Greetings all and welcome to a short-form report of my practical experiences with the Tau Stormsurge so far. There's not really much to say other than a simple hint; they've performed incredibly well! I hope you enjoy the article and thank you for reading it!
Before I get stuck in I would like to point out a few things to avoid any potential confusion regarding the rules we were using; in ITC rules Gargantuan Creatures are allowed to fire all of their individual weapons instead of just two as some people believe, and after Game Two my gaming community came to a consensus that we should follow the ITC ruling and the advice of the White Dwarf Team for all future matches as well. I made a mistake with regards to the Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors in Game One as currently you can only field a maximum of one in a single detachment, though realistically it wouldn't have made a massive difference with the way the encounter went.
There was a strange editing error, this has now been fixed but the cause was unknown.
I played a game with two Stormsurges first up, 1500 points in an ITC format game (for the purposes of the match my opponent and I went off the Frontline Gaming indication that they will be allowed in ITC, plus the assumption that they will be usable in units) against a swarm-based Tyranid list in a practice game for an oncoming tournament that my opponent will be attending next week - we were all curious to see what they could do! My Stormsurges never took a wound and accounted for something like 80 model kills out of a 120-130 model Tyranid army, and that was without them ever benefiting from any Markerlights at all. The Airtbursting Fragmentation Projectors are so useful for clearing out light infantry hiding in cover, while the Cluster Fire Rockets pummel most units with just a ridiculous number of shots from 48" away. The Stormsurges definitely shred hordes and are good purely for the fact that you can split so many shots between so many units and never have to worry about "overkill" and wasting shots. I was running them both with Blastcannons, Shield Generators and Twin-Linked Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors; the firing twice thing was just brutal. My opponent had first turn and had two thirds of his army in my table half before I got a chance to shoot, in my turn even firing just once the Stormsurges deleted tremendous chunks of each unit and basically prevented my opponent from charging them.
The Supporting Fire bubble that two Stormsurges present for a clustered Tau army is kind of silly which is what made my opponent outright refuse to even bother charging them so as to play to objectives. When the Stormsurges got to fire twice in the second turn...well let's just say that my opponent had about forty models in my deployment zone before my Stormsurges shot and exactly zero after they shot. Again, all of this without Markerlights which improve their effective damage output so much - especially with regards to the Cluster Fire Rockets. Speaking of which, the Cluster Fire Rockets were amusing for just sheer amounts of saves being forced; a highlight included both of these guns being fired at a Swooping Flying Hive Tyrant as even though they were Snap Firing I still got more than hits to drop its last two wounds. My opponent conceded at the end of turn five with me already beating him on the Primary Mission Objective, being one point behind on the Secondary and having the only bonus point of First Blood; model-wise, he had a single Tyranid Prime left hiding in cover, while on my side I lost barely anything at all. If I was playing a standard Tau list without the Stormsurges it would have been a different game entirely; the sheer number of models he fielded, the fact that he went first and was in my half of the table very early on plus the points limit would naturally see me struggle to severely punish the many massive units given that I would be forced to focus on one or two units at a time with Markerlights. This was definitely a game where the Stormsurges were the difference between victory and defeat as they were simply untouchable and annihilated everything that got anywhere close to my lines.
A fun note to add here is this same Tyranid ITC list I played against achieved third place on battle points and first place overall at the Jolt Games ITC event!
This was instead an 1850 point game playing the Emperor's Will Eternal War mission against another Tau player who had discussed the Gargantuan Creature rules for shooting with the store manager before we played, meaning I ended up being forced to use the two-weapon restriction when firing. My list wasn't much different as I basically just added a Riptide to form a Firebase Support Cadre and another Skyray to bring the 1500 point list up to 1850 points. With regards to the Stormsurges themselves, this time they were both equipped with Pulse Driver Cannons, Shield Generators, Early Warning Overrides and Twin-Linked Flamers, meaning they were more versatile overall albeit with the loss of the Twin-Linked Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors. As it turned out the trade-off worked in my favour and it only served to highlight that the current upgrade costs for Stormsurges really should change in the new codex. Regardless, I deployed first against another Tau player that actually managed to Seize the Initiative against me; his list was quite unusual in that he had a Longstrike Railgun Hammerhead, an Ion Cannon Hammerhead, two Riptides with Ion Accelerators and Stimulant Injectors, a Farsight "bomb" with around seven additional Crisis Suits, twelve Pathfinders and two Rail Rifle Broadsides. His first turn was very productive given that I had deployed assuming I would be starting the game, meaning he killed four of my six Broadsides and forced both of my Skyrays to Jink. My Ethereal kept everyone in-line and my actual first turn was decent enough; due to the placement of multiple units on different levels of single ruins (two Pathfinder squads and his Broadsides) my Stormsurges' Pulse Driver Cannons obliterated the Broadsides and five out of eight Pathfinders. As I forgot to declare which weapons were firing where I resolved the rest of the shots at and finished off one Pathfinder unit, even though I could have easily destroyed all three units as the third unit hiding on the other side of his deployment zone was in range of the Stormsurges' Smart Missile Systems. Otherwise, my army did little to faze his forces given that his Riptides had both successfully activated their Nova Reactors to gain 3+ invulnerable saves and my remaining Fire Warriors and Broadsides were out of range.
It was ironically on my opponents second turn that a cruel twist of fate came and the game was flipped on its head; my placement of the Stormsurges guaranteed that his Farsight bomb could not arrive anywhere without them being able to fire at the "bomb" with their Interceptor weapons. While my Riptide also tried to get in on the fun with his Ion Accelerator and humorously ended up causing the only wound either of my Stormsurges would suffer for the entirety of the game, the Stormsurges were not so lackadaisical; two near direct-hits from their Intercepting Pulse Driver Cannons would see the entire Farsight "bomb" obliterated to the last Tau before they could do anything, even despite their available cover and invulnerable saves. This retrospectively made my first turn that much more crippling for my opponent as he only had four effective Markerlights to fire (the other two Pathfinders were still hiding on the ground) and he had lost both of his Broadsides. He immediately attempted to Nova Charge both of his Riptides again to empower their twin-linked fusion blasters with an extra shot, but one failed and suffered a wound despite the Feel No Pain roll. He focused his Markerlights, Ion Cannon Hammerhead and both Riptides onto the Stormsurges and due to their mixture of 4+ invulnerable saves and 5+ Feel No Pain they didn't suffer a single wound, while his Longstrike Hammerhead forced one of the Skyrays to Jink once more. My opponent quickly realized that killing the Stormsurges would be impossible for his army just as that same Gargantuan Creature pair was rapidly advance to his lines; I knew he couldn't deal with them up close so I forced the issue from the first turn onwards, but a mix of moving through cover constantly and my opponent smartly trying to dance around them towards my objective meant they never got into a melee.
Basically, the game came down to this; I started advancing forwards with everything - except my remaining Broadsides, the Ethereal and one squad of Fire Warriors - to focus down his Riptides while my Stormsurges cleaned up the rest of his army. The Smart Missile Systems and Cluster Rockets were more than enough to clean up the rest of his Pathfinders, while both Skyrays (even the one that was Snap Firing) threw caution to the wind and unloaded everything onto Longstrike; despite him Jinking, he failed all five of the saves I forced. This left him with just two Riptides and the Ion Cannon Hammerhead, which failed to do much of anything to me in his subsequent turn. Afterwards, I launched a total of four Destroyer Missiles from the two Stormsurges at the previously wounded Riptide and, in conjunction with the rest of my army, managed to finish off the annoying monster. This left a Riptide that passed its Nova Reactor test to gain a 3+ invulnerable save and his Ion Cannon Hammerhead which began to try and clear my Fire Warriors off of my own objective, though this too was a failure given that I passed most of my cover saves. It didn't take long for my own advancing Riptide to rip apart the remaining Hammerhead while the combined shooting of the rest of my army finally put the last Riptide down for a turn five tabling. Even despite being restricted to firing only two weapons each in a single shooting phase - a ruling that has thankfully been revoked since then - my Stormsurges still killed most of my opponents army, including; two Broadsides, twelve Pathfinders and an entire Farsight bomb, while they also stripped most of the wounds from both of his Riptides. Some might say "oh that's what you should expect of a unit that costs 800+ points" but considering how overly negative people have been with regards to Stormsurges, I think people should get a rude surprise when they actually test them out in games; again, this was all done without ever really benefiting from Markerlights as they were usually out of range of whatever the Stormsurges were firing at. It also turns out that the combination of Pulse Driver Cannons and Early Warning Overrides is super good as just one direct hit can obliterate darn near anything, and unlike a Riptide that can do basically the same thing this will also inflict Instant Death against Toughness 5 opponents, doesn't need to worry about Gets Hot and still allows the Stormsurges to shoot their many other guns in their own turn.
Of all the games I played this one was the most lop-sided by far unfortunately, while the build I had was fairly generic; being a 2000 point game I had two Stormsurges upgraded as per Game Two, one Skyray, six Broadsides, eighteen Fire Warriors, an Ethereal, three dual-Fusion Crisis Suits, a single dual-Flamer Crisis Suit and the welcome addition of two Ghostkeels equipped with Cylic Ion Rakers and Twin-Linked Burst Cannons. My opponent was using a mix of Dark Angels Ravenwing and Deathwing via two formations, a single Imperial Knight Paladin and a Vindicare Assasin. Not a traditional list by any means but what really hammered home my advantage was the fact that I managed to Seize the Initiative against him as payback for what happened in Game Two. My memory is somewhat hazy on the specifics of the whole game but I made sure to keep a note of what the Stormsurges killed; two members of a Ravenwing Command Squad, a six-strong Ravenwing squad including an Attack Bike, an entire Deathwing squad plus Interrogator Chaplain in Terminator Armour with Interceptor fire from the Pulse Driver Cannons, the majority of the second Terminator unit and attached Librarian, plus the Vindicare Assassin. Most impressively they managed to destroy the Imperial Knight by themselves in two shooting phases with their Pulse Driver Cannons and Destroyer Missiles just before the aforementioned Interceptor fire against the Deathwing, quickly stripping off all of its hull points once their Stabilizing Anchors were engaged. This was the third game in a row that the Stormsurges were the dominant force on the table-top and virtually untouchable, suffering but a single wound from the Imperial Knights' shooting.
Even though I wouldn't necessarily label the lists I played against as all that strong, the Stormsurges nonetheless killed at least two thirds of the opposing army in all three games or at least did the most damage to each enemy unit. The fact that all of these lists were wildly different sort of proved to me that the Stormsurges most definitely have the firepower to deal with almost anything - particularly with the Pulse Driver Cannons which people are most definitely under-selling - and the fact that they managed all of this without any real Markerlight support is surely a sign of their power. I'm eager to play against some more lists - particularly a Skyhammer and Battle Company list - but I'm confident that the Stormsurges should perform decently at the very least even in match-ups like that as the mass of Interceptor fire they can bring out is very scary indeed.
With all that said, I hope you all liked this alternative "article" intended as a loose documentation of a units' performance for me so far. I've been positive with regards to Stormsurges since the initial rules leak and I feel like their dominance in my games so far vindicates that opinion, one that is largely being echoed around the global Warhammer 40,000 community from what I've read. If you want to share your thoughts and experiences on Stormsurges then feel free to leave a comment below!