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Monday, June 13, 2011

Tau Codex Review: Skyrays


The other ugly step-child of the Tau Heavy Support section, the recent FAQ has given rise to potential use of the Skyray but in the end it still pails in comparison to the Hammerhead and Broadsides which bring the true heavy guns to the game. In the end the Skyray ends up being a utility vehicle providing support to the Tau army. The recent FAQ change has added more potential firepower to the Skyray and made it a 'cheap' AV13 option to support a bunch of Devilfishes but still ends up being an expensive tank that is in Heavy Support and doesn't have a railgun.

Let's look at the Skyray's utility then. As a rule this isn't a bad thing, many armies make great use of utility units which generate an army synergy. Unfortunately as the Tau Codex stands, this utility is based solely around two networked Markerlights and those Markerlights often need to impact heavy weapons (you know like railguns) so having utility in the Heavy Support section is less useful. Add in there are better places for this type of utility (Pathfinder teams currently but if things change Stealth Suits with Markerlights, Makerlight Drones & Drone Squadrons, etc. all have lower opportunity costs in terms of FoC cramping compared to the Skyray).

With it's utility value being of well, minimal value compared to what Tau armies really need to succeed in 5th edition (again, railguns) the Skyray obviously has less applications than we would like. Add in the tank ends up not being that cheap when you add in the cost of the secondary weapon system and any tank upgrades you should purchase (multi-tracker and disruption pod) and it's not a significant amount cheaper than the Hammerhead (40ish points) so can't really be considered a cost saving mechanism. With the recent FAQ at least the Skyray has more offensive punch as the Seeker missiles have been clarified in how they work. This is nice to have but not exactly a huge offensive punch and has limited applicability due to the limited number of missiles (again, lack of offensive punch doesn't offset this unlike say a Manticore).

What this boils down to is the Skyray is limited in application and has large opportunity costs. Whilst the setup of missile and markerlight support on what essentially becomes a mobile and aggressive AV13 platform (less important therefore happier to shove it into your opponent's face/protect the rest of your army) isn't necessarily bad, you are overpaying for it and you do have the large opportunity cost against the Heavy Support units with Railguns. This ultimately makes the Skyray a less than optimal choice but one with plenty of potential in the future. Let's take a look at this now.

The most obvious change as with most of the Tau codex is a price reduction. What I'd also like to see however is the merging of the Hammerhead and Skyray choices much like the old Predator Annihilator and Destructor variants. Rather than having them as separate options include the turret and weapon systems upgrades into one whole AV13 tank which you can 'make' into the different variants. Much like the Predator today. Otherwise the Skyray has to have a unique set of rules to differentiate it from the Hammerhead and regular Seeker missiles as well. Something like a limited use missile salvo where you have a set amount of missiles and you can use more or less as you see fit in any given shooting phase. The more you fire the more inaccurate the missiles are which can of course be modified by markerlights. This raises the offensive presence of the Skyray whilst also offering vehicular based markerlight support. The other option is of course increasing it's utility value. The ability to always shoot the markerlights for example, more markerlights, increased comms ability (leadership bubble based on vehicles?), etc. to off-set the lack of Railguns the choice brings to the table.


As it stands, the Skyray finds itself wanting in terms of the Heavy Support choices the Tau Codex has available. Whilst the unit itself isn't terrible and the recent FAQ certainly raised its offensive potential, the Skyray is primarily a utility vehicle and doesn't do this well enough in comparison to the rest of the codex and ultimately loses out with the lack of Railgun options. In terms of changing the Skyray, unless its merged into the Hammerhead tank, the Skyray needs to offer improved utility options whilst still remaining an offensive threat or have a unique ruleset in terms of weapon profiles to compensate for the lack of a Railgun option.

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