Aun'shi - To those unfamiliar with the original Tau codex, Aun'shi was the first and foremost Ethereal special character; with an awesome background denoting a warrior amongst peace-makers that held the line against tides of Orks, Aun'shi is unusual amongst the Tau in that he is at home in combat as much as in the backfield. On a personal note - I couldn't be happier, as Aun'shi has always been my favourite special character, even despite his absence in the previous codex. So what is he actually like in the game now? Well, he is surprisingly strong in close quarters engagements, though he is worthwhile enough owing to his stock abilities as an Ethereal - he can provide once per game turn abilities such as Feel No Pain (+6) or Stubborn to any friendly Tau unit within 12", whilst also providing Stubborn to his unit and allowing any Tau unit within 12" use Leadership of 10 for a wide range of Leadership-based tests. As far as his combat prowess goes, he is quite decent; Weapon Skill and Initiative five with four attacks gives him a big edge over squad leaders and the like, whilst his honour blade makes his attacks Strength five - nasty! On top of that, he has EMP and Photon grenades, meaning he can deal with vehicles to an extent - be wary of walkers though - and provides defensive boosts to his unit through the latter if they don't have any themselves. What really jumps out though is that Aun'shi gets to pick from one of two combat stances at the start of each Fight sub-phase; either he can forfeit his strikes to re-roll failed saves, or his melee attacks gain the Rending special rule. Either is pretty tasty, though given there's a good chance he will be your Warlord owing to his Leadership of ten, you may want to be more cautious here; despite having a handy +4 invulnerable save that he can re-roll in combat if he so chooses, a Toughness of three and only three wounds means you need to be wary of being assaulted by certain units or being shot at by assault cannons and the like. He isn't exactly cheap either, being almost twice the cost of an Ethereal equipped with an honour blade. Still, given that he is pretty good in combat and can at least hold an enemy unit up owing to Stubborn and his blade stances for a few turns at least, he seems to be pretty good value; a unit of Fire Warriors with Aun'shi in the fray won't be such easy pickings for an opponent.
Darkstrider - This guy is pretty cool for a number of reasons, and don't let his restriction of joining only Fire Warrior or Pathfinder units dishearten you - there's little else you would really want to attach him to anyway, barring perhaps Broadsides. Essentially a Cadre Fireblade with Recon (+5) armour as opposed to Combat (+4) armour, Darkstrider is interesting in the sense that he can grant Scouts, Outflank and Night Vision to any unit he attaches to, which isn't bad at all, particularly that last one given the strong weaponry Tau carry. Sporting the new and improved Pulse Carbine, Darkstrider is intended for close range fire-fights, which given his relative fragility may seem a bit self-conflicting, but that doesn't tell the full story. Despite the importance of sporting a Markerlight that hits on a +2, Darkstrider's two best traits revolve around firing at enemies at close range, and this works best either with Fire Warriors armed with Pulse Carbines or standard Pathfinders. Move up so that your unit is about 18" away from the enemy target you want to fire at, and unload on them with the awesome stipulation that the enemy unit treats their Toughness as -1 for all intents and purposes - even Instant Death! - when Darkstrider and his unit fires at them. Given that the basic weapon your warriors carry is Strength five, this means that you will be wounding even Space Marines on a +2, or most monstrous creatures on a +4! So that ability alone is pretty nasty, especially when combined with over-charged Ion Rifles or Rail Rifles for instant-death goodness - those poor, poor Daemon Princes - but Darkstrider has an even more laughable way of making your opponent tear their hair out in frustration. After firing Overwatch - and remembering that friendly units within 6" can do so as well - Darkstrider's unit immediately consolidates D6 inches in any direction, meaning that you can fire at an enemy unit and do a lot of damage owing to the Toughness reduction ability, then fire Overwatch, then retreat out of charge range! These amazing abilities mean that smart positioning is highly rewarding; essentially getting a free shooting phase on top of your usual one, both of which are improved, and being able to prevent an enemy assault they thought would occur. This guy is the bare minimum triple digit cost, and I think he is pretty awesome. Just be wary of the fact that he and his unit are lightly armoured Infantry.
|Fireblade does as Fireblade wants. Wait...|
XV104 Riptide - The unit on everyone's lips right now owing to its gargantuan proportions and awesome design, the Riptide is a decent unit that many Tau players may unfortunately shun in favour of more Crisis or Stealth teams. This isn't to say the Riptide is bad, but more-so the units it competes with tend to be more efficient. I think it's place is to blast apart enemy infantry from a titanic range, with the incredible 70" range of the Ion Accelerator and the Strength 8 AP 2 large blast it spits out making for a devastating unit to anything from Terminators to Ork Boyz. The standard firing mode is also decent, with three Strength 7 AP 2 shots at the same range, decent for sniping out Terminators without risking a Gets Hot roll or otherwise damaging light vehicles. The Heavy Burst Cannon isn't bad, what with a high rate of fire and relatively high Strength and AP, but I think it isn't quite as versatile as the firepower provided by the Ion Accelerator which threatens light vehicles and well armoured Infantry far more. Of course, eight shots at Strength 6 AP 4 will absolutely scare the pants off of light infantry, such as Eldar or Imperial Guard, though I feel the Riptide's mediocre Ballistic Skill means that using the Heavy Burst Cannon requires Markerlight support to be truly effective. The secondary weapon system is probably down to what you will use the Riptide for; if it is long range artillery, take the Smart Missile System. Close assault or 'Jump Shoot Jump' is a toss up between the Fusion Blaster or the Plasma Rifle, depending on whether you want to prioritise killing Infantry or have some anti-vehicle defence. The Riptide is incredibly tough no matter which way you go though, which is probably its defining feature - it can soak up blows like few other units in the game, between five wounds, Toughness six, +2 armour and a +5 invulnerable save; provided you can keep it out of combat, it is even harder to remove than the infamous Dreadknight or even - perhaps - a Tyrannofex. No mean feat there! Given that it is a Jetpack Monstrous Creature, it can move, shoot and then do a 2D6 move in the Assault phase to reliably stay out of combat - this element of mobile harassment and the ability to lead enemies by the nose is quite advantageous, particularly given how pitiful it is in combat given its unit type. With a Weapon Skill and Initiative of two and only three attacks, even krak-grenade toting Imperial Guard are a threat to it if taken in serious numbers; however, it is tough enough that it can withstand most punishment. It can and will still smash vehicles into dust - aside from some walkers - but it has one potentially fatal weakness that a smart opponent will exploit; it is not Fearless, and its low Initiative means that it is vulnerable to Sweeping Advances. Not good!
The Nova Reactor is a very risky proposition, and one that I would only use if you are desperately in need of its potential effects; the Riptide functions just fine without them, though perhaps the most interesting is the +3 invulnerable save, which can be a life-saver against an enemy fielding lots of plasma or melta weaponry. Nova-charging its Ion Accelerator is unnecessary, but the Heavy Burst Cannon actually benefits enough that the risk probably justifies the reward; an extra four shots and the Rending special rule are applied which, provided you expend Markerlight tokens, can put the hurt on almost anything. The Shielded Missile Drones are handy, and also serve to allow Independent Characters to join the Riptide - I'm deadly serious - leading to cheese combos such as an Infiltrating Riptide with Stealth and Shrouded owing to the presence of Shadowsun. Ouch! A good upgrade for it to have is Interceptor, allowing it to annihilate enemy Outflanking units with its strong weaponry. Overall, I think its main use is as a damage-sponge that can soak up a lot of heavy weapons fire that would otherwise be directed at your more valuable Hammerheads, Crisis Teams and the like; its firepower is pretty good, though its best attribute is definitely its durability. Taking one to draw fire off your vehicles and such is a good tactic, but you do need to be aware of certain methods of killing it - notably force weapons and melee against any kind of dedicated melee unit.
|I had to throw this in!|
Sun Shark Bomber - Perhaps the more interesting of the two flyer options, the Sun Shark has a wide arrange of weaponry and rules; the most prominent of which is the bomb it carries. Given the bombing run rules, a Strength 5 AP 5 large blast that scatters only D6 inches is pretty darn handy against most Infantry - even Space Marines owing to the sheer number of wounds you can cause - and unlike most other bombers, the Sun Shark's bomb 'regenerates' provided you don't roll a 1 after dropping one, meaning that unless you are unlucky or haven't positioned the flyer well you can perform a bombing run each turn. So that is all well and good, but that isn't the end of my tale on this more than useful flyer; given that the unit you bomb doesn't have to be the target of your subsequent shooting, you can then use the Sun Shark's Missile Pod and pair of one-use only Seeker Missiles to do some decent damage to vehicles or monstrous creatures. Given that it also has a Networked Markerlight which it can use to boost its own Ballistic Skill or that of another unit, this gives the Sun Shark a lot of use even after its bombs have (potentially) dried up. That it also carries a pair of Interceptor Drones armed with twin-linked ion rifles is a great bonus, given they can 'disembark' despite the Sun Shark being a Zooming flyer; interestingly, they can Turbo Boost like Jetbikes, and with Interceptor and Skyfire, they are decently potent anti-flyer weapons at medium ranges. The ability to Over-charge their weapons to fire potent small blasts makes up for their low Ballistic Skill and provides some nasty additional anti-infantry firepower to the Sun Shark's array, though they also work well in conjunction with the Networked Markerlight, Seeker Missile and Missile Pod carried by the bomber to combat other fliers. Overall, I think the Sun Shark is a pretty strong flier that definitely shines ahead of the comparable Dark Talon from Codex: Dark Angels, and its firepower against fliers is almost as effective as a Razorshark for only a minimal cost increase.
Longstrike - The only named character that isn't in the HQ section, Longstrike is an interesting addition to one of your Hammerheads; though he does jack the price up considerably, the advantages are undeniable. Between Ballistic Skill five, Tank Hunters combined with a Strength 10 AP 1 weapon with a 72" range, Night Vision and the ability to Overwatch multiple times in any given enemy assault phase with the same Supporting Fire special rule that Tau Infantry possess, Longstrike is an effective addition to the crew of a Hammerhead Tank - particularly given that destroying his Hammerhead doesn't award any bonus victory points. As a sweet bonus, Longstrike also grants Preferred Enemy (Imperial Guard) to his Hammerhead, making him a very handy option against the legions of Leman Russ and Chimera variants the Imperial forces employ. I think that he is worth the points, but only if you have them spare; he is a third of the cost of another Hammerhead, and such a consideration is important to note in games below 2000 points where you typically want to spread your points out across multiple units. Nonetheless, a Strength 10 AP 1 weapon that hits on a +2 from across the board and re-rolls failed armour penetration rolls is absolutely brutal and well worth your time.
|Pretty much this.|
Farsighted Alpha Strike - Going off of the last sentence of my previous trick, another one that has exposed itself revolves around the guaranteed Warlord trait Farsight sports - no scatter on deep strike for his unit and himself. Though there is no potential for reserve manipulation in the Tau codex itself, this is still a nasty and reliable tactic to employ; it can provide a devastating early alpha strike provided you run Farsight with a balanced unit able to engage multiple targets effectively. This lends itself well either to a standard Crisis team or - if the points allow and you are prepared to take the massive risk - the potentially seven-strong Crisis bodyguard Farsight can take, and giving them all target locks and a range of fusion blasters, plasma rifles, flamers and the like. This allows the unit to potentially destroy multiple vehicles, small squads and significantly wound even monstrous creatures all at once in a single fell swoop. Then, in the assault phase, use their Jetpack move to space them out to reduce their vulnerability to blast weapons, and to move away from potentially threatening units at close range; still, Farsight is deadly enough in combat that many enemies may reconsider charging the unit. This is a very risky unit and tactic to use, but a potentially very rewarding one that owing to the perfect deep strike and availability of melta and plasma weapons can devastate several targets very quickly.
Eat Ion - All ion weaponry, even those carried by Interceptor Drones and Pathfinders, can be over-charged to fire Strength eight (or higher) AP four (or better) small or large blasts that can reave light vehicles, multiple wound Infantry such as Tyranid Warriors, and even regular Infantry like Dire Avengers or Tactical Marines with brutal efficiency. Given how cheap Ion weapons are, and the fact that they can also be used to fire a lot of high Strength shots at vehicles and elite Infantry if you don't over-charge them, this makes Ion weapons incredibly versatile and, like anything, brutal when combined with Markerlights to ignore cover or hit more reliably. Given that Pathfinders can take three Ion Rifles even in a minimum sized squad, you can and should abuse these weapons as much as you can. Just be aware of the risks - all of them have Gets Hot when over-charged!
|"My Pulse Carbine seems a bit stronger nowadays..."|