Tuesday, 20 August 2013

List Evolution - Killing the Tau Hunters

I’m going to the Northern Warlords GT at the beginning of September, which is one of the bigger and more competitive GT’s in the UK (so I’m told – I’ve never been before). I’m expecting all sorts of “filth”, and I need to prepare.

My list as it stands can deal with most “conventional” lists. By that I mean the sort of list you might see at your local FLGS, or of an evening at your local club. I don’t really fear anything in power armour (podding wolves being an exception), nor really guard. Flyers no longer worry me, and I’ve learned to deal with demon FMC spam (still a tough game though).
However, I'm an avid follower of 40k podcasts. I listen to them when I run, and when I’m painting (sadly too much of the latter recently and not enough of the former !). One of the reasons I listen so avidly is to get a feel for the current “meta” and what people are taking to tournaments.

I’m becoming concerned with the super durable units I’m hearing about, which some are suggesting are specifically designed as “Tau Hunters”.  However, I think I’ve come up with a plan, and I thought I would throw it out there for discussion.

Some examples would perhaps help (and if I get these wrong please correct me – I’ve never actually played any of these yet).

The first one I’ve heard/read about is familiar, but now revitalised – the Eldar Seer Council. Essentially a unit of Warlocks on jet bikes lead by 1 or 2 Farseers, typically with allied Dark Eldar , so the Baron can join them. It works if one of the Farseers gets Fortune (bit of a disaster if you don’t, which is why it usually has 2 Farseers “just in case”), allowing the unit to re-roll their saves (3+ armour save from the jet bikes, or 4++ from the wraith bone armour). If one of the Farseers gets Invisibility, then that becomes a rerollable 2+ cover save. If one of the warlocks gets Protect/Jinx then it becomes a 2+ re-rollable armour save. The Baron is there to give the unit “hit and run”, and a re-rollabe 2++ if he’s out front tanking wounds.

The next one is the Dark Eldar Beast Pack. Usually comes with an allied Farseer for a chance at Fortune and/or Invisibility, and the Baron for Hit and Run and his 2++ (re-rollable if the Farseer gets Fortune).

Next, the new kid on the block – the Tzeentch Screamer Deathstar – 10 screamers, with 2 or 3 Heralds rolling on Diviniation, with the Grimnoire of True Names. The idea is that one of the Herlads gets Forewarning giving the unit a 4++. The Grimnoire then makes this into a 2++, and because they are Demons of Tzeentch they get to re-roll 1s giving them a re-rollable 2+ invulnerable save.

So – what I need in my list is something to deal with these Death Stars, and if it also has an answer to drop podding wolves (essentially jaws) then that would be good too……hmmm!

Death Stars

The advice one reads on dealing with Deathstars is usually to ignore them and play the mission. The idea being that you kill everything else, and then deal with the death star. In theory that’s all very well, but in practise it’s hard.
The problem with all these death stars is that they’re very fast. It’s kinda hard to ignore a unit that can move 48” in one turn (the seer council), and can string itself out to multi charge a whole bunch of units at once. Even the beast pack – the slowest of these death stars is still pretty fast. Other advice you often see is to bogg them down in assault with a really tough unit. Again, good in theory (and might work for the Tzeentch Star, although they’re pretty damn killy, especially if they have Prescience and Misfortune) but the Seer Council and the Beast Pack have hit and run.

So, I would still prefer a way to kill them.

It seems to me that these Death Stars all have 2 things in common – firstly they’re dependent on individual characters (e.g. the Herald with the Grimnoire in the Tzeentch star, the Baron or the Farseer in the Beast Pack, and the Farseer or Warlock in the Seer Council), and secondly they’re dependant on getting the powers up in the first place.

In  theory then, they could be countered by killing the individual characters, or stopping the power.

Killing the Character

I can think of 2 ways to do this - precision shots or barrage snipping i.e. placing the barrage template on top of the character and hoping it doesn’t scatter. Your opponent then needs to take all the wounds on the character first. The only barrage weapon we have is the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, whihc is OK, but it only has a 18" range. There are a number of ways to get precision shots into a Tau Cadre – giving all your Kroot Sniper rounds, taking sniper drones, or giving suits Advanced Target Systems. The problem however is that characters still “look out sir” these shots on a 2+, and you still need to get through their save. So for it to work, you need a lot of Precision Shots – particularly if the character has a re-rollable armour save!

The best way round this I can think of is to ally in a Vindicare assassin, whose shots are always precision shots, and can not be passed on using “look out sir”. Even better if you attach him to a quad gun – chances are you’ll put 4 wounds on the character, that can’t be transferred. That should kill a Herald in the Tzeentch Star (who only has 2 wounds, and, usually a 4++ as the Griminore doesn’t effect him). He could also be used to “break” the Barron’s invulnerable save in the Beast Pack using the shield breaker round. He would be less useful against a Farseer however (three wounds), particularly if the Farseer had Fortune up. You could however kill the Warlock with conceal or Protect/Jinx.

Stopping the Powers

Stopping the powers going off is way more effective, but its easier said that done with Runes of Warding taking a hit. Allied Rune Priests might be the way to go here, denying powers on a 4+. Two of them with Jaws and something else in a drop pod with 5 Grey Hunters would also be a good counter to opposing Tau players. However, it would have less of an impact on the Tzeentch Star, as the Grimnoire is not a psychic power.
Another option is to kill the unit (or cripple it) before they get the powers off i.e. alpha strike the death star if you get first turn. Guaranteeing first turn however is not easy!

Towards a solution

I’ve been leaning towards the Farsight Enclave with Grey Knight allies, essentially for the Vindicare Assassin. Wolves are attractive, but have no real impact on the Tzeentch Star … and Grey Knights have other benefits.
Here’s the list I’ve been thinking about. I’ve not pinned it down yet, and it would need some “jiggling” to fit it all into 1,750 points, but this is the base

Commander, AFP, Burst Cannon, Drone Controller, 2 Gun Drones, Warscraper Drone

 Riptide with Heavy Burst Cannon, Earth Cast Targeting Array, Mirrorcodex, Talismon of Arthas Moloch, Advanced Targeting Array
 3 XV8s all with Fusion Gun, Plasma Rifle and Target Locks along with 2 Gun Drones

10 Kroot, Hound

10 Kroot, Hound



3 Broadsides all with Advanced Targeting Arrays, one of them a Shas’vre

Aegis Defence Line with Quad Gun


10 Grey Knight Strikers

Vindicare Assasin

This should be pretty close to 1750.
The first thing is that you have a reasonably good chance of going first. The reason is the combination of Morrocodex and Coteaz. The Mirrorcodes allows you to seize the initiative on a 5+, and Coteaz allows you to re-roll that dice. If my maths are right that’s like seizing the initiative on a 3+! Now, getting first turn with a shooty army is a good thing in itself. However, seizing is better, particularly if you get the drop on Death Stars that need first turn to get their powers up.

Coteaz also has “I’ve been expecting you”, and the Strike Squad has Warp Quake to discourage deep striking Rune Priests with Jaws. On a similar note the Talisman of Arthas Moloch allows you to deny the witch on  4d6 (something like a 66% chance to deny), making Jaws even less of a concern. However, it also makes Demonic shooting powers much less scary. Often the Tzeentch Star has Flickering Fire which pumps out a lot of dakka when it goes off. The Strike Squad also brings a lot of dakka (with Presience), and has Preferred Enemy (Demons)!

Finally (far the allies at least), as discussed, the Vindicare is the ultimate sniper for taking out crucial characters, and putting him on the Quad Gun just makes him better.

 Couple of other things. The ATS on the Broadside Unit should produce around 7-8 precision shots per turn as back up for the Vindicare. The AFP on the Commander would also help here with Barrage Sniping. The Warscraper Drone on the Commander allows him to attach to the XV8 unit and outflank with them, with acute senses. The idea is to bring this in behind the enemy to (for example) root out Manticore’s or Wave Serpents hiding in the rear.

And finally, the Earth Caste Targeting Array seems to me is the ideal compliment to the Heavy Burst Cannon.

My concern is I have weakened the core of my list too much by introducing all the “tricks”.




  1. The question is, are you opening yourself up with weakness towards armies you have no problem with? Also, if you come up against a tau list like one you used to play, how do you propose to beat them but with less guns and less men?

    Why do you think that grimoire won't affect the herald? Put him on a disk and he can keep up with the screamers. Also you seem to have a distinct lack of marker lights. If the screamers get invisibility off they won't even need to rely on grimoire and then you may have 2 2+ re-rollable units to deal with. Just my thoughts, feel free to disagree

  2. @DimmyK - that's my worry I think I'm tailoring my list too much for specific threats with the result that it's weakened against more run of the mill lists. The lack of marker light in particular is a worry.

    BTW the rules for the Grimoire specifically say that that it doesn't effect the bearer.


  3. Demonic deathstars can be kept in DS, and when arrive they can kill the vindicare with passage strike :)
    The save won't be rerollable, but they can still have a 2++ with 24 wounds :)

  4. @Rainulf - I had thought the book went off at the start of the movement phase, but you're right "at any time during the movement phase". Bugger!

    What's "passage strike BTW?


    1. The thing where they turbo boost over an enemy unit and they take D3 hits or something like that, similar to dark eldar reavers.

  5. Ahhh ... The slash attack. But it's not that bad is it? Firstly, the strikers get warp quake, and secondly the get "I've been expecting you" from Coteaz. So they will be at least 12" away (assuming Warp quake goes off), and I'll get a "free" round of shooting at them. Does anybody know when the "I've been expecting you" shooting happens - is it before they get a chance to move I.e before the herald gets a chance to fire off the book?

    Also, bare in mind the assassin will get to shoot the quad gun at the herald before the screamers performs the slash attack