29 Sep 2015

KV128 Stormsurge Rules Review and Pre-Codex Impressions

Greetings all and welcome to another early impressions review article for a soon-to-be-released Tau unit; this time I have elected to focus my attention on the KV128 Stormsurge, the latest addition to the Tau roster of Lords of War. While my impressions for the Tau'nar Supremacy Suit were positively glowing because of how absurdly under-priced it is, I will spoil you on the content of my work here by stating in advance that the Stormsurge gets my seal of approval for a completely different reason. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on this awesome new model!

Be aware that this article contains rule spoilers for the upcoming Tau Codex; if you don't want to know about what any of the new units are capable of until you have the codex in-hand, feel free to skip this early impressions review. 

I also must stress that before reading this review you should realize that the opinions expressed in this article are based on a blurry image that may lead to some mistakes with regard to the Stormsurge's actual rules. This is intended to be my early impressions of the Stormsurge prior to its release in the new codex and should not be viewed as a full, final review of the model. 




KV128 Stormsurge

To keep this particular article in-line with the one I wrote out for the Tau'nar, the style of review will follow a similar content structure where I focus on each individual aspect of the model in as much depth as possible so that players can be fully enlightened as to what the Stormsurge is truly capable of.

Defense

I was honestly surprised by the survivability of the Stormsurge given what Tau Monstrous Creatures and Gargantuan Creatures normally bring to the table in that front which is actually a refreshing change of pace. It seems that Games Workshop, unlike Forge World, fully understand that - outside of Graviton weaponry - Gargantuan Creatures tend to be among the most difficult models in the game to actually kill with far less numerous hard counters than Super Heavy Vehicles. The Stormsurge is to my knowledge the first Gargantuan Creature in the game to have a Toughness value of 6 which instantly makes it vulnerable to small arms fire in a way almost no other Gargantuan Creature is, while heavier weaponry that is usually directed towards Gargantuan Creatures will have an easier time than normal to actually wound the Stormsurge compared to, say, a Wraithknight. Where this is balanced out is that the Stormsurge has an impressive Wounds 8 characteristic, giving it a huge buffer against Graviton and Destroyer weapons that importantly render Toughness values worthless - this generally means that against the ranged weapons that are usually taken to hard-counter Gargantuan Creatures, the Stormsurge is more durable than many other units of its type assuming a lack of an invulnerable save (more on that later).

The sticking point for many is that the Stormsurge has a "mere" 3+ armour save which has led to some labeling it as an "over-sized Tyranid Monstrous Creature" which is half-true; the 3+ save makes it less vulnerable to Graviton weapons than your average 2+ armoured Gargantuan Creature or Monstrous Creature, and the vast majority of heavy weapons in the game are already AP2 or AP1. The kind of weapons that will actually give the Stormsurge a reason to despise having a 3+ save over a 2+ save involve krak missiles, general small arms fire, Tyranid Bio-Cannons and so on; against the usual community-designated counters for Gargantuan Creatures, the 3+ save doesn't make any difference. In fact, the kind of AP3 weaponry that specifically gives a Stormsurge pause tends to be rarer in 7th Edition due to the fact that most Gargantuan Creatures either have Toughness 8 or 2+ saves which made the higher Strength AP2 ranged weapons more mandatory and thus common by default - ironically, the army that features the most Strength 8 AP3 shooting in a standard competitive list would probably be Tau with their Skyrays. This is something I want people to understand; the 3+ armour save obviously isn't as good as having a 2+ save but against the vast majority of weapons that you will want to use against Gargantuan Creatures, it won't actually make a difference. The fact that it can actually be wounded by boltguns, lasguns and so on is what I find to be the real sticking point even though the chances of actually hurting it with any of those are very slim and wasting massed small arms fire on an eight-wound model is generally a bad idea, though once you factor in abilities such as the Space Marines' Storm of Fire Warlord Trait or the Misfortune Divination psychic power you can actually really start to work it down. It also bears mentioning that there are a lot of high Strength AP3 melee weapons that could also exploit the Stormsurge's lack of a 2+ save but then that brings us right back to the "Tau hate combat anyway" argument.

In this regard, the Stormsurge is deceptively tanky; eight wounds is a hell of a lot to get through when you consider that it has good armour (which as discussed earlier can be considered redundant), an immunity to Instant Death and being removed from play which means you need to actually get through all of those individual wounds, easily accessed cover saves and Feel No Pain (5+) by virtue of being a Gargantuan Creature. However, unlike pretty much all other Gargantuan Creatures, the Stormsurge is balanced by not automatically requiring Destroyer or Graviton weapons to kill it; small arms fire allows standard infantry units to actually feel like they can successfully hurt it - and being able to do so sporadically too - which is a welcome change considering many have deemed the rest of the codices to be an escalating arms race wherein basic units are falling by the way-side (which isn't actually true). Against the weapons that you would normally use to take out a Gargantuan Creature, the Stormsurge is more durable than most other Gargantuan Creatures even despite lacking an invulnerable save which, as mentioned prior, can be addressed with one simple addition; unlike the Tau'nar, the Stormsurge can take up to three different items from the Tau Support Systems wargear list. While we don't know what restrictions will be placed on it or even what Support Systems will still exist in the new codex, with the current codex we can provide it with a number of options, most important of which is undoubtedly the Shield Generator.

Paying less than 30 points to give a Stormsurge a 4+ invulnerable save may very well be the best use of that many points I can think of in the game as far as actual upgrade prices are concerned, and it is something I have a strong feeling will change in the new codex; whether it pays more for Shield Generators or loses access to them entirely will prove crucial in determining just how good the Stormsurge really is when the updated codex is released. For now though, we can look at the Stormsurge in this way; giving it a 4+ invulnerable save makes it easily the superior of a Wraithknight as far as durability is concerned against all but small arms fire, and unlike the Wraithknight it doesn't have to compromise on firepower to attain that crucial defensive mechanism that safe-guards it against the usual counters it will require. Interestingly enough, it also has a 1 in 6 chance of surviving a "Deathblow" result from a Destroyer weapon due to having 8 Wounds - if an opponent gets unlucky and rolls a 1 for their D6+6 Wounds, the Stormsurge can survive and force even more shooting from an opponent than would otherwise be necessary. It is most certainly a foot-note but possibly an important one.

In any case, overall we have a model that - if we assume that a Shield Generator is purchased - for 385 points without any weapon upgrades has Toughness 6, 8 Wounds, a 3+ armor save, a 4+ invulnerable save and Feel No Pain (5+). This stacks up extremely well against the similarly priced Imperial Knights and is also - much like the Tau'nar - surprisingly durable where Graviton weapons are concerned, requiring a deliciously significant amount of shots to put down (the only difference between a Tau'nar and a Stormsurge with a Shield Generator against Graviton weapons is that the Tau'nar has two extra Wounds). Factor in the usual Gargantuan resistances such as forcing Poisoned and Sniper weapons to wound it on rolls of a 6, immunity to Instant Death and so on we actually still have a very survivable model even despite the all-time-low (for a Gargantuan Creature) Toughness 6. This thing is still a very tough to put down by nature of being a Gargantuan Creature with a huge amount of wounds, innate Feel No Pain and an optional but extremely powerful 4+ invulnerable save that applies against both ranged and melee attacks - interestingly enough, this also makes the Stormsurge more durable against melee Destroyer weapons than a Tau'nar unless you count any "Deathblow" results. Don't let the stats fool you; the Stormsurge is still very, very tough for its points cost and works out to be a proper Imperial Knight equivalent whereas the Tau'nar shares comparisons with actual Titans. Additionally, I've seen more than a few comments saying that the Stormsurge isn't that great because it can be forced to run off the board or swept in close combat - all Gargantuan Creatures are natively Fearless meaning you should never have to worry about that scenario.


Offense

Whereas the Tau'nar mostly drew my and every other competitive players' ire because of how insanely durable it is and that it pretty much requires almost an entire armies' worth of shooting to kill - and even then, most armies still can't handle it - the Stormsurge will and should get attention because of its effective damage output. This is another case of the raw stats being deceptive where in reality this thing still out-shoots the vast majority of other Gargantuan Creatures in the game when you consider its potential support elements and native ranged weaponry. Before I go any further though, I want to address the "Gargantuan Creature shooting"debate directly as it is obviously will greatly impact on how competitive the Stormsurge is. The word "each" is essentially a replacement for "all" per the definition of the word, and it is used in a way that suggests Gargantuan Creatures can fire all of their ranged weapons at different targets which would override the normal restriction of firing two weapons at a single target like a regular monstrous creature. This is what I have been led to believe is the official position of Games Workshop and is also the clearest example of a rule's wording being arbitrarly confusing; it definitely requires an FAQ but the obvious intent is for it to allow the Gargantuan Creature to supersede the standard rules for shooting with monstrous creatures in two distinct ways. Otherwise, Gargantuan Creatures follow the example set by their smaller kin with specific regard to firing in a 360 degree arc as long as line-of-sight can be established to the targets; this is how the ITC (run by the awesome guys at Frontline Gaming) - the largest tournament circuit in the USA - plays it and most other tournaments follow this example. Besides, the Stormsurge has a total of eight individual weapon systems and is balanced around being able to fire all of them. You may play this rule differently but for the purposes of this review and the impact the Stormsurge will have on the competitive scene, let us move on with the assumption that it can fire all of its weapons normally.

First off, the Stormsurge has two primary shoulder-mounted weapon options; the stock Pulse Blastcannon or the optional Pulse Driver Cannon, the latter of which is a paid-for weapon swap with the former. The second of these weapons is fairly straight-forward as it is essentially a Demolisher Cannon shot albeit with a whopping 72" range, meaning it is Strength 10, AP2, Ordnance and fires one Large Blast shot. This is an amusing weapon primarily because it exists on a Tau unit and has an incredible range; normally, cover saves and a small range are what stop Demolisher Cannons from ever been truly devastating, but in a codex that has access to Markerlights paired up with a length-of-the-board range these weaknesses can easily be circumvented allowing for precision bombardment. If you want to use the Stormsurge primarily as a static artillery platform which most of its rules tend to favor, the Pulse Driver Cannon is definitely the shoulder-mounted weapon of choice and well worth the small points cost attached to it; the whopping 72" range means that it will be able to put great pressure on opponents from the first turn onward on almost any standard gaming board, and once they close with the Stormsurge its shorter-ranged weapon systems will come online - as will potential Markerlight support - to really start obliterating squads in short order. This gun obviously doesn't stack up to the main weapon system of the Tau'nar but I honestly don't think it really needs to; Strength 10 AP2 with Ordnance and a single shot is not the best anti-tank option but it does allow you to reliably strip hull points off of the heavier vehicles from turn one onwards while also crucially providing Tau with an answer to multi-wound Toughness 5 squads such as Centurion Devastators - just pray they aren't buffed by Invisibility!

The first weapon - the stock Pulse Blastcannon - is very unusual for a number of reasons with the main culprit being that it has range limitations that don't really line up with most of the other weapons used by the Stormsurge, but it is an interesting option nonetheless. It essentially functions as a reverse Conversion Beamer that gets stronger the closer a target unit is to the firing Stormsurge, and unlike a Conversion Beamer it will actually be consistently useful on standard sized gaming boards. When the target is 20" to 30" away, it fires two Strength 9 AP3/AP5 (we can't quite tell yet) Large Blasts which, depending on what the AP value actually is, is guaranteed to crush light vehicles, light infantry, Ogryn or Tyranid Warrior equivalents and potentially annihilate Space Marine equivalents and other medium to heavy infantry if it is indeed AP3. Personally I think it appears to be AP5 rather than AP3 which does somewhat limit the weapons' overall power, but if it is indeed AP3 then it will instantly classify as a very powerful answer to heavier targets. At 10" to 20" it instead fires to small Blasts that are Strength 10 AP1 which are obviously more suited to taking down medium to heavy vehicles, Toughness 5 monstrous creatures or elite units and so on. However, at up to 10" it can instead fire two Destroyer AP1 shots that don't use blast markers which, with its mediocre Ballistic Skill 3, makes it an obvious choice to expend Markerlight tokens on - though why you wouldn't reserve Markerlights for something like a Stormsurge is beyond my personal understanding.

Obviously this means you want to get close to enemy units to bring the Pulse Blastcannons' full destructive power online which might seem counter-productive given the Stabilizing Anchors (again, later) but I feel needs to be looked at more as a "counter-measure" device. Most answers to Gargantuan Creatures - even the unusual Stormsurge - are close-ranged, and for lots of armies they have to fully rely on close combat to take it down; thankfully, the Stormsurge isn't quite as absurd as the Tau'nar in this sense as it isn't outright immune to most forms of attack. I've read a few comments that Imperial Knights can easily take down a Stormsurge at range but this is actually a false assumption; Knight Crusaders and Knight Wardens are the only ones that legitimately scare or can even compete with a Stormsurge at range, and their damage output is fully reliant on the Stormsurge not purchasing a Shield Generator. This means that even the venerated noble houses of the Imperial Knights will have to rely on melee to efficiently put down a Stormsurge, but that involves getting close to its exponentially powerful Pulse Blastcannon. When you factor in that a Stormsurge with a Shield Generator is still exceptionally tough for its points and can wither a ridiculous amount of firepower all the while still being a deceivingly powerful model in close combat due to being a Gargantuan Creature, using it in an aggressive fashion similar to the 6th Edition Wraithknight or a Tau'nar equipped with the fusion arms is not out of the question at all. I can see smart players parking the Stormsurge on a valuable objective such as the Relic with their 12" move in the early turns, then activating their Stabilizing Anchors to obliterate anything that gets close to them with their Pulse Blastcannon - trust me, you do not want to be on the receiving end of four Destroyer AP1 shots buffed by Markerlights!

As far as the Stormsurge's other weapon systems are concerned, it has quite a number of solutions to various units making it one of the more versatile ranged units you can find - especially for a Gargantuan Creature and even compared to the mighty Tau'nar. The most noteworthy of these is the all-new and easily identifiable Cluster Rocket System which fires a whopping 4D6 Strength 5 AP5 shots with an impressive 48" range, a weapon that many seem to find underwhelming. The reasons as to why this is better than it seems is its interaction with a Farsight Enclaves list that will typically lack the massed Strength 5 AP5 shots a normal Tau list can put out, as well as the fact that it is a huge number of shots on one platform which means that the total Markerlight expenditure required to make it fire at full effect is minimal compared to, for example, three squads of Fire Warriors. While it can be rendered ineffective due to its randomly determined number of shots, the raw maths point to this weapon system averaging an impressive fourteen shots a turn; with two Markerlights hits to buff it to Ballistic Skill 5, this can put most light vehicles down for the count in one volley and put the hurt on most infantry units decently well. Where this weapon really becomes interesting is when you combine it with the various Support Systems the Stormsurge has access to, most notable of which is the Velocity Tracker which enables the Stormsurge to choose to use Skyfire for a shooting phase. That many Strength 5 shots - plus a few Markerlight hits from a Skyray - will obliterate most flyers and this is especially the case if you have enough Markerlights to grant Ignores Cover. I think the main reason the weapon isn't so underwhelming to me personally is the range combined with the potential mobility of the Stormsurge; Fire Warriors are currently in a bad place despite being a good unit on their own merits given that there are so many high Strength AP4 template or other Ignores Cover weapons available to pretty much any army, exploiting their fragility and rendering their medium range almost worthless. The Stormsurge fears no such weaponry and can comfortably trade blows with other units from a long distance; this obviously isn't the best weapon to have for a unit supposedly developed to fight Imperial Knights but it is by no means a bad weapon to have.


Elsewhere, the Stormsurge features a twin-linked smart missile system which is always a good weapon to have - anyone that tells you otherwise is silly or hasn't played against either Deathleaper or skimmers - and a twin-linked flamer that, thankfully, can be swapped out for either a twin-linked burst cannon or a twin-linked airbursting fragmentation projector (abbreviated to ABF from now on). With the current rules for those three weapons the easy choice to take is the ABF seeing as it costs the same as the Burst Cannon upgrade and trades four Strength 5 AP5 shots for a single Strength 4 AP5 Large Blast that has Ignores Cover, providing a potent solution to cover-camping infantry units that so often force Tau players to expend Markerlights they would otherwise be better served using on high priority targets. Its range is identical to the Burst Cannon with a short 18" but it is nonetheless more potent against infantry, though if you want even more anti-light vehicle shooting then the Burst Cannon is also a good choice as it does combo very nicely with the Smart Missile System (remembering, all of these smaller weapons are twin-linked as well to reduce the need for valuable Markerlights) to rip apart light skimmers with ease. The flamer isn't that good by nature of being incapable of finding use in Overwatch as Gargantuan Creatures are normally incapable of reactionary fire while generally being what amounts to a shorter ranged ABF with the only benefits being that it can't miss and re-rolls failed to-wound rolls - but seeing as the ABF is also Twin-Linked this is generally not worth it. Lastly, the Stormsurge packs in four one-use-only Strength 8 AP1 missiles with a huge 60" range which are obviously designed to be used with Markerlights in a similar way to Seeker Missiles, albeit without the special Seeker rule. They aren't anything special and won't do much to an Imperial Knight but I consider them to be the "cherry" of the Stormsurge cake, adding that little bit of extra firepower to justify its price point - just like Seeker Missiles, get four Markerlights on to a unit and fire the Stormsurge at Ballistic Skill 5 with Ignores Cover and you should guarantee yourself an easy First Blood on a four-wound monstrous creature or light vehicle.

All of that aside, we can look at the Stormsurges' firepower overall now; it is more generally impressive than what a Wraithknight would normally provide, though much like the Tau'nar it bears the unusual distinction of acting more as a general bombardment platform than an actual Titan-killer or Knight-killer as it has been billed as in its' fluff description. It has enough shooting to decimate almost anything short of Gargantuan Creatures and Super Heavy Vehicles in a similar fashion to the Tau'nar, but it does have the situational capabilities to take even those ultra-powerful units on if you take a risk with its fully powered Pulse Blastcannon profile; unlike the Tau'nar, it does struggle against AV13 and AV14 vehicles for the most part as outside of its shoulder-mounted weapon system it actually can't reliably hurt models with those kinds of armour values. Generally speaking though its firepower is above average for a Gargantuan Creature - as is its durability if you give it a Shield Generator - and this is especially so once you consider that fully maxed-out it will be less than 400 points. Of course, this is all without even mentioning its potentially jaw-dropping Stabilizing Anchors special rule; I'll do my best to explain this one clearly as it can be a bit confusing, especially judging by the low-quality images we have to work with.

Basically, a Stormsurge can elect to use its Stabilizing Anchors in addition to firing as normal in a given Shooting Phase; if it does so, it cannot move for any reason or make Stomp attacks until it elects to retract the Stabilizing Anchors (which can be done at the start of any Movement Phase) at which point it acts normally from then on. I saw some comments suggesting that it had to sacrifice its shooting to do this but this is untrue; it fires at full effect when it retracts or deploys the Stabilizing Anchors, but it must instead sacrifice being able to move or make Stomp attacks which has the unfortunate side-effect of making it ridiculously vulnerable in a melee. The actual benefits provided by the Stabilizing Anchors to offset those negatives is that the Stormsurge gets to fire twice in subsequent Shooting Phases after the one in which it deployed its Stabilizing Anchors; remembering that it has four weapon systems that can be fired infinitely in addition to its four one-use-only missiles, you quickly realize that the Stormsurge is absolutely no joke in the Shooting Phase. It has stronger shooting than most Gargantuan Creatures even without using this ability, but with it....let's just say that you will run out of Markerlights very quickly when using a Stormsurge in this way. What is interesting to note here is that it does not specify individual weapons fire twice like the R'Varna but that the model itself fires twice, meaning that per the rules-as-written it can fire all of its individual guns at separate targets each time it shoots; basically, you can shoot its Pulse Driver Cannon at two different targets or at one single target - your choice. This easily pushes the Stormsurges' overall firepower into the same category as the Tau'nar and actually exceeds it against anything that isn't a medium to heavy Vehicle, high Toughness Monstrous Creature or Gargantuan Creature. Not only does it makes the Pulse Blastcannon hilarious if you use the trick I talked about earlier by parking it on a midfield objective, but just generally it leads to a jaw-dropping display of raw power for less than 400 points from a Gargantuan Creature given how many potential targets it can fire at. 2 Strength 10 AP2 Ordnance Large Blasts at 72", 8D6 Strength 5 AP5 shots at 48" (for an average of 28 shots), 8 Strength 5 AP5 Twin-Linked Ignores Cover shots at 30" that don't require line-of-sight, 8 Strength 5 AP5 shots at 18" or 2 Strength 4 AP5 Barrage Ignores Cover Large Blasts at 18" that can all be fired in each turn plus four one-use-only Strength 8 AP1 shots. Gladius got you down? Stormsurge ahoy!

Here's the thing though; unlike the Tau'nar, the Stormsurge actually has massive issues dealing with incredibly durable targets and will struggle to really harm targets such as Land Raiders unless it closes in and uses the 10" ranged profile of the Pulse Blastcannon, but this is obviously counter-intuitive given that it requires such close proximity to what will ususally be a transport ferrying a nasty melee unit. Contrary to what many voices in the community are saying, this isn't a bad thing at all; I don't expect a 360-400 point unit to be able to hard-counter anything and everything that is thrown at it, nor do I expect it to be able to soak up 1000+ points worth of shooting directed its way. In stark contrast to a lot of the recently released Super Heavy and Gargantuan Creature choices, the Stormsurge is not under-priced or imbalanced in any significant way; I feel that it is a strong unit that doesn't quite address some core issues with competitive Tau lists but is a good unit on its own merits that will struggle to deal with other heavy targets but presents an alluring hard-counter to Multiple-Small-Unit style lists. While this point might be better saved for my closing analysis it nonetheless is significant when talking about just how good the Stormsurge's ranged presence is; just because it can't effectively deal with a certain unit type does not make it bad, especially seeing as Multiple-Small-Unit armies are actually gaining huge popularity with the various detachments and formations favoring their usage such as the Gladius Strike Force.

It also requires supporting elements as is the Tau way by having a mediocre Ballistic Skill 3 that mandates the use of Markerlights (the Cluster Rocket System) for certain weapons but is unnecessary for others (its various Twin-Linked guns), but where the combination of Markerlights and the Stabilizing Anchors rule really shine is with the potential for fielding a squad of Stormsurges; you read that right, the Stormsurge is a Gargantuan Creature that can be fielded in units of up to three. Cue the "death-star" memes, but in all seriousness it leads to a massively expensive unit that can out-shoot any single unit of a similar price point, requires less Markerlights depending on how you split their ranged attacks between units than would be the case if they were independent of each other, is ridiculously tough if all of them feature Shield Generators and just generally makes me thankful Tau can't benefit from Psychic Powers anymore due to losing out on Eldar Battle Brothers. The potential behind a unit of Gargantuan Creatures that are priced like the Stormsurge is downright insane if we use Markerlights as the Tau equivalent of Psychic Powers, but whether it becomes a top-tier list build is another question entirely given their struggle with AV13-AV14 and high Toughness models - thank the Emperor they can't benefit from Invisibility (I just shudder at the thought).

Lastly, the Stormsurge does of course have some capability of defending itself in close combat and this is also where I must stress that anything that classes as a Gargantuan Creature is not weak in a melee no matter how appalling its raw stats might be. Weapon Skill 2, Initiative 2 and base 2 Attacks at Strength 6 are the bottom of the barrel for Gargantuan Creatures and even Monstrous Creatures, but this is offset by the potential for Stomp attacks - provided of course you aren't using its Stabilizing Anchors - which will pulp most units and provides the Stormsurge a finicky counter to high value targets such as Monstrous Creatures and Vehicles at close range. I'm sure that the Stabilizing Anchors specifically prevent Stomp attacks for this reason as it would be more than merely disheartening if a player finally reached a Stormsurge after enduring its bombardment with their main melee unit, failed to kill it in one round of combat given its impressive durability and then watched helplessly as their own high value answer to the Stormsurge was removed from play by a lucky dice roll from its Stomp attacks. Overall though the ranged presence of the Stormsurge is what I'm sure most of you are interested to read about and my verdict on it is that it is impressive - becoming very much so when using its Stabilizing Anchors - but that it is not a counter to other Titan or Knight equivalent models as Games Workshop appears to be describing as. Unlike those models it also has hugely long ranges to bombard foes from across the map as would fit a gun-line style Tau list and is designed to work with supporting elements of a Tau force to exponentially increase its damage output. If you remember that this is not actually intended to kill Imperial Knights or Wraithknights as far as its rules are concerned, I'm sure you will realize just how good it is at range as I have. As an aside, it is a prime recipient of the super-cheap Early Warning Override upgrade to provide Interceptor to all of its ranged weapons which will make it unbelievably deadly against Reserve based lists, especially if you chuck on a Velocity Tracker as well.


Cost

The ultimate deciding factor of whether a unit is worthwhile competitively is its associated points cost, translating to how much "bang for your buck" a given choice provides for your army with regards to the overall balancing system of the game (being points in this case). In the case of the Stormsurge, it is 360 points stock without any additional wargear or exchanged weapon options and provides you with a model that has both durability and firepower to match that cost all the while featuring the many lovely benefits of being a Gargantuan Creature. I don't subscribe to the belief that it is over-priced at all - it compares exceptionally well overall to the many Tyranid Bio-Titans that are all at minimum 200+ points more expensive and is generally fairly weighted against Imperial Knights not so much in a one-versus-one encounter but in terms of what each respective unit brings to any given army list. I feel that it breaks with the general tradition of Super Heavy Vehicles and Gargantuan Creatures being either incredibly over-priced or criminally under-priced; it fits right into a nice niche where it is definitely a good unit but it falls way short of the over-powered mess that is the Eldar Wraithknight. It also doesn't compare well to the much larger Tau'nar but seeing as the Tau'nar is (like the Wraithknight) considered to be ridiculously powerful for its cost, this isn't a bad thing at all; in fact, it gives players a way to bring a Lord of War to their Tau lists without having to rely on a unit that many players will flat out refuse to play against.

I think it is perfectly balanced for what it does and how much it costs, something that seems to be getting rarer by the month with regards to Lords of War choices; I can't stress how happy it makes me for the Stormsurge to be a good but not ridiculous unit, something that will allow it to be integrated into competitive and casual play without hindrance. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the various upgrades so I will do so here; with its currently unrestricted access to the Support Systems wargear list, the obvious wargear choices for the Stormsurge appear to be the Pulse Driver Cannon, the Twin-Linked Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, a Shield Generator, an Early Warning Override and a Velocity Tracker. This is subject to change with the new codex but currently it presents an incredibly powerful all-round build that gives the Stormsurge what I feel is the best mix of weaponry, a much-needed 4+ invulnerable save to allow it to better wither the inevitable storm of fire heading its way, Interceptor so that it can punish Reserve-based armies and optional Skyfire to give Tau perhaps the ultimate anti-air model in any standard codex. I would consider the Vectored Retro Thrusters more if it weren't for the Stormsurge's pitiful Initiative 2 that, unless I am mistaken, cannot be buffed higher by any means we currently know of. One last thing that bears mentioning is that the Stormsurge can be fielded in units completely unlike any other Gargantuan Creature we've seen previously, which I'm not even able to fully comprehend yet as to how competitive it could potentially be. Certainly it presents Tau players with an alternative "death-star" build to the "Farsight Bomb" but I can't really judge how powerful it is just yet until either I or someone else play-tests it, though my initial impression seems to be "oh my Emperor".


Overall

What I want to make abundantly clear is that unlike a Wraithknight or Tau'nar which are both supremely under-priced for what they do and have no real exploitable weaknesses that make them not so worthwhile given their respective points costs, the Stormsurge actually has shortcomings like an actual balanced unit should. It is more expensive than a Wraithknight for better anti-infantry and anti-light vehicle firepower but weaker anti-vehicle shooting, has weaker melee capabilities than a Wraithknight by far and is generally not quite as survivable but can pay for an impressive 4+ invulnerable save to make it compare quite well on that front. It wants to be stationary to make full use of its Stabilizing Anchors but presents an interesting dilemma with its stock Pulse Blastcannon wanting to get up and close to enemies. Does this mean that the Stormsurge itself is bad? By the Emperor himself, the answer is a resounding 'no'; the Stormsurge is actually a good units taken on its own merits that has its limitations and weaknesses when compared to its attached points cost like any properly balanced model should, and unlike many other Lords of War it is appropriately priced with regards to what it is capable of and compares well to the similarly costed Imperial Knights. If I was to lean towards either extreme of the competitive scale I would be closer to it being too good for its' points than a weak unit, but as mentioned prior I feel that it happily sits in the middle-ground as a very solid option to add to any army list.

Having a unique vulnerability to small arms fire that no other Gargantuan Creature possesses is justified by its low price point compared to all but the Wraithknight for units of its type, while the innate lack of an invulnerable save means that cover or paying more points to get that added layer of protection are necessary as befits a unit that usually wants to hang back and blast opponents from afar. It can also become a deadly Knight or Titan hunter on a situational basis if you are smart with its Stabilizing Anchors and Pulse Blastcannon; most Knight equivalents will have to charge a Stormsurge to kill it or generally want to be close to a Tau army to pressure them and grab objectives, meaning you can smartly position the Stormsurge wherein it forces the opponent to come close and likely fail a 10" or 9" charge and then get blasted by four Destroyer AP1 shots buffed by Markerlights. The tactical possibilities and various weapon options of this unit make it a largely versatile choice to add to an army list by presenting players with the option to use it in the role of an aggressive line-breaker with the Pulse Blastcannon or as a bombardment piece with the Pulse Driver Cannon and Stabilizing Anchors. It feels like the first perfectly balanced Super Heavy or Gargantuan Creature we've seen for a while and I am really glad that Games Workshop have developed a rule-set for such a unit that isn't immediately divisive in terms of how much it will affect the local casual or overall competitive scene. I might be repeating myself but I just really feel the rules designers deserve a round of applause for the Stormsurge; I want to field one and believe that I won't feel bad for taking one in most games as I feel it has enough vulnerabilities to allow even weaker army lists to compete against it which is a step towards good game balance.


Thank you for reading this overly long analysis of the soon-to-be-released Tau KV128 Stormsurge! I'm in love with this model based on both its aesthetics and rules, while I am truly proud of the Games Workshop rules designers' for creating a well thought-out rule-set for a unit that could have so easily been either an over-powered mess or an underwhelming points-sink. If I had to sum up my review in just a few words it would be; I really like the Stormsurge. I am very eager to hear your impressions of the Stormsurge; while I have heavily praised its competitive potential, I don't think it compares to a Tau'nar for sheer power per point and I am curious to see if you feel the same way.

1 comment:

  1. Great post on the new arrival! I've ordered one of these yesterday, without knowing much about the rules or anything. It looks like a neat purchase.

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