While the Commander is no longer a must-take in the Tau army, I think it's still the single most flexible HQ choice by virtue of its many options. Between weapons, support systems, and signature systems, you can kit out a Commander to serve a variety of different roles. Here's three Commander builds I'm kicking around, all of which serve completely separate roles in the army.
Commander with Puretide Engram Neurochip, Early Warning Override, Velocity Tracker, Plasma Rifle, Fusion Blaster - 155 pts
The Hunter's job is to seek out foes and kill them with superior high-strength/low-AP firepower. He has the Puretide chip to let him switch between Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter, depending on what his opponent has brought to the field. The Early Warning Override allows him to react to new threats on the battlefield, and the Velocity Tracker allows him to take on those threats that come from above. Combine him with a bodyguard team to help keep fire off of him, probably with velocity trackers of their own.
For an alternate build, try swapping out plasma for missiles to have stronger long-range shots available, or the EWO for a Target Lock to allow the Hunter to go after his own targets while staying protected.
Commander with Iridium Battlesuit, Shield Generator, Onager Gauntlet, Vectored Retro-Thrusters, Fusion Blaster - 160 pts
The Warrior eschews the normal Tau strategy of "peace through superior firepower" and instead charges directly into the fray. His suit and shield generator make him far more resilient than most of his peers, the thrusters make him faster, and the Onager Gauntlet makes him able to take out a variety of threats in a single blow. A Fusion Blaster rounds out his kit, allowing him to be equally effective against vehicles at range. He's not equipped for handling hordes, but rather for making precision strikes against key targets. A bodyguard unit with VRTs is essential for keeping up with him and keeping stray fire off of him. This build is a bit of an oddball, but it could be very effective in the right situations.
Commander with Command and Control Node, Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite, Drone Controller, Shield Generator, Twin-Linked Flamer - 163 pts
The Guide does not deal with targets himself, but rather joins another unit and improves their shooting ability. His two signature systems ensure that any unit he joins will be rerolling hits and ignoring cover as long as he does not fire in the Shooting phase; with his twin flamers, his fire is limited to Overwatch purposes. A Shield Generator keeps him alive longer, as do the models in the unit he joins. The Guide is best used joining a unit of Marker Drones to give you BS5 markerlight shots, but joining a unit of Pathfinders or Fire Warriors is also a very valid option.
Consider adding on drones of his own, whether markerlight (to add 2 more shots to the party) or shield (to provide some buffers at the front of the group).
I'm looking forward to trying out these various builds and seeing what an army built around each one would look like!
We're two days out from the new Tau codex, and info and photos of the English codex are starting to pop up everywhere. I'm not going to post any here for legal reasons, but you can easily find them online at this point. There's enough info now to start figuring out how the new rules change our existing army. One thing I want to start looking at is how the new book affects one of the workhorses of the Tau army, the "Fireknife" suit (or the Missile Pod/Plasma Rifle suit, for those of you who don't go for Tau fan nomenclature).
Let's look at an old MP/PR suit:
Crisis Suit, Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle, Multi-Tracker: 62 points
Compare that to a new MP/PR suit:
Crisis Suit, Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle: 52 points
The combo of cheaper plasma and the free multi-tracker included in all battlesuits makes the new version more reasonable. A squad of three is now only 156 points, rather than 186 points from the old book. The new suits also come with free blacksun filters, so they're even more capable than their predecessors. Most importantly, though, the new suit has one more slot available for weapons or support systems. This gives us some interesting options, such as:
- Doubling up on either the Missile Pod or Plasma Rifle and twin-linking that weapon for 5 points more
- Adding a Counterfire Defense System to get BS2 in Overwatch for 5 points
- Adding an Early Warning Override to get Interceptor for 5 points
With all of these, we're still cheaper than the old suits. If we don't mind digging a bit deeper and making the unit more expensive than before, they can get Stimulant Injectors (Feel No Pain), Shield Generators (4++ saves), or Velocity Trackers (Skyfire as needed). The last option will probably end up getting added to Twin-Linked Missile Pod suits rather than MP/PR suits, but there's still plenty of possibilities. I'm thinking of the Counterfire Defense Systems myself, since the multi-tracker bit can be renamed for a CDS in a pinch, but I'd be lying if the idea of twin-linking that plasma rifle isn't tempting.
Anyway, just this little glance into what the new book brings with its tweaks and realignments has me excited to see what the rest of the army will look like!
Here they are, my Deathrain and Fireknife commander suits, finished just in time for the 1750 tournament I'll be attending tomorrow. I feel like they were a bit of a rush job, or perhaps I'm just really rusty at painting crisis suits. All I know is that as I was doing the detail work, I kept finding flaws that I had to go over again. Still, they look good enough for the tabletop, and that's what really matters - I'm not going for a Golden Daemon or anything. I'm not unhappy with them, either. The edge highlights look good, the cadre markings are clean, the bases look decent. Lenses could have been better, but I tried a bit of sourced lighting inside the head cover (which, of course, the camera didn't pick up), so it doesn't look horrible. I'd say "next time!", but I don't know how soon I'll be painting another crisis suit; I already have 11 put together and painted for my army. I do have a couple more oddball configurations that I could paint, though.
On the Fireknife, I spruced up the base a bit with a spare bolter I had, just to give the suggestion of a battleground. I also stacked up some stones because he was in an awkward leaping pose - he was a rescue from another basing attempt with an angled flight stem - and he needed something to jump over.
The Deathrain was interesting because I'd had different designs for the head, but I kept losing the tiny bits I was going to mount on it. Frustrated, I instead snipped the fin off of the stealth generator/objective/whatever-it-is bit that comes with Stealth Suits and mounted it on his head. Good enough. I also tried to have a semi-dynamic pose for him; posing crisis suits is one of those things I find challenging, mostly because I'm terrible at cutting minis apart and repositioning their components.
I'm also getting used to my lightbox setup. I still need to figure out the proper front-lighting for them - or maybe I just need to put them further back and let more of the diffuse side lighting catch the front. I don't break it out that often, so I just need more practice, I think.
I also managed to get my remaining Kroot and hounds primed. Not everything will be painted (which isn't required at this tournament), but I won't be using bare plastic, either. I've got 2 Piranhas, 2 Railheads, 2 Broadsides, 11 Crisis Suits, 6 Fire Warriors, a Devilfish, 8 Gun Drones, and 3 Kroot painted, which is a sizeable chunk. It'll still look sharp and cohesive on the table.
Another hour or two of painting tonight, and now I have the edge highlighting done. The next step is to drybrush the black areas with gray, and then it's on to the small details: lenses, lights, sept/cadre markings, and any weathering I care to do. Then, the final step is to paint up their bases, and they'll be complete. I should be able to do most of that in one night, so I'm hoping that by Wednesday they'll be done.
One thing I'm particularly pleased with on these suits is the balance between green and red components. My original idea for this army, since it's a Vior'la cadre, is that the higher in rank you go, the more red appears on your armor - the more blooded you are. Fire Warrior shas'la don't have any red. The shas'ui have red on their shoulder pads and helmets. Crisis suit team leaders and shas'vre have red heads and leg plates. And then, you get to your commanders. Now, my original commander suit looks like this:
That's way more red than I wanted, but by the time I realized it, it was too late. With the new suits, I've dialed it back a bit. Green torsos, green jetpacks, green missile pods (with red markings), red heads, and red limbs with some green armor plates. The progression is more clear, and the suits still look like they belong with the rest of the army, rather than sticking out like a sore red thumb.
My first batch of three Kroot is done, and I'm very pleased with how they turned out. They still need to be based, but that'll take no time at all. They're not masterpieces, but they're definitely tabletop quality, which is all I'm really going for. So, what did I do with them after the Devlan Mud wash?
- Went over the skin with Gretchin Green in the raised areas, leaving the wash in the recesses.
- Went over the highlights with a blend of Scorpion Green and Gretchin Green to brighten them up and give them a greener tone.
- Went over raised areas in the leather with more Khemri Brown.
- Used Boltgun Metal to highlight metal.
- Used Bleached Bone to highlight bone, spurs, and claws.
- Picked out the eyes in Sunburst Yellow.
- Attempted to wet-blend the quills from Bestial Brown to Bleached Bone (this was semi-successful, but I'll try it again with the next batch for sure).
On the Kroot with quill-beads, I painted them in yellow, red, and bone, and then washed them with Gyphonne Sepia to give them a warmer tone than I'd get with Devlan Mud. In fact, I might try washing the leather on one or two of the next batch with the sepia just to give it a warmer color and see how it works out. The next batch will also present a new challenge - two of them have their mouths open and tongues showing. They should turn out okay; I already have the first layer of Gretchin Green on them, so it should be pretty simple to follow the same process.
Before I get to them, I have something else to finish up:
Two new HQ crisis suits, one Fireknife and one Deathrain. These guys have come together quickly; the Fireknife was already built (and recently had his head rebuilt), but the Deathrain didn't even exist until Friday. I got it built that night, and got both of them primed and basecoated in foundation paints (Knarloc Green and Mechrite Red) Saturday night. Today, I worked on getting Goblin Green and Red Gore on them, and the flat colors are done. Painting the edge highlights, details, and bases is all that's left before they're complete, and I'm hoping to have them done before Saturday's tournament. In fact, I hope to have a mostly painted army on the table - the Kroot and Hounds won't all be painted (but they are primed), but everything else will be done!