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I keep hearing that when getting a Hammerhead you should have a Railgun with it. Now that makes me ask whether or not people actually use the Ion Cannon.
The Ion was a great weapon in 4th Ed, because great quantities of S7 could destroy just about anything.
When 5th Ed came along all that changed.
The Rail got a boost or two in killing power while the Ion did the exact opposite.
And, for cool factors it was considered an under dog in my opinion since everyone raved over the Rail, but now it isn't even even on the roster. =[
Best load up on MP's for your S7.
Ion Cannon sucks
Ion cannons do not suck, they in fact do have their place. Ions are ridiculously cheap and they are handy if you face lots of MEQ lists. Having an enormous range, good strength and AP3 makes them very good at hitting MEQ's especially when using Markerlights to up the base BS of the Hammerhead. One problem though is the predominance of cover saves which tends to make AP less of the bonus it used to be.
The Ion does suffer in comparison with the Deathrain when used against light armour but if you do not use the Deathrain the Ion is effective against any armour up to and including AV13.
I do not use the Ion because I am quite adept at handling MEQ's with FW's Stealth's and Kroot and I use Deathrains. However Ions should not be discounted out of hand, especially if points are tight.
The Railgun does have more versatility but you do pay a lot more for it and the solid shot is single shot (one of the reasons I take the Deathrains) but it can deal with AV14 vehicles, something the Ion cannot do.
Ions have always had a loyal following, maybe not as big a following as the Railgun but it does have its fans and for good reason.
Ever since i rebooted my tau for 5:th ed i´ve fielded an IONhammer in every game i´ve played. It´s exellent against certain foes CSM in particular, Their whole army is made up of expensive 3+ save models. The mobility allows the IONhead to get the great angles where the eneny has no cover, and then it does wonders (Aim for the daemon prince)
The main reason to take the ioncannon is because it´s cheap. Only becase the railgun is better the ION isn´t bad, far from it actually.
And a final word of wisdom: Why choose when you can have both?
One of the other advantages that the Ion Cannon has over the Missile Pod/Deathrain units is its better AP. I don't often find myself confronted by Marine armies so the tendency is to field 2 Hammerheads and a Skyray, but against MEq it would be much more likely to be 2 Ionheads and a set of Broadsides with Target Locks. The former provides the smack-down for the 3+ saves while the latter deals with the bigger stuff.
The Railgun and the Ion Cannon have their niches; condemning one or other of them out of hand without backing up the condemnation doesn't really help anyone trying to make an informed decision.
"Tau Commandment #226: Participants who use Velocity Trackers in the Tau Clay Pigeon Tournament will be disqualified"
But ultimately, the reason why I started favoring railguns over the ion cannon in my 5th edition lists -- despite the painful increase in points cost -- is because I now face both a greater number of heavily mechanized armies and larger hordes.
The ion cannon is OK for light vehicles, but I already have enough tools to deal with them. What I need is heavy, AV 13 and AV 14 vehicles, destroyed. The ion cannon used to be good enough for everything below AV 14, now it simply isn't. I need more railguns, a single unit of broadsides has proven to not be enough. (Incidentally, this is also why I am almost always fielding at least one fusion blaster-equipped Piranha, if not two in games at least 1750 pts in size. This guy almost always makes his points back and survives surprisingly often. One of the best units I have, that.)
The increased availability of 4+ cover saves, combined with the changes in template weapons has also drastically altered the effectiveness of an ionhead vs a railhead in terms of infantry suppression. In 4th edition, I rated the ionhead superior in this task because of its long range AP 3 capability and the fact that a railhead submunition would outright miss 1/3 of the time, have to account for partials, and was only AP 4, meaning the plethora of MEQs I face would get all their armour saves. The ionhead was simply more effective, and was, over the course of an entire game, far more reliable at thinning hordes than the railhead. And it was cheap! For points effectiveness, the ionhead was awesome! Now that dynamic has shifted completely around. Almost every horde I shoot at is going to get 4+ cover, the submunition always "hits" something, there are no partials, etc.
Its railguns all the time now. My beloved ion cannon has no place in the current games I play.
ninjabackhand: point and click, again, really? even after i give you an military term "shock tactic" you still call it point and click.
RIP Warhammer 40,000: 21 Sep 1998 - 24 May 2014
As has often been said the Ion Cannon does have its uses. Also the commonly given advise of 'what else is in your army' can help determine if you need the Ion Head.
I have a soft spot for the Ionhead. It has save my bacon so many times when that quickly approaching marine bike squad is heading toward my line, or the accursed Lash Prince need to be taken down in a hurry.
At a 1500 pt list I generally run 2 A.S.S Broadsides with Drones, a Railhead, and and Ionhead. This combination has served me well in all comers battles. Obviously if you know what army you're up against the Ionhead may lose favor of another Railhead.
I just find the Ion cannon don't kill enough to warrant it's use!!! I can never get 3 kills from 3 shots!