Codex Update – HQ

EDIT: Thanks to one of our readers (abusepuppy) for double checking some of the math and helping to ensure that everything was correct. Thanks to several of our other regular readers (Jean-Luc and Simon) for pointing out benefits to taking the XV8 commander that I had not considered

Welcome back! First of all, thanks to all of you who have reached out in the past bit and asked if we would be continuing writing articles. I wasn’t expecting the amount of interest and it was very encouraging to hear. I’ve personally used my hiatus from writing articles to get some models painted, which was past due. Now, with the release of the Tau Codex, it’s time to get back into the thick of things and figure out how its changes affect the point efficiency of the Tau units.

I’d like to use this point to state that the way I’m calculating these value has changed for the better. To that point, I’m a bit suspect of some of my previous values and think they were a bit off – not far enough to have effected the major points, but enough that it would bother a nerd. My apologies! I appreciate those of you who fact-checked my values and reached out when you thought you found something amiss. My goal is to have correct and reputable information, so if you see something, say something!

This is an update to our previous HQ analysis and a lot of what we originally said, still holds true now. You may notice that some information is suspiciously similar to our original article, and that’s on purpose.

Tau have a lot of viable HQ choices this edition. There are two main roles in our HQ choices – those whose focus is on directly killing things and those that enhance other units. We will discuss all HQ choices, but the easiest method by which we can compare them all would be to look at their measure of lethality, which we have done several times before. However, for those HQ choices whose role is more complementary, they will naturally be lacking in the lethality department. For that reason, I have categorized the HQ choices into two categories: 1) synergistic HQ’s and 2) combat HQ’s. There are some choices that, arguably, have some overlap into both categories, but we will try and stick to direct comparisons within each category, only deviating when appropriate. For the Synergistic HQ choices, their benefits aren’t quantified by the previous analysis methods we discussed, so their benefits will be discussed, rather than analyzed.

Synergistic HQ’s

  1. Ethereal
  2. Aun’Shi
  3. Aun’Va
  4. Cadre Fireblade
  5. Darkstrider

Combat HQ’s

  1. Commander (XV85)
  2. Coldstar Commander
  3. Commander Farsight
  4. Commander Shadowsun
  5. Longstrike
  6. Shas’o R’myr
  7. Shas’o R’alai
  8. Commander (XV81)
  9. Commander (XV84)
  10. Commander
  11. Coldstar Commander

Synergistic HQ’s



Ethereal’s are now takable due to the fact that they no longer give a Victory Point when killed (as compared to in 7th edition). Of their four invocations, the one you will probably see the most is the Sense of Stone which confers a six up feel no pain. This is most beneficial when you have a large number of infantry or battlesuits. You can expect to save two out of the full twelve-man unit of Firewarriors, but could also try fun things like placing an ethereal near Crisis Bodyguards, who would in turn both try and tank wounds for Longstrike. Ethereals have their place but are by no means an auto-take HQ choice unless you just need a non-Sept-specific HQ choice.



The ethereal that never heard not to get into close combat, Aun’shi of the Tau sept feels more like a gimmick than a real choice. He’s just good enough at close combat to warrant a solid look at but due to the face that he’s in an army focused around shooting, it seems hard to get the most out of him. He can choose a “stance” that either gives him a bonus to AP or to his invuln save. If you just need something to clean up some GEQ’s that have wandered too far from home, he might be takable, but only in fluff and friendly games. Might be fun in a Vior’la devilfish with 10 breachers.



Everyone’s favorite Tau sept Space Pope makes a return in 8th edition, regardless of any mortality challenges he may face. If you’re taking an ethereal, you probably have a lot of infantry. If you have a lot of infantry, why take one ethereal, when you can take Aun’Va? He now costs just 5 more points than two ethereals but gets to use two invocations at once, plus all Tau units get to reroll failed morale rolls – board-wide. Plus he has two bodyguards that can tank wounds for him and can add the AP of the attacker’s weapon to his save instead of subtracting it, which both make for a surprisingly resilient ethereal pope.

Cadre Fireblade


The guy who literally brings a knife to a gunfight, the Cadre Fireblade will see a lot of use in lists that run a lot of firewarriors and gun drones, due to his ability that gives specific pulse weapons a extra shot when at half range. This ability turns Pulse Rifle Fire Warriors into a a very efficient unit and gun drones into very respectable sources of dakka – even with their price hike in the Codex. The Cadre Fireblade is an excellent example of a force multiplier that Tau in 8th are build around. Plus, he has a BS2+ markerlight that is very useful for starting markerlight chains. Non-Sept-specific, so expect to see a lot of these, especially in FSE (because FSE can’t take ethereals).



Limited to the Tau Sept, Darkstrider brings some unique things to the table, like his ability to add one to wound rolls for one nearby infantry unit and his ability to let infantry without the Fly keyword fall back and shoot.  If you’re running a Tau gun line of either Strike Teams or even max-size stealth teams, he can be a significant force multiplier. He also has his own BS2+ markerlight like the Cadre Fireblade.

Combat HQ’s

Before we get into the details for the rest of the choices, let’s get our assumptions out of the way:

  • For Commander analysis, we are comparing the Enforcer and the Coldstar – we’re ignoring the XV8 Crisis Battlesuit Commander. This is because even though the Crisis Commander is a bit cheaper (4 points to be exact) and therefore it’ll end up being a little more point efficient, the benefit of the Enforcer over the Crisis Commander (extra wound for only 4 points) means that you’d pretty much always take the Enforcer or Coldstar.
    • Thanks to some extra and helpful insight from a few of the readers, it was pointed out that while the XV8 Commander might have 1 fewer wounds for 4 less points than the Enforcer, it does have some key benefits like the ability to take an Iridium armour for 15 more points, while not using a system slot. This means that for a small point cost, the XV8 can be decidedly better against AP0 attacks. However, I feel that tactically, you should try to put yourself into situations where your commanders can’t be targeted at all and hopefully for your sake this is mostly a moot point.
  • 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 is always possible and should therefore be considered.
  • I did not factor in melta range or other such scenarios where you can reroll damage
  • Points for drones are included in the cost of units that must take drones. They have to take them and pay that “tax”.
  • Green highlighted cells are the very best result and blue are worth noting
  • 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)
  • PPW stands for “points per wound” and PPD is “points per damage”
  • I’ve taken the liberty of only showing the most-relevant columns (rationale here), GEQ PPW, MEQ PPW, and Tank PPD.
Commander (XV85)



Not a ton has changed with the point efficiency for Commanders. Flamers are still best for GEQ’s, but the range is difficult to stomach. Luckily 4 Burst Cannons are about the same with much greater range. As the save goes up for MEQ’s, AP becomes more useful, which is why you see 4 Plasma Rifles to be a solid choice. And it’s not surprise that Fusion is king for damage against Tanks. With the increase in point cost for ATS, it’s hard to suggest taking it when you could just take more weapons instead.

What has changed significantly are CIB’s, Cyclic Ion Blasters. Their weapon profiles changed to a flat Assault 3 on both their regular and overcharged profiles. This means that while they are not the mathematically best option all the time, they are the absolute best thing to take to every game due to how versatile they are. If you’re needing more CIB bits, consider Red Dog Minis.

Coldstar Commander



Note: The Tau Codex initial FAQ updated the weapons that the Coldstar can take and the above chart represents that.

With the change to allow Coldstar Commanders to take regular weapons (minus CIB), there are very few reasons why you want to take an Enforcer Commander for the Coldstar, given the Coldstar’s 40″ movement and access to the High-Output Burst Cannon (HOBC) (the recent Codex FAQ specified that if you take the HOBC you also have to take the MP). The Coldstar Commander is a great source of mobility, dakka, and synergy for the rest of your forces. Take one, take many (but not more than 3 in a matched play game!).

Against GEQs, if you’re feeling gutsy, you could go with four flamers, but four BC’s is nearly as good and definitely more safe for your Coldstar. For targeting MEQs, four plasma rifles can be the winner if in rapid fire range. If not, then three BC’s and ATS are your go-to. It’s also decent agains GEQ’s so it’s somewhat well-rounded. Against Tanks, there are no surprises really with 4 Fusion being the clear winner. If you want something a bit more generally effective then the HOBC, MP, and BC with ATS. The Coldstar has always (IMO) looked the cooler of the two variants and now packs quite a bit more punch.

Commander Farsight



With just one loadout to look at, Farsight is fairly straightforward. The above assumes he makes use of both of his weapons, ranged and melee, which may not always be possible. Still, his numbers, in the 30’s for GEQ PPW, and 40’s for MEQ PPW, stayed the same from Index to Codex, while the Tank PPD got a lot better thanks to the increased strength on the Dawn Blade and the 2D damage of his Plasma Rifle. In this right circumstances, Farsight can be a great HQ choice, even in melee and even against high toughness targets.

There is more to Farsight (and pretty much all HQ choices) than his raw damage output – most notably his twice-use Commander ability Mont’ka. As is pretty much the case across the board with Tau, getting the most out of your units will require taking advantage of as much potential for synergy as possible. While I can’t speak for the claim that Farsight is the best HQ choice Tau has, his numbers and the potential tactics surrounding using using Mont’ka twice, definitely make me want to playtest him more in the near future.

Commander Shadowsun



Also with just one loadout, Shadowsun works out to still be an interesting choice, despite not changing at all form Index to Codex. She brings less efficiency herself, but with the ability to reroll failed hits to units within 6″ of her twice a game, potential is definitely there. Plus, she’s harder to hit (-1 to hit) and might make a good warlord because of it, but T4 versus other Commander’s T5 are a bit worrisome for me personally. It feels to me, that in order to realize her maximum efficiency, she needs to play a roll similar to a Buffmander in 7th, where she is the center of and maximizes other unit’s firepower rather than being the source of the firepower.

Further, from my own experiences using her as the lynch pin of my double Kauyon gun line, I find that not moving a majority of my forces for two straight turns is something I need to work around and make up for. Best served with a side of Riptide for an amazing Heavy 18 gun, re-rolling to hit and to wound.




Longstrike is the first HQ choice we are looking at that has multiple loadouts. He got notably better from Index to Codex due to the Ion Cannon improving. Long live the Ion Cannon – the Railgun is dead. Due to the fact that both drones shoot each of their four shots (eight shots in total) using his BS2+ while embarked, the drone option for the secondary weapon is the most efficient. While their 18″ is certainly realistic to use some of the time, it’s probably not often that you’ll be in range every turn. A more realistic option for the secondary weapon is the SMS as it has the bonus of ignoring any cover saves that your target may have, plus they got cheaper in the Codex.

Even against Tanks, the Ion Cannon, overcharged, outshines the railgun due to its Heavy D6 shots and dependable flat 3 damage. There’s a reason why Ion Cannons and the turret seat for HammerHeads has gotten more expensive on eBay recently… Longstrike remains a versatile platform that is most efficient when accompanied by multiple other Hammerheads due to his ability to buff their hit percentage. His main drawback is that he’s locked into the Tau sept and he’s not able to be saved by Savior Protocols, so handle with care.

Bonus point (via abusepuppy in comments below): It’s worth mentioning that as long as Longstrike and friends are not suffering any negative to hit modifiers, they can safely overcharge their ion cannons without risk of damaging themselves thanks to Longstrike’s +1 to hit. A roll of 1 will always fail, but due to modifiers coming into play before the check for a result of 1, you can bypass this self-inflicted damage.

Shas’o R’myr



No change from the Codex in ForgeWorld models, so the below is still relevant.

Shas’o R’myr stats assume he is in range to use both weapons, which is not reasonable at all due to his miniaturized flechette pod’s range of 6″. That being said, if and when you can be in range to use his flechette pod, you’re in range to assault and for Shas’o R’myr that’s a decent option. When he has the opportunity to shoot with both weapons and then assault though, he has the opportunity to be one of the most point-effective units we’ve looked at so far. And with the FAQ that improves his shield generator, Shas’o R’myr seems like a real viable choice.

Shas’o R’ailai



No change from the Codex in ForgeWorld models, so the below is still relevant.

Coming equipped with his ++4/++3 (from greater than 12 inches away) shield generator, drones controller, and a whopping eight wounds, Shas’o R’ailai seems to make for a decent back/mid-line commander. He would make a great warlord and center of your swarm of markerlight drones, but won’t bring a ton of his own firepower. The way his rules read, it seems like he should be a dedicated character killer, but yet it’s clear he has nothing that lets him target characters unless their the nearest visible enemy unit. This could be an oversight to his rules, and would allow for some very fun character sniping, but for now leaves his role singular, as the back/mid-line drone booster.

Commander in XV81 Suit



The XV81 suit Commander is a commander with two slots who also has to take an Smart missile system (SMS). It has the same base cost as the regular but none of the other commander variants have access to the SMS, which is a nice weapon to have especially with its recent point drop. When it comes down to it though, the XV81 Commander doesn’t offer anything flashy or different than the standard Commander apart from the SMS, so there’s not a whole lot to discuss.

Commander in XV84 suit



The XV84 Commander is essentially a Commander with just two slots and one caveat: when it hits with its weapons, a markerlight is applied to the target. Since we know we can roll one die at a time for shooting, I’m of the mindset that you could, for instance, roll each of your six CIB shots (for a 2xCIB-weilding Commander) until you got one hit (not hard with the BS2+, and then that marker light would immediately benefit the remaining shots. Plus the marker light would benefit any other units shooting at the marked target, of course. To me, it seems less than ideal to have the marker light AFTER shooting. I’d rather have dedicated units for shooting and markerlights rather than a mixed bag of both.

Bonus point: there’s nothing stopping you from using this commander to trigger the Uplinked Markerlight Stratagem. As it stands, this is one of the most reliable ways to get a markerlight on a target and is worth noting.

Combat HQ Summary


So how do all these stack up? Rambo R’myr still holds his throne at the best GEQ killer (if you can shoot and charge with him that is) but most of the time you’ll get more use out of Burst Cannon Commanders. 4 Fusion Commanders still do work against Tanks (T8). While the other Commander variants are not inherently bad, they suffer from the Commander limit and struggle to compete. Farsight slices and dices most infantry and even tanks now, plus if you can take advantage of two Mont’ka’s then he seems to be an efficient HQ choice. Longstrike is ok on his own but good when surrounded by multiple hammerhead’s. Shadowsun is middling at best on her own, but could be good when you take advantage of her two Kauyon’s. Shas’o R’alai makes a decent babysitter for drones now and with a rule tweak would make for a fun choice.

Unfortunately, most of the non-Commander choices are Sept-locked to Tau, which is great if you want to play Tau and sucks if you don’t. If you’re playing a non-Tau sept list, with multiple detachments, you’re going to fill up on Ethereals and Fireblades fast. Then, if you’re playing FSE, you’d better have a ton of Fireblades since they can’t take Ethereals.

In Closing

Next time we will bring you the next installment in the series analyzing the choices available for each battle role, focusing on Troops.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider following on twitter, facebook, instagram 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!

22 thoughts on “Codex Update – HQ

  1. You can’t really discount the XV8 commander because it can take irridium suit.

    Here is a table I made with the survivability of the suits (number of wounds / chance of not making the save)

    AP0: 30 wounds
    AP-1: 15 wounds
    AP-2: 10 wounds
    AP-3: 7.5 wounds
    AP-4: 6 wounds
    AP-5: 5 wounds

    Irridium with shield gen:
    AP0: 30 wounds
    AP-1: 15 wounds
    AP-2: 10 wounds
    AP-3: 10 wounds
    AP-4: 10 wounds
    AP-5: 10 wounds

    AP0: 18 wounds
    AP-1: 12 wounds
    AP-2: 9 wounds
    AP-3: 7.2 wounds
    AP-4: 6 wounds
    AP-5: 6 wounds

    Enforcer with shield gen:
    AP0: 18 wounds
    AP-1: 12 wounds
    AP-2: 12 wounds
    AP-3: 12 wounds
    AP-4: 12 wounds
    AP-5: 12 wounds

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your math on the Coldstar and Commander seem like they are off a fair bit. Also, ignoring 4x Fusion as a loadout for the Coldstar seems absolutely bizarre, since it is by far the most popular setup and easily beats out Fusion+HOBC+ATS as a loadout.

    Using T7 rather than T8 as a default tank statline biases things heavily against the S7/8 weapons in the lineup, and for no apparent reason. T8 vehicles and monsters are not common in the meta.

    2BC+HOBC+ATS is a superior anti-infantry configuration for a Coldstar, also. It has the same wound output as 3xBC+HOBC against GEQs, costs only 4pts more, and has significantly superior numbers against MEQs, TEQs, vehicles, and virtually anything that is in cover- often by a factor of as much as double.

    Plasma looks good, but it is a trap. Not only is it terrible against anything other than its preferred target (i.e. MEQs), but it falls prey heavily to the assumptions you are making- you will not always be within 12″ of your target, and the difference in range between even just 12″ and 18″ is pretty huge. Also, unlike all the other weapons, you cannot fire it when advancing, which is especially important for the Coldstar.

    Ion Cannon, as you note is the clear winner for Longstrike specifically and for Hammerheads in general. It’s also worth pointing out that so long as Longstrike is alive and not suffering penalties from any other effects (moving with weapon, airborne target, etc) he and any friends nearby cannot suffer damage from overcharging their Ion Cannons, as his aura will bump 1s up to 2s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, thanks for taking the time to read the article and write a detailed reply.

      Could you be more specific as to where you think the math is off? I’ve just rechecked the point costs and weapon profiles as well as spot checked several of the number of hits/wounds each weapon is expected to get.

      It seemed obvious that Coldstar with 4 fusion blasters would be *nearly* identical to the Enforcer with 4 fusion blasters, and thus redundant. If you’re going tank hunting then yes 4 fusion blasters on a Coldstar is the way to go. I think the weapon variation combined with a HOBC is the more interesting analysis, and we can see it gives some unexpected results (at least unexpected to me).

      This is not the first time I’ve heard confusion expressed as to why I use T8 over T7. I’ll definitely take that feedback onwards to future articles.

      I agree on the 2BC, HOBC, and ATS loadout for the Coldstar. It’s quite a good loadout against a wide variety of infantry.

      The analysis is only as good as the assumptions made, which is why I list them clearly. Plasma is certainly a niche loadout for the reasons you mentioned and there are other, better options that are more well-rounded.

      Good point about the Ion Cannon self-damage.


      1. It wasn’t a huge thing, but I figure for an article focused on the specific numbers getting the details of the math right was important. 😛 Not trying to call you out or anything, it’s really easy to miss small stuff like that.

        With regards to the quad-Fusion Coldstar vs Enforcer- I guess it depends on what you’re trying to do with the article. If it’s about determining what the preferred loadouts for each platform are, then I think you _do_ want to consider the “redundant” loadouts between the two, because realistically speaking you are only ever going to see Enforcers carrying around CIBs for their weapons- for any other weapon, the Coldstar is a more useful (and more flexible) way to bring the weapons.

        Also, I didn’t mention it before, but I think one important factor that will influence some of the ways you equip certain units is that points-per-damage is not the only factor to consider. Especially for the Commander, you have access to a very finite number of them- so even if a cheaper loadout is more _efficient_, it still may be less _effective_ overall because you will never be able to field more than three Commanders of any type (and the Commander is the most efficient shooting we can get, in many cases.) This is part of the problem with the named characters- they occupy a Commander slot, but bring significantly less firepower than their generic cousins do.

        I personally end up using a Coldstar with AFP, BC, HOBC, and ATS quite consistently- though with the caveat that I spend a relic on giving it the Supernova Launcher, which is a fantastic upgrade to the normally-underwhelming AFP. That and the 4x Fusion version are essentially the only loadouts worth taking, I feel.

        All in all a good article, since it makes clear the math on a lot of the things that are often said to be true (and in most cases are.) It’s good to be able to point to numbers and say “this is why people choose these pieces of wargear in this combination” rather than just kinda saying that is the best without justification.

        (Oh, and as a thought- why not “average” the numbers for Rapid Fire weapons, rather than assuming specifically that you will/won’t get them? Or have two entries, one for getting double shots and one for not? There is enough table data that I don’t feel like it would excessively clutter things.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No worries! You’re right that a blog about math should probably have correct math 😛

        I believe I have it all correct now, but let me know if you still think something feels off.

        You’re absolutely right that the mathhammer is only part of the rationale that should go into loadouts and list design in general. A lot of people forget that, but math is only part of the equations, so to speak.

        The problem with average number of shots with rapid fire weapons is that you’re never ever going to see those number is a game so it could be misleading. Maybe I should just do two cases, and that’s what I was planning on doing in the next article that covers troops (i.e. rapid fire pulse rifles).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, if you’re willing to accept a slightly more complicated output, I think showing normal/double outputs for RF weapons is a good way to handle it. It lets the reader take the other factors they know into account when judging which of the two numbers are likely to be relevant.

        Looking forward to some more articles on the subject. Also, I’d love to see more of your personal analysis of things- raw number outputs are great, but hearing how you collate those into meaningful choices (i.e. “I would never take an Ethereal except when ____” or “I think a Burst Cannon Coldstar should be an inclusion in every list unless _____”) really enhances the usefulness of the article. Even if some of your conclusions later turn out to be wrong, explaining why feel the way you do about various units and how they fit into a list is a valuable feature in and of itself. Though I do realize how much extra work that can be…

        In any case, it’s good to see someone writing about the new Tau book in an accurate way. Keep up what you’re doin’.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the analysis. Two points though;

    First, as Jean-Luc pointed out, the enforcer isn’t automatically better for 4 points extra, as the XV8 can take Iridium armour for 15 more points, while not using a system slot.

    The trade off comparing XV8 against Enforcer is:
    XV8: -4 points for 5W 3+,
    XV8 w/ Iridium: +11 points for 5W 2+,
    Enforcer: 6W 3+.
    Against AP0 weapons the Iridium armour is clearly the better choice.

    The other point I thought I should make was that it’s now been FAQ’d that to keep the HOBC, you need to keep the missile pod too, which is slightly annoying, esp. for my HOBC / Fusion blades / Shield generator coldstar. Might be worth mentioning how easily you can assault with the coldstar, making onager/fusion blades not entirely non-viable? Can’t buy into the onager though.

    But yeah, great analysis, I’d been looking for a good breakdown of the codex. Still wish they’d buff rail weaponry, it’s my favourite aesthetically. 😥


    1. Yeah some good points! I do need to update it to account for the Coldstar FAQ. Signature system weapons deserve their own article probably.

      I’ll revisit this and add some of the good points brought up about the XV8 that I hadn’t considered, thanks!


  4. Fantastic article as always.

    After seeing this post, I have been considering adding a SUM to the end of all of the columns and, like golf, it would reveal the most point efficient model across all configurations.

    I believe the quad CIB wins that hands down with the lowest PPW in all categories (even though I haven’t done that calculation).

    My question is that does the 18″ range limit it too much? I thought about running them behind stealth suits and using the commanders as mini Riptides. In an ITC format, it might be good for mobile board control.

    Thank you again for these!


    1. Yeah that would be useful, just remember that you’re looking for the lowest SUM instead of the highest.

      With standard and overcharged profiles now being Assault 3, you very well may be correct. I don’t think so, because the effective range is more like 24” or greater with the commander’s movement factored in. That sounds like a good idea!

      You’re welcome!


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