Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mont'Ka and the Farsight Enclaves toolbox

I attended the Bay Area Open this year, the first big major 200 player type event I have been in.  I have played in numerous 100 player events but nothing quite on that scale.

It bought home some lessons from the front and in particular I want to write about the Mont'Ka supplement which among other things, features the Tau Empire and it's new take on the Farsight Enclave.

The Combined Arms Detachment has been a mainstay in my forces for the Objecive Secured power that it brings.  Going second is not nearly as big a deal if you have Obsec and you will go second at least 50% of the time.  So given the percentages, it has always made sense to me that having Objective Secured forces is nearly a must unless your plan is to utterly wipe the enemy out.  I'll be honest, this almost never happens, which further accentuates the value of Objective Secured units.

The Tau Empire has an especially good option for this in the Mont'Ka supplement because it allows the Farsight Enclave forces of the Tau Empire to utilize Crisis Teams as Troops choices.  This was already excellent in previous editions but in 5E required you to take a character that just wasn't exciting and perhaps a bit pricey, Commander Farsight himself.  In the 6th Edition codex we have now, this is no longer the case.  To have a Farsight force you merely have to say that it is one and install Bonding Knives (and their attendant cost) on the units that can take them.  Done.  Big difference!

Bonding Knives aren't universally hailed as an excellent points expenditure but it is an entirely acceptable cost when you can take the Crisis Teams as Objective Secured Troops Choices.  The Knife itself just means that the unit with it can use Heroic Morale, regrouping at any size.  That's cool I guess.  Units like Ghostkeels practically demand you take the Bonding Knives, because the unit is nine strong at its largest and three drone deaths can send the entire unit packing.  Not good.  I've actually had it happen and its embarrassing when you have two Ghostkeels who simply can't regroup.  So Optimized Stealth Cadres should ALWAYS be taken as Farsight Enclave Formations even if the rest of the force is not!

For taking this nominal tax, you receive Preferred Enemy (Orks) in Close combat (only) but that isn't really all you get.

The current forces I am seeing at major events are absolutely festooned with Psyker ferocity.  There are enough Psykers to choke a horse and at serious events, you would be a fool not to anticipate that at LEAST one of those foes will have such a thing at their disposal.  Just to give you some perspective, there were multiple 6+ Flyrant lists at the Bay Area Open, along with multiple lists with large numbers of Sorcerous Daemons allied with Sorcerous Conclaves (or Cabals) of Psykers.  Eldar were plentiful and with them came the might of the likes of Eldrad and his cronies.  Believe me when I say that Psykers are going to be a part of your diet if you decide to compete.  The Tau Empire isn't exactly equipped to do much about it.  When the Tau Empire forces have to start at BS 1 because of the Invisibility Psyker power, it's going to take a ton of Markerlights to even hope for useful shots.  I had 11 Markerlights in my force and it wasn't nearly enough for the kind of Psyker onslaught I saw.

The Mont'Ka book provides a rare Tau answer to the problem in their Signature Systems which become available to you if you are a Farsight Enclave in the form of the Talisman of Athas Moloch.

The Talisman is an extremely good value.  For 25 points you get both a 5+ Invulnerable save and the ability, within 12", to bounce Psychic powers on a 4+.  A Shield Generator can't even compete with that in the grand scheme of things.  That is fantastic production for the points.  Now obviously this only really impacts powers that are pointed at the affected Tau Empire model so what is it we are spending these points to avoid?

Well for starters, the dreaded Chaos Cabal and its Imperial brethren, the Librarious Conclaves.  both are now seeing adept use by their respective generals and in the case of the Cabal, the Tau Empire has a serious threat in that they come stock with a power that would allow it to take control of a Stormsurge and fire off all it's weapons before it has the chance to use them in unison with markerlights!  This has actually happened to me at the hands of Alex Gonzalez and its a pretty devastating blow when it occurs.  If a Chaos player brings its Chaos Knight and buffs its saves to the nth degree, as they are wont to do, you will lose your best chance at killing it.  Likwise the Librarious Conclave can cause all manner of nasty powers.  Just a Tigurious showing up on your doorstep in a pod with his best friends can Psychic Shriek and otherwise whallop a Tau Force in pretty convincing fashion.  Eldar similarly have a lot of Leadership attacks they can use in the Psyker phase and they can bring them to bear via their allies.  The Webway Portal wielding Dark Eldar are better than any pod ever thought of trying to be.  Flying Hive Tyrants can unleash a pretty healthy dose of Psyker attacks as can the Chaos Daemons from platforms that are hard to hit.

Given all of that, you are well advised to gain what foothold you can on probability and stop the powers you can't afford to have go off.  It will take courage not to pop this too early but if you paid attention to how many dice the enemy has left and what powers he has left, you should be able to pick out the one that has to be stopped, and use the Talisman to stop it.

60-70% of the enemies you face are Adeptes Astartes of some sort.  The Dark Angels won the Bay Area open this year (to, I would suggest, some surprise).  The Talisman isn't the only thing you might find situationaly useful in the Farsight arsenal.

The MorrorCodex is an overpriced piece of wargear to be certain but the effect it can have when used to empower high volume shooters like the Heavy Burst Cannon wielding Riptides and the WraithKnight-bane that is the Stormsurge is notable.

One problem you have with the heavy Burst Cannon is that it Gets Hot when Nova Charged.  Still worth doing, pretty much always, but being able to re-roll 1's to hit and of course 1's to wound is great when Nova Charging those babies.  Many less chances to take wounds and many less points need be spent on the expensive Feel No Pain upgrade.  I saw a lot of points being spent on Feel No Pain (and frankly it paid off a lot of the time) but with that many less chances to worry about Gets Hot, via the Preferred Enemy that the Mirrorcodex provides, you might consider the MirrorCodex's 6" radius  to be a middle ground alternative to protecting yourself against Gets Hot results.

The Mirrorcodex only works against Space Marines or Imperial Guard most of the time (on a 6 it grants universal Preferred Enemy that round).  So its not a perfect solution but it is definitely not a poke in the eye.  Another value it yields if you think about it is that for some lists, you may just not be able to afford the extra Formation you need to make your Riptides into a Riptide Wing (I know, heresy right?).  I ran into this problem.  My list has three Formations in it and in ITC games, that's the limit.  So in order for me to bring the three Riptides it needed to fall into my Combined Arms Detachment.  Okay fine.  But then how do I increase their shooting effecitveness at least the way the Riptide Wing ability would have?  The MirrorCodex could help with that, again in a more situational way.

The Mirrorcodex also gives you a bonus of +1 to seize the Initiative.  This is a great boon, because it can be added to the bonus of +1 to seize when the enemy has a Super Heavy.  Add to this the re-roll bonus that you can get from, say...  the Callidus Assassin, Comms Relay or Inquisitor Coteaz?  This is not inconsiderable.  So while I consider the Mirrorcodex to be expensive, it falls very far from the "useless tripe" tree some might claim it to come from.  It would be useful in those situations, like I've said, wherein you are out of Formations and wish to buff your suits and when you wish to have the flexibility to control the game by going first against something that maybe looks daunting.  The alternative of course is to allow people to go before you do unabated.  That works for some battle plans much better than others.

The Seismic Fibrillator Node is basically an enormously powerful version of the Grav Wave Drone.  It makes everything Difficult Terrain and makes difficult terrain into dangerous terrain, much like the Necron ability could do.  A 36" radius is enormous and covers most of the board.  It can be used on the enemies turn though it affects everyone til it is turned off (on a 1-4 at the end of the turn).  So for a gun line Tau army, this is pretty magnificent.  All Cavalry such as Thunderwolf Cavalry on the board will definitely dislike it and any assault unit would find it hard to love.

Now we are seeing a lot of Battle Companies, a lot of Thunderwolf Cavalry forces, a lot of Tau Empire suit based forces (and the Drones that typically like to jump out to target you and back again), so the ability to do this is relevant and could force a number of morale checks on units, additional casualties, as well as slowing them down.  Further, it plays to the one Tau Empire strength: shooting as long and prolifically as possible.

Personally this seems like an excellent thing to add to a Crisis Bodyguard to avoid encumbering the Commander further.  It is relatively inexpensive for the task, can be deep struck in if you have reserve manipulation in your list, outflanked in (if you have the gear or Warlord trait to allow it) or simply standing there waiting.  Once it has gone off, the Bodyguard is free to do as it will.

This could be useful if you are not willing to add a Detachment for an Inquisitor and his Servo Skulls but you still want to make scouts pay in some way.  It can't stop them from Scouting, so what you would do to maximize the usefulness here is you would need a unit of Kroot to infiltrate, spreading out and thusly blocking the Scouts from Redeploying (as Scouts cannot redeploy closer than  12", the Infiltrators effectively do what Servo Skulls do if they are placed in front of the scouts).  Now the only downside here is that they could have Infiltrators and use them to stop you from doing this.  That would be in the minority of cases, comparatively, but you do take that risk when you decide not to use Servo Skulls.  Assuming you have decided not to take the Servo Skulls, Kroot would solve your problem most of the time.  The Seismic Fibrilator would then make your enemies life rather miserable until it ceases.  The Kroot wall would limit movement in general so as to mitigate the turn one charge shenanigans of Thunderwolf Cavalry and the like.  So there are several good reasons to take the Kroot with or without the Seismic Fibrilator Node.  It just happen that the Seismic Fibrilator Node makes that journey ever more perilous and in a real way.

Another interesting tool of the Farsight Enclaves:  Fusion Blades

These substantially increase the threat of a Commander and the advantage over the Onager Gauntlet is of course that you get 5 attacks on the charge at STR 8 AP 1.  No one but a fool would want to lock horns with that!  That would be great if it weren't at Initiative 3.  Like the Penitent Engine, this otherwise excellent idea falls short of the mark for 30 points, but given that most people give their commanders 2+ Armor, an invulnerable save and Feel No Pain...  the usefulness of this isn't as poor as it first appears to be.  I won't say that I get excited about the prospect of a true melee beast being available to the Tau Empire, but I think any Tau General can remember a dozen times, easily, that he wished he could have done more than watched it happen as his Warlord Point was taken from him in close combat he couldn't possibly win.  A Commander can definitely win a combat with these.

I would also offer my own experiences at the Bay Area open as a cautionary tale at this point.  Tertiary objectives were THE reason my losses happened and my opponents in the game the whole time.  I found out the hard way that tertiary objectives determined my games with annoying regularity in both directions!  So perhaps the points to give your Warlord a chance is worth it.

The Warscaper Drone is really interesting gear for a few reasons.  First, it is pretty cool that you can bring an Ethereal, attach him to a kroot unit and throw a shield Drone or two with hiim so that one of them can become the Warscaper Drone.  Kroot Warriors use Pule Weapons which the Ethereal can cause to fire three times per model at short range (sans the Kroot Gun).  His Homing Beacon can call in the Crisis teams for support flawlessly nearby, and of course all the obvious bonus's to their leadership are there as well.  The Warscaper Drone also allows the unit to ignore the effects of the Seismic Fibrilator Node which could be handy.  The Drone obviates the need to take a Kroot Hound if you don't want one, as the Ethereal will now provide Acute Senses through the Warscaper Drone.  This setup brings a fair amount of firepower, that won't likely run, to the flanks of the enemy.

Another interesting tidbit is that the Drone also does to enemies what the Fibrilator Node does, only within 12" so a little added defensive ability for the Kroot who are in harms way can make a difference for them.

The Allied Advance Cadre which will see almost no play in competitive environments (just a wild guess but...) could become a bit more potent given their increase of 1 to ballistic skill, and the terrain effects of the Warscaper.

Overall it is kind of a niche piece of Wargear but it does present interesting possibilities.

The Mont'ka supplement has interesting wargear and exploring it will be fun.

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