Thursday, June 27, 2013

6th Edition Tau Flyers: How to make them work

I am working on a fairly interesting side project on how to make Eldar Flyers work and while I was, I thought more about my Tau flyers also.

Tau flyers are a conundrum for sure.  My friend has used one to good effect enough times now that despite my own trepidation about them, I decided to start thinking how I could make it effective.  First I needed to grasp what they really were MEANT to be in this codex.

When you look closely at a Razorshark Strike Fighter, what do you see?  Well as I realized that it really was a LOT like a Hammerhead Gunship with Ion Cannon plus two Seeker Missiles.  Such a thing would cost you a Heavy slot normally and would cost 141 points.  Let's compare a little.  The Razorshark Strike Fighter is 145.  So right out of the gate, it's kind of a flying IonHead tank.  The IonHead is AP 3 which is no small matter and is its most outstanding advantage over the flyer.  The Razorshark Strike Fighter also comes with a Missile Pod option to make it slightly more dangerous to more targets than the secondary weapons on the ground bound Hammerhead.  Ballistic Skill is clearly to the Ionheads advantage, but when firing a blast weapon, the impact of that advantage is at lease marginalized because Hits on the scatter die don't care what your BS was.  Against hordish sorts, the flyer may well do better.  Against Flying Monstrous Creatures who are VERY difficult to hit, the Skyfire ability of the Flyer is big.  You pay 15 NET points than you would otherwise spend on the Hammerhead.  So while the Hammerhead is good against a lot of targets, the variety of targets the Razorshark can take on is better.  Razorsharks are better against vehicles because the vehicles don't care about the difference in AP (The IonHead AP3 vs. the Flyers AP 4 is the same in game terms).

The Sky Shark Bomber can engage with three targets in two different phases per turn, plus once more in the end of the enemy's move phase if it gets a chance to use interceptor fire!  THAT is really unique.  Even the vaunted Storm Raven can only attack two targets in one phase and can't then intercept.  The Bomber can fire at reserves as they come in with Interceptor and obviously it is armed to take out other flyers if it has to.  What does it all mean?  It means that the Tau can both take and maintain air superiority with bombers.  4 STR 7 shots on Interceptor is pretty good, maybe good enough to stun another flyer or even knock it out before it can do damage.  In most rounds it is getting 6 STR 7 shots and because the Drones are not WEAPONS, they cannot be taken away with Weapon Destroyed results.  So it is quite difficult to stop the Bomber from affecting the enemy unless they actually kill it outright.

Both flyers carry the Seeker Missiles and therefore are quite deadly to any armored target.

So then there are a few things you MUST also take if you commit to an air attack.  The first is a Broadside unit, preferably with Heavy Rail Rifles and taking away the enemies cover save via Markerlight support.  You must knock out Aegis Defense line guns turn 1 and you will want to do it with as few units as you can get away with.  If you want to maintain high volume of firepower while still accomplishing the task, you will need to arm your High Yield Missile Pod Broadsides with the Seeker missile which will allow their blizzard of shots to reasonably affect the Tough 7, 3+ save 2 wound Aegis Line gun.  You must cause 6 wounds to reasonably hope to kill the gun with anything less than AP 3.  High Yield Pod broadsides can do it but I'd take the insurance in the form of the Seeker Missile, personally, so you're not wasting additional units to finish the job, units whose capability to do so is far lesser.

Once the gun is down, your own flyers can handle the aerial attackers themselves.  However...  Just as a precaution, you need to invest 3 points in the Decoy Launcher on your planes should these efforts fail. It protects them when they show up against interceptor threats.

Predator of the Skies as a Warlord Trait really comes in handy if you take the Bodyguard Markerswarm, because you can use it to assist in the anti-aircraft work of the Razorshark or the SkyShark.  MANY Tyranids use the "Flying Circus" of freakish flying monsters as their army and you will definitely want the help bring them down, and fast.  The best way to try and ensure this happens is take a Warlord that has NO Ranged weapons, NO Jetpack and that CANNOT deep strike.  By doing this you will essentially only have 3 Warlord Traits you CAN roll, a 33% chance of getting the one you want.  This strategy means that in your list, the Ethereal is probably going to be the Warlord and then he will likely be attached to the Bodyguard Swarm and the Command suit (who will take a Drone Controller).  This combination will allow you to take on nearly all aerial opponents with confidence.

So now that we have the supporting cast for the Aerial attack, here's the list so far, minimally.  I chose dual plasma because the XV8's don't want to be too close if they are doing markerlight work, but they want to contribute heavily when the time comes and the drones have been whittled. However you can certainly use some other weapon load out.  Missiles are another decent choice for these, though STR 7 is so well represented in such a list that the need for more of it might be questionable.

74pts  Ethereal (Warlord, 2 Marker Drones)

137pts  Commander (Command and Control Node, Drone Controller, Onager Gauntlet, 2 x Markerdrones)

172pts  2 Bodyguard XV8's (4x Markerdrones, each with 2 Plasma Rifles)

54pts  6 Fire Warriors

54pts  6 Fire Warriors

274pts  3 Broadsides (All three with High Yield Missile Pods and TL Plasma, 3 x Seeker Missiles, 2 x Velocity Tracker)

Total spent in support:  765pts

Now we can safely buy our Aerial attackers, having taken care of the basics.  Question is, what mix do we want?  The Bombers are multifaceted and quite effective.  The Fighters are vicious killers also.  Tough choice.

For purposes of this example, I think we will try a Razorshark Fighter to escort in our two Bombers and we'll see what kind of holes that leaves us to fill.

153pts  Razorshark Strike Fighter (Missile Pod, Decoy Launcher)
168pts  Sun Shark Bomber (TL Smart Missile System, Decoy Launcher)
168pts  Sun Shark Bomber (TL Smart Missile System, Decoy Launcher)

That is now a very large amount of air power.  We hit 1254.  Time to start taking care of the essentials.  Scoring units for an army are a must.  Likelihood is, we will need a Kroot wrap for the broadside unit.  Kroot wraps are inexpensive ways to put an enemy SQUARELY into the wrong place at the wrong damn time at pretty much no real cost to you.  In addition, getting TO the objectives is kind of important.  It seems like we need a bulky extra couple Kroot Units to come in and fire from the side that the jets have cleared out.  Outflanking isn't as reliable as one would like AT TIMES, so we will throw a Doggy in there with them for Acute Senses.  That should solve the problem.  Now there is nothing in this lifetime more annoying than outflanking Kroot Riders.  The angles they attack from matter a lot.  so we will definitely take those since we are already taking Kroot.

60pts  10 kroot Broadside Wrap
140pts  10 Kroot + 1 Hound + 3 krootox for outflanking objectives but with options to gunline
140pts  10 Kroot + 1 Hound + 3 krootox for outflanking objectives but with options to gunline

That pushes us up to 1594.  The Ethereals Powers would be somewhat wasted if we didn't populate some more Fire Warriors at the fire base to keep the enemy honest and not allow them to stand back and get in a shooting war.  Let's add to our troops and plan on using the other two as reserves so we can claim objectives later without having to trust the low LD of Fire Warriors:

99pts  11 Fire Warriors

That places us at 1693, with 2 heavy slots left open, plus all the elite slots.  I'm thinking we are at the part of the list where we identify needs  outside of just supporting the Aircraft and scoring.  This is where we could start looking at allies, or even just deciding if we have enough killing power yet to eliminate enough threats.  Dreads and the like can drop in also.  Can opening ability is definitely present but Land Raiders will laugh off our firepower.  I feel that's a real hole in the fabric of the list.  To fill that gap, we will need a serious can opener. 

153pts  3 Crisis Suits (4 Shield Drones, 2 Gun Drones, Shas'Vre w/ Vectored Retro Thrusters, 2 Fusion Blasters each)

This unit can open the can, survive whats inside if they charge and get away in a pinch.  Init 4 should ensure the escape more often than not if the Shield drones can hold just long enough to mitigate some of the wounds.  It most definitely has the power needed to kill a LandRaider and just about anything else that stops by.  It can even pin an opponent which can be game changing against the right one.  Monsters will be equally delighted to see this unit coming.

The last points of the list could be anything.  We have taken care of Hordes big time, we've got scoring units, we have the ability to SHIFT from Gunline to mobile any time we need to and we have anti-MEQ coming out of our pores, plus the sheer volume of high strength firepower bodes well for our chances.  Much of it is very hard to kill i nthe form of the Flyers!

Looking around, I find that having only ONE Markerlight source (plus the Bombers) might be a hole to fill.  Can't take Pathfinders nor Drone Swarms.  Accuracy is the key.  So I think I will insert a FireSight marksman unit and their Drones, which the Ethereal can turn QUITE deadly when targets are within 24" range.  Points are tight so we might not be able to get a lot of Sniper Rifles in there but at least we get the Markerlights, plus the Sniper Drones are not wasted firepower.  BS 5 Markerlights in general are pretty awesome when they also come with stealth!  Plus going to ground if firing at enemy planes is pretty much like NOT going to ground against enemy planes.

84pts  3 Firesight Marksmen + 3 Sniper Drones

The last thought I had in making sure this all works the way it is designed to, is to include something that modifies reserves.  Frankly, ANY army that relies on reserves for one of its most important features NEEDS some source of help in ensuring there presence or lack thereof.  when needed.  The best way to get this is the Eldar Autarch as an ally but since points are scarce, we can also utilize the Aegis Defense Line, and add a Comms Relay.

70 Aegis Defense Line + Comms Relay

Well that leaves us with the following list in total.  I feel that this list will hi-lite the strengths of the Flyers as well as provide very deadly close line support in the form of a plasma storm.  there aren't many armies that can boast 7 Plasma guns to fire into you when you get close plus all the other goodies. 


70 Aegis Defense Line + Comms Relay
 84pts  3 Firesight Marksman +3 Sniper Drones
274pts  3 Broadsides (All three with High Yield Missile Pods and TL Plasma, 3 x Seeker Missiles, 2 x Velocity Tracker)
99pts  11 FireWarriors
60pts  10 kroot Broadside Wrap
140pts  10 Kroot + 1 Hound + 3 krootox
140pts  10 Kroot + 1 Hound + 3 krootox
54pts  6 Fire Warriors
54pts  6 Fire Warriors
153pts  3 Crisis Suits (4 Shield Drones, 2 Gun Drones, Shas'Vre w/ Vectored Retro Thrusters, 2 Fusion Blasters each)
74pts  Ethereal (Warlord, 2 Marker Drones)
137pts  Commander (Command and Control Node, Drone Controller, Onager Gauntlet, 2 x Markerdrones)
172pts  2 Bodyguard XV8's (each with 2 Plasma Rifles, 4x Markerdrones)
153pts  Razorshark Strike Fighter (Missile Pod, Decoy Launcher)
168pts  Sun Shark Bomber (TL Smart Missile System, Decoy Launcher)
168pts  Sun Shark Bomber (TL Smart Missile System, Decoy Launcher)

Points: 2000
Kill Points: 15-17
Models:  98

This list should allow the Tau Flyers to have their day in court.  I hope you find it useful.  =)

For  Eldar articles, try this one:
Cool Eldar Stuff

For more Tau goodness try these Battle Reports:
Tau Battle Report 1
Tau Battle Report 2

9 comments:

  1. I have not seen anyone look at this subject. Way to tackle another tough one. Looks sound. Given that you are using the Flyers, IOnteresting use of the Command unit as your drone swarm. It's a deadly swarm on its own.

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  2. It's fortunate that the codex allows for yet another good source of Markerlights. Skyrays might be a useable resource there also, but the trouble is points. Once the core competencies of the list are satisfied and the support for the flyers is complete, as well as scoring units added, The command unit starts to make more sense, given that it's not really optional. there are just few enough points left that something must be done for Markerlights and the firepower of the command unit surpasses the alternatives for the most part.

    I am thinking about the Irridium Armor though. Might it be worthwhile to substitute a Fire Warrior mini-squad for irridium armor? If so, what do do with the restr of the left over points? Sniper rifles? Something else? Hmm...

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  3. Ok. I am new to tabletop 40K and not all that familiar with the units. You refer to nine plasma guns. I see three twin linked on the three broadsides, and four on the two bodyguards. Who has the rest of the plasma?
    -Keen.

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  4. You're not wrong. I'll change that. In my mind i was thinking of the bodyguard as a threesome instead of a twosome. My apologies for confusing you there.

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  5. Ooh, kinky! Just kidding. Sleep deprivation. Ahem! No need to apologize. Glad my nitpickiness helped. I was not confused so much as wondering which of the other units was so awesome as to pack two more plasma rifles. Considering they are all light infantry I was prepared to be introduced to my new favorite unit! Ah well. Seven plasma, three of which are twin-linked, still seems pretty respectable. And this looks like a fun list to try.
    -Keen.

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  6. I feel like it covers the majority of the needs air superiority needs to thrive. The trouble is never the actual unit (at least, so I have made a gaming career proving) but instead, whether you create the environment within which that unit can thrive.

    Sound too Zen for Warhammer 40K? Probably does SOUND that way. But the reality is, you can build a list to fight a certain WAY or you can build a list of singularities that in and of themselves are very good, but who dont really support anyone else or really have anything to offer that way. I like the synergistic armies that support each others jobs.

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  7. Love this post! This is why I read this blog. Interesting tau-lists with seldom seen units.

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  8. Thank you sir. Tell a friend. =)

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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