Tag Archives: markerlights

Quick Update: Pathfinders

I managed to squeeze in a game tonight, placing my Tau against Richard’s Tyranid army. We were only able to get 3 turns in – we got a late start, he’s still learning his army, and since there’s no English 40K Army Builder file with the new ‘nids, he’s having to reference his codex quite a bit.

We were also playing one of the new Battle Missions scenarios: First Contact, one of the Tyranid missions. The deployment mode in this one is odd, as it splits the table into six zones, places an objective in the middle of each, and then has you roll for each unit to determine the zone into which it’s deployed. It scattered my army across the board, and left all but one of his units coming off one of the short board edges. Being so randomly scattered, I wasn’t able to get my Pathfinders into a good position. That said, they helped a squad of Fire Warriors do nasty things to a Venomthrope before we called the game. 4 markerlight hits let me get their BS up to 5 and remove the Venomthrope’s cover save, which let their pulse rifles make short work of the creature.

It’s only one small result, but it’s very encouraging. Hopefully, I can get a full game in soon and see how they play out across all 5+ turns.

Giving Pathfinders another chance

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Last Friday, Old Shatter Hands discussed how to fit markerlights into his current army list, inspired by a run of horrible luck. I can sympathize; lately, my dice have been betraying me at key moments. It’s also one of the weaknesses of the Tau; sure, we have fantastic guns, but we just don’t seem to have the ballistic skill to utilize them effectively. The solution for this is to add markerlights to our armies, allowing us to do things like raise our BS and drop those pesky cover saves. It’s not a perfect solution, though – they’re expensive and slow (thanks to being heavy weapons), and there’s only a few ways to fit them into an army. I’ve discussed the two primary ones – Pathfinders and Stealth Suits – and it’s no secret that I’m not fond of Pathfinders. However, one of the hallmarks of the Tau army is fluidity and adaptability, so it’s no good to be stuck in my ways. If I want to fit in markerlights, Pathfinders are the least-expensive solution.

With that in mind, I re-examined my current Tau list, and discovered that I can fit in a unit of 5 Pathfinders if I drop my commander’s bodyguards:

HQ: Commander Shas’el (130 pts)
1 Commander Shas’el (Cyclic Ion Blaster; Hard-wired Drone Controller; Hard-wired Multi-tracker; Plasma Rifle; Targeting Array)
2 Shield Drones (Shield Generator)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit (186 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Missile Pod; Plasma Rifle; Multi-Tracker)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit (94 pts)
2 Crisis Battlesuits (Flamer; Twin Linked Missile Pod)

Troops: Fire Warrior (155 pts)
6 Fire Warriors (Pulse Rifle x6)
1 Devilfish (Gun Drones; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Troops: Fire Warrior (155 pts)
6 Fire Warriors (Pulse Rifle x6)
1 Devilfish (Gun Drones; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Troops: Fire Warrior (155 pts)
6 Fire Warriors (Pulse Rifle x6)
1 Devilfish (Gun Drones; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Fast Attack: Pathfinder (145 pts)
5 Pathfinders (Pulse Carbine x5)
1 Devilfish (Gun Drones; Marker Beacon; Disruption Pod)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (150 pts)
2 Piranha Light Skimmers (Fusion Blaster x2; Disruption Pod x2; Targeting Array x2)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Targeting Array; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Targeting Array; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Total Roster Cost: 1500 points

It’s a simple change, accomplishes what I want, and doesn’t hurt my killing ability – in fact, it probably enhances it greatly. It also gives me a great bait unit; people seem to hate Pathfinders with a passion. My one concern is that it adds three killpoints to the army (‘finders, their Devilfish, and the drones). I could drop the Devilfish from one of the Fire Warrior teams, which would free up some points for smart missiles, seeker missiles, or the like, but I dislike using the Pathfinder ‘fish as a taxi. It slows down the momentum of the game more than I like, and leaves a small unit of FWs out in the open for a turn or two.

I think I’ll give this list a try on my next game; we’ll see if I spoke too soon on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of Pathfinders. I have a feeling that I may be eating some crow soon…

Followup: Stealth Marker Teams

So, last week I said I was going to put my money where my mouth is and try out a Stealth Marker Team. While I didn’t get as many opportunities over the Labor Day weekend as I’d hoped, I did manage to get in a 1500-point game against my friend Richard’s Ork Biker army. The game was a Spearhead/Seize Ground mission, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to compile a full battle report, I can happily report that I managed to eke out a victory 2 objectives to 1. The Stealth Marker Team performed well – better, in my opinion, than a Pathfinder team in a similar situation. However, the Stealth Team’s cost did make it considerably harder to fit into my army list, and a few cost-cutting measures had to be taken, so I’m not ditching my Pathfinders completely; I’m sure they’ll show up in other army lists.

A few notes about the Stealth Marker Team:

  • Moving and firing every turn is absolutely worth it, as is still having 12 burst cannon shots every turn while doing so.
  • With only 5 markerlights, I still managed to average 3 hits a turn, which gave me enough to boost my BS to 5 on the units that needed it.
  • Positioning is everything. Between being able to infiltrate into a safe markerlighting position, and being able to Jump-Shoot-Jump into cover or out of assault range, I was able to keep my Stealth Team useful every turn.

Still, at the end of the day, Markerlights can help you score a hit, but it can’t make a wound stick when invulnerable saves or Feel No Pain is involved. They’re far from a panacea, especially against tough units like Nob Bikers. A markerlight is only as good as the weaponry it guides, so remember to keep that in mind when deciding target priority for your markerlight units, be they Stealth Team, Pathfinder, or Sky Ray.

Markerlight Tactica: Pathfinders vs. Stealth Suits

pathfinder_vs_stealthIn the current edition of 40K, markerlights seem to be all the rage for Tau armies. Whereas many Tau armies in 4th edition focused on bringing mechanized troops to the table, the current trend is to bring markerlights to negate 5th’s ever-present cover saves. While there are a variety of units that can mount markerlights, the two most commonly used are the Pathfinder squad and the Stealth Team. So, which is better? Are there any clear advantages to using one over the other? Let’s take a look at two potential markerlight units:

Stealth Team
3 Shas’ui w/ Burst Cannon, Drone Controller, Marker Drone
1 Shas’ui team leader w/ Burst Cannon, Markerlight, Hardwired Multi-tracker, Drone Controller, Marker Drone
Cost: 260 points

Pathfinder squad
7 Pathfinders w/ Markerlights and Pulse Carbines
1 Shas’ui w/ Markerlight and Pulse Carbine
1 Devilfish w/ Smart Missile System, Disruption Pod, Multi-Tracker
Cost: 221 points

So, what are the advantages of each? Let’s start with the Stealth Team.

  • Jet Pack Infantry – this is probably the biggest advantage of the stealth team. Most importantly, it makes the unit Relentless, allowing them to move and shoot their markerlights. They also gain the extra 6″ of movement in the assault phase, allowing them to use Jump-Shoot-Jump tactics, as well as effectively putting their markerlight range at 42″.
  • 3+ Armor Save – higher survivability is better. True, it doesn’t carry over to the drones, but the suits themselves can take more punishment than pathfinders can.
  • Markerlights on Drones – having the markerlights mounted on drones allows the stealth suits to still use their burst cannons. With 4 suits, that’s 12 shots at 18″ – 4 more than the pathfinders can dish out. Also, unlike the pathfinders, the Stealth Team can fire their markerlights and their burst cannons in the same turn. Even the team leader, with his multi-tracker, can fire both.
  • Networked Markerlights – thanks to the marker drones’ networked markerlights, the Stealth Team can even use their own markerlight hits, if they so choose. Note that this is not true for the team leader’s markerlight.
  • Infiltrate – deploying last on the table, and being able to be within 12″ to 18″ of an enemy unit allows the Stealth Team to get into a prime location for lighting up the enemy.
  • Deep Strike – if a prime location can’t be found at the beginning of the game, then the Stealth Team can deep strike later in the game, keeping them safe until they deploy, at which time they are free to mark the enemy.
  • Stealth Field – always being treated as being under night fighting rules helps keep the Stealth Team just a little bit safer. Whether the field helps in assault as it did in 4th edition is still up in the air, unfortunately.*

So, that’s what the Stealth Team has going for it. What advantages do the Pathfinders have over them?

  • Lower Cost – the Pathfinder unit I’ve posted is relatively maxed out; it’s got a full unit with a shas’ui, and it’s riding in a Warfish. With all that, it’s still cheaper than the Stealth Team. At the very bare minimum, a 4-man Pathfinder squad can be had for 128 points. You’d be hard-pressed to find a less expensive option for putting markerlights on the table.
  • More Markerlights – the Pathfinder unit is bringing 8 markerlights, as opposed to the Stealth Team’s 5. That’s going to get you an average of 1-2 extra markerlight hits a turn.
  • Dedicated Transport – the Pathfinders come with their own Devilfish, which they can use to get into a good position. After that, they can either use it to escape, give it to another unit for taxi purposes, or just let it run around on its own to harass the enemy and contest objectives.
  • Scout – getting a free move before the first turn can help the Pathfinders react to enemy positions and pick a better markerlighting position. More importantly, it allows them to deploy from their Devilfish before the first turn, thus allowing them to stay stationary and fire.
  • Fast Attack slot – Stealth Teams have to compete with Crisis Suits – the workhorses of the Tau army – for Elite slots. Pathfinders, on the other hand, are a Fast Attack option, and are arguably the best Fast Attack unit we have. It’s easy to fit them into your army’s FOC.
  • Markerlights not tied to drones – one weakness of the Stealth Team is that, while there are many advantages to having marker drones, there’s one major weakness: if you lose a drone controller, you lose the attached drone as well. Each dead Stealth Suit causes you to lose two models, not just one. Pathfinders, on the other hand, each carry their own markerlight, so losing one is just that – one model lost.

On a side note, both units are capable of outflanking (Stealth Teams due to their Infiltrate rule, Pathfinders due to being Scouts), so that particular item is a wash.

After looking at the two units, there’s two ways we can compare them. From an pure economic standpoint, the Pathfinders are the winners, hands down. They’re cheaper per model, allow you to pack more markerlights for fewer points, and can be decently tricked out and still come in under the Stealth Team’s cost. However, from a pure utility standpoint, I have to give the win to the Stealth Team. They’re more mobile, more survivable, and are capable of doing more damage than the Pathfinder team, all while providing comparable markerlight support – if not better support, thanks to being able to shoot and move every turn. Unless you’re pressed for points, I feel that they’re the better option. The Pathfinder transport is nice, and does make it a solid option, but there’s just not that many turns in the game, and you’re going to lose at least two turns using it – one to pick up a unit, and another to disembark them. Stealth Teams don’t have that slowdown, and can remain just as mobile as a Devilfish.

Now, as for myself, I’ve been using Pathfinders for my markerlight support, and while they’re good, they’re not quite as good as I’d hoped. This weekend, then, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve picked up another Stealth Team (for my fourth marker drone), and I’m going to put them to the test during my gaming over the Labor Day holiday. I think the peformance will prove my conclusions above, but there’s only one way to be sure, and that’s to try it on the table.

* EDIT: The Stealth Field Generator’s anti-assault effect – treating the Stealth Team as being in cover for assault – is unclear in 5th Edition. This is because it’s terrain, not cover, that changes up the initiative order in 5th Edition, and Stealth Fields don’t change the terrain. However, the unofficial INAT FAQ from Adepticon indicates that the assaulters are still affected, while the official GW FAQ says nothing either way.  Rules as Written say one thing, Rules as Intended indicate another way, and there’s no consensus. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, though, so unless your opponent or tournament organizer says otherwise, assume that it does not help.