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.