I never saw anybody use a Skyray in the old codex. The problem was the way Seeker Missiles worked. It just didn’t make sense to use them when you had Broadsides. However, Seeker Missiles have changed, and made Skyrays much more viable.
The Skyray is a Tank, Skimmer BS4 F13 S12 R10. It comes with 6 Seeker Missiles (SM), 2 Networked Marker Lights and 2 Gun Drones as standard. You can swap the Gun Drones for twin linked Burst Cannons or TL Smart Missiles System for free. And it comes with a Velocity Tracker as standard i.e. it gets Skyfire. All for 115pts.
I guess the key to understanding the Skyray, is understanding how Seeker Missiles work. SMs can be fired in 2 ways – using marker lights, or using the Skyray’s BS. If you fire them using the Skyray’s BS, then the also benefit from the Networked Marker Lights. Unlike standard Marker Lights, the unit that fires the ML can use it. So the first thing that fires is the marker light, and the 2nd thing is the SMs. Given the Skyray is BS4, chances are you will get at least one ML hit, in which case, the Skyray can then fire all its missiles as BS5. That’s quite a barrage! The draw back is that the Skyray will need to have stayed stationary to be able to fire everything in one turn.
The second way to fire the SMs is the “old” way, i.e picking up a marker light token. The benefit of doing that is that the SM doesn’t need LOS, ignores cover and fires as BS5, irrespective of the firing units BS. The unit can also move and fire.
The problem with the Skyray is that it’s a bit of a one trick pony. It can unleash a pretty impressive one turn barrage, and has a good chance of killing any flyer in the game in one turn of shooting, but after that, its role is a bit limited! The only real benefit it has is its Skyfire Marker light. So you can fire the Skyray’s marker light at a flyer, and then use the hits to boost the snap fire of other units (or indeed other marker lights) to kill the flyer. It’s an interesting option if you want to run Broadsides without Velocity Trackers, but still want to use their fire power against Flyers.
Another use for the Skyrays after the shoot their missiles, is as the catalyst for a marker light chain reaction. I’ll talk about this in more detail when I post about marker lights in general, but the basic idea is that you use one or 2 high BS marker lights, to boost a higher number of low BS marker lights, to increase the total number of marker light hits. So, fire the Skyray’s BS4 marker lights at the death star unit for 2 hits, and then your Marker Drones pick up those 2 marker lights, and fire their marker lights at BS4 for lots more hits. You can also do this with Flyers – so the Skyray fires its Skyfire Marker light at the Stormraven, getting 2 hits, and the Marker Drones then pick up the 2 marker lights and fire their marker lights at BS3, generating enough hits for a Hammerhead to fire at the Stormraven at BS5, and, with luck, also ignore cover/jink saves.
But it’s still a pretty expensive platform for 2 marker lights and an SMS!
In the last Codex you never saw Sniper Drones, Broadsides were just so much better. Sniper Drones are better in the new Codex, but I’m still not sure they’re better than other options.
Base the unit comes with one Marksman and 3 Sniper Drones. The Drone’s stats are the same as other Drones, but they come with a Long Shot Pulse Rifle. This is a 48” Rapid Fire, AP5 Sniper Rifle. The Marksman is the same as “Standard” Tau, but he has BS5. He comes with a Maker Light and a Drone Controller. You can get 2 extra Marksmen, and 3 extra Sniper Drones. The unit also has Stealth.
There are 3 points to note – you get a BS5 Marker Light, the Drone Controller makes the Sniper Drones BS5, and the rifles are Rapid Fire Sniper Rifles, not Heavy. So 2 shots at 24”. And one added bonus, if you’re running an Ethereal, that’s 3 shots at 24” using Storm of Fire. Not bad for 58pts!
But, if you really want Sniper Shots you’re probably better off with Sniper Kroot.
The use I can see for them is taking 3 Marksmen for 97pts, and having 3 very accurate Marker Lights. They would then be useful for starting Marker Light Chain Reactions, as described above. But, TBH, for 18pts more I would rather have a Skyray!
Maybe in a Shadowsun Ghost Cadre?
Summary, Heavy Support
Yet again IMO, Broadsides are the stand out performer. Hammerheads are OK, but not great. Skyrays are viable now, and may see some use, and Sniper Drones are interesting, but I’m still not persuaded.
OK, that’s the run down of the units completed. I want to do one more “generic” post on marker lights, and then I’ll start thinking about lists.