Given how few choices there are for Troops in the Tau codex, and also that there is no way to shift the force organisation chart so that other units can be Troops choices, this leaves Tau players with very little in the way of diversity for scoring units. Given that these are the only Troops units in the codex, and also that they are pretty dissimilar from one another, it is important that each unit be used in a role it is effective in and defended adequately; though they are mostly cheap, you will typically want to spend most of your points on the "big toys" that Tau have access to, as they really need them more than ever. However, it must be noted that a massed force of Fire Warriors in particular is not a bad option, and Kroot are always useful as additional cheap scoring bodies. Just be mindful that neither Troops choice we have access to is particularly effective at taking middle or back field objectives; devastation, harassment are key here. Make sure to present either a strong mobile force backed by Devilfishes, or a hardy defensive line with Ethereal support to keep them in the fight.
Fire Warriors - Rocking one of the strongest basic Infantry guns in the game, Fire Warriors have always had the edge over most other basic Troops in terms of sheer ranged firepower; they can be taken in both the numbers and have the range to put many other units to shame. With either of their free gun options having the same Strength and AP of five and typically a superior range given the shots they put out, Fire Warriors excel at wiping out enemy Infantry - particularly low Toughness enemies - and laugh at the high Toughness or low armour of most monstrous creatures and vehicles, respectively. In massed numbers, or backed up by an Ethereal and/or Fireblade, they can absolutely devastate most opposition that get within their thirty inch range - if you are using Pulse Rifles - and as they can move back constantly and fire a single shot whilst staying out of range to be rebuked by most opposition (remove casualties from the front), they are best used to get into a good position early on and then gradually fall back. Fire Warriors are not Imperial Guard, they aren't designed to just sit back with heavy weapons - as they lack any - but rather abuse their superior range to other Infantry and consistently keep just in range to minimise any potential return fire. Their ranged weapon is really what defines them as a unit; aside from their strong armour compared to most other light Infantry, their basic profile is quite unimpressive. With a terrible Weapon Skill and Initiative of two, Fire Warriors are absolutely dreadful in combat and, owing to their low Leadership and general lack of Stubborn or Fearless, are highly prone to failed Morale, Pinning and Fear tests, or even sweeping advances. Almost any unit will outperform them in combat - even Tactical Marines - and this is a trait that you can never afford to forget; if they are in combat, there is a probable chance they will die horribly. Between a Strength and Toughness of three backed by a +4 armour save, they can't do much in combat and are prone to most characteristic tests; they really rely on their decent save to survive, and their Ballistic Skill of three is rather mediocre. Compared to many other Troops choices though, they look quite good on paper and - from my admittedly limited experience with them so far - are very effective when used as a mobile, flexible fire-base. Between stock defensive grenades and characters that can provide improved Overwatch or allow the unit to consolidate out of assault range, they are designed to pound the enemy as much as possible and punish them for attempting to charge them. Whether mounted in a Devilfish for mobile redeployment or on foot and moving from cover to cover as it becomes necessary, Fire Warriors excel at medium to long range shooting; the sheer number of shots they put out, especially when paired with a Fireblade or Ethereal, at such a good Strength means they devastate armies such as Daemons, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tyranids and the like who rely either on high Toughness values or massed numbers.
|A bloodied Fire Warrior that isn't Kais? Heresy!|
Fire Warriors have access to a variety of upgrades and combinations that can boost their effectiveness quite dramatically. They can upgrade one member to a Shas'ui or squad leader, giving them a very handy boosted Leadership of eight - unless you plan on having an Ethereal nearby or attaching a Fireblade, I would recommend taking this upgrade as it is both reasonably priced and grants an important boost to one of the units' more pronounced weaknesses. As well, you can use the Shas'ui to challenge enemy characters and tie them up; though the Shas'ui will still likely perish with little difficulty, it can be invaluable to hold up monstrous creatures and the like and delay them in wiping out or running down your squad. The Shas'ui can take a target lock and Markerlight, allowing him to mark separate targets to his squad with reasonable effectiveness, all for a decent cost; it is more expensive than taking an admittedly less efficient Marker Drone, and thus you may want to reserve your Markerlight for elsewhere, though extra ones are never a bad idea. Another helpful tool to keep them in the fight is the cheap Bonding Knife ritual, allowing them to regroup even when below 25% of the starting unit total as if they had Heroic Morale; at that point though, many may feel the small remnants of the unit aren't worth the points, but given Fire Warriors are scoring, you should really consider this. Too often I've seen a handful of soldiers - enough to hold an objective on the last turn - fail an unlucky morale check and require snake eyes to regroup; the Bonding Knife Ritual at least gives your warriors a far higher chance of avoiding this fate. One of the more popular upgrades will likely prove to be EMP Grenades; for a decent investment across the unit - handily paid for by model - Fire Warriors can take what are essentially renamed Haywire Grenades, one of the most cost-effective anti-tank weapons in the game. Even with their horrid Weapon Skill and Initiative, a small squad of Fire Warriors should prove more than capable of wrecking the majority of non-walker vehicles thrown at them, and even a large squad should be able to handle those exceptions. Now, obviously you don't really want to rush Fire Warriors close to a vehicle, particularly given the random charge lengths and the multitude of AP four ranged weapons found in many a meta; EMP Grenades are very much a deterrent and a last choice against vehicles, giving Fire Warriors a far better melee defence against pesky Dreadnoughts, Defilers and the like. Tau tend to do just fine against vehicles at range, but giving your basic Troops the means to wreck almost any vehicle they come across is invaluable, particularly given scoring units are so pivotal in the objective-heavy 6th Edition.
Drones are available to a Fire Warrior Shas'ui with the same cost and restrictions as other units; Gun Drones provide light medium ranged firepower, Shield Drones are ablative wounds for your unit, and Marker Drones provide additional ever important Markerlights. Each of them are decent additions that you should consider, but given that one of Fire Warriors' biggest advantages is their low cost, you may want to keep all of your upgrades - including Drones - in check, especially owing to their fragility and almost peculiar attitude to give up in a melee. For a player looking to make their Fire Warrior teams more mobile, give them decent protection and fire support, and generally allow them to actually move to midfield objectives with a degree of success, Devilfishes are a sublime - albeit expensive - purchase. If you plan on keeping your Fire Warriors back and using the range of Pulse Rifles to their advantage, a Devilfish isn't necessary - however, if you plan on using Pulse Carbines and thus want to get nice and close to the enemy with the potential for mobile, safe redeployment, a Devilfish is invaluable. I should note that though I wouldn't take a Devilfish strictly for additional fire support, much like many Loyalist Space Marine armies use empty Razorbacks to provide strong and reliable firepower; they are too costly and don't have the weaponry to really perform this role effectively. All in all though, Fire Warriors are a pretty strong choice and, particularly when combined with a Fireblade or Ethereal, put out more shots at a low cost than almost any other Infantry unit in the game could hope for - the sheer Strength of their guns alone makes them a frightening prospect to nearly any enemy. Though they are definitely fragile when compared to Space Marines and will flail around in close quarters combat like a wet sack of jittering fish, a decent armour save given their cost makes them a very respectable unit, especially when combined with stock defensive grenades and the Supporting Fire special rule. These are my pick to fill out your Troops slots; just make sure to keep them cheap and simple and not spend more than you have to on them, as they work far better in numbers than in smaller, upgraded units.
|Too much beast for one picture.|
They can also be used to Outflank and, with Acute Senses provided by Kroot Hounds, reliably arrive on the table edge you want; this is a good way to allow your enemy to move forward to your other forces, and them surprise them with a strike from the side or rear and attack a valuable target or weak spot. This actually brings me to my next point; Kroot can take separate models as part of the overall unit. You can purchase ten Kroot Hounds, whom are essentially quicker Kroot that, as Beasts, gain little because they have to remain in unit coherency with the rest of the unit; aside from that, they lose the guns and the armour, but have more attacks and a pretty high Initiative value. Given how cheap they are, if you are intending to use Kroot as a distraction or melee tarpit unit, they aren't a bad option to consider; you can even opt to add just one to the unit so that the entire units gains the Acute Senses special rule, which is quite humorous. The other models to add are a limit of three Krootox; between two wounds, a Strength of six and what amounts to an autocannon with an average Ballistic Skill, Krootox are fragile - with an abysmal armour save and a Toughness of three - and expensive models that are best used in an Outflanking unit to fire into the rear armour of vehicles with their Strength seven guns. If that doesn't work, charge in with their Strength six melee attacks! These models are pretty situational, but worthwhile; the unit can also upgrade a regular Kroot member to a Shaper, doubling as a squad leader with two extra wounds and attacks. This is costly, but if you aren't confronted by an instant-death dealing weapon, it can be a funny tarpit character against other low-level characters. I think that, for the most part, Kroot are an ok unit that would probably work better in an army that would actually support them as a unit without resorting to very specific tactics; most Tau units won't operate in the same manner or area of the field that Kroot will, and as a firebase unit, they are outperformed in every way by the generally superior and more durable Fire Warriors. They do have a very interesting upgrade that makes them an oddly effective unit though, and that is to upgrade every regular Kroot' rifle to have sniper rounds; though they use a Heavy profile, this is a great way to add some exceedingly cheap - like, ridiculously so - Sniper models to the army. Precision Shots coming from a cheap as chips horde unit is sure to annoy most opponents; that twenty of them with sniper rifles costs less than one hundred and fifty tacos is sure to give you some mean looks from your opponents. Be aware of their comparatively short range compared to most other sniper rifles, and again, the fragility of the unit as a whole, and you should be sweet; Kroot upgraded as Snipers make for an excellent, cheap firebase unit that actually has a role in the army and works well alongside Fire Warriors. Use the Kroot to snipe out pesky special and heavy weapons from enemy units that would threaten your Battlesuits and vehicles, and then watch as the Fire Warriors blast the meat of the unit into bits. Kroot aren't a bad unit overall, but they can be difficult to use effectively in the context of the Tau codex.
Devilfish -The Devilfish is an expensive, but worthwhile, dedicated transport option that is available to Fire Warriors and Pathfinders only. The latter of the two units doesn't really require a Devilfish for anything more than moving into position initially or if they are being employed as 'heavy weapon teams' sporting Rail Rifles or Ion Rifles. The former is best served using a Devilfish for all purpose needs, from blocking line of sight, providing mobile cover, soaking up damage, ferrying units and providing light fire support. Given that Tau typically struggle to sit on objectives owing to their fragility and less than mediocre melee capabilities, Devilfishes are invaluable for a Tau force that aims to take important midfield objectives - or deny them - by giving Fire Warriors a route to such hotspots without worrying about time or fire as much as they would on foot. In that sense, it really wouldn't matter just how expensive a Devilfish is or what upgrades it takes - it will always be a useful addition for Fire Warrior teams if you intend to play an objectives game and not just blast your opponent into oblivion, which is a pretty viable strategy considering the objective-heavy focus of 6th Edition. The Devilfish can carry up to twelve models - including Drones - but may never carry Bulky, Very Bulky or Extremely Bulky models, effectively ruling out the possibility of throwing Battlesuit teams in there - not like you would want to, for the most part. The Devilfish has a rather surprisingly high base cost, but this is due to a number of factors; the first being that, as both a tank and a skimmer, it benefits from the very handy Jink special rule, it can move flat out, and it can even tank shot with its strong front armour of 12. This means it is quite fast, pretty durable against standard anti-armour weaponry, and is pretty ideal for delivering your Infantry or Drones to where they need to go. It has more firepower than your average transport as well, with eight Strength five AP five shots, four of which are twin-linked but hit on a +5 as opposed to the other four which hit on a +4, and thus averages about four hits and three wounds against typical Toughness four enemies. Not bad, but as a dedicated transport, that isn't really what you should be interested in - however, the light firepower is quite useful against light vehicles and other non-vehicle forces.
|I don't get it. Where is the Devil, or the Fish?|
Example Builds - The Tau Troops choices tend to stick to pretty consistent themes, though there are variations to these.
Fire Warriors (12) w/ shas'ui - 118
Kroot (20) w/ sniper rounds - 140
Devilfish w/ disruption pods - 95
Fire Warriors (8) w/ pulse carbines, shas'ui, Devilfish w/ disruption pods - 177
Kroot (15) w/ five Kroot Hounds, two Krootox - 180
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