Tau Battlefield Slot Review – Elite

Last time we took a look at Tau Troop choices, which you can find here. This time around we will look in detail at the choices Tau has for their Elite choice.

Elite choices for Tau largely consist of suits and bigger suits. Many of the models and units that our army is known for come from the Elite slot like Riptide, Ghostkeel, and Crisis Suit. Like the HQ choice though (which you can read here), there are some Elite choices that are not taken to personally deal damage, but to buff other units. For that reason, we will again separate the choices into Synergistic and Combat choices, spending most of our mathhammer’ing on the Combat choices.

Synergistic Elite Choices

  1. Kroot Shaper
  2. Firesight Marksman
  3. Technical Drones

Combat Elite Choices

  1. Krootox Rider
  2. Stealth Suit
  3. Crisis Suit/Bodyguard
  4. Ghostkeel
  5. Riptide
  6. Hazard Suit

Synergistic Elite Choices

Kroot Shaper

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You would take a Shaper when you need its ability that lets you re-roll wound rolls of 1 for nearby Kroot or to use its leadership, which is only slightly higher than other Kroot. Also, if the shaper kills a model with its ritual blade, then nearby kroot don’t have to take morale tests that turn even if they’ve lost models. So basically, you take a Shaper when you have a lot of kroot, which is arguably a questionable choice to start with. If and when you get your shaper into melee, you do stand a decent probability of killing a GEQ-type model, on average 1.11 wounds to a GEQ a turn. However, the Shaper doesn’t have the Stealthy Hunter ability to let it move 7″ at the start of the game, so you will potentially be out of range for its abilities before the game begins without consideration. The Shaper just doesn’t seem to buff kroot enough to warrant taking them or the Shaper itself. A completely Kroot-filled list might be fun for Tau players because it would change up their play style, but it won’t be on a Tier 1 list any time soon.

Firesight Marksman

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Only equipped with a markerlight and a pulse pistol, the Marksman is a weird choice if you’re not taking Sniper Drones, and if you are taking them, it’s basically mandatory because he gives Sniper Drones +1 to hit targets that they both can see. The general strategy I’ve seen sans Sniper Drones is to either put them in a drone port and use its BS3+ for the drones or plant him in cover and keep him there. He gets a Sv2+ due to his ability that give +2 to the Sv value for being in cover, which makes for a surprisingly resilient markerlight source and his 3+ markerlight is decent for starting markerlight chains. He’s highly situational, but not without his uses.

Technical Drones

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Due to the fact that these little guys let you roll a D6 every turn (it specifies turn, not battle round, so there’s nothing stopping you from rolling on both your’s and your opponent’s turn) and on a 4+ lets a nearby battle suit regain D3 wounds, Technical drones certainly have their place. Unfortunately, there’s nothing stopping your opponent targeting these first and taking them out quite easily. I’ve found these do their best when your opponent doesn’t know what they do, which is really not a measure of effectiveness, is it?

Combat Elite Choices

We have already looked at Ghostkeels and Riptide in our Monster Mash article here. However, we will list them again here too, with the exception that the Ghostkeel was previously listed with point efficiencies without the cost of its stealth drones, but now we will list it WITH drone costs. I now think it makes more sense to include them, since it must take them. As usual, we will calculate point efficiency this way, if the math or number don’t make sense, it’s a good place to start. Green highlighted cells indicate the most point efficient choice, while blue cells are worth commenting on.

Assumptions that we will make:

  • For units with variable loadouts like Crisis Suits, we will focus our analysis only on  burst cannons (BC), cyclic ion blasters (CIB), fusion blasters (FB), plasma rifles (PR), and advanced targeting systems (ATS). This is because those weapons have been shown to be the most effective at the targets we are looking at.
  •  We will assume maximum shots (i.e. within rapid fire range) for rapid fire weapons. This is due to the fact that those rapid fire weapons have a range such that Manta striking into rapid fire range or getting into rapid fire range is always possible and should therefore be considered.
  • Situations that give weapons chances to do bonus damage on certain rolls (like on a 6 to wound) or get to re-roll damage rolls if they are within half range are not considered for simplicity’s sake.
  • Points for drones are included in the cost of units that must take drones. They have to take them and pay that “tax”.
  • A GEQ is defined as a model with T3 and Sv5+, one wound
  • A MEQ is defined as a model with T4 and Sv3+, one wound
  • A Tank is defined as a model with T8 and Sv3+, multiple wounds
  • For weapons that do multiple damage, we will assume it does average damage (3.5 for D6 damage and 2 for D3)
  • I’ve taken the liberty of only showing the most-relevant columns (rationale here), GEQ PPW (point per wound), MEQ PPW, and Tank PPD (point per damage)
Krootox Rider

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I don’t know what it is about Krootox Riders that makes me want to love them. The metal model is old and not great in terms of today’s standards, but I would just love for it to make sense to run three groups of full units, but… it doesn’t. The above numbers would give the Krootox Riders some niche if you could count on them always shooting and getting into melee. The ensured advance of 6″ on top of their 7″ movement helps their mobility, but with an army where 8″ movement is about the average, this is less impressive. You should always be in rapid fire range, since the Kroot Gun is Rapid Fire 48″, but that’s still only two S7 AP-1 D3 shots. I think having a FnP save on top of the measly 6+ save would help, along with another, higher number of shots weapon, but we aren’t here to make a wish list. As it stands, the Krootox might be a fun unit to surprise your enemies with, but it won’t make any appearances in any competitive lists anytime soon.

Stealth Suit

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What you’re paying for with a Stealth team is not raw lethality, but rather the durability they possess along with their infantry keyword and mobility. It’s a bit hard to adequately quantify, but considering that their lethality isn’t terrible, about average to what we’ve seen in the past, they will have a Sv2+ in cover due to being <Infantry>, they get a -1 to hit for attacks made at them both in shooting and in melee, and they have 2 wounds a piece at T4, Stealth Suits end up being a solid choice. Oftentimes your opponent will have to throw more firepower at them than he would like to remove them. Plus their ability to take a Homing Beacon is handy as it lets a unit set up from Manta Hold and deploy within 6″ of the homing beacon, even if that’s within 9″ of an enemy unit. It’s a good set up for flamers or melta-range on fusion blaster. All in all, a solid and somewhat versatile choice.

An interesting note is that if you have the points for Multi-Tracker (you really should because it’s only 2 points) as well as the open hard points, it’s a good efficiency boost. You could accomplish the same thing with one markerlight, but it’s nice to have the option to run your stealth team independent of markerlights.

Crisis Suit and Bodyguard

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This is one of the first units that people think of when they think of Tau. They are iconic to the army and have been a staple of the army in past editions, less so in 8th due to their sizable price increase. I had heard people basically equate them to garbage now and while they would certainly benefit from a point decrease, they are nowhere near as bad as the rep they are getting. The above numbers reflect the cost of Crisis Suits, not Bodyguards. Bodyguards are just three points more than Suits, so the numbers would work out to be very similar.

It should be a surprise to no one that the most efficient way to utilize them are with flamers as these completely negate their BS4+. The trick is getting them into the 8″ flamers range on the first turn which requires the use of a Stealth Suit’s Homing Beacon. After that, due to their 8″ move and ability to advance and suffer no reduction in fire power with their flamers, they will be able to keep up and keep killing. If you’re not able to ensure Manta Striking within flamer range, or you’d prefer a more ranged approach, plasma rifles in rapid fire range also do well. The ability to Manta Strike within rapid fire range helps a lot. All in all, Crisis suits should be given a chance, and definitely have their uses. Any point reduction they see in future updates will only solidify their place in a competitive Tau list.

Ghostkeel

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Ghostkeel’s have just enough durability, firepower, and ability to make enemies miss that makes them a strong choice for Tau in 8th edition. Similar to the Stealth Suits, you’re not paying for incredible lethality, but rather the combination of the traits above. I’m not a fan of flamers on the Ghostkeel just because in order to use them, you need to be within 12″ of the enemy which negates the Ghostkeel’s inherent -1 to hit. Two burst cannon’s along with the Cyclic Ion Raker give the Ghostkeel decent kill potential and flexibility in targets, due to the overcharging ability. Read more about the Ghostkeel here.

Riptide

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How the mighty have fallen – the main source of hatred against Tau in 7th edition, the RIPtide (am I funny yet??) is not a great choice in 8th. I’m really struggling to find a reason to take one in 8th edition as mathematically it is outclassed and tactically, it doesn’t do much differently/better than other choices. I really want to find a way to make the Riptide work, but mine will be gathering dust until the unit seems some changes in points. Read more about it here.

Hazard Support Suit

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The Hazard Suit is a beast of a unit. Besides flamer Crisis Suits which naturally rely on auto-hitting at a very small range, a Hazard Suit can put out the next highest point efficiency behind Commanders, one of Tau’s strongest units. Since Hazard Suits can take up to four drones per unit (not model), taking a double barrel burst cannon on a Hazard Suit with Drone Controller along with the four drones seems reasonable. However, it turns out that taking the ATS signature system along with four drones is slightly more efficient at killing GEQ’s, MEQ’s, and Tanks.

The absolutely most point efficient is just to take the suit with ATS, no drones. Here is where the math doesn’t tell the whole story though, as it would be tactically superior in most cases to bring the fours drones to soak wounds for the suit. A Hazard Suit with ATS and four drones is a solid choice both in terms of mathematics and tactics.

A fun fact: A Riptide is so bad and a Hazard Suit so good that you can expect to get twice the efficiency from a Hazard Suit

Combat Elite Choice Summary

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Flamers are good when they’re in range and useless when they aren’t. Hazard Suits are an all around solid choice and their various loadouts are very efficient at killing pretty much everything. You are getting more than lethality when using Stealth Suits and Ghostkeels, so there’s a bit more to the numbers there. Riptides are in a bad place right now and too expensive for the damage they do. Krootox Riders are a better choice point for point than Riptides, let that sink in…

Technical drones are beneficial if you can keep them alive. A Shaper is lacklusters for what it does, but if you’re taken a ton of Kroot might be worth it. A Firesight Marksman is most logical when taken alongside Sniper Drones, but might be useful on its own.

In Closing

Next time we will bring you the fourth installment in the series analyzing the choices available for each battle role.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider following on twitter or via email in the sidebar to your right. If you have specific questions that you’d like us to address here, about Tau or other armies’ units, fill out the form below. Thanks for all the feedback and help in making sure my math is accurate and honest.

Thanks for reading – happy dice rolls!

4 thoughts on “Tau Battlefield Slot Review – Elite

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