Battlesuit Support Systems:
Airbursting Fragmentation Projector: This is a handy weapon for taking out lightly armoured infantry. It can also cause a decent number of kills against marine equivalents as long as you hit enough of them. The biggest strength of this weapon is that it is a large blast and also ignores cover. So for those pesky scout units hiding in terrain you can nuke them from up to 18” away. The weapon also causes pinning thanks to being a barrage weapon. While this is usually useless with the amount of fearless or high leadership out there it occasionally comes in handy.
A common mistake is for people to use the ABFP with flamers. Yes both the weapons ignore cover but the ranges do not sync up. You have a chance of scattering back onto yourself with the weapon but more importantly you will be in charge range which your expensive ABFP does not want to be. It is a nice weapon to have when facing guard equivalents but otherwise it is better left at home. Remember that this is a special issue weapon as well so it is more likely to be seen on your commander which is more reason to not be in charge range.
Burst cannon: The work horse of the tau (theoretically). It is a decent weapon pushing out 3 strength 5 shots a turn. It is a powerful weapon compared to other armies but for the tau strength 5 shots are extremely common. So there is little reason to equip your limited crisis suits with a weapon that is readily available throughout the rest of your army. The best place to take burst cannons is not on a crisis suit but on a stealth suit. They excel at using burst cannons.
Due to the low BS of the tau burst cannons are a bit of a waste on crisis suits as you will only hit half the time and when you do hit will not have the penetrating power of other weapons available. Combined with markerlight hits the burst cannon can become devastating but in that case you might as well just use firewarriors instead.
Cyclic Ion Blaster: A rapid firing weapon capable of laying waste to light infantry and with luck kill some heavier infantry as well. It is best kept on a commander unit for the increased BS ensuring more shots hit.
The main drawback of the weapon is the low strength. Even against guardsmen you will only be wounding on 4’s. This is somewhat negated by having basically the rending rule, any rolls of a 6 count as ap1. It also has a decent AP of 4 allowing you to kill units like Necrons while in the open. It is a decent weapon but is usually overshadowed by more common tau weapons such as plasma rifles. It is brutal anti infantry when combined with the airbursting fragmentation projector but you will be completely unable to defeat heavier infantry.
Flamer: A dirt cheap weapon that can easily lay waste to hordes of infantry. This is the same weapon as all the imperial forces have. It ignores cover and can hit a large number of models. Good value for money and the only flame weapon in the tau codex. It works well as a back up weapon or when you want to be aggressive with your suits.
Fusion Blaster: A melta by a different name. It is slightly more expensive than the imperial version but does the same job. It is a wonderful weapon especially when combined with a plasma gun. With the prevalence of mech armies around you can never have enough high strength weapons. The only drawback is the low BS of the suits.
Missile Pod: Strength 7 ap 4, 2 shots. A good weapon for sure. It has an effective range of 42” thanks to the jump of the suits it is mounted on. It provides decent anti light armour and can take down monsters with relative ease. This should be one of the most numerous weapons mounted on your crisis suits. It has so many applications and is effective in some role against any army you will play against. Against heavy infantry armies it has a high strength and against horde armies it has 2 shots and ap 4. It is most commonly seen in unison with a...
Plasma Rifle: Now here is one of the two weapons the tau are known for. It has a high strength of 6 and more importantly it is AP2. They are also rapid fire so the closer you get the more damage you will do. If you are ever stuck for what weapon to take make sure you have this first.
Same as with the missile pod you will always find a use for a plasma rifle against any army. It is highly feared by marine players and rightly so. It doesn’t get hot which is another bonus to taking this weapon. The single point of strength lost over its imperial neighbours doesn’t matter in the slightest as the extra point of strength only really helps in destroying vehicles which is one of the things tau already excel at.
Twin Linking your weapons: Ok so you can twin link any of the weapons in the codex but it is only useful for a couple of weapons. Flamers, Missile Pods and Plasma Rifles all work well when twinlinked. Flamers give you a really cheap weapon system which is almost guaranteed to kill all guard equivalent models you touch thanks to re-rolling to wound.
Twin Linked Missile pods are more accurate hitting 75% of the time and with the long range allows you to shoot away at your opponent without needing support from marker lights.
Twin Linked Plasma is expensive but gives you a better change of killing your opponent. The biggest problem for tau is ballistic skill and this negates it. This is best used with hard wired multitrackers and fusion blasters. It all but guarantees your suit will hit with its shots. If you are running pathfinders then don’t worry about twin linking plasma and save some points.
Twin Linked Burst Cannons: Complete waste. Unless you are modelling or doing it for fluff completely avoid.
Twin Linked Fusion Blaster: It only has a range of 12” so unless you are deep striking you are wasting a lot of points trying to get into position. If you have taken another weapon system as your third hard point deploying on the table can be a good idea. Even when deepstriking there is the chance you will mishap or scatter outside of the melta range of the weapon.
I ran a unit of these when I first started playing until I realised they were expensive, unreliable and just couldn’t compete with other weapons options. The main problem is that you only get one shot from this twin linked weapon. Even if you hit with it the amount of invulnerable saves out there it doesn’t guarantee that you will kill your target.
Battle Suit Wargear
Advanced Stabilisation system: Great buy. For ten points you can allow your broadside teams to move and fire. This means you can always threaten enemy armour even if they try and hide from you. The other useful situation is when you have a dawn of war deployment.
You can move onto the table and fire in the same turn. One important thing to remember is that because they are slow and purposeful if you roll a 1 you will not be able to deploy them as the base they are equipped with is more than 1”. They will instead go back into reserve. Also remember that your crisis suits are already relentless so this is only useful on broadsides.
Blacksun Filter: A cheap third hardpoint option. It is useful with twin linked missile pods as it can allow first turn shots during dawn of war deployment. It is also useful on twin linked flamers as it lowers the cost. Another useful place to put one is on your broadside team so that you can take down enemy vehicles on the first turn in dawn of war (assuming you have taken the Advanced stabilisation system as well).
Command and Control Node: Useful last edition but does absolutely nothing this edition. Take only for fluff/modelling purposes. Apparently it will be useful again in the next codex so wait and see.
Drone Controller: Free but you must purchase a drone or two to go with it. Necessary for taking shield drones.
Multi-tracker: The best battlesuit support system. It allows two weapons to be fired in the same shooting phase. This is the most common support system as it allows you to pour fire into your enemy.
Positional relay: An interesting bit of kit. It allows you to hold a unit back in reserve until you want it to come in. It is useful when playing with a farsight bomb or another devastating unit. The important thing to remember is that the model with this system must already be on the table for it to work. So give it to a shas’el and deploy him out of line of sight. On the turn it is used however no other units may be deployed from reserve.
The other use for this item is bringing in a cheap unit such as gun drones to hold back your reserves so they have more chance of all arriving at once. Despite only needing a 2+ to come in I have seen many games where 1’s have been rolled each turn. If you are an unlucky person you should avoid this upgrade.
Shield Generator: For 20pts you can get a 4+ invulnerable save. It is a good choice but quickly racks up the points of your units. It is best used on the commander of your army. For other units shield drones will be more useful as they provide ablative wounds as well and are 5 pts cheaper.
Target Lock: Allows you to split fire between two different units. Great on a farsight bomb or if you have a fusion blaster you want to target at vehicle while the rest of the unit fires at infantry. It can also be used to fire at two units and then pick the one you want to assault. Remember though you have to assault the one you fired at, not the one the target locked system fired at.
Targetting array: For 10pts you can get an extra point of BS. This is great on your commander and bodyguard but otherwise is a bit of a waste of points. If you want better BS use your markerlight hits. The points will build up quickly especially if you run a lot of crisis suits. Extremely useful on a shas’el as it allows you to get the BS5 of a shas’O while saving 15pts.
Vectored Retro Thrusters: An interesting option which allows you to jump out of combat. This can only be used on single member teams. The best way to use this is to jump out of combat in your opponents phase and then shoot again in your phase. Against certain armies it is very useful for tying up units at a time. Anything without a power weapon is your prime target. Tactical Squads, pathfinders, guard units, devastators are all ideal units to tie up for a turn before jumping out of the combat, shooting and assaulting something else. It only works half the time due to the low initiative of most tau.
Bonding Knife: A useful bit of kit which allows units to regroup even if below half strength. It is great for crisis teams with drones (because the drones still count to the units half strength) or footslogging firewarriors (to keep them on the objective). On three man crisis suits it is a bit of a waste because you are only below half strength when you reach 1 model. A farsight list will get free bonding knives for every member who has the option of taking one.
Ejection System: Fun bit of gear that allows your commander to survive being shot from non insta killing wounds. If you lose your last wound to shooting your ejection system will activate and you can place your commander model on the table. Your commander will now have regular firewarrior stats, no armour and a pulse pistol but still counts as jump infantry. This would be useful if all shots that killed him activated the ejection system. This system can only be taken by single member teams so is generally useless.
Failsafe Detonator: If your unit flees this member will stay in the fight and blow himself up. For the greater good. This is a sure way of keeping your commander alive even if he is beaten in combat. Never put this on your commander though as you will lose him if you flee from a fight. On a bodyguard is the best place for it, especially in the bodyguard of the farsight bomb to keep this massive unit alive. The blast itself is STR8 AP- so it has the possibility of killing enemy characters which is useful.
Gun drone: Ablative wound with a twin linked pinning weapon. Not a bad choice and fairly cheap. It adds more shots to your deadly crisis suit teams. If you do take them make sure you have a bonding knife. Taking a lot of gun drones will increase your units footprint when deepstriking so ensure adequate space when deepstriking.
Iridium Armour: Gives your suit a 2+ armour save and makes him a lot more survivable. You can only take one per army though. Best given to your commander to keep him alive. It does reduce your assault jump to a D6 but depending on your weapon systems this shouldn’t be a problem. Iridium armour works well with the vectored retro thrusters as you can survive for longer in combat.
Hard Wired Systems: Same as the regular system but doesn’t take up a hard point.
Marker Drone: For 30pts you get a drone that can use a markerlight. It is expensive but it does allow you to use the hit from the markerlight for the squad it is attached to. Great in apocalypse games but less useful in regular games simply because of the expense.
Shield Drone: 15pts so it is cheaper than taking a shield generator and gives you an extra wound. Useful against shooting more than in combat. It is nearly mandatory that you take them on your broadside team if you want them to survive to pop tanks, especially when there is little terrain. Personally I take two on my broadside teams and two on my commander’s unit.
Stimulent injectors: Gives you feel no pain. Increases survivability of your suit. You can only take one per army so like iridium armour this is best left for your commander. Combined with iridium armour, a shield and placed on a shas’O you have a very hard to kill suit.
Shas’O: This is your most capable warrior and leader. He has the highest WS of all crisis suits except for farsight, better BS than a marine and has 4 wounds to boot. The Shas’O also has the highest leadership in your army with a solid 10. Combined with a few upgrades your Shas’O can become nearly impervious to small arms fire and almost impossible to kill in close combat as long as your opponent doesn’t have a powerweapon. It is better trying to keep your commander out of combat but even in combat he won’t do badly against regular troops. The first thing you should be equipping him with is a plasma gun to take advantage of his high BS.
A commander is able to take bodyguards and this is one of the ways that you can get more than the 9 crisis suits available in the elites section. Bodyguard provide ablative wounds and allow you to play wound shenanigans as long as they are armed differently. The other option which has been pretty popular in my local area has been to create a suicide commander. Take an individual commander and deep strike him in to create problems for your enemy. He probably wont last long but can be a real nuisance by knocking out tanks or tying units up in combat.
Shas’El: For 25 points less than the Shas’O you lose a point of BS, 1 wound and are now only leadership 9. In every other respect he is exactly the same. The main point is the extra point of BS as your suits are designed to shoot. You can either pay 25pts more for a Shas’O and keep the extra hard point for your suit or keep the Shas’El and buy a targeting array for 10pts or forgo the targeting array and just have BS 4. A shas’el is a better option for a suicide unit because it is cheaper but for a regular commander a Shas’O is usually the way to go.
Ethereal: Never used one, never want to use one. I hate everything about them. The fluff, the models, the rules. The only redeeming feature is the honour guard with the extra point of BS. He can take an honour blade to make him better in combat but why the hell would you want to be in combat? He does allow you to re-roll morale checks which is great if you are being shot at but awful if you are in close combat.
In the shooting phase you want your units to stay in the fight so they can keep on pouring fire into the enemy. In close combat you want your units to flee or be destroyed so you can shoot at the enemy again in your shooting phase. He can make your units fearless which is great against shooting but if you are in combat is awful as your will undoubtedly lose combat and then suffer more casualties to fearless saves and not flee at the same time.
The worst thing about them though is if they are killed all your tau units must take a morale check. I have seen literally half a tau army flee thanks to this. He worked better in the last edition where gunline armies were viable but now he is less useful.
The only time I would consider taking him is in an apocalypse game where you can have more than one so if one is killed you can re-roll the morale test and gain preferred enemy.
XV8 ‘Crisis’ Battlesuit Team: The only reason to play tau. Seriously talk to anyone who plays tau and they will tell you how much they love the crisis suits. These are the main fighting force of your army and should be equipped as well as you can afford. What makes them great is their ability to Jump in the assault phase. This can allow you to move into rapid fire range and then jump back out of it. Or jump out from behind a building, shoot and then jump back into cover. Used well they are almost impossible to kill.
Their mobility allows you to put them where you need them. They also carry potent weapons. They have the ability to deep strike which adds more options to your army and a mass deepstrike can really threaten your opponent. However if you deep strike that means more turns that you aren’t shooting with your expensive suits so unless you have designed your unit to deepstrike it is probably more advisable to just start them on the board.
Each suit has three hard points with which you can put equipment on. Most people put two weapon systems and a support system but taking three weapons can be a good option if you take a twin linked system and a regular weapon system.
An useful tactic when building your crisis suits is ensuring that each has a different bit of gear. So when you do wound allocations, you can allocate the wounds to each different model separately and thus increase survivability. That way if you have to take nine armour saves on a unit you can roll 3 armour saves for each individual model instead of rolling all 9. So each model will only lose 1 wound on average instead of you taking 3 wounds and having to remove a whole suite. It keeps more firepower around for longer.
An example of this would be
3 man Crisis team:
1 with plasma rifle, missile pod, multitracker
1 with plasma rifle, fusion blaster, multitracker
1 with plasma rifle, missile pod, multitracker, team leader with bonding knife.
Common Builds are:
-Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Multi-tracker (Most popular build out there, useful against everything is a reactive unit designed to get rid of any problems facing your army.)
-Plasma Rifle, Fusion Blaster, Multi-tracker (with the high prevalence of marine armies the extra high strength low ap shot helps kill them and can threaten tanks as well.)
-Burst Cannon, Missile Pod, Mutli-tracker (Anti ork. It has a high amount of shots and can work well against good armour saves as well by forcing them to take more saves)
-Fusion Blaster, Flamer, Target Lock (Good for deepstriking and can put the hurt on either infantry or vehicles)
-Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Flamer (Shoot the enemy from afar and flame anything that gets too close)
-Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Fusion Blaster (Used to take out tanks)
-Twin Linked Flamer, Missile Pod (Useful mainly in deep striking but can demolish light infantry. Once you have flamed a unit you can sit back and fire missiles at the enemy.)
Stealth Team: The place to take burst cannons. They are mobile and with the stealth field generator your opponent will need to roll night fighting each time he tries to shoot at you. This means that only the close units will be able to shoot at your unit. They can tear through light infantry and for 2pts you can take a fusion blaster and threaten tanks as well. Stealth teams work well in larger units as they can throw out more damage but they are effective in smaller units as well. You can take multiple small units and overwhelm your opponent with targets to shoot at.
Deepstriking the multiple small units can be a good idea. They will have a very small footprint on the table and a lucky fusion shot can end the game for a vehicle.
They are good in assault against non power weapon units. They have the infiltrate rule as well which can be used to take an objective early in the game. They do take an elite slot away from crisis suits so think carefully about what you want in your army.
Firewarriors: A must have in your army. No they are not good but you must take at least one unit because the codex says so. They have good rifles with long range but are bad shots. They are expensive for what they do which is sit on objectives. You need a devilfish for them if you want to use them aggressively and then you need marker light support to ensure they can hit their enemy. This all adds up to an expensive unit. Bonding knives are almost essential to keep your unit on the objective. Or take a unit of 6 firewarriors and keep them inside their devilfish for the entire game.
Photon Grenades: Reduces the enemy’s attacks by one on the turn they charge. Useful against units that firewarriors can beat in close combat which is few. Otherwise you want your unit to flee/be destroyed so you can shoot at them in the next shooting phase.
EMP Grenades: Can turn your firewarriors into a decent anti tank unit. Useful against dreadnoughts but it is expensive. With railguns in your army you shouldn’t have need for them but it is a nice upgrade to have. Great in apocalypse games.
Devilfish: One of the best transports around. A shame it can only really transport firewarriors. It can transport pathfinders but you will want them in a stationary position so they can take advantage of their markerlights. With disruption pods you will have a 4+ save against all shooting from over 12” away. A disruption pod is mandatory because of how useful it is and all other vehicle upgrades are optional but can be very useful as well. Be careful not to spend too many points on upgrades.
The gun drones can be dropped off to block assaulting units or provide cover. When used in this way they do provide extra kill points so people generally only use them in this way in objective games. However if your devilfish is shot down it no longer drops the gun drones off as if they were embarked troops. They now count as destroyed which is even more reason to take a devilfish.
Kroot: Cheap and plentiful. The chickens of the 40k universe, they seriously look like chickens! They are ok in combat if you outnumber your enemy by about 3 to 1. The best use for them is not to throw them into combat but to instead sit them in a piece of terrain and shooting at anything that gets close.
Another use for them is to outflank and take out units such as devastators. For 140pts you can take 20 which will be able to take out devastators with ease or guardsmen hunkered down. The 6+ save they can get will only be useful in combat so is generally considered a waste. Rather rely on the cover save you should have by being in terrain. If you can deploy them in wooded areas to gain +1 to their cover save. Watch out for flamers as these will roast kroot with ease.
They have the option of taking kroot hounds or krootox which can make for a very powerful close combat unit (for tau) but you cannot outflank then which is one of the best abilities that the kroot have. Because you lose the ability to outflank I have not seen a single krootox ever used. They are pretty cool models though.
Gun Drones: Fairly cheap and have pinning shots. You should have plenty of them available for use because each box of firewarriors or crisis suit you buy will have 2. Best used when deepstriking to pin enemies in place so they are only useful against certain armies. Gun drones can make a jump move in the assault phase after assaulting which is something to remember. They are an average unit usually taken only until people can afford to buy better things to fill in the fast attack.
Pathfinders: A Tau’s best friend. They are equipped with markerlights. So for only 12 pts you can get a markerlight which can increase your ballistic skill, reduce cover saves, reduce the leadership for pinning, fire seeker missiles or ignore night fighting. However you must also purchase a devilfish for them. The devilfish is useless for them as their markerlights are heavy weapons so they must be stationary to fire. The devilfish should instead be used for your firewarriors. Pathfinders are the easiest way to get markerlights into your army. They will be targeted early on if your opponent has played against tau before so be sure to deploy them in cover.
Pathfinders can also be equipped with rail rifles to create a quasi sniping unit. Useful against marines and comes with target locks so it doesn’t stop you from firing your markerlights at the units you need.
An interesting thing to remember is that anything (from your army) deepstriking within line of sight of the pathfinders devilfish can make a re-roll to the scatter dice. This allows your deepstriking squads a little piece of mind and makes them more reliable and allows you to position them more aggressively.
Another important thing to remember about markerlights is that the unit that fires them cannot benefit from their own hits. The exception to this is the marker drone.
Piranha: Fast Skimmers and a fusion blaster. What more can you ask for from a fast attack slot. They are great for popping vehicles or contesting objectives at the end of the game. Another fun thing to do is attach Flechette launchers to one and fly it at your opponents unit of ork boyz. Watch as half his unit is destroyed. They can be used effectively to create line of sight blockers and provide cover saves. Another way of using them is taking a large unit and then deploying the gun drones for another unit to play around with on the table. When deployed in this manner the gun drones do give an extra kill point.
Piranhas are useful for carrying extra seeker missiles for your army assuming you make a combined army approach.
Vespid: Cool idea but poor in reality. They have a single 12” ap3 shot each. They are very fragile and while they are initiative 5 they have no grenades to take advantage of it against the only units they can actually beat in close combat which is guardmen and other tau. They have fleet as well so they can get into combat faster which isn’t useful on such a fragile unit. They are the price of a marine with none of the benefits. Avoid.
XV88 Broadside Battlesuit Team: The heavy hitters of the tau army. These suits carry the fearsome rail gun which is the best anti tank weapon in the game. They have a respectable 2+ armour save and can get ablative wounds in the form of shield drones who greatly increase the survival rate of the broadsides. A unit of these is almost mandatory in a tau army. Their tank popping potential is just too good to pass up. If you can, try to deploy these in cover with the best view of the battlefield.
If you lack cover, Gun drones can be used to make portable terrain for them. Jump out of their way in the movement phase. The broadsides shoot and then the drones jump back in front of them. Broadsides are very easy to play. Simply point their guns at the biggest thing the enemy has and watch as it disappears. The advanced stabilisation system is a good choice for broadsides as it negates their one weakness of not being able to move and shoot.
Sniper Drone Team: 3 Rail Rifle shots and a marker light. Not bad. They can take 3 units of these as a single heavy support choice. They aren’t optimum units but they aren’t bad either and they will put the hurt on marine units and light vehicles.
Hammerhead Gun ship: Another railgun to add to your army. Hurrah! Despite the railguns potent anti tank ability, hammerheads are better suited to anti infantry. With either two burst cannons or a Smart missile system and a large blast strength 6 ap 4 shot it can destroy units at a time. The railgun should only be used against vehicles if your broadsides fail to kill it. It is important to remember that the railgun comes with both the solid shot and the submunitions shot. You do not need to choose one or the other.
The ion cannon is an interesting choice. It is far cheaper than the railgun but is only a 3 shot strength 7 weapon. It has neither the blast of the submunitions or the anti tank ability of the solid shot. It does however have ap3 so it can kill marines quite easily. Also because of the 3 shots it can destroy light vehicles quite easily. The question remains, why use a hammerhead with ion cannon when you can use a crisis suits with missile pods. Generally a hammerhead is wasted, if it uses an ion cannon, against most armies.
With its FA of 13 and the disruption pod it should be almost impervious to enemy long range fire. What you will need to watch out for is close range weapons such as meltas. A good upgrade for the hammerhead is the multitracker which allows it to fire one weapon even if it moves 12” and fire all of its weapons even if it moves 6”. This will mean that enemy assaulters will need 6's to hit you in close combat. A key component to the tau is to keep them out of combat and mobile, this upgrade helps them do this.
Sky Ray Missile Defence Gunship: Same hull as the hammerhead but comes with 2 markerlights and 6 seeker missiles. Useful if you have enough markerlights and you can fire all of the seeker missiles in a single turn potentially knocking out all of your enemy’s light vehicles in one turn.
In reality the seeker missiles will not always work the way you want them to and they can still miss on the roll of a 1. The two marker lights are useful but pathfinders do a far better job of providing marker hits. It is a good tank but it competes with slots against the hammerhead and broadsides which are both superior to the sky ray.