Saturday, 20 April 2013

It's all About the Tau. Part 6, Fast Attack

Fast Attack is the jam packed slot in the Tau dex – you can take Pathfinders, Piranhas, Drones Squadrons, the Sun Shark Bomber or the Razor Shark Fighter. With so much choice, the 3 slots will be hotly contested.


Basic stats have stayed the same – with one change, they now have recon armour so have a 5+ save rather than a 4+. However, they’ve dropped a point in price and no longer need to take a Devilfish. They come with Pulse Carbines, a marker light and photon grenades as standard. They have Scout and Outflank, but irritatingly not infiltrate!

They come with some interesting upgrade possibilities. Firstly, 3 of them can take either Rail Rifles or Ion Rifles. Secondly they can take 3 new types of Drone.

Rail Rifles are S6  AP1 Range 30” Rapid Fire. Ion Rifles are S7 AP4 Range 30”, Rapid Fire, but can over charge to become S8  AP4 Range 30” Heavy 1, Blast, Gets Hot.

The Drones are - Recon, which gives you a Homing Beacon a Positional Relay and a Burst Cannon, a Pulse Accelerator Drone, which increases the range of Pulse Weapons by 6 inches, and a Gravity Inhibitor which takes d3” from an opponent’s charge range.

In the old ‘dex Pathfinders were your main provider of marker lights (unless you ran Tetras). However, even although marker lights are awesome, towards the end of 5th I didn’t take pathfinders. They had 3 serious limitations – you needed to take a Devilfish, the marker lights were heavy weapons so could not move and shoot, and they were very fragile.

The new ‘dex has “cured” 1 out of 3. You no longer need to take a Devilfish. However, marker lights remain Heavy, and Pathfinders became even more fragile. So they still have serious limitations. I suspect the key with Pathfinders is to decide whether they are marker light platforms or special weapons platforms.

As a marker light platform I’m doubtful. Even although you don’t need to take the D’fish anymore, they still have all the problems they used to have, in particular they are still really fragile – 10 T3 Sv5+ models will evaporate in a  stiff breeze. And you better be sure that anybody who has played Tau will target them turn one. I don’t know about your meta, but I see lots of Thunder Fire Cannons, which will murder Pathfinders.

It’s their role as special weapons platforms that intrigues me. With marker light support, Rail and Ion Rifles are pretty good. And a lack of marker lights makes them a much lower priority target. In particular I think this would work well in Shadowsun’s Ghost Cadre. Three Rail Rifles (for 89pts!) or 3 Ion Rifles (for 74 points) coming in of a positional relay on your opponent’s board edge might be interesting. Alternatively, using Pathfinders with a Pulse Accelerator Drone (supported by Rail Rifles) as a Fish of Fury unit, allowing their Pulse Carbines to fire 2 shots out to 24”, is an interesting option. Add in Rail Rifles for a heavy weapon kick, and that’s a pretty interesting option.


Drone squadrons start off as Gun Drones, but can be swapped to Marker Drones or Shield Drones for no cost. Units of 4-12 for 14pts per drone. So far so dull…however, what makes them interesting is the ability to use a Drone Controller to boost their BS. If you attach an XV8 Commander with a Drone Controller to a squadron of gun drones they all become BS5. Even more interesting is that if you do the same with Marker Drones, they also become BS5.

So 12 BS5 marker lights that can jump shoot jump…..! Give him a Command and Control Node and they’re twin linked…..! Oh and they are toughness 4 and have a 4+ save….! And ybecasue they are relentless, they can move and shoot…! Still think Pathfinders are great marker light platforms?  

A quick comparison – 10 pathfinder will on average get 5 hits so 22pts per hit. Twelve BS5 Marker Drones will on average get 10 hits, so 14pts per hit. And they are way more mobile and way more survivable than the Pathfinders.

This of course does not take into account the cost of the Commander, not does it take into account that you need to tie up an HQ slot to do it. However, chances are you’ll be taking a Commander anyway…..and the drone controller only costs 8pts.

You would need to think this through carefully, in particular, how would it synergise with the rest of your army (i.e. where else do you need the Commander), but it certainly has potential.


Piranhas were a staple of my 5th edition lists as a blocking unit. Zoom it in front of a Land Raider and pin it in place. However, with the introduction of hull points, the loss of the speeder’s 3+ dodge save, and how easy it is to kill them in assault, they’ve stayed in their case since 6th edition came out. But they might make a come back!

Piranhas are a fast, open topped skimmer (F11 S10 R 10) with 2 hull points. They come in squadrons of up to 5 units and come standard with a burst cannon and 2 Gun Drones. For 40pts…….! You can upgrade them from the Vehicle Support System list and give the 2 Seeker Missiles. They can also get a Fusion Blaster for 5pts.

I have the sneaking suspicion that Piranhas might be pretty good! If you keep the Gun Drones on they get 8 S5 shots each. On average 5 of them will hit! They are also highly mobile – move 6” and shoot everything, or move 12”, shoot the Burst Cannon and snap fire the Drones. That’s a lot of mobile Dakka. Compare them to Fire Warriors. A unit of 5 Piranhas cost 200pts and will on average score 25 hits, 8pts per hit! For Fire Warriors to generate 25 hits at 18” you need 50 Fire Warriors, which works out at 18pts per hit.

This of course doesn’t take into account the longer range of the Pulse rifle, and the fact that Fire Warriors score. However, the point is, if all you want is mass dakka, Piranhas are pretty efficient.

Alternatively, give Piranhas Fusion guns for 5pts, and they are a threat to heavy armour. And unlike Land Speeders you need to shoot them with something more than S4 weapons to bring them down.

And they can still block. A unit of 5 Piranhas has a huge footprint (they’re big models), giving you lots of options for getting in the way and blocking enemy movement. They also have a detachable Drone Squadron for even more blocking and movement control. Detachable Drones are better now as they no longer give up an extra kill point if killed after they detach. You could even detach them and then attach an XV8 Commander with a Drone controller making them BS5!

And finally, for 56pts you can get one with 2 Seeker Missiles. Now normally I wouldn’t take one shot weapons – they are a bit hit or miss for me (see what I did there!). However, if you’re taking a squadron anyway, and can guarantee a bunch of marker light hits (say for example you’re running a squadron of Marker Drones with an XV8 Commander with a Drone Controller), that’s a hell of an alpha strike!

Say you’re playing Tyranids, and like 99% of ‘nid lists he’s running a Tervigon or 2. Use the Drone Squadron to light up a Tervigon. If you’re using an XV8 Commander with Drone Controller in a full squad of Marker Drones, on average you should get 10 hits. Then use those marker hits to fire 10 seeker missiles from the Piranhas … at BS5….ignoring cover ….not needing line of sight… while still moving the Piranhas up to 12” for their jink save. Chances are that’s one dead Tervigon (or Manticore, or what ever).

Not saying you should take this combo specifically to create an alpha strike….. but if you’re taking Piranahs anyway (not a bad choice) …… and you’re taking an XV8 Commander with Drone Controller to buff a squad of marker Drones (again, not a bad choice, in fact a pretty good one), 80 extra points for 10 seeker missiles that will nuke one key unit is OK!

Finally, upgrades. I’ve read some people suggesting taking Disruption Pods on Piranhas. Not a good idea IMHO. Problem is you need to take a D’pod on each of them, almost a 50% increase in their points. You can’t (as I’ve heard some people suggest) take it on one Piranha and put it out front to “tank” wounds on its boosted cover save. You’re opponent will just Focus Fire on the Piranhas with normal saves.

 As for other upgrades Flechette Discharges and the ability to fire Overwatch are interesting, but again IMHO, its too many points invested in a unit that should be “disposable”.

So, for their price Piranhas are pretty good, and bring some interesting tactical options.


I have never seen Vespids on the table and do not expect to now. Pass…!

Sun Shark Bomber

I think GW have finally got the message that the “legacy” flyers (i.e. those that were introduced in 5th edition) are over powered. It seems that new flyers are destined to be lack luster at best (god knows what they were thinking with the Helldrake!), and the Sun Shark is exactly that. With competition so tight in Fast Attack, I just don’t see a place for it in my Cadre. It just doesn’t bring anything to the army I can’t get elsewhere.

It’s F11 S10  R 10, so pretty fragile. It can’t hover, so unlike the Stormtallon can’t sneak on in a corner to avoid Quad Guns. Its Pulse Bomb is just silly.

I suppose it can take a decoy launcher (4++ from interceptor fire), and D’pods (4+ jink save) to make it reasonably resilient. It also has a Skyfire marker light which is helpful (the Skyray has 2 however!). The interceptor Drones are interesting, but not that interesting. In an army that has no problem getting interceptor and skyfire in lots of units, it’s not that big a deal.

And the model is a bit naff!

What am I missing?


Another lack lustre flyer. The 360 degree turret with Quad Ion Rifles is an OK weapon, and you can upgrade the Burst Cannon to a missile pod – but that’s still on average only 3 S7 hits per turn. Vendettas are hardly flying off the board in terror!

Again, what am I missing?


A hotly contested slot. I still think Vespids are silly, and I really can’t see the point in the Flyers, which leaves Pathfinders, Drones and Piranhas. If you want massed marker lights IMHO Marker Drones (with a Commander and Drone Controller) are the best option. If you’re looking for special weapons, then perhaps Pathfinders. Finally, if you’re looking for fast Dakka, or a fast threat to Heavy Armour (e.g. you’re not taking Hammerheads), or board control, or even a devastating Alpha Strike, think about Piranhas. 



  1. I really don't see the fuss with marker drone squadrons with a commander. They're too expensive and only mark a single unit. Also your maths is a bit off with the comparison to pathfinders. Even if you don't include the commander's cost, 12 drones are 168pts so assuming 10 hits at BS5 that's 17pts per hit not 14. If you include the commander with the bear minimum of a drone controller he's 93pts making 261pts and therefore 26pts per hit. Therefore they're actually more expensive than pathfinders, more than the cost of two squads! This is balanced by survivability but its still a waste of a commander and doesn't free up slots as you still need another marker source if you want to hit multiple targets. Against a mobile enemy it isn't that hard to catch the drones. You therefore lose your only markers and probably your warlord too.

    Also fusion blasters are 10pts for piranhas.

  2. Maths never was my strong point! You are of course right re the maths (and the fusion blaster cost, not sure where I got that from).

    However, I still think marker drones may be a better option than pathfinders. The big issue of course is the opportunity cost of attaching the Commander. Need to think that through.

    Time (and play testing) will tell.