Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company

Looking at the leaks for the Mont’ka campaign book, it appears that both Tau and the Astra Militarum are getting some ground-breaking new rules, including detachments, formations, WL traits, and Relics.

From an Astra Militarum perspective, the formation that jumps out to me immediately is the Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company:

-1 x Company Command Squad (must take Chimera or Taurox)

-2 x Basilisk/Wyvern/Hydra Batteries, in any combination

-1 x Manticore or Deathstrike

-1-3 Enginseers

In terms of Special Rules, the formation allows the Company Commander to issue orders to vehicles from this formation, specifically the Smite at Will (unit gains Split Fire), Suppressive Fire (unit gains Pinning for its shooting), and Fire on My Target (Units gains Ignore Cover for its shooting), as long as they pass a Ld check on roll of 8 or less. Additionally, if the Company Command Squad has a Vox Caster, then the Guardsman with the Vox Caster can pick one enemy within 18″ and LOS to become a “target,” which causes all the rest of the units to become Twin-Linked when shooting at that specific “target” for the rest of the turn.

As you can tell, these rules are Extremely powerful, making already good units top-tier competitors in almost any game. In particular, the ability to give Basilisks, Hydras, and Manticores “Ignore Cover” is a game-changer (Wyverns and Deathstrikes already ignore cover with their shooting).

Imagine two Batteries of 2 x Basilisks each, with a nearby Company Command Squad (and a pair of attached Enginseers) “casting” Fire on My Target on both of them successfully. That is 4 x S9 AP3 Ordnance, Large Blast, Ignore Cover shots per shooting phase, which can threaten almost any unit in the game (except Flyers and FMCs). Additionally, the two Enginseers can use their Awaken the Machine ability to give two of the Basilisks Power of the Machine Spirit, essentially giving them “free” Split Fire, so you can target up to four different enemy units with this shooting. Finally, the Enginseers can repair vehicles that have lost HPs or have Weapons Destroyed/Immobilized results, making this battle group more durable in the long-run. All of this firepower can be further supplemented by the Manticore from this formation, a Master of Ordnance attached to the Command Squad and shooting his own “one-man Basilisk shot,” and a Vox Caster Veteran who can “spot” for more accurate shooting by the Artillery.

The beauty of this formation is that it is not only available to Astra Militarum armies in the Cadian Battle Group special detachment, but since it is its own formation, any Imperium army can take it as a Battle Brother.

I know numerous armies that would love to access to this kind of long-range, Large Blast, Ignore Cover fire support, including but not limited to:

-Grey Knights

-Militarum Tempestus

-Imperial Knights

-Sisters of Battle

-Inquisition

-Ravenwing/Deathwing

-Skitarii

Even Allies of Convenience, like Eldar and Harlequins, would still find the Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company an excellent “firebase” ally, especially Harlequins, to supplement their own mobility, shooting, and close combat capabilities.

Riptide Wing

So, in the new Mont’ka book rumors, we see a several new formations, including one called the Riptide Wing.

The Riptide Wing consists of 3 units of Riptides (so between 3-9 Riptides total) and has the following special rules:

(1) Coordinated Attacks — If a Riptide from the formation shoots at a unit that has already been shot at by another Riptide from this formation, then the second Riptide gets +1 BS

(2) Networked Reactors — All Riptides from this formation that are within 6″ of at least one other Riptide from this formation get to re-roll failed Nova Reactor attempts

(3) Riptide Hailfire — Once per game, you can declare a Hailfire attack. During that shooting Shooting phase, any units from this formation that did not move that turn can fire twice (and shoot at a different target for each “volley”). After doing this, the units cannot move in the Assault phase of that turn either.

All three of formation rules are good, but the “Networked Reactors” and Riptide Hailfire” rules in particular are exceptional. Networked Reactors means that the 3-9 Riptides that you have in this formation have an 88% chance of passing their Nova Reactor roll (vice their normal 66% success rate; that is a 22% increase in successful outcomes) and only an 11% chance to fail the Nova Reactor/suffer automatic wound (decreased from a 33% chance normally). This is amazing, as it makes use of the Nova Reactor something that your Riptides can count on, vice a very “dicey” choice (pun intended). With reliable Nova Reactors, Riptides can greatly increase their mobility, survivability, or damage output all battle long, which is a game-changer, especially when you have some many of these powerful Battlesuits from this formation.

In addition to the improved Nova Reactors, the ability to basically double the shooting of all these Riptides (and their Shielded Missile Drones) for one game turn by standing still can also be decisive, especially when combined with the +1BS from “Coordinated Attacks,” improved shooting from activating the Nova Reactor, and any available Marker Light support to provide an amazing Alpha Strike (or Beta Strike, or Delta Strike, or Omega Strike, or whenever you choose to use this). For example, imagine 3 Riptides shooting with BS4, a Nova Reactor Buffed Heavy Burst cannon, and the “Riptide Hailfire” rule: that translates to 72 x S6 AP4 Rending shots at a range of 36″, all of which can fired at up to six different targets if required. Alternately, imagine all 3 Riptides using Ripple Fire and “Riptide Hailfire” with their TLed SMS: that translates into 48 x S5 AP5 Homing, Ignore Cover shots at 30,” which can again be divided between up to 6 separate targets (i.e. 8 shots at each target); that is a lot of dead Guardsmen or Gaunts or Cultists or Orks in cover!

Finally, the Riptide Wing can use its unique capabilities to make itself exceptionally survivable. Imagine a Riptide Wing consisting of 3 Riptides, each with 3 Shielded Missile Drones. Give all of these Riptides the Stimulant  Injector upgrade and use their Nova Reactors to gain a 3++ save. Shooting at such a unit we have the following Mathhammer:

-BS4 Bolters — Requires an average of 81 shots to cause a single unsaved wound (or over 500 shots to kill a single Riptide and its Drones)

-BS4 Plasma Gun — Requires an average of 10 shots to cause a single unsaved wounds (or over 60 shots to kill a single Riptide and it Drones)

-BS4 Grav Cannon/Amp — Requires an average of 7 shots to cause a single unsaved wound (or over 40 shots to kill a single Riptide and its Drones)

-BS4 Splinter Weapons — Requires an average of 27 shots to cause a single unsaved wound (or over 150 shots to kill a single Riptide and its drones).

-BS4 Shuriken Weapons — Requires an average of 40 shots to cause a single unsaved wound (or over 250 shots to kill a single Riptide and its drones).

As you can see, the Nova Reactor and multiple Riptides that this formation supports can be exceptionally difficult to deal with, even for some of the top-tier armies. As you can also see, this formation has the potential to put out a ridiculous amount of firepower against multiple targets, making it a threat that your opponent’s cannot afford to ignore.

While this formation should be highly competitive as part of any Tau army, I think it would be particularly effective when used along with Necron Allies, specifically a Reclamation Legion, which can provide lots of very durable “bubble-wrap” (i.e. Warriors, Immortals, and Lychguard) to protect the Riptides from assault and also high-mobility objective seizers (i.e. Tomb Blades zipping around the board), Flayed Ones (for more close combat “bubble wrap” and anti-horde ability), Judicator Battalions (mobile short-range shooting strong CC), Destroyer Cult (add target saturation, good firepower, an mobile “bubble wrap”), and/or a Deathbringer Flight (for anti-flyer/FMC support and also strong firepower to supplement the Riptides shooting). Put another way, a Necron Decurion of many different varieties can work very well with this formation.

 

Counter-Tau Tactics: Canoptyk Harvest Wraiths

Most people already know that Canoptyk Wraiths are one of the top units in the game, especially when used as part of the Canoptyk Harvest formation/Decurion detachment to give them 4+ Reanimation Protocols.

Given the release of the recent Tau codex and its increased power level in terms of competitive gaming, I think Necron players will be relying on “Wraithstars” even more than ever to hold their own against the forces of the Greater Good.

Reviewing Wraiths’ stat-line, they have S6 T5, 2W, a permanent 3++ save, plus 12″ move (from their status as Beasts) and the ability to ignore intervening terrain due to the Wraithflight rule. Their close combat attacks also have Rending and they can either take a ranged weapon (Particle Caster or Transdimensional Beamer) or Whip Coils (upping their Initiative from 2 to 5 in close combat).

The first and most important part of fighting Tau is being able to survive their tremendous firepower long-enough to deliver damage in return. As long as they have the Canoptek Spyder within 12″, Wraiths can use the 4+ Reanimation Protocols to basically double their (already exceptional) durability against anything but D attacks. Additionally, since Tau can easily remove cover saves and increase the accuracy of their shooting with MLs, the fact that Wraiths have a 3++ Invul save makes them an ideal unit for “tanking” firepower from the Blue Socialist Space Frogs. Couple this with Fearless to ensure they can’t be pinned or morale checked off the board and they have very good resistance to Tau shenanigans. Finally, because Wraiths are beasts, they have the mobility to quickly cross the board (12″ move + D6″ run, with re-rolls from Fleet and ignoring difficult/dangerous terrain) and reliably get the charge off (again, Fleet helps tremendously with this).

So, based on all this, how can Wraiths be used on a tactical level against Tau?

(1) Gun-line Rushers — With the speed and durability described above, Wraiths are perfect for rapidly moving across the board and, by turn 2-3 at the latest, multi-charging Tau units, both to tie them up from shooting and, in most cases, beat them down in close combat. Riptides, Ghostkeels, Crisis Suits, Fire Warriors, and even Storm Surges are WAY less effective when tied up by Fearless, T5, 2W, 3++, Reanimation Protocol Wraiths. Even if just a few Wraiths get into the enemy DZ, you should be able to tie up multiple Tau units and/or force other units to displace to prevent being charged, thus taking the pressure off the rest of your own army.

(2) Counter-assault Units — Everyone knows that Tau are quite shooty, but Necrons can be shooty as well, and even beat Tau at their game in the right circumstances. This, combined with the relatively shorter range of many new Tau units (i.e. Breacher squads, Ghostkeels, Stormsurges equipped with Pulse Blast Cannons, most Crisis Battlesuit weapon options, etc.) can force a Tau Commander to actually maneuver closer to you, in turn setting up an easy “counter-charge” by a squad of Wraiths standing beside your own Necron gun-line for just such a purpose. Also, should the Tau attempt to actually assault you with, say, Kroot hordes or even some of their MC Battlesuits, the Wraiths provide an excellent counter-assault antidote to these threats.

(3) “Damage Shield/Distraction” Unit — Given the tremendous Tau firepower potential, and also what a threat they can be to the Tau army, Wraiths are a great unit for absorbing Tau shooty away from the rest of your units. Just doing the Mathhammer, it takes an average of 48 BS3 Pulse Rifle shots, or 36 BS3 Plasma Rifle shots, or 11 TLed BS3 HYMP shots, or 6 BS3 Destroyer Missiles, to kill a single Canoptyk Wraith that has 4+ Reanimation Protocols. That is obviously quite a lot of firepower which would, if not directed at the Wraiths, could do significant damage to the rest of your army.

(4) Vehicle/MC Hunter — With their superior mobility and 4 x S6 Rending attacks on the charge each, squads of 4-6 Wraiths can be used to tear down dangerous tau vehicles (i.e. Hammerheads, Sky Rays, Piranha squadrons, etc.) and even MCs. A 6 Wraith squad on the charge has 24 attacks at WS4…. against a T6 Riptide, they average 18 hits, with 3 Rending Hits and 6 normal Wounds… this in turn translates into about 3-4 unsaved Wounds, which should be enough to win combat and, since the Riptide is not Fearless and I2, very likely “sweep” the Tau Battlesuit into oblivion that same turn.

As you can see, Wraiths are a tremendous asset no matter what army you are fighting, but they are particularly useful against the new Tau Empire forces due to the threat potential and damage absorption capabilities discussed.

 

Counter-Tau Tactics: Vindicare Assassin

As I review the new Tau Codex, it appears that the Tau Empire will continue to be one of the top armies, given the buff to current units and new units/formations that they gained. I see them competing quite handily with Eldar, SM Battle Companies, Necrons, etc. as one of the more competitive armies out there.

In order to combat Tau, I think the key is to “de-synch” their synergy, especially with Marker Lights and their new rules that give bonuses for multiple Tau units engaging the same unit(s). One of the best unit, IMHO, to execute this “de-synching” is the Vindicare Assassin.

Reviewing the Vindicare’s stats, he is basically an advanced sniper with BS8 and AP2, Ignore Cover shots, always has Precision Shots (so can always pick the model he is hitting) and adds -2 to enemy Look Out Sir! rolls against his attacks. He also can pick his ammo, either Hellfire Rounds (Wound on 2+, vice normal 4+), Shield Breaker Rounds (Ignores Invul saves), or Turbo-Penetrator Rounds (S10 vs vehicles, D3 wounds inflicted on non-vehicle models for every Unsaved Wound caused).

So, how can these abilities be put to use against the Greater Good? Here are some tactics:

(1) Ethereal Sniping — Using the Turbo-Penetrator Round and the -2 to Look Out Sir! rolls, the Vindicare can reliably Hit, wound, and kill an Ethereal hiding in an enemy squad/in cover in a single shooting phase. This not only removes his Ld10 bubble, but also prevents the Tau player from using Invocation of the Elements to increase the firepower of his Fire Warriors (it also gives a bonus VP for killing the Ethereal).

(2)  “Signature Systems” Surgical Strike — Since Crisis Teams Shas’vres can take Signature Systems (like the PENChip and MSS) and buff their squad, thereby freeing up Tau Commanders to focus on other tasks, the Vindicare provides an excellent “antidote” option and, using the Turbo-Penetrator Round, has an excellent chance of “one-shotting” these Shas’vres and their invaluable Signature Systems. This can greatly reduce the efficiency of the unit, especially if it loses Tank Hunter/Monster Hunter, Ignore Cover, and/or Twin-Linked to all of its shooting.

(3) Vehicle Hunter — With a BS8 S10 AP2 shot and 72″ range, the Vindicare can reliably penetrate any vehicle in the Tau Empire arsenal (remember, no Cover saves from Jinking as well). This means stripping a HP, at best destroying the vehicle outright on a lucky 6+ roll, and at worst reducing the vehicle to Snapshots, which can neuter the offensive capacity of Hammerheads, Sky Rays, Flyers, etc.

(4) Squad Leader  Eliminator — Using his Hellfire Rounds, the Vindicare can easily remove Firesight Marksmen (reducing the Sniper Drones from BS5 to BS2), Fire Warrior/Pathfinder Shas’ui, Kroot Shapers, Stealth Shas’vre, etc. This not only reduces the Ld of the squad, but also reduces its combat power and also removes any special Wargear, such as MLs, that the squad leader might be carrying.

(5) Battlesuit Team Nemesis — While the Vindicare’s single shot per turn is not enough to threaten entire Battlesuit teams of Crisis, Broadside, Stealth, Riptide, Ghostkeel, etc., there is a way to make him an exceptional threat to these Tau units: Emplaced Gun Turrets! Having the Vindicare man the Krakstorm Missile Launcher on a Fortress of Redemption, the Plasma Obliterator fortification, or the Macro-Cannon on an Aquila Strongpoint turns any of these weapons into a BS8, Cover-Ignoring, Look Out Sir! reducing super Gun Emplacement that can literally destroy entire Battlesuit Teams every single shooting phase. This is not cheap points-wise, but if you build the rest of your army correctly, it can produce devastating results against a Tau army.

(6) Force “De-Multiplier” — While in most cases killing a single model will not be game-changer, sometimes the Vindicare’s ability to surgically remove a key unit can make all the difference. For example, if a Ghostkeel team is down to a single Stealth Drone, it still has an automatic 2+ Cover Save against any shooting greater than 12″ away. However, if the Vindicare picks off that last Drone, then the entire Ghostkeel Team is reduced to a 5+ Cover save, which obviously is a massive difference in its survivability. Similarly, if that Riptide is on its last wound, but has powered up its Nova Reactor for a 2+/3++ defensive posture and has Early Warning Override/Ion Accelerator and is about to Intercept your Drop Podding Centurions next turn, then the Vindicare can use its Shield Breaker Rounds and BS8 to Ignore the Riptide’s Armor, Invul, and any Cover saves and remove that final wound, thus saving your Centurions from eating a S8 AP2 Pie Plate when they arrive from Reserve. Finally, if a Stealth Team Shas’vre is about to bring in an entire Retaliation Cadre Turn 2 with no scatter using a Homing Beacon, you can “plink” that model (and his Homing Beacon) with a Hellfire Round (AP2, Ignore Cover, 2+ to Wound), thus making the arrival of the Tau Formation much less precise (and much more risky).

(7) Marker Light Suppressor — As mentioned, Marker Lights are key to a competitive Tau army. Thus, removing them can be the key to unhinging the Tau battle plan. Whether working solo with his Turbo-Penetrator Rounds, or manning an Emplaced Turret as described above, the Vindicare can potentially kill multiple MLs a turn, even if they are in cover and/or have some models “tanking” for them (the Vindicare can ignore the “tanking” model and shoot the ML models because with his ability to always have Precision Shots). Even if the Vindicare only kills 2-3 ML bearing models a turn, over the course of a game this will quickly add up and, say by turn 3-4, the Tau Army as a whole will have measurably less combat power.