The Greater Good and the New T’au Meta

An article by    Gaming Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

Hey everyone, this is Richard Siegler (from The Art of War 40k) and I am here to talk about the new T’au rules and how the faction is well positioned to fit into the new 2020 meta.

Psychic Awakening V: The Greater Good has finally arrived and the T’au Empire has received some new and useful tools including custom septs, prototype weapon systems, stratagems, updated Shadowsun and The Eight datasheets, as well as new rules for Farsight Enclaves detachments. These are welcome changes because for the last three or so months—since the release of the Iron Hands and Imperial Fists supplements, in addition to Faith and Fury—T’au have found it difficult to compete with the top-tier lists.

For much of 2019 I had successfully competed in the ever-changing 40k meta with my T’au list revolving around three Riptides, three commanders, and at least 40 shield drones.  I won the NOVA Open, Warzone Atlanta, and the Atlanta Open in the span of a few months using the supreme durability of the list to dominate the mid-board against most factions and survive with much of my firepower intact for six turns. This style was even successful after the release of the Space Marine Codex as I was able to match the durability of Nick Nanavati’s Iron Hands brigade and largely ignore the power of devastator doctrine with most of my units having good invulnerable saves.

However, the early Psychic Awakening books and Chapter Approved fundamentally altered the meta, with Chaos gaining an even more powerful build relying on multiple negatives to hit and a stratagem to make dangerous units like obliterators and possessed untargetable. Craftworld Eldar received significant efficiency buffs with their custom Craftworld traits like expert crafts and masterful shots, flipping their matchup against my list from unfavorable to favorable. Additionally, marines and Iron Hands, in particular, received the Chief Apothecary, which dramatically increased the durability of their infantry and allowed for the ridiculous “Broviathan” (credit to Mitch Pelham for the nickname) combo that I piloted to become the LVO champion.

With this brief synopsis of the last couple months of the meta, let us delve into the new T’au rules and see if we can come up with several new competitive archetypes to bring T’au back to the summit.

Editor’s Note: Richard will be talking about rules from the upcoming Psychic Awakening book. You can find our review of the T’au section here.

 

Custom Septs

The two standout Septs are “Stabilization Systems” to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons with battlesuits and Hardened Warheads for granting an additional -1 AP for smart missile systems, missile pods, seeker missiles, and high-yield missile pods. The combination of these two custom Sept traits increases the power my existing triple Riptide build. Ignoring the penalty for moving and firing the heavy burst cannon and smart missiles means that target lock is no longer in consideration for a support system slot, making the Advanced Targeting System (ATS) and Velocity Tracker (VT) combo the de facto choice.

The triple Riptide build is designed to be a highly mobile midfield force and so the ability to move and shoot without penalty while still taking the two most important support systems is significant.  VT, in my opinion, is still mandatory in this meta with so many FLY keyword based lists ranging from Iron Hands or Imperial Fists flyers and Eldar vehicle spam to the T’au mirror matchup.  Additionally, smart missiles gain a nice boost in becoming AP -2 with the Sept trait and ATS allowing them to more easily pick off both chaff hiding out of line of sight, but also more quickly whittle down durable units like Paladins that are now taking 4+ saves instead of 3+.  Any extra damage you can do to these units before engaging them directly is invaluable.

“Hardened Warheads” also opens up the option of missile pod Coldstar commanders. Before Psychic Awakening: For the Greater Good, missile pod commanders had to choose between 3 weapon systems and ATS or 4 missile pods but remain only AP -1.  This new custom Sept allows each missile pod Coldstar to fire eight strength 7, ap -2, damage d3 shots with a ridiculous 56 inch total threat range without advancing.

Now the customs Septs do have the disadvantage of missing out on powerful abilities like the T’au Sept trait to overwatch on 5+ or their Sept specific stratagem to add +1 to wound against a target that has been wounded. However, I believe that the increased mobility and added bit of offense offsets these losses in the current meta. The few armies that will charge a T’au defensive formation will do so with the ability to ignore Overwatch and switching to custom Septs offers two abilities that will be useful in every single match-up unlike the 5+ Overwatch. Good positioning and screening with drones will still be the most useful tool for preventing powerful melee units from assaulting the main portion of your firepower.

 

Tau Broadside Battlesuit with Missiles

Tau Broadside Battlesuit with Missiles. Credit: Jack Hunter

Prototype Weapons Systems

Instead of receiving a new page of relics, T’au have received a set of rules that can take the place of the largely subpar Signature Systems section of the T’au Codex. These new systems range from “auto-include” to “utterly pointless,” but by and large many will find a use in a variety of lists. The real standout is Cross-Linked Stabilizer Jets, which allows a Crisis suit commander, Crisis battlesuit unit, or Crisis bodyguard unit to re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1. Instantly useful, this will be by far the most commonly used system.

Other interesting choices are the Reactive Countermeasures system, which can be placed on a battlesuit model with Airburst fragmentation projectors allowing it to ignore AP -1 or AP -2 from ranged weapons. In combination with iridium armor within a crisis unit this could be very powerful way of tanking significant amounts of damage.

For those Ghostkeel users, the Advanced EM Scrambler prevents enemy reinforcements from being setup within 12 inches of the model.  With this ability a centrally placed Ghostkeel can have a tremendous impact on your opponent’s ability to deploy units from reserve, especially massive combat threats like Grey Knights, Sanguinary Guard and Zephyrim. I am also a fan of the Accelerated-Photon Grenades, which force an enemy infantry unit that is hit by the grenade to subtract one from their hit rolls as well as preventing them from advancing and halving all charge rolls.  Both the Advanced EM Scrambler and Accelerated-Photon Grenades are tools that can be utilized in combination with custom Septs to assuage the pain of losing out on the T’au Sept benefits.

So if I was to rewrite my old list to mesh better with the Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads traits, it would be something like this:

Custom Sept Battalion
Tenets: Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads

HQ: Cadre Fireblade, Markerlight, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone, Warlord
HQ: Ethereal Honour blade, Hover drone, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone, MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone, MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone, MV4 Shield Drone

Custom Sept Outrider Detachment
Tenets: Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads

HQ: Cadre Fireblade, Markerlight, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

FA: Tactical Drones, 8x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones, 8x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones, 8x MV4 Shield Drone

Custom Sept Vanguard Detachment
Tenets: Stabilization Systems and Hardened Warheads

HQ: Cadre Fireblade, Markerlight, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Elites: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
Elites: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
Elites: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit, 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker

Pre-game decisions

  • Free relic will be the Puretide Engram Chip
  • Spend 3 command points to purchase two additional signature systems, which will become prototype weapons. Usually two instances of Cross-Linked Stabilizer Jets for two of the commanders, but potentially accelerated photon grenades on a fireblade.

 

Tau Stealth Suits

Tau Stealth Suits. Credit: Jack Hunter

Stratagems

The selection of new stratagems offer a few new utility options to the T’au army, with one incredible stratagem that will have an entire list built around it. The main stratagems that will see play are “Aerial Targeting” to count as having one more markerlight on a target, Wisdom of the Many to allow an Ethereal to invoke a second elemental power, Pulse Onslaught for anyone running breacher units, Coordinated Engagement for anyone running crisis suits, and Promising Pupil to gain access to an extra warlord trait allowing you to have both Through Unity Devastation and Examplar of the Mont’ka in the same army.

The standout stratagem is Modulated Weaponry. For 1 command point, this stratagem allows a non-Titanic model to gain the maximum number of shots when shooting with heavy weapons that have a random number of shots. The real winner for using this Stratagem is the Y’Vahra, which can now pump out 18 shots with the flamer and 9 with the shotgun. While the Y’Vahra did not go down in points with Chapter Approved, this stratagem almost single handedly makes it a viable option if you want to build an entire list around it.  To do so we would have to select Bork’an for the extra range and supplement it with enough firepower that even when the Y’Vahra dies we can still win the game. I ran a Bork’an list centered around a Y’Vahra at the Crucible Major in Orlando last October defeating pre-nerf Iron Hands, but losing out to White Scars in a close game. This stratagem dramatically increases the power of that list archetype so if I were to run it again, I would do something like this:

Bork’an Outrider Detachment

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

FA: Tactical Drones, 12x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones, 12x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones, 12x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: XV109 Y’vahra Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 2x MV52 Shield Drone

Bork’an Vanguard Detachment

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Ethereal, Honour blade, Hover drone, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Elites: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14 PL, 278pts]: 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
Elites: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14 PL, 278pts]: 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker
Elites: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14 PL, 278pts]: 2x Smart missile system, Advanced targeting system, Heavy burst cannon, Velocity tracker

As you will notice this is intentionally low on command points, with most of them reserved for as many Modulated Weaponry activations as possible. I might even forgo the Puretide chip in order to trade the free relic slot and one command point for an extra relic in order to grant two commanders the Cross-Linked Stabilization Jets system. But the list is designed to give the Y’Vahra at least two, if not three turns to trade as efficiently as possible while the commanders and Riptides pick off units and control the middle of the board and ensure a win on the mission. If you wanted more markerlights in the list, I would switch a cyclic commander to triple fusion and a drone controller and then swap some of the shield drones to marker drones.

 

Tau Commander

Tau Commander. Credit: Jack Hunter

Farsight Enclaves

Now we get to my personal favorite part of the For the Greater Good book: Farsight Enclaves rules.  In my opinion, these are the most powerful set of rules in the book.  Yet, because of that it will take quite a few practice games to really fine-tune the strongest lists.  So, what makes them so powerful?

Firstly, Farsight Enclaves benefit from a loosening of the commander restriction from the main Codex. Instead of being limited to one commander per detachment, Farsight detachments can have no more than two commanders.  This is incredibly potent as it allows for a six commander list with some variation between cyclic ion enforcers, fusion coldstars, and missile coldstars.  Additionally, Farsight detachments also gain an further ability, Aggressive Footing, allowing your models within 12 inches of enemy units to count as having one more markerlight than the target actually has. So any of your models within 12 inches of enemy units count as having at least one markerlight to re-roll hit rolls of one.  This is fantastic on ballistic skill 2+ commanders.

On top of this, Farsight detachments unlock a further set of stratagems.  The highlights here are the “Veteran Cadre” stratagem used pre-game to increase the ballistic skill of a crisis unit to 3+ and their weapon skill to 4+.  In combination with the Coordinated Engagement or Drop Zone Clear stratagems, a unit of crisis suits coming from deep strike can be ballistic skill 3+ and have +2 to hit, almost single handedly solving the T’au issue with stacking minuses to hit.  The “Defense in Numbers” stratagem also allows Farsight crisis suit units to ignore wounds on a 5+, increasing their durability when ablative drone wounds begin to run low. And finally, Focused Fury allows a character model to re-roll wound rolls for 1 command point, which is incredible on any of the cyclic ion commanders, especially against high toughness models.

The unique relics and warlord traits for the Enclaves are also fairly interesting with the MirrorCodex providing a pseudo-markerlight benefit against models within 18 inches, while the Talisman of Arthas Moloch offers a deny the witch attempt that will find use in a meta with so many incredible psychic powers. The Goonhammer staff made a big deal about the Seismic Fibrillator Node, which is activated once per battle at the start of your opponent’s turn and can do mortal wounds on a 1 each time an enemy model starts and ends a move within 6 inches. I personally do not want any enemy models getting within 6 inches of my characters because at that point your drone screen is likely dead or severely diminished meaning your characters are in serious danger. Most things that will move fast enough to get within 6 of your characters earlier than that are single model units like Smash Captains or Solitaires, which can take a mortal wound or two with their charge and pile in moves, and still trade for the damage your opponent wants. I feel like the relic slots are at such a premium between the Puretide chip and the prototype weapons that this will be very niche. I would be happy to be proved wrong though.

So what does my Farsight Enclaves list look like?

Farsight Enclaves Battalion

HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Fusion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, 4x Fusion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, Markerlight, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone

Farsight Enclaves Battalion

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Missile pod, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team, 4x Fire Warrior, Fire Warrior Shas’ui, MV36 Guardian Drone and MV4 Shield Drone

FA: Tactical Drones, 4x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones, 4x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones, 4x MV4 Shield Drone

Farsight Enclaves Vanguard Detachment

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit, Advanced targeting system, 3x Cyclic ion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Elites: XV25 Stealth Battlesuits, 5x Stealth Shas’ui w/ Burst Cannon, 1x Stealth Shas’vre, Burst cannon, Shield generator
Elites: XV8 Crisis Bodyguards, 1x Crisis Bodyguard, Airbursting fragmentation projector, Shield generator, XV8-02 Crisis Iridium battlesuit, 5x Crisis Bodyguard, Advanced targeting system, 2x Cyclic ion blaster, 4x MV4 Shield Drone
Elites: Dahyak Grekh

 

Pre-game decisions

  • Veteran Cadre -2 command points on the Crisis unit.
  • Free relic slot is “Reactive Counter Measures” on the Crisis model with the Airburst Fragmentation Projector so that he ignores ranged attacks with AP -1 and AP -2. Because he has Iridium armor, he is meant to tank most enemy firepower when I begin to run out of drones.
  • Spend 3 command points on purchasing two further signature systems, which will become prototype weapon systems. Likely Cross-Linked Stabilization Jets on either the crisis unit or any of the commanders depending on the match-up.
  • Promising Pupil if I feel the need for a second warlord trait.

If I end up dropping down to a single battalion, I would be more selective with pre-game decisions.  With double battalion you can more comfortably spend those command points for as many pre-game buffs as possible. It feels nice to actually do anything pre-game after a year of basically selecting a free relic and warlord trait and letting your opponent explain an avalanche of pre-game decisions. How the list functions is that the Stealth suits, Breachers and shield drones act as the central screen for the commanders who play the angles and herd the opponent into firing lanes. The Coldstars also force your opponent to constantly screen characters and vulnerable units like Thunderfire cannons.

The Crisis unit will often come down with the cyclic ion commanders and/or some of the tactical drone units dropping a ridiculous amount of strength eight firepower hitting on 2s re-rolling 1s. The cyclic ion blaster is one of the most efficient guns in the game as it is fantastic against any type of unit—whether horde or toughness eight monstrosity.  Depending on the meta I could see the potential for missile pods, gatling burst cannons, fusion, or a mix of these.  I also decided to go with Crisis bodyguards because late game they can essentially double as drones for the commanders with their bodyguard rule.

These are, of course, my initial impressions of the For the Greater Good book and some potential lists I think we can see do well in the current meta.  I plan to play a significant amount of test games with all sorts of new lists so if you are interested in hearing more of my thoughts on T’au or the meta, check out Art of War 40k.  Nick Nanavati, Mark Perry and myself will be live streaming matched play games on Twitch very soon, but we will also be offering personalized coaching and list design through Art of War.

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