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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tau Codex Review: Crisis Suits (inc. Commanders)


The article we’ve all been waiting for in this review: Crisis Suits (inc. Commander). Crisis suits are a pretty cheap platform considering what they come with, 2 wounds, 3+ save, jetpack which provides relentless and JSJ, acute senses and an improved statline (though still BS3). The Crisis suit is the backbone of the Tau army and without them, well Tau simply can’t compete in 5th edition. Why? Because each one is capable of putting out 4 medium strength shots on a sturdy platform (T4/W2/3+) which is relentless and can JSJ. The model is also the perfect height to hide behind Tau tanks. You’ll notice I’ve already dictated how the Crisis Suits are set out with plasma rifle and missile pod to gain the number of shots they do. So let’s take a quick look at this so we don’t have to listen to too much raging.

PR/MP/MT is the optimal outfit for your Crisis suits because no other option gives you the point efficiency across multiple targets these suits do. Able to take on tanks, MC, heavy infantry and horde infantry with equal success, these Crisis suits will form the backbone of any Tau army simply because they can and will deal with nearly everything thrown at them. The only other suit option worth considering is the TL-MP layout, either with cheap as chips upgrades such as blacksun filters or flamers or the more expensive upgrade of targeting arrays. Whilst these squads suffer in relative firepower and flexibility to PR/MP suits, they are somewhat cheaper (not significantly though) and are that tiny bit more reliable and better at knocking out transports/MC at range. The main problem with these suits is they still need to be backed up by PR/MP suits to actually down anything they de-mech as other options like Fire Warriors or Stealth suits are woefully impractical and can leave your army lacking in duality or leaves your army lacking in torrenting ability.

The primary reason these suits configurations are the way to go beyond their point efficiency? Range. With JSJ, 24”+ and specifically 36” is exactly what the Crisis suits need to stay in the fight. Every other weapon Crisis have access to are 18" or less and generally not suited for the role of Crisis suits: fire support. Outside of these reasons, nothing else in the Tau armoury can put out such a weight of medium to high strength shots that Crisis Suits can and limiting these shots by going for lower strength/rate of fire guns such as the Burst Cannon or Fusion Gun is counter-intuitive. The forums bash on Tau’s anti-infantry ability enough without players foregoing one of the best units for it (PR/MP suits for the silly).

So, when to use TL-MP over PR/MP and why? Essentially when you can field 5 squads of Crisis or very high point games. Why? Because you can effectively field 2 TL-MP squads to help your Broadsides bust open the mass of transports at this points level and still have the firepower through PR/MP suits to decimate whatever comes out. Remember, TL-MP suffer heavily against infantry so this needs to me made up by PR/MP suits. I will also occasionally use a TL-MP Commander so he is more capable of supporting the army whilst providing Ld buffs to Kroot/PF/Broadsides but the PR/MP suit is still the backbone of any Tau army. Without it they suffer in ability to cope with mech and horde spam.

Before we look at upgrades we’ll take a quick peek at the Commander, which one to take and also the option of Deep Striking. The important difference between the Commanders for Tau armies and their players is their Ld value. Whilst the Shas’O has a better BS and is that much better in combat (i.e. who cares?) the extra pip of Ld can be very important but for point difference, often isn’t worth it except in higher point games. Ld9 is often a great boost to Kroot/PF/Broadsides/Crisis due to the statistics of rolling on 2D6 and whilst Ld10 is better, there are generally better ways to spend your points. Commanders should also come with the obligatory target lock so they can still shoot from whatever unit they are babysitting. You’ll see a lot of forum talk about deepstriking your Crisis suits to overcome their short-ranged weaponry (specifically the fusion blaster), especially in conjunction with a PF devilfish which allows you to re-roll the scatter die. Whilst this makes the unit pretty accurate, you’ve just lost the main reason for Crisis suits: fire support. This option is therefore never, ever recommended simply because you are losing so much firepower when they are not on the board and deep striking gains the long ranged guns barely any advantage as the game progresses.

Suits have a lot of upgrades available to them to either fill their hard points or access from the armoury. Unfortunately the majority of upgrades for the Crisis Suits and specifically the Commander are largely useless. Whilst multi-trackers are a given, Crisis suits as a squad cannot access the armoury outside of the Team Leader and thus can’t take anything else such as Target Locks and Targeting Arrays (both of which are very useful). Bodyguards and Commanders can take these upgrades and when ‘available’ in higher point games where there are more points to spare, are often worth thinking about, especially if they are TL-MP suits backing up your PR/MP suits. What about drones? Cheapish wounds sounds pretty good and generally is but more guns are more important. The old adage for Tau comes back, if you’ve got the points at higher levels, go for them as they make your suits survive longer but at 2000 and less points, get the guns first. Shield generators and the Commander upgrades such as Failsafe detonator, etc. are just a waste of points. Too expensive for a bare minimal gain, if any. And a very important note on equipping Crisis Suits: DON’T TRY AND MAKE A COMPLEX UNIT. Complex units are only good when the unit does not lose efficiency and since Crisis Suit squads do not have access to the armoury for this to happen, they have to swap their weapon load outs which is inefficient. It can be done with Bodyguards but make sure you’re not wasting points or making the unit all over the place.

Well that’s one of the first really good options we’ve looked at for the Tau codex, so what changes are necessary? Firstly, we’ve got to hope GW isn’t going to swing the nerf bat at these guys but considering the general opinion of Tau...maybe not. What Crisis suits therefore need is flexibility and perhaps a minor points drop to bring them in line with the 5th edition codices. So here’s the proposal, outside of new guns all short ranged guns should be moved to XV-9 Hazard suits and Stealth Suits whilst longer ranged guns stay on the Crisis suits (including any new guns). If XV-9 and Stealths also get a reasonable points drop (and Stealths get a 2D6” stealth field) all 3 of these units would become reasonable options as they fulfil different roles. Crisis suits provide long-ranged fire support, Stealths provide mid-ranged fire support and XV-9s provide close fire support (hazardous!) and each of their weapon options and defense systems relates to these roles.

I’ve also toyed with giving Crisis suits the option of allowing two of the same weapon without twin-linking but I don’t fancy a 162 pt, 12 missile unit thanks! However, XV-9’s go against this so you never know, GW might do this but prices would need to be upped rather than downed overall. Puppy and I discussed some options with the XV-9s as well so go back and check out that post!

So let’s hear some thoughts people!

15 pinkments:

VT2 said...

Agree with everything said, but you should have talked a bit more about the various other popular setups, why they're loved by people who don't know any better, and why they're so very bad.

Heretic said...

Pretty good write-up, Kirby. I think you've got a good idea with the uses of suits in a possible new codex, even though I really would hate to see crisis suits sent to the back line when they work well as a mid-line between kroot and broadsides.

While I do use PR/MP suits, out of curiosity, would you say there could be a place for BC/MP suit team, perhaps in lower points where there aren't any 2+ saves?

Kirby said...

@VT2; There are other popular suit configs which aren't disabused by "range is an issue?"

@Heretic; not really. The main bonus of the PR in synergising with the MP is range and even in smaller games you want to hide as far away as possible. Add in the advent of markerlights making anything the MP/PR suit shoots described as: dead.

Heretic said...

Fair enough Kirby. It seems to be a "problem" with the Tau codex: nothing is really all that bad, especially in their role, but is the opportunity cost is more important than the actual cost of the unit.

Chumbalaya said...

If points are tight, the TLMP + flamer or targeting array isn't a bad set up. You eschew plasma in favor of more reliable autocannon shots and save a good chunk of change.

Thud said...

Damnit, Kirby. Your stupid Tau articles have made me dig up my old army and write lists for it. Fortunately I was already awesome back in early 4th edition (which was the last time my Tau saw action) so I don't need to buy much...

Kirby said...

Sorry Thud.

Not many points Chumb, fork out for Plasma more often than not otherwise your anti-infantry falls on its face.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Kirbabay,

You say no to complex units.
I am soon (hopefully) going to play against my brothers BA, so I want to womp him good ;D

How about:
Crisis team leader. 30+32+5 = 67
PR MP mt
Suit 2. 25 + 32 + 5 = 62
PR MP mt
Suit 3. 25 + 42 = 67
tl-PR MP

Output >24" is the same
Output >12" <24" is worse against Armour? a tl MP should be better than a MP and PR - because the PR barely registers against AV. BETTER ;)
Output <12" - hopefully you are shooting at infantry by now. You miss 2 MP shots (which is bad against hordes) but your anti-TEq fire is greater.
Better plasma is better than more MP. If horde (FOOT) is a problem at <12" you are in trouble already ~ lol
Marines, however, can make it <12" what with Jump packs, DS, Transports, etc

I think this is worth 10 pts, for being able to load insta-kill and power-stuff hits onto B'ob.

What do you think?

Brother Loring said...

I would say MP, PR, TA would be better that than twin-linking one of the weapons (you buff both - not one), but I don't think either are as good as PR, MP, MT. The leader can be made 'individual' no problem... it's just the other 2, but if points allow it, you could always go with 3 squads of 2 with 2 HQ. Not ideal, but it gives you the fire power and wound allocation you want.

Up close... you need the extra shots to deal with infantry. You'll be shooting at guys in cover so need the extra shots.

Kirby said...

Found it! Sorry didn't catch this before Wilhelm, saw you asked Stelek this question and said you asked me, too. So my reply: a solid no. You're losing firepower overall and paying more points...pass. If you really want wound allocation on the cheap get a TL and add a Target Lock or BSF or something otherwise if you hit higher point levels you can get TL + Drones to have drones suck up shots & 2 seperate models in the squad. Remember though drones do count for morale tests.

Prometheus said...

SO, I've abandoned Tau a while ago due to various psychic powers, and to a lesser degree various assault from no where powers such Vanguard and Ymmargl Stealers.

Here's the thing, though, you're wrong about Crisis suit loadouts. Life is all about killing MEQs but it's not all about killing rhinos.

Tau don't have much trouble stopping Rhinos. Enough Str 5 shots will do it. I do reccomend having some missile pods around, but the interesting part if killing the MEQs. MEQs who often DS on you, and your missile pods aren't going to matter much.

This where the "fireknife" plasma/fusion comes in. No, you don't use this for killing tanks. You use this for having 3 MEQ killing shots at 12", pt blant range. Then you jump away out of assault range. This is how JSJ gets used. It requires an eye-balling range expert, it requires a Tau player, but it does work great.

In the end I think it's best to do 1/2 plasma/fusion 1/2 with either TL missile pods or yes, plasma missile. That will mostly depend upon the pts you're at.

Kirby said...

Er S5 explodes Rhinos how now?

Missile Pods are the primary gun for a Crisis suit because of the mobility, range and rate of fire you get with them on Crisis Suits. The best weapon to compliment this is a Plasma rifle due to similar range and strength or to twin-link the Missile Pod.

It's not about killing marines or tanks. It's about being able to do both. And my bubble-wrap is going to stop deep-striking Marines from assaulting my actual army the turn they arrive and even with JSJ, deepstriking Marines (i.e. ASM) can still access me if I'm double tapping them with plasma.

Prometheus said...

No, but Str 5 does stun rhinos, immobilize them, etc. Particularly in large numbers.

Not that that's the primary way I do it, either. Point is that Tau just don't have much trouble stopping rhinos. What they have trouble with is stopping large number of MEQs. MCs were also a problem, when godzilla lists were more common.

For this I started using plasma+fusion. It works. It can kill an MC outright. It usually doesn't kill a 10 man MEQ squad, but it can reduce them to the point where they are not a significant threat.

"Bubble wrap" is a concept for IG, tyranids....Tau stay mobile. Kroot if used, are frankly better infiltrating down the board into a forest, and dakkaing the enemy from the side, annoying them, distracting them.

Also keep in mind, certainly not trying to say Missile pods aren't useful. I use missile pods, certainly, though I do think they work better as simple twin-linked. My main issue is you make it sound like Plasma/missile is the most viable, optimum and only sensible choice. I highly disagree.

The two concepts here are "preferred target" and "harmony of range".

From my view, plasma/missile is the most wasteful combination. The unit doesn't really have a preferred engagement range, it wants to fight at both 36" and 24" (and 12") even. It also wants to fire at two different targets....plasma works on rhinos, but not well, they'd rather be firing at a MEQ, TEQ, or MC. Missiles on the other hand are pretty much designed for popping low AV. You have disunity in the same unit, no matter what it does, it wastes some of it's potential.

Plasma/fusion, on the other hand, knows exactly what it wants to be doing......it wants to be 12" away from the enemy (and then 18"), who should preferably be a MEQ, TEQ or even tougher. It does require fine sense of range....and half inches will matter.

I get the feeling that Tau aren't your main army.....but they were my first. That's not to disparage your advice, but it's a comment on style. Tau play completely different than any other army, even eldar, they really have their own psychology. Please don't fall into the trap that just because you couldn't get something to work, that it didn't have a use.

I eventually started playing my GK more (it was space marines base with as many GK as I could fit, at the time. I even have converted GK bikers, and a landspeeder), partly because of lash and such, but mostly because I got much better sportsmanship scores with GK. See, thing is, JSJ pisses people off, and worse, chargers tend to get "careless" with their charges by a good 1/2 inch or so. Tau really need, really care, about that 1/2 inch. So it led to a lot of arguments.

P.S. I also saw you're stealth suit article, think you're completely wrong. Stealths can work wonders....but they require finesse. (also, their new options are better but the new models suck) Conversely, I loved your article in BOLS on GK being about the shooting, not the CC, I couldn't agree more.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

If you can't pop Rhinos, you can't kill Marines. It doesn't matter if you kill Marines like guardsmen, if they are right on top of you or assaulting you.

s5 DOES NOT stop Rhinos. If it did, why aren't Marine lists going around with BolterBacks and Fangs loaded up with HB? They don't because it doesn't work.
Fire Warrior gunline doesn't work, yet they are packing in the s5.

You are telling Tau players that plasma-fusion is go, yet they need to eyeball to 1/2" to avoid getting wiped out in assault? Sounds like bad advice for the majority of Tau players who won't have such mad eyeball skeeyulz. That might work for you, and I'm glad of that, but prescribing that as de rigueur for others to use is hopeful, at best.

It is great that you have found a niche way of playing, but the advice Kirby and Stelek give on Tau *works* for perhaps all the Tau players that have used it.
Do you see the difference?

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Considering s5 is not especially cheap in Tau land, packing heaps of s5 isn't going to happen.

Tau players have had trouble with using Mech Tau and *never* wanted to use Kroot-wrap. After convincing them to give it a go, they love it. They were *converted*
Concepts are not "for armies". If you can get it working in your list, it works in your list. Kroot-wrap works for Tau.

+++

T1: must pop transports
T2: must pop transports
T3+: must kill men

How does the FireKnife not slot into that whole spectrum? It does. My third team is Deathrain, to get them out of their transports and to save points for goodies. But without two FireKnife teams, how am I gonna deal with AV & MEq? I cannot.

How about all those turns the plasma-fusion isn't within 12"? You are wasting it's potential, yes?
Are you condemning the FK for the exact same this plasma-fusion also falls into - not being perfect all the time?

Stealth suits are horrid. A feeble gun on a feeble Suit with feeble defences.

If you can post some batreps against solid players, sure, show us a new way to play. If you play vassal, beatdown Kirby and/or Abusepuppy. Then we'll be listening.

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