Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Coming Back from the Brink, pt.12: In Plain Sight

Greetings Gentlereaders!

From Epic Duck Studios
Today we're going to try to look at one of the sneakiest units in the Tau Empire and one that got a stealth buff.  That's right we're talking about stealth suits, also known as the other elites choice.  This team is rather versatile for it's limited options of weapons and high points cost.  If for no other reason, stealth suits deserve a once-over because of how badly they performed in fifth edition and the changes they've received.  Personally, I owe you all an unveiling of this topic that snuck by me when I said I would discuss battlesuits.  As I'm sure you are all tiring of my puns, let's dive into this topic.

Again, let's start with the characteristics of the unit so we know what we're talking about.  Each suit is piloted by a shas'ui and shares much of the stat lin with the fire warrior shas'ui.  The exception to this rule is that the stealth shas'ui has different wargear and gains +1 strength and power armor from his battle suit.  The stealth armor allows the shas'ui to carry a burst cannon, makes his/her unit type jump jet infantry, and allows the team to infiltrate.  The smaller battlesuit cannot sustain various weapons, so the suits have the option for one in three to exchange their burst cannon for a fusion blaster for a couple of points.  As a team the suits may take a support system, but if one does all must, though they need not all take the same system.  A team leader or shas'vre may access the armory and take hardwired support systems without forcing his comrades to upgrade.

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The piece of wargear that defines the stealth suit, the stealth field generator, is the key to the stealth suits' success or failure.  As originally written, the stealth field forced units firing at the stealth suits to successfully roll night fighting to shoot the team.  While this was a middle ground between the Grey Knights' shrouding rule and the harlequins' veil of tears, this was a rather poor rule of stealth suits.  Recall that the burst cannon had a range of 18."  We can use the probability of rolling two-die-six to see how probable the enemy was to be able to fire on the stealth suits.  I will admit the limitation does take away some of the expected damage they would receive, but I must also reinforce that these are toughness three models in power armor and not the most difficult to kill.  Before armor saves could help against dangerous terrain, stealth suits wanted to avoid terrain and generally relied on the stealth field to protect them from firepower that would negate their armor save.  If a stealth team was staying on the edge of its effective range would be within 24" of the enemy.  If we use this as the roll needed, the stealth suits had a 41.64% chance of being shot, a bit better than a re-rollable 5+.  However, if the enemy could move and fire, even 6", the probability of being shot jumps to 61.07%.  True, this was before any other rolls, but it was poor protection.

Now the stealth field generator has changed dramatically; now it grants both Stealth and Shrouded.  So that means the model, and all other models in the same unit, have a 4+ cover save while standing in the open and a bonus of three to any cover save they receive.  This means that they can negate 50% of any shots that do not ignore cover saves and are armor penetration three at any range.  If the team takes cover from another unit or in 5+ (or better) terrain, then this probability jumps to 83.33%.  While this means that the stealth suits can now be hit at any range rather than only when within 36", stealth suits usually operate at short range due to their weapons' range.  The increased durability at short range is a worthwhile trade-off for the vulnerability at longer range.  There is a case where stealth suits will operate at long range, but that requires support systems and a very long range.

Stealth suits have access to the same support systems and hardwired systems to which crisis suits have access.  Some items are useless or next to useless.  The multitracker is useless unless used by the team leader who can take a markerlight.  The targeting array is beneficial, but the system that makes stealth suits shine is the drone controller.  On other suits the controller is usually a way to get a shield drone and hope to weather fire.  The stealth suits grant their field rules to their drones and thus make any drone a shield drone.  This allows them to either bring gun drones for more firepower and ablative wounds or to bring marker drones.  I do not like marker drones.  I think they are massively expensive for most any unit.  However, they may have a place in this unit as they benefit both from the stealth suits' mobility by gaining relentless and from their durability by being under the stealth field.  The question of whether or not the marker drones and their stealthed controllers have a place in this role can only be answered in relation to pathfinders, but they also deserve their own article.

The comparison between the two comes down to how much you value mobility and durability.  Pathfinders are shas'la that carry heavy weapon markerlights.  Stealth marker teams are massively more durable, relentless and bring burst cannons to utilize their networked markerlight hits.  Marker drones are just as accurate as pathfinders, so they provide the same number of hits per shot.  The only downside the stealth marker team comes from their points cost.

Each drone costs the same as it's controller, while each pathfinder costs two more points than a fire warrior.  The cost of the mobility and durability the drones get from their stealth rules costs them 150% more than a pathfinder for each model.  The cost of the minimum three stealth suits is roughly equivalent to the cost of the devilfish pathfinders are obligated to purchase.  In light of the reduced role of crisis suits in a Tau army, crisis suits no longer need to be as good to compete for an elites slot while the pathfinders must now compete against the newly resilient piranha for its fast attack slot.

Stealth suits can try to compete with crisis suits as deep striking melta teams, but simply cannot bring the firepower for nearly the same cost.  This role is no longer a suicide mission because the suits can now use their thrust move on the turn they deep strike.  Stealth suits can bring equivalent firepower to fire warriors if they look to be anti-infantry specialists.  They gain durability at the cost of being able to hold an objective.  In most missions, this is a trade-off that gives me pause.  Their ability to specialize makes them a unit that fills a niche, and the niche must exist for them to be a good choice.

Next time I'm going to look at a unit that began as a niche unit in Apocalpyse then transitioned to standard games where it's niche did not exist.  That niche, anti-aircraft defense, has since come into standard games warhammer, but the skyray has not been able to reclaim its niche.

I'm Underground Heretic and I get to live with that every day!

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