Monday, 24 June 2013

Marker Drone Platforms

I have a 2 day tournament in 2 weeks time, and I need to think about my list. It’s 1750pts, no forge world, 5 games. Most of the Scottish ETC team will be there, together with a bunch of regular Scottish tournament goers, so, it’ll be reasonably competitive.

The 1,750 list I took to the last tourney was

Commander with Drone Controller, Iridium Armour, Target Lock, 2 Missile Pods, Puretide Chip, 2 Marker Drones

11 Fire Warriors in a Fish
12 Fire Warriors in a Fish
10 Kroot, 1 Hound
10 Kroot, 1 Hound

Riptide with Ion Accelerator, Fusion Blaster, EWO, Velocity Tracker
Riptide with Ion Accelerator, Fusion Blaster, EWO, Velocity Tracker

7 Marker Drones

Longstrike in a Hammer Head with D’pods
Skyray with D’pods
Skyray with D’pods

I don’t want to change the list radically (e.g. swapping in Broadsides, and/or ditching the D’fish), as I still haven’t  played enough games to get a real idea of how it performs.  However, I think I want to “tweak” a few things based on how it performed at the last tourney, and on a few games I’ve played since.

The thing I’ve been playing about with is dropping the Hammer Head, and taking 3 double death rain XV8s. I’ve been playing them with target locks and 2 marker Drones, and attaching the Commander to that unit. What this does is give me a pretty hard hitting unit (16 s7 AP4 shots from the missile pods that can have Monster Hunter or Tank Hunter)) but that can also push out 8 BS5 Marker Light hits at a different target. However, it does so at the expense of another AV13 tank chasis, and a Tank Hunting S10 AP1 Railgun.

However, I think I’m sold. I’m afraid Hammer Heads remain an unrequited love – even with Longstrike I find them unreliable in popping armour. The Tank Hunting Missile pods are just more effective (except for AV14 of course), and more importantly, far more flexible.

One question I’m pondering however is whether it would be more effective to take a Shas’vre in the XV8 unit, and kit him out with a C&CN and M3S, making the unit twin linked and allowing them to ignore cover. The Shas’vre can’t shoot with he uses the C&CN or M3S, so I would take of the missile pods.

On average twin linking makes up for losing the missile pods. The big advantage is the M3S, making the whole squad ignore cover. Now I could rely on the Skyray’s marker lights to boost the squad to BS4 (more or less the equivalent of twin linked BS3) and to grant them Ignores Cover, however with the C&CN and the M3S the whole squad gets the benefit, meaning I can shoot 2 Deathrains at one target, and the Commander at another. Also it almost guarantees 8 marker light hits. Now, some may call this wasteful, but an S8 AP2 large blast from a Riptide, that ignores cover and is also BS9 (so doesn’t scatter much) is nice….!

My concern, having played this set up a couple of times, is 2 fold. First, it has a large foot print and is difficult to manage, and second, it makes my opponent’s target priority easier (i.e. gives them on important target to focus on).  

An alternative, would be to run the Commander with a squad of marker drones, and run the XV8 squad separately.

So the Options are

Option 1

Commander, 2 Pods, Iridium Armour, Drone Controller, Target Lock, Puretide Chip, 2 Marker Drones
XV8 Shas’vre, C&CN, M3S, 2 Marker Drones
XV8  Shash’ui. 2 Pods, Target Lock, 2 Marker Drones
XV8  Shash’ui. 2 Pods, Target Lock, 2 Marker Drones


The advantage of this Option is that the Signature Systems (the Puretide Chip, the C&CN and the M3S) effect the maximum number of suits, everything is twin linked and everything ignores cover. In addition, having the marker lights twin linked helps in putting marker light hits on flyers.The disadvantage is that it has a large “footprint” on the board, making it difficult to organise. It’s inflexible (i.e. you can’t split the Marker Lights from the Missiles) and it makes your opponents target priority easier.

Option 2

Commander, 2 Pods, Iridium Armour, Drone Controler, Target Lock, Puretide Chip, 2 Marker Drones
XV8 Shas’ui, 2 Pods, Target Lock, 2 Marker Drones
XV8  Shash’ui. 2 Pods, Target Lock, 2 Marker Drones
XV8  Shash’ui. 2 Pods, Target Lock, 2 Marker Drones


This options is similar to the first, but gives up the C&CN and M3S for 2 more missile pods. It has all the disadvantages of Option 1, but is not twin linked nor does it ignore cover. If you can “guarantee” three marker light hits (one to boost the Shas’uis to BS3, and 2 to ignore cover) then it is almost as good as option 1. Almost as good, because Option one can split fire and still be twin linked and ignore cover on each target.

Option 3

Commander, Iridium Armour, Drone Controller, C&CN, 2 Marker Drones
Attached to 6 Marker Drones

XV8 Shas’vre, 2 Pods, Puretide Chip
XV8  Sash’ui. 2 Pods,
XV8  Sash’ui. 2 Pods,


Here the Commander is there simply to buff and protect the Drones. The XV8 team is a missile pod platform. In this way you split the 2 functions of the units in Options 1 and 2 (i.e. Marker Light platform and missile platform) into 2 separate units. It addresses the 2 disadvantages of the first 2 options by decreasing the units footprint, increasing flexibility, and making target priority decisions harder. However, it’s more expensive points wise, and the XV8 team has no “tanking” character and no ablative Drones…. on the other hand, it might not be shot as often.

I’m tending towards keeping it simple and going for Option 3 (I can drop a Marker Drone to get the point values closer if I need to).




  1. All 3 options are good, however I agree that having so many points in one unit makes the opponents target priority too each. Also in all of the options all 8 marker drones are firing at the same target.

    A 4th option is taking the 3rd option and splitting the marker drones between the drone squadron that the commander will join and the deathrain team.

    I'd upgrade one of the xv8 to a shas'vre so he could have the c&c node (which I think helps the deathrain team better as they have less BS). The shas'vre should also have a drone controller at the expense of having no weapons.

    The commander would then have 2 missile pods, drone controller and target lock. As the commander is only tanking for marker drones, rather than a full unit of crisis suits with drones maybe he could drop the armour and stay at the back of the drone unit.

    Here's my suggested option 4:
    Commander, Drone Controller, 2 Missile Pods, Target lock, 2 marker drones - 152
    4 marker drones - 56

    Crisis Shas'vre, C&C node, PENchip, Drone Controller
    2 Crisis Shas'ui, 2 Missile Pods and a target lock each
    accompanied by 6 marker drones - 256

    Total = 464 pts

    It increases the markerlights, plus importantly they can target seperate units, 6 at BS5, 6 at twin-linked BS3, which equates to 9.5 hits, nearly 2 more than any other option.

    The number of missile pods hits are good, 0.3 less hits than option 1, same hits as option 2 and more hits than option 3 (where the commander doesn't fire).

    You lose the option of tanking with the commander, but you could make other savings to try and get the armour back. Also once you've lost a few of the marker drones the commander could join the deathrain team.

    Option 4 is more expensive, so I'd look at losing the kroot hounds (each time you outflank there is only a 22% chance the hound will have any effect, 89% vs 67% chance you get the side you want to outflank onto), and the d-pods on the skyrays, because how often will you move to get the 4+/3+ cover save, as you it will mean snap firing markerlights.

    If you don't have and don't want to build the extra markerlights I would go with option 3, but I wouldn't bother with the C&C node, and give the commander some weapons and a target lock. Having the commander not fire is not worth an increase from 83% to 97% accuracy for the marker drones (which equates to 1.1 extra hit a turn, until you start losing marker drones).


  2. @rathstar as a vehicle can't the skyray move and still fire it's markerlight at full BS?

    Or to tack on another option....option 5 as it is known in the biz. To me it looks like you have enough markerlights as is without the giant drone blob. Aren't you wasting markers with so many hitting one target? I think the better option is to spread them around so it force multiplies against everyone not just 1 target. I would nix the drone blob and long strike. That frees enough points to keep the hammerhead for AV 14, give your kroot sniper rounds (which after facing down Wraithknights are invaluable.), and add a crisis squad with all the fancy doo-dads tau science can muster.

    Option 5:

    Commander, 2 Pods, Iridium Armour, Drone Controller, Target Lock, 2 Marker Drones = 177

    Crisis Shas'vre, PEN chip, Drone Controller, CnC Node
    2X Suits, Target Lock, 2 Pods, 6 Drones = 256

    10 Kroot, with hound, Sniper rounds = 75
    10 Kroot, with hound, Sniper rounds = 75

    Hammerhead with D-pod = 140

    1. The skyray is limited in the weapons it can fire depending on it's speed. Now that Tau have lost the vehicle multi-tracker in the new codex the skyray fires the same as any non-fast vehicle. Therefore it must stay still to fire more than 2 or more weapons (eg. both markerlights), and if it moves up to 6" it can only fire one weapon at full BS (eg. one of the markerlights) while the rest snap shot (eg. the other markerlight and the secondary weapon). To have 2 skyfiring markerlights firing at full BS the skyray has to stay completely still.

      I've found Tau tanks to be a bit less mobile than the last codex, however they are still so good that I include an IonHead and a Skyray in my lists.


    2. Oh ok, my bad, I thought you were saying that any movement at all forces all snap shots. And I agree, I tend to use suicide crisis for tank hunting, and prefer the ion head to wipe squads of marines off the board.

  3. Thanks guys for your thoughts. Rathstar - good idea re splitting the squad, having more than one source of MLs is a great idea. Think I'll do that. Also, Ive now realised that Ive been playing the Skyray wrong - hadn't appreciated that the MLs were 2 weapons - so to fire both a full BS you need to stay stationary. One one view no big deal, but what it does is limit the Cadre's mobility even more. Its beginning to push me away from Skyrays towards Broadsides.

    I really appreciate your comments guys - beginning to feel that people are actually beginning to read my ramblings.