Drones for Days: T’au Kill Team Tactics

Hello there Gue’la! Do you fantasize about working together with your brothers and sisters on the battlefield to protect something larger than yourselves? Do you like to take out your targets with coordinated shooting attacks before they can ever get close? Do you yearn to surround yourself with dozens of drones that will throw themselves in front of you to protect you with their short, automated lives? Then welcome to the T’au Empire, friend!


  • Drones – If you think shooting through drones is irritating in regular 40k, just wait until you have to go through them in Kill Team. Drones can automatically intercept wounds for models in Kill Team, after saves are failed, and convert an entire attack into a single mortal wound. This means that T’au models with good guns are a nightmare to take out.
  • Overwatch – When one of your models is declared as a charge target, every model with the For the Greater Good ability within 6″ of the model being charged can fire Overwatch as if they had been charged. This makes charging your models really painful, and allows you to do things like fire Overwatch with 2-3 other models and then fall back with the model actually being charged. On top of this T’au in the T’au Sept can hit firing Overwatch on a 5 or 6.
  • Shooting – T’au may not have amazing BS, but what they do have is high-strength, long-range guns that rapid fire and allow them to maintain accuracy over longer distances on the move. They also have easy access to the Comms and Sniper specialisms, and a host of stronger short-ranged weaponry allowing them to be dangerous from multiple distances. Also, because you auto-hit on 6s, a lot of things that might otherwise be terrible at shooting (like gun drones) end up not suffering all that much.
  • Mobility – Between drones and battlesuits, T’au kill teams end up being pretty mobile on 3D kill team boards. They’re less so in Arena.


  • Melee – Tau are famously bad at melee combat. If the enemy does get in close with your Fire Warriors and Pathfinders, they’re gonna die. Well, at least the drones near them probably will. They’re not incredibly squishy or anything but they won’t be doing any damage and being tied up means they can’t shoot.
  • Drones are too good – Drones are so good they’ll end up making up most of your kill teams and replacing things like all of your non-specialist models. This is pretty boring, and also running a team made mostly of drones will not make you many friends.
  • Morale – T’au leadership isn’t terrible but it also isn’t great, and you may find yourself going through drones rather quickly. Your team will seldom be very large so you’ll want to make sure that you keep your models together and in later turns you’ll often be relying on bonding knife ritual to keep from failing your Nerve tests.
  • Stuck Together – While T’au have a fair amount of mobility, the combination of lower Leadership, For the Greater Good’s 6″ range, and Saviour Protocols’ 3″ range means that your Kill Team is going to naturally end up being pretty compact in order to maximize its effectiveness and survivability. You won’t be able to spread out easily, and so that can make actually taking advantage of the faction’s mobility very difficult.

Competitive Rating


Tau didn’t accomplish anything at LVO but that had more to do with the infinitely tall pillars in every quarter blocking flying movement than the rest of the rules. In NOVA style missions you’re looking for durability, mobility and spammability, and T4 4+ save drones with 8″ of movement have all of that. In ITC style missions with Kill objectives added in you also need team wide durability (which Tau have in Crisis Suits) and killing power (the crisis suits again and Rail Rifles). Tau have the tools to compete at most tournaments.

Shane: I’d also rate them high. T’au are good at board control/holding objectives and have good offensive output.


Path to Shame: Tau
Credit: Greg Chiasson

Special Rules

Markerlights – Some models can fire markerlights instead of shooting any other weapons. If they hit, their target gets a counter next to it for the rest of the phase. The more counters a target has, the more effects you get. These are:

  1. Re-roll hit rolls of 1 against that target
  2. Add +1 to hit rolls that target that model if it’s obscured
  3. Ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons/Advancing and firing assault weapons while targeting that model
  4. Add 1 to hit rolls for attacks targeting that model

These are all pretty solid bonuses and having four markerlights on a target is a huge boost but the sad truth is that it will rarely be worth your time to markerlight something once, let alone do it multiple times. Giving up shooting other weapons in order to get, at best, a 50/50 markerlight shot on an enemy target will almost never be better than just shooting it. If you were absolutely able to concentrate multiple arcs of fire and use a Comms buff, then maybe putting a single markerlight on a big target could be worth it.

For the Greater Good – When an enemy unit declares a charge against a model on your kill team, a model within 6″ with this ability can shoot Overwatch at the charging unit as though they were being charged. Overwatch becomes a lot more reliable when you can have 2-3 models firing and the ability to have two models shoot while the charge target falls back is incredibly annoying for chargers.

Bonding Knife Ritual – You can subtract 1 from Nerve tests for each model in your kill team with this ability that isn’t shaken within 3″. This is a solid way to keep your models from losing it after you’ve lost 4-5 drones,

Saviour Protocols – Drones have this ability, which allows them to intercept attacks. When a T’au model within 3″ would lose any wounds from an attack, you can instead convert them all into a single mortal wound on the drone. On shield drones, you can get an extra save against this, rolling a 5+ to ignore the wound entirely. This is stupid good in Kill Team, where drones get an extra injury roll “save” to avoid dying.

Sept Tenets

As a free bonus, your T’au kill team can gain a Sept Tenet benefit if every non-drone model is from the same Sept.

  • T’au: Coordinated Fire Arcs – When a model in your kill team fires Overwatch within 6″ of a friendly model or uses For the Greater Good, they hit on a roll of a 5 or 6. The 6″ requirement stinks a bit, since it means you get nothing flying solo, but you’re going to be traveling in groups most of the time anyways. B
  • Vior’la: Strike Fast – Models in your kill team can shoot Rapid Fire as if they were Assault in the Shooting phase if they Advance. Also they don’t suffer the penalty to hit for Advancing and shooting Assault weapons. This is OK, but it’s only doing work on pulse rifles, which aren’t a major pat of your kill team arsenals. C
  • Bork’an: Superior Craftsmanship – Models in your kill team don’t suffer the penalty to hit rolls for targeting enemy models at long range. This is decent, and can help mitigate T’au having BS 4+ on most of their models, but it’s hurt a bi t by T’au having longer-ranged weapons than most and Sa’cea’s bonus being much better. B
  • Dal’yth: Adaptive Camouflage – If a model in your kill team doesn’t move in the Movement phase, then for the remainder of the battle round it is considered to be obscured to enemy models that target it. This doesn’t have the 12″ rider some similar abilities have, but requiring you to stay still is a big ask and getting the obscured bonus isn’t all that difficult in Kill Team. B-
  • Sa’cea: Calm Discipline – Add 1 to the Ld of models in your kill team. In addition, you can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for shooting attacks made by models in your kill team. This is really your best option in a T’au kill team. It improves your models’ accuracy significantly and also helps mitigate your morale/Nerve test issues by bumping up your leadership by a significant amount. A
  • Farsight Enclaves: Devastating Counter-Strike – Re-roll hit and wound rolls for shooting attacks made by models in your kill team that target an enemy model that is within 6″ of the firing model. This is really powerful as an effect, but you will rarely if ever want to risk being that close to the enemy, and it’s something an enemy can easily control on their end when they want to charge. It’s got some real potential in Arena, though. B-


Ranged Weapons

Pulse rifle – The default gun of Fire Warriors. Packs a solid punch, with 30″ range, S5 AP0, Rapid Fire 1. Helpful for avoiding long range penalties.

Pulse carbine – The default gun of pathfinders. Shorter range than the pulse rifle – only 18″ – but makes up for it by being Assault 2. Pathfinders have a bit more utility than Fire Warriors and so you’re more likely to be using one of these.

Pulse blaster – Breachers carry these, which come with three profiles that improve as you get closer to your target. It’s always Assault 2 but at long distance (15″) it’s merely a Bolter (S4 AP0) and up real close (5″) that improves to S6 AP-2.

Burst cannon – The most common heavy weapon option among T’au units, this 18″ S5 Assault 4 AP0 cannon has the shot volume to do some real work. Works well with the more bullets stratagem.

Fusion blaster – The T’au version of a melta gun, only with a whopping 18″ range, making it a hilariously lethal option.

Markerlight – Markerlights have 36″ range and are heavy 1. Tagging an enemy model with one gives bonuses to other shooting attacks, and they’re good enough that you want to try and put 1 markerlight on a key target.

Missile pod – 36″ range, S7, AP-1, D3 damage, assault 2. A very solid weapon that can put in a ton of work.

Rail Rifle – Pathfinder gunners can take these, which are basically the T’au sniper rifles. 30″ range, Rapid Fire 1, S6, AP-4 D3 damage and if you roll a 6+ to wound the model takes a mortal wound in addition to other damage. These are very solid and you’re almost always going to want a rail rifle or two in your command roster. Being able to move 7″ to get into double-shot/no distance modifier range is also really helpful.

Ion Rifle – The other option for Pathfinder gunners, these guns have a 30″ range and the ability to overcharge. In their base state they’re Rapid Fire 1, S7 AP-1, 1-damage weapons, and overcharged they jump up to Heavy D3, S8, and 2 damage, with the risk of taking a mortal wound. Compared to the Rail Rifle they can get more reliable damage but it’s not worth the AP tradeoff.

Smart Missile System – Heavy 4, S5, AP0, but can fire at models that aren’t visible/are out of line of sight. If the target isn’t visible, only 6s can hit it.

Flamer – T’au have their own versions of flamers. They work the same way.

Cyclic Ion Projector – The T’au replacement for plasma guns on Crisis Suits. only AP-1, but they’re Assault 3 and do D3 damage at S8 instead of 2 at S7 in overcharge mode. Plus you only take a mortal wound if you roll a 1 to hit on overcharge.

Plasma Rifle – T’au plasma rifles can’t overcharge, since the T’au are cowards who “prefer not to have their own weapons kill them.” These baby plasma guns are only OK, giving you a S6, AP-3, D1 profile. They’re just OK but the lack of ability to overcharge them to get to 2 damage really hurts their effectiveness in Kill Team.

Kroot Rifle – The basic Kroot weapon. Bolter profile for ranged attacks, but also doubles as a S+1 melee weapon, which makes them handy in a pinch.

Airbursting Fragmentation Projector – Another crisis suit option that shoots D6 bolter shots but can fire at targets out of line of sight, though you need a 6 to hit if you shoot at targets you can’t see. It’s pretty meh – T’au don’t lack for good S5 shooting and if you’re taking Crisis suits, you want to give them multi-damage weapons.

Melee Weapons

Kroot Rifles – Give you +1 S and comes with a boltgun attached.


T’au Empire Units

T’au Empire Kill Teams have a decent number of units available to them, being able to mix infantry on foot with two kinds of battlesuits and Kroot mercenaries.

Fire Warriors

Credit: Charlie A.

The basic foot soldier of the T’au Empire, Fire Warriors essentially have a guardsman profile – BS4+ S3, T3, 4+ armor save (though WS 5+) – but come with a pulse rifle, which is a significant upgrade over a lasgun, or a pulse carbine, for the fire warrior on the go. You will want at least one of these on your kill team, primarily because they can be accompanied by a DS8 Tactical Support Turret, which is free. These basically add an extra model to your kill team that doesn’t penalize you for dying but can have a smart missile system or a missile pod. Both are solid options.

Fire Warriors aren’t bad per se but on the whole they tend to be worse than gun drones (1 point more with less firepower) and they don’t really have any special/heavy weapon options and so that makes them really bad specialists. Instead you’re going to lean more on Pathfinders and battlesuits for your specialists, who can take multi-damage and high-shot weapons. A Kill Team may have a few Fire Warriors on its team for longer-ranged support against targets with weak armor. Take one to get the free support turret.


Tau Pathfinders
Tau Pathfinders. Credit: Jack Hunter

Pathfinders are faster, cheaper, and have lighter armor (5+ saves) than their fire warrior brothers and come with pulse carbines and markerlights. They’re on the whole more useful than Fire Warriors, for two main reasons. The first being that they’re your cheapest Leader option that’s an actual T’au, so a Pathfinder Shas’ui is typically going to be your kill team’s leader, and the second being that Pathfinder gunners can take Rail rifles, which are very good ranged weapons, along with the Comms, Demolitions, and Sniper specialisms, making them your go-to heavy weapon options. Rail Rifles make Pathfinders the most important models in your kill team and you’ll usually want at least two on the table. The Rail Rifles are super deadly and chances are if you can hit with one, you’ll take a model out of action. Outside of gunners and the shas’ui, there isn’t a lot of value in having more Pathfinders. Keep a few on your roster and have both specialist and non-specialist versions. Comms and Sniper are the best choices here, but Demolitions is also great.

Having Pathfinders in your kill team also gets you access to three additional drone options. We’ll cover them in the Drones section, but two of them are exceptional and the other is situationally useful. If you aren’t big on taking a bunch of rail rifles, at least put a Pathfinder on your team to get access to the special drones.

Fire Warrior Breachers

Joe Tau Credit: Alfredo Ramirez
Joe Tau Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Breachers are fire warriors that come armed with pulse blasters, short-ranged guns that become more dangerous as you get within 6″. Putting aside that being really dangerous for T’au, the way Kill Team handles range means that you aren’t getting full accuracy on short-range shots until you’re within 3″. And again you’re better off taking drones. Many people have tried to make Breachers work in kill team and many people have failed. If you do take a breacher, it’s going to be to get another free support turret, though you only need one and fire warriors are a much better option.


Greg’s Attempt at a Vior’la Fire Warrior and Gun Drone

The real all-stars of the T’au empire, Drones are just as powerful in Kill Team as they are on the large battlefiends of the 41st millennium. On average, gun drones are tougher, faster, stronger, and have more shots than an average fire warrior or pathfinder, and their ability to jump in front of wounds for your specialists means that they’ll make up the bulk of your kill team. Where they suffer most is accuracy, but since they hit on 6s anyways and the penalties for range and being obscured will usually be coming into play, this isn’t that big an issue.

An average roster will have 4-6 MV1 gun drones to work with, and then sprinkle in the others depending on strategy. These are the core of the team and combine good speed with weight of fire and the ability to protect nearby models. These are your default option. They have 2 guns, which means 2 chances at injury rolls.

Shield Drones are more resilient, having a 4+ invulnerable save on their own and a 5+ ignore wound chance against unsaved wounds that lets them shrug off 1/3 of incoming transfer wounds from Saviour Protocols. You’ll typically want a few shield drones around to sub in against teams sporting lots of plasma or other multi-damage weapons.

MB3 Recon Drones are available if you have Pathfinders on your team, which you will, and you want to support them and take additional heavy firepower, which you also will. Recon drones come with a Burst Cannon, which is a respectable gun option, and each turn give a pathfinder within 6″ the ability to ignore the penalty to hit and for injury rolls when firing at an obscured target. There’s no reason not to take one of these in every game you’re running pathfinders. They’re a big boost and add significant firepower to your team.

MV33 Grav-Inhibitor Drones are also available if you have Pathfinders. Grav-inhibitor drones are also really good to have on your roster, since they reduce the charge distance of anything within 12″ by D3″. Against melee-heavy teams this can be huge, and will help keep you out of trouble. You don’t want them in every game, but you’ll almost always want the option to run one.

MV31 Pulse Accelerator Drones are unlocked by taking Pathfinders and while they have no guns themselves, they improve the range of nearby pulse rifles, carbines, and pistols by 6″. That they don’t work on Pulse Blasters is a real crime, and it makes their value really niche. It’ll do the most work for you when you have a lot of fire warriors who need to cover a specific area like an objective. Not going to make your roster in most games, though.

MV36 Guardian Drones are an option if your team has one or more fire warriors, These have no guns by give models on your kill team within 6″ a 6+ invulnerable save and have a 5+ invulnerable save themselves. Overall they’re OK but outclassed by shield drones, where being more resilient against the incoming mortal wounds from Saviour Protocols is just more valuable than giving models at a larger range a 17% chance to shrug off high AP attacks.

XV25 Stealth Battlesuit

T'au Stealth Suit Credit: Beanith
T’au Stealth Suit Credit: Beanith

Stealth Battlesuits combine a good mix of high movement/FLY with solid toughness (4), 2 wounds, and a 3+ save. They get some added resilience form Camouflage Fields, which give them -1 to be hit. The Shas’vre can take a markerlight and target lock, which gives them the option to advance and shoot Assault weapons with no penalty. Stealth suits come with burst cannons, which are pretty solid, especially against lighter infantry, but can swap those out for fusion blasters, giving them a much heavier punch that can remove larger targets. It’s worth having a pair of Shas’vres on your roster, one with fusion blaster and one with burst cannon. If you want to make them specialists, Comms and Heavy are both fine options, with the latter being helpful on Burst Cannons for the Extra Bullets tactic. The fusion blaster is the better option against elite kill teams, but you’ll want to make sure it has support from a Comms specialist. Against hordes or less elite teams, the burst cannon is the play.

Stealth suits also make fine Leaders in a pinch, since they’re pretty tough to hit/kill.

XV8 Crisis Battlesuit

Your heaviest hitters outside of Commander, Crisis suits offer a ton of versatility and different weapon options on top of a T5, 3W body with FLY and a 3+ save (2+ with the Iridium upgrade), but they’re expensive and thanks to an Arena rules FAQ they are able to open doors in Arena. Generally, the cost (33 points for a Shas’vre before you start adding on weapons) isn’t worth it, but there are some combinations that can be pretty brutal. For 45 points, a Shas’vre with three flamers and the Demolitions specialism will absolutely tear through enemy models at close range and be a complete nightmare to even consider charging. This is probably the best way to outfit them since it also removes any challenges inherent in spending that many points on a model that only has BS 4+, but you can also look at a pair of burst cannons and a multi-tracker as well. With the capability to use up to 3 separate ranged weapons this can be one of the most lethal models you can take if you want to spring for the cost.


Kroot - Based
Kroot – Based Credit: ThatGobbo

The oft-neglected mercenaries of the T’au faction, the primary value of Kroot is to get between T’au models and potential chargers. They’re still worse at this than drones, and their only other value is having an even cheaper leader option, though Pathfinders cover this role just fine.


T’au Empire Commanders

T’au have a few different commander options; the most attractive from a “getting shit done” standpoint is the Enforcer Crisis Suit Commander, though the Fireblade and Ethereal both have quite a bit to offer.

Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit

Tau Commander
Tau Commander. Credit: Jack Hunter

A real monster for the T’au forces, sporting BS 2+, S5 T5, 6 wounds, and a 3+ save. The model comes with a burst cannon and missile pod but can replace those and take up to two more items from the ranged/support weapons list, giving you an insane number of options. You also have access to the Master of War Stratagem, which gives you a powerful shooting boost to every model within 6″. As with 40k, your best weapon option for the Enforcer Commander is to load him up with 3 cyclic ion blasters and an Advanced Targeting System to improve the guns’ AP to -2. This build is going to be scariest with the Shooting specialism, where at level 1 you can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for your Commander and at level 2 you can take Trick-Shooter to remove the to hit roll penalty from shooting at obscured targets. On the other hand, the Commander can also just take the Strategist specialism and generate an extra CP per turn to blow on Tactics.

You also may want to consider going Bor’kan Sept if you’re running the triple Cyclic Ion Blaster commander, to prevent yourself from taking the long range hit penalties. At this point, your Commander’s role becomes acting as your team’s primary ranged damage dealer, so be sure to protect him with a steady supply of drones.

Cadre Fireblade

The Cadre Fireblade’s primary benefit is being the cheapest Commander option you can take, and having access to the Strategist specialism so he can generate you an extra CP each turn. Fireblades come with a Pulse Rifle, a Markerlight, and BS 2+. Markerlights are normally pretty bad, but on the Cadre Fireblade they’re decent, owing to his ability to hit with them on a 2+. This means he can light up key enemy units and with the help of Uplinked Markerlights you can easily take down heavier/more elite enemy targets. The Cadre Fireblade will best serve you as a Strategist specialist, generating additional CP.


The Ethereal doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of shooting but has five different auras he can activate in order to buff nearby units. This makes the Ethereal an incredibly versatile choice, and one that can step in and fight for you in melee if enemies close in and start causing trouble. He’s not amazing in melee but he’s not terrible either and can handle himself against most non-commander models. If you take an Ethereal, you want to take them as a Strategist specialist for the extra CP to spend on auras.


A cheap Pathfinder Commander option, Darkstrider is locked into being a level 2 choice and has to take the Legendary Fighter specialism. You can skip Darkstrider.


T’au Empire Tactics

T’au have some decent tactics to work with, and very few of them cost more than 1 CP, giving T’au a lot of flexibility when it comes to spending their command points and executing multiple tactics per turn.

General Tactics

  • Recon Sweep (1 CP) – Use in the shooting phase when you shoot with a PATHFINDER. Instead of shooting, you can make a normal move as if it were the Movement phase, but you move up to 2D6″ instead. This is decent, and can be useful for closing the distance to a key objective, or rushing through a door in Arena. The biggest issue here is that this only works on Pathfinders, and your team’s Pathfinders are likely to be a Leader a few Rail Rifles. Shane: Movement is king in Kill Team, and being able to move a second time in the shooting phase is huge. You can use this to push up onto an objective that was out of reach, or setup a block for your opponents next movement phase. A
  • Stealthy Hunters (1 CP) – Use at the start of the first battle round to put up to three KROOT CARNIVORE models that were set up in reserves onto the battlefield more than 9″ from an enemy deployment zone. You aren’t going to take Kroot so this doesn’t matter, and the distance is a bit too far for Kroot to make use of it for melee purposes. C+
  • Breach and Clear (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase when a Breacher targets an enemy model that’s obscured. You can re-roll failed wound rolls against that enemy model until the end of the phase. This is neat, but your biggest challenge with breachers is going to be hitting. Going after an obscured model means that unless you’re within 7.5″ of the target, you’re hitting on a 6. C+
  • Stealth Fields (1 CP) – Use at the start of the first battle round. Pick up to three stealth suits from your kill team set up in reserves and put them anywhere on the battlefield more than 9″ from an enemy deployment zone. This is much more useful than Stealthy Hunters, in particular because Stealth Suits will do OK in forward positions as they can move quickly and are harder to hit. It’s not great being that far from drones, though. A-
  • Focused Fire (1 CP) – Use after a model in your kill team does an unsaved wound on an enemy model in the Shooting phase. For the rest of the phase you get +1 to wound rolls for attacks made by other models in your kill team that target the same model, so long as the attack model was within 2″ of the model that inflicted the wound. That 2″ rider isn’t great, and the core problem with this tactic is the same as Breach and Clear – the problem for T’au isn’t wounding targets (most guns have S5 or better), it’s hitting them. At best, this is useful for helping push through an extra wound on an elite or Commander target. B
  • Inheritors of the Galaxy (1 CP) – Imperial Defence Line Tactic. Use at the start of the Morale phase if your models are the only models on an Imperial Defence Line. They get -1 to Nerve Tests. Depends on a specific terrain/killzone setup that doesn’t matter and is rarely played. F
  • Neuroweb System Jammer (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Shooting phase. Pick an enemy model within 12″ of a model in your kill team. For the rest of the phase, that model gets -1 to hit. This is a pretty good way to mess with enemy snipers and heavies, but it requires some planning to use. It works well with a forward drone or Stealth suit that can get within 12″ of an opponent’s backline snipers. A
  • Stimulant Injector (1 CP) – Use when a non-DRONE model in your kill team loses a wound. Roll a D6 for that wound and every other one it loses for the rest of the phase. On a 5+ that wound isn’t lost. This is great for protecting your leader or a forward-operating stealth suit when they take a wound and there aren’t any drones around to protect them. B+
  • Support Turret Replacement (2 CP) – Use at the end of the Movement phase. Pick a Fire Warrior or Breacher that has lost its DS8 Tactical Support Turret. You can immediately set up a new one within 2″ of that model. This is just good, clean fun and a spending 2 CP to add a new turret is a fine trade-off. B
  • Inspiring Sacrifice (0 CP) – Use when a COMMANDER from your kill team dies. You immediately get D3 Command points. I mean it’s literally free so it’s an immediate A+ but it’s not gonna save you in missions where losing your Commander loses you the game. A+
  • Manta Strike (1 CP) – Use at the end of the Movement phase to pick up to 3 non-INFANTRY BATTLESUITS that can FLY, MV1 Gun Drones, MV4 Shield Drones, or MV7 Marker Drones that were set up in Reserve and set them up anywhere on the battlefield more than 5″ away from enemy models. It’s potentially a good way to drop in a couple of models and set up disruptive tactics like Neuroweb System Jammer with a drone or Crisis Suit. B
  • Tandem Hunting Pattern (2 CP) – Use at the start of the Ready, Fire! step in the Shooting phase. When you select a readied model to shoot with, you can pick two instead if they’re within 4″ of each other and resolve both of their shooting attacks. This is really nice, and you’ll almost always have at least a drone and a rail rifle near each other to use it. It’s a compelling reason to keep your two rail rifles together for when you have a stand-off with lots of readied models. A
  • Prudent Retreat (1 CP) – Use after a model from your team fires Overwatch. That model Retreats (even if it already moved in this phase). This is great for T’au. The last thing you want to do is be in combat, and the first thing you want to do is shoot someone in the face. With Prudent Retreat, you can do both, and if you whiff on your Overwatch, use the opportunity to drop back and make the charge more difficult. Also helpful if you’re facing down multiple chargers. A
  • Uplinked Markerlight (2 CP) – Use after an enemy model gets hit by a markerlight fired from your kill team. Put D3+1 markerlight counters next to it instead of just 1. This would be a lot better if you were ever going to actually shoot markerlights. Helpful if you have to focus fire down a Commander, I guess. At 2 CP there are better options. C
  • The Baited Trap (2 CP) – Use before a model in your kill team fires Overwatch. Until the end of the phase, you hit in Overwatch on a 4+ instead of 6 with that model. This is another great ability, and it combos hilariously with Prudent Retreat. If the opponent is getting close to you, be ready to pop this and light them up when they charge — for some models firing in this mode is more accurate than regular shooting!. A
  • Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite (1 CP) – Use when you choose a model in your kill team to shoot in the Shooting phase. Enemy models don’t get the benefit for being obscured against that model’s attacks. This is very solid, and helpful for improving accuracy and making it more likely to take a model out of action. It’s especially helpful against Necrons where it makes getting around Reanimation Protocols much easier.

Commander Tactics

  • Sense of Stone (1 CP) – Ethereal Aura tactic. Used at the start of the Movement phase. Gives each friendly model within 6″ the ability to ignore wounds taken on a 6+. Not super powerful but the real value is giving your drones a 1/6 chance to shrug off mortals from Saviour Protocols. B-
  • Zephyr’s Grace (1 CP) – Ethereal Aura tactic. Used at the start of the Movement phase. Gives re-rolls ot Advancea nd charges rolls for friendly models within 6″. You don’t want to be charging, though. C
  • Storm of Fires (1 CP) – Etheral Aura tactic. Use at the start of the Shooting phase. Gives re-rolls on to hit rolls of 1 for friendly models within 6″ for the phase. This is probably the most helpful of the Ethereal auras, but it’s not quite good enough to make up for the Ethereal not being a model that can shoot. A
  • Failure is Not an Option (1 CP) – Ethereal Aura Tactic. Use at the start of the Movement phase. Gives friendly models within 6″ the ability to use the Ethereal’s Ld instead of their own. This is also pretty handy, since Ethereals have Ld 9. A
  • Voice of the Greater Good (1 CP) – Cadre Fireblade aura tactic. Used at the start of the Movement phase, lets models within 6″ use the Fireblade’s Ld instead of their own. Less useful given the Fireblade is Ld 8.
  • Volley Fire (1 CP) – Cadre Fireblade aura tactic. Used at the start of the battle round. Gives friendly models within 6″ an extra shot with pulse rifles, pulse carbines, and pulse pistols if you’re shooting at a target within half range. Tempting to run with Fire Warriors but like everything else, the real value here is on drones. Extra shots is always better and this helps make sure that your Fireblade can still give you extra shots while he’s using his own shooting to markerlight something. A
  • Master of War (2 CP) – Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit aura tactic. Used once per game at the start of the battle round and you can pick one of two modes for the rest of the battle round. Both options are very powerful, though Kauyon is the stronger of the two. A+
    • Kauyon makes it so friendly models within 3″ can’t move during the Movement phase for any reason, but can re-roll failed hit rolls for all their attacks. This is amazing, and the mode your’e going to want to use most games.
    • Mont’ka lets friendly models within 3″ move and shoot with no penalty, and they get +1 to hit models that aren’t at long range. This has a bit more limited use, but it’s OK if you really need to move out of harm’s way or set something up. Mathematically, getting the full re-rolls to hit will be better most of the time unless you’re only hitting on 6s.
  • Fighting Retreat (2 CP) – Darkstrider aura tactic. Used at the start of the Shooting phase. Friendly models within 3″ can shoot even if they fell back or Retreated. This is really good when combined with Tactics like The Baited Trap and Prudent Retreat but putting all of that together calls for a lot of CP. Fine on its own. A
  • Structural Analyser (1 CP) – Darkstrider aura tactic. Used at the start of the Shooting phase. Pick an enemy model visible to Darkstrider and friendly models within 6″ of Darkstrider get +1 to their wound rolls when shooting that enemy target. Fine, but again, wounding isn’t the issue for T’au. B-


Tau Kill Team
A Tau Kill Team, they’re good at shooting, just like in 40k – Credit: Bonds0097

Playing T’au

  • In most cases, you’ll want to put your drones in front of your other models. Make hitting your other models as difficult as possible, using your drones to obscure them, and use them to zone out potential chargers so your models can escape unharmed. Drones using Saviour Protocols to intercept incoming attacks don’t get the benefit of being obscured, even if they were out of line of sight, so there isn’t a ton of benefit to hiding them
    • The exception to this is when your opponent has lots of multi-damage ranged weapons. In those cases, you want to take advantage of the drones’ ability to turn all of the incoming damage into a single mortal wound, and avoid letting your opponent take “free” shots at the drones. Here losing the -1 to hit your model for being obscured by the drone is offset by the harsh penalty of taking multiple damage rolls, so keep your drone out of LOS if you can but within 3″ of the model it’d protect.
  • Tau are bad at putting out damage in melee, but their fliers (drones and suits) are durable, tend to Overwatch well and can shoot after falling back/retreating. They can often body block mid or low tier melee models like Ork Boyz or Genestealers to limit enemy movement and fly away the next turn, or charge models with good shooting like Marine Veterans with Heavy Bolters to keep them from shooting for multiple turns.
  • You have a weak Ballistic Skill, but you can still stack multiple effects to put out reliable damage. A Sniper Specialist Pathfinder with a rail rifle, Recon Drone and Comms Specialist nearby can put out two shots hitting on 2’s (+1 from Comms, +1 from Sniper Tactic. ignoring cover), wounding most targets on 2’s or 3’s and punching through marine armor with a multi-damage injury roll. That will reliably kill models.
  • Keep your models together. Everything in your faction rules encourages you to keep your models in small groups so that they can support each other with overlapping fields of fire for Overwatch, support for Nerve tests from bonding knife ritual, Saviour protocols, and many of their effects and Tactics. Avoid splitting up your team and having models get caught by themselves far from support.
  • In Arena, you’ll need to change things up. For the Greater Good loses some impact when you can be charged around corners and you need Point-Blank Overwatch to hit them, but you still have some other tricks. Shield drones are incredibly irritating as area denial in Arena and while drones can’t open doors, they can contest them/stop them from opening or closing. Use FLY to jump over enemy models in tight quarters and cut off movement routes. With the amount of Fly you have access to, you generally have the battlefield advantage in that you can go wherever you want.


Sample Rosters

The strength of T’au will depend heavily on the format they’re being played in. This first list from Luke Scianna, is from the SoCal Open format. The SoCal Open rules used 125-point rosters in 3D Kill Team games with custom missions (you can find the event’s missions pack here). These tend to favor horde/”go wide” kill teams because they place an emphasis on holding objectives over killing enemy units. This works just fine for T’au, who can sit comfortably on objectives and pick off enemies at a distance while drones absorb incoming fire.

Luke Scianna’s Killzone: San Diego List

4th place at Killzone: San Diego, 3-1

Sa’Cea Sept


Pathfinder Shas’ui – Leader
Pathfinder Gunner w/Rail Rifle – Sniper
Pathfinder Gunner w/Rail Rifle – Demolitions
Pathfinder Gunner w/Rail Rifle – Comms


Pathfinder Gunner w/Rail Rifle
XV25 Stealth Battlesuit Shas’vre – Burst Rifle
XV25 Stealth Battlesuit Shas’vre – Fusion Blaster
Fire Warrior Shas’la w/Pulse Rifle, Tactical Turret
Fire Warrior Shas’la w/Pulse Rifle
Fire Warrior Shas’la w/Pulse Rifle
DS8 Tactical Support Turret w/SMS
MB3 Recon Drone w/Burst Cannon
MB3 Recon Grav Inhibitor Drone
MV1 Gun Drone
MV1 Gun Drone
MV1 Gun Drone
MV1 Gun Drone
MV4 Shield Drone
MV4 Shield Drone
MV4 Shield Drone

Playing Against T’au

  • T’au battlesuits and drones have FLY. That means that they can fall back/retreat and shoot and they can ignore most cover when moving. Keep this in mind when you’re trying to charge them or position around them.
  • A big part of your game is going to be mitigating what can shoot you. If you are an elite team your number one task will be to hide from rail rifles. If you’re a horde team, then it will be hiding from gun drones.
  • Look at what their drones are close to. Savior Protocols have a 3″ range, and within that range Tau drones can always intercept an attack on Infantry or Battlesuit and turn it into a single mortal wound on the drone. If you have a strong gun like a Plasma Caliver, sometimes it’s better to shoot the drone and get a multi-dice injury roll rather than letting them turn it into a single dice.
  • For the Greater Good gives them a sympathetic overwatch. If they’re blobbed up you need to check Overwatch line of sight for everything within 6″ of the models you charged. If they use FtGG though then they react to charges again that phase, so if you can get them to burn it on a sacrificial target then the rest of of your charges are safe.
  • Double check how the drones are equipped. They behave very differently and it’s not always obvious what they do with a quick look.
  • If you’re running a melee team, you have to mass swarm them. Your number one focus should be getting to the Rail Rifles and tying those up, if possible. You can use multiple charges on the same set of enemy Tau models to prevent them from overwatching further, if a model uses FtGG they can no longer overwatch. So if you are cheeky about getting the Tau player to use FtGG, you can charge those models without being worried about them overwatching again (although keep in mind other models who still have not used FtGG).
  • Tau Drones are highly mobile and gun drones hit on 6s as soon as any negative modifiers come into play. This means advancing and shooting gun drones is common. So expect some gun drones to advance around corners to shoot at your more fragile units, or to jump onto far objectives/secondaries.


Painting and Collecting T’au

Unfortunately, you’re ultimately going to need to draw models from several different boxes to make a fully viable team. The Pathfinder box is a good place to start, because they tend to be the core of many lists. The Stealth Suit box is a good grab after the Pathfinders. The Start Collecting box is a decent option, as it gives you Crisis Suits and Fire Warriors plus a support turret, but generally Pathfinders are better than Fire Warriors. If you’ve already got a T’au army you should have plenty of drones to add but if you don’t you’ll probably need to pick up a few blisters of tactical drones.

We have an article on how to paint T’au here.


Final Thoughts

Tau are a very strong team, just don’t let your opponent get into punching range. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.