Our Elites share some of the most tactically adaptable units on a game-by-game basis, with a diversity of roles filled by each unit regardless of their equipment; two favour hit and run tactics, with one in particular gunning for Infantry, whilst the third is very much a fire magnet that can blast apart enemies from across the map. All three are strong choices in their own right, and one in particular - Crisis Teams - will have a specific kind of unit for them to hunt from game to game; they are your finely edged knife, owing to the fact that they are very specialised in terms of killing power, and as such you should take them to deal with threats the rest of your forces would typically struggle with. Given that Tau have lost out on a notable method of dealing with well armoured vehicles - Land Raiders and Monoliths come to mind - from a distance, and owing to the much welcomed range boost to Fusion Blasters, Crisis Teams are a perfect deposit for these weapons. Conversely, Stealth Suits will always carry anti-infantry weapons in the form of the Burst Cannon, albeit with the option for one in every three to have a Fusion Blaster; this diversifies their role, but unless you are firing at elite infantry, you need target locks for the Fusion Blasters so as to not compromise one weapon or the other. The Riptide is an altogether different beast that revolves around denying deep strike play, shattering Infantry formations, wrecking light vehicles and soaking up firepower the rest of the army definitely couldn't; it is perhaps the single most versatile unit in the codex, able to deal with almost any threat provided you equip it with the Ion Accelerator. All in all, you really can't go wrong here, but be sure not to spend more points than absolutely necessary on these units; with Tau, more numbers are typically better, especially given any old missile launcher can ruin the day of Crisis Suits. I would also preface my individual unit tactics by saying that you really should be taking Elites for what you need most after jotting down the rest of your army list; just the way it should be.
XV8 Crisis Team - As arguably the most popular and iconic unit amongst the ranks of the Tau Empire, Crisis Teams are renowned for their incredible versatility in terms of how you can equip them to deal with any situation, as well as their innately strong harassment abilities that make them a frustrating proposition for any foe. As Jetpack Infantry with two wounds each, a Toughness of four and a +3 armour save, they are quite hardy and mobile; the Jetpack type allows them to 'jump' over intervening models and terrain in tight situations, with the risk of dangerous terrain, but its primary attribute for Crisis Teams to abuse is the 'assault move', a free 2D6 inch move in the Assault Phase if the unit doesn't declare a charge. Given the powerful and quantifiable ranged weapons a Crisis Team can field, they are a deadly and tough - against small arms fire, at least - harassment unit that pioneered the famous "Jump Shoot Jump" tactic; that of moving out of cover and firing at enemy units, wreaking devastation in abundance, and then jumping back out of range or out of sight so that enemies can't hurt you in return. Though this tactic's effectiveness can be dependent on the size, structure and quantity of cover available, as well as the range of the weapons they carry, it is still an impressive trait that keeps Crisis Teams alive and dealing consistent damage - much akin to shadowed spectres that strike without warning and flee before any retaliation is organised. Think of them in this way, and that they are quite cheap for what they do; they will be a very nasty unit if used intelligently. Given that Crisis Teams also come standard with equipment that allows each model to fire two weapons in the same shooting phase and grant them Night Vision, they can load up on enough high powered weaponry that would give Devastator-equivalent units a run for their money and completely ignore one of the more prominent defences in the early or late game against ranged attacks; of course, unlike Devastator-equivalent units, Crisis Teams are restricted mostly to medium or short-range weaponry, making full use of their risky, but effective, Jetpack type and 'Jump Shoot Jump' tactics.
|$50 on the Hierophant!|
As to their actual options, this is really dependent on what you need your Crisis Team to field. No other unit in the Tau codex can be so specialised to a given role at your whim; if you need a unit to provide massed high Strength shots to whittle down light Infantry or even medium Infantry formations whilst your less mobile Fire Warriors move into position, Burst Cannons, Flamers and the like can prove invaluable, particularly when combined with deep striking. If your list has a deficiency when faced with Terminators and other elite Infantry, consider twin-linked plasma rifles combined with Fusion Blasters or Burst Cannons to drown them in both armour-ignoring and armour-providing wounds. If heavy vehicles are your bane and you lack the tools to destroy them reliably elsewhere, consider the risky move of equipping your Crisis Teams with twin-linked Fusion Blasters and missile pods; a potentially costly choice, but one that lends itself well to annihilating tanks and skimmers alike with aplomb. The system of choosing weaponry and supporting wargear is designed to give you total freedom in determining what enemies your army finds itself wanting against; Crisis Teams are unique in that they can be equipped to deal with any threat at a medium or short range, and do it better than almost any other unit in the codex for the cost whilst not making themselves too much of a target owing to their mobility and small unit sizes. Given that you can select up to three options from the weapon and support systems total, you are - rightfully - disallowed from going too far with the Crisis Teams, which would defeat the purpose of their low cost and high returns; given that the previously 'must-include' multi-tracker is now included into the (lower) base cost of the Crisis Suits, as well as not having to fill all three 'hard-points', you can really tailor them to how you need whilst keeping their cost as minimal as possible. I find that the support systems, whilst useful and cheap, aren't as necessary on Crisis Teams as they were before; multi-trackers were the most popular choice previously because it effectively doubled the fire output of each Crisis Suit, but given they are now integrated for free, many will find their old load-outs are cheaper and more effective than before with the potential for more upgrades. Some popular and inexpensive choices are the Advanced Targeting System and Target Locks; the first allows the entire unit to make Precision Shots as if they were characters which, given the weaponry they can field, is a very handy tool for neutering enemy units, whilst the second allows members of the unit to fire at different targets in what amounts to a less restrictive - but paid for - form of the Split Fire special rule. Like all other Battlesuits, Crisis Suits also have access to the effective, but expensive, Skyfire upgrade that allows them to choose to have the Skyfire special rule on their weapons on a turn-by-turn basis; given the availability of Skyfire throughout the codex, this will likely be unnecessary and jacks the price of the unit up considerably, but it is yet more proof that Tau are easily the best equipped hard-back codex to deal with fliers so far.
Discussing the weaponry in detail would probably require an entirely separate article reviewing the many different 'builds' or load-outs that Crisis Teams can potentially take; in that sense, I will keep this as brief and to-the-point as possible. For anti-tank purposes, the fusion blaster and missile pod are the favourites; the former for busting high-armoured vehicles, such as Land Raiders, at short range, whereas the missile pod is preferred against light vehicles owing to its higher rate of fire and far superior range. When dealing with elite Infantry or monstrous creatures, the plasma rifle is the best bet, whether twin-linked or no, and probably in conjunction with a fusion blaster or missile pod; this keeps the unit diverse, but still deadly against such units. For medium or light Infantry, burst cannons and flamers are ever popular choices; the former for its high Strength and incredible rate of fire, the latter for its effectiveness against lightly armoured foes and 'automatic-hit' nature, disregarding the mediocre Ballistic Skill of Crisis Suits. Any single Crisis Suit in each detachment may also take one of the two 'experimental' weapons; the airbursting fragmentation projector, and the cyclic ion blaster. The former is a large blast weapon with a Strength and AP designed mostly to reave light Infantry with its Ignores Cover and Barrage special rules, though that last one is particularly useful for 'sniping' out enemy characters or special and heavy weapons within a unit. The latter is essentially a missile pod with half the range and an extra shot, with the added bonus that it can be over-charged and, after a Gets Hot roll, fire a Strength eight AP four small blast, making it incredibly deadly against tightly packed Infantry formations or Toughness four multi-wound units. Both are decent additions and cost as much as the majority of other weapons on hand, and as such, their use - whilst perhaps not optimal given that you can't take multiples of them unless you are playing a game with two primary detachments - is a fun and cool addition that you should consider. It must be noted that any of the weapon options - barring the experimental pair - can be twin-linked for a measly cost at the expense of a hard-point; given that multi-trackers are standard now and that support systems aren't as necessary as they were, this is a good and cheap option to use depending on the weapon. I feel twin-linking plasma rifles, missile pods and fusion blasters above the other weapons - particularly fusion blasters, owing to their 'one-shot' nature - is the best use of twin-linking.
|Too awesome not to include.|
Stealth Team - Where Crisis Teams will often fulfill an anti-elite infantry or vehicle role, Stealth Teams are very much in the opposite boat; almost to a man, they are tailored to shred Infantry of all kinds, with light vehicles and monstrous creatures providing targets of opportunity for a wily - or desperate - player. Given that every member of a Stealth Team comes with a burst cannon in their stock equipment, there's very little room for customisation here; the saving grace in terms of versatility is that one in every three members can exchange their burst cannon for a fusion blaster, giving them a dedicated anti-tank weapon that also doubles well against monsters and elite enemies. Given though the mediocre Ballistic Skill of Stealth Suits - or Tau in general - the lack of twin-linking on the fusion blasters, and the limit of two max in a squad owing to their smallish squad total of six, avoiding this may not be a bad idea; Crisis Teams fulfill such a role better, as do Broadsides and the like, though having the extra punch is very handy. In fact, given that they have Infiltrate and can take target locks to fire their fusion blasters at different targets to the rest for a minimal cost, you can make perfect use of the Stealth Suits forward deployment and blast apart enemy vehicles on the first turn quite reliably, given how small and easy to hide Stealth Teams are. This is probably the best way to employ fusion blasters, but always remember that the stated goal of the unit is mostly to harass Infantry formations; between four and six burst cannons in a unit backed by Markerlights is nothing to sneeze at, and can put a serious dent even in Space Marine squads; with the proper support, even Terminators will be sweating quite profusely. Their firepower is pretty solid standard, but as with any Tau unit, it improves dramatically when their Ballistic Skill is boosted by Markerlights, or such tokens are also used so that their weapons ignore the cover saves of pesky enemies with low saves such as Plaguebearers or Kabalite Warriors. Given how mobile they are as Jetpack Infantry, and with the Infiltrate special rule allowing them to deploy after all other forces, this gives them a serious edge when it comes to flat out harassment; they can do it much earlier than Crisis Teams - though admittedly less effectively against units with high Toughness, saves or an armour value - and do it pretty well given their cost. In fact, that is something you will need to keep in mind; though their cost per model will be lower than an upgraded Crisis Suit, they are quite a bit more expensive base, especially given they can be taken in twice the numbers.
The reason this is important to note is the difference in durability between the two units; Stealth Suits are, much like Fire Warriors, only Toughness three with one wound - albeit with a handy +3 armour save. This means that, despite their strong save, they are literally cannon fodder to massed shooting from weapons such as bolters and gauss blasters. Keeping them alive thus revolves both around adopting the same tactics as one would abuse with Crisis Suits - that of jumping out of cover, firing, and then retreating back out of range or out of sight - and by making use of their unique special rules; each Stealth Suit comes loaded with the Stealth (I wouldn't have guessed) and Shrouded special rules. This means that they are a far tougher proposition when they actually use cover to their advantage, and given that dangerous terrain shouldn't be too much of a problem owing to their good save, you can jump them in and out of terrain with aplomb - though of course make sure not too get too cocky with your rolls. Given that they have a permanent +4 cover save out in the open, armour-ignoring wounds don't scare them as much as they would Crisis Suits, who would have to rely on Shield Drones or the expensive Shield Generators to compensate; as well, they enjoy a fantastic +2 cover save in almost any kind of terrain, making them tougher against certain weapons than Crisis Suits, but less so against others. Given that they also have Night Vision in their stock equipment, they really live up to their stealthy (ha!) role; intended to fire and keep out of sight, much like Crisis Suits, though their smaller stature makes this an easier feat to accomplish.
|Go Batman! Wait, what?|
XV104 Riptide - The biggest and most impressive model from the new Tau range, the Riptide is a unit that has everyone talking; it has many claims to fame, what with some serious durability, amazing firepower, and some great options that really diversify its role. First up, a Riptide is the first monstrous creature in the codex - the Dawn Blade wielding Farsight doesn't count - and understandably generates quite a few strange looks because of it; such a large unit would understandably be perceived as slow, but the Riptide is anything but. As a Jetpack monstrous creature, it smashes through - or jumps over - terrain with aplomb and without fear of dangerous terrain, unlike its smaller battlesuit compatriots; with access to the same 2D6 inch Jetpack move in the assault phase, the Riptide can perform the same "Jump Shoot Jump" tactics with aplomb, though with less of an impetus on hiding and more on jumping out of range. Given the great range on most of its weapons, this means the Riptide can fire and stay out of harms way from nasty short ranged weaponry - such as Psycannons - and even use its Jetpack move to escape the clutches of mobile assault units at a moments notice. Given how horrible the Riptide is in combat, this is quite the blessing; with a horrid Weapons Skill and Initiative of two with only three Attacks, the Riptide is unlikely to do much of anything to most units, though its high Strength and Smash special rule - owing to being a monstrous creature - is not without perks, allowing it to kill off a few models here or there or pretty reliably engage most vehicles and destroy them with ease. Of course, a Riptide need not engage such targets in melee, and should be kept away from close quarters as much as possible; unlike other monstrous creatures, the Riptide is not Fearless, and thus is very susceptible to Sweeping Advances. Though it has a pretty strong Leadership for a Tau model and is unlikely to lose combat against any enemy that you wouldn't actually mind the Riptide getting close to, the risk is far too great, especially owing to the costly nature of the model and its exceedingly low Initiative - even Necrons are prone to catch you half of the time!
Thankfully, the Riptide is no slouch in the department that matters most to Tau - shooting. It comes with one 'primary' weapon and one 'secondary' weapon - much like the Titans it was designed to engage from a fluff perspective - and both can be fired simultaneously owing both to its (unnecessary) multi-tracker and status as a monstrous creature. The secondary weapon is a free option selected from one of three choices, all of them twin-linked; a smart missile system, a plasma rifle, and a fusion blaster. All three of them have their uses, and a wily player may want to model all three on their Riptide - this is not just possible, it is a good option - though I would likely go with the smart missile system simply because of its range; the Riptide's primary weapons mean it can stay far away from the action and fire without compromise, and you may want to take advantage of that with the secondary weapon system. Of course, it also depends on their role in the army and what you might be lacking; the plasma rifle and fusion blaster are very useful for targeting elite Infantry and vehicles alike, and should be taken accordingly if you have a deficiency in either area. My best recommendation is to experiment here, as I feel there is no one weapon that stands above the rest; find the one you prefer and stick with it. As to the primary weapon, the Riptide has two options; it comes stock with the Heavy Burst Cannon, a weapon which fires a whopping eight shots at Strength six, AP four with a tasty thirty-six inch range. Not bad! Given the mediocre Ballistic Skill of the Riptide, and the lack of twin-linking, this is obviously designed to be combined with Markerlight support; use it against light Infantry, such as Eldar Aspect Warriors, and watch as entire units evaporate when you increase your Ballistic Skill and remove their cover saves. It doubles as a decent anti-armour weapon against light vehicles such as Rhinos or Raiders, though it shouldn't be relied upon in that way; it is useful for putting wounds on monstrous creatures though, and when combined with a Skyfire upgrade, it can make Lords of Change, Harpies and the like weep.
|'Still bigger than a Carnifex.|
So, we can conclude that the Riptide has some serious firepower. But what I haven't discussed yet is one of the Riptide's unique abilities; the Nova Reactor, and particularly how it combines with the weaponry the giant battlesuit carries. The Nova Reactor is essentially the literal form of risk versus reward; at the start of your movement phase, you can elect to activate the Nova Reactor and roll a D6 to see the result; on a +3, you get to pick one of four results, but on anything lower, your Riptide bungs out and takes a wound with no saves allowed. Nasty, and very, very risky. So are the 'Nova-charged' effects worth the risk? The answer is mostly a "no, unless you are desperate or kept the stock gun". One boosts the profile of your primary weapon; the Heavy Burst Cannon gains four additional shots, the Gets Hot rule, and fires Rending rounds, whereas the Ion Accelerator essentially fires its over-charged profile, but adds a point of Strength and gains the Ordnance special rule. Nova-charging the Heavy Burst Cannon is the best way to prove its worth, as Rending helps immensely against vehicles, elite Infantry and monstrous creatures; the downside here is that not only do you risk an easy wound from the Nova Reactor, but twelve shots with Gets Hot is never the best idea, particularly given there is no way to re-roll to hit outside of employing Shadowsun, lots of Markerlights or Allies. The Ion Accelerator doesn't really need to be Nova-charged, though it makes it far more useful against vehicles; Ordnance makes a huge difference here, as does the capability of penetrating AV 14, though you should only really consider this if you are lacking in the anti-tank department elsewhere or really need a certain vehicle(s) taken out early on. The other three results are a bit less direct; one allows you to fire your secondary weapon twice, which is pretty handy although I would argue not worth the risk, and yet another allows the Riptide to make a Jetpack move of 3D6 rather than 2D6, though again I would only use this in desperate situations where you really need to get away from closing enemy forces. The last result grants the Riptide a +3 invulnerable save; given how tough the Riptide is, this is a pretty scary thing to face for enemies that would normally have to rely on lascannons and massed Rending shots to put the Riptide down with any kind of speed, though given it has a one in three chance of actually hurting the Riptide just by trying to use it, I too would only use this when times are dire and the situation calls for it. All in all, you don't need the Nova Reactor as much as you might initially believe; use it if you really need it, but not commonly, as those potential lost wounds can make a big difference when it counts later in the game.
As far as sheer durability is concerned, the Riptide is one of the hardiest units in the game, period. With a Toughness of six making it almost entirely immune to Instant Death by conventional means, an incredible +2 armour save that allows it to laugh off small arms fire and missile launchers alike, a +5 invulnerable save that gives it a handy defence against lascannons and the like when it is moving outside of cover, and five wounds that give it an incredible amount of breathing room, the Riptide is second perhaps only to the Tyrannofex in terms of sheer survival odds; the flux of cover means the latters lack of an invulnerable save is mitigated, though a Riptide can admittedly take a big risk to get a + invulnerable save. Taking a deep breath here, one can also look at the speed of the Riptide and how it can avoid unfavourable engagements with ease; between jumping over terrain and intervening units, ignoring dangerous terrain tests, and moving 2D6 inches in the assault phase in any direction it pleases, the Riptide can - and should - use the high range of its guns to keep out of the line of fire for as long as possible, whilst presenting as much of a target as possible so that enemies waste their mostly ineffective firepower on it; there isn't too much in the game that scares a Riptide. Those that do though include fast moving assault units, or enemies that can exploit its lack of Fearless and cause it to either run off the board or be swept and destroyed; make sure to deploy smartly with the Riptide so that it can soak up some firepower and keep away from such units, and make sure never to forget its assault move. It is impossibly hard to kill compared to most other monstrous creatures, but it is not without fault; particularly in melee, the Riptide will eventually crumble if you aren't cautious with it. Though the option is there and admittedly alluring, I would avoid taking Stimulant Injectors - Feel No Pain - on a Riptide; it is durable enough without them, and their cost is incredibly high, so much so that I feel they aren't worth the investment. From the two support systems that a Riptide can pick, I would recommend the Early Warning Override above all others, particularly when combined with an Ion Accelerator, though the Velocity Tracker is also a handy - but expensive - upgrade that allows the Riptide to add to a Tau armies' incredible Skyfire potential. The Riptide can also take two unique, but costly, drones; shielded missile drones that share the Riptides' Toughness of six, have a +4 invulnerable save, and come with missile pods. Though their firepower is minimal and unreliable, taking a cheap Drone Controller helps here to at least give them some better fire potential; they are intended both to give tough ablative wounds to a Riptide, provide some light fire support - which is humorous given they share the Supporting Fire special rule with the Riptide - and use their higher Initiative to allow the Riptide to escape lost combats without being swept so easily. I would say that though they aren't bad, they are maybe a bit too expensive to justify on a model that already pushes close to or above the two hundred nacho mark.
|Ermagerd Tau err....|
Example Builds - A lovely trait of our Elites is that there is no real "right" way to run them; they are versatile for the most part and can cut through enemy units faster than most armies could hope to match.
Crisis Team (3) each w/ plasma rifle and twin-linked fusion blaster - 171
Crisis Team (3) each w/ plasma rifle and burst cannon, shas'vre - 151
Crisis Team (3) each w/ burst cannon and missile pod, shas'vre, two shield drones - 175
Stealth Team (3) w/ shas'vre - 100
Stealth Team (6) w/ shas'vre, two fusion blasters - 200
Riptide w/ ion accelerator, early warning override - 190
Riptide w/ velocity tracker, two shielded missile drones - 240
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