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I started a study of the Torch squad and as a consequence it developed into a broad look at some aspects of what 5th means for Tau. This is meant mainly as a discussion of the Torch squad but it covers some other relevant stuff as well. I hope it is interesting reading but remember it is only one players opinions.
5th edition 40K and Tau
Since the 5th edition of 40K was released some quite substantial changes have been wrought on the Tau army. Most notable amongst these changes is the increased reliance on troops. The changes to mission structure and how missions are won have made troops the most important part of any armies list. Basically troops need to be kept alive because no troop’s means you do not win (at best draw) in 2/3rds of games.
This reliance on troops has lead to most Tau players using either minimised Fire warrior squads or Fire warrior squads spending most of the game ensconced in Devilfish or a combination of both. Basically the offensive role of the Fire warrior and to a lesser extent the Kroot has been reduced quite drastically
So given the fact that we have effectively lost two or more units worth of firepower for a large part of the game and this firepower is usually aimed at the lower toughness and 4+ and above armour save units then we need something to address this deficiency.
Its not just about infantry
What has to be understood is that infantry type units are not just restricted to troops choices. Infantry type units (units with similar basic stats to troops) are spread throughout many different force slots in many armies such as Devastator squads (heavy) and Striking scorpions (elite). So losing the massed Pulse rifle firepower of a few Fire Warrior units does have consequences that are not only restricted to infantry control.
Some possible solutions
One answer is the Stealth squad and it is a good solution with a few drawbacks. First drawback is the fact that the Stealth squad is basically equipped with the same weapon as a Fire Warrior (though obviously with more shots) and the unit has a maximum shot volume of 18 shots. While not a bad amount the Stealth’s are stuck with these 18 shots at BS3 so unless a marker light or targeting array is used to up the BS we have to expect a 50% miss rate on average. There is also another disadvantage the Burst cannons efficiency is affected when its target is in cover unless again the Markerlight is used to ease this problem.
The second disadvantage is unless a Stealth takes one or two Fusions then the unit is quite restricted in its target selection, being restricted to infantry type units and rear armour (AV10/11) on vehicles. Also if the Fusions are taken the unit’s ability to deal with infantry is reduced significantly (18 shots down to 12).
The next minor disadvantage is cost. A Stealth unit costs 180pts for a full unit and 190pts with two Fusion blasters, this is not cheap and taking Targeting arrays to up the basic BS of the unit takes the cost up to 240pts minimum (again not cheap for 18 shots, working out at 13pts a shot).
The advantages this unit has are the Stealth field, mobility and its ability to infiltrate to achieve good field position.
Another option is the Kroot squad.
Well I love Kroot but I firmly believe that they are not the answer to straight up infantry killing. Kroot work best when taken with either one or two units of Fire Warriors in Devilfish. When the Fire warrior units are taken in Devilfish it allows the Kroot to do the jobs they are best at, board control, harassment and anti assault.
If Fire warriors are not taken the Kroot are relied on to do the job of objective control as well and this is something they are not well equipped to do unless the objective is wooded or jungle terrain.
The other problem with Kroot is their weapon while decent is not as good as a Pulse rifle and they cannot benefit from Marker lights to up ballistic skill or reduce cover saves.
Advantages of the Kroot are cheap cost, the ability to infiltrate and Kroot hounds.
Overall the Kroot are a brilliant compliment to Fire Warriors but they should not be relied on to be the sole source of anti infantry.
Speed and its consequences
5th edition has also brought some other changes to the game, notably speed and deployment options. It is obvious that Games workshop game designers are steering the game towards a faster more fluid game and it can be argued (quite categorically) that 40K is no longer a shooters game.
Armies like Tau and Imperial guard can no longer successfully compete as stand and shoot armies. Transports are getting cheaper, most units now have the ability to run and more available and improved cover saves provide enhanced protection for units, all these factors work against shooting armies.
The inclusion of Deep strike and reserves in every single mission type gives armies much more flexibility to avoid shooting and to close on the opponent’s forces a lot faster. The overriding concern for the Tau player is to control the way the opponent moves or to prevent movement to allow space and time for the Tau shooting to work its magic.
The Tau players answer is to ‘Mech up’ putting units in Devilfish, taking mobile Battlesuits, Piranhas and infiltrating Kroot etc. Tau players are learning of the need to control the board by making it hard for the opposition to gain ground and making it dangerous to deep strike or infiltrate while keeping its own forces safe and mobile. We still have the firepower but we need to combine it with protection and mobility
So after establishing that play has changed and taking Stealth’s and Kroot as anti infantry has a few disadvantage, is there anyway we can alleviate these disadvantages and evolve to fit the game changes. Well yes we can and we have a good solid unit available to us in the elites slot.
The Torch squad
At its most basic the Torch squad consist of three XV8 battlesuits equipped with twin-linked flamers. I am going to start by looking at the Flamer itself.
In the 4th edition of the game the Flamer had a big disadvantage! When multiple flamers were fired at a target they were resolved one at a time and casualties were removed for each flamer before the next was used. This meant that the available number of targets for each flamer diminished as each flamer was fired.
In 5th this has changed for the better. When multiple Flamers are used they are fired simultaneously and the casualties caused stack. This means that the possible wound count is now much higher; if each template covers 4 models (easily done) then 12 wounds are caused.
Also if other weapons are included in the unit the flamer wounds are added to the wounds caused by the other weapons.
Flamers do not roll to hit, the template is placed over the target unit and any model it touches is hit automatically. There is an advantage to this ability that is often missed by Tau players, the Flamer unit does not need to utilise Markerlights to ensure a decent hit rate.
Every unit that does not need Markerlights means less need to spend points on expensive ML support or the available Markerlights are less in demand which allows more efficient utilisation of the Markerlights. This is a huge advantage often missed by those who decry the Flamer XV8.
The other advantage flamers have is that when they are twin linked they do not re-roll missed hits, rather they re-roll failed wounds. So we have a weapon that automatically hits and re-rolls failed wounds. Add to this the strength of the weapon and its cheap cost and to put it simply the twin linked Flamer is make no mistake the most efficient weapon available to the Tau player.
The next massive advantage the flamer has over most weapons is it ignores cover saves. This is a big advantage. In 5th edition 40K the cover save availability has increased hugely. When you consider the average cover save is now 4+ and is available in a huge variety of ways then any weapon that negates it is a real benefit.
The key thing to remember is the kill rate of a flamer unit is constant, it is not affected by cover, ballistic skill or Markerlight availability so you know that when you hit that target unit you are going to get consistent kill rates, how many other weapons can provide that level of reliability?
The low AP weaponry like Plasma and Fusion are brilliant weapons (on certain units) until you need to shift units in cover and then the effectiveness dives significantly.
The great thing about the twin-linked flamer is that if you hit with a flamer you know you get the same results turn on turn regardless.
3-man XV8 twin linked flamer unit covering 4 models with each template (12 hits)
MEQ 3+ save and toughness 4 = 3 casualties
GEQ 4+ save and toughness 3 = 5.3r casualties
GEQ 5+ save and toughness 3 = 10.6r casualties
Nid Warrior 5+ save toughness 4 = 6 wounds or three dead Warriors (I have used 8 hits inflicted on four Warriors)
Terminator 2+ save and toughness 4 = 1.5 wounds
Carnifex 2+ save and toughness 6 errr no don’t think so.
As a small comparison an average Fireknife unit with BS3 and Multitrackers will achieve on average:
MEQ 3+ save and toughness 4 = 3.33r casualties (2.5 casualties caused by Plasma on average)
MEQ 4+ cover save and toughness 4 = 2.5 casualties
The same casualty numbers apply to GEQ’s with 3+ and 4+ save and 3 or 4 toughness (all are wounded on 2+ with no armour save).
Fireknives are much better at hurting Carnies obviously and obviously do better with Markerlight support but I simply do not like relying on ML support to ensure an expensive unit does well.
As can be seen the figures for the Torch squad are pretty good all round but the thing is these figures are consistent figures, they are unaffected by availability of cover.
The 'lack of targets' fallacy.
You will often hear the argument that in 5th edition troops (or infantry type units) are more often than not going to be in transports. OK agreed! But what is the problem? We have the tools to stop transports and this is in fact what we should be doing anyway.
If transports are not stopped quickly then we are in trouble no matter what we take in the way of XV8’s.
So what happens when transports get stopped? Yes the passengers get out. So we have to use that most basic of Tau tactics ‘unit synergy’ I/E pop the transport with one unit and then hit the passengers with another.
Seeing as one of the main priorities of any Tau player is to stop transports and the list should be built to accomplish this then the argument against the Torch that ‘they don’t work because the troops are unreachable’ holds little to no weight. Also of course there are always units that are not in transports.
The disadvantages (of which there are few)
Ok so we see the unit has a lot of positive advantages but it has to be said it has one attribute that needs discussing ‘range’. The Flamer has an 8” template, to be practical the template has to be within 6 or 7 inches and with the 6” assault move of the XV8 means the XV8 is left 12 inches away from a unit after its attack.
This it cannot be denied is very close and is one of the main reasons I myself used to argue against the Flamer equipped XV8 BUT things have changed.
Like I said earlier it is almost inevitable that the opponent’s forces will get close, so we need something to handle that.
Most of the XV8 builds work best at range and they should not be used for assaults, this is fine and has not changed on 5th but we have to be flexible when needs must. Because the Torch squad needs to be close there is no point arguing it is a weakness, rather we need to work out how to alleviate the range issue so we can exploit its many strengths.
The first thing is target selection.
The Torch squad works best against toughness 3, 4 and armour save 4, 5 and 6 units (I call these Soft). These units are usually either, large and cheap units or smaller but have enhanced shooting/assault stats. Either way these units really suffer when a Torch squad hits them. So usually it can be pretty much assured that hitting them just with a Torch squad will mean the squad should be safe from retaliation.
Larger soft squads are actually beneficial for the Torch squad because the more models that are available to cover then the more wounds are caused. The amount of units that fit the soft profile is huge, want proof see below:
Support weapon Batteries
Fiends of slaanesh
Flamers of Tzeentch
Bloodletters of korne
Daemonettes of Slaanesh
Plaguebearers of Nurgle
Pink Horrors of Tzeentch
Flesh Hounds of khorne
Karanak Hound of Vengeance
Seekers of Slaanesh
Screamers of Tzeentch
Furies of Chaos
Company command squad (all members, Company commander, Astropath etc)
Psyker battle squads
Storm Trooper squads
Platoon command squad
Heavy weapons squad
Special weapons squad
Penal legion squad
Rough rider squad
Dark Eldar Wych Lord
Dark Eldar Retinue
Warp beast pack
Reaver Jetbike squad
Ripper bases (vulnerable to templates)
Now that is big list and it is not even by any means complete. For instance 4+ save units like Marine scouts, Necron scarabs and so on. A torch squad also easily kills many of the characters included in the above codices. When you consider just how many targets are vulnerable to a Torch squad it is hard to argue that they will not be useful.
Range, range range, that old chestnut
Alleviating the range issue is not that hard if you use common sense. I will discuss the problem of wasted turns where the Flamers range means nothing is in range for a large proportion of the game later in the article.
First thing is we know the unit is short ranged; however if you decide to take the unit then this cannot really be considered a disadvantage. The unit is there for a specific purpose to hit infantry type units when it can and you know it is going to be close so we need to deal with that range issue.
The first thing to consider is target selection. A three-man Torch unit will kill 10 or 11 models from a tgh3, 5+ save unit and will do very well against tgh4 and 4, 5+ save units.
So we can be very confident that it will do the job unaided against these targets but we have to be able to hit the target and to do the we need to ensure they can get to the target.
One of the best ways is to use vehicles to provide mobile line of sight screens. The two best vehicles to do this are the Piranha and the Devilfish.
Seeing as the Fire Warriors are ensconced within the Devilfish which means they are doing nothing to contribute to the offensive output of the game, then why not use the Devilfish (and its firepower) to aid the Torch crew in making up for that offensive shortfall
Move the Devilfish down field with the Torch crew behind it and when close enough utilise the jump shoot jump to hit the target. Add the Devilfishes firepower to the mix and then jump back behind the Devilfish and you are golden.
The opponents will have to decide to either attack the Devilfish or move away. Remember you are usually attacking a unit that will have no (or very little) anti armour weaponry so the Devilfish will usually be safe from shooting.
If you have played it correctly if the enemy unit decides to assault they will be hitting on sixes (move Devilfish more than 6 inches). If the Devilfish or Piranha are going to be used for this tactic often then Flechettes may be a good addition.
To make the tactic even better use a unit of Kroot to offer either additional shooting or they can finish the unit by assaulting them (just have the Kroot to the side of the Devilfish). A unit of 10 Kroot with 6 to 8 hounds will add 54 attacks on the charge. This combination will take just about any unit down even MEQ units.
Remember even if the Devilfish is destroyed you have a Torch unit, a Kroot unit and a Fire Warrior units worth of firepower for the opponent to deal with.
The Piranha is also a good vehicle to use because it is cheap, fast and has decent frontal armour. It is also a decent sized vehicle, if you use the Piranha make sure that when it is used to block line of sight the vehicle is tipped forward on its stand, this will offer the most area for LOS blockage. The other good thing about this unit is it is not transporting a valuable Fire warrior unit around, so it can be thrown into the attack without worry. This combination is one of the main reasons I have ordered a Piranha because the combo makes the Piranhas blocking ability all the more effective and also means the Piranha is much better against a wider range of targets.
The Torch unit also makes a very effective deterrent to units deep striking into the Tau lines. Placing a unit near a valuable unit (possibly with a cheap unit of Kroot) will make DS’ing units a very dangerous proposition.
The Torch unit is cheap! This is the unit configuration that I take:
1 x team leader with twin linked Flamer, Missile pod, HW Multi, HW Drone controller and 2 Gun Drones, BK
2 x XV8's with twin linked Flamers, Missile Pod
This unit configuration leads us to two points:
(1) The unit is cheap, it costs less than an average 10 man Marine tactical squad which means it is less costly to the army if it does get destroyed. It can be pushed forward to engage more expensive units or to function as a roadblock/suicide unit with little risk that it will not return its investment in points.
(2) The second weapon on the unit offers another answer to the range issue. If we took Flamers alone the unit would be of very little use for a large proportion of the game because there wouldn’t be targets within range. The second weapon sorts this problem out nicely, the Missile pod is the single thing that makes the unit totally viable.
The main problem with taking the flamer is that unless the unit is deployed very far forward (risky, if the opponent gets first turn the unit may get shot up or assaulted before it does anything) or deepstrikes (danger of scatter and still keeps the unit of the table for a few turns) the unit will not usually do anything for the first one or two (possibly three) turns. Additionally when it has killed a unit and is out of range of another target (due to the Flamers short range). The way to counter this period of inactivity is to take a weapon with greater range, the Missile pod.
The Missile pod, a must have
Ok the Missile pod only fires at BS3 without Markerlight support but it is obviously better to be able to fire 6 STR7 shots with 3 hitting on average then having the XV8 do nothing at all for two turns.
One thing I think we will all agree on is the more MP’s in the army the better and the more going down range at transports etc the better. To put it quite simply taking the Missile pod turns the Torch unit from average to must have.
That old range chestnut rears its head again
The overriding argument against the Flamer suits is lack of range and the inclusion of the MP totally nullifies that point, Taking the MP also alleviates the point about times when no targets are within range of the flamer, with a MP something will always be in range.
On top of the large list of units above, this unit can stop vehicles up to and including AV13 including Dreadnoughts, and similar units, those Carnifexes that I discussed earlier have now become legitimate targets. Bikes can be engaged from long range, Drop pods are easy targets, trucks, Rhino’s and so on and so on.
Many players argue that XV8’s should be tailored to one purpose and usually I am 100% in agreement. However the Flamer/MP combo is different in two ways:
(1) The most important point is as discussed earlier, if the MP is not taken then the Flamer unit is simply not worth taking because it will more than likely not be used enough to justify its inclusion. Taking the Missile pod actually adds to this unit’s ability and makes it more useful. The additional punch the MP offers actually alleviates the Torch unit’s weaknesses.
(2) Cost: the Torch costs 43 points giving it the ability to deal with multiple targets at multiple ranges, this ability does not come with crippling cost penalties and the build is useful enough to warrant the small cost increase the MP inclusion imposes
So for the grand total of 43pts we have an XV8 that can do the following:
Decimate non-MEQ infantry
Hurt MEQ units only slightly less efficiently than a BS3 Fireknife unit and do a better job when the MEQ’s are in cover
Totally ignore cover and thus perform at the same efficiency no matter where the target is situated
Is totally un-reliant on external units for BS help to hit or remove cover save when using its Flamers
Threaten armour and tough units
The unit I take has another touch that makes it even better. The inclusion of two Gun Drones is a cheap but effective addition.
Taking them adds two wounds to the unit, which means it takes two casualties to force fall back testing and the Bonding knife means the unit will always be able to attempt a re-group.
The Drones also offer the chance to pin, many scoff at this but the fact is a chance is better than none.
What many Tau players forget is Markerlights can be used to drop the leadership of units when taking pinning tests, each ML token imposes a –1 to LDS and the tokens are cumulative. If you want to stop a unit then using a Markerlight unit to up the BS of the Drones to 3 or 4 and using the remaining tokens to drop the LDS of the target unit by 1 or 2 will give pretty good odds of a pin. Obviously this should only be done if the target is presenting a grave danger as the ML’s can usually be used elsewhere to better effect.
Drones are also pretty good at assaults (for Tau) having good initiative, they add that little bit of survivability and again another thing often missed is that in a unit with two Drones and 3 XV8’s the to wound rolls against the Drones are worked out at TGH4 (majority toughness is used as per shooting attacks).
Placing the Drones in front of the XV8’s means the assaulting unit has to move models to contact the Drones first and because they have different stat lines any attacks allocated to them must be saved by them and that means less wounds for the important XV8’s to take.
The same applies to wounds caused by shooting attacks, so taking a couple of Drones can stop the XV8’s dying from stuff like Lascannon hits.
Taking two Gun drones is really worth the 20pts they cost.
So instead of simply seeing the Flamer equipped unit as a short ranged ineffectual unit I hope I have instead shown that with the simple inclusion of the Missile pod it is instead a very versatile, dangerous and hard hitting unit. It is cheap but effective and works just as well on its own as it does when working in conjunction with other units.
Give the Torch unit some thought and try it out in a few friendly games and I think you will be surprised. Thanks for reading
Last edited by Rikimaru; September 20th, 2009 at 00:13.
Good work on this Riki, the Torch squad has become an integral part of my army tactics since I read about the theory on this forum.
I use mine differently, though. I run in my 1850 list two teams of 2x TLF/Fusion. I deep strike them nearly every game, and a pathfinder devilfish combined with a Positional Relay mean that they come down very reliably and precisely. The weapons combo means that there is no target in the game they can't harm (though, granted, Monoliths are still rough) and they retain the street-sweeping power of the Heatwave. They function pretty much as suicide squads, unfortunately, I've only ever seen one survive for more than a turn or two after it hits the deck.
However, this feeds into their second purpose. T4, 3+, and 2 wounds each mean that they can soak a decent amount of firepower. They become absolutely critical targets the second they hit the deck, which means that any time they come down my enemy is usually occupying 25% or more of his force to kill them... which is firepower that isn't coming against the rest of my army.
Oh, and I should note that Daemon saves are invulnerable across the board, so we won't be ignoring them. On the flip side, since they always come in via Deep Strike, it means you'll have a very good clump to target.
I fight for the Greater Good. Too bad for you it's MY Greater Good.
Snow Forces of T'olku W/L/D : 3-4-2... I like to think I'm learning, though.
I would have been good with this .....
The Torch squad. Why it works
Cause Riki says so.
- Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
Ok, finally was able to read through your write up Riki. As usual, you did a fine job with this write up.
I am in complete agreement with the usefulness and versatility of the torch squad. Started using it a year ago and always include it in my lists. It does take a little getting used to implementing but once I did, it really has added a very versatile tool in my army.
- Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
well, riki it seems youve outdone yourself again, by going into incredible detail. and i agree about alot of these things (which is kindev new cus i sometimes dont see eye to eye with u)
There are three kinds of people in this world, those who can count and those who cannot.
this is a unit config that i was looking for, thanks for the synopsis.
Ok fellows we have a difficult task, so we have to be more deadly than everyday.
Make mistakes and confuse the enemy - The Doctor
Tactics are nice but it is violence that wins the day.
Yes the Daemon saves are invulnerable saves but they are still 4+, 5+ saves and that still means lots of dead daemons. They are actually better at killing Daemons than XV8 suits with Plasma.
I am going to link this thread from the XV8 indepth guide.
Very good article. You convinced me to try this out, and I will do so on Wednesday.
Ill give these guys a try in my next game. One modification I am making however is instead of 2 identical suits of twin linked flamers/MP, one of them will become a Flamer/MP/Multitracker for better wound allocation at a +3 point increase for the unit.
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