Continuing a look at units of the Tau Empire codex, I’m going to focus on a unit that actually represents the entire army very well, Tau Fire Warriors. They look deceptively simple and underpowered yet have so many synergies with the rest of the army list that it can put out a surprising level of damage.
First of all, lets discuss what you get for your points. Fire warriors have pretty average stats for 40k (though as so many armies have a Space Marine stat line this actually makes them a little below average), with a 4+ save and the best gun of any troop choice in the game, the pulse rifle. Range 30″ alone means that you can start popping off shows at an opponent’s units in their deployment zone. Taking a pulse carbine is tempting, but with the high level of Ld most armies have, pinning tends to have little to no effect, so I prefer the range every time.
However, for all the strength of their gun, that’s really all you are buying them for, which makes them hard to use when taking objectives, the most important part of the current game in most scenarios. So that means you need to get aggressive with Fire Warriors (or take Kroot, but I will cover them another time) which where the synergies start to come in.
Tau Fire Cadres add an extra shot to any unit they join using pulse weaponry, which is a very cool special ability. Combine this with an Ethereal’s Elemental power and suddenly Fire Warrior will be advancing upon the enemy hoping to get within rapid fire range!
Combine them with the pulse accelerator drone (which perhaps make it worth taking two pathfinder squads- one to flank and one to support the main line) that pathfinders can take and all of a sudden you have a solid base of Fire warriors with range 36” guns, with one unit putting out 2 shorts (4 at rapid fire range) a turn, plus whatever bonuses your pathfinders can give them from lighting up an opponent’s unit. I’ve seen terminator squads downed this way, even if it was a bit of a desperate tactic.
In fact, this may allow players to recreate an old Tau tactic, the ‘Fish of Fury’. This is where Fire Warriors in Devilfish transports move up the battlefield and use Devilfishes to section off parts of the opposing army, before disembarking the Fire Warriors dealing them a devastating blow with short-range pulse rifle shots. At this point though, you run the risk of spending so many points of fire warriors that the army becomes inflexible and very vulnerable if the initial volley doesn’t kill everything.
Now one think I did mention before, albeit jokingly, was that Fire warriors aren’t that good in assault. This is the counterbalance the army faces for having such a powerful gun. It’s not as bad as it used to be, as at least Tau has a chance of causing a leadership test or reducing numbers due to supporting fire, but don’t count on it doing much. Also, try to stop your opponent from launching multiple assaults into your gunline in one turn, as supporting fire becomes pretty useless then.
Though the common adage for any army that relies on shooting is to hang back and try to win the game by shooting the opponent to death. With Tau this can’t work in the long-term. The army is built to be fluid and always on the move and as such whilst I suggest you do invest in a few squads to form a gunline with whatever other static units you have purchased (traditionally Broadsides, though I have a feeling it will be Sniper teams from now on), at least one squad should be advancing up the board in a Devilfish to keep your opponent flat-footed and on the defence.
Even then, when your opponent’s assault units or objective takers move into your half of the table, don’t be afraid to leap your squads forward and abuse that rapid fire range. This edition is a lot more about manoeuvring than prior editions and being timid won’t win you games.
Still, don’t over stretch your mark. Fire warriors are still toughness 3 with a 4+ save so dedicated firepower will bring them down. Keep them protected.
The Tau face a unique challenge this edition. They have to keep up with the big boys and are far more reliant on the army working together as a whole to put them on a competitive edge with the more powerful codices (as it should be!). Through a mixture of caution and bold movement, fire warriors can become a troop choice to be feared and once you master their use, the army will open up its secrets to you and you will become a better player for it too.
See you soon for another Short Tau Tactica.