from the on-going Mech craze, not because I think Mech is bad or anything, I just had a suggestion from Mike Brandt to remove Devilfish and it made sense to me. Hammerheads are a bit of disappointment as well. At any rate, you can see that just about every FOC section is filled. The list is actually 19 units in total with the drones off the piranhas. The amount of fire power this list can pump out at only being 1750 points is staggering. And it’s not all anti-mech firepower either, meaning that I’ll be able to hurt infantry as they pile out of transports.

The only thing missing from this article is a discussion of the effects of Kill Points. I think I’ll leave that to the next time.

Questions, Comments appreciated. I want to hear how you’re using MSU power to buff up your armies!

26 comments:

DimmyK said...

yh kill points would be a problem. Just to ask, how would use this list if playing annihalation?

DimmyK said...

yh kill points would be a problem. Just to ask, how would use this list if playing annihalation?

gundog8324 said...

I believe the Shas'el is 92
50+20+12+5+5=92

Known as Ben said...

I think that MSU can be good for marine style armies (5 guys with a 3+ save and melta/plasma spam). Marines love it, but MSU for Tau or DE (or regular E) or Orks is not as good. Small units of Fire Warriors/Wyches/DE warriors get beat up pretty quick. I add my redundancy within my squads. 20 DE Warriors in a squad mean the 2 lances will be firing for more turns than smaller squads. Your Crisis Suits above are maxed out (with drones) for the same reason. I think MSU us a symptom of the preponderance of marine style armies out there. It's tough to be a xenos these days...

Aleksi Lehtio said...

Nice posts. I've actually been working on a similar build myself for tau, but so far I've kept the devilfish. Maybe I could try the firewarriors on foot aswell. Anyway here's my list:

Shas`el with twin-linked flamer and missile pod @ 68pts.

Ethereal @ 50pts.

3 Crisis Suits with 2 plasma rifles, 2 multitrackers, 3 missile pods, 1 twin-linked flamer, leader with 1 gun drone @ 182pts.

3 Crisis Suits with 2 plasma rifles, 2 multitrackers, 3 missile pods, 1 twin-linked flamer, leader with 1 gun drone @ 182pts.

3 Crisis Suits with 2 plasma rifles, 2 multitrackers, 3 missile pods, 1 twin-linked flamer, leader with 1 gun drone @ 182pts.

6 Fire Warriors @ 60pts.

10 Kroots @ 70pts.

10 Kroots @ 70pts.


1 Piranha with fusion blaster, targetting array, disruption pod @ 75pts.

1 Piranha with fusion blaster, targetting array, disruption pod @ 75pts.

6 Pathfinders with Devilfish @ 72pts.

2 Broadsides with 2 plasma rifles, 2 multitrackers, leader with target lock, 1 gun drone @ 190pts.

2 Broadsides with 2 plasma rifles, 2 multitrackers, leader with target lock, 1 gun drone @ 190pts.

2 Broadsides with 2 plasma rifles, 2 multitrackers, leader with target lock, 1 gun drone @ 190pts.

Cobalt Cannon said...

I see some great tactical options with a force organized this way. You can really confuse the heck out of an opponent as to what units' objectives are in your force. Some flanking here, others moving there. You have the ability to surround forces that have small high-point-costing units and run circles around large horde units. Since any unit can only move in one direction, the enemy has to make hard decisions that will have to leave himself open in places to attack without reprisal. This advantage will dwindle quickly as small units are put down much quicker from shooting.
In terms of your list, I am skeptical about no XV8 having a plasma rifle. May I suggest considering sacrificing one unit of kroot to equip on unit of XV8s as fireknives or.. Make the team leader in each XV8 equipped with Plasma Rifle, Missile pod, Target array, HW multitracker, HW target lock, a Drone controller and any drones for sauce? Just so you have that plasma option.

The XV8 units can then all come into support range of each other if the plasma is needed in mass. Otherwise you can raid with them into the enemy like cavalry ( I'm thinking Mongol cavalry here ). Hit and run with them all over inside the enemy's lines to keep them all confused or herded in convenient areas for your broadsides.

Good luck with the tournament and list.

Dooms said...

i think that you need plasma

Dooms said...

i thinak that you need plasma

suneokun said...

If you are going to MSU, I would seriously consider ensuring your troops choice are the perfect size.

6 firewarrior will break after 2 deaths, 9 after 3. 13 Kroot won't break til 4.

Remember t4+1, so 5, 9, 13, 17, 21 etc etc gain you maximum break points.

Each unit can soak up 3-4 shots more, that's 3-4 shots not targetting the others.

Personally, I think mech ain't gonna be a problem, I think annihilation are gonna suck and taking other peoples objectives is just not going to work.

But that's Tau all over.

Kill every last one of them?!?

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Dooms, I'm not convinced I need plasma at all. Things that you need plasma to destroy are generally terminators and marines. Marines will most likely be getting a cover save anyway so I'd have to bring them down through torrenting. Terminators are normally armed with Storm shield so they are getting the 3+ invuln anyway, better to just torrent them as well. 20 points is too much for one gun IMO. No, plasma isn't for me anymore.

@Sunekun, thanks for the break down. I still like the minimized FW squads. Breaking isn't much of a concern because I've got an ethereal. But I was thinking that I need to find points for some Kroot Hounds to bring them up to 13 models.

ehemkeh said...

Good to have you back doing articles OSH. Congrats on your new hobby.

I am not entirely convinced about the whole MSU thing for any army build. I like to mix, match and specialize more. Also, if you are going volume of fire, why not try some burst cannon/missile pod/MT suits? I've actually had better success against terminators with them.

Xyhelm said...

I look forward to you putting up some videos using MSU. Looks like a great idea to me!

Yes, what do you do when the game is Annihilation?

Old Shatter Hands said...

Xyhelm, I shrug and re-roll the result, LOL!

No seriously, giving up a few more kill points doesn't really matter if your army is more effective at killing stuff.

Joez55 said...

I have been running a similar army, though I don't like the etheral at all, don't you find he just dies horribly? =(.

Shas'el-TL missiles, flamer, 2 gun drones

3 Crisis suits, team leader, TL missiles, flamer, 2 gun drones, 2xTL missiles, flamer
3 Crisis suits, team leader, TL missiles, flamer, 2 gun drones, 2xTL missiles, flamer
3 Crisis suits, team leader, TL missiles, flamer, 2 gun drones, 2xTL missiles, flamer

10 Kroot, 3 hounds
10 Kroot, 3 hounds
10 Kroot, 3 hounds
6 firewarriors

Piranha, +1BS, pods
Piranha, +1BS, pods
Piranha, +1BS, pods

2 Broadsides, team leader, targetlock, nightvision, 2 shield drones, ASSx2
2 Broadsides, team leader, targetlock, nightvision, 2 shield drones, ASSx2
2 Broadsides, team leader, targetlock, nightvision, 2 shield drones, ASSx2

17 kill points, but generally in mech heavy environment it will kill more that it loses.

Old Shatter Hands said...

Joez55, thats a damn good list there. Not sure you need the +1 BS on the piranhas but that's your choice. Around here that would 20 kill points wiht the drones off the piranhas. I bet you have lots of fun with that list!

Lord Lizard said...

Do you find you torrent enough to kill BA feel no pain marines?

What was Brandt's argument for losing Devilfish?

Dooms said...

and what about the deep strikes
back to your line
terminators , 10squad marines
without plasma and markerlights i cant imagine how you reaction

take look my list

1st 1750pts
------------------
HQ
------------------
Shas o
h.w. multi tracker
targeting array
plasma
missile pod
h.w. drone controller
2 shield drones
---
Bodyguard 1/h.w. multi tracker
targeting array
h.w. target lock
plasma
missile pod
---
Bodyguard 1
h.w. multi tracker
targeting array
h.w. target lock
plasma
missile pod
---------------------
ELITE 1
---------------------
Crisis
team leader
plasma
T.L. missile pod
drone controller
2 shield drones
---
Crisis
plasma
t.l.missile pod
---
Crisis
plasma
t.l.missile pod
----------------------
ELITE 2
----------------------
Crisis
team leader
target lock
fusion t.l.
flamer
---
Crisis
fusion t.l.
flamer
---------------------
FAST
---------------------
1#
5x Pathfinders
devilfish
disruption pod
---
2#
5x Pathfinders
devilfish
disruption pod
---
3#
piranha
fusion
targeting array
disruption pod
---------------------
TROOPS
---------------------
1#
6x Firewarriors
devilfish
disruption pod
---
2#
6x Firewarriors
---
3#
6x Firewarriors
-------------------
HEAVY SUPPORT
-------------------
1#
Broadside XV88
stabilazation system
team leader
multi tracker
drone controller
target lock
black sun filter
2 shield drones
---
Broadside XV88
stabilazation system
----------------------
2#
Broadside XV88
stabilazation system
team leader
multi tracker
drone controller
target lock
black sun filter
2 shield drones
---
Broadside XV88
stabilazation system
----------------------
3#
Hammerhead
railgun
burst cannons
target lock
multi tracker
disruption pod
black sun filter
...................................
IF YOU DONT LIKE THE PATHFINDES
you can make a list with
stealth suits and markeligts
like this
3x stealth suits
3x drone controller
3 or 6 marker drones
is expensive but the stealth ability is really good
and i think that the marker drones can move and hit
like the stealth suit

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Dooms,
Thats a good list. A little too many upgrades for my tastes but I can see that you're utlizing MSU for better fire control. It's also nice to see that you've fit in 10 markerlights.

Deep-strikers don't scare me because I can create bubble-wraps with kroot, fire warriors and drones. Plus with so much fire power, even kroot rifles can eventually torrent down terminators. Deep striking for me actually just delivers terminators into rapid fire range!

Dooms said...

i done a mistake only the one body guard have target lock
or you can give just a drone controller 0pts for better allocate wounds...when they have the same eguipment at two wound they must to leave one model)

yes many upgrades...like tha black sun filters but if you play the nightfight scenario is great
specially when you play first you have two rounds to hit with the railguns

lately i see many players have this tactika with bubble-wraps with kroot, fire warriors and drones but yet i have not tested...i think that i must , i will try to found how is working to your blog

L0rdM0nki said...

Perfect timing on this article! I'm preparing for a 1850-ish tournament and built a list that focuses on prior successes with the MSU strain of thought.

HQ-Shas'el with PR,MP,TA, HardWired MT and Drone Cntrlr w/ Gun Drone 1x Bodyguard PR,MP,MT
HQ-Shas'el with PR,MP,TA, HardWired MT and Drone Cntrlr w/ Gun Drone 1x Bodyguard PR,MP,MT

Elites - 2 XV8s with PR,MP,MT 1 upgraded to Team Leader with Drone Controller and 1 Gun Drone
Elites - 2 XV8s with PR,MP,MT 1 upgraded to Team Leader with Drone Controller and 1 Gun Drone
Elites - 2 XV8s with PR,MP,MT 1 upgraded to Team Leader with Drone Controller and 1 Gun Drone

Troops - 6 FW
Troops - 10 Kroot, 3 Hounds
Troops - 10 Kroot, 3 Hounds
Troops - 10 Kroot, 3 Hounds

Fast Attack - Piranha with Fusion Blaster
Fast Attack - Piranha with Fusion Blaster
Fast Attack - Piranha with Fusion Blaster

Hvy - 2 XV-88s with Advanced Stabilization Systems. 1 Upgraded to Team Leader. TL Plasma,HW MT, HW TL, HW Drone Controller and 1 Shield Drones
Heavy Support - 2 XV-88s with Advanced Stabilization Systems. 1 Upgraded to Team Leader. TL Plasma,HW MT, HW TL, HW Drone Controller and 1 Shield Drones
Hammerhead Rail, Burst, Dpod, MT (I would drop this but I don't have the two additional XV88 models. Soon though!)

I took the MSU idea to the hilt with the XV8s. I've had alot of success with the small units for the reasons listed in your post.

Thoughts?

Docbrown said...

Hey I recently started a blog of my own and via FTW I managed to find your blog. Needless to say your experience is incredibly valuable and I have decided to include a link to your blog in mine. Thanks for your information and please keep doing what you do.

Old Shatter Hands said...

@L0rdM0nki, like plasma much? LOL. This is a solid build. I can imagine the look on your opponents face as you place 10 crisis suits in 5 different units, plus 4 broadsides and a hammerhead, all protected by a healthy supply of kroot...

Antisocialnerd said...

HQ 1: (Shasel)
(Fireknife with positional relay hardwired multitracker target lock drone controller and two shield drones) Total: (137)

Elite 1: (2 fireknives HQ 1 will join this unit)
Total: (124)

Elite 2: (Three Fusion blaster missile pod multitacker equipped suits leader also has hardwired target lock drone controller and two shield drones)
Total: (202)

Elite 3: (Three Fusion blaster missile pod multitacker equipped suits leader also has hardwired target lock drone controller and two shield drones)
Total: (202)

Troops 1: (6 Firewarriors)
Total: (60)

Troops 2: (10 kroot)
Total: (70)

Troops 3: (10 kroot)
Total: (70)

Troops 4: (10 kroot)
Total: (70)


Fast Attack 1: (Piranha with fusion blaster) Total: (65)

Fast Attack 2: (Piranha with fusion blaster) Total: (65)

Fast Attack 3: (Piranha with fusion blaster) Total: (65)

Heavy Support 1: (2 Broadsides)
(both with targeting arrays and plasma rifles leader equipped with hardwired target lock ) Total: (190)

Heavy Support 2: (2 Broadsides)
(both with targeting arrays and plasma rifles leader equipped with hardwired target ) Total: (190)

Heavy Support 2: (3 sniper teams) Total: (240)

Total 1750 on the dot assuming my math is correct

Culain said...

Cut the Kroot. No armor save, don't benefit from the Ethereal. I've only ever been dissapointed by the performance of the Kroot.
-Culain
http://play-tau-win.blogspot.com/

tim said...

especially in this army, but I would argue for any tau army, you need kroot. They are effective speed bump units, so you can protect your firewarrior squads. Also, holding one to outflank will help you as your opponent will have to reconsider his deployment strategies. The only thing I think you need are kroot hounds, in case your assaulted by marines

www.lousteinberg.com/tim

Anonymous said...

In the debate of plasma vs non plasma, my math-hammer puts out that marines in cover die at the same rate to a plasma + MP + MT suit compared to a TL-MP + TA suit outside of rapid fire range. In rapid fire, yes, plasma wins out even in cover. However, TL MP is more effective againts AV10/11 which can give you more time to shoot at footsloggers.

The latter suit is cheaper by 9 points per suit (27 points per squad). If you field 3 squads of 3 suits you save 81 points by not attaching plasma.

That's an extra kroot shield. Another piranha to block tanks, or even another broadside with ASS.

That's how I understand MSU. Sacrifice the bees' knees in upgrades to get more bodies on the board. More bodies = reliability and durability.