This is an update to our previous Elite 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.
Last time we reviewed the Troop choices, this time we will look at the different troop choices and their pros and cons.
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
- Kroot Shaper
- Firesight Marksman
- Technical Drones
Combat Elite Choices
- Krootox Rider
- Stealth Suit
- Crisis Suit/Bodyguard
- Hazard Suit
Synergistic Elite Choices
Leaders among the Kroot, Shapers exist to buff other <Kroot> with re-roll wound rolls of 1 and to use its *slightly* higher leadership of 7. 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. Because of these reasons, Shapers compliment kroot hoards, which my ever-growing themed kroot army loves to hear. However, even though 8th edition favors large numbers of infantry, and with kroot being the cheapest unit of Tau infantry point for point, Shapers still probably won’t find their way into the strongest Tau lists.
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 reroll 1’s to wound and morale roll immunity sound like good things on paper, and they are, but they rest entirely on getting the kroot, Shaper included, into close combat, which is hard to do with their prevalent Sv6+ and the fact that even on the best of days, Kroot are much more of a distraction that your actual dangerous units. The Shaper just doesn’t seem to buff kroot enough to warrant taking them or the Shaper itself, at least outside of a fun or narrative game.
Man oh man was my initial review of the Marksman short-sighted. Yes, the Marksman only has a markerlight and a pulse pistol, but is a hardy choice for markerlights due to the fact that it’s a Character, receives +2 to saves while in cover, and has W3. It also synergizes well with Sniper Drones, who got better via the mortal wounds granted in the Codex. Other sources of markerlights, like pathfinders and marker drones, are likely to get blasted off the table in a round or two of shooting. Marksmen, which hit more often than most other markerlight sources due to their BS3+, are much more likely to be hidden amongst your other troops and therefore protected. There’s a lot of value in that.
Due to the fact that these little guys let you roll a D6 every turn (it specifies turn, not battle round) 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? If you can keep them out of line of sight, that’s best.
Combat Elite Choices
We will cover all the other Elite choices below. Green highlighted cells indicate the most point efficient choice for the numbers in each unit section.
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 VEQ (vehicle equivalent) is defined as a model with T7 and Sv3+, multiple wounds
- 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, VEQ PPD, and Tank PPD (point per damage)
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…really. 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. The auto-advance 6″ makes you want to want to advance, but it’s got rapid fire weapon instead of an assault so this will backfire. 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. A counnterpoint is that it’s relatively cheap to put a unit with 12 wounds on the table that can move 13″ guaranteed a turn. It’ll eventually be a unit that your opponent will have to deal with, but with a Sv6+, it won’t be hard for them to deal with when they do.
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. With the homing beacon and deepstrike changes from the Big FAQ, it’ll be a rare case that you take them for their beacon, but the good news is there are plenty of other good reasons to take Stealth suits.
An interesting note is that if you have the points for Multi-Tracker (always worth consideration in the Index version, but no longer really with the changes the Codex brought) as well as the open hard points, it’s no longer a good efficiency boost. You could accomplish the same thing with one markerlight, and now should do so that way instead of paying for the multi-tracker gear option.
CRISIS SUIT AND BODYGUARD
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, but much 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 is no longer possible with changes to the Homing Beacon and the deepstrike changes from the FAQ. 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’d prefer a more ranged approach, plasma rifles in rapid fire range also do well only in niche situations, while the CIB’s are again the more well-rounded choice. All in all, Crisis suits suffer not from a competitive point efficiency, but from the fact that they can be a 60-100 point investment per model and thus require and even heavier investment in protection via a swarm of surrounding drones, which in turn reduces their point efficiency. I’m not one to jump on the “moaning” bandwagon, but Crisis suits are not in a good place for a competitive Tau list right now. Luckily, there are other great options for Tau Elite choices.
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 almost ensures the enemy can negate the Ghostkeel’s inherent -1 to hit on their next turn. 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 and the Codex changes to the overcharged weapon profile. With sound placement, a ghostkeel will give you a tool to throw a monkey-wrench into your opponent’s plans every game.
Advanced Target Systems (ATS) and a Target Lock seem like must-haves for Ghostkeels since they should be mobile and ATS gives them a bit more punch, which is always nice to have. The CIR seems like the better and certainly more flexible choice for the main weapon, with secondary weapons being a bit more up to personal preference.
Back on top! The Riptides were all but dead in the Index, but the Codex changes have given them a new life. Everywhere across the world, Riptides are being dusted off and used again, and for good reason. The Riptide now has formidable dakka and impressive range (even more so when of the Bork’an sept). But what makes the Riptide really shine in my opinion is that it’s a protectable weapon. You can surround one in shield drones and even with the Codex change to Savior Protocols, any opponent will have a hard time even doing damage to your Riptide, much less destroying it.
Though much more expensive now, ATS is still a clear winner for the Riptide, as you can see above. HBC with SMS, with ATS and whatever other Support System you’d like, are my preferred loadout simply due to the versatility. Even against T7 and T8+, if you’re able to utilize Command and Control Node, you can put a lot of damage onto desired targets, plus that loadout also mulches infantry at up to 36″ out and is still able to fire both primary and secondary weapons, if in the Bork’an sept. Not to mention that a Tau sept Riptide will eat anything that charges it or charges anything within 6″ of it due to hitting all of those shots on 5’s. It’s honestly a good thing the Rule of 3 exists now or else I would predict even higher salt levels from Tau opponents than existed in 7th edition with the Riptide Wing.
HAZARD SUPPORT SUIT
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, with the increased cost of Gun Drones in the Codex, it’s out-shadowed in point efficiency by a solo Hazard suit. 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.
Combat Elite Choice Summary
For each column, highlighted green means it’s in the top 3, blue is top 4-7, yellow is top 8-10. 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 an amazing place and make sure to take at least one every game, with the appearance of three Riptides probably not being uncommon.
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 good when you need a dependable and protectable markerlight source (which is always).
While I want to write a separate and complete article specifically on stratagems, a discussion of Elite choices would be remiss if it didn’t also mention at least some of the new stratagems that are available to <Battlesuits>, namely the Command and Control Node and Drop Zone Clear. The best way to look at the CnCN is by revisiting the To-Wound chart:
Normally, you have about a 17, 33, 50, 66, and 83 percent chance of wounding for the twice, greater than, equal to, less than, and half cases respectively. When you factor in rerolls to wound, that changes to 30, 55, 75, 88, and 97 percent chance to wound. We don’t have to mention specific weapons here since every weapon uses the above method to determine if it wounds or not (excluded mortal wounds). So what does this really mean?
We can see that the biggest gain to efficiency will be the case where you start with the lowest chance to successfully wound, with diminishing returns the higher, comparatively, the strength is to the toughness.
As for the Drop Zone Clear, you gain a direct +1 to To-Hit rolls, which translates in a simple ~16% increase in number of shots landed for a turn. You could increase this further by adding 5 markerlights to your target for an increase of ~33% chance to hit, which if you’re looking at the case of CIB-weilding with overcharging, Farsight Enclave crisis suits, would translate to the mouth-watering point efficiencies you see below. Any that’s not even combined with the Command and Control Node***. Crisis suits, anyone?
*** It also doesn’t factor in the point cost for getting those 5 markerlights on the target, the points it would cost for a Commander to use CnCN, the strategy that would let you figure out how to survive for a solid turn without these suits on the board, a strategy to get these to drop in where you want them with the changes to Homing Beacon, the points for the drones you’d probably want to take to keep the suits alive on the next turn, etc. etc. Basically, it doesn’t factor in any of the real-world things that differentiate a good tactic from a bad one, and the numbers exist only in a vacuum. Proceed with the above numbers with caution.
Next time we will bring you the next installment in the series analyzing the choices available for each battle role, focusing on the Fast Attack.
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