Getting enlightened

Last time we looked at how long of a lifespan a given unit can expect to have. This time we will look at cost effective ways of getting markerlights tokens.

Markerlights and Tau go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like vodka and orange juice. Like…some other food combination (I must be hungry). They’ve changed in a big way from 7th to 8th, but still remain one of our faction-specific advantages and tools. For that reason, it’s important to understand how they work and how to use them efficiently and effectively.

Markerlights in 8th edition persist for the duration of the phase, instead of being used up by each shooting unit like in 7th. Instead of just adding to the ballistic skill of the shooter (along with a few other uses), markerlights in 8th provide cumulative benefits for any of your units that shoot at the markerlighted target seen in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Markerlight benefits


In most cases, you will get the most benefit out of just the first benefit, rerolling 1’s. Rerolling 1’s gives a BS4+ model, instead of the usual 50% chance to hit, a 58% chance to hit. As usual for Tau, it’s all about adding all the little advantages up instead of getting one or two massive advantages. Benefits for two, three, and four markerlights are all situational, while it will be pretty sweet  to get a +1 on To-Hit rolls if you can get to five markerlights (over a 77% chance to hit). This is a great article that dives into the intricacies of markerlights and how to use them – a must read for any aspiring Tau.

Most of the units that had markerlights in 7th still have them in 8th (Remoras, I’m looking at you). However, in addition to 8th edition bringing back the markerlights you’re used to (Heavy 1, granting a markerlight token for each successful To-Hit roll), certain Forge World models now have a High Intensity Markerlight (also a Heavy 1 weapon, but that grant three tokens for each successful To-Hit roll).

Now we come to the question of: which units should you include in your lists to best take advantage of markerlights? First, in keeping with our previous discussions of point efficiency,  let’s take a look at the cost of a model divided by its average number of markerlights hits. Because markerlights just need to hit, not do damage, the important stats for this calculation are: BS and point cost – we don’t need to worry about strength, armour save, etc. But, as usual, lets go over our list of assumptions:

  • We are only looking at models whose primary purpose could reasonably be markerlights (marker drones, pathfinders, etc.), NOT models would have a markerlight tacked on (Sun Shark Bomber, Skyray, etc.). You don’t take a bomber for the markerlights, even though they’re nice to have.
  • We will consider non-Forge World and Forge World models.
  • No negative To-Hit modifiers. All models are assumed to hit unmodified.

To calculate the average hits of a model, we look back to Formula 1 from our Railheads, Railsides, and Math OH MY! article, shown here for your convenience:

Formula #1: Number of Hits

In both the case of the regular markerlight and its high-intensity cousin, each gun has just one shot, so for each model in the unit in question, N will equal one. You’ll need to calculate the number of hits for each unit and then divide the model’s point cost (don’t forget to add up all the war gear too) by that average number of hits. OR you can just keep reading.

Table 2. Markerlight source by model cost per hit


One thing to note about Table 2, is that it lists the cost of each model by their average hits with markerlights, not necessarily how many markerlight tokens you get from each hit. Because high intensity markerlights award multiple markerlight tokens for each hit, it’s also useful to look at the cost of the model divided by the markerlight tokens it gets if it hits.

Table 3. Markerlight source by model cost per markerlight token


So what does all this mean?

  • Pathfinders are great. They are our cheapest source of markerlight tokens, even if they are our flimsiest. Not to mention that they can also do damage, get a cover save, be buffed by several of our aura abilities, and have the before-the-game vanguard move – pathfinders are a solid choice.
  • If you’re building a list that could take advantage of drones, markerlight drones are a decent choice, even if you don’t have a drone controller nearby. With the 5+ to hit in normal cases, you’re going to have to bring a lot of these things if you want to get the full table of benefits from markerlights.
  • The Forge World units that have the high intensity markerlight are only competitive in a point per hit sense, when they hit since you’ll be getting 3 tokens per hit. Unless your aim is to get to five tokens for the +1 to hit, and you start a chain of markerlights with a more reliable source of markerlights, I wouldn’t personally bother with the high intensity variant. If you find your self needing a more sturdy source of markerlights, then maybe they’re for you.
  • Or you could just go with the Tau characters who also have a markerlight. Due to the fact that in most cases, just getting the rerolling of 1’s will be sufficient, a character (Darkstrider or Cadre Fireblade) will be able to hit often enough to nearly guarantee one markerlight token on a target. Plus, these characters do a lot more than just an almost-sure markerlight so I find myself relying on them nearly every game.
  • The Firesight Marksman is in somewhat of a weird middle ground. Two of these are almost comparable to one Cadre Fireblade or Darkstrider in terms of markerlights, but they don’t get any of the other super-useful abilities. The abilities that a Marksman confers will only help sniper drones which are somewhat of a mixed bag in their own right. If you REALLY wanted another source of probable markerlight tokens and don’t have the point for a character, this might be a viable solution but it seems pretty situational to me.

In closing…

How are you getting markerlights on the board? This seems like the edition of infantry and pathfinders certainly fit with that.

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Next time we will take a look at Tau Commanders and recommended ways of equipping them. Should you take four missile pods or three with ATS? Find out next time. Happy dice rolls!

Featured image source.

13 thoughts on “Getting enlightened

  1. your hits/points formula does not account for Markerlight pile-on. i.e., after the first markerlight is down, future markerlight shots get to reroll 1s. Rolling your pathfinders one at a time until you get a hit will pay out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A single unit has to nominate its targets and roll all its dice at once, so models within a unit wouldn’t normally benefit from each other’s markerlight. However, you can start a markerlight “chain” from unit to unit to get “rerolls of 1” and other benefits.

      My previous response has been invalidated by a recent FAQ. You can specifically roll individual dice for markerligh hits within a unit one-by-one to potentially build up “markerlight stackup.” You’re correct that I don’t account for that – my calculations assume you roll all of them simultaneously.


    1. Thank you for the positive words!

      If you move and shoot with a heavy weapon, you suffer a -1 on your To-hit roll. This results in hitting on 5’s instead of 4’s, in a normal circumstance, or about 16.6% less hits.


  2. Something you missed was the option to put markerlights on Fire Warrior Shas’ui’s, probably cause its hard to mathhammer, and is only really a backup. They are a great backup for pathfinders, and help to make it harder for the enemy to completely wipe out all your markerlights.


    1. Good catch! I went back and checked my math – I had given the sensor tower a BS 5+ instead of a BS 4+. This article has been out for awhile and no one else had caught that. Thanks for making the article a little more accurate.


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