Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Tau codex and how I feel it changed my playstyle

Heya all and welcome back to the webway!

Now with the new Tau codex coming up on our doorstep, I am now able to see what 6th edition has in stall for my first love. 

Aesthetic-wise, the codex is a very well-crafted book, with the cover that impress and also the extension of the fluff and a given answer to the 'Commander Puretide' question that I have always asked myself; How is it that there is a multitude of master-student relationships between many Tau commanders and also the esteeemed Tau Sun Zi despite the Tau lifespan of like 40 years? Also it is interesting that Shadowsun is technically very old but is stasis-preserved along with other true Puretide students to be used for the Greater Good.

With that out of the way, I can go into the bread and butter of every codex review; how will the book perform? To my surprise, the more things changed the more they stayed the same. The core of the Tau army tactics; that of unleashing a localized area effect firepower to where and when it is needed is still there, but the method in which one does that changed a little. No longer will the adage of the Tau weaponry consist of taking Str5, Str7 and Str10 weapons in abundance and hit and run with them, but instead now you will have to figure out what you truly want your army to do.

The book provides a player with a lot of options and also with the new racial characteristic rule of Supporting Fire, it helps in an army that folds easily under close combat. In addition the presence of so many skyfire and interceptor platforms allow this book to contend with the current flyer meta. Lastly, the Overcharge rule of the Ion cannons and the way 6th edition go about with Blast weapons mean that the Ion cannon is perhaps the more efficient platform for a more integrated fire support weapon for the Tau. This is not to say that the Railgun is going out of fashion, but instead what I am saying is that the Ion cannon helps supplement the railguns and missile pods in their duty. The wargear section is a very interesting and powerful section that would help with any army, and the presence of drones will be felt in the current incarnation of Tau as Drones are just really helpful in a lot of things. Lastly, there is no 'bad' choices in the book, just how you want to use the units in your greater plan. which is a joy for a player like myself who seek to find the true combination that fits one's own tactics and preferences.

Now, I will say that my style of playing Tau is unlike a majority of Tau players, for I am a more aggressive Tau commander and I prefer to have a true decisive blow as compared to the let it bleed little by little tactic that more conservative Tau players prefer. So with that in mind, whatever I say here will reflect on my preferences, and should not be taken as a true path all-in-all for everyone. With that in mind, I will be able to go about talking about the book in a way that reflects my tendencies.

This book gives me a lot of options when it comes to fielding my army;

1) My commander in a way I always envisioned him to do; a very aggressive and personal sort of shooting hero that is able to take enough punishment to do his job. 

Now in the previous edition, my Shas'o is a commander that not a lot of people condone as firstly a Shas'o is too expensive and the wargear choices of a plasma rifle, fusion blaster, shield generator and a Stimulant Injector is a little excessive. But with the new book, my commander is perhaps one of the more recommended configurations due to the increased range of a fusion blaster but also because I am allowed to take two upgrades in addition to my basic configuration; Iridium Armor and also the Puretide Engram Neurochip. Iridium armor now confers a 1+ toughness and also 2+ without any of the old drawbacks which is a boon for me as now my commander will not need to fear the normal insta-death weapons coming his way, and combined with the stimulant injector and the shield generator, I am able to play him i an even more aggressive way. As for the Puretide Engram Neurochip, it allows me more options for my HQ when facing off against opponents with the three favourite things that the chip can confer to my HQ being Tank Hunters, Monster Hunters and Stubborn, with the latter allowing a Crisis Suit unit that he is attached to to benefit from it. It took them 6 years to do it, but finally my fluff for my HQ fits.

2) Greater flexibility build within the book.

With the presence of Ion cannons and also the buffs for Ion Cannons and the option of Skyfire and Interceptor units, I can finally see this army as a very modern army that befits its role. During my time playing with my Tau, I find that killing tough elite things or fast units as being a very challenging thing to do, especially when those things tend to be the premier assault unit of the opponent. In addition, with the presence of mechanized lists prevalent from late 4th edition and the entirety of 5th edition I find that my Tau are not performing as well as they should be against armies that does a combined-arms approach better than the Tau. With two very different kinds of sub-games here, I find it hard to make a list that can deal with those constants as it means sacrificing other things that will weaken the Tau army as a whole.

Now with the tools given in the book, a more balanced approach can be taken for Tau that would allow people to handle all the things that the game could throw against the Tau player, from flyers to hordes.

3. My Mechanized Tau infantry can now engage at much safer distances

Carbines used to suck, and despite my misgivings with rapid fire with Fire Warriors I have to use Rifles as the way to make a mechanized approach works. Now with the carbine having two shots, my fire warriors now do not have to worry about getting assaulted as a result of the increase in range between me and my target. Combined with the random charging distance and overwatch, it makes it a very attractive prospect to go about a Mechanized route again as it gave the Tau a 'pseudo' Fish of Fury tactic.

Also, with the focus on objectives, Devilfishes still has its place in the Tau book despite some misgivings of people about vehicles in this edition.

4. Improved Markerlights and Markerlight platforms

Now, I will say that in the previous codex, the only true reliable markerlight platform are the Pathfinders and they are relatively flimsy as a result of those experienced enough will make sure that they die. Now with the presence of marker drones and in extension, networked markerlights, this allows for the army to not truly rely too much on Pathfinders on providing markerlights to the rest of the army.

In addition, with the presence of having the option to take an entire marker drone squadron and the new way in which Drone controller works, you can have a more mobile and infinitely more accurate markerlight platform in the form of a Commander with a drone controller and at least 10 Marker Drones. BS5 Markerlights that is mobile and can be hidden easily? Hell yes.

As for the Markerlight rules itself, now you can boost your BS above the BS of 5 and for taking out two tokens you can ignore the cover that the markerlighted unit is in is a big boost for it allows Tau to solve the general problem of handling hordes and/or tough units in cover. Oh and did I mention that Markerlights can improve the BS of overwatching? Markerlights are even more amazing than before.

5. Allies

I know that sometimes allies is frowned upon as a very horrible thing to have and it is considered a crutch, but the fact still remains that this is truly an edition of combinations rather than an edition of raw codex power, and with the availability of several allies that could boost the Tau's way of fighting and make the Tau codex a stronger army than before.

Space Marines provide Tau with units that are both durable and covers a weakness of the Tau in close combat, while the Eldar provide the Tau with psychic defense and buffs. Let us not forget that the Imperial guard can offer a more solid objective holder and even more fire support for the Tau. The list goes on and on, and personally I am happy for the Tau in this sense, for now it allows Tau to truly compete at a level seen during the mid-4th edition level once more.

I personally love the idea of having Imperial Guard with Tau, as it gives me a justification for making a Gue'vesa allies with my Tau. And who can deny the true firepower of an IG army in combination with Tau?

In conclusion, I believe that GW had delivered the players with one of the most competent armies around and the balanced approach of the book is indicative of the current mindset of the edition that balance is the new black here.

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