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    The deep down truth Rikimaru's Avatar
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    The XV8 an in depth guide (updated for 5th)

    I have posted this here because the original thread is stickied and I cannot modify the original post. I hope that a Mod will update the stickeid thread or move this there. I have also updated the independent character FAQ so it is in line with the 5th edition rules. If any one spots any errors in either thread please feel free to PM me or let me know on this thread. Remember I am as new to 5th as anyone else.


    The XV8 a detailed guide

    The venerable and revered XV8 is the backbone of the Tau army and the reason that most players probably got into Tau, along with the Railgun.

    So let us take a look at this powerful but often controversial unit in a bit more depth. Please be aware that this is going to be a detailed and in depth look at the XV8 within the 5th edition of the rules and thus will be a long article.

    First of all I am going to cover the unit options, weaponry, support items and basic stat lines of the XV8. I will discuss configurations and uses further on in the article. (as a side note I will be referencing rules in the 40K rule book in this manner > (BGB 23), the number is the page the rule is found)

    Ok so what is an XV8? Well simply put the XV8 is a Tau battle-suit that can be outfitted with a huge range of weaponry and wargear.

    XV8 movement

    The XV8 is equipped with a Jetpack that allows it to move 6" in the movement phase; this movement can be on foot or utilising the jet pack. The 5th edition rules also made any model with a jetpack relentless, this basically means that the XV8 can now move and shoot heavy weaponry and can assault after shooting heavy weaponry.

    Ok so what does that mean in game terms? Well if you use the Jetpack you can jump over terrain, buildings, Vehicles, friendly and enemy units, basically anything that can be jumped over using the 6" move distance. However if you jump INTO or start a jump move in difficult terrain you have to take a ' Dangerous terrain test' (BGB 17 & 54) and risk losing wounds. The move can be ended on impassable terrain if the model can physically be placed on it a dangerous terrain test must be taken.

    To avoid these tests and the associated risks the XV8 can enter or leave terrain on foot as infantry. It should be noted that the XV8 could always elect to move as infantry in the movement phase and not just when moving into terrain. (Note: you cannot leave teerrain on foot and then use the jump pack).

    The XV8 can also make a 6" non assaulting move in the assault phase if it is not involved in an assault. This move is always made using the jet-pack so dangerous terrain tests are requisite if you end the move in dangerous terrain. The move in the assault phase can be in any direction. It should be noted that the assault move cannot be used to leave close combat, this ability is solely restricted to XV8's equipped with Vectored Retro Thrusters.

    This combination of moving in the movement phase, shooting in the shooting phase and moving again in the assault phase is called the jump, shoot, jump move (or JSJ). The JSJ is the defining characteristic of the XV8 and allows the XV8 to engage the enemy and retreat to a safer distance or get behind cover out of line of sight. This is a fantastic advantage and something very few armies have an equivalent to. By learning to judge distances you can frustrate opponents by peppering his units with dangerously powerful weaponry and jumping away and giving him nothing to target in return.

    XV8’s do not count as moving when firing rapid-fire or heavy weaponry. The relentless rule is only of any use if the XV8 takes a Drone controller and Marker-light Drone (which I will discuss later).

    Not being classed as moving for the purpose of firing rapid-fire weapons means that an XV8 can always decide to use either the one shot at maximum range or the two shots at 12”, irrespective of movement. This can be handy as it allows an XV8 to move 6” and still shoot at the weapons maximum range; this effectively adds another 6” to a Plasma rifles range (not a bad benefit and bad news for things like Terminators).

    The jet pack also allows the XV8 to deep strike in missions where it is an option; however the assault phase move is not available in the turn the XV8 deep strikes.

    XV8 Equipment

    The XV8 has a large number of equipment options and I am going to discus the basics of equipping the XV8 first.
    I think it is fair to say that one of the more frequently raised subjects on this and other forums is how does the hard point system work?

    Ok each XV8 has three hard points; each individual hard point can be used to take either a weapon or a support system in various combinations.

    You are allowed to take any combination of weaponry and support systems on the three hard points; however all three hard points must be filled.

    You can if so inclined take three weapons and no support systems or three support systems (though no weaponry is of course pointless).

    If you take two weapons of the same type then these weapons take up two hard points but are fired as a twin linked weapon (BGB 3, you categorically cannot take two weapons of the same type and fire them as individual weapons EVER. If you take two weapons you pay an increased cost but it is less than you would pay if you could take two of the same weapon separately.

    You cannot take three of the same weapons, for instance you are not allowed to take three Plasma Rifles.

    Some support systems can only be taken on a hard point (Targeting array for example).

    Ok so we all know what weapons are but what are Support systems? Well support systems are listed in the Tau battle suit armoury and are not weapons. They are instead systems that confer abilities or boost the basic abilities and/or stats of the XV8. Any XV8 can take a support system from the list and each individual support system taken uses a hard point.

    No support system can be taken more than once EVER, so it is impossible to gain +2 BS by taking two Targeting Arrays for instance. I will discuss the support system in depth later.

    Next we come to Wargear.

    Wargear can be taken by any XV8 that has access to the 'Battle suit Wargear list in the armoury. This access is available to any XV8 that falls under the following categories:

    XV8 Bodyguard Shas'Vre
    XV8 team leader
    XV8 Shas,Vre

    Access to the 'Battle suit Wargear' list allows the option of taking various restricted items such as Hard Wired wargear. Taking hard-wired stuff is a real advantage as it allows the taking of support systems that compulsorily take up a hard point (Targeting Array for instance) while allowing other support systems such as a Multi Tracker to be taken as a hard wired option in addition without using a hard point.

    So for instance an XV8 team leader could take two weapons on two hard points (Plasma Rifle & Missile pod) a Targeting array on the remaining hard point (+1 to BS) and a hard wired Multi tracker from the Wargear list (allowing it to fire both weapons each turn). You could not do this with a basic XV8.

    Remember that items in the Battle suit Wargear list do not take up a hard point and do not need to be represented on the model

    One thing that can cause confusion is that Drones appear in both support system and wargear lists.
    It appears as if you can take a Drone controller from the support system list (which allows two Drones to be taken) and also take Drones from the 'Battle suit Wargear' list as extra wargear as well (thus allowing more than two Drones to be taken by one XV. This is not the case.

    What is allowable is the either of the following options:

    Drone controller taken as a support system (taking up a hard point) or
    an upgraded XV8 taking a hardwired Drone controller (thus avoiding the use of a hard point)

    You cannot take any non weapon item twice, so you could not take a hard point Drone controller and a hard wired Drone controller, so this means only one or two Drones can be taken at maximum (hope that is clear, if not I will expand).

    You are allowed up to 100pts of equipment from the Battle suit Wargear list.
    Remember hard-wired items DO NOT take up a hard point.

    Special issue items
    These are only available to:
    XV8 Bodyguard Shas'Vre
    XV8 upgraded to Shas'Vre

    These items are spread throughout the weaponry, Support systems and Wargear lists. The suits listed in blue above can only take them and they also do not have to be represented on the model (weapons do obviously). They are identified by the phrase special issue in brackets beneath their description. I will discuss these options in detail later.

    Additional XV8 info

    The XV8 also has the 'Acute senses' rule as standard, this basically allows a re-roll of the test to determine how far the XV8 can see in night fight scenarios. A commander level XV8 also confers this advantage to any unit it joins. This rule is intrinsic to all Battle suits and does not cost anything nor take up any hard points.

    The XV8 is available for selection in two force organisation slots, the HQ and the Elite slots.

    Within the elite choice there are three grades available:

    (1) The normal 'Elite' XV8. This XV8 is restricted to only taking weapons and Battle suit support systems (non special issue) and cannot take hard wired equipment.

    (2) The 'Team leader' XV8. Upgrading an XV8 to team leader allows access to the Battle suit wargear list in addition to options available to the normal elite XV8. Team leaders can take hard wired systems but not special issue items

    (3) The 'Shas'Vre' XV8. This XV8 can take all the above but also has access to special issue items.

    The XV8 is also available in three guises within the HQ slot:

    The Shas'O and Shas,El. There are differences between these two options I will list below

    The Shas'O is superior to the Shas'El in the following characteristics, weapon skill, ballistics skill, wounds, attacks and leadership. These bonuses to the characteristics sound useful, but on further examination they are not quite as useful as they first appear. Why? You ask.

    Well two of the increases are in relation to hand to hand combat (weapon skill and initiative) and this is something you should be aiming to avoiding mostl times with the HQ XV8 (from now I will refer to these as Commanders).

    The Commanders are the premier mid strength, low AP weaponry platform of the Tau army and should really be used in the shooting role. The only time the WS and AT stats are any use is when a commander configuration called a Ninja is used (I will explain this configuration in detail later). Basically the XV8 is about as good at hand to hand fighting as head on a stick wearing a blindfold. Humour aside the Commander is tailor made to provide highly accurate, high volume (for a single model), highly elusive and hard hitting firepower and it should be utilised in this role alone.

    Another characteristic increase is the +1 to BS but this can be obtained by taking a Shas'El and purchasing a Targeting array. The Shas'El is 25pts cheaper than an O and because commanders can take hard-wired wargear options (detailed later) this is often the most sensible option. The only time it is hard to take an El is if something like a Positional Relay is taken along with two weapons, this makes it impossible to take the Targeting array. So consider this, if you take two Shas'Els outfitted to provide firepower support, you are going to save 30pts minimum over taking Shas'Os and they do just as good a job.

    The last characteristics are wounds and Leadership. The extra wound is in my opinion superfluous. If you utilise the JSJ move and take care to provide decent cover then you should not need the extra wound.
    However if you play the Ninja’O the extra wound can be a useful bonus (especially if taken with a Stimulant injector).

    Leadership is the last increased characteristic. Now this is useful if you are playing a list or games where you will be expect the Commander to take lots of Leadership tests or if you are going to attach the Shas'O to a unit that will benefit from the extra LDS (such as XV88 units). If the extra LDS is not needed then go with a Shas'El as it has a tidy enough LDs value itself. This LDS improvement is basically the only time you should take a Shas'O over a Shas'El.

    The Bodyguard XV8 id the third HQ slot option and can only be taken with either a Shas’El or Shas’O, they form a retinue and up to two can be taken. They do not occupy a force slot because they are taken as a retinue for the commander. Bodyguards have exactly the same access to weaponry, support and wargear options as a Shas’Vre.

    Important rules change alert

    The rules for independent characters (IC's) have changed in the 5th edition rules and have been much simplified. The biggest change to the way they work is the way that shooting works against IC's.

    In 4th the IC could not be targeted if it was not the closest model to the shooting unit, this benefit has now been removed. Basically the IC is now treated exactly the same as any other model when being shot at. So if you have a lone IC Commander it can be legitimately targeted in the same way as any other model; no more targeting immunity.

    Wound allocation has also changed in 5th. Any model that is equipped differently or has a different stat line to the other members of its unit must have wounds allocated to it individually. This means that a Commander ALWAYS has to have wounds allocated to it individually. What does this mean in English, well see below:

    We will take a unit with a Commander and two Bodyguards (both equipped differently). All the models are treated as individual models when allocating wounds; this means that each model must roll saves for the wounds allocated to them and if they fail the saves THEY lose the wounds (you cannot fob wounds of to another model).

    The owning player can decide which model to allocate a wound to; however one wound must be allocated to each model before a second wound can be allocated. This rule has plus and negative sides to it, if you get wounded twice then you can allocate a single wound to each Bodyguard. If however you suffer more wounds than you have models you MUST allocate wounds to the Commander, you can decide which weapon wound is allocated to which model though (important if you are hit by a Lascannon as you can allocate this hit to a Bodyguard for instance).

    When armour saves are rolled you roll each models saves and take any failed saves from that model. You cannot pass wounds to another model. This makes the Commander quite vulnerable unless you take care and think about how you allocate wounds.

    So there we have a breakdown of the basic stats of the XV8, now onto specifics. I am going to start with weaponry.

    XV8 Weaponry, a breakdown

    The XV8 can be tailored to deal with just about any opposition. It can tempting to try to create an XV8 that can handle all situations. The take on all comer XV8 is usually created by giving the XV8 three weapons and a HW multi tracker; however the problem with this is one of the weapons will be under utilised and the suit is expensive. It is actually a much better idea to take a long hard look at your army list and identify where your XV8 will be the most use for the longest amount of the game.

    It is useful and sensible to identify the role you want your XV8 to excel at and outfit it to perform that role at maximum efficiency. The best way to do this is to start with what each weapon can do and what it is most useful against. So let’s do just that.

    I am not going to bother with math hammer kill ratios as this always gets bogged down. I am instead going to simply list how they work and what they are good at.

    Airbursting fragmentation projector
    This is a special issue weapon, which can only be taken by Shas’Vre, Bodyguards and Commanders.
    This weapon is actually quite handy when facing hoard type armies. The AFG uses the large blast template and needs no line of sight. The firing mechanics of the weapon have changed in 5th. To use the weapon you place the template over the target unit and then roll for scatter, then you subtract the firing models BS value from the total scatter.
    I/E if 8 was rolled on the 2D6 scatter die and you used a model with BS5 you would subtract the 5 from the 8 to give a scatter of 3 inches in the direction of the scatter arrow, obviously if a hit is rolled on the scatter dice then you ignore the 2D6.

    With the new scatter rules in mind it is best to take the AFP on a high BS model. This means either taking a Shas'O (a waste of points) or taking a Shas'El or Bodyguard with a Targeting array. The TA is a must because you want that marker to land as accurately as possible. It is also worth noting that the AFP cannot benefit from Marker-light hits, so no +1 to BS for this puppy.

    The AFG suffers no penalties for movement and is a pinning weapon (BGB 32).
    The AFG has decent strength but unfortunately has below average AP; this makes it more suited to use against average toughness units with 5+ and worse saves, such as Tyranids, Imperial guard and Eldar amongst others, where the high instance of 5+ saves makes them vulnerable.
    The other good characteristic of this weapon is it ignores cover saves, allied with not needing line of sight this weapon is very good in city fight and heavy terrain boards.

    The only downsides to this weapon are its limited range and its reliance on luck. Some players see the commanders as a good place for this weapon; however you need to realise that IC status no longer offers the protection it did which means that the Commander can be left in a very vulnerable position. The other thing as well is you are wasting the commanders superior ballistic skill, which is better used with the other harder hitting weapons. I would stick to putting this on a Targeting array equipped Shas'Vre with a flamer and HW Multi tracker (though at 74pts it ain't cheap).

    Burst Cannon
    This weapon can be taken by any XV8 and has caused much argument about its usefulness. The main problem with this weapon is it does nothing that other elements in the Tau list can't do. When coupled with a Plasma rifle and a Multi tracker the suit can rack up decent kill ratios but lacks versatility and relies on dice rolls much more than suit configurations that achieve comparable but more consistent kill rates.

    The problem is that the Tau list is inundated with strength 5 weapons, we have Stealth suits that have Burst cannons and have the same movement bonuses as the XV8, but they are much more survivable due to their spotting field. This leads us to the main problem with the Burst cannon ‘range’.

    When you consider the average BS of most XV8’s, the fact that only three shots are available and the poor AP of the weapon, then your XV8 is going to be at risk using it against most target units. Most players do not bother with the Burst cannon but it can be useful if coupled with the AFG as an anti hoard weapon.

    Cyclic ion blaster
    This weapon can be used by any suit with access to special issue wargear.
    This weapon is most often used with the Plasma rifle and a Multi tracker (named the “Centurion” build). This weapon has 5 shots and has a special rule, which means any to wound roll of six counts as AP1. Sounds great however some other aspects of the weapon have to be taken into account, such as strength, range and its standard AP.

    Unless the CIB is taken with a Shas’El, O, or Shas’Vre the average BS of the XV8 will mean a miss rate of 50%, ally this with the weapons very low strength and the weapon will struggle to even wound even 1 or 2 toughness three models a turn On top of this the mediocre AP means a high majority of target units will have a save.

    The AP1 it has be said relies totally on luck and in my opinion should not be a basis for selection of the weapon.
    While it cannot be disputed that when it does happen the AP1 is an advantage, I would not like to face a unit of Marines and rely on luck to get decent AP.

    Many swear by the Centurion configuration, I however think that it relies to much on luck and with its low strength and below par AP (for an XV8 weapon) working against it, I would advise really considering other less luck reliant weaponry first.

    This weapon can be used by any XV8.
    Now this weapon has taken a massive boost in 5th due to the new rules for stacking wounds with template weapons. A single Flamer should be avoided for the most part, it simply is to close ranged and under strength to be used safely by any XV8.
    The only place I could see this being of any use is when taken with the AFG as an anti hoard weapon, even then I would be very wary.

    However twin linked Flamers are a whole new ball game. The new rules for templates mean that wounds caused by multiple template weapons are now stacked (I/E you roll to wound for each template and then total ALL the wounds, this is different to 4th). On top of this you do not roll to hit (no change there) and with twin linked Flamers you re-roll all failed wounds. This combination of effects can be devastating to infantry with poor armour saves and a unit of three XV8's with twin linked Flamers can seriously damage hoard type units (Tyranids, Orks etc)

    The Flamer also offers the advantage of no cover saves. I used to advise against the Flamer wholesale but now I am happy to recommend the twin linked Flamer.

    Fusion Blaster
    This weapon can be used by any XV8.
    A mixed bag, offers fantastic strength and AP characteristics, which can defeat just about any target it faces. Only problem is the very short 12” range makes it dangerous for the normal XV8 to use. This range issue means it is most sensible to use the Fusion on HQ level XV8’s where their superior ballistic skill will make the weapon more effective and reduce the chance of return fire.

    That said the Fusion is quite simply the weapon of choice against armour, tough units like Terminators, Monstrous creatures and characters etc. Couple this weapon with a Plasma rifle and a Multi Tracker and you have an XV8 that can take down anything thrown at it.

    If you elect to use this weapon then it is wise to be very good at guessing ranges and if used on a commander level XV8, make sure you are fully acquainted with the intricacies of using cover, range judgement and the JSJ rules.

    All in all a very effective weapon but it needs skill to get the most out of.

    Missile pod
    This weapon can be used by any XV8.
    The Missile pod is the quintessential XV8 weapon. Fantastic strength, good AP, more than adequate range and reasonable cost make it a very popular choice. ;Y

    The Missile pod is used most often on two configurations, the Fire Knife and the Deathrain. Both suits are good configurations and serve different purposes (which I will discuss later).
    The Missile pod offers the advantage of considerable range, which allows the advantage of survivability due to stand of. It also has the best strength bar the Fusion of any weapon available to the XV8 and can take any vehicle down up to AV13.

    The average AP is the only slight down side to this weapon, so this weapon is best used to take down mid range AV armour, things like Dreadnoughts and Kans and can be useful against high toughness targets. Its average AP means it can struggle against models with 3+ and lower saves, but its strength and range more than compensate for this.

    To my way of thinking a Tau list without Missile pods is not a Tau list.

    Plasma rifle
    This weapon can be used by any XV8.
    The Plasma is the weapon of choice for most players and with very good cause.;Y The high strength and punishing AP makes this weapon of choice against tougher, low save (SV3 and below) targets. Being a rapid-fire weapon also means it is dangerous for opponents to get close to any XV8 carrying it.

    As discussed earlier the XV8 does not count as moving when firing rapid-fire weapons, so the XV8 can always elect to fire two shots at 12” or fire a single shot up to the weapons maximum range. This means a Plasma Rifle has an effective range of 30” and that is a long reach for a model with a Plasma weapon and is only bested by the Plasma Cannon and even that cannot be shot if the model moved.

    The 24” range of the Plasma means it couples well with the Missile pod and is fearsome when coupled with a Fusion blaster.

    There are a couple of downsides to the Plasma is it is not cheap and the new cover save rules in 5th can reduce the weapons AP effectiveness. However these are small downsides and they do not stop it being taken by most players. It is pretty much regarded as compulsory by many players and is pretty much standard on HQ level XV8’s.

    Believe me if you could take a hard wired Targeting Array every suit in my list would have a Plasma rifle. They would have the following configuration, twin linked Missile Pods, Plasma rifle and HW multi and TA, we can only dream.

    Battle suit support systems

    Here I am going to discuss the options available as support systems for the XV8.

    Blacksun Filter
    This item can be used by any XV8.
    This item doubles the distance of the roll for spotting distance in night fight scenarios. Very rarely used but can be useful.

    Command and control node
    This item is only for use by Shas’Vre, Bodyguards and HQ XV8’s.
    This item allows any unit within 12” of the bearer to use the bearer’s leadership for target priority tests. This item is now redundant in the 5th rules as TP test no longer exist.

    Drone controller
    This item can be used by any XV8.

    This item allows the selection of up to two Drones of any type and you can take a mixture of any of the Drone types.

    When you consider the XV8’s JSJ advantage the Shield Drone should not really be needed.
    Markerlight Drones have now become a valid option with the new 5th edition rules. XV8's are now able to move and shoot with heavy weapons and because Drones are classed as the same unit type as their controller they get the relentless rule as well. This now means that ML Drones can finally claim a rightful place in the Tau list.

    We finally have an effective Fire-Knife squad. The Fire-Knife suffers from one major disadvantage, at elite level you have to decide whether you want one weapon per turn at superior BS (targeting array) or two weapons at normal BS (Multi Tracker). Either of these two options suck .
    To alleviate this problem a team leader can take a Drone controller and an ML Drone (he takes a Targeting array and HW multi as well). Taking the Drone allows the remaining team member(s) to take a Multi tracker.
    This means that with the ML Drone the team has a 50% chance per turn of upping its BS by +1, however the team ALWAYS has the ability to fire all its weapons. Now the ML Drone is not cheap but it works out at 10pts per team member in a three man team and this has got to be good value when you consider just what 6 rapid fire Plasma and 6 Missile pod shots can do a turn at BS4 (even at BS3 it is not to shabby).
    The other nice benefit is that the ML Drones range is exactly that of the Missile pod, this means that the Missile Pod gains a real boost in hit rate.

    The main benefit though is simply that the unit can now fire all its weapons every turn (a multi should always be used on Fire-knife elites anyway) but also has a real chance of doing so at +1 to BS. I have used this unit and it is very effective. The only downside is if you take a three man unit you have to be very careful to keep it out of line of sight (not easy with three large models and a Drone) and also be careful to judge targets, it is a very hard hitting unit but it needs using intelligently.

    Multi tracker
    This item can be used by any XV8.
    This should be considered as a compulsory choice for any XV8 with two weapons. It allows the XV8 to fire two weapons in the shooting phase. Nuff said.

    Positional relay
    This item can be used by Shas’Vre, Bodyguards and HQ XV8’s.
    From the second turn of the game this allows a single unit held in reserve to be deployed on a roll of 2+. Only problem is no other unit held in reserve can be deployed when it is used. XV8’s are not well suited to deep strike and neither are Stealth’s so basically this system has very little tactical use unless you have a list and battle plan that is geared towards using reserves.
    When used in conjunction with the Pathfinders Devilfish beacon (allows re-rolls of deep strike scatter dice if unit in line of sight of Devilfish) the POS relay can be used to deploy reserves with a degree of accuracy and safety. Piranhas especially can benefit from this tactic by keeping a couple in reserve for last few turns objective contesting. If you do not play reserve type lists a lot then I would advise against this as an XV8 option.

    Shield generator
    This item can be used by any XV8.
    Offers the XV8 a 4+ invulnerable save, sounds good but it is expensive and is not available as a hard wired option, thus taking up a hard point.
    This should only be considered if you are totally inept at using the JSJ ability and the new cover rules pretty much make this thing redundant. Take the Multi tracker instead.

    Target lock
    This item can be used by any XV8.
    This allows the bearer to select a different target to his unit. Another item that has benefited from the 5th rules. This used to require a target priority test to use but TP test no longer apply. Basically you declare the targets any TL equipped model is firing and the target the rest of the unit is firing at and fire. This is only really useful when taken as a hard-wired option on team leaders and above.
    It should also be noted that only one target lock is needed in two man teams and two maximum in three man teams.

    The Target lock can be a useful system on things like Deathrain teams, where it allows the targeting of more units when needed (such as the first few turns of a game where multiple transports are moving forward) .

    There is also another contentious benefit of taking a Target lock. If a model with a Drone controller and ML Drone also takes a Target lock then it is argued that either the ML Drone fires at the same target the controlling model targets or it fires at the same target the rest of the non TL equipped unit fires at. My feeling is the Drone fires at the same target as the controlling model but the opinion is split.
    I would advise discussing this with your opponent if you take a controlled ML Drone with a TL and deciding amicably or toss a coin or make a house rule. As it stands the rules are not clear and can be interpreted either way.

    Targeting array
    This item can be used by any XV8.
    A boost to ballistic skill is always useful. The only problem is that the TA is only available as a hard point option. This makes for a hard choice for the Tau player; when taking a normal two weapon elite XV8, the choice has to be made to take a Multi Tracker or the Targeting array.
    Each system offers advantages but also disadvantages (two weapons a turn at BS3 or one weapon a turn at BS4), this means that most players will only take the TA only on team leader XV8’s with a hard wired Multi tracker and take multi trackers on the other team members. (see the Drone entry above for further discussion regarding this problem with Fire-knife units)
    The most popular places to take the TA are on Deathrain suits and on Shas’Els.

    Vectored retro-thrusters
    Can be used by Shas’Vre’s, Bodyguards and HQXV8’s.
    This gives the bearer the hit and run special rule (BGB 74). Only of any use on Ninja configuration commanders. Other wise avoid like the plague, as no XV8 should ever be in close combat.

    Additional Wargear

    Here I am going to list the other stuff available to the XV8 (please note that anything that is available as a hardwired option that has been described earlier will not be listed as they have exactly the same rules).

    It should be remembered that hardwired options for wargear and support systems cannot be taken if the same item has been taken on a hard point.

    Special issue items can only be taken by HQ, Bodyguards and Shas’Vre level XV8’s

    Bonding knife
    This item can be used by any XV8.
    Means the bearers unit can re-group even if below half strength. The bearer of the knife has to be alive to get the benefit.
    I used to advise not to take these on XV8’s teams for the following reason. In 4th If a three man XV8 team was reduced to less then 50% of its starting strength it had one member left. If a unit had one member left it took ‘last man standing tests’ thus negating the test to re-group.
    However in 5th the last man standing rule no longer exists and the remaining lone XV8 would not be able to re-group. This is a waste of a valuable resource. So my view on these has changed somewhat. I do not use them in most games because I am pretty good at preserving my XV8 units (I usually use the Deathrain and keep it at long range), however if I was participating in a tournament or I was going to use the expensive Fire-knife team I described above then the Bonding Knife is a necessity.

    Please note that a common misconception is that the Bonding Knife allows automatic re-grouping as per Marines. This is not the case it allows the unit to attempt to re-group as per the rules in the BGB page 46.

    Another thing to note with the Bonding knife is who can take them. A BK can only be taken by team leaders and above, sounds OK! well no not really. The new wound allocation rules state you have to allocate wounds individually to models that have differing stat lines or equipment. Well the BK equipped XV8 is always going to be different because it is the only model that can take the BK.
    This means that in small three man XV8 units there is a real chance of the BK bearing XV8 taking wounds and dying. For the BK benefits to apply the bearing model has to be alive.

    This is a real problem because before you could keep the BK bearing model alive by judicious wound placement; in 5th this is not so easy so just be aware of it when taking the BK.

    The Bonding knife does not take up a hard point.

    Ejection system
    Special issue
    Basically pretty much useless. Victory points no longer exist and the only possible benefit is to deny one kill point to your opponent (if the stat inferior model survives the game that is). Ignore completely is my advice.

    Failsafe detonator
    Special issue
    This allows an XV8 to sacrifice itself rather than fallback. This is a very specialised piece of kit and can only be used in one very specific circumstance. The detonator can be only used if the unit the bearer is in has lost an assault and is falling back, pretty restrictive. The bearer stays put and the large blast marker is placed over the XV8 model and any model covered by the template takes a STR8 hit, the enemy unit can only consolidate.

    Given the very specific set of circumstances this item is only useful in, it seems a pointless item. When you consider that most teams are two men strong the fact that the sweeping advance is prevented hardly seems much of a benefit. I would advise not taking this.

    Iridium Armour
    Special issue
    Confers a 2+ save to the XV8, only problem is it reduces the assault move to D6. The main survival mechanism of the XV8 is its assault phase move and not its armour save. Not recommended.

    Stimulant injector
    Special issue
    Quite a nice item as it grants the user the feel no pain ability (BGB 75). If you have the points spare this is a decent item to take on valuable Commanders. However the list of things the FNP ability does not work against is long. So so do not rely on it, make sure you play the XV8 as if it had no Stim injector is the sensible way to use this item.

    So there we have a pretty full list of what is available to equip the XV8. Next I am going to discuss some of the most popular builds for the XV8’s. I am going to list the common names and the equipment for each configuration.
    Obviously I am not going to list every single possible combination of weapons and gear, it would be pointless and unproductive. I am simply going to list the most popular builds.

    XV8 suit builds

    Fire Knife
    Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod and either the Multi tracker or targeting array.
    This configuration is probably the best known and one of the most widely used XV8 builds. This is a very good all round suit build with the ability to deal with armour up to and including AV13 and most other targets.
    The two weapons are nicely matched for range and the suit allows for effective firepower anywhere out to 36” and is very strong at 12” rapid fire range with 4 high strength shots.

    The only real problem with the build is the fact that normal elite XV8’s have to decide between firing two weapons at BS3 a turn or improved ballistic skill but losing the ability to fire both weapons. Using a team leader alleviates this problem by allowing the option to take a HW Multi tracker, but the other team members are stuck with the choice.
    The other slighter downside is cost, a standard Fire Knife costs 62pts and a team leader cost 77pts; a couple of full teams can mean compromises to other parts of the list.

    The basic BS of the normal elite XV8 can be a real disadvantage as it means a 50% miss rate on average. If the suit is relied upon to stop transports for instance or to be used as anti MEQ (Marine equivalent units) then the 50% miss rate can be costly. This has to be considered when taking Fire Knives because you are paying quite a high cost for an XV8 that has a high chance of not performing.

    However as discussed earlier we now have the option to take a Marker-light Drone and this (while upping the cost of the unit) alleviate most of the faults described above. If a Fire-Knife team is desired I would advise taking the ML Drone option.. Many players find it better to avoid generalised suit builds and take more specialised suit builds but I honestly feel that the Fire-Knife has been served well by the new rules and is a much more effective option.

    Though I may sound less then enamoured with the non ML Drone equipped Fire knife it has to be said that many many players find much success with the Fire-knife and I am not in anyway saying it is a bad choice. If you want a good solid all round suit build you cannot go far wrong with a Fire-Knife. Not everyone wants specialised XV8’s and you handle most stuff with a few Fire-Knives.

    The main strength of the Fire-Knife is its ability to handle pretty much anything that is thrown at it. The only thing it really struggles against is AV13 and above vehicles (even then it can take down AV13 with luck). The accuracy issue can be alleviated by use of Marker lights (however this means other units are not benefiting from the ML’s) and the ML Drone having the Plasma means they are better against models with 3+ and lower saves, that things like Deathrains struggle against.

    The Deathrain
    Twin linked Missile pod and either Targeting array, Blacksun filter or Flamer
    This configuration is rapidly gaining popularity and is possibly taking over the Fire-Knifes position as the number one suit build and for good reason.

    The Deathrain has a number of advantages these include high accuracy, low cost and survivability. The most popular build is the Targeting array build; this gives a near 100% hit rate but does up the cost to 53pts. While this is still cheap many players are happy with the standard hit rate sans TA.

    The other popular build is the Flamer variant, many see this as simply a cost reduction exercise and I tend to agree, as the Flamer is not going to be used if the Deathrain is used properly. Some argue that the Flamer is a good secondary weapon failsafe option, to be used if an opposition unit gets to close. Seems reasonable but truthfully if an opposition unit is that close it is usually to late for a Flamer to make much difference.

    The main use of the Deathrain is as an anti armour unit and it is very effective at this role. The enhanced accuracy of the Deathrain means it can be pretty much relied on to stop or damage any armour up to and including AV13. A two man unit can lay down serious firepower.

    The low cost of even a Targeting array and Target lock equipped Deathrain together with its survivability makes the quite specialised nature of the build easier to stomach; however the high strength and decent AP of the missile pod makes the Deathrain effective against many targets and its effectiveness against other non armour targets should not be under estimated.

    Down sides if any are probably a slight lack of versatility and the average AP means they are not brilliant against MEQ or other 2 and 3+ save units.

    Probably the best transport stopper in the whole 40K universe, I would recommend the Deathrain with TA over any other suit build, obviously this is only my opinion but it is also based on fact and many many many successful games using them.

    Burning eye
    Twin linked Plasma rifle and Targeting array.
    A very specialised suit build used primarily as an anti MEQ and anti tough unit killer.
    Undoubtedly a unit of three of these would be effective in rapid-fire range but at anything over rapid fire range the unit is restricted to only three shots. Now it is true that those three shots will usually hit and have good strength and AP the fact of the matter is a unit of three basic Burning eye's costs 195pts. This is very expensive for a specialised unit.

    If you are facing a lot of Marine type lists then this suit fit is certainly a good strong unit; however for most lists a mix of Deathrains and Fire-Knives is a better more versatile choice.

    Cyclonic ion blaster, Plasma rifle and either Multi tracker or Targeting array
    A popular choice amongst many players for the Commander suits. When things go right for this build it is indeed an effective configuration; however the phrase “when things go right” is the problem. The CIB is very (nay totally) reliant on luck to perform against tougher 3+ SV and lower targets.

    The Centurion is only really effective on Shas’Vre and above because it needs the ability to shoot both weapons at a decent BS to be truly effective. This is why the Centurion tends to be restricted to Commanders. The Centurion can be useful against infantry (tgh 3-4, 5-6 SV units) however it has to be said that the Tau list is absolutely inundated with units that can do this job anyway.

    If you lack anti infantry and are prepared to sacrifice the ability of the commanders to field high strength, low AP weaponry then the Centurion is for you. I am not going to say this is a 'bad' suit build but I feel it is way to reliant on luck for results.

    Twin linked Fusion blasters with either Targeting array or Shield Generator
    A quite rarely seen suit build, the Sunforge is usually considered for use as a suicide anti armour XV8. Very close range is needed to be effective and accuracy is essential.

    This suit is usually deep struck near armour, where it will usually only get one turn before it is destroyed or prevented from shooting by assault. With the suicidal nature of the suit many players elect to take a Shield Generator instead of the Targeting array; I however think the TA is the better option because the Shield generator is not much use against massed small arms fire (of which there will usually be much). The TA allows a higher chance of success.
    The Sunforge utilising the Fusion is obviously useful against all the targets I discussed in the Fusion entry earlier, but has the benefit of twin linking.

    With the TA the suit costs the same as a Deathrain and could be considered if you meet a lot of high AV vehicles and tough units. I however feel that its short range and single shot make it a poor choice and for 10pts more a Fire Knife could be taken which would offer a bit more versatility and survivability.

    If you are going to use the Sunforge on a regular basis then a Shas'El with Positional relay and the use of the Pathfinder Devilfish's beacon is worth thinking about. Using these will allow the Sunforge to Deepstrike with a fairly decent level of precision and also allow it to enter the game when you decide it is optimal.

    The Helios
    Plasma rifle, Fusion Blaster and either Targeting array or Multi tracker
    Ahhh the venerable Helios, a more mixed bag of a suit really does not exist.

    Straight away it has to be said that this suit is the hardest hitting suit build available to the XV8. It is however also probably the most dangerous to use after the Sunforge. The potent combination of weaponry means that this suit can handle any and every target it meets; however it does have a serious problem.

    The problem is the range, the Fusion is only useful at 12" (6" against AV13/14 vehicles) and the Plasma is obviously a rapid fire weapon. So to get the most bang for the buck you are working at 12". This usually leaves the XV8 at a retreat distance after JSJ of 18", not good.

    Now in 4th the suit was more viable because it could be taken on commanders and the IC status meant it was much more likely to avoid return fire. It is because of this range issue that most Helios suits were taken on commanders (usually the Shas'El with a TA to reduce cost).
    Now we have 5th and no more immunity to targeting for independent characters, they are treated exactly the same as any other unit in 5th. If the lone commander can be seen it can be shot irrelevant of its closeness or distance away from the targeting unit (this sucks).

    This rules change has seriously compromised the Fusion as a weapon of choice. It is still a good choice on a Shas'El if you want a hard hitting suit to take down tough units/characters/MC's etc. You do however have to be extremely careful and judge just how much of a risk attacking a unit is going to be. For instance attacking a unit off five Terminators with a lone commander is going to be suicide unless you have a solid retreat position (I/E behind terrain that denies total LOS). That said there is no harder hitting unit in the Tau arsenal (Hammerhead aside) than a Helios.

    I used to recommend taking a Helios on nothing other than a commander. However I think the cheaper Monat team leader Helios with TA and HW multi is the better option at 72pts compared to 97 for the Shas'El Helios. I know it is -1 BS but at least you are not losing a valuable HQ. As far as HQ goes now I would recommend the Fire-Knfe Shas'El with TA and HW multi tracker.

    So use the Monat elite Helios suit build to take down dangerous tough characters, Monstrous creatures, Transports, Dreadnoughts and tough armour etc. Use it in this way and it will reward, obviously it is not an infantry grunt killer.

    Fire storm
    Missile pod, Burst cannon and either Targeting array or Multi tracker
    This is a funny suit build and one that does not see much action. It is a cheaper suit build and actually has comparable kill rates to the Fire Knife against most things. It does however struggle against things with 2+ saves and you have to be aware of this. It also suffers from the same problem as the Fire Knife in that unless you choose a team leader you have to make a choice of accuracy or shot volume.

    Not as bad a choice as you might think, if you can live without Plasma and need to save points then this may be for you, myself I just think that Burst cannons do not really belong on XV8's and prefer the security of the Plasma's superior AP.

    There is a great guide to this build over at ATT which explains pretty much everything about the Fire storm better than I ever could, linked here >Advanced Tau Tactica :: View topic - [Tactica] Fire Storm

    Blade storm
    Plasma rifle, Burst cannon and either Targeting array or Multi tracker
    I do not actually see the point in this suit, if you want anti hoard go CIB and AFP, if you want anti MEQ go twin linked Plasma. Basically an XV8 with a Plasma is much better of with a Missile pod as it allows for much more target diversity but also gives the suit much better range. Anyway a Missile pod is only one shot less then a Burst cannon but has much much better strength and better AP. I see no reason other than saving a few points to take this build.

    Fire surge
    Fusion blaster, Missile pod and either Targeting array or multi
    This suit suffers from a disparity in weapon ranges, of course the Missile pod can be used at 12” but to be quite honest if you take Missile pods they are better used at long range to enhance the suits survivability. If you want to take MP’s then you are better of taking the cheaper more accurate Deathrain anyway. Same goes for the Fusion, if you want to work with a Fusion it is much better having the safety net of a Plasma rifle and Multi tracker.
    I see no real point in this suit build.

    Storm surge
    Fusion Blaster, Burst cannon and either Targeting array or Multi tracker
    Again this suit build suffers from a disparity of roles, basically if your using the Fusion on armour the Burst cannon is useless. If you are using the Burst cannon as anti hoard/infantry then the Fusion only adds one kill.
    If you want the Fusion use a Helios, if you want the Burst cannon go Blade storm. Either way you get the strength, shot volume and great AP of the Plasma and that is always a bonus.

    Nice and crispy (my name for this build) or Heatwave
    Twin linked Flamer and usually Black sun filter (for cheapness)
    In 4th I never ever advised taking the Flamer equipped XV8 (in any configuration). This has changed in 5th, when the new rules came out a few enlightened individuals (you know who you are) pointed the twin linked Flamer out as a valid weapons fit for the XV8 and like a berk I argued against it. Well I apologise and I was wrong. The twin linked Flamer XV8 is now a very valid hard hitting XV8 suit build IN THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES.

    The build usually consist of twin linked Flamer (obviously) and the cheapest bit of kit you can add (usually the BSF). Now I am going to advise against this and offer the following suit build.

    Three XV8's with Twin linked Flamers, Drone Controllers and three Gun Drones. Why the Drones you ask?
    The Drones are there for a few reasons:

    (1) Pinning, now I know pinning is usually seen as a dubious benefit but in this case it is a valid choice. The Flamer unit is by virtue of its weaponry a close range unit, ally this with the fact that it is usually used against low save cheap units that are usually of a large unit size (Hormigaunts, Imperial guard infantry, Orks) then the chance of pinning the unit is extremely valuable, It offers the chance for the unit to inflict even more damage next turn and also it negates return fire from the targeted unit.

    (2) Casualty handling, the Drones are different in stat line to the XV8's this means that you can choose to put the most damaging wounds from shooting on the Drones. It also means that the unit has to lose 3 models before it tests for fall back. You can also allocate the most damaging wounds to the Drones in close combat as well (power weapons/fists anyone).

    (3) Assault: if you are unlucky enough to get assaulted by the unit you attempted to take down, the Drones offer a bit more survivability. Drone are actually pretty good in assault and you can always palm of the power weapon hits to them.

    The fact is that for 30pts more you get a unit that is more survivable, inflicts more damage and can pin a unit if you are lucky.

    The new rules for templates mean that wounds caused by multiple template weapons are now stacked (I/E you roll to wound for each template and then total ALL the wounds, this is different to 4th). On top of this you do not roll to hit (no change there) and with twin linked Flamers you re-roll all failed wounds. This combination of effects can be devastating to infantry with poor armour saves and a unit of three XV8's with twin linked Flamers can seriously damage hoard type units (Tyranids, Orks etc). The Flamer also negates the effects of cover.

    The AFP suit
    We also have the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector. I do not really know the naming convention for a suit with this weapon; however I think the AFP goes well with two other weapons, the twin linked Missile pod and the Cyclic ion blaster.

    With the AFP, TL missile pod and Multi tracker you have a quite potent suit that can deal with Hoards using the AFP (and is quite useful against MEQS) and a highly accurate means of dealing with armour using the twin linked MP. This suit would be very effective in city fight scenarios or on fields with lots of terrain.

    Couple the AFP with a CIB and a Multi tracker and you have a quite potent anti hoard suit. Equip a Shas'Vre with these two weapons a Targeting array and a HW multi and you have an effective (if expensive) low toughness, 4+ and above SV unit killer.

    Not two suit builds I would recommend in a primary list, but certainly not as useless as some other suit builds and worth a go for the fun.

    Plasma, Burst cannon, vectored retro thrusters, Stimulant injectors, Shield Generator and maybe Iridium armour.
    This suit is geared towards one thing; assault. The idea is the suit shoots and then assaults a unit, then it uses the hit and run special rule to leave combat.

    I am not going to lie to you I do not rate this suit build, the XV8 are simply not very good at assaults. Even a Shas’O is only initiative three and weapon skill four and this simply means they are not very effective. If you want assault capability then go for Kroot and Hounds (they do a much better job). The XV8 is a shooting platform first and foremost and the amount spent on points for a Ninja’O are rarely recouped.

    I have listed a Burst cannon as this is a useful combination with the Plasma to lay down fire before charging; however other weapons can be and are used but the cost goes up for things like Missile pods and Fusion blasters and you really have to judge how effective the more expensive weapons options will be.

    Granted if you outfit it with a Shield Gen and Sims it is going to be a hard nut to crack but it simply does not do enough damage in assaults to justify risking it in them. You are much better advised taking a cheaper basic Shas’El with two weapons, TA and Multi and just shooting and retreating to live for another turn of shooting.

    Some players swear by this suit build but it really has not caught on that widely. I simply think that risking the valuable asset that is the Shas’El or O on dubious assaults is ill advised. Use the Shas’El/O at what they excel at, dealing death with high strength effective weaponry.
    I know the idea of the suit is to shoot, get into CC and then leave however having the ability to leave does not prevent the XV8 taking wounds or dying from insta kill weaponry (power fists etc are not covered by Stim injectors) and with the XV8's poor WS and INT this is always going to be a massive risk. I prefer to avoid CC with any XV8 and leave that job to Kroot (who are much better at it)

    Update: Thanks to Psybomb for bringing a new Ninja'O suit build to my attention. Some players are using the Ninja with twin linked Flamers, the idea being the cost is somewhat reduced and the Flamers soften up the target nicely. I am still in two minds about this build even with the reduced cost (141pts with all the equipment needed as opposed to 163pts) it is still a fantastically expensive suit and the same problems apply with the INT and WS. The suit still only has one flamer template to work with and I really think that even with re-rolls to wound the damage potential is not worth the risk of taking such an expensive build. Like I said stick to what the Shas'o/El's are good at shooting with good ranged weapons. However fun is the name of the game and I am not going to DO NOT use the Ninja, it would certainly make for a different play experience.

    Three weapon builds
    Taking three weapons on an XV8 is not a good idea. First of all it means if you want to take any support system it has to be taken as a hard wired option. This means taking a team leader upgrade at minimum, which makes the suits expensive (3 weapons, team leader and even one HW option adds up).
    Every turn one weapon is going to be wasted and in most games one particular weapon will usually be used less then the others. This is an inefficient use of points. It makes more sense to take cheaper suits with two weapons and the ability to maximise the use of those two weapons. I am not going to list all the possible combinations of three weapons, simply because I cannot in all honesty ever advise taking them.

    Now the suit builds listed above are the basic suit builds. Most have been listed with two weapons and either the option of a Targeting array or a Multi tracker. When talking a normal elite level XV8 you are limited to choosing one or two items of support gear (sacrificing a weapon to take two), so I have included the two most common items taken in these builds.
    Obviously the choice is open to take other items of wargear but the article would have been even longer and you can gain an idea of how useful each will be from their individual descriptions. Just remember that on normal elite XV8’s you are limited by the amount of hard points and hard wire is not an option.

    The option to take further build combinations of items is available by upgrading an XV8 to a team leader or Shas’Vre. Only one member of a team can be upgraded in such a fashion. This is useful as it allows one XV8 in a team to avoid the hassle of choosing between an improvement to BS or firing two weapons as the Multi tracker can be taken hard wired.

    To be quite honest the Targeting array and Multi tracker are probably what 95% of suit builds will use, with hard wired items usually only used on team leaders and Commanders. Even then the most common HW option is the Multi tracker taken with the Targeting array. The other useful option especially for Fire-knife and Deathrain teams is the hard-wired target lock. This option allows the flexibility of targeting two or more units a turn.

    The only other things to remember are that you are limited to 100pts of wargear and hard wire options and that no item can ever be taken twice.

    So how do we use the XV8?

    I will start with the Commanders.

    The Commanders
    The rules for Independent character have changed in 5th and have gotten a lot simpler, I am going to again provide the link to my article about IC XV8’s here >, this article explained all the nuances of the IC rules, however most of the rules have changed. This article should still be considered an essential part of this guide.

    The commanders have enhanced stat lines, which were discussed earlier. I always advise taking two commanders in 1500pts and above, as they are such a powerful unit.

    The Tau do have a couple of niggling problems, average BS and a lack of mid strength, low AP weapon platforms. Given these disadvantages it only makes sense to try to utilise the best resource the Tau player has to alleviate these problems, this resource is the Commander.

    The Commander offers the best chance to utilise weapons like the Plasma and Missile pod (MP after the Deathrain obviously) and to a lesser degree the Fusion. With its enhanced stat line over a normal XV8 the Commander offers the Tau player a platform that can be relied to hit consistently, damage consistently and reliably avoid return fire. On top of this the Commanders both have very good leadership, which in an army of LDS 7 and 8 models can often prove useful. Joining a Commander to another unit of XV8’s can result in passing fall back and re-grouping tests etc.

    Probably the best use of the Commander is to equip him with Fire knife build and let him go roaming, picking of targets at will and lending his considerable punch anywhere that the lines appear weak.

    The Commander is also a very good means of protecting vulnerable units and vehicles. Deep Strike is a real threat to Tau vehicles in the first few turns of a game; the Commander with Fusion and Plasma is a real deterrent to any unit. Anyone will think twice about plonking a unit of 5 expensive Terminators within 18” of a Shas’El Helios.
    On the other hand some players will actively seek out a Shas’El as a deep strike target and this can be used to lure units into an ambush (amazing how many players are blinded by an apparently juicy target).

    So basically the Commander is guaranteed effective way of delivering a hard punch to anything in the opponents army. Take two Commanders and give each a defined purpose and they will reward you.

    Do not take a Commander and expect them to be a ‘Jack of all trades’ because they are better suited as a focused unit. I use my Shas’El's as transport hunters and this is their primary role, this is what they do until the job is done, then they help where needed.

    Commanders can be relied upon to do their jobs well and they will contribute best to the success of the list by sticking to their roles. By stopping units closing fast and dealing with opposition tanks they allow the rest of my list to function in much safer, tactically flexible conditions. If I took XV8's that were tailored to try to do everything my list would simply not work as well as it does.

    So decide a role for your Commanders and outfit them to fit it, do not be tempted to think “oh I could take that Flamer just in case I meet some I troopers” etc. DO NOT outfit them to be a ‘Jack of all trades’.

    Last is the Commanders additional abilities. A Commander comes with the 'Skilled Rider' and 'Move through cover' special rules (BGB 75/76), something often missed by players.
    The rule for skilled rider no longer applies to XV8's because the rule now states the unit type has to be either cavalry or bike (thanks to Psybomb for pointing this out as I missed it). The rule for 'Move throuh cover' allows the playernd to roll an extra D6 (three D6 and pick the highest) when moving through difficult terrain (Move through cover).

    Using the XV8 and defining its role

    Now for the normal XV8, again defining a role for them is the key. XV8’s do not win games alone, in fact if you expect too much of them and spend too many points on them expecting them to sweep any and everything before them you will be disappointed and you will lose games.

    The XV8 is a vital lynch pin to the Tau army and they work best when performing specific roles. Now I am not saying they cannot be flexible outside this role but they should not be tailored to be flexible. The problem with flexibility is it costs a lot. I will try to illustrate this, lets give an XV8 three weapons, Plasma, Fusion and a Missile Pod (44pts), now we need a Multi tracker but we have to go hard wired, another 10pts. So we have a 79pts suit that can only use two weapons a turn BUT it shoots at BS3 and misses 50% of the time. Like I said just not efficient.

    Remember for every extra weapon or support system you take you have to take points away from something else. So you are reducing the effectiveness of another unit to gain a very small gain for the XV8. Often the loss of effectiveness will outweigh the gain from a weapon you may rarely if ever use.

    By defining a role for your XV8 you can tune the build to maximum efficiency. Take the Deathrain, highly efficient light vehicle killer. It fulfils a very important specific role because there are a lot of light vehicles out there and the Deathrain is deathly efficient at killing them. If we rely on the three-weapon suit I described earlier to kill light vehicles we will be disappointed. The Deathrain costs 53pts and every single point is highly accurate, high strength maximised efficiency.

    The XV8 with an AFP and CIB with Multi will be an awesome light infantry killer, giving it anything else will simply detract and distract from this role.

    Even the Fire knife should be focussed, you should decide which you want, shot volume or enhanced accuracy or pay a slight bit more and take an ML Drone. Whichever option you pick decide a role for the Fire knife, stick to it and pick the best build for that role.
    If you want MEQ killing then go for the Multi tracker because the shot volume will be better at rapid-fire distance. If you want them to kill vehicles go for the Targeting array as it will aid the Missile pod to do its job and you still get decent Plasma if MEQs get to close.
    The MP is the key weapon in the vehicle hunting role and this is why the TA is the better choice in this role, because it is better avoiding the MEQs by keeping out of range until the vehicles are dead (then you can go MEQ hunting etc).

    Again remember we now have the marker-light Drone option as well and if this is taken the decisions above are very much removed but only if you are not compromising some other part of the list (it is a balancing act I know).

    The same goes for build like the Ninja’O, by taking this suit you are taking a role specific XV8. So outfit it to carry out that role. If you give it stuff like Targeting arrays etc in the expectation of dual roles for the Ninja, well all you will get is a needlessly expensive Commander with additions that do not aid it in its primary roll. So stay focussed and avoid the temptation to generalise with the XV8.

    Decide what your XV8’s primary role is going to be and build it to perform that role in as efficient a way as possible. Ignore anything else that does not contribute to that role and you will I guarantee be pleasantly surprised at how effective and cost efficient this paring down is.

    Do not think that focusing the XV8 on one role will mean it is going to be restricted, even the most specialised of XV8’s are surprisingly good at performing other roles,but only WHEN their main role has been accomplished.

    Next we come to the question of how many XV8’s is the right amount. Well by defining the roles and what you expect from your XV8’s then usually a balance can be struck.
    XV8’s are expensive and taking too many or a few with a lot of extras can really defeat the player by taking away points from the rest of the list.

    The XV8 crisis battle suit is by its nature and very name an elite crisis unit. It is there to provide support and be a fast reaction unit . Not to be a crutch that the army is built around.

    If you have a large static component to your army then you are going to be relying on the XV8 to be able to stop your opponent getting to your static units, if you have a mobile army then you need a highly mobile responsive XV8 that can lay down fire at varying ranges to respond to this mobility.

    By building a core to your list (say Fire Warriors, Hammerheads, Stealth and Kroot) you can look at it, study it and then tailor your XV8’s to perform within that core. If you just go ahead and build 3 teams of 3 Fire knives for instance, you will inevitably be building a compromised less effective list around the XV8’s

    If you take the approach of building the core first and then only using the XV8’s you need, you will probably end up with less XV8’s then you thought you would. You will however have XV8’s that are useful, efficient and effective and work WITH the list rather than forcing the list to work with them.

    This is the overriding credo you should apply to the XV8, it is the part of the list that supports, enhances and improves the existing components of the list. Too many players rely on the XV8 to win games, when what they should be doing is creating a list that works well and enhancing it with the XV8.

    A few things that should be remembered:

    Unit size

    Monats are lone suits and they do have a few advantages. They are easy to hide, which is important when using the JSJ move. They never take tests for fall back.

    They can have a few more points spent on them (though this is not an excuse to forget the golden rule “specific roles”).

    They are easy to hide and can exploit more cover than teams. This is much more important than in 4th because of the new line of sight rules.

    They also split the opponents fire nicely and force him to dedicate whole units firepower to taking down one model, it is also less damaging if you lose one model. Drawback is they obviously lack volume of fire and still take up a whole Elite slot.

    Two man teams
    This is often the way to go, still easy to hide but have more firepower than a Monat and you get more options to spread wargear around (for instance Target locks and Drone controllers).

    If you take two Commanders and two teams of two XV8’s in the elites slots, you will have four XV8 units. This is usually enough and is cost effective; it also leaves an elite slot free for Stealth’s if you want to use them.
    Six XV8’s is a lot of firepower and by giving the team leaders hard wired Target locks you can target up to 6 separate units a turn, very flexible.

    The opponent will have a hard time taking down this many XV8’s and the small unit size usually means the elites are hard to draw line of sight to, as they can utilise smaller areas of cover than a three man XV8 team.

    Two Commanders (Helios or Fireknife) and two Deathrain teams with Target locks costs just over 420pts, this is a nice proportion of the points cost for a 1500 or 2000pt list and will be highly effective and yet not detract from other units through draining points (Fire-knives are not that much more expensive either).

    So two man teams are highly cost efficient, easy to use, pack a powerful punch and are survivable. Recommended for most lists.

    The three man team
    Obviously three man teams have the advantage of laying down withering amount of fire-power; while this is obviously a good thing, three man teams do have disadvantages.

    First is the cost. By taking three man teams you are obviously going to be spending a higher proportion of the lists points on these units. This will lead to the XV8’s having to shoulder a greater amount of the offensive duties. A three-man Targeting array equipped Fire-knife team with team leader with HW multi and Target lock will cost around 230pts, over half of the cost of the six XV8’s I described in the two man team paragraph above. Half the points for a team that can tackle two units max a turn but more importantly presents one target to the opponent (one very tempting target) rather than the multiple targets when taking smaller XV8 teams.

    This leads us to the next problem with three man teams ‘concentration of offensive fire-power’ by this I mean a high proportion of the lists offensive ability is concentrated in one or two expensive units. Knock these units down and you lose a massive portion of your fire-power. What compounds this problem is three man units have a large footprint, which make it hard to utilise cover effectively and thus leaves this tempting target exposed for a greater proportion of the game, this is even more of a problem with the new rules as the new line of sight rules are much more generous. Basically if you can see it you can shoot it and three man XV8 units are a big target.

    Which leads us to the next issue ‘fall back’. XV8 three man teams are small and this presents problems when casualties are taken. Basically as soon as you lose one XV8 you are forced to start testing for fall back, as soon as you fail a test you fall back 3D6. Now this does not leave much room for error, a couple of failed tests can mean your expensive XV8 team leaving the field. You should check the rules in the BGB to see how restrictive the rules are governing fall back, even one enemy unit within 6 inches means you cannot re-group.

    There is also one other thing many players miss, if you successfully regroup you can move no further (only to consolidate) and this can leave your XV8 team hanging high and dry and vulnerable.

    Bonding knives are more useful in the 5th edition and should be taken on three man teams as standard unless you are a REALLy good player.

    Overall I tend to steer away from three man teams and unless you are a very accomplished player and list builder I would advise doing the same.

    However three man teams especially with Plasma rifles can be very effective against armies that have expensive, highly armoured units. Because of the expensive nature of these armies (Marines, Chaos, Necrons etc) the outnumbering problem tends to be alleviated and the fire power the XV8 team can lay down is much more damaging (simply because each successful shot is costly for the opponent). In these sorts of circumstances the three-man team can be very successful and indeed are highly recommended.

    The fact that expensive models limit the opponent means that the amount of offensive output coming the Tau players way is reduced, which means it is easier to avoid damage from multiple enemy units.
    If you are playing a high instance of this army type then the three men XV8 team can be highly effective. However remember the rule about specialisation and do not expect these teams to do everything. The rest of the list still needs to be solid and reliable.

    XV8 suit heavy lists can work but they tend to be model light and easily overwhelmed by armies that can field large numbers of units. Even the mighty XV8 is vulnerable to lots of pitiful Lasgun shots or large numbers of assaulting units.

    The XV8 and assaults
    Ok! we all know that Tau are not an assault based army but many new Tau players look at the XV8 and see a decent toughness value, a high strength value and a 3+ save and thinks “cool they must be good at close combat”. Wrong, XV8's are about as good at hand to hand combat as a head on a stick wearing a blindfold.

    What players tend to fail to notice is the pitiful weapon skill and initiative (even the Shas’O is only Int3 and WS4). What this means is that 90% of the time the XV8 is going to hit pretty much last and even an XV8 is only equal to a bog standard Marine grunt in toughness and armour save.

    The poor initiative also leads to another problem, if the XV8 lose the assault (highly likely) and fail their moral test (again very likely with average LDS) they have to test for sweeping advance on their pitiful Initiative. If they fail they die and with INT3 it is more often the case that they will fail.

    So with a combination of poor Initiative, poor weapon skill and average leadership it is possible for even an average infantry squad to beat and chase down an expensive XV8 squad. While there may well be the rare occasion where an assault is worth the risk (to wipe out a few models on an objective late in the game for example), for the most part assault should pretty much be avoided at all costs with the XV8 (even the Commanders).

    Final words
    So there we have it a pretty thorough guide to the XV8. I could have gone into a lot more detail about every single suit build combination etc but I feel that would serve no real purpose (other than leading to eye strain and a semi comatose state).

    The same goes for tactics; tactics are a very personal thing and are influenced by many outside factors and variables. I could give some very detailed scenario specific tactics but I feel the weaponry and suit build descriptions give a good idea as to what sort of tactics and usage they lend themselves to (for instance a Burst cannon and Flamer is not going to be much use against armour and a Deathrain is not much cop against hoards).

    I have instead tried to detail just what is available to the XV8 and provide some in depth information about the unit itself and some basic tactics/useges, rather then try to impose my ideas about how the XV8 should be used in every single scenario.

    Onlainari advised a summary of the most important information and he even supplied the summary. As I for the most part agree with what he listed, I have added his summary below (cheers Oni 8Y)

    Here is the important information:

    * You better have a good reason to not equip your commander with a plasma rifle (points cost is not a good reason).
    * Take a shas'el with targeting array unless you want the improved combat stats (ninja'O) or leadership.
    * Elite XV8's come in 2 flavors, Fireknife and Deathrain. Other configurations fill niche's your list needs, but you need a good reason to need them.
    * Monats are the strongest XV8, however elite spots are limited so the 2 man squad is usually the way to go to get the most firepower for the least amount of downsides.

    While these can be considered opinions, the points are never the less sound advise (still is in 5th) and should be pretty much classed as required. My tactica pretty much says and agrees with the above points.

    I hope that the updated guide is useful and as ever I am open to any critique and willingly ask for any errors to be flagged up.
    Please understand that the views about weapons, wargear and suit fits are just that my opinion, but my opinion is based on years of experience. This however does not mean that these opinions are in anyway the only valid opinion.
    Many players have differing ideas about what constitutes a good XV8 and I would advise reading as much about the XV8 as you can and use my guide merely as starting point to the fun that comes from using a well-constructed XV8 contingent. Enjoy ;Y

    Last edited by Rikimaru; May 17th, 2009 at 20:28.

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    Senior Member oceanwolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rikimaru View Post
    Another characteristic increase is the +1 to BS but this can be obtained by taking a Shas'El and purchasing a Targeting array. The Shas'El is 25pts cheaper than an O and because commanders can take hard-wired wargear options (detailed later) this is often the most sensible option. The only time it is hard to take an El is if something like a Positional Relay is taken along with two weapons, this makes it impossible to take the Targeting array. So consider this, if you take two Shas'Els outfitted to provide firepower support, you are going to save 30pts minimum over taking Shas'Els and they do just as good a job.
    *Little mistake, the Shas'Els should be changed to Shas'Os in the last sentence. Not a big deal, but thought someone new could get mixed up about it.

    Hey thanks a bunch for that riki. As a newer player, this kind of stuff really lays out some good strategies to keep in mind when creating my lists and playing.

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    The deep down truth Rikimaru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oceanwolf View Post
    *Little mistake, the Shas'Els should be changed to Shas'Os in the last sentence. Not a big deal, but thought someone new could get mixed up about it.

    Hey thanks a bunch for that riki. As a newer player, this kind of stuff really lays out some good strategies to keep in mind when creating my lists and playing.

    Well spotted that man, I will change it post haste. Have this cake --> as a thank you

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    Por'vre T'olku Shien
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    Great guide, just a few things to note:

    1) 2-suit teams will never be Broken squads. You have to be BELOW half for this to happen, and 1 standing out of two is still at half. Though the one will need to take a morale test to fall back if his partner is killed, he is able to regroup even without a Bonding Knife.

    2) I believe the naming convention for a TL-Flamer suit is a "Heatwave", at least it is over at ATT.

    3) Personal note, I've been seeing Ninja'O configurations based on the TL-Flamer, since it's range is not an issue (and it's cheaper by a good bit). Anyway, it's meant to dance in and out of combat to keep them locked during their own turn, but wide open during your own.

    4) This is a biggie, IC benefits. Though the commander suits have Skilled Rider, they do not benefit from it since they are neither Cavalry nor Bike (BRB 76, last words of the rule entry).

    Hope this helps, man.
    Last edited by PsyBomb; January 26th, 2009 at 16:12.
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    The ORIGINAL Sniper Puss eiglepulper's Avatar
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    Failsafe Detonator is centred on the model carrying it, not a model in the enemy unit. Otherwise a very comprehensive post, my friend!

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    The deep down truth Rikimaru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eiglepulper View Post
    Failsafe Detonator is centred on the model carrying it, not a model in the enemy unit. Otherwise a very comprehensive post, my friend!

    Yep you are of course correct. I have amended the post. Cheers bud

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    Well done riki, a great deal of good work done there.

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    Totally impressed.

    However, I am a little confused about flamers, Does this mean that you use the template twice when you fire a twin linked flamer? I thought you just re-rolled wounds?

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    The deep down truth Rikimaru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zarahemna View Post
    Totally impressed.

    However, I am a little confused about flamers, Does this mean that you use the template twice when you fire a twin linked flamer? I thought you just re-rolled wounds?
    No you do not use the template twice. You hit automatically as per normal template rules but you can re-roll all failed wound rolls.

    In 4th you rolled each template in one at a time and removed casualties for a template before you rolled for the next template. In 5th no models are removed before you roll the wounds for all the templates, this means the wounds are stacked.
    So if you have a large unit of say 20 Hormies for instance even if the templates only cover 10 models you can kill all 20 because the wounds stack. If the three templates converged on say 6 models then those 6 models would be wounded 3 times each but as long as the models are the same you have to remove a model for each unsaved wound.

    Remember you do not have to remove models from under the template.

    In 4th you removed any models as soon as they failed saves and then rolled for the next template, so templates could be reduced in effectiveness because if they converged on models the models could be removed before a template resolved its wounds.

    So it is easy to kill full units in 5th with multiple Flamers even if you do not cover all the models.

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    ....coookies... GDMNW's Avatar
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    Ah Ha!

    Ah Ha!

    That's the way I play it. I just didn't realise that this is what you meant. Me likey!

    In fact this is why my Raptors carry a pair of flamers, what with the bolt pistols they sometime only have one or two guys left to charge... It's particularly good against terminators or Biker nobs. You cause so many wounding hits that some of 'em die. That's what tickles me the humble flamer slaying creatures that plenty of heavy weapons struggle with.

    Great work on this Riki.

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