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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tau Codex Review: Pathfinders & Markerlights


Pathfinders are the most efficient and effective way to get mass markerlights within the Tau army. Whilst this concentrates your markerlight hits to only a couple of targets (depending how many Pathfinder squads you take), you are much more likely to be able to completely strip cover from a unit and boost BS for a single squad or strip some cover/boost BS for multiple squads targeting that unit. With PR/MP Crisis Suits, Broadsides & Hammerheads w/Railguns, this can reliably remove whole units from the game with a single unit’s worth of shooting. For 12pts each (Marker Drones are 30pts and MLs as upgrades on other squads are generally 10 pts) they are a steal but are limited to only 8 per squad so are pretty easy to torrent away.


They are also very static and whilst Scout (+ a Devilfish) can move them into an appropriate firing position before the game starts, T3/4+ only goes so far and they are a high priority target for your opponent. They also have to take a Devilfish transport, no questions asked. Currently this isn’t too much of a problem as you just stick your mandatory Fire Warriors in it Turn 1 for a mobile scoring tank but this also means the Pathfinders can’t take full advantage of their scout movement and you need to be very careful in placing them during your deployment phase, particularly with only 36” range and not being able to move & shoot. The Rail Rifle option on these guys isn’t really worth it. Whilst S6 AP3 and pinning isn’t too bad, Sniper Drone teams are better options for this type of weapons platform and you’re losing your most efficient source of markerlights (not to mention paying more points to make a unit arguably worse…).

Pathfinders are an indispensible unit for Tau armies between 1500 and 2000 points but you need to insure there are enough guns for your pathfinders to be beneficial throughout the game. If you have too many Pathfinders (i.e. 3 full squads at 1500) you won’t have enough guns to benefit consistently from the markerlight hits. You also have to remember you are paying for the Devilfish with each squad which gets expensive fast and whilst the Devilfish has the extra ability for re-rolling Deep Strikes, Tau don’t need it. Drones are also an option (like most Tau units) but don’t really offer much defensive value compared to taking S8 wounds on Broadsides or Crisis suits. They also certainly don’t need Markerlight drones when they already have markerlights themselves!

So, what about Markerlights. We’ve discussed a bit about markerlights before but let’s take a look at what they do in-depth. Their primary utility is to strip cover saves from opponents and raise your own BS. This augments the already impressive shooting ability of Tau to extraordinary proportions. However, less common uses include lowering Ld for pinning tests and firing seeker missiles. In the light of Tau firepower and the benefit stripping cover saves and raising your BS are much more beneficial. A dead unit is much better than a pinned unit for example. The requirement for markerlight hits are also a big detriment towards seeker missiles as you need two To Hit rolls before you can even roll to see if you’ve damaged a tank. This is simply not efficient and when markerlights are expensive or unwieldy on most platforms, it becomes hard to spread these potential missile hits out (and you don’t want to waste your Pathfinder squads firing seeker missiles).

So, are there any possible changes for Pathfinders or how markerlights operate that I’d like to see? On the whole, not really. Streamlining markerlight uses to make more options useful (i.e. a unit hit by markerlights can automatically be hit by any number of seeker missiles) and spreading them out across the army (see some other review posts in regards to this!). Pathfinders are also pretty solid. Perhaps larger squad sizes (10?) and not having to automatically take Devilfish though giving their Devilfish some innate advantage is still a good idea. Markerlight upgrades akin to Skyrays maybe? Need to keep in mind the potential for Drone Harbinger upgrades as well if they were to come into play. Otherwise a point increase would ‘balance’ these guys more with the addition of some extra protection such as Stealth.

Thoughts in this regard or anything else in relation to markerlights? How are people using their Pathfinders as well? I find the common set-ups are either 2 squads of PF + 1 Piranha squad or 2 squads of Piranhas + 1 squad of PF depending on how many scoring Devilfish individuals want. I prefer 2 squads of Piranhas for the extra blocking ability though if markerlights were spread out more amongst the Tau army, Pathfinders could become a completely different type of army.

13 pinkments:

Chumbalaya said...

I hate seeing Pathfinders. They aren't killy or durable on their own, but they make the rest of the army that much more nasty.

Jackelope King said...

If I had my gumption and GW was hiring me to redo the Tau Codex (yeah right...) Pathfinders are almost in a good place. But as you mentioned, Markerlights should change just a little. Markerlights should be to Tau what Orders are to modern Imperial Guard: force multipliers. I'd honestly like to see Drones become more common as wargear as ways for units to [i]use[/i] Markerlight hits. You'd need a specific drone to get the BS boost, another drone to strip cover for the unit, a different drone to maybe grant a movement bonus or increase your own cover bonus. Burn a markerlight hit to activate a drone, then the benefit depends on the number of markerlight hits that remain.

I think Kirby floated the idea of different HQs being able to contribute markerlight hits as well to reflect using different tactics and commands to help guide the force, which I'd like to see.

As for Pathfinders themselves, I like their place in the Fast Attack slot mechanically, since I'd hate to be forced to choose between them and Broadsides, for instance, but I hate it fluff-wise. They're the most static part of my army. I'd like them to move to Troops or something. I'd also really like to see something like the Forgeworld Tetra showing up as a markerlight-equipped Tau jetbike squad as a fast attack choice, almost entirely as a personal "I love bikes" thing.

AbusePuppy said...

Pathfinders are only static because Markerlights are heavy weapons- it would be really simple to fix that. I can't see them as being anything other than FA or EL, though. (And moving them to Elites wouldn't work unless Crisis or other firepower units got some other options as well.)

Kirb doesn't expound on why Pathfinders have problems above 2K, but the essence of it is that there ends up being enough firepower on the table that they can always direct some at your fragile, fragile little men and try and make them break and run every turn, or direct real guns at them and blow them right off the table. They can be used at high point totals, but they tend to be something of a throwaway by that point in the progression.

I almost always run 2 PF squads and one Piranha squad- at 1.5K sometimes I only have a single PF squad, but only because I don't have the second FW squad to make them useful. Piranha blocking tactics tend to be such that multiple squads of them aren't necessary, as your 4" coherency distance makes it easy to block two or more units.

Mobile Markerlights- via Tetras or elsewise- would be awesome for Tau. SMTs are simply too expensive and fragile for what they do, but AV10 Fast Skimmers with a Markerlight would easily be worth ~40pts each.

Old Shatter Hands said...

I've always felt Pathfinders should have stealth and infiltrate instead of scout. I would also drop the D'fish requirement. That's simply annoying.

I think the rules for markerlights are fine as they are, but seeker missiles need to change (i.e. they need to ignore vehicle obscured cover saves).

I rarely field pathfinders anymore. I find that more guns that do damage are more valuable in the long run of a 6 turn game.

I would suggest putting them in the very back end of your army, instead of up front. In the back, they'll be able to mark things as they get close and this will protect them from shooting for a while longer.

Jackelope King said...

AbusePuppy: I agree with you on the layout of Pathfinders as the Codex is currently written. At 2000 points, my preference is for 2 squads of 6 Pathfinders backed up by 1 squad of 2 Piranhas. A 6-man squad takes just as much firepower to scare of the board as an 8-man squad does and saves you a few points to boot. Plus, at 2000 points and below, I like to have at least 3 Devilfish-chasis tanks on the board to hide my suits behind, and I don't mind having an extra Devilfish around to pick up my Fire Warriors if they get shot out of their first ride.

Kirby said...

"Kirb doesn't expound on why Pathfinders have problems above 2K, but the essence of it is that there ends up being enough firepower on the table that they can always direct some at your fragile, fragile little men and try and make them break and run every turn, or direct real guns at them and blow them right off the table. They can be used at high point totals, but they tend to be something of a throwaway by that point in the progression."

Thanks Puppy, forgot to mention that =p.

Evil-Termite said...

I know that pathfinders are a good unit. There are things about them that are just irritating though and I think they should have some changes for the next codex.

1) They should be troops. They sit in terrain in the back field and fire heavy weapons that require them to stand still. It just seems like they should be able to sit on an hold objectives. Also, it makes sense that the cheapest marker lights available are the ones in the troops section. Other slots can take more expensive markers, but they can also move and shoot them.

2) No more devilfish requirement. It makes no sense to me why they should require a devilfish. Devastator marines aren't required to take a rhino so I don't think pathfinders should be required to take one either.

3) Let me take as many rail rifles as I want. It seems so dumb to me to only be able to take 3 in a squad. They might actually be worth taking if we could take 8 or 10 of them in a squad.

VT2 said...

Something this good, and with this much power, should never be troops.

You can have 10 rifles if you want. They're not bad weapons, really - it's just that you bring the unit as support, not to maybe hurt marines.

Kirby said...

Problem with PF as Troops as a Tau player is they would become the number target for your opponent. It's scoring and effective, done! On the same note though, every Tau player would basically take 4 max squads of PFs + 2x Kroot squads then. Scoring issues solved and more ML fun so if PF were moved to Troops to help with the congestion problems they should lose scout and not gain Stealth or anything else and also get a points hike. Or perhaps make the PF type of unit an 'upgrade' for FW where all squad members can take an ML for +10 pts? Assuming FW's become 7pts that's not too bad.

AbusePuppy said...

Making them troops would be nice, but I don't think it would be worth a points hike AND the loss of Scouts and other problems. Keep in mind that 4x8 PFs and their 'Fish is ~800pts, which means your army's actual firepower is going to be pretty weak- and you haven't even bought blocking units, etc, yet.

17pts for a "Pathfinder" would be a bit pricey if they are still static, I think. Would I take them? I suppose, since there's not many other choices, but that's a LOT for a T3/4+ guy who folds like paper in close combat.

Farmer Geddon said...

Last weekend I used them in a campaign weekend with varying numbers based on points. Despite my completly awful dice rolls, I always had a good target.
I never actually used the scout move or infiltrate, found some cover in the deployment zone and flashlighted for all they could.
I'll never leave home without them!

DavePak said...

They should be troops.
The "something this powerful" has already been done in a number of other codexes (tyranid warriors, genestealers, or the number of "counts as a troop choice if you bring unit X" already allows for very powerful troops).

Also, get them a real transport and make it optional; i.e. land speeder storm version of a small skimmer.

Finally, I get markerlights as heavies...but if tank bustas are assault....whey can't our markerlights be?

Dave Pak

That or

Kirby said...

Agreed with the comments on no mandatory transport but that will go. GW is moving quite heavily away from restrictions and requirements for armies.

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