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One of the most common comments on the Tau army list forum is "change your Shas'O to an El' and give him a targetting array etc..."
As the Crisis suit totting HQ is mandatory I thought it was time to take a look at what weapons and equipment work well on a Commander, what don't and why.
I will take a look at what wargear Ethereals should consider and why after the Crisis suit commanders.
O' vs El'
We have to take a battlesuit HQ, they are a one plus requirement, so lets have a look at difference between the two different options we have.
A quick look over the stat lines of both the O' and the El' show that the whilst the O' has considerably better stats, they are mainly only a benefit in close combat (obvoiusly there is a BS advantage as well, but I will get to that later). With the exception of Farsight lists, and even with them for the most part, a Tau commander like all other members of the greater good should be kept out of hand to hand fighting as much as humanly possible. Even with the increase in those combat attributes, a Tau commander does not have what it takes to stand toe to toe with enemy close combat specialists.
An El' is even less effective in CC, but as that is not what they are designed for this is not a problem. In fact in every respect that counts a Shas'El is the equal to the Shas'O, at a much cheaper price tag. That is of course with the exception of his Balistic Skill. If the Tau did not have access to the targetting array then I am almost certain that every army would include a Shas'O simply for the better BS, but seeing as we do have access to that most valuable piece of tech, it makes the Shas'El absolutely equivalent, and at around 25 pts less it is beyond me why anyone would take a Shas'O for any reason. The only benefit I can see of having a Shas'O would be to take a twin linked weapon a second weapon option, as the TA doesn't need to be taken and does not take up a hard point. Considering the BS of the HQ I don't deem the re-roll of the twin linked weapon to be worth the additional points costs.
Like all Tau the power in the O' or El' lies in his ability to take high tech weapons and use his mobility to control when and where he fights. With a jump pack as standard the El' has total movement of 12" per turn, but the most important part of that is the ability to Jump forward, shoot and then jump (JSJ) back into the relative safety of cover or out of range of the opponents weaponry. When this is used in combination with the Indepenant Charecter rules, mainly the one about not being able to be targetted if he is not the closest unit to the enemy, the HQ can easily stay out of harms way whilst doing major damage. So lets have a look at the wargear available to the HQ to make him deadly and keep him safe.
*Remember that three hardpoints must be filled by weapons or weapon systems, with Hard wired options available for further additions*
The MT allows 2 different weapons to be fired on the same turn (at the same unit). It is one of the all time best Tau wargear options as it allows for two weapons to be selected for your battlesuit without limitting the use of either of those weapons. As far as I am concerned a MT should be taken on every single commander as every combination of two weapons is more powerful and has more shots than twin linking a single weapon system, which would make a MT redundant. Definitely a must have!
Adds ballistic skill to the battlesuit carrying it. As stated above, every Shas'El should be carrying a TA. It is through this item alone that we can justify not taking a Shas'O, therefore saving ourselves some valuable points. The already strong BS of the Shas'El straightaway negates any bonuses for taking a template weapon, so any addition to BS you can get is going to just make you stronger. Never leave home without one, it will increase your hit ratio significantly. TA's can never be Hard-wired and therefore take up a hard point on your suit.
Grants the ability to shoot at a different target than the unit the model is in. This piece of wargear is brilliant amongst our Shas'vre and Teamleaders, but becomes redundant for our HQ's. The only situation where a TL would be valuable would be if the Commander was accompanied by a bodyguard. I will go into this later, but I will say that this is a bad idea and actually decreases the survivability of the HQ. TL's are GREAT for the rest of the army, but useless on HQ's.
Allows the user to be accompanied by up to two drones (shield, gun or marker drones). This is a poor option for a HQ for two reasons. First with the addition of two drones you lose the cost effectiveness of the Shas'El over the Shas'O, and second, by taking drones your HQ no longer acts like an Independant Character for the purposes of being targetted. He effectively becomes a unit of three with the two drones and is therefore able to be targetted by enemy heavy weapons and, well, everything else, even if he is not the closest target. Even with Sheild drones, if the enemy can shoot three Lascannons at you then things start to become very unpleasant very quickly. Leave the drones at home, their cons definitley out way any pro's that you can come up with.
Who doesn't love a 2+ save right, lets have a closer look. The huge added benefit of 2+ save comes with a huge, sometimes over looked, defecit of reducing your move in the assualt phase to the roll of a die. This gives you a possible 1 inch move in the assualt phase, so much for high mobility. As stated above, HQ's should be kept of CC as much as humanly possible and your JSJ move goes a long way to making this possible. Believe me when I say a unit of assualt marines, hormaguants or anything of the "fast moving, I am going to tear you limb from limb" nature is going to chew up the Irridium armour wearing HQ with greater difficulty than I have breaking open some pistachios shells to get the goodness inside (that is not very much by the way).
I must say that I have seen and used Irridium armour quite convincingly against armies such as Armoured Fist IG, Iron Warriors and even just regular IG. Armies with a proponderance of heavy weapons but a shortage of fast moving troops are less of problem for the 2+ save, but I still say that it is better not to be shot at all, than to be shot and have a one in six chance of being instakilled.
Black Sun Filter:
A handy little addition that really only should be taken if there are points to spare or if you know you are playing in a night fight. The BSF adds considerable distance to the range that you can see when playing in the dark (night fight, not just a dark room.....then it does nothing). It is a cheap upgrade that can definitely help out, but it is really not nessecary unless as stated above, you are playing nightfight rules.
The positional relay basically allows you to call in a deep striking unit when you want to. It doesn't affect any of the other rules like scatter etc but if you are deep striking and want to make sure a unit arrives on time then a postitional relay can be handy, especially when used in conjunction with a pathfinders devilfish. However in my opinion deep striking is not a tactic that really works that well with the Tau despite upgrades like this and the special rules for the Pathfinders DF. I don't use it because I never deep strike, if you deep strike often, then it might be a nice option for you.
This really is a CC upgrade. If you know you are going to be caught in assualt or you really want to add some hand to hand protection for your HQ then this upgrade can come in handy. I however find the points can normally be better spent elsewhere. As I have said a couple of times, keeping the dude out of cc is a goal that should be aimed for the entire game if possible. If the guy is in CC then he is not shooting with his expensive weapons, where he can do the most damage. Spend the extra points on an extra kroot to stop the enemy from getting to close combat and I think they are more effective.
The Sheild Gen is another defensive upgrade that whilst looking great on the surface actually becomes just another needless expense in the long run. It grants an Invulnerable save, which is always a good thing, but you can get the same save simply from using cover and mobility. Seeing as using cover goes hand in hand with JSJ moves, the Sheild Gen is really not worth the points, especially considering the protective qualities of the IC rules, which are more than enough to keep you safe.
Vectored Retro Thrusters:
VRT's are an upgrade that allow you to leave close combat after you have been engaged (or engaged) the enemy (hit and run). Again the restriction of mobility outweighs the potential life saving capabilities of this upgrade. Tau should not be getting into CC in the first place, so keeping the best possible mobility to stay away from the enemy is far more important than something that may help you out in CC, providing you survive the first round of combat (which may or may not happen).
Choosing which weapons to take for your crisis suits can be a long and difficult choice, different weapons tend to work well for different people, but here is my run down on HQ weapon choices being as logical and unbiased as I can.
XV8 Battlesuits are really the only way to get high strength low AP weapons into the Tau army. Obvoiusly Stealths and Pirahnas can take Fusion Blasters, but they are expensive and have different roles on the field of battle. We have to take an XV8 commander, we already have loads of medium strength medium ap weapons (burst cannons on stealths, pulse rifles, kroot rifles, submunitions shots, pulse carbines etc) that can deal with your run of the mill guardsman all the way to marines in tactical armour. We also have the Railguns on our hammerheads and broadsides to tackle the really heavy tanks. What we need are the high str low AP weapons that I mentioned before, that will allow us to damage from marines in tactical and dreadnaught armour, all the way up through transports and light tanks to even heavy tanks.
When choosing a combination of weapons things to think about are:
Do both weapons work well against the intended enemy? i.e. seeing as you are firing both weapons at a single target it stands to reason that you would want both of them to be able to affect that target. For example a Fusion blaster works wonders against vehicles and enemies with a good armour save but doesnt have enough shots to really do anything to unit of orc boys, whereas the Burstcannon works well against numerous enemies with poor armour saves but can't punch through the armour of a leman russ.
Do both weapons have a similar range? i.e. will I be wasting half the game being able to shoot only one of my weapons. For example the missile pod and the fusion blaster both work well on vehicles, but the missile pod will be shooting from turn one where the fusion blaster may not get to shoot until turn three or four. In the same fashion, at close range the missile pod is wasting one of its strongest assets in its range when you are close enough to be firing off the fusion blaster.
for a more in depth look into individual weapons go here
Some regular combinations that we see for Commanders are:
Burstcannon and Cyclic Ion Blaster (Gunblade):
I can see the temptation of this combination of weapons, I really can. When combined these weapons give the most shots per turn available to a single tau model. It makes great use of the high BS due to the high very hugh number of shots being turned out and really will work very effectively on anything that has high numbers and low armour save. I just cannot bring myself to do it however. The CIB relies way to much on luck to do damage to anything bigger than a marine (i.e. termies, dreadnaught, vehicles) and while the high number of shots will work well on things like marines, you just are not getting enough variety in your army to deal with the myriad of threats that pretty much every 40k army can throw at you.
Cyclic Ion Blaster Plasma Rifle (Centurian):
Again I can see the attraction to this suit, the CIB really is a good marine killer as is the plasma rifle. High number of shots again means that you are getting the most out of the high BS. However even with the Plasma rifle, you still don't have a high enough strength or low enough AP to damage those termies, transports and tanks. Some people swear by this suit, but for mine it relies a little too much on luck.
Plasma Rifle and Missile Pod (Fireknife):
Now we are getting somewhere. An equivalent range means you are getting the most out of both weapons every turn of the game. They both work well against light vehicles and high armoured infantry. A high number of shots, especially within the plasma rifles rapid fire range means that the high BS really comes into its own, allowing this suit to be sufficiently deadly not only against light vehicles/transports etc but also against the occupants inside. It has a high enough shot count to do serious damage to a unit with a high body count, at a range that allows you to stay out of most of the seroius return fire. The fireknife has a lot to reccomend about it, especially for the novice player. The only real problem with the Fireknife is that it is a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none type set up. Not really specialising at killing any one particular thing, but able to kill most things pretty well. (some people might not find this to be a big problem)
Fusion Blaster and Missile Pod:
If it wasn't for the disparity in range of the MP and the FB this is probably the configuration I would take. Both have a very high strength, and while the AP of the Missile Pod leaves a little to be desired, both of these weapons are the premier choices for taking down transports, MC's, dreadnaughts, wraithlords and the like. The problem as stated above is that when you are range to use the Fusion blaster, you are wasting the long range of the Missile pod. With this combo, you have to be close enough to use the FB, but then you don't have high enough AP on the missile pod to ensure you are killing those MEQ's, and avoid dangerous reprisal. It might look good on paper, but it just doesn't work in practice.
Fusion Blaster and Plasma Rifle (Helios):
A favourite on LO, the Helios is works on a number of different levels. The FB and plasma have a much better equivalent range, both have great str and AP meaning that you are using them well in combination to take down any target you are firing upon. They work wonders on Marines, transports, light tanks, heavy tanks and anything else I have missed out that goes in between. Down sides of this suit mainly come from the proximity to the enemy. A shorter range in the weapons means that you need to know how to move and manuever these suits to get clear from enemy assualts and reprisals. Not reccomended for beginers perhaps, but very deadly when used in the right hands.
Other weapons available to the Tau HQ are:
Airbursting Fragmentation Projector:
*One per army*
Being a template weapon using this on a high BS HQ is really a waste. It also excells at killing the smaller guys especially those who like to hide in cover. If you absolutely had to have one of these in your army then take it on a regular XV8. Personally I can't see any real benefit of having one of these on a battlesuit, it does nothing that other units in the tau army can't already do better.
Flamer: Again a waste of the HQ's high BS, also due to the very short range, mobility is limited and leaves the model open to reprisal both in terms of being shot at (IC rules won't do much when you are in flamer range) and being charged the next turn. Still to my mind the worst weapon to have on an XV8 especially a Shas'O or El.
But these guys should never be used on your HQ, it just aint worth it.
The problem with Bodyguards is the same as the problem with taking drones. You lose the ability to use IC status in terms of being able to be targetted. BG's are better left in the box, or dropped down into the elites section as regular XV8's.
A nice tactic to add survivability to your HQ is to run him with a unit of gun drones. The drones run along side the HQ without ever actually joining them together to create a unit. This means that when an enemy is close to enough to fire at or charge your HQ they must fire at or charge your drones first giving your HQ the ability to return fire with some brutality, or giving him the chance to retreat to safer spot. Also the drones work well in combination with a HQ with taking out troops inside transports. The HQ pops the vehicle, then the drones shoot at the disembarking troops, killing and hopefully pinning them so that they are ripe for the picking the next turn.
General consesus about taking an Ethereal is.......don't. But if you really want to add that Ethereal to you list, then lets have a look at what wargear he should take to make him most effective.
A quick look at the Aun's stats show that he is basically the best CC fighter that the Tau have available. This being said, the Ethereal has no real options for improving his hand to hand capabilities, he is unable to use VRT's, Stim Injectors and the like as he does not wear a battlesuit. How useful is this to us, well not very. The best thing that Ethereals have going for them is their special rules regarding leadership tests. On the other hand the worst thing that Ethereals have going for them is their special rules regarding leadership tests (when they die). If you have an Ethereal in your list then one of your most important tasks for the game is keeping him alive.
So what is the best way to go about doing this. First off, it is always a good idea to give an ethereal a squad of Firewarriors. They allow you to alocate wounds away from your precious Ethereal, and you know the enemy is going to be targetting him. So with this in mind what upgrades are handy for the Ethereal to have.
The GW online webpage states that the only useful upgrade for Ethereals are gun drones. They don't go into it, but I guess this is because you have already given the Ethereal 10 or 12 extra wounds......I mean Firewarriors, so why not give him some Gundrones as well. They add extra shots per turn, with possible pinning capabilities, and again you can alocate wounds away from your Aun. Down side with this is that whilst your firewarriors are shooting at a much greater range and rapid firing closer to that, the drones cannot match that output and destruction. Also with only two pinning shots per turn, you will rarely cause any pinning tests on even your most basic infantry.
Shield drones seem like an obvious choice as well. Ethereals are very lacking in the armour save department, so a couple of invul save robots buzzing around the Ethereal should really help keep him safe, just remember that they can only take up to two shots then those hits need to be alocated elsewhere. An important thing to keep in mind is that Drones have a variable base armour save and toughness dependant upon who they are taken by, plus the invul save. In the case of the Ethereal this means they in fact don't have a base save and have quite an average toughness, they only have the invul. The importance of this is that it means that if your sheild drone takes a hit, it has a fifty percent chance of death against even small arms fire. Mixed armour rules also come into play if the Ethereal has been given the firewarrior entourage. Make sure you re-read your mixed armour rules so you know who gets hit first. Basically what it shows is that Sheild drones are not the amazing protective upgrade that a lot of people think they are.
Marker Drones have some good points and some bad points to consider. First off, if you are playing an ethereal you are probably playing a fairly static list, so the lack of mobility markerdrones come with is not a problem. In fact it is fairly common to see a list with these type of squads, with a Shas'Ui instead of the Ethereal. Problem is that you don't want your marker drones to be taking any hits. They are expensive and if you are paying the premium price for them then you want to be using them as much as possible. Really the point of taking drones in the first place is to keep your Aun alive just a little longer, so Markers whilst benefitting the rest of the list, don't benefit your Ethereal.
Basically Ethereals generally don't need much more than an honor guard to hide in the middle of so that they can quietly inspire the troops. They have a reasonable WS and a good number of attacks, so the symbols of office are never a bad choice for your ethereal to carry into battle, apart from that there is not much else to say.
Alright, well I hope you all made it through the marathon that was this post. I put a lot of work into it, and if you have anything to add or any comments, please don't hold back.
My wife wants me to wash the dishes, so I am off.
Last edited by aussiedave; May 29th, 2007 at 03:34. Reason: Ethereal, VRT's and Sheild Gen added
I don't care what you say. I found a lightsaber in my garage and that makes me a Jedi
this is good for begginers. but iridium armour gives the suit a 2+ ARMOUR save, NOT a invul save.
Never give up. Never give up. HIT, HIT, HIT, HIT!
Thanks for that, it has been edited.
And it is designed for beginners as well, it is all stuff that everybody knows already (well you would think) but it is stuff that beginners often overlook and misread.
I don't care what you say. I found a lightsaber in my garage and that makes me a Jedi
Good guide. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
-Thread Killer Bryan
Tyranid Hive Fleet Typhoeus
T'au Empire, Bork'an Sept
Nice job, that's a lot of useful information.
I know this is all in there already but it is in different places. The two most common and useful (at least around here) configurations are as follows:
Helios - 97 points
Shas'el with Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, Targetting Array, HW Multi-Tracker
Fireknife - 97 points
Shas'el with Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle, Targetting Array, HW Multi-Tracker
Wow aussiedave, you included the gunblade amongst regular commander weapon combo's; You might be the first tau commander on LO to actually do that in a thread like this. (Though remember your gunblade is a horde hunter and can not do anything that is classified as medium armour or higher, and should never go after transports and other light armour because of its major drawback. Its as specialised as some of the eldar units for the most part.)
As Otsego said, a lot of useful information, rep to you...
Take my love, take my land, take me to where I cannot stand; I don't care I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me.
"The difference between gods and daemons largely depends upon where one is standing at the time."- Lorgar
Member of the Fluff Masters Clan
I included the Gunblade in part because it is a regular in your lists and people might see it and want to see what it is all about, and to add some more variety to the list as well. Also a freind of mine who plays Tau started using it after I mentioned that it was the combo that gives you the most shots possible, so I know at least two people using it.
Thanks for the comments and feedback from all of you, it is much appreciated.
I don't care what you say. I found a lightsaber in my garage and that makes me a Jedi
You might consider adding some stuff about Ethereals and the likes, since it is about HQ's and not just Crisis Suit HQ's etc.
I'll sticky this for now, and read through it more later.
If there are any specific stats/points costs/rules, make sure to edit those out.
You forgot to include the shield generator and hit-and-run upgrade thingy. I don't have my book here, so forgive my lack of proper terminology.
Also, doesn't positional relay allow you call in any unit in reserve, not just a deep striking unit? I've never used the thing so I'm not sure, but that's what I seem to remember.