Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Coming Back from the Brink, pt. 15: The True Believer

Greetings Gentlereaders,

Do you know who your commander is?
First off I wanted to apologize for the unexpected downtime in writing last week, but my finals took priority no matter how much I love writing for you all.   Today we're going to be looking at one of the characters whose identity solidified through the changes of sixth edition.  While I haven't had the chance to run her, I believe she was the best character in fifth edition and is in competition with O'Shovah for that title with respect to sixth.  Yes, you read that correctly: "she."  We're talking about one of two female characters outside of the Sisters of Battle codex in the whole of Warhammer 40k, the other being Inquisitor Valeria.  So if that, or a genuine daredevil character, tickles your fancy keep reading.

Let's begin by looking at who O'Shaserra is as a member of the Tau Empire, as we did with O'Shovah. There is a bit of difficulty placing her in perspective, as she was not included in the original Codex: Tau (3rd) but only appeared in the current Codex:Tau Empire (4th), so she does not have the depth of background that O'Shovah does.  Oddly, enough both share some similarities both in rules and in their background.  Both have at some point been the supreme commander of one of the Sphere Expansions, both made their names fighting against orks and both studied under Commander Puretide.

A High Commander who wears a helmet
Like all of Puretide's students, O'Shovah and O'Shaserra both came to understand and master different aspects of his philosophy of battle.  While Puretide emphasized flexibility, variability and adaptability of strategy, O'Shovah became a stalwart defender of territory who adopted melee tactics and O'Shaserra tends to execute repeated raids before engaging an enemy to compensate for any perceived tactical deficiencies in her forces.  These two commanders now lead the two halves of the Tau species' military and provide great contrast to the playstyle of Tau armies on the table top, so kudos to GW for reflecting their story in tabletop rules.

Commander Shadowsun (O'Shaserra) brings a unique package of wargear and rules that puts her in the middle of a spectrum between characters who provide benefits for their army and those that are massively destructive, but bring nothing else to the table.  She has two notable abilities; first she has a limited version of the rites of battle special rule that is now exclusive to Templar, Sicarius and Tyco, second she dual wields fusion blasters, not twin-linked, but a precursor to the gunslinger rule.  Like these marine commanders, she costs more than a basic tactical squad and comes equipped with a shield generator, which is indistinguishable from an iron halo.  Additionally, she is accompanied by two shield drones and a command drone, but these have benefits that are compensated by her toughness three which is shared by her drones.  She also has a stealth field generator, which we'll talk about more later, and the ability to fire her fusion blasters at two different targets, a precursor to We Are Legion.

Deep Strike the Squishy or Waste the Melta?
During fifth, and I would imagine fourth edition, her two abilities were in conflict with each other.  Her aura, which is based on her command drone's model rather than her model, would only benefit her army if she were in their midst to lead them, but her weapons have such short range that she almost necessitated being deep struck.  The conflict comes when you take into account that even O'Shaserra can only fight approximately on the level of a dual armed marine sergeant, and that Tau battlesuits, despite being the only jump jet infantry in the game, were barred from using their assault move after deep striking, though it was permitted to all other jump jet infantry (which did not exist).  In sixth edition, this restriction has been removed and O'Shaserra can expect to move six to eight inches away from her target after firing her fusion blasters.  This allows her to intercept a unit moving toward the bulk of your army, then jump back to safety.

O'Shaserra hasn't had all her problems solved by the sixth edition FAQs, but they have been a large gain.  Her stealth field generator has made her shield generator mostly useless, as both provide a 4+ against armor penetration three shots in the open, but the stealth generator now increases to a 2+ in most any type of terrain.  This is a net gain, though I wonder what will happen with these items when the new codex (rumored in May) comes out.  The most important part of the stealth generator is that it confers to all of the drones.  Admittedly, this does not make her generator unique, but she is unique as she is the only commander whose drones restrain her from joining another unit and she loses her Independent Character status (with 2+ Lo,S! roll), though she is treated as an upgrade character for her drones.  I still don't understand why she is the only commander who suffers from this, but I am glad that there are not other commanders thus encumbered.

--Math Alert--
Loyalty at its finest, and a fellow daredevil
Since we can get accurate, deep striking melta out of our elites slot, where does O'Shaserra belong in the Tau army?  Well her command aura means your fire warriors are more likely to pass any leadership test, though we need to compare her ability to that of an ethereal, who is a much less expensive way to improve your leadership.  The ethereal's benefit depends on the leadership of your units while O'Shaserra may replace the unit's leadership value.  A fire warrior team has an unmodified chance to fail any given leadership test of 0.2778 if they are lead eight, 0.4167 if they are lead seven.  O'Shaserra changes this to 0.0834 if the unit is within her aura, but an ethereal grants a re-roll meaning the leadership seven team has a 0.1736 probability to fail and the leadership eight team has a 0.0772 probability to fail. There is another difference, the ethereal requires line of sight to the unit using his re-roll and cannot be in a vehicle while O'Shassera only needs to be close enough to the unit. Until next time, we can that a cadre with an ethereal in line of sight will be more loyal than a cadre lead by O'Shaserra, but only if they are lead by shas'ui.
--All Clear--

I think O'Shaserra is a reasonable choice for your tau army because she brings you a way increase your army's leadership that doesn't carry the additional risk of the price of failure or require line of sight while adding to your firepower.  She's not absurdly expensive, though she is more expensive than her firepower may merit, but she brings a more difficult to quantify benefit.  You could play her in the interest of social justice, you could want to play a loyalist Tau army without playing an ethereal, or you may want the second most aggressive shas in the codex.  Whatever your reason for wanting to bring her, I think O'Shaserra could serve you well in sixth edition with it's increase to her durability, the proliferation of leadership based tests and the continuing value of melta weapons.

Next time readers, we'll delve into the last of the headquarters slots with a double or maybe even triple feature on Aun'va, ethereals in general and the differences between non-named fire caste commanders.  Until we meet again, in case it's not in time, Happy Holidays from Rites of Battle, no matter what you celebrate.

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

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