Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tau Empire Infiltration Cadre

Why bother?

I am impressed.

For those Tau generals who may be missing this little gem in the pile of new toys we recently got, I highly recommend taking a second and much harder look at how this Formation can affect you positively.

First, many who read here know that I am a General who values knowing and seeing what the enemy will do before committing.  The intelligence I can gather via the various deployment shenanigans and ideas I have espoused in the past is priceless in value, especially for this reason:  there is SO much new information to know and sometimes seeing their plan unfold a little bit is all you need to counter it, even if you're not incredibly familiar with their codex or formation and so on.  Newer players may find it extremely valuable to use this Formation for this reason.

Another reason a newer player might want to use this formation is that the new wave of codex's has made Alpha striking enemies(meaning armies that can charge turn one or make a severe impact in that turn for some reason or set of reasons) so much more common.  Great examples of this are the Space Wolves Wulfen stuff, the Skyhammer Annihilation Formation for Space Marines, the new Psyker powers (both Space Marines AND now in Traitors Hate the Chaos legions as well), Forge World models like the Lancer (more Imperium love) which possess ridiculous speed or even more mundane examples like shunting DreadKnights.  The White Scars have broken Space Marine Battle Companies.

With all this going on it would be the easiest of things to see a new player quickly grow uninterested in the hobby if they do not have some way to counter this.  Sheer firepower can carry you to some extent, but canny enemies know that the number one rule for defeating Tau is to engage them in close combat.  Newer players need an edge against this brave new world.

Enter the Infiltration Cadre.  It requires three units of Pathfinders, two units of Stealthsuits and a Pirahna.  These are not universally accepted as the best units in the codex, clearly.  This alone could cause someones eyes to slide right over this page and onto the next one which shows the Optimized Stealth Cadre, their minds saying to them "if I want Stealth Suits, this is the better way to go".  What they would be missing by thinking that is how the Formation effectively negates the alpha strikers of the world.

Here is how I use it:

Formation: Infiltration Cadre
         6 Pathfinders
         6 Pathfinders 
         6 Pathfinders
         1 Stealth Shas'ui, 33 pts (Advanced Targeting System)
         1 Stealth Shas'ui, 33 pts (Advanced Targeting System)
         1 Stealth Shas'ui, 35 pts (Fusion Blaster)

         1 Stealth Shas'ui, 33 pts (Advanced Targeting System)
         1 Stealth Shas'ui, 33 pts (Advanced Targeting System)
         1 Stealth Shas'ui, 35 pts (Advanced Targetting System, Fusion Blaster)

         1 TX4 Piranha (Fusion Blaster, 2 x Seeker Missiles)

Whats it got?

The first thing here is that I took 6 Pathfinders per unit.  Why?  Because they are BS 3 and "should" hit three times.  What happens in this Formation is that every time three Pathfinders hit, a Seeker Missile also hits their target from naval forces in orbit!  This missile gives the normally non-punchy Pathfinders a bit of a bite.  It is an automatic hit on their target so they serve a bit more than just a support role at this point and can actually contribute more when firing their Carbines also.   If you were to want to, you could even utilize this further by placing nine Pathfinders in the unit and placing 3 RailRifles in there.  You now have FOUR pretty heavy weapons in that Pathfinder unit with firepower that exceeds any Plasma Veteran Squads dreams.  So if you wished, these could provide a lot of punch.

Stealthsuits in this formation are added firepower to the force and mandatory.  You can use larger units as well of course but because my list already includes a large number of Stealthsuits, I didn't feel the need to enlarge these particular units.  They serve more like assassins and distractions, but their damage is quite real.  Left to their own devices as they sometimes are given the bigger targets in my force, they can accumulate a fair number of points back; certainly enough in most cases to justify them.  I outfitted them with the Advanced Targeting Systems (Precision Shot) because that helps them get past the 2+ re-rollable crazy shield some units throw up in front.  Lootas with a Mega armored guys leading them for example are a target the Stealthsuits are better able to deal with.  Bike commanders thrown upfront with 2+ armor to protect his squishier buddies and the apothecary they try to bury in the squad are another.  There isn't much fanfare surrounding the Advanced Targeting System, but I love that it lets me diminish a units valuable members.  Over the course of a game, those losses really do hurt.  Shooting an enemy Psyker that's embedded for example is a big deal to a lot of units and I can get to them using this unit.

The Piranha is the real key to this Formations value.  I start just the one Piranha on the table (going second mind you) and nothing else, save any fortifications you might be obliged to place (I personally am using a Gunrig)

Deploying and Using It

I position the Piranha as far forward as possible, so that it can reach any of the three objectives it is closest to.  I place objectives as much as possible to allow this, before deployment.  Naturally this won't be possible in every fight, but it is what you do to the extent you can.  This sets you up to take maelstrom Points in ITC missions (if that's your thing).  In addition, the Piranha is actually armed to the teeth for its size.  It's bringing 2 TL Gun Drones, a Fusion Blaster AND a pair of STR 8 missiles to the party, so it has a decent chance at trying to knock a vehicle out.  First Strike and First Blood both require that you at least threaten to do this.  Make sure you accentuate this information to your opponent and explain clearly what the Pirahna is armed with.  You want them to feel the pressure to stop you from gaining First Strike and likewise, you want their avarice for First Blood to make that Piranha as attractive as possible as a target.  The enemy knows that he will be potentially giving up points to you unabated if he does not kill that Fast, well armed Piranha...

Pro tip on the piranha:  

Always fire the Fusion Blaster last to take advantage of the rule on Immobilized Vehicles.  The AP 1 on the Fusion will give you a VERY high percentage chance of finishing a vehicle if the Missiles can first at least immobilize it, because the second Immobilized result will be two hull points.  So the order you fire these weapons in does matter!

Now What?

The setup is complete.  The first turn is up to your opponent.

Clearly Drop Pod enemies and wolfstars, White Scars and the whole world of pain that awaits us can overrun our position without resistance or fear of retribution from a lone Pirahna.  Intoxicating thought for the opponent.  The enemy fails to understand that the Tau Empire way of war does not value holding ground...

So let us assume the enemy has alpha struck.  In they come with Pods, rushes and so on.  No matter what they do, the enemy must make the decision:  Do I kill the Piranha?

The enemy know you're fast enough to contest or take objectives, and positioned to do so.  The enemy does not know WHICH objectives are going to come up for you (in most missions).  A bit of a quandary.  They know the Piranha can also steal an Objective from them.  Do they let the Piranha live?

Math says in most missions that your enemy will average a Positional goal and a killing goal as maelstrom Objectives.  Sometimes you'll get two positional Maelstrom goals which, in ITC, means you COULD go for three points and really make the first round a coup.  But that's only if you kill the Piranha that will no doubt attempt to contest.  Obsec might save you there, if you even have any (I'm, looking at you, universe of Formations that don't have any).  It's risky to go the three point routs for the enemy and that's not going to be available the majority of the time.  Lets assume normal conditions where your enemy opts not to go for three just yet or didn't roll to make that possible.

Tough spot.  Likelihood is the enemy doesn't want to kill the Piranha.  So on the average, the enemy is going to claim one positional Maelstrom point if they can and forego First Strike or First Blood if he lets the Piranha live.  That's huge.  Look at what you've accomplished with the Formation already!  His spidey senses are going off and he knows the trap, so he opts to force your Piranha to do all the work.

As the Tau General you now know where the enemy is going and if they are an alpha strike force, you know where they are now.  You can calculate which elements will ultimately be able to support one another in a meaningful way and which ones will not.  Therefore you know which sector of the board is the simplest to clear and can calculate distance to know whether a counter attack is even possible.  These calculations are a testament to the patient hunter way of war.  

So the Piranha gets the only chance at First Strike/First Blood.  Either way, advantage Tau Empire.

The Trap is Set...

Lets look at the alternative though.  Let's say the enemy is impatient and they "prefer a fair fight to all this sneaking around".  Okay fine.  Assuming they can kill the Piranha, they get First Blood/First Strike and at least a maelstrom point.  We still have the option for First Strike (not First Blood) plus we can now quite clearly have the firepower coming in to equalize the scales.  

That is because if you kill any unit from the Infiltration Cadre, it alerts all of your forces to come in from reserve, even on turn one, using a beacon.  No rolls.  You figuratively break from the cover you were in, wherever your deployment options allowed and proceed to attack the enemy.

No matter the objective, whether it be a kill or a positional one, the Tau Empire, after the enemy has already revealed their position and plan, can pick and choose where it wants to attack from.

Always drop the largest models down first.  I learned using this Formation that to fail doing this can be a real issue.  Riptides and the like all need to be coming in first and then the rest.  This makes it a lot easier to see where everything else can drop or outflank in from.  Just a pro tip here again if you're going to be having pretty much an entire army flood in from reserves all at once.

This sudden deployment generally creates a "flank" that is attacking the weakest point in the enemy army, with the most distance between the Tau Empire forces and any unit that can support those enemy targets we are decimating.

This is the thing the enemy is trying to avoid by NOT killing the Piranha in turn one, of course.

Now if the enemy stays the course and does not kill the Piranha round one, the Piranha will likely tie him on Maelstrom and possibly gain First Strike as I have said.  Lets move to round 2.

Round 2

Now that the enemy is alpha struck and moved for yet the second time, they have the same conundrum.  Do I kill the Piranha?

If an enemy wasn't going to kill your Piranha round 1, it stands to reason he won't round two.  What would be the point of inviting the exact same thing if you weren't willing in round 1?  The trouble is he knows that even if he doesn't kill it, some reserves are coming in.  So he will likely be more disposed to killing it.  This hurts the Tau Empire not at all.  The only one who can win by the Piranha staying alive is the enemy!  By keeping it alive, it could limit my reserves from coming in. Ironic.

Let's assume he's had enough.  Perhaps Maelstrom objectives force his hand.  Perhaps impatience wins.  Perhaps his feeling that the reserves he would keep out might be minimal.  Who knows.  But let's say he wipes the Piranha out, with prejudice.

Now the enemy has moved twice, still doesn't know where the Tau Empire will be and the Tau Empire still knows where he is, The Tau Empire can do all the same calculations again.

Final Thoughts

This Formation is incredibly cool.  It is an odd way for people to fight and to think but if you apply this unorthodox approach, you will find success simply because you have turned the enemy strength (massive speed) to your advantage.

There are a few armies who may fare better against the Infiltration Cadre.  More traditional type forces which don't spread out nearly as fast and which rely more on shooting and protecting their fire base will fare better.  Whatever precautions the enemy has taken to protect their shooting exists at full strength mostly by the time the Tau Empire show up.  Grey Knights that attempt to dominate the center of the board and set up camp for example, as long as they spread out well, should be able to kind of "flow" whichever direction makes the most sense at the time from that central position they like so much.  Unlike other armies, the Grey Knights live at midboard and are not as tempted to over reach.  They have enough Deep Strikers to respond to mine potentially.  So strategically the Grey Knights are a good example of a force that at least CAN plan for this kind of a concept.  The downside being that the Tau empire is not obligated to reserve everything!  So there's that.

Going first is always a possibility.  Even though an enemy may have an Alpha strike list, they may forego its benefits and make you go first.  If that is what they wish to do, you must be cautious because they can table you if you deploy just one unit and get it destroyed at the bottom of round one.  You must deploy more.  My advice in this scenario:  Deploy one more unit than you think he has that can get deep on you.  This simple rule should save you from that and still provide you the benefits you want.  Alternatively, deploy normally.

That is the last point I will make before signing off.  This entire article is an option, not an obligation.  It isn't required that you deploy the entire army in reserve as I have outlined here.  It is an option.  When you go second, this is brilliant.  If you go first, the Tau Empire are hardly ill equipped to do so.  Your Ghostkeels or other units in reserve can come in as soon as the enemy tries for First Blood just as before.

Good luck. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My Bay Area Open conundrum

The Bay Area Open approaches July 16th and 17th.  I and three friends have made the courageous decision to sail into those dark and turgid waters in the hopes of finding our fortunes.  With round trip airfare, hotel and car rental, we got a package that was a mere $320 a person!

The conundrum?

I have been a Tau Empire general since the beginning and have won more tournaments with them than I can remember, long before it was cool to even own Tau.  The reality was, the Tau Empire were born with no melee ability in a time when melee was supreme in 3rd and 4th Edition.  In 5th its codex was outdated almost as soon as it dropped because of the new system and some of its idiosyncrasies.  Tau Empire did not truly see a competitive codex until 6th Edition.  Despite all those tribulations, I exceeded the competition with my downtrodden Tau forces.

The same thing can be said for the Witch Hunters.  They, like the Tau Empire, have been an enormous source of success for me.  It is strange to think but I have actually won more tournaments using this "low tier codex" than any other and if the Tau Empire were sad cousins to the Eldar, these were in most peoples (incorrect) estimation the downright red headed step children of 40K.  The Internet is filled with aspersions for them and only those who play them VERY regularly ever learn their potential.  Even when fielded, it is often as Allies these days, coming in with Drop Pods.  Yet in my hands I have lit heretic after sizzling heretic with burning absolution using an entirely pure Adepta Sororitas force.  In my wake these daughters of the Emperor have cleansed a thousand planets of the impure and those who would harbor them.

Now let's be clear.  The Bay Area Open isn't "friendly" competition.  While I am sure some locals will be there regardless of skill, people who think they are good travel to these events to do no less than defend that reputation.  Many online personalities take themselves very seriously at this event and it has been my (relative) lack of need to prove a damn thing that has caused me to essentially travel to none of them.  What can I say.  I get the invites every year but I have always resisted the temptation.

This year is different.  I have been at the head of a resurgence of our local community and others like me have led the charge also, revivifying the 40K community up and down the I-5 corridor, and collectively creating tournament attendance that is most definitely above the old numbers.  We average 20-30 people at every event I attend just about.  I have finally sort of gotten free of my self imposed responsibility to be THE GUY who runs a ton of events and I am focused on having more fun this year and actually PLAYING.

My conundrum is this:  with a great deal of success using both forces, I am truly torn.  On one hand if I go as an ambassador of the Adepta Sororitas  I will have an easier path to Best Adepta Sororitas General comparative to Tau Empire by dent of sheer probability and as there can be only one Bay Area Open champion, I concede that this may not be me.  However there are other goals exist to shoot for.  One of them is "Best General" of your faction.  In addition, the Adepta Sororitas are an unexpected force and many opponents will not be entirely certain how to fight them which gives one an edge any time one uses a less often seen codex or combination from a codex.  Some people refer to it as breaking the meta, such as what we saw with the Lictor shame list that was so famous (and a big kudos on having the balls to do it too!)

As an ambassador of the Tau Empire I would be representing my favorite faction, and clearly I would feel very confident in both the codex I am using and my ability to wield it.  As the current "meta" stands, the Tau Empire are no longer weak cousins.  They are (quite arguably) in the top three or so codex's. As such, there is something to be said for being feared, even if it be only a psychological advantage albeit one that is often overblown.

I am sure many people reading this have more than one army and constantly struggle as to which force they wish to commit to painting for a given tournament.  Perhaps you can help me decide.

Which force of these two would you like me to field… and why?