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Updated guide to Marker Lights their uses & unit types
The Markerlight is a Tau unique option. So how do we utilise this unique resource? I thought I would provide a guide to try to answer this question. We also need to take into effect the changes that the 5th edition has brought to the use of Markerlights.
Let’s discuss the various unit options that enable a Markerlight to be taken and how the units work best.
The Pathfinder Squad (PF)
A much maligned unit with many advantages and a few disadvantages. I will detail the advantages first.
• Decent sized squad for decent casualty absorbtion.
• Markerlights included in troops basic cost.
• Option to use the Pulse Carbine.
• A good number of hits per shooting phase.
• Scout move.
• Cannot move and shoot when using Markerlights.
• Are a very tempting target who will be high on any opponents ‘Priority to hit’ list.
• Unless a Shas’Ui upgrade and Target lock is taken the unit is limited to targeting one enemy unit per turn. This can result in wasted Markerlight hits.
The PF squad has to take a Devilfish, this used to be a problem in the 4th edition but 5th introduced the rule that transports can now transport any infantry unit. This has removed one of the major drawbacks associated with taking the Pathfinder unit in 4th. Now we have the benefit of a Devilfish for the Fire Warriors without buying an extra Devilfish because we simply use the Pathfinders ship.
The Pathfinders have no real use for the Devilfish because they cannot move and shoot their Markerlights.
The Pathfinders themselves should be deployed in cover as this will greatly aid their survival. The unit will be a priority target for most knowledgeable Tau opponents. The addition of an invulnerable equivalent save is extremely useful.
If the points are available upgrade one of the squad to a Shas’Ui and give him a Target Lock to allow the targeting of 2 squads per turn. Though it should be noted that the unit Marker lit by the Shas’Ui will only be able to have one ML counter used against it, but it can be useful.
The main advantage with PF squads is the sheer volume of Markerlight tokens they can generate each turn. A unit of 8 Pathfinders average 4 tokens generated a turn (and often more). This is really advantageous, for instance you could up the ballistic skill of a Fire warrior to 5 and reduce a 4+ cover save to 6+. That is a massive advantage in 5th edition where cover saves are much more predominant.
The Sniper Squad
• Stealth field gives them some measure of survivability.
• Ability if 3 units are taken to target 3 separate units.
• Lack of flexibility.
• Only 3 Markerlights maximum for a cost of 240pts.
• Lack of mobility.
Well I personally do not really class this unit as a viable support Markerlight squad. The reason is because when you use the ML’s to light up the target for another unit the Drones BS is compromised (and BS3 is not that good).
The other thing I do not like about them is the cost, and not just in points but also the loss of a heavy slot for what are after all not heavy weapons (rail rifles).
They have a couple of things have going for them though. One is the stealth field; this does make it very hard to target them, but the second depends on whether or not you are willing to use BS3 sniper drones.
Three sniper teams enables you to spread three stealth field protected Markerlights around the field. This can make for an effective way to provide ML cover over a vast area of the field. Additionally the spotters are BS4 and have the stealth field benefit. Couple this with hiding them in cover and you have a tough unit crack (just watch out for fast units)
As I mentioned though the snipers are only BS3, which means 50% miss rate on average without the ML help and they do suffer from the lack of mobility of standard Markerlights. In 5th this can be a real disadvantage as units can now run and so close down the unit really fast.
It depends on whether you are willing to compromise the unit’s ballistic skill to take 3 Markerlights for 240pts (I would take the Skyray).
Well 5th edition really changed things for the better for this unit with the introduction of the relentless rule. Basically if you use the ML Drone with a jet pack equipped model the Drone gets the relentless rule and can move and shoot with the Markerlight. This one simple rule change has made all the difference to viability of this unit.
The main disadvantage with the ML Drone was it was very expensive for a Markerlight that could not move and shoot and reduced the mobility of any unit that equipped it. The addition of relentless has alleviated this cost to a point because you can now have a highly mobile Markerlight that can be utilised by the owning unit without any restriction to its mobility and hence effectiveness.
Give the Drone to a Stealth unit and you have a mobile stealth field shielded Markerlight and a Stealth unit that has a good chance of upping its offensive capability for a good proportion of the game and also has the ability to help other units if needed.
If taken with any unit that does not have a jetpack (Fire Warriors etc) then the Drone cannot move and shoot which severely restricts the units movement. If you want to take an ML Drone with Fire Warriors you have to pay for an Ui upgrade and if you the Drone to be able to hit a separate target you have to purchase a Target Lock, and this just adds to the expense.
One problem with the ML Drone is the drone controller takes up a hardpoint (unless your XV8 is at minimum a team leader). So you are stuck with either paying more points for the team leader upgrade or losing the chance to use another war gear option in the support slot. With this in mind the ML Drone should always be taken by the team leader to avoid any problems.
5th edition has changed a few things for this unit but it is still a good ML platform.
• Two BS4 Markerlights (when Skyray equipped with a Targeting Array)
• Markerlights work independently of each other. Meaning two units can be targeted a turn.
• 6 seeker missiles as standard
• Hammerhead chassis
• Can be stunned rendering Markerlights useless for a turn
• Take up a slot that can be used for a Hammerhead or XV88 team.
• Markerlights are now eligible for removal from weapon destroyed results
The main problem with the new rules is the Marker lights are now eligible for removal from damaged results. Any opponent is going to remove the Markerlights at the earliest opportunity, this has two disadvantages:
(1) Obviously you lose the main reason for taking the Skyray, its Markerlighting ability. Ally this with the stunned problem and you can have a vehicle that may not be able to perform its main role for a large proportion of the game.
(2) If you have no other Markerlights in the army and the Skyrays ML's are destroyed you cannot fire the Skyrays Seeker missiles.
I am wondering if the fact that the Markerlights can be removed is an oversight by GW. In 4th the ML's were immune to weapon destroyed results which meant that the Skyray always had the ability (if not stunned) to fire its own Seekers. In 5th though the scenario is possible where a Skyray can be left without the ability to fire its seeker compliment. No other vehicle has the problem of a potential inability to fire its own weaponry outside of being stunned. I think this needs bringing to GW's attention.
So to alleviate the above and to get the best out of a Skyray the following configuration should to be taken.
Skyray with Targeting Array, Multi Tracker and Disruption pods
The Skyray when equipped as above has the ability to target two units every turn with its independent Markerlights and can move 12” and still use the ML’s. (Markerlights have no strength value and thus are still classed as defensive weapons)
This offers tremendous tactical flexibility to the Tau commander as it allows ML support to any corner of the field quickly; however the fact now remains that the Skyray is no longer the sole unit that offers mobile Markerlights but it does have the advantage of speed.
The Skyray is a Hammerhead equivalent vehicle. Being Hammerhead grade AV which makes it extremely tough, and the Multi and Disruption pods allow the Skyray a modicum of survivability. As long as the Skyray stays 12" away from the opponents forces it gets a 4+ cover save.
It is always worth making sure you have other units with Markerlights in your army to make sure that if the Skyray is stunned the Skyray can at least launch its Seekers.
As discussed earlier Markerlights are no longer immune to weapon destroyed results so you have to be more careful with positioning the Skyray. Each Markerlight is removed separately (one for each destroyed result). Seekers are also removed individually if selected for removal after an armament-destroyed result.
One advantage not immediately obvious is that Skyrays have a lack of perceived threat. Put a Skyray down next to two Hammerheads and the Skyray will be usually be third in line as a target priority.
This lack of perceived threat can only work to the Tau player’s advantage because a few turns of unopposed Markerlighting can really help win games. Even better if you fire most of its Seekers most opponents will think it’s not an offensive threat and basically ignore it.
Fire warriors and various other Tau units can take a Markerlight as an upgrade.
If a Fire Warrior is upgraded to a Shas’Ui it can be given a Markerlight. I have seen a few examples of 6 strong Fire Warrior squads with a Shas’Ui equipped with a Markerlight and Hard Wired Target Lock
• Reasonably cheap at 20pts
• The unit can soak up hits before the Markerlight is compromised.
• Restricts mobility of the unit
• Not networked so cannot be used by the FW squad.
• BS3 at all times.
• Unless a Target Lock is taken the Markerlight user is restricted to firing at the same unit as the other Fire Warriors, which can lead to either the Fire Warriors not shooting (vehicle being ML etc) or the Markerlight not firing
A six men squad with ML and TL seems an expansive way to obtain one BS3 Markerlight hit per turn (it costs 85pts for the squad) especially if you factor in that the Fire Warriors are going to have to rely on the opponent to move units within range of the Fire warriors, so you may not get a lot of use from the FW's pulse rifles.
Not my personal choice but like I said it is seeing some use. Put the unit in cover and it will be a hard unit to shift and also has the same benefit as the snipers in that a wide swathe of the field can be covered by 3 or 4 units.
What also has to be taken into account is how the role of troops has changed in 5th. The fact that troops are the only unit that can take and hold objectives means that having multiple Fire warrior units restricted to being stationary to perform with ML's is going to make it hard to take objectives. If you move to take objectives then the ML is useless, if you remain stationary then the objectives are easier for your opponent to occupy.
The only way to alleviate this problem is to take more troops choices and have some ML units and a few mobile Fire Warrior or Kroot units, problem with this is you have to lose something from another part of the list.
All in all with the ability of XV8 and Stealth's to take Markerlight Drones I see no real reason to take Fire Warrior Markerlight squads.
Stealth squads with Drones
• Stealth field
• Mobile Markerlights
• In 5th the disadvantages have pretty much disappeared.
The relentless rule is a real bonus for the Tau player. Stealth's were not a viable choice in 4th due to the restriction to mobility imposed by the Marker Drone or Marker light. In 5th there is no restriction to movement any more.
A Stealth team with a team leader with hard wired Drone controller and a Markerlight Drone offers a few nice advantages:
(1) Stealth field shielded markerlight, this is a real bonus because it really ups the survivability of the Markerlight allowing for more turns of ML usage.
(2) The ability to up the ballistic skill of the Stealth unit (50%) which makes the Stealth unit a more effective offensive unit
(3) The ability to move the Markerlight at a reasonable rate and into positions on the field that would be dangerous for Markerlight carrying units without the benefit of the Stealth field
(4) The ability to help other units with the Markerlight
(5) The ability to infiltrate means it is easier to obtain good position for the Markerlight
I take a unit of Stealth's with a team leader with HW Drone controller and Bonding knife. I usually utilise the ML to up the ballistic skill of the Stealth unit, 18 shots at BS 4 = 12 hits on average makes for a very effective infantry killing unit.
It used to be argued that the ML Drone was an expensive option but I think that the fact that the Drone is now mobile, stealth shielded and can really up the effectiveness of the Stealth's makes them a good investment.
Note: One point of contention has arisen with the new rules. Target locks can be taken as a hard wired option by the Drone controlling model. The contentious point arises over whether the Marker Drone fires at the same target as the model with the Drone controller or the same target as the other members of the unit (basically the target lock equipped model is the only model allowed to utilise it). Each point of view has its own merit so I would advise discussing which way of playing with the target lock with your opponent. I believe that the Drone fires at the same target as the model with the controller but that is just my interpretation.
The static nature of XV88 teams lends itself well to the use of Markerlights because the unit does not have to compromise shooting or mobility. That however is the only real advantage I can see for including them and if the Advanced stabalisaton system is taken (which is much more common nowadays) then you are having to choose between mobility or staying stationary to use the Markerlight.
A Marker Drone can benefit the XV88 squad practically ensuring hits with a BS of 4 and a re-roll for any misses. However the question must be asked; is the 30pts extra for the drone worthwhile? Well you have to consider that the XV88 already has an impressive hit rate, and that other ML squads can Marker light for the XV88 squad anyway.
The other thing to consider is if Advanced stabilisation is taken then one member has to be upgraded to a team leader to take a Drone, and this adds another 10pts to an already expensive squad.
Markerlight drones have one big disadvantage and that’s their Balistic skill. The 30pts a model is a expensive price for the average hit rate and I would really consider this before taking them in the already expensive XV88 squads
So how do we use Markerlights?
Well let’s go through each benefit
(1) Firing Seekers. This can be helpful but you still need to roll to hit with both units so 4+ on average for the ML user then 2+ for the Seeker itself It is surprising how many Seekers miss. The best place for Seekers is on the Skyray as they are included in the basic cost of the unit.
I tend not to take seekers as upgrades. As said earlier the Seekers on a Skyray are included in the base cost of the vehicle and can be fired by other units and the Skyray. This makes them more versatile and cost efficient.
In my experience the Markerlight hits can be utilised more usefully on other benefits than for calling seekers
(2) To add +1 to a units BS'. This to me is the main reason I take Markerlights.
For example a 'Fish of Fury' with 24 BS5 shots from Fire Warriors can be devastating, and this really makes FW units come into their own.
Stealth’s are lethal with BS5 and Hammerhead Submunnitions are fearsome hitting and wounding on 2+ etc etc .
Another major change in 5th is how blast weapons work. All blast weapons now scatter and this includes the Hammerhead submunnition round and the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector. The amount of scatter produced by the 2D6 is reduced by the models ballistic skill value. Obviously then a high BS value is advantages.
Markerlights can increase the BS of a unit to a maximum of 5, so using Markelights to increase BS will reduce scatter and obviously offer a corresponding increase in casualty infliction with the subs and AFP.
The new scatter rule should not be forgotten when taking Hammerheads for its submunnition capability and a Markerlight compliment should be included in the list.
(3) Passing target priority tests. Well TP tests no longer exist in 5th so this benefit is no longer a benefit.
(4) Ignore night fight. This is best used in conjunction with a Blacksun filter.
If I have the points I equip my Skyray with a BSF which allows the Skyray to hit units with its Markerlights. This in turn allows two other units to ignore the night fight restrictions.
This can be very useful because the 'Dawn of war' deployment is present in 1/3rd of deployments in standard games
(5) Imposing of –1 per Markerlight token to leadership for the purposes of pinning (See point 2 above).
Weapons that cause pinning include Pulse Carbines and Rail Rifles. However this LDS reduction can be used for reducing leadership for pinning tests on passengers forced to disembark from destroyed vehicles.
(6) –1 per Markerlight token to cover saves.
Probably the most important benefit after the upping of BS. In 5th cover saves are much much more of a factor in games and the amount of situations offering cover saves has increased. The ability to reduce the cover saves of infantry entrenched in cover on objectives is invaluable. Of course it also offers a significant advantage in battles where cover is heavy and units like Devastator squads are entrenchedin bunkers, buildings etc.
The reduction to the cover save is cumulative with no restriction; so cover saves can be removed totally if enough ML hits are available to stack.
A Much underestimated benefit of Markerlights and often forgotten or dropped in favour of a BS boost.
Here are three more points to remember about Markerlights.
(1) Only units with the Tau designation in their Codex description can use them. This means no Kroot unit can benefit from ML counters.
(2) Vespids have to have a strain leader to benefit from Markerlight hits. If the strain leader is removed before his unit members then the unit can no longer benefit from ML help.
(3) You can never use a Markerlight hit to improve the BS of another Markerlight using unit or model.
Anyway that’s an updated guide to Markerlights and the units that can take them.
I have not included forge world variants because they are not that common and are non codex.
No doubt I have forgotten something or inaccuracies will have crept in, so feel free to pull me up on anything and I will make changes.
Also the opinions on usefulness are just that my opinions. I have tried to be reasonably objective and balanced but anyone is welcome to dispute my opinion, and I will add anything that provides a more balanced assessment of any unit quite gladly.
Last edited by Rikimaru; February 24th, 2009 at 23:18. Reason: Updated
Everything you have been told is a lie!
Tetra is a forgewold model for Tau (found ind imperial armour 3 if I am not mistaken).
Great article, rep added.
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I know I brought this up a while back, but marker drones can be marginally useful in broadside teams, as they don't move very often. If they're not equipped with A.S.S, then it's a good choice i'd say.
If I've replied, i've probably used Italics...
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A very good article indeed. I would just like to comment on your section concerning the Stealth Marker Team.
First, I definitely agree with your statement that it is expensive. A 3-man team starts at 90pts; adding the T-Ldr with ML/TA/HWTL and HWDC + 2 MDs raises it horrendously to 180pts, and then we have to include a battlesuit support system for the remaining two guys so taking (for talk's sake) a TL on each renders this unit at 190pts. Expensive indeed as has been said.
However, here are some reasons why I always use this unit:
1. We have an ML hitting on BS4, targeting a separate enemy unit to the two MDs.
2. The squad itself is placed at the extreme range of the markerlight, which means that the opponent will have to roll double 6 to have any chance of spotting this unit in order to target it with shooting.
3. The unit may relocate in the Assault Phase to maintain the distance between it and the enemy/to regain or obtain better LOS.
4. The MDs can be used by the squad itself to boost their own BS, should it be threatened by a Deep Striking/Infiltrating enemy unit. This means the T-Ldr's BC is hitting with the same BS as a Shas'O.
5. They last considerably longer than a unit of Pathfinders of equal cost. Ok, so the similar-cost PF unit contains more MLs but is vastly more vulnerable to enemy shooting. Therefore the Markerlights, even though more numerous, disappear more quickly even if the unit is in cover.
6. The stealths are not perceived as such a dangerous unit if they are lurking at the back edge of the table. This tends to make the opponent ignore/forget them, whereas "Pathfinders = Markerlights = Kill the PFs" tends to be the mentality of one's opponent when PFs are seen.
7. Agreed that the two guys with only BCs tend to be a bit "hang around and don't do much", nevertheless they do serve a purpose which is primarily defence of the unit should the need arise.
I rarely would field a Tau army without an SMT included because of the reasons I have enumerated above. Of course, this is my preference and would not necessarily be everyone else's, but I find they work well for me and do not harm things just because they are expensive for the number of models. At least they tend to be around at the end of the battle, unlike the Pathfinders!
"Tau Commandment #226: Participants who use Velocity Trackers in the Tau Clay Pigeon Tournament will be disqualified"
(1) Your using an elites slot, which means your compromising your ability to take the medium strength low AP weaponry or losing Stealths, either is not good.
(2) Expensive, so again your going to have to compromise some other part of your army to take these, a PF squad is only 96pts for 8 ML's and a Warfish 120 (and you get a useful tank for that) thats so much more for only 26pts more than the stealth unit, plus they are taking a fast attack slot not an elites
Keeping at max range is all well and good, but only if the opponent lets you, mine don't.
I really do not agree with your assertion that PF squads do not last as long (to many variables)
I do agree about the PF being a priority target, but its only a matter of time before things like Skyrays, 6 man FW squads and Stealth/ML teams are perceived for the threat they are and this disparity in percieved threat between the PF and other units will narrow.
Edit: Sorry dude where are my manners, thanks for the input, the good thing is your post will be here for all to see, so your points will be put across, and I would like to say if anyone likes the idea then go for it. Just because I would not recommend it does not mean it should not be tried if the idea tickles ya ticklish bits :w00t:
great article rikki. I have yet to use markerlights even though i have a squad of pathfinders and a skyray. gonna try oneof these this weekend.
might try pathfinders first. then skyray next.
I too have never seen the point in stealth markerlight teams. i use mine as harrasment units who bound up and down the table edge causing mad trouble and trying to get to the rear armour on tanks. don't see the point in having them sat still. but different strokes and that.
Riki, even though I don't agree on every point, this is an excellent guide and will make a stellar starting point for anyone who is thinking of playing Tau, starting to play Tau, and even for experienced players.
Rep added even though with my rep score it doesn't add to yours...
Edit: It won't let me give you rep, it says that I must give it to others first even though I've given it to many since last I gave it to you. Oh well, the thought was there.
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Tyranid Hive Fleet Typhoeus
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