Tactica: Tau Empire in 5th edition

Now a lot of people feels that Tau Empire suffers in 5th edition. That it is a sub-par codex or a bottom tier army. I wish to prove it otherwise and highlight what I think is the strength and weakness of Tau Empire in relation to 5th edition ruleset.

Everyone knows that Tau Empire is an army who is strong in shooting and suffers in assault. What we need to do is capitalized on this and turn the weakness into it’s strength.

How I am doing this tactica is explain why I use a specific unit and loadout. What I have found and experience. This is in noway a one all, be all Tau tactica. This is a how it is the way I see it.

First off let me display my army list at 1750pts v1.2.

HQ
01 Shas’El (TL Missile Pod/Target Lock)

ELITE
03 XV8 Crisis: Fireknife (Plasma/Missile Pod/Targeting Array)
03 XV8 Crisis: Fireknife (Plasma/Missile Pod/Targeting Array)
03 XV8 Crisis: Fireknife (Plasma/Missile Pod/Targeting Array)

TROOP
06 Firewarrior
01 Devilfish (Burst Cannon/SMS, Targeting Array, Disruption Pod, Multi Tracker)
10 Kroot with 06 Hounds
10 Kroot with 06 Hounds

FAST ATTACK
02 Piranha (02Fusion gun, 04 Gun Drone, 01 Disruption Pod, 01 Target Lock)

HEAVY SUPPORT
02 XV88 Broadside (TL Railgun/SMS/Targeting Array, Team Leader, HW Target Lock)
01 Hammerhead (Railgun/SMS, Targeting Array*, Multi Tracker, Disruption Pod, Target Lock)
01 Hammerhead (Railgun/SMS, Targeting Array*, Multi Tracker, Disruption Pod, Target Lock)

Tau basically utilizes 2 basic tactica, bubble wrapping and traffic jam which I have written before, and army list building philosophy as written here. As a quick reference I use Kroot as my bubble wrap unit and Piranha (Devilfish and Hammerheads as needed) as my traffic jam unit, and every unit should be able to tackle infantry and vehicle/MC.

Unit breakdown
Shas’El with TL Missile Pod and Target Lock: Wanted a cheapest possible HQ thus a Shas’El and not Shas’O. Tried Plasma rifle, its good but this made HQ expensive. Tried Fusion gun, so far only fired that weapon 3 times out of 12 games. I do not use my HQ aggressively thus the Fusion rarely get used. Missile pod is the constant performer in all my games whether I attach HQ to Broadsides or Kroots. Twin linking my Missile pod is better than giving the suit BS5 with targeting array, I rarely miss.

Crisis XV8 suits: Plasma rifle, Missile pod and Targeting Array. There is a lot of different configuration but really Fireknife proves the most valuable as a balance build. Str7 at 36″, I can take out AV11 & AV10 with relative ease. Force armor saves easy with 2+ to wound. Plasma rifles are bane to all MEQ. Pretty nothing survives a concentrated hail of rapid firing plasma shots. The standard build is with multi tracker which allows the suit to fire all weapons. This has proven my downfall as all the AP2 shots are usually being allocated to specific model due to wound allocation and the others take armor saves from my missile pods. So I changed my suits to have targeting array instead and thus makes my suits not dependent on Pathfinders. Setting up a kill zone of 12″ infront of your firing line ensures no plasma shots getting cover saves is important.

FireWarriors: They suck. Codex requires a min of 1 firewarrior squad so they are field. They are T3, BS3 and 4+ sv. Max squad size at 12 and leadership7. With all these in mind, yes they have str5 guns at 30″ but how many times are you able to shoot before an enemy close in? Kill 3 and you are rolling morale check at leadership 7, and you have a 45% chance of failing your morale check and just fall off the table. Throw them inside a warfish (pimped devilfish transport) and call it done.

Kroots: WS4, Str4… hello there! Look at the squad size of it! 20 and not including hounds and krootox! While in forested area, Kroots get +1 to cover and never has to roll for difficult terrain. With this you have the perfect unit to do the bubble wrap role with its high squad size. Kroot hounds are a must which at I5, they will strike first against MEQ. A typical squad size for my Kroot squad is 16. This unit has proved themselves in many games that they can and do kill MEQ due to the amount of armor saves forced on the attacker. If people shoots Kroots, they go to ground for the sweet 2+ cover. If people ignore them, they will claim objectives for me.

Pathfinders: Another iconic Tau army unit with the ability to boost BS of any friendly unit and remove cover saves. They are good to have as they amplify the shooting capability of others but atlas the downside is its BS3 and max squad size is 8. On average I will get 4 markerlight hits. I have use them to some success to some extend quite dependent on them to boost my Crisis or Hammerheads. I find this quite unhealthy. Still good to have though.

XV88 Broadsides: The mighty railgun on foot with 2+sv, T4 and 2wounds. You can get more shots from Broadsides compare to Hammerheads. To add a better reliable shooting, Broadsides railguns are twin linked. The most common support point given are Advanced Stabilization System but after playing, I much prefer to give them targeting array. I rarely need to move the Broadsides if I deploy them well and despite twin linking at BS3, I still missed half the time.

Hammerhead: This heavy support tank comes in two main gun options, railgun or ion cannon. Str10 AP1 single shot(solid shot) or Str6 AP4 large blast(submunition), or Str7 AP2 3 shots with the ion cannon. The most often loadout is the railgun. With plenty of str7 shots from the Crisis suits, we need guns to deal with AV13/AV14 and the answer falls on Hammerheads and Broadsides. The template also brings anti-infantry option thus Hammerheads are hard to pass for any Tau army list. I always upgrade gun drones to Smart Missile System (SMS) this is because it adds range to my secondary guns and gun drones gives a KP. The other must have upgrades are multi tracker and disruption pod.

Skyrays: Mobile hunter-seeker missile platform tank with networked markerlights. What networked markerlights do is it allows the firer to benefit from its own markerlights. I do not recommend this tank as for almost 200pts, you only get 6 missiles and each missile is Str8 AP3. You may argue that you also only get to fire railgun about 6 times per game! Well, if I can get Str10 AP1 shots why would I want Str8 AP3?

Devilfish: The humble transport vehicle of Tau Empire. AV12/AV11/AV10. To bring maximum shooting capability from Devilfish, I upgrade it gun drones to SMS, added targeting array(+1BS), multi tracker(compulsory) and disruption pod(compulsory). Now with this, I can shoot 7 shots of Str5 AP5 at BS4. Anything less than this, the Devilfish becomes just another useless vehicle with no bite.

Piranha: AV11/AV10/AV10 fast skimmer open top. Comes with burst cannon and a pair of gun drones. Upgrade burst cannon to fusion gun and now it can threaten vehicle. A pity the gun drones cannot be upgraded. Add in targeting array and disruption pod, you have the perfect ‘traffic jam’ unit. They serve a vital role in my Tau Empire. I really hoped they get destroyed every game as they moved up to block movement. On dying, they explodes and takes more with them! I love my Piranhas and all my opponent learned to hate it.

XV25 Stealths: Anti-horde specialist unit. Each is BS3, T3 and 3+Sv with a special stealth rule that requires opponent to spot them to shoot at them. 2D6 x3 is the distance. Armed with Jet Packs and burst cannon, if you work out the distance needed to shoot at stealths, they can be spotted rather easily. A unit of 5 stealths with targeting array will cost 200pts. For every 3 stealths, 1 can be upgraded to carry fusion gun. This brings the unit even closer to the opponent to be effective. At T3, its real easy to shoot them off and noway to avoid being assaulted. They have no place in any Tau army list above 1250pts.

Sniper Drone Team: Str6 AP3 at BS3, T3, 4+Sv and 36″ threat distance. A team has 3 drones and a single heavy support slot can have 3 teams maximum. This brings a total of 9 sniper drones at 240pts. What are they good at? Shooting MEQ only. How many people are fielding foot marine lists? At Str6 they hardly can touch vehicles. I do not recommend using this unit at all and I will not use them too as they suffer from the same weakness as XV25 Stealth teams.

Gun/Shield/Markerlight Drones: Gun drones suffers the same as Stealths and Sniper Drones. They are marginally good at killing infantry only. Shield drones are good to have to accompany Crisis suits to add ablative wounds and I will only add them after all the teams has max out on squad number and upgrades. Why pay for quality when you can have more models to shoot at others? Markerlight drones are too expensive to consider what they can do. Yes they add good markerlight shots but with drones, the point efficiency goes so bad they are not worth considering.

Vespid Stingwings: Another specialize unit good at MEQ with 12″ gun, T4 and 5+ Sv. Who are we going to kid with this? Nobody in the right mind is going to field this unit. To make things worse, Vespids are all metal blisters.

Summary
A breakdown of out-going firepower with my army list, I can hit 8 targets per shooting phase – 4x Str10 AP1 shots, 3×6 Str7 AP4 from Crisis team and 1×2 Str7 AP4 from HQ. With proper target priority, I have enough firepower to shootdown any vehicle across the table.

For anti-infantry, there are SMS shots at str5 AP5 from all Tau vehicles and plasma guns at str6 AP2 from Crisis, I usually have no problem wiping deep-striking Terminators.

All vehicles are a tough to take out with AV13 and AV12 front, almost always granted a cover save of 4+ due to disruption pod. And lastly the vehicle damage table helps.

All units in the list will always have at least 4+cover save due to the way we deploy. True LOS helps as they will have problem drawing LOS to our Crisis teams.

In assault, Kroots/Hounds can hold their line for at least 4 combat rounds. If any opponent are able to assault your other units except Kroots, you have already made a big mistake in movement.

My Game/Battle Plan/Deployment
Every game starts with a good battle plan and purposeful deployment. With that said, the game becomes just an execution and off to a good start.

This is how I deploy my Tau.

  1. Depending on deployment, choose a terrain to bunker in. Preferably a wooded area for the Kroots to deploy in and a 12″ zone of no terrain infront. Deploy the Kroots and Hounds in a straight line. This will be your bubble wrap to accept incoming assaults.
  2. Attach HQ into the Kroots so that if ever they are force leadership check, they are in good hands.
  3. Deploy Broadsides behind the Kroots, in a spot that has good LOS to control firing lanes.
  4. Deploy Hammerheads and Devilfish behind the Kroots and more than 6″ behind them. This will prevent any deepstriking melta guns from having easy shots at your vehicles.
  5. Deploy Crisis Suits behind the Vehicles to block LOS to them.
  6. Reserved Firewarriors and when they come in, make sure the Devilfish is nearby for them to hop in ASAP.

Target Priority

  1. Missile pods on Transports
  2. Railguns on AV14-AV12 vehicles.
  3. If no vehicles, missiles on monsterous creature and Hammerhead submunition on the hordes.
  4. Don’t forget Kroots can rapid fire Kroot rifle to force plenty of armor saves.

That’s all for now. Hmm… did I successfully convinced you that Tau Empire is still a viable competitive army in 5th edition? Not many army can do what Tau can do.

Cheers.

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7 thoughts on “Tactica: Tau Empire in 5th edition

  1. note the similarities between tau & tyranids.

    the over-reliance of their elite slots…

    i always felt that the better armies were the ones that relied the least (or none at all) at the elite slots.

    space marines, ig, blood angels and space wolves are the few codices that can dish out highly competitive armies without the use of the elite choices.

    1. I used TA over MT is because I often find myself using missile pod on AV10/11 and plasma rifle on infantry. A common problem I faced with infantry (especially MEQ) is due to wound allocation, the AP2 plasma shots get allocated and the rest still get armor saves from AP4. This has caused MEQ to survive my shooting and to my dismay if it is only AP2, it would have wiped the whole squad. I can choose not to fire the missile pod at MEQ but I find it quite defeating the purpose of getting MT. With TA, I can also be ‘independent’ of Pathfinders. So far, it has work great for me.

  2. Grimcron :
    I used TA over MT is because I often find myself using missile pod on AV10/11 and plasma rifle on infantry. A common problem I faced with infantry (especially MEQ) is due to wound allocation, the AP2 plasma shots get allocated and the rest still get armor saves from AP4. This has caused MEQ to survive my shooting and to my dismay if it is only AP2, it would have wiped the whole squad. I can choose not to fire the missile pod at MEQ but I find it quite defeating the purpose of getting MT. With TA, I can also be ‘independent’ of Pathfinders. So far, it has work great for me.

    Was thinking the same thing today. good move, i will probably be doing the same with my “fireknife” suits.

  3. Do you still play Tau?

    I’ve been reading YTTH and 3++ a lot (and I guess you have too), and I like the reasoning they give for building this list. I imagine that as I expand my force, it is probably going to look very similar.

    Theory and Practice are two very different things, though. Was hoping to see how you work the list sometime 🙂

    1. Yeah still plays Tau. If chance permits, I will bring Tau down and play but I am currently trying to have more feel with Tyranids.

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