Thursday, October 4, 2012

Coming Back From the Brink, pt.7: Where do We Go Now? (Sweet Child)

Where to fit in?
Greetings Gentlereaders!

The time has come to wrap up my essay on crisis suits.  I hope you've enjoyed the first two parts explaining what weapons the battlesuits of Tau can take and how they can combine their weapons an support systems to create different niches for crisis suits to fill.  Today, we'll look at the bigger picture and must ask if crisis suits still have a place in a competitive Tau army.

The novelty of 6th edition means the meta has no discernible form yet due to the sweeping changes brought by the new FAQs and the absence of any sixth edition codices.  In fifth edition armies generally revolved around multiple small units (MSU), kill point denial (KPD) or counter-meta armies designed to counter the strengths of the current fashion and exploit their weaknesses (e.g. deathwing post-FAQ).  Until there are more sixth edition changes to the armies, there isn't any group of a few codices or army styles that will stand out, so there are more archetypes of lists floating in the tournament aether.  One trend I've heard of is a trend toward more 'extreme' lists.

For instance, consider the changes to vehicles with the hull point system.  The chance for a vehicle to be killed in one shot by a non-armor penetration one or two weapon is much less, but the possibility to permenantly suppress a vehicle but be unable to kill it is gone.  Some will see the eventual death of all vehicles regardless to a lack of a destroyed result and revert entirely infantry lists.  Others will see the decreased vulnerability of vehicles to one-shot-kills and shift to entirely mechanized or even air cavalry lists.

Pictured: A sample of armies at the last 40k tournament.
Also, go see this movie.
In a tournament setting this means that the diversity of opponents and therefore what weapons will be beneficial for a crisis suit to take will be increased.  The ludicrous three weapon suit has the adaptability to change what weapon it uses game to game: missiles and fusion against marines, missile and flamer against guard, fusion and flamer against mechanized xenos.  The more specialized suit archetypes cannot adapt as easily if at all.  The way the other archetypes adapt is to either have two weapons that are moderately effective against most units (e.g. burst/missile/multi) or to have a primary weapon that does one task well and a secondary that works well against the other extreme (e.g. twin-missile/flamer).  As the suit loadout becomes more specialized it becomes better at what it does, but it also becomes less useful when it is against an opponent at the opposite end of the spectrum (e.g. plasma/missile/multi vs. foot-IG).  The most specialized suits, the single weapon+ suits, must simply suck it up and deal with their inefficiency.

If the 40k tournament format allowed for list alterations of a certain amount before each match, like  Magic, the Gathering's sideboard system which allows a 15 card sideboard for a 60 card deck, I can see the single weapon+ suits being a fantastic choice for Tau, but as of now they simply don't have much place unless the rest of the list was constructed in such a way that one element is absent.

The best choice for crisis suits is probably the middle road between the two extremes, either of the double weapon suits or the primary/secondary weapon suits.  The weapons you choose can be somewhat directed by your knowledge of your local tournament setting, and you should have some expectations if you are returning to a venue.  Be prepared and understand your army to determine what choice is best for you.

...and in sixth edition you may discover that crisis suits are not the best choice for Tau armies.  Though I will continue running them for aesthetic reasons, crisis suits are unquestionably expensive for the firepower they bring.  Some of this is accounted for in their superb mobility; some of their weapons are the equivalent of heavy weapons for other armies and are assault weapons for Tau.  The rest can be ascribed to the age of the codex, but no amount of apologetics can make the crisis suits less expensive.  Their cost is the biggest weakness of crisis suits and means that you lack the points to fix your other weaknesses.

Can I get your autograph now?
One of the weaknesses of Tau is the lack of durability of their scoring choices and crisis suits can do nothing to change that reality.  The bright side is that Tau are battle brothers with both Eldar, who bring T5 jetbike troops, and codex Space Marines, who bring, well...marines.  Crisis suits may find themselves on the chopping block for either more durable troops or less costly heavy weapons in sixth edition.  There are ways to justify either choice and the cost of crisis suits relative to their competitors, who can now become auxiliaries, leaves them little place if you own the auxiliary models.  If you do not, they can still thrive until you transition or they can find a place in a pure Tau army, as they have in mine.

The choice is, as always yours, but I have made my analysis and case for bringing different types of crisis suits that I think can aid your army's performance.  They will bring more enjoyment to your gaming, if you enjoy mobility as I do, but they are the visual icon of the Tau Empire and as will have a place in my heart and mind as long as I play 40k.  Next time, we look at the motor pool of the Tau.

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


  1. For a Pure Tau force, XV8s are the only real way of getting reliable low AP weapons. Which is what is needed to kill marines. These are also the most expensive weapons.
    With allies (namely marines) you can bring AP2/1 weapons in the troop choices and frees up a lot of points.

    1. Though I don't play T'au, I'd think massed Fire Warriors might be pretty effective at simply drowning the marines in enough wounds to cause failed armor saves and kill them outright in that way.

    2. You should expect to get four armor saves on marines for every dozen shots from fire warriors. So you're killing about 1.33 marines for every 120 points. It's not great, but it is something.

    3. That means almost 3 marines when you double tap. That's not bad at all given the price gap and the fact that you're more capable of getting the first shot.

    4. After I get the first shot, even if I kill both, the marines will punch back with at least the same number of wounds, barring a plasma weapon or heavy weapon. I will admit that having a unit trading blows like that with a unit at least thirty percent more expensive is nice.

    5. Bar the heavy weapon. Against your fire warriors, they'd rather hit double tap range unless they have a heavy bolter as their heavy.

      The 9 or so remaining marines move 6 and then take a single shot each. They'll kill 2 of you on math. Your options are then wait for them to close the gap for you, or run away and keep shooting, luring them forward for another, potentially stronger squad to double tap.

      This strategy means giving ground to marines early to mid game, but if you're able to utilize your lower points costs, you'll be able to reclaim that ground and show a resurgence mid to late game.

  2. Holding territory in standarm missions does no matter until mid to late game, doubly so for Tau.

    Giving ground sounds a bit more vague, as it could imply expecting to be loosing more models/threats and Tau rely on having a good first and second turns to prevent an assault army reaching them. I understand that tactical marines may not seem like an assault unit, and against most armies they are not, but against tau they are a legitimate threat.

    Marines will lose more points per trooper lost and may even loose more threat compared to fire warriors, but I doubt that fire warriors will be a high priority for most anyone , but tyranids. Yes, they are the only scoring unit outside of kroot, but their threat level is much less than that of any battle suit.

    1. Even better then? Your fire warriors are free to needle their power armor while it neglects your scoring choices. Sound like playing to the mission and a good route to victory.

      Giving ground was meant in a very very literal sense. As in, retreat and let the other guy walk towards you.

    2. Giving ground is to be expected. The only problem is that fire warriors' lack of reliable anti-tank weapons means that Tau rely on those units that are being targeted early game. Marines can say the same about their specialists (e.g. devastators, sternguard), but the degree of reliance for Tau is much larger than for Marines.

    3. I feel like this is less of a worry in 6th. Maybe I'm wrong but I feel like the transport spam days of 5th are behind us, or will be shortly. Heck, even if we're still spamming rhinos and razorbacks, your fire warrior teams effectively have gauss rule against these transports, which matters with hull points around.