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.