War Zone Nachmund Faction Focus: T’au Empire

The first competitive season for 40k has arrived, with War Zone: Nachmund giving us new points, missions, secondary objectives, and rules to contemplate. These rules represent a major shake-up for competitive 40k and to help you make sense of it all, we’re going through each faction and talking about how things have changed for them and how they might compete. For T’au, this is further compounded by the new Codex.

If there’s a name that’s synonymous with T’au in the 40k competitive sphere, it’s Richard Siegler. Known for his meteoric rise through the competitive ranks with T’au in the 2019 ITC season, Siegler has continued to play with the faction off-and-on, most recently finishing 4th overall at last year’s Atlantic City Open event. Today he’s offering his thoughts on the new book and how T’au will play in 9th edition.

If you want to see more of Siegler’s tactics and armies in action, consider checking out the Art of War on YouTube or in the War Room, where they have video battle reports and streams.

Faction Overview

The new T’au Empire Codex feels dramatically better than the 8th edition book. Why? Well, this Codex has more than one viable playstyle; nearly every datasheet outside the flyers and fortifications is viable and does something useful, allowing for good internal balance between options, and T’au finally have good warlord traits and relics!  All of this is a massive step up from the 8th edition book, which was mediocre at best and carried at first by the strength of the Commander, Riptide, and shield drone datasheets, and then later by the Farsight Enclaves supplement from Psychic Awakening: For the Greater Good after 9th edition released.

The New Codex

The new book seems to be fairly flexible in terms of how you can play. There is an ultra-aggressive Farsight Enclaves list that can make use of the homing beacons, breachers and devilfish, as well as the Mont’ka tactical philosophy to really put the opponent on the backfoot. There’s a very defensive – but powerful – Bork’an list that takes advantage of the extra range mechanic and the defensive boost of the Sept tenet to grind out games while unleashing devastating firepower. And finally there’s a T’au Sept build that can do either of those things and offers the type of tactical flexibility that Shadowsun herself would admire.

While T’au had some moves for aggressive play prior to the new book – I’d use my Crisis units aggressively as needed to do mortals on the charge and get them onto objectives – the typical T’au style was seen as relying overly on shooting. This new book further emphasizes movement, though almost every gun in the army has received a tune-up, making the firepower even more devastating.  

Tools like Strike and Fade, the speed of Breachers disembarking after devilfish have moved, and even cheaper Vespid will prove to be powerful tools to contest or deny opponents’ primary points. I don’t think T’au play the primary objective game as well as other factions like Necron custom dynasties or Drukhari, but they simply need to keep the primary even while taking advantage of their excellent secondary game.

Custom Septs

The custom Sept Tenet Calm Under Pressure, which gives +1 Strength to Assault weapons firing at targets within 12″, is one of the few that seems powerful enough to build around. What you take with that really depends on the meta. Overall the custom Septs seem better on paper than in practice – is anything you get better than the full toolkit you get from the T’au, Bork’an, or Farsight Enclaves Septs? I don’t believe so.

Overrated: Hammerheads

Hammerheads are overrated when compared to community interaction. I don’t have any in my lists regardless of Sept, I just don’t think they are very good. I could see running one, probably Longstrike in a T’au Sept build with bodyguards nearby (for now, at least!), but I just think Tau have better options. Because most datasheets did not get dramatically cheaper and units like Breachers and Pathfinders require the full 10-model units, when you are building T’au lists you start to run out of points quite quickly and do not have the luxury of dozens of cheap 5-man units as before.

Underrated: Tetras

On the other hand, Tetras are underrated. I think they are an excellent unit to ensure Engage on All Fronts points while getting angles on enemy units behind terrain so you can get your SMS hitting on 3s in the earlier turns. And they require less investment than a full pathfinder unit in a devilfish using the scout move and the disembark Stratagem.

What’s Good About the New Codex

Devilfish are classic T’au and I love that they are finally a mainstay of T’au lists. I think running two will be standard for most lists regardless of Sept. They just offer everything you could want and more and are the main way that you will deny opponents points for primary objectives, alongside Breachers.

I was worried Crisis Suits would go back to being uncommon choices as they were in 8th edition, but the datasheets are still strong and benefit tremendously from the new upgraded weapons. They also received a lot of Stratagem support, with access to full re-rolls to hit, strike and fade, and the -2 to charge rolls. Additionally, with drones in their unit, you can tank some firepower without worrying that your opponent’s anti-infantry guns will remove your precious drones.

I think T’au Sept lists will gravitate towards Broadsides with all the Ethereal buffs, while FSE lists will gravitate more toward leaning on Crisis units as the main damage dealers.  Both are strong and I expect to see those two styles be the most common, followed by Bork’an.

Mont’ka vs. Kauyon

It’s not even a debate. Mont’ka is vastly superior. Kauyon either needed to be stronger or happen a turn earlier. In a five-turn game you cannot afford to not have a powerful army-wide rule for the first two turns in most games. Against a very slow, prodding army like Death Guard, I could see taking Kauyon, or if you really want to redeploy three units with Exemplar of the Kauyon, but Mont’ka is the clear winner and will be used in most games.  My guess is Kauyon started stronger in playtesting and then was slowly reduced in power to the point where it’s unfortunately just not competing with Mont’ka anymore.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The New Missions

Mont’ka is quite a bit stronger than Kauyon and will become the default tactical philosophy. As a result, the more aggressive posturing of the new missions (no mission secondaries, more objectives in the middle of the board, actions or killing as supplementary goals to the primary score) all favor the new T’au Codex over the old. Additionally, even though T’au received some mediocre if not downright bad faction secondaries, they already had one of the most consistent secondary scoring games across all factions and the new missions do not change that. Expect Engage on All Fronts/Stranglehold, To the Last, and Retrieve Nachmund Data to be mainstays for T’au – the same secondary objectives that the older 9th edition Farsight Enclaves list had been taking.

As the T’au player, you still want to pull an opponent apart and force them to try to defeat you in multiple parts of the board, using your mobility to sweep to a different flank and crush it before an opponent can send reinforcements. You still want to keep your main damage dealers alive – commanders, crisis units, broadside bricks. And with Vespid probably going to 6-model units, and Kroot units in the backfield, Retrieve Nachmund Data is an easy 12 points while forcing your opponent to think about screening their backfield and putting less pressure on the middle of the table to your advantage.

Building a List

I’ve built a Farsight Enclaves list here, which relies more on Crisis Suits as the army’s main source of damage.

+++ Farsight Enclaves Battalion Detachment (9 CP, 1,999 Points)+++


Commander Farsight, Warlord: Exemplar of the Mont’ka 130

Coldstar Commander, Flamer, HOBC, Missile Pod, Target Lock, Shield Generator, -1 CP Warlord trait: Precision of the Hunter, relic: Onager Gauntlet, Prototype: Thermoneutronic Projector, 2x Shield Drones 184

Cadre Fireblade, -1 CP Warlord Trait : Through Unity, Devastation, -1 CP relic : Puretide Engram Chip 50


10 Breachers 85
10 Breachers 85
10 Breachers 85
10 Breachers 85
10 Kroot 60


6 Crisis Battlesuits 12x Airburst, 6x Flamers, 5x Target Locks, 1x Early Warning Override, 4x Shield Drones 348

3 Stealth Battlesuits, 3x Burst Cannons, 1x Homing Beacon 80

No slot

5 Crisis Bodyguards, 5x Cyclic Ion, 5x Plasma Rifle, 5x Fusion Blasters, 4x Shield Drones 348

Fast Attack

6 Vespid Stingwings 72
6 Vespid Stingwings 72

Dedicated Transport

Devilfish, SMS 105
Devilfish, SMS 105
Devilfish, SMS 105

+++ 1,999 points +++


That wraps up our look at T’au in 9th edition but as always we’d like to thank Richard Siegler for dropping by and sharing his thoughts, even if doing so means we’re more likely to get murdered off the table by super-fast T’au armies in the future.

You can see more of Richard Siegler’s armies and tactics in action by checking out the Art of War on YouTube or in the War Room, where they post regular video battle reports and stream games.


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