Monster Mash

Last time we brought you a gripping battle report between Tau and the Astra Militarum, no spoilers! This time we will take a look at two of the most iconic big suits for Tau – the Ghostkeel and the Riptide.

Both the Ghostkeel and the Riptide were part of 7th edition formations that instilled fear into the hearts of Tau enemies everywhere. But with the removal of formations in 8th edition, where does that leave these two?

Let’s start with the Ghostkeel, which according to GW is “a huge, deadly and nigh-undetectable weapon of impressive killing capacity…”.


Coming standard with a fusion collider and two flamers, the Ghostkeel has the ability to both be deadly and tanky due to its “Electrowarefare suite”, which gives a -1 to hit against it if the shooting unit is greater than 12″ away, and stealth drones, which give another -1 to hit against a nearby Ghostkeel.

Meanwhile, the Riptide is “a pinnacle of the Earth caste’s battlesuit development” and probably still water-logged from your 7th edition opponent’s tears.


The Riptide comes standard with its heavy burst cannon (HBC) and two smart missile systems. It has the ability to use its Nova charge that can enhance its main weapon profile, increase its invulnerable save, or move further in the charge phase even if it doesn’t charge (very similar to the jet pack move in 7th) – but using the Nova charge comes at the cost of taking a mortal wound.

So are these suits still decent choices for your 8th edition lists? Let’s compare the two and determine how they stack up. But first, let’s list our assumptions:

  • We will look at all the possible weapon loadouts for the Ghostkeel and the Riptide.
  • We will not be looking at combining support systems with any of the weapon loadouts. Both suits have access to things like Advanced Targeting System (ATS, which make the firer’s weapon’s AP statistic better by 1) and because they don’t have to give up a weapon to take a support system (unlike a commander or crisis suit), a better AP value will naturally result in more dead stuff.
  • The stealth drones must be taken with the Ghostkeel, but I have not included the point cost of the drones in the analysis. You could argue both ways for which is the most appropriate, but I chose to use only the cost of the Ghostkeel for analysis purposes.
  • A GEQ is defined as a model with T3 and Sv5+.
  • A MEQ is defined as a model with T4 and Sv3+.
  • A Tank is defined as a model with T8 and Sv3+.
  • Plasma Rifles are NOT in rapid fire range.
  • There are no modifiers to hit, i.e. markerlights, etc.
  • For variable damage, I’ve used the average result.
  • I didn’t take into account certain weapons like fusion blasters being able to roll two dice for damage if within half range.
  • I didn’t take into account the 1/6th chance of causing a mortal wound that the overcharged CIR and IO have

Using the analysis found here on calculating lethality per point, I have determined the points per wound and points per damage for both the Ghostkeel and Riptide, seen in Tables 1 and 2 respectively.

Table 1. Ghostkeel lethality analysis
Table 2. Riptide lethality analysis

Talk about information overload. Let’s break it down. To start, I’ve highlighted the most point-efficient loadout for each given target, both for causing wounds (PPW is points per wound) and for damage (PPD is points per damage). For things like GEQ’s and MEQ’s, I think the more relevant column is the respective PPW column due to most models of that category having one or a couple of wounds.

For killing GEQ’s, the best Ghostkeel loadout is 60% more efficient than the best Riptide loadout. However, the Ghostkeel loadout in question makes use of dual flamers so in order to effectively use them, you’ll need to be within 8″ of your enemy – which defeats the purpose of some of the Ghostkeel’s charm and it is probably not realistic to think you’ll always be close enough to take advantage. Second best between the two suits, and with a much more reasonable 18″ range of effectiveness, is still the Ghostkeel, however, with a Cyclic Ion Raker and dual Burst Cannons. This loadout is still 23% more efficient than the Riptide’s loadout of a Nova-charged HBC and dual SMSs.

Concerning MEQ’s, the Ghostkeel walks away the victor again with the CIR and double flamers. And for the same reason at the GEQ case, we will look to the second-best loadout which again is the CIR and two BC’s. I’m sensing a pattern here. The Ghostkeel with this loadout is 33% more point-efficient than the best MEQ-killing Riptide loadout.

Sorry to all the Riptide-Wing-runners, for the Tank category (looking at the PPD column this time because tanks have multiple wounds and multi-damage is more effective), the Riptide loses again. The Ghostkeel loadout of a Fusion Collider and two Fusion Blasters is 60% more efficient than the Nova-charged Ion Cannon and two Fusion Baster on the Riptide AND the Ghostkeel can maintain a respectable almost-18″ range if so chooses.

So what exactly can the Riptide do that the Ghostkeel can’t? Punch itself for a mortal wound every turn? The only advantages that I see to taking a Riptide over a Ghostkeel would be the Riptide’s better mobility (the boost Nova charge ability) and slightly bigger wound pool. That’s it. However (it really seems like I’m kicking the Riptide, while it’s down), when you average the cost of the various loadouts for both the Ghostkeel and the Riptide and then divide by their respective number of wounds, you see that the Ghostkeel is at about 15 points per wound in its wound pool while the Riptide is at just over 23.

In Summary:

  • Ghostkeels, if you’ve got ’em, smoke ’em (meaning use a Ghostkeel if you have it and if you think you can effectively use dual flamers, go for it)
  • Riptides – More plastic, more points, more inefficiency
  • Ghostkeels are more point efficient than Riptides in terms of lethality and survivability
My Ghostkeel be like:

In Closing

Next time, I’ll revisit our article on Commander loadouts and include a discussion on point efficiency to add to the lethality analysis. Read it here!

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Thanks for reading – happy dice rolls!



3 thoughts on “Monster Mash

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