Tidewall Gunfort + Darkstrider

An interesting combo for Tau that I don’t think has gotten much attention is as follows:

-Darkstrider (Tau Special Character that costs 20 MB, has BS5 and, among other things, reduces the Toughness of his target by -1T for any shooting attacks made by himself or his unit)

-Tidewall Gunfort Fortification (55 MB cost), which is made up of 3 x Tidewall Gunrigs (Gunrigs each have a TLed Railgun with solid shot/submunition ammo, can move 6″ a turn, provide a 4++ cover save to models behind them, can only be controlled by Tau units, and allow friendly Tau units on them to re-roll 1s to Hit for shooting attacks).

While the Tidewall Gunfort cost is not cheap (i.e. about the same as a Land Raider), they provide significant cover and shooting boosts for Tau units located on them, plus they can move 6″ a turn like vehicles (so good for getting objectives), but models on them count as stationary for purposes of shooting.

Most importantly, the Tidewall Gunfort has a rule called “Coordinated Strike,” which allows a single model to shoot all three TLed Railguns using his BS, as long as they shoot at the same target, and granting a bonus of Armourbane to the Solid Shot ammo and +1S to Submunition ammo.

Combine this with Darkstrider and his BS5/ability to lower enemy target Toughness by -1, plus the ability to benefit from Markerlights still for Ignore Cover, and you have VERY accurate shooting that can be devastating to vehicles, monstrous creatures, heavy infantry, and light alike (and don’t forget, the TLed Railguns have a 72″ range, so they can easily hit anything on the board from turn 1 on, especially when combined with the Tidewall Gunfort’s mobility to help it draw LOS to key enemy targets).

Doing the Math Hammer, here is how the Gun Fort performs against a variety of targets —

*Against AV14 Vehicles:

–>3 x TLed BS5 S10 AP1 Armourbane shots*(97% chance to hit)*(84% chance for penetrating hit)*(33% chance for Explodes result) = 80% chance of destroying an AV14 vehicle in a single Shooting Phase

*Against T6 2+/5++ Dreadknight:

–>3 x TLed BS5 S10 AP1 shots (with -1T on target due to Darkstrider) *(97% chance to hit)*(83% chance to wound)*(66% chance for failed Invul save) = 159% chance of “Instant Deathing” Dreadknight in a single Shooting Phase.

*Against T4 Orks hordes:

–>3 x TLed BS5 S7 AP4 Large Blasts with Ignore Cover (due to Marker Light hits)*(average of 5 Orks hit per Large Blast)*(83% chance to Wound) = 12-13 dead Orks on average in a single Shooting Phase (no FNP and ID on any Ork with multiple wounds, since it is reduced from T4 to T3, thanks to Darkstrider).

*Against T5 Devastator Centurions behind an Aegis Line:

–>3 x TLed BS5 S10 AP1 shots with Ignore Cover (due to Marker Light hits) *(97% chance to hit)*(83% chance to wound) = 2-3 dead Centurions in a single Shooting Phase.

*Against T4 Wulfen with FNP:

–>3 x TLed BS5 S7 AP4 Large Blasts with Ignore Cover (due to Marker Light hits)*(average of 3 Wulfen hit per Large Blast)*(83% chance to Wound) = 7-8 dead Wulfen on average in a single Shooting Phase (no FNP and ID on all Wulfen, since they are reduced from T4 to T3, thanks to Darkstrider).

Bottom line, while not cheap, the Tidewall Gunfort/Darkstrider combo can form quite a deadly firebase which can support the rest of the Tau army and also systematically gun down key enemy units throughout the course of a game.

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.

 

 

Sky Ray Missile Defense Gunship Tactics…

OK, so it is not really new and, in fact, it appears to be completely the same unit as it was in the previous codex. That said, I think the Sky Ray has a whole new lease on life in the upcoming Tau codex, based on the rumors we have seen so far.

The one thing that has changed, and which has a MAJOR impact, is that Sky Rays can be taken in squadrons of 1-3 vehicles and, as long as they have 3 vehicles in the squadron, then their new “Fire Team” rule, which grant them +1BS.

So, what does this mean for Tau Commanders who choose to take a squadron of 3 Sky Rays? Well, since each Sky Ray comes with six Seeker Missiles, two Networked Marker Lights, and a Velocity Tracker “stock,” this means that you can use up a single Heavy Support slot and get the following:

-18 Seeker Missiles

-6 Networked Marker Lights

Due to the Velocity Tracker, every turn you can choose whether to give the Sky Rays “Skyfire” or not. As long as they have three tanks, they all shoot at BS5… this is very important and means that Sky Ray squadrons can absolutely murder enemy flyers and FMCs:

-Against an AV12 flyer (like a Stormraven or a Stormwolf, for example), the Sky Ray squadron can shoot 18 Seeker Missiles out to 72″ with BS5, provided they all did not move. That is an average of 15 hits and 7-8 Glances (or 3-4 Glances, if the Flyer chooses to Jink), meaning you are almost certain to kill the 200+ point flyer (and its cargo) in a single volley.

-Against a FMC (say a Tyranid Hive Tyrant), the Sky Ray squadron shoots 18 Seeker Missiles, gets 15 hits, and gets 12-13 AP3 wounds… even if the Hive Tyrant Jinks, that still average 6-7 wounds, which kills it outright (great way to Slay the Warlord and get First Blood all in one move!)

The same “alpha strike” principle can be used against dangerous ground targets. Take an Eldar Wraithknight for example. The Sky Ray squadrons launches 18 Seeker Missiles, gets about 15 hits, 7-8 wounds, and about 5 Unsaved Wounds after the Wraithknight takes if FNP rolls… that leaves the Wraithknight with a single wound left, on average, which can be easily taken out by the rest of your army… again, enemy Wraithknight dead turn 1, before it can even get into action (also, quite demoralizing psychologically for them to lose their Lord of War Gargantuan creature just as the game begins).

So, Seeker Missiles are One Use Only, so what happens after you launch this glorious Alpha Strike to decimate a selected enemy unit? Well, remember, the squadron still has 6 Networked Marker Lights, all supported by BS5 and the ability to use Skyfire each turn, if required. In other words, the Sky Ray squadron becomes an AV13 BS5 Pathfinder Team for you!

This ability to act as a durable, hyper accurate source of Marker Lights can work in a number of ways:

1) Guaranteed Marker Lights Hits — Since they are shooting 6 MLs at BS5, you should get an average of 5 ML tokens on anything they point themselves at. That means you can pretty much guarantee Ignore Cover and +3BS against that selected target for the turn, which is an AMAZING ability to have in you hip pocket. Alternately, you can make 4 destroyer Missiles from a Stormsurge fire at BS4 and upgrade them to S: D AP1, which can be an equally devastating “killing blow” strike.

2) Cascading Marker Lights – Another way to use the Sky Ray BS5 Marker Lights is to boost the rest of the MLs in your army, making them exponentially more effective. For example, say you move your Sky Ray squadron before shooting (so they can only shoot 3 MLs at full BS) and you get 3 ML hits from the Sky Rays… you can use that to buff up a nearby 10 man Pathfinder squad to BS6, in turn allowing it to go from an average of 5 ML hits to around 10 ML hits… this in turn can “cascade” to give multiple units in the rest of your army “Ignore Cover” when shooting at that selected target, etc. etc.

3) Anti-Air Support — Even if you used up your Seeker Missiles early on to take out an enemy ground target, the Sky Rays can still provide you a form of air defense in later turns by using their BS5 MLs and Velocity Trackers against enemy flyers and FMCs… if you get an average of 5 ML hits against an enemy flyer, then you can, for example, buff a nearby Broadside Team with HYMPs to BS4 and Ignore Cover, meaning they can put out 12 BS6 Twin-Linked Ignore Cover S7 AP4 shots against that flyer that turn… doing the math against an AV12 flyer, that translates to 11-12 hits and 3-4 HPs stripped, with NO chance for Jinking/cover saves (Eldar Crimson Hunters will HATE this!) and almost a guarantee for shooting the flyer down.

This first look at Sky Rays for the new codex doesn’t even touch on employing them as part of their new Formation (the Armoured Interdiction Cadre, granting RRs to hit for shooting within 6″ of a designated spot on the battlefield) or as part of the Hunter Contingent (combining shooting with other Hunter Contingent units so give everyone “shared” benefits of special rules and Marker Light hits), but as you can clearly see, the ability to take Sky Rays as a squadron and improve their native shooting to BS5 is quite a potent addition to the Tau Commander’s arsenal.

XV95 Ghostkeel Initial Thoughts

Looks like rules for the Ghostkeel just dropped and, out the gate, it seems quite reasonable:

http://natfka.blogspot.com/2015/10/rules-for-xv95-ghostkeel-battlesuit.html

Breaking it down, here are my first thoughts:

1 – Mobility — As a Jetpack MC, it can Deep Strike and use Jump-Shoot-Jump to either shoot and get back in cover or shoot and then move further upfield, so that is solid. We are not sure if the Ghostkeel gets Infiltrate like normal Stealth Suits, but if it does, then that is quite a solid addition to its mobility toolkit.

2 – Survivability — At only T5, 4W, and a 3+ save, at first glance it looks like a pretty fragile MC. However, with potential access to Stealth, Shrouded, and even additional cover enhancement rules/Wargear, I suspect that the Ghostkeel will be able to get a 3+ or even 2+ cover save a lot of the time while employed by a skilled player. Combine this with Wargear for FNP and suddenly you have a much tougher unit, especially since it can be taken in teams of up to 3 Battlesuits. If it gets a 2+ cover save and FNP from war gear, then statistically it would take a BS4 Plasma Gun 64 shots to kill a Ghostkeel outright. Similarly, BS4 Grav Cannon/Amps would take about 60 shots to completely kill a single XV95, provided it has access to a 2+ cover save). Add in drones for additional wound mitigation and, needless to say, that is a very solid ability to act as fire magnet from the rest of your army.

3 – Firepower — With basically a Small Blast Fusion Blaster and a TLed Flamer stock, where I think the Ghostkeel really shines is upgrading to a 6 shot S7 AP4 Ion Weapon and a TLed Fusion Blaster. With these two weapons, the Battlesuit’s built in survivability, the option to take 3 models per team, and Markerlight support, you have the ability to create a very solid transport hunter unit which can hunt effectively in the enemy backfield for all those solid side armor/rear armor shots. Alternately, you can max out melta weapons and hunt Terminators, Land Raiders, and enemy HQ types with a solid degree of efficiency.

4 – Close Combat — While obviously not great in this role (with only T5, 3+ save, and poor Tau CC stats), it still  is a MC, so that means AP2 hits at initiative, meaning you have to be careful when you assault a Ghostkeel (or a full 3 Suit Team of them!). It also has the Smash option to get a S10 hit against vehicles if required after you shoot them up with melta weapons.

Overall, we will see where it fits into the overall Tau “order of battle” within the new codex, but as an Elites choice I expect the Ghostkeel to be solidly competitive both internally compared to other Tau units and externally vis-à-vis enemy units on the tabletop.

KX139 Ta’unar Supremacy Armor

If you haven’t seen the new Tau Lord of War Battlesuit from Forgeworld (i.e. basically the Tau version of a Titan), then you might not be aware of the KX139 Ta’unar’s rules and 120 MB price tag.

http://www.forgeworld.co.uk/resources/PDF/Datasheets/Tau-Kx139-Ta’unar.pdf

Stat-wise, the Ta’unar has S8 T9, a 2+/5++ save (becomes a 4++ against enemy shooting), 10 wounds, and the ability to reduce the number of wounds inflicted by a “Deathblow” result on the Destroyer table by half. Combined with the normal Gargantuan Creature access to Fearless, FNP and ability to reduce poison/sniper attacks to only wounding on 6+ (plus being invulnerable to anything S5 or less due to its T9) and you have the making of an exceptionally reselient “firebase” unit to build your army around.

Firepower-wise, the Ta’unar does not disappoint, with BS4 standard and the following weapon systems:

(I) Two Tri-Axis Ion Cannons — Can shoot either  60″ S7 AP3 Heavy 6  (or) 60″ S9 AP2 Heavy 3

(II) Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver — Can shoot either 72″ S: D AP2 Ordnance 1, Massive Blast (or) 12 – 120″ Apocalyptic Barrage (3), Pinning, Ignore Cover

(III) Vigilance Defense System — Consists of 2 SMS and 2 TLed Burst Cannons, all of which can fire oeverwatch at BS2 (even through Gargantuan Creatures normally cannot fire Overwatch)

Finally, the Ta’unar can trade out one or both of the its Tri-Axis Ion Cannons for Fusion Eradicators (24″ S8 AP1 Heavy 5, Melta) for free

As you can see, these weapon gives the Ta’unar plenty of flexibility in shooting, giving it the option to engage medium vehicles/MEQs, heavy vehicles/TEQs, MCs, enemy Lords of War, hordes of light troops, and even engage enemy in heavy cover effectively. Being a Gargantuan Creature, it can shoot each of its weapons at a different target, making it even more flexible and capable.

In terms of weaknesses,  it is of course expensive points-wise, and it has limited utility in Close Combat (only WS3 and 2A base, as well as the normal Gargantuan Creature attributes of Fear, Hammer of Wrath, Stomp attacks, etc.). Savvy enemy commanders will tie up the Ta’unar in close combat as quickly as possible with cheap, durable troops, thus preventing it from employing its incredible firepower for at least a turn or two.

In terms of killing the Ta’unar outright, with shooting the only realistic solutions are massed Grav Weapons, massed Rending Weapons (the Misfortune power can help with that), D weapons, or Witchfires like Psychic Shriek which exploint the Ta’unar’s Ld9 to inflict multiple wounds at a time. Of these, Grav Cannons with Amps are the mst dangerous (it still takes an average of 45 BS4 Grav Cannon/Amp shots to kill a single suit of Supremacy Armor).

Alternately, if an army has units that can put out a lot of S9/10 AP2 attacks in close combat (i.e. Thunderwolves, Dreadnoughts, Assault Centurions, Monstrous Creatures, etc.), then they can effectively “hammer down” the Ta’unar in the assault phase, provided they can come to grips with the Lord of War. Grey Knights are probably best at this, since they have multiple units that can get both S10 AP2 and Instant Death (from Force weapons), which should rapidly turn the Ta’unar into battlesuit scrap parts.

As for using the Ta’unar in your Tau army, given its extreme durability against shooting, you probably want to “screen” it from assault with cheap close combat troops, like Kroot, or use allied close combat troops for this role (i.e. Necron Flayed Ones or Lychguard would be excellen units to “screen” the Ta’unar from beging assaulted). In terms of target prioroty for its weapons, its versatility lets you really customize its shooting to the threat you are facing. Against most infantry-heavy armies, the Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver can use its S8 AP3 Apocalyptic Barrage (3), Ignore Cover profile to defeat troops in cover, jinking bikes, etc. If you are facing lots of vehicles, TEQs, or even enemy LOWs, then use the 72″ S: D AP2 Massive Blast profile to throw out 7″ pie plates of doom. The same flexibility goes for its Tri-axis Ion Cannon, which can either be used a 6 shot AP3 Autocannon or a 3 shot Lascannon.

Most importantly, don’t forget that, as a Tau unit, the Ta’unar battlesuit can benefit from Markerlights! That means it can enhance its BS and/or Ignore Cover against priority enemy targets. In a pinch, if you can get enough MLs hits on an enemy flyer, you can even use the Ta’unar’s Tri-axis Ion Cannon in an anti-aircraft role. While the Ta’unar cost (rightfully) about 1/3 of your points in a 1850 game, the key is to support it and prevent the enemy from “marginalizing” it, either by tying it up in combat or preventing it from shooting effectively.