With the release of Psychic Awakening 5: The Greater Good, we’ve seen the release of all-new rules for Genestealer Cults, Astra Militarum, and the T’au Empire. Of the three factions, T’au probably got the most from a sheer volume perspective, with a new character and model for Commander Shadowsun, custom Sept Tenets, new Prototype Weapon Systems, Stratagems, plus rules for the Eight reprinted and a bunch of new rules for the Farsight Enclaves that really break them out as an entire faction. T’au were in a weird place coming into Psychic Awakening. We’d seen that, empirically, they could win on the most competitive levels, but it seemed like that was really only the case if you were one of the best players in the world (or uh, the actual best), and even then, recent developments in Space Marine army technology made that potentially untenable. Beyond those issues, there’s a real concern that competitive T’au armies were boring — overly reliant on a very small number of units and a large number of drones to protect those units, leading to a limited number of viable strategies.
So coming into Psychic Awakening 5: The Greater Good, we really have three major questions to answer for the T’au:
- Do the new rules make T’au competitively viable in a marines-dominated meta?
- Do the new rules encourage a wider variety of units to be used in serious/comepetitive play?
- Do the new rules encourage new play styles for T’au that push them to spread out and move more?
Ideally the rules will do all three of these things, making T’au players of all walks of life happy. So how do they fare? Games workshop have been kind enough to send us a preview copy fo the book, so let’s dive in and find out.
Commander Shadowsun – New Datasheet
Let’s start here. With the release of The Greater Good, Commander Shadowsun receives a fantastic new model and an all-new datasheet to go with it. While her baseline stats haven’t changed, Shadowsun got a number of major upgrades this time around, swapping out her Shield Drone for the upgraded MV37 Advanced Guardian Drone, which was previewed on Warhammer Community last week and gives friendly T’au Empire units within 3″ the ability to ignore unsaved wounds on a D6 roll of 6 (note as well that her drones are no longer optional). She also gained a host of new weapon options: A Flechette Launcher that gives her a multi-shots, low-power pistol option, a light missile pod to augment her close-range firepower, and a pulse pistol to fire in a pinch. Finally, as previewed earlier this week, she can also swap out either or both her twin high-energy fusion blasters for a dispersed fusion blaster. The dispersed fusion blasters trade off some range, Strength, and damage for an additional shot. The dispersed blasters are better for taking on elite infantry like Primaris Marines, where on average you’ll kill 3.7 Marines per volley, and the high-energy variant are more efficient at damaging T8 vehicles. Mathematically, the boost against infantry you get from the dispersed blasters is larger than what you get against vehicles with the high-energy blasters, so unless you really need the extra range, my gut is that the dispersed fusion blasters are a better play most of the time.
Finally the other big change that has been touted for Shadowsun is that she no longer breaks your detachment’s SEPT purity if she’s included in a non-T’AU sept Detachment. She retains her T’au Sept keyword and doesn’t benefit from the detachment’s Sept Tenets (unless that Sept’s Tenet is Coordinated Arcs of Fire), but she doesn’t break your detachment either, allowing it to benefit from a Tenet. Unfortunately, while this is a neat change, it doesn’t seem to have much practical value: Both the Master of War special rule (and the associated Mont’ka and Kauyon abilities) and the Saviour Protocols rules are SEPT-locked, meaning that while she’s surrounded by units from a sept other than T’AU, Shadowsun’s ability to call a Mont’ka or Kauyon (or a second Kauyon) won’t do you any good. And because Saviour Protocols rules are locked, she can’t be protected by drones from any other sept either. This means that Shadowsun’s value in a non-T’au detachment is very limited. Using her in this capacity will largely be reserved for when you need a cheap, efficient commander to eat up an HQ slot in a non-T’au Sept detachment that’s part of an army that has a T’au Sept detachment she can join up with to still make use of her rules. Unfortunately, Ethereals basically already serve this function, having auras that aren’t Sept-locked, and don’t come with drones that can be killed by Thunderfire Cannons.
Overall, new Shadowsun is an even stronger version of the prior unit, who was already very efficiently-costed but hadn’t seen much competitive play recently. This new updated version isn’t likely to be seen outside of T’au Sept armies, but if she keeps her current points cost, the added utility of her guardian drone and new guns make her nearly too good to pass up.
OK, why am I saying “if” here? Well, there’s one sour thing to note: Similar to Psychic Awakening IV – Ritual of the Damned’s Captain Lazarus, there’s no points cost for this new Shadowsun and her drones. This isn’t entirely an issue for Shadowsun and her MV62 Command-Link Drone, which already have costs in Chapter Approved 2019, but it is an issue for her new MV37 Advanced Guardian Drone. We suspect that, as with Lazarus, we’ll see day 1 errata released for Shadowsun to solve this.
Wings Note: While we’re here, it’s also also note that the drones are now mandatory, so you can’t leave them out to shave some points. It wouldn’t shock me if she was now a bit pricier once her cost hits.
Similar to the Craftworld Eldar/Drukhari in Phoenix Rising and the Tyranids in Blood of Baal, in Greater Good the T’au received new custom Sept Tenets, allowing players to create their own Sept’s by choosing a pair of custom tenets from a list. There are eleven of these in all, and they give players a lot of variety in how they want to build their army and play. For me, the most interesting tenets are those that open up new play styles and unit strategies for the army. As such, my favorites are Stabilisation Systems, which was previewed earlier this week and allows a Sept’s Battlesuits to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons, Sophisticated Command Net, which allows Sept Vehicles to re-roll wound rolls of a 1 against enemy units with 1+ markerlight counters, and Up-gunned, which improves the AP on burst cannons for Sept models to -1. Between these and a some of the other new rules, it feels like Battlesuits have a real role to play in competitive T’au armies moving forward, finally able to achieve the kind of shooting output the army deserves.
Wings Note: There’s a bunch of cool stuff in here, and the other one I think needs to be highlighted is Hardened Warheads. This boosts the AP on missile pods (including high yield), seeker missiles and smart missiles by 1. This is an outrageous boost to the output of Broadsides in particular, but lots of stuff gets benefit from it. Missile pod commanders are already a popular choices as well and this gives them a leg up too. A fringe build in the UK has been to spam Piranhas with lots of seeker missiles, and this might also give that setup a lift, especially considering it loses a lot less to not being Tau Sept than other options.
Prototype Weapon Systems
In another move similar to what Tyranids received in Blood of Baal, the T’au can, instead of giving a Signature System to a T’au Empire Character, opt instead to give a Prototype Weapons System from the list in Greater Good to a T’au Empire unit in their army. This is done before the battle begins, giving you some flexibility, and presumably can be done multiple times by paying the additional CP for the Emergency Dispensation Stratagem, though this interaction is not 100% clear and I suspect will need some cleaning up via FAQ. Either way, these upgrades are fantastic, and strongly benefit from taking larger squads of Battlesuits where possible. There are 12 in total, with most replacing a unit’s primary guns and being locked to Battlesuits.
- Reactive Countermeasures can be given to a Battlesuit model with an airbursting fragmentation projector (so Crisis Suits and Crisis Bodyguards) and allows it to treat ranged attacks with AP-1 or AP-2 as AP0, dramatically increasing its survivability in this crazy post-Devastator Doctrine world.
- The Magna Rail Rifle can be given to a unit of XV88 Broadsides and replaces each heavy rail rifle in the unit with one that has Strength 9 and always does a minimum of 3 damage (rolls of 1 or 2 count as a 3), which massively improves the ability of Broadsides to clear large targets off the battlefield. Works best when you’re putting a unit of three Broadsides on the table.
These are exactly the kind of upgrade T’au needed, boosting some units that saw less play in the army such as Crisis Suits, Stormsurges, Ghostkeels, Hammerheads, and Broadsides (which after a competitive flowering last year have seemingly gone away again), while also giving the army a lot more variety. However, it would be remiss of us to go all this way without mentioning that, if you’re just interested in how these can boost your Riptides and Commanders, you’ve got options too, including the one I think is going to see the most play – the Amplified Ion Acclerator is an upgrade to a Riptide’s Ion Accelerator with a 72″ range, Heavy 6 profile that has improved AP and damage over the standard option, firing at S9, AP-4 and doing 3+D3 damage in Overcharged mode, making it a much more attractive option than the burst cannon, especially when you consider its 72″ range.
Wings Note: Non-Tau players should prepare to get rapidly sick of this thing. Quite apart from how deadly it is it’s also fixed 6 shots whether you overcharge or not, so you can use your nova charge to be permanently 3++ while still using this at full effect!
Overall, many of the codex Signature System options – such as the Onager Gauntlet and Fusion Blades – are more interesting from a fluff and modeling standpoint than a gameplay standpoint, leaving players primarily choosing between the Puretide Engram Chip and Vectored Manoeuvring Thrusters as their two main options. Both are good, but neither is going to be difficult to give up in light of the new Prototype Weapon Systems, and I suspect that spending CP to take multiple systems will be a common occurrence for Tau post-PA5. These are also a great flavor win, doing a wonderful job to represent how the T’au are constantly innovating and improving with their technology.
Wings Note: Some of these are wild and all of them feel like they’ve been tweaked and pushed to try and make sure they bring value to the table. Rob’s hit the two most outrageous weapons systems, but from a utility standpoint it’s also worth thinking about the Advanced EM Scrambler, which gives Ghostkeel a 12″ anti-deep strike bubble, something that can help a lot in come common matchups.
T’au get 15 new Stratagems in this book, all of them generic (so none are for a particular Sept). We’ve already seen Coordinated Engagement, which for 2 CP lets a unit of Crisis Battlesuits (or bodyguards) pick a unit and shoot at it as though it had 5 markerlights, and Modulated Weaponry, which lets a non-Titanic unit max out the number of shots it gets with Heavy weapons for a shooting phase, but there’s a lot more going on here.
First off, the book adds a few good broad support stratagems. Aerial Targeting costs 1 CP and allows you to pick an enemy unit; until the end of the end of the phase, when a model in your army shoots that unit, it counts as having one more markerlight on it. This is great for putting a single markerlight on something or helping get to 5 when you really need it. Promising Pupil continues the new tradition of allowing non-Chaos armies to get more Warlord traits, by letting a T’au army spend 1 CP to give a Warlord trait to a second Character.
In addition to those, the book also adds a number of unit-specific stratagems, something we’ve seen a lot in Psychic Awakening as a way to improve certain under-loved units. In this case, that means alien auxiliaries. Rain of Fire is a 1 CP Stratagem that lets a unit of Vespid Stingwings re-roll hits the turn it arrives from Deep Strike. For 1 CP Ambushing Predators lets a unit of Kroot perform a Heroic Intervention as if it were a character, and move up to 6″ when doing so. Useful for when your opponent is able to blow a hole in your screen and you need a way to punish them and hold them in combat while your more valuable units fall back.
Wings Note: The other super important one is Wisdom of the Many, which lets an Ethereal activate two auras rather than one for a turn for 1CP. Being able to have Storm of Fire and Sense of Stone up at the same time from one model is very useful.
First printed in Chapter Approved 2018, the rules for the Eight have been reprinted here. They’re still a collection of 8 Characters and 14 Drones costing 1,120 points and including Farsight as your locked-in Warlord option. These rules don’t appear to have changed, though much of the wording has been cleaned up to reflect 8th edition’s current design sensibilities.
Something I wasn’t expecting to happen in this book was that we’d be receiving new rules for the Farsight Enclaves. Overall Farsight’s forces get a full overhaul, with a new ability, six new stratagems, 3 relics, and 3 warlord traits. And I’m gonna spoil things up front: the Farsight Enclave might completely overhaul Tau and make a big dent in the competitive scene.
Let’s start with the Sept rules because this one’s a doozy: In a matched play game, a T’au army can have Two (2) Farsight Enclaves Commanders in each Detachment. That means that a Farsight Enclaves army can, by mixing Enforcer and Coldstar Battlesuit variants, pack 6 Commanders into a single list, circumventing what has long been a major thorn in T’au players’ sides. This is a massive improvement, and one that will immediately have everyone looking at Farsight Enclaves as a way to run 3 Riptide, 6 Commander lists. Though given that I think T’au will need more CP to work with soon, I’m not sure if that will necessarily be the way to go.
In addition to the Commanders rule, Farsight Sept units also gain the Aggressive Footing rule, which allows their units to treat enemy units within 12″ as having 1 more markerlight than it actually has when shooting. This is also big, and will combine very well with the aforementioned Commanders rule, as they’ll benefit from dropping in near their prey. It combos further with the Sept’s Devastating Counter-Strike Tenet, which affords re-rolls of 1 on to wound rolls within 6″. That’s a little too close for comfort most of the time, but if you can be assured you’re about to destroy your target thanks to some clutch re-rolls and extra damage dice thanks to being in Melta range, it’s a game that’s likely to go in your favor. This also encourages Farsight armies to have a very different style of play than T’au Sept armies. Let’s put a pin in this, because we’ll come back to it later in the “What it all means” section.
The Farsight Enclaves have 6 stratagems all to themselves. The sexiest of these by far is Veteran Cadre, a once-per-battle Stratagem that lets you upgrade a unit of XV8 Crisis suits or Bodyguards for 1 CP if it’s 3 models, or 2 CP if the unit has 4+ models. Models in that unit get a WS of 4+ and a BS of 3+. Holy crap, this immediately solves one of the biggest problems in the entire T’au army: Crisis Suits have terrible accuracy. You combine this with the mountain of new tools that Crisis Suits have and it’s easy to see why this stratagem is something to drool over. Farsight characters also get a boost even if they aren’t within 6″, thanks to the Focus Fury Stratagem, which for 1 CP lets a Character re-roll all Wound rolls in the Shooting phase.
Farsight Enclaves get 3 Relics, the best of which was already previewed – The Mirrorcodex lets its holder re-roll hits against enemy units within 18″. Another lets a Tau unit deny one enemy psychic power per turn, a power Tau have never had before. But I want to talk about the Seismic Fibrillator Node relic, which is one of the most bonkers relics I’ve ever seen in Warhammer 40k. Once per battle, at the start of your opponent’s turn, you can activate this relic. If you do, then until the end of that turn, whenever a model (any model) starts or ends a move within 6″ of a model with this Relic, roll a D6; on a 1 that model’s unit suffers a mortal wound.
This is full-on insane.
OK, on the surface, the intent seems to be “deter your opponent from charging, since you just spent last turn getting up in their grill 6″ away so you could re-roll wounds as you murdered them.” But in practice, this means that a unit within 6″ of you at the start of the turn could potentially have to roll 2 dice per model for each model that starts and ends its move within 6″ (though note: I think it’s intended to be exclusive, so only one die if you do both), plus one die for each model doing either, plus roll again if they attempt to charge, and again if they pile in, and again if they consolidate (not to mention your units would also have to do the same if they piled in or Heroically Intervened). The net result is that a reckless and poorly-positioned opponent could end up rolling 7+ dice per model in a given turn, losing a massive chunk of their horde while your smug Crisis Suit Commander sits there vibrating. That’s one hell of an incentive to not charge a unit of 30 Boyz at your commander. Corrode: We’ll see how this one does out of an FAQ. On the face it, it’s kind of insane, and I’m not convinced that GW realise what they’ve written.
That said, even with all this lunacy, I still don’t think you’re going to want this as your first relic over some of your other Prototype Weapon/Signature System options.
Finally, there are 3 Farsight Warlord Traits, which don’t include Hero of the Enclaves from the Codex. These are… OK. My favorite is Aggressive Tactician, which increases the range of the Warlord’s Mont’ka effect to 12″. This combines very well with the faction’s “get up close” strategy.
On the whole, Farsight Enclaves here is basically what I hoped the Marine supplements would have been in terms of total content. It’s strong, significantly alters how the faction plays, and it isn’t bogged down with trap choices and things you don’t need.
Wings Note: Normally when Rob’s this high on something it’s my job to rain on his parade but…I don’t think I can this time. While Tau Sept is still probably going to be the strongest, the boosts here are so substantial that I think it genuinely does unlock a second top-tier Tau playstyle. Good job GW.
What This All Means
Tau are, overall, the big winners of Psychic Awakening 5, with the most rules and the rules that are most likely to create an impact on the competitive scene. One of the big consequences of all this is that T’au are about to become a much more CP-thirsty army, which may mean that we see more double-Battalion builds and fewer Battalion-Outrider-Vanguard builds, which don’t leave players with enough CP to fire up all of the prototype systems and Stratagems they’ll need. In addition, we can identify a few clear winners and losers from the rules in this book:
- Farsight Enclaves. The Farsight Enclaves got everything all the other T’au got, plus extra stratagems, relics, Warlord Traits, and commanders. They’re gonna be straight fire coming out of this release, and I’ll be shocked if they can’t build something competitively viable that’s as devastatingly good as it is hard to play.
- Broadsides. Broadsides get a lot of help, both the missile variety and the railgun variety. There are a bunch of new systems and tenets that can help them out, and they were already worth looking at in competitive lists. The only downside is that they aren’t likely to fit
- Commanders. Commanders got a lot of buffs in the form of new systems, stratagems, and the ability to take a second warlord trait. And with Farsight Enclaves, the ability to go up to 6 really makes things interesting.
- Crisis Suits. There’s a ton here to improve Crisis suits, and I think it’s enough to bring them to playability, particularly for Farsight Enclaves.
- Kroot. Kroot get a few neat tricks to make them harder to kill, and more reliable as melee threats – they have stratagems that improve their charge distances and give them the ability to intervene, making them more reliable combat support for a Tau army.
- Stealth Suits. Outside of a Sept Tenet that improves the AP of Burst Cannons to -1, there’s nothing here for Stealth Suits. Which is a shame, because they really needed some way to boost their survivability.
- Hammerheads. I love the Hammerhead model, and I really wanted Ion Hammerheads to get there. But the Hammerhead’s biggest problem is that there’s no way to protect it, meaning that taking them is a “hope you get the first turn” strategy, and just isn’t tenable for winning over a string of several games. There’s a cool prototype railgun for Hammerheads in the book, but that does nothing to solve their issues and so Hammerheads are also losers here.
- Stormsurges. For whatever reason, GW decided to avoid giving the Stormsurge much direct help in this book. The Modulated Weaponry stratagem can’t help max out on shots it thanks to it being Titanic, and a lot of other upgrades only affect Battlesuits. So while Stormsurges do get a nifty prototype system to improve their Seeker missiles, it’s not really enough to overcome the unit’s big weaknesses and the fact that it’s a VEHICLE, and thus destined to be murdered by Imperial Fists.
Ultimately, T’au were an army that clearly had the tools to compete in the pre-marines meta but required a great amount of skill to play well, acting in sharp relief to say, Iron Hands, where we quickly saw that even average players were performing well. Following recent releases and developments, they’ve been left behind somewhat, but this new book gives them more of the tools they need to compete. That said, I also believe that they will remain a skill-testing army, requiring smart play and lots of clever movement and cross-unit coordination in order to create sustained success at high levels of play. It will be interesting to see where they go from here — I think we’ll see a resurgence of T’au armies in the top 4 of events, but I’m not sure we’ll necessarily see many new names attached to those lists.
The Final Verdict
If you’re a T’au player, you need this book. There’s no two ways about it. Eldar and Drukhari players might have been able to get by without Phoenix Rising, and Marine players could maybe live without the upgraded HQs in Faith and Fury, but there’s just too much good stuff going on in Greater Good for T’au players to ignore.
But hey, don’t take my word for it; later this week we’ll be taking a deeper dive into the new rules and what they mean when special guest author Richard Siegler stops in to discuss which Septs and strategies are likely to cause a real ruckus on the tournament scene in 2020. And if you’re into the backstory of Psychic Awakening, we’ll be talking about that in the next week as well. And as always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.