This is an update to our previous Heavy Support 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 looked at Tau’s fast attack options and learned to laugh again (don’t get the joke? go read the article!). This time, we head into the Heavy Support choices for Tau. There’s a common theme to Tau’s Heady Support choices – bringing pain at range. Not all of them do this as well as others though, so let’s dive into which choices excel at range and firepower. If you’ve forgotten how we do the math or never knew in the first place, start here for a great introduction.
But first, assumptions:
- We will assume maximum shots (i.e. within rapid fire range) for rapid fire weapons
- 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.
- 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)
- We will ignore extra damage on certain rolls (like a To-Wound roll of 6+)
- With the exception of the Skyray, I haven’t included Seeker Missiles in the lethality calculation of things that can take them. This is because Seeker Missiles are a flat boost to lethality for a single turn and 1) you should always take them because they’re only 5 points, while 2) the resultant calculations would slightly skew the results better than they would be the turn after your Seeker Missiles were used.
Rather than part of the group of drones and marksman like in 7th edition, in 8th edition the Sniper Drones are broken off into their own unit. They have an impressive 48″ rapid fire S5 gun and deal mortal wounds on 6’s To-Wound, which makes them situationally good. Against T3 characters (Astra Militarum, Eldar flavors, enemy T’au) and with proper support via a drone controller and Marksman (which you should be taking anyway!), they can serve their purpose.
It’s amazing how much the mortal wounds on 6’s To-Wound helps them. Before they had it, before the codex, I couldn’t recommend taking them, since so many of the characters that they will be shooting at have invulnerable saves. But now, it’s possible to one-shot a company commander or other vital <Character> from your opponent’s army. Further, they make a cheap way to fill out a Brigade and put more bodies on the table, which is almost always a good thing.
Heavy Gun Drones
Heavy Gun Drones are regular drones with two burst cannons. While they do need support (at least a Drone Controller) to really shine, they can be effective against GEQ-targets and it’s really not that hard to fit a Drone Controller into your army, if you’re not already running one. While I’ve never personally run them in games, the math checks out and they are easy to scratch build with leftover burstcannons and drone bodies, plus they did get slightly better with the point drop from Index to Codex.
I don’t see them talked about much and am not sure why. They are now much more on-par with regular gun drones in terms of point efficiency (due to the increase in points to the increase on Gun Drone cost). If you need to fill some Heavy Support slots and don’t have enough points for something big, Heavy Gun Drones are a decent choice.
My opinion has changed on the Skyray. While before, I was not a fan, I’m more tolerant to the idea of them now. Yes, they shoot their one-shot Seeker Missiles and then severely lack firepower – but hear me out. Everything dies pretty quickly in 40k now. Who says that your Commander, your Riptide, your anything will last even a single turn on the board? Because of this, a single good or great turn can be the thing that wins a game and the Skyray is capable of delivering a single good turn.
With their two markerlights and its BS3+, it can gain the second tier of markerlight benefit itself that it needs to reliably hit with its Seeker Missiles. If you really need it too, you can even use the Uplinked Markerlight stratagem to further help ensure this. After that, whatever it looks at will be taking damage. While the original mortal wounds that Seeker Missiles dealt was something to be wary of, the damage ceiling of the new Seeker Missile weapon profile is MUCH higher and therefore MUCH better. In general, if you can take Seeker Missiles, do so. They make everything more efficient for a turn and are only 5 points a piece. Ask yourself – do you want an extra Kroot Carnivore, or a S8 AP-2 D6 shot?
A Skyray is not an auto-include and it is not overpowered. What it is, is a general problem solver. Need a transport taken out in a turn? Skyray. Need a hardy source of multiple markerlights that hits more often than they don’t? Skyray. Need a big model to get in the way of charge lanes or block some line of sight? Skyray. Need something that reliably deals with fliers or any of the numerous things that have <Fly> (like Mortarion, Magnus, Vendettas, etc.)? Skyray due to its stock velocity tracker. If you have the points and there isn’t a specific problem you need to address with the rest of your list, consider a skyray.
Mathematically, Hammerheads appear to be pretty decent. But accompanied by Longstrike (which you should basically always be doing if you’re taking other Hammerheads), Hammerheads are excellent in terms of damage output. The above numbers are without Longstrike’s +1 to hit that he gives nearby Hammerheads, but even so, it’s not hard to imagine the advantages that a T7 W13 Sv3+ model with decent range can bring. Plus they have <Fly> so should they get assaulted, they can fall back and still shoot. The point reductions to the chassis certainly helped.
The main drawbacks that exist with a Hammerhead are that they are reliant on Longstrike to really excel, they have a lot of heavy weapons so will be punished when you have to move, they only have T7 instead of the coveted T8 from other tanks (looking at you, Astra Militarum), and they are not as easily protected as Riptides are (due to Savior Protocols). While the Hammerheads and Riptides are both lethal, the Hammerheads are the same toughness, worse save, and no Savior Protocols. Don’t expect Longstrike to survive for long either, so any other hammerheads you have will only get to use his buff for one turn, two turns max.
Heavy Bombardment Hammerhead
A Hammerhead with High-Yeild Missile Pods from Forgeworld, this variant is focused on lower-toughness targets like GEQs and MEQs. Mathematically, it’s decent on it’s own, but remember that the numbers only get better with Longstrike. Much of what is said about the regular Hammerhead is applicable here. The biggest drawback of this variant is the cost and range of its HYMPs, plus the point reductions that the Codex Hammerhead received to its chassis, don’t carry over to the FW chassis, since it’s technically a different name for some reason (but the weaponry did since it’s the same exact name). If you feel safe at 30″ range or closer, you will probably do some damage with the Heavy Bombardment Hammerhead and we hopefully will get a point break with the next update to the Tau Forgeworld rules.
Fire Support Hammerhead
I couldn’t find a good picture, so you get a cool gif instead. The Fire Support Hammerhead is quite possibly the most durable platform and most point efficient GEQ-killer we have looked at. One (or two) with Longstrike will just chew through GEQ’s all day with the Heavy 16 Twin Burst Cannon. Its weapon profile didn’t get updated along with the Codex release since it’s technically a “Twin Heavy Burst Cannon” instead of two “Heavy Burst Cannons”, but it’s still pretty good – it’ll be an absolute MONSTER when/if it does get the weapon profile updated and the cost reduction to the chassis.
I prefer the longer-range SMS as a secondary weapon choice just so I can keep as much distance between myself and the enemy, but it’s not quite the most point-efficient choice. If you’re ok with taking advantage of the 18″ range from the drones, then all I can say is “good luck.” Like the other variants of the Hammerhead, the Fire Support Hammerhead will crumple under dedicated fire. It is the most efficient Hammerhead variant at damaging Tanks, but again, that relies on close range, which I’d just prefer not doing. The trade-off between this and the Riptide is that this is more efficient, while the Riptide is more durable (better regular save of 2+, up to 3++ save, more wounds, and ability to be affected by Ethereal chants).
Broadsides are better with their point reduction and their weaponry’s reduction. Remember that the above numbers assume it’s in rapid fire range, which it might not always be in. The ideal way to use these seems to be in packs of three, near Shadowsun for reroll to hit (Kauyon) and reroll to wound (Command and Control Node Stratagem). In that case, Smart Missile Systems as a secondary weapon would probably be better just due to the range.
It’s anti-tank weaponry is not quite efficient enough to recommend it when you compare it against Tau’s other options (4 Fusion Blaster Commanders for instance). But when near Shadowsun and all the reroll’s it gives, you could take it and not feel terrible about it – I simply don’t like the variable D6 damage that heavy rail rifles have. They are protectable by drones, so that’s something. Chalk it up to personal preference.
*The above numbers for the Nova profile assume that you’re rerolling any 1’s you get for damage. Whereas the average result for a D3 is 2, I have used the average of 2.5 for the result of a D3 with rerolling 1’s. There might be a better way to do that, but that’s what I’ve done. Comments and criticisms welcome.
If the Y’Vahra and the R’Varna are cousins, the Y’Vahra is the cousin that lifeguards at the pool in the summer, has a six pack and his own bright red Mustang while the R’Varna is the awkward cousin that never wears enough deodorant and stutters. S6 weaponry falls in a really weird place currently and the R’Varna is all about S6 weaponry. It’s a ~400 point model that wounds GEQ’s on 2’s but nearly any decent vehicle on 5’s. When it hits, it does multiple damage for each failed save, but it just doesn’t wound often enough for me to want to take one. Tau doesn’t need something else to deal with GEQ-targets and long ranged-options are already prevalent. Changing the main weapons to S7 would make me look at this seriously, but at it is, it doesn’t fare well against my local meta and doesn’t fare well against what we have analyzed it against.
Tau Heavy Support choices seem focused on using range to their advantage while trying to do the maximum damage possible. A few choices like the Fire Support Hammerhead or the regular Hammerhead seem to do well, while Sniper Drones and Skyrays seem to be situational. ALWAYS TAKE SEEKER MISSILES. Next time we will continue our take a break with some hobby topics before continuing with analysis of the Tau transports and fliers.
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Happy dice rolls!