Saturday, January 2, 2016

Aun'Va, Master of the Undying Spirit

Certain units get buried in their codex by the aesthetic of others.  Simply put, people like the way certain models look more, so they are quite willing to play them before they play other, potentially more intriguing options.  The rule of cool is alive and well in Warhammer 40,000 and I got no problem with it, frankly.

That said, I want to talk about a guy who gets super buried.  Aun'Va, Master of the Undying Spirit is so incredibly good that I am stunned at the vitriol and sometimes just casual downright indifference he receives when people talk about the Codex:  Tau Empire.  I love taking him.

First, I think there is some misunderstanding that might be part of peoples perception.  I have seen it said on very large forums by people who seemingly play the army that they thought Aun'Va consisted of three Ethereals and thus could cost you three Victory Points once he dies.  Read again my hoov'd friends.  The unit consists of Aun'Va and two Ethereal Guard (not Ethereals) that have their own Special Rules which do not include Failure is Not An Option.  When people playing this codex, and one assumes reading it, are getting it wrong it's no wonder the internet at large doesn't make the distinction.  So I thought I'd make sure people were clear on that.

Anywho.  Here's why I love Aun'Va:

Reason 1:

100 points!  I mean for 100 points you normally can't expect much.  Most HQ's at 100 points are minor characters at best.  Space Marine Captains, bare bones, are 90 and they don't do NEARLY as much for your force until you bulk them up something serious.   They don't come with (effectively) 7 wounds.  They don't come stock with 4 STR 5 attacks.  Space Marine Captains never even thought of being as cool as Aun'Va at 100 points.

I mean shop around and find me a 100 point character that does as much and gives you as much.  He has to be top 3 for the points you pay.  There may be a couple other ones I also think highly of at this points level, but not many.  The Autarch comes immediately to mind as a contender.

Reason 2:  

Warlord Traits.  The Tau Empire get the ability to spend an entire round as an army going to ground with impunity.  3+ saves in ruins for a round, 4+ in forests and so on.  Whatever.  Then they pop right back up again and act as if they never went to ground!  Let me put this Warlord Trait in another light for you.  It grants the entire army stealth for a round only its better than that because it actually stacks with stealth and they can decide to do it any time they want once per game.  How stupid good is that?  Way stupid good.  Need more for 100 points?  Tough crowd.  Luckily there is more.

Reason 3:

He grants your entire army Twin-linked morale.  WHUUUUUUUUUT.  Yeah he does!  How many awesome things can 100 points do for an army? But wait, there's more.  He doesn't just twin-link morale army wide, but he also can give everyone within 12" Stubborn.  Now this actually can be a bad thing depending on the situation, and what do you know?  He can turn Calm of Tides OFF when it will be a bad thing!  This plays big against certain armies. To wit:  Haemonculous Cover, Dark Eldar, Harlequins, Eldar, and anyone else who can mess with leadership in general.  Leadership is generally understood to be a weakness for  the Tau Empire and you don't like a guy who heals that wound up for you?Melee isn't the only place Tau get forced to make morale checks and having them stand their ground when under heavy fire?  Priceless for retribution fire

Reason 4:  

You already have to take a leader. It isn't as if you won't be.  Commander Batlesuits aren't cheap, especially after you trick them out.  Need to squeeze that little extra into the list?  Aun'Va, Master of the Undying Spirit is your man.

Reason 5:  

Storm of Fire.  He's better than the Fireblade because this doesn't require him to be stationary and it's a 12" bubble that allows all Tau Empire pulse weaponry to fire one extra shot when within half their normal range.  Even Kroot and Sniper Drones.  Sniper Drones in particular can let loose a hail of pulse weapons fire at considerable range (24").  4 Sniper rounds per drone?  Sounds good to me.  That's 5 Rends, and 10 normal wounds against anything.  In what world does that suck?  There is a laundry list of things that don't want any part of that!  Fire Warriors/Breachers and Cadre Fireblades can form deadly hedgehogs with the combined power of Aun'Va.

Reason 6:

Those same 90 point Captains also don't get a second save!  Ever.  Under any circumstances!  They certainly don't stand up to melta fire like Aun'Va can.  After he has failed a save, he gets a second one that is equal to the AP of the weapon.  Simply fantabulous.

Now let's be fair.  Even though I've suggested that Aun'Va cures cancer, there are a couple of downsides worth mentioning.  At the beginning I pointed out that the enemy does indeed get a Victory Point for killing Aun'Va.  I don't consider this to be  a small thing.  I just don't find it a compelling reason to rob your entire army of an infinitely useful upgrade, and his unit does take punishment well from afar.  If danger is close, things aren't shifting in the right direction at this point anyways.  Aun'Va's unit can even charge and win against squishier units in close combat.. The (one) Victory Point thing is a fact though and worth mentioning, even if only for intellectual integrity.  I still take him.  I can count on two fingers the times his death was THE reason I didn't win and both of those were ties at the time, so in a sense I had not won the game one way or the other anyways.  If you get a tie and lose because of Aun'Va it was pretty unlikely with a tie that you were going to be wearing the tournament crown at the end anyways.

Aun'Va does not join units (though I have joined a Commander to Aun'Va before) and if you are attempting the Fish of Fury theme, you have to leave Aun'Va behind.  Devilfish's are...comfy affairs that do not transport Bulky units.  You can still use him, in theory, by running him behind the wall of Devilfish's but...  Would I?  Would you?  Meh.


Whether it's the rule of cool, past history with Ethereals being so negative, or just an oversight I do hope my exhortations here will lead you to appreciate Aun'Va and his contribution to a Tau Empire force.


  1. My concern with Aun'Va has been that he can't hide in a unit, and with T3 basic weapons could be his downfall (eg. bolters, lasguns, pulse rifles), however you make a valid point that these weapons don't normally have the best range.

    I was considering adding 2 more Ethereals and using the Ethereal formation from the Mont'ka suppliment. They do all 4 Elemental powers at once, and the range is increased oto 24". It doubles his points & it costs 3 Vps if the whole unit is killed, but the unit inceases by 4 wounds and the 24" bubble should allow them to stay safer. Do you think the extra power is worth the extra risk ?


  2. T3 doesn't stop you from fielding an Autarch or a Farseer my friend. You take these things for what they do. Not whether they are Toughness 3 or Toughness 1. The "Boy in the Bubble" theory of playing 40K is that we have to avoid taking anything that gets killed off. Have you seen such a unit in any game of 40K? I haven't. So this way of looking at things seems anathema to mine. You are the General, not your list. You have to figure out how to use aun'Va to best advantage and you have to find a way to make Aun'Va far fro mthe most appetizing target. But you musn't live in a list building bubble and take no risks when such rich reward is there for the taking.

    As for the Ethereal Council Formation: I think the only good way to play that formation is with Aun'Va with Aun'shi added. Aun'Va has won a number of close combats for me. While his unit really shouldn't be in the thick of the action, the reality is, his powers work whether he's engaged in combat or not, and giving away free charge attacks to the enemy seems unwise. So when the orks come in close, there's nothing for it but to throw down, especially if its a smaller unit of enemies. Plus being in a combat means you can't be shot. So this can serve a dual purpose. In any event, Aun'Shi is getting 5 attacks on the charge and provides an invul save to actually bounce the more heinous attacks of the enemy. He essentially gets Fortune. So you can use him to tank wounds in a close combat very effectively. His Honour blade is STR 5. So between he and the Ethereal Guard, and a normal Ethereal in the unit, you are getting a whopping 17 Honour Blde attacks on the charge (STR 5) some on init 5. There's actually a lot of things that will not welcome that. War Walkers, Orks that bounce out of trucks, Land Speeders that zoom to take objectives and all kinds of softer units. Its 265 points that you ARE NOT taking in order to fight in melee. But when you think about it, they probably kick more ass than most of the alternatives in the Tau army. Downside: 265 points. Upside: good luck getting the Warlord point out of them without a struggle and they are now buffing the entire army in a pretty serious way.

    I seriously would not suggest the formation for just anyone. It is fluffy and awesome, it does a lot of things for you but ultimately, the advanced tactics you have to master to use them effectively make it ill suited to a lot of generals.

  3. One example: Zephyrs Grace. I can almost guarantee Tau Genrals don't give this much thought and frankly you're paying for it if you go with the council. But one of the useful fun facts here is that snap shots are affected by Marker Lights. So you can advance quite a bit upfield because of the 24" range of the formation. You can drop a ton of stuff out of fish's or deep strike and so on. And then as the enemy comes forward and prepares to charge you into oblivion and end this silly contest, you can fall back then RUN on top of it and still fire. Well with enough marker lights on the enemy's advancing and the fact that the closest model is taken out, you can put a LOT of distance between you and your would be chargers, who have exposed themselves thinking YOU were the idiot for advancing on them so boldly. This attack and fade is very much a Tau way of fighting. Also consider this: if you shoot your enemy out of range of a second Tau unit, this can be used to bring the second Tau unit back into range for, say, Rapid firing. Now you need a commitment to Markerlights if you want this to happen BUT that isn't unlikely anyways, is it?

    So there are some fun positioning battles you can win if your radius for the Ethereal Council extends so far out.

    Aun'Va himself becomes expendable in the unit when you think about it and he has three wounds. Since we're talking about him, consider that he and everyone in the unit are characters, and so can do some fun wound shenanigans to spread damage around. So presenting Aun'Va's unit as a target at a good moment and letting the enemy punish it a little just to ablate damage for other units is not a terrible idea given the amount of punishment the unit can take. Don't press your luck and use this advice blindly, but put it in the toolbox of thought when you're considering the other values the unit might have. Coyly moving him out and saying "oh man, now he's in the open... I lose a VP if you kill that..." can trigger an aggressive player to make his move. You're not worried. It isn't Aun'Va that does the armies damage. Yet he and his compadres can afford to soak for a round and the rest of the army is better for it.

    Food for thought.

  4. Technically, captains can have 6+++ from chapter tactics.

    Anywayz. AunVa is great. Add in an irridium suit commander and now they're 2+ with a secondary save.

  5. Yeah I have done that. A Commander does make the unit if possible even more impossible to kill, albeit a bit expensive at that point. On the other hand if you already are going to take a commander there are far worse things to do with him.

    Ultimately though Aun'Va is the shining star of this blog entry and he is worth it to take.

  6. You asked.... so
    Jacubus Uriah, 12 inch bubble of ignoring pinning and fear, +1 to those sisters 6+ invln, and war hymns..

    1. I definitely do this in my force. A blob of sisters like this is pretty cool. I also do the same thing in my Militarum Tempestus force 9see that blog entry for details).

  7. Good stuff. New to tau (long time Tyranid player) and looking how to run them effectively. I was wondering how to handle all the SM turn 1 charges with this army and I can see how this goes a long way.

  8. Welcome. There are numerous Tau related threads here. Scope them out to the right and see which ones appeal to you.

  9. So now I feel bad for not coming back and reading your blog more regularly.

    About 2 weeks after you published this I completed my personal year-long journey with Aun'Va taking him to an ITC 1850 tourney where he inspired my forces to a 5-0 win.

    The original reason why I started using him last year was because I was running a massed kroot list in the style of AM lists that flood the table with cheap bodies to keep enemies at arms length from the big guns. The blue guy in the floating chair came in to bolster their fragile morale and as you say above twin-linked morale is pretty special - and twin linked Ld10 even more so when blobbed up defensively. Of course what I found is that the table-wide buffs really freed my kroot to go hunting all over the table to disrupt enemy plans and win games. As the new codex came out and I added new elements his bonuses just kept on working to glue the army together.

    Keeping Aun'Va alive is certainly possible and in my last 10 games with him (including that tournament) he never took a wound. Admittedly I had by this stage resorted to that ultimate block of static cheese the Void Shield Generator to keep pesky barrage weapons from landing on his head but the option to join the Iridium Commander to him to tank shooting attacks was really the trick to this.

    Anyway I just wanted to heartily agree with you on Aun'Va and strongly recommend him as a fun and effective way to unlock some Tau builds and units that otherwise tend to fall apart depressingly quickly or otherwise under-perform. For an HQ with almost no damage output he does a lot on the table, which is very Tau.

    1. Fantastic post, thank you. Yes Aun' Va is everything he is advertised to be in my blog nd i have continued to use him in two different builds that I have had great success with. You may be happy to know that I have won two tournaments this year using him. I tried him with a Gun Fort (They allowed it at my event, even though ITC in their "infinite wisdom" decided somehow that it is a defense network (it's not). Whatever. Anyways, Aun'Va is excellent and I am glad he has worked for you. Keep reading and commenting! There are more Tau posts here so enjoy.


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