Last time we looked at the Heavy Support slot for Tau’s slot choices. If you missed that, you can catch up here. We only have a couple of choices left to look at and today we will be combining the Flier and Transport choices. A few of the Fliers can transport things (TigerShark Bomber and Orca), but the real justification is it doesn’t make sense to write a whole article just for the Devilfish.
Assumptions that we will make while using the math found here:
- Many Fliers have Heavy weapons, which confer a -1 to hit if they move, while having a minimum move distance. This results in those weapons always using a reduced BS unless they have markerlight support. For our analysis, we have assumed that they suffer this reduction to hit (i.e. we are NOT taking into account the possibility of having three markerlights).
- We won’t factor in seeker missiles when determining the lethality of the below units. This is because they are one use only so would skew the lethality numbers to look like they were better than they would actually be for the entirety of the game. Plus, you should ALWAYS take seeker missiles when you can because of the argument found here.
- 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.
- Weapon profiles that give more shots if the target unit has more models are not considered.
- 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).
Long gone are the days of Fish of Fury, but that doesn’t mean that the Devilfish is dead. The Devilfish got a lot of survivability with 8th edition that helps give it value. You won’t find it mowing down your enemies, but it makes for a sub-optimal target for your opponent due to it being hard to kill, hard for them to ignore, and hard for them to justify shooting at. This is due to the fact that it’s a T7 W12 Sv3+ platform with <Fly>. It can not only deposit troops at just the right spot, but it can then charge your enemies to tie them up in combat. If the enemy unit doesn’t also have <Fly>, this can effectively tie them up in combat or force them to fall back and not shoot. This is a perfect case of a unit bringing value to the table that is not fully captured by our calculations.
A flier that I’m considering a transport due to its severe lack of firepower, the Orca is a much sought-after model. It’s basically a shoebox with thrusters, so I’m not sure why it gets the hype. It’s the most point-innificient unit we have looked at thus far. It’s value comes from the fact that it can transport up to 65 Infantry or drones, or up to 32 crisis suits. Given the fact that suits can Manta Strike, you’d probably use its transport capacity for infantry and drones instead of suits. The only somewhat legitimate tactic I can think of to use it for would be to put 64 drones and a Cadre Fire Blade in the Orca so you can guarantee the ensuing 384 S5 shots at half range. But who has 64 gun drones, much less an Orca?
Pretty much no reason to take this over the Sun Shark Bomber, if you’ve got one. Its loadout is straight up inferior and it doesn’t have detachable drones. It’s just bad at every type of target, for the points. I wish there was more to say about the Fighter, but, sadly, there isn’t.
Sun Shark Bomber
The above numbers are great for GEQ and MSU targets, but bears some qualification for the Pulse Bomb. I assumed that you’d either be able to target a 5 man unit of infantry every turn, or a 10 man unit of infantry every other turn (which, in my opinion, is the more likely of the two scenarios). When you have an opportunity to use it, the Pulse Bomb is a mortal wound generator that specializes against infantry. Plus, the Interceptor drones got a recent FAQ that doubled their firepower. All around, the Bomber is pretty great against GEQs and MEQs while being somewhat tanky and hard to hit. A solid choice if you want a flier, but it does require careful positioning to take full advantage of the pulse bomb.
Now in 8th edition, the Remora Stealth Drone is actually classified as a drone, but no longer has any benefits for being called “stealth”. Overall, they are very fragile and you will most likely use them for dedicated seeker missile platforms. This is due to the fact that you can hold the Remora’s in reserves so that they aren’t shot off the table before they use their seeker missiles. They can also be accompanied by a Coldstar Commander with a drone controller, which is why I included that option. It’s easy to see that you’ll need them to take advantage of a drone controller to have barely-respectable point efficiency against GEQs. It’s worth noting that they are multiple wound drones and can help protect your Coldstar while he’s zooming around, grabbing objectives.
The Barracuda has several choices for loadouts, none of which particularly excel at killing their targets. If you want anti-GEQ or anti-MEQ then take a bomber (or several). If you want anti-tank then take a Y’vahra or Fusion Commander. It is hard to hit, but suffers from having an innate BS3+ and firing main Heavy weapons. I know that there’s a lot of love for the model, and rightly so. It doesn’t seem to excel nearly as much as I would want it to in order to personally justify owning one however.
Tiger Shark Fighter/Bomber
Coming in at 400-500 points a pop, this Tau flier actually does a very good job against GEQ targets. I swapped out the drone bay for the Skyspear Missile Rack for all the analysis because it’s a direct increase in lethality. This thing has a LOT of weaponry and its BS2+ helps a lot. A neat trick is to deploy it next to a commander and then use Mont’ka to allow the Tiger Shark to hit its Heavy weapons on 2’s for the first turn. You could take the drone bay instead of the Skyspear, but would probably want to orchestrate meeting up with either a Cadre Fireblade or a Y’vahra at the start of your second turn. It’s tanky, at T8 and a Sv3+ (5++), with a -1 to hit. Your opponent will have to dedicate a lot of firepower to bring it down, which is good, considering you’ll have to kill a lot of stuff to have it make up its points.
Tiger Shark AX-1-0
With two Macro Heavy Rail weapons, this variation of the Tiger Shark is a Knight-killer. The above numbers don’t reflect the doubling of damage against <Titanic> units, which would effectively half the Tank PPD result – making the AX-1-0 the must resilient and longest-range tank-killer Tau has. This fits the lore and its pretty awesome – if your opponent has <Titanic> units. If they don’t, then you won’t see nearly the same amount of efficiency out of this Tiger Shark. It’s definitely a risk versus reward type of unit choice that, when it works, it REALLY works.
Tau Transport and Flier choices offer a couple of solid units, even if they have a few caveats. As with most of the other Tau choices, it’s not enough to just take the right units, but you have to be able to control them well too (Sun Shark Bomber positioning, for instance). Next time, we will wrap up with the Tau battlefield choices with the Lord of War and Fortification roles. Get excited!
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Happy dice rolls!