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This is an update to our previous Flier/Transport 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 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 four markerlights or the use of Mont’ka).
- 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 VEQ 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).
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 enough 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. With the slight point reduction that it saw from Index to Codex in 8th, it’s the perfect time to try one out.
A flier that I’m considering a transport due to its severe lack of firepower, the Orca is a much sought-after model for many Tau-enthusiasts. It’s basically a shoebox with thrusters, so I’m not sure why it gets the hype. It’s also 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 and drones can Manta Strike, you’d probably use its transport capacity for infantry. The only somewhat legitimate tactic I can think of to use it for would be to put 64 Firewarrior Strike Teams models and a Cadre Fire Blade in the Orca so you can guarantee the ensuing 192 S5 shots at half range. But that just seems silly. With the changes to Manta Striking resulting from the most recent FAQ, I suppose there is merit in loading up a bunch of crisis suits in an Orca in a friendly game, but outside of that, this will be your talking-point piece that stays on the shelf.
A points drop in the Codex makes the Razorshark Fighter worth discussing. It’s not fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, but it is pretty cheap, at just over 120 points. It really lacks significant firepower, even with the ability to overcharge its Quad Ion Turret, but the fact that the Quad Ion Turret is now an Assault instead of a Heavy weapon does help. The above numbers assume it’s shooting at something that doesn’t have the <Fly> keyword, so that it adds 1 to its To-Hit rolls, bringing it to an effective BS3+ for that weapon. In its current state, you don’t have to feel terrible about taking a Fighter in a friendly game, I suppose, but you won’t see it in a competitive list.
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. For the above numbers, the VEQ and Tank targets were assumed to be a single model unit. All around, the Bomber is pretty great against GEQs and MEQs while being somewhat resilient 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.
One thing to keep in mind is that the rules for overcharging the drones now cause the drones to take a mortal wound on a To-Hit roll of 1, as opposed to the Bomber taking the mortal wound in previous rulings. This means that when you are overcharging the drones, you’ll probably want to have at least one markerlight on them to help avoid this self-destruction.
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, if you see them at all. 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, but only via the <Character> key word – they do not have Savior Protocols. Overall, the Remora is just a bit too expensive for what it does.
The Barracuda has several choices for loadouts which, thanks to the changes to the Heavy Burst Cannon and the Ion Cannon, are now fairly formidable. If you want anti-GEQ or anti-MEQ then rely on the Heavy Burst Cannon’s 12 AP-1 D2 shots. If you want anti-tank then the Overcharged Ion Cannon has the versatility to meet your needs. However, it is hard to hit, but suffers from having BS3+ and firing main Heavy weapons. I know that there’s a lot of love for the model, and rightly so – now you can feel good about taking it.
It seems the big decision when looking at the Barracuda, is how it compares to a Riptide. They both, due to their similar weaponry, fill a similar role and are around the same point cost. So which is better? Strictly speaking point-efficiency, the Riptide edges out in most cases, though it’s worth noting that the above numbers for the Barracuda don’t take into account the four seeker missiles that it can take, which could result in a great single turn. Both the Barracuda and Riptide are T7 with W14 and both have a 5 up invulnerable save. While the Barracuda is hard to hit (-1 on To-Hit rolls), it’s going to be hard to successfully wound a Riptide at all when they’re appropriately surrounded by drones (which also add to its effective cost, keep that in mind). The Riptide has access to easy bonuses, buffs, and Stratagems due to it being a <Battlesuit>, while the Barracuda suffers from the usual awkwardness that most fliers suffer from, mainly due to their movement requirements. Overall, I think you take the Riptide, but I think a well-placed Barracuda can now pull it’s own weight as well.
Tiger Shark Fighter/Bomber
With the point reductions and weapon profile enhancements that benefitted the Heavy Burst Cannon and Ion Cannon, the Tiger Shark is an absolute beast. At its current point cost, it’s pretty good at killing just about everything and excellent at killing GEQs/chaff. I swapped out the drone bay for the Skyspear Missile Rack for all the analysis because it’s a direct increase in lethality (it’s a zero point boost to firepower). 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 now that drones can Manta Strike, why would you? I’m hoping for a change to the drone transportation rules when/if Fires of Cyraxus ever gets released. Furthermore, 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. The biggest drawback is that it’s a flier and if your opponent can kill everything else besides it (and any other fliers you have) then you lose outright. Still, If you have one, use it. If you don’t have one, go get one and tell Forgeworld I sent you!
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 most resilient and longest-range tank-killer Tau has. This fits the lore and its pretty awesome – if your opponent has <Titanic> units, now much more likely due to the release of the Knight Codex. If you aren’t facing gargantuan <Titanic> units, then you won’t see nearly the same amount of efficiency out of this version of the Tiger Shark. It’s definitely a risk versus reward type of unit choice that, when it works, it REALLY works. The look on your opponents face when you remove a knight in one turn will be absolute worth it.
Green is top 3, blue is between top 4 and 7, yellow is between top 8 and 10.
When all is said and done, it’s hard to beat a well-positioned Bomber, whether that be the Sun Shark Bomber or the Tiger Shark bomber. The better chassis you can get for the Heavy Burst Cannon or the Ion Cannon, the better, as those are apparently the darlings of the Tau weaponry. Forgeworld units have some strong rules right now and if you were thinking about pulling the trigger on one, now might be the time.
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