Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tau go to Cancon 2017

Tau go to Cancon 2017

I hope you're sitting down and have a snack ready and possibly an empty bottle, this is one helluva long article... 

It's been run and won, an excellent weekend as always and actually better this year thanks to some amazing air conditioning in the venue to counteract the hundreds of large smelly men in what is essentially a large tin shed in the middle of a desert. Check out these handsome Legions members:

Strangely our Epic Tournament Champion Mick Fair missed the photo but I'm sure someone will fix that with some photoshop magic. 

So the question is how did the Tau fair... 

Well the answer is they went as well as I expected them to, which is about average. I'll save conclusions for the end but I'm generally a pretty solid predictor of builds (especially when I'm running it so I can eliminate that unknown) and just as I knew running Squats at 2016 and Ferals at last year's Castle Assault  would net me some solid results I knew that running Tau represented the proverbial knife at a gunfight. 

Here's my Tau Build for Cancon 2017

4 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit unit, Shas'o Commander, 2 Gun Drones

Shas'el Commander, 5 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit unit, 2 Gun Drones

Shas'el Commander, 5 XV8 Crisis Battlesuit unit, 2 Gun Drones

4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead), Skyray

4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead), Skyray

4 Hammerhead Gunship (Railhead)

3 Pathfinder Tetra, 2 Piranha

3 Pathfinder Tetra, 2 Piranha

2 Barracuda Fighters



TIGER SHARK AX-1-0 [175]
1 Tiger Shark AX-1-0

1 Protector Class Cruiser

So the basic premise of the build as I mentioned in the earlier article is that it's all about maneuverability and striking at critical points. I would say that the plan is good and has a heap of activations to help achieve solid positioning but what I wasn't prepared for was just how softly the Tau would hit anything. The Iconic example would be game 1 against Norto, I had everything set up for an orca strike onto his blitz which would have won the game 2-0 if only I could break a DC3 supremacy suit... A full orca worth of suits landed and couldn't do it... 500 points of troops. And that became a theme I noticed over and again point for point Tau stuff just doesn't hit that hard. Sure you can improve the odds with markerlights but that is seriously hard to coordinate and doesn't tend to last long due to the short range of markerlight formations and the vulnerability that goes with it. Net result then the plan was solid, use support units to snipe, harass and delay until a critical point in the turn where you could exploit a critical spot in the enemy line and achieve something great. It's the same basic plan as many marines and Eldar formations use (or basically anything with flying transports) but without the hammer formations of Terminators or Aspect Warriors I was to learn that my plan just wasn't going to fit with the limitations of the army. Interestingly the other Tau player at this year's Cancon (yes that's TWO more than last year! and the year before...) was running a very different Tau build which sacrificed my speed for much more firepower overall. I'm sorry to say he did a slightly better than me but I was disappointed that he didn't do a lot better given his extensive experience with Tau and IMO a better designed list overall. More on that in the conclusions. 

So here's how the games unfolded
Bear in mind that I wrote these whilst playing so excuse the typing issues and changes of tense as I was writing in the moment but parts of this article have been written in after the weekend was finished! 

Game 1 - Norto - Tau vs Tau 

Norto's Tau list: 
6 Fire Warrior Units, 3 Devilfishes, Cadre Fireblade, Skyray

6 Fire Warrior Units, 3 Devilfishes

4 XV104 Riptides, Shas'o Commander

3 XV104 Riptides, Shas'el Commander

1 KX 139 Ta'unar Supremacy

1 KX 139 Ta'unar Supremacy

1 KX 139 Ta'unar Supremacy

2 Barracuda Fighters

2 Barracuda Fighters

TIGER SHARK AX-1-0 [175]
1 Tiger Shark AX-1-0

2 Sun Shark Bombers

1 Protector Class Cruiser
Weapons: 2 pin point attacks

Many of you will no doubt recognise my spread from one end to the other tactic though to be fair only 1 objective and the enemy Blitz are in the right 1/3 of the table with the rest in the leftmost 1/3 of the table. I asked Norto why so much of his army was deployed away from the objectives and he mentioned being afraid of my early coordinated fire opportunities but you will see how fast big suits can redeploy when needed. 

Turn 1
My tau won initiative and I figured I'd kick off with a spaceship to reduce some of the artillery coming in but managed a single deflected hit and a he second shot. Whoops. 

A bit of mutual barracuda capping was followed by Norto's first artillery unit sniping one of my skyrays on the right. But that was the worst I would cop from arty in turn 1. 

On the left my hammerhead unit advanced to snipe out a devilish and slow the infantry advance. 

A lot of faffing ensues as we work for position with the next point of excitement being Norto bringing on his AX-10 only to have it shot down by my barracudas who were subsequently intercepted by Norto's barracudas but proved too nimble for his fire 

My AX-10 was the final activation trying to pick off a supremacy suit. It survived the barracudas on cap only to hit and inflict 3 wounds of which two bounced off the shields. Invincible! 

Rally phase - planes fly off with no more casualties. The broken supremacy suit rallies. Orcas pick up two units of suits ready for big fun drop time and my tau clear blasties

I make a strong push forwards on my left but conscious of aircraft whilst Norto does the same on the right but concerned about coordinated fire attacks with Tetra support. 

Turn 2 
Norto wins the roll off and starts with a huge push forwards with his riptide suits both doubling forwards but some bad rolls saw them only break a unit of tetras and piranhas 

My return with the AX-10 failed to activate with a sup com re-roll, carrying 2 blasties so fair enough.  

Supremacy artillery would attempt to hit hammerheads but fail to penetrate their armor. Sadly the blast markers would make my hammerheads too scared to activate this turn. Bugger. 

The fails would continue with Norto failing to activate his bombers and me failing to activate a piranha unit. 

The drought is broken temporarily by Norto bringing on a unit of barracudas to break those tetras only to come back 5 seconds later when I tried to activate hammerheads. Sigh

I made a silly move in the middle advancing with hammerheads to snipe off two devil fish only to have the unit hit with more artillery and get the skyray sniped. 

On the right my orca landed with a bunch of suits to take on the riptide bts but sadly their shields were too good bouncing 2/3 of my macro shots. The follow up orca failed to activate...

Rally phase. Planes fly off unmolested thanks to no more skyray and everybody clears blasties 

Sadly my advance on the left was struggling after Norto picked off all the skyrays from the hammerhead units using artillery templates and my bit hit on his BTS on the right fell apart when both the hammerheads shown and the second orca full of suits failed to activate which would have caused a horrendous crossfire situation had it worked. The Tau BTS has no fearless options so this would have been huge had it worked. Bugger. 

Turn 3
Norto wins initiative quite safely and brings on the pain. 

Riptides advance and kill 3/4 of the central hammerhead unit with macro death. The other unit triples across the board to contest the central objectives. 

My AX-10 comes on only to miss with its shot against the riptide BTS. 

Sun sharks return the favor bombing my hammerheads on the left but failing to hit. Whilst my hammerheads on the right fail to activate again. 

Norto brings on some barracudas which kill two of my remaining central hammerheads breaking the unit. 

 The middle part of the turn is lots of maneuvering for position again as we both work out how we can win this turn. I watch my own chances diminish with more failed activations. Clutching at straws here!

Norto has a solid objective in the bag and I'm attempting to stop a second at this point. 

My big grab would be a hold the line and blitz grab with an orca. Sadly the orca full of macro death didn't break the supremacy suit so that bid failed. 

The left flank is crumbling to overwhelming enemy firepower from arty, planes and riptides but note he is still not particularly threatening to the objectives yet. Sadly my big push onto the blitz fails when they couldn't break that suit and this shot shows the first activation of Turn 4 where the infantry would surround and crossfire said suits into oblivion. 

Turn 4 

I win initiative and bring on the AX-10 which fails to activate but passes with a re-roll. It manages to do noting to the BTS due to deflector shields being awesome again. 

Thus begins Norto's great mopping up operation. My gamble had failed and it was now all about how many points he would have. My BTS attackers were surrounded by tau infantry and shot to pieces. And the riptide follow up cleaned up the perky tetras. 

Most of my units move into defensible positions and try not to die. 

Norto would use his superior firepower to break and then destroy my BTS formation to secure a tight 2-0 win. 

My BTS is broken and then destroyed by overwhelming Tau air power in Turn 4 leaving the blitz wide open but an unlucky activation roll by Norto means he can't quite grab it. he clearly controls the centre though as I just don't have the hitting power left to stop his riptides and infantry surging forward onto the central objectives. 

Observations - overall I wasn't surprised by the result, I felt going in that Norto's Tau was a stronger list and when the spaceship didn't do damage I knew I'd be struggling. 

That said I had a chance to win in turn 3 if the orca worth of suits could break the supremacy suit but it didn't happen. To me this was iconic tau which to me just don't punch hard enough for their points, and a lack of decent engage options isn't any way balanced by the tau shooting which just isn't that great compared to some armies. 

Norto's heavy suit army certainly has more guns but I still felt the same, for the points of his riptide units they still don't hit hard enough in my mind, tough the supremacy suits add some nice options and I'm glad they are there. Norto had complete air superiority in turn 3 but still didn't hit too hard. We actually discussed post game that I could have even stopped Norto's 2-0 win by dropping down an orca to contest an objective which meant he would only have won on points count back. 

Tau I feel need a hammer unit, something like terminators or shining spears that can do big damage if you set it up right, this game really demonstrated that hole in the tau list. 

I'll be really interested to see how Norto goes with the rest of the weekend, his army is really testing the aspects of Voirla that I'm not so it should be great data in terms of recognising the position of Tau in relation to the rest of the armies here. 

Game 2 - Chris Couch - Space Marines 

One cool aspect of Chris marines is they were put together on a 3D printer, that level of ingenuity is fantastic. 


Chris' Codex Astartes List

Devastator Detachment 425pts
4 Devastators
Supreme Commander 

Terminator Detachment 400pts
4 Terminators

Thunderhawk 200pts

Predator Detachment 300pts
Annihilator 4x

Predator Detachment 325pts
Annihilator 4x

Land Speeder Detachment 200pts
Landspeeder 5x

Land Speeder Detachment 200pts
Landspeeder 5x

Scout Detachment 150pts
4 Scouts

Predator Detachment 300pts
Annihilator 4x

Warhound Pack 500pts 
2 x Warhounds

A strong concentration of space marines ready to surge around the donut of death to grab their two forward objectives while the Tau position themselves to harrass that advance and secure their own forward objectives on the left. 

Turn 1 
Marines won initiative and gave it to the tau. 

I started super cagey because I was worried about the thunderhawk full of terminator death (though it turned out they were teleporting in so I needn't have worried) so my sup com unit went on overwatch. My other suit units advanced quietly ready to get collected by orcas. While my barracudas went on cap. 

Chris's marines began a full advance across the board. Ready to bring the emperors justice. 

My big play for this turn was to try and take out the warhounds. All of the hammerheads doing a move and shoot action managed to drop 2 shields, the ax10 missed but luckily the spaceship killed a warhound. Woot. 

Everything rallied away blasties and the broken warhounds rallied. 


Turn 2 

Marine terminators teleport down next to my BtS/Blitz. The overwatch fire supported by the markerlight killed all 4 of them in an amazing display of tau marksmanship, or just shocking marine armour saves. Phew. 

Marines continue their advance into the security of the central donut whilst tau attempt to plink away at their superior numbers. Hammerheads squared off against the predators but lance is very situational here and so they did little real damage. Even markerlight combos didn't increase the damage output much. 

The donut of death (photo) would earn its reputation this turn as the marines sheltering in it were beset by double orca attacks. The first would wipe the land speeders though mostly AP damage but the second would only kill a single predator. 


Rally phase - everything flew off and rallied well. Marine predators in the middle being the only unit that failed. 

Turn 3 

Tau win initiative and go for it. Tetras move up to markerlight the predators in the cauldron of death giving the crisis suits a second chance to kill them, they managed to kill 2 with 5 macro shots. Sucks. 

Marines demand revenge and the predator destructors sustain on the tetra unit wiping them from the board! 

The warhound retained for an advance and wiped out a unit of hammerheads on my right flank. Only to lose its shields and a hull point to a sustaining unit of hammerheads. 

The marines quickly ran out of activations at this point with the tau having a lead of at least 6 allowing them to control the pace of the turn very effectively. 

The AX-10 did its job finishing off the warhound BTS and a tetra unit took captured the two leftmost objectives for take and hold. 2-0 to the Tau. 

Thoughts overall - Chris was a new player to competitive epic and in my opinion was running a very soft list. Having a BTS as two warhounds was a real gift to me which is the main reason I managed to kill it. His blitz by contrast with a full unit of marines with transports and hunter felt basically untouchable and after I used my drop to stop the marine advance in the middle it was. Same can be said of the capture the flag objectives and of course trying to keep the marines out of my half. Ultimately I felt I had enough guns to focus on a couple of objectives only but the idea of a bigger VC win just wasn't on the cards. The numbers and blast marker resilience of the marines was almost enough to keep me out till turn 4. 

Game 3 - Lucas - Gargant Big Mob

Lucas' Gargant Big Mob
Great Gargant 900
(Weapons 2 Deth Kannons and 1 Grot Guided Missiles)
(Kustom Upgrade Extra Power fields)
(Mekboy Big Boss)

Gargant 675
(Weapons, Supa Zzap Gun and 2 Soopa Guns)
(Kustom Upgrades, Transporta and Flakka Dakka

Gargant 650
(Weapons, 2 Soopa Guns and a Ripper Fist)
(Kustom Upgrades, Transporta and Flakka Dakka)

Killa Kan Mob 150
Killa Kan Mob 150
Loota Warband 150
Loota Warband 150
Bommer 175

My objective placement this time was very important and the goal was to spread them out as much as possible and hopefully make it super hard for the gargants to control the field. Orks did a very predictable deployment with a tight triangle focussed on his blitz allowing them to control those ones a bit more easily. The final result (photo) was using the 2/3 of the deployment zone that the gargants weren't opposite too and wondering how the hell they were going to take down these giant machines! 


Turn 1 
Tau win inititiative but let the orks go first because I'm lacking in ideas other than try to wait out the activation count and then do lots at the end when the orks can't shoot back. 

Ork advance begins with the loota warband advancing up whilst the blitz gaurd unit goes on overatch. 

Tau operation stall for time saw lots of shuffling, overwatching, barracudas on cap and general faffing around. 

The Rippa fist gargant. Charged towards the ork objectives whilst the zap gun gargant also barrelled forwards. The Great Gargant remained ominously patient. Finally it charged forwards and wiped out two tetras who weren't hidden well enough. 

Faffing around finished at the same time as orks ran out of activations with a surge forward of hammerheads against the left most gargant. After the blasting cleared it was broken and with 3DC left. I also pulled off a big infantry kill at the end of the turn with an orca worth of suits wiping the junker mob in the middle before being picked up by the other orca for another run next turn. 

Rally phase - tetras failed to rally but the broken gargant came back and we got ready for more melty death. The Great Gargant which had started a fire with an aggressive advance move put it out again... boo

Turn 2 
Tau win initiative and seek to finish off the rallied gargant but the hammerheads all miss and the ax10 retain manages a single wound. Not even broken. Damn. 

Heavily wounded gargant doubles up but it's shots are shaky and go awry of the hammerheads. 

Tau would keep the party going by rolling up another 4 lance shots to finish off the seriously hurt gargant. 

Great Gargant did a single move and blasted 3 of the hammerheads apart with macro death cannons 

Tau had run out of useful things to do so restarted operation faffing around hoping for a good drop opportunity at the end of the turn. The BTS suits advanced triple to secure the forward tau objectives. 

End of the turn sees my orcas do the drop off pick up activity again to blast the looted on the ork blitz breaking them but with 2 alive. 

my tetras and hammerheads fail to rally but the aircraft fly off safely. Orks on the blitz rallied, damn! 

Turn 3 
Tau win initiative and kick off with a failed activation by the barracudas I was hoping would deal with the blitz for me. The orks followed this with a bomba which did activate only to take a critical from a skyray and fall out of the sky. 

Tau hammerheads began operation soften up on the remaining Gargant stripping 2 shields with their lances, followed by 2 more from the next unit. 

The tetras zoom in to bravely light it up and drop a missile taking another shield down.

The Great Gargant announced its displeasure by sustaining on a unit of 4 hammerheads deleting 3 of them. 

Tau suits in the middle advance to add fire stripping another 2 shields on the smaller Gargant reducing it to a single active shield. Sadly at this point it rallied away all its blast markers making it a bugger to break now. In the end I also hit it with a spaceship and an ax10 reducing it to 3 hull and breaking it but it didn't have a real impact on the game. The Great Gargant remained untouched. 

Tau would take the game 2-0 in the end by grabbing the blitz with an orca full of suits and the sup com holding the take and hold objectives which were never contested. The orks were still very strong on their own take and hold objectives but a single tetra prevented him from getting the final point. 

Conclusions - this game was determined entirely by activations and flying flexibility. Those double orcas managed to pick off units every turn and secured the blitz whilst dancing around the ork flak options, I think that ork ground flak is really disappointing since it went to 30cm. 

The turn basically played out with me doing little of importance till the orks ran out of activations then jumping in and smashing a target whilst trying to avoid the range of the rest. It worked to some degree with the bonus being that the orks kept having to advance away from their blitz leaving it very vulnerable. My opponent is a long runnnig veteran player in this case and I can totally sympathise with the futility my opponent must have been feeling. 

Game 4 - Ben Harris - Iyanden 

Ben's Iyanden List
Avatar [0pts]
Wraith Gate [50pts]
Spirit Wraithguard Warhost c/w 4 Wraithguard, 4 Wave Serpents, +Wraithseer [575pts]
Spirit Wraithguard Warhost c/w 4 Wraithguard and Spiritseer [275pts]
Spirit Wraithlord Warhost c/w 6 Wraithlord and Spiritseer [350pts]
Guardian Troupe c/w 5 Guardians, 1 Farseer, 2 Hvy Wpn Platforms, +3 Wraithguard [300pts]
Guardian Troupe c/w 5 Guardians, 1 Farseer, 2 Hvy Wpn Platforms, +3 Wraithguard [300pts]
Swords of Vaul Troupe c/w 3 Fire Prism, 2 Fire Storm [295pts]
Swords of Vaul Troup c/w 3 Falcons, 2 Fire Storm [250pts]
Aspect Warrior Troupe c/w 4 Swooping Hawk, +Exarch [200pts]
Aspect Warrior Troupe c/w 4 Swooping Hawk, +Exarch [200pts]
Vampire Raider [200pts]

Deployment - Iyanden deploy in a tight corner but most of their models are panning to teleport or drop in via wraithgate or vampire. So the lack of models is deceptive. My BTS crisis suits have never felt more vulnerable either so they decided to fly around in the sky today. 


Turn 1 
Eldar win initiative and kick it off with an engage by the swooping hawks who have just teleported in (no blasties), they engage the tetras in the front and wipe them out decisively. 

The other tetra unit, incensed at the loss of their friends move forward to blast them away, sadly they were tetras so little blasting occurred and the swooping Hawks took only a blast marker. 

Some gaurdians were the next to go, advancing up on an objective followed by hammerheads failing to activate. And a unit of fire prisms would triple down my flank. 

My suits on ground advanced and with markerlight support. Wiped out the swooping hawks. 

We then switched to air engagements with the vampire attempting an engage and failing followed by the barracudas attempting to go on cap (better late than never) but failing that too. 

Gaurdians attempting to double out of the webway portal found it locked and stayed inside whilst the much more reliable supreme commander would charge out to the flank. 

Mr AX10 decided to prove his worth driving through a storm of flak (4hits from 4 shots on 5s followed by 4 armour saves!) to obliterate one of the eldar sup com units with a TK shot. 

The second unit of falcons doubled over to cover the ax10 with a flak bubble but were removed by a doubling unit of hammerheads which brought a skyray with them and gave the spaceship something to shoot at. 

Rally phase - most things that got hit got wiped out so this was quick. The sup com unit cleared its blasties easily enough and that was it. 


Turn 2 
More swooping hawks elected to teleport in. Taking a blast marker this time.  
The vampire full of death dropped in too surviving the flak and overwatch lance shots from hammerheads so the engagements were on big time. In a fairly one sided battle the suit unit  were reduced to a single survivor but I was proud of them taking down a base worth of the enemy. 

Barracudas then attempted to clear out the swooping hawks but couldn't inflict the casualty needed even with the markerlights. 

More engagements followed with the sup com unit jumping out of their transports to engage the hammerheads in the middle. But in a real twist of weirdness the hammerheads took a single casualty and fought off the eldar BTS! 

Those same hammerheads were too shaken though to activate afterwards and would instead sit until the fire prisms decided to blast them. They wouldn't have to wait long! Luckily 3 got away with simply being broken. 

The Tau Sup Com descended from the clouds to melt the wraithgaurd that had come out of the vampire to death only to watch a pile of gaurdians and more wraithgsurd advance up out of the webway gate to continue to threaten the blitz. The horde would not stop! 

In response the second orca dropped down behind that unit to catch them in a crossfire killing many and breaking the remainder. (Photo). It wouldn't be all good news though, there was still some heavy treads sounding in the webway...  

Rally phase - all Tau aircraft flew off their own section of the board and took no flak. The eldar sup com unit rallied. As did the unit I cross fired. Damn.  Luckily both of my units rallied so no one had anything broken in this turn! 

Turn 3 
The avatar elected to stay off the board which  was a good idea given that I'd sniped every farseer who was vaguely close to my forces. 

Eldar win initiative again (actually it was 3 sets of 6 and 1 so not really that close!) and kick off with an engage from the gaurdians/wraithgaurd unit onto my BTS suits but fluffed horribly killing 1 and losing the combat on roll off thanks to blasties etc. That same suit unit would follow up by shooting the swooping hawks to death and sending the remainders running. 

Eldar were running low on activations so tau would begin operation stall for time again to see what they could achieve. 

Eldar falcons fell back towards the thin board edge to control their objective. And barracudas fly in to put a blastie on the eldar sup com. 

Wraithlords come from the webway to discover they are too late and hide behind terrain.  

Tetras light them up with markerlights but 2/3 units of hammerheads fail to activate and capitalise on this. The ax10 kills 1 and hammerheads kill 1 breaking the unit. 

Rally phase - Wraithlords fail to rally, everything else clears blasties 

Turn 4 
Eldar win again but at least it was closer! 

Gaurdians unit and supreme commander go on overwatch. As do the fire prisms. And the eldar are out of activations. 

Tau have a hard look at the table. The broken wraithlords can't stop me taking take and hold so I've got that down pat. There are two options then, a guardian unit on overwatch which if broken gives me the blitz. Or the bts formation of 2 wraithgaurd which if killed gives me BTS and they shall not pass. I went the bigger gamble and took on the BTS with an orca worth of suits killing one suit and the champion AX10 flying on to kill the sup com and take the two objectives. Woot 3-0 Tau and their biggest win so far. 

Game 5 - Mick Fair with Biel tan 

Mick's Cancon Winning Eldar Army
Avatar [0pts]
Aspect Warrior Warhost c/w 8 Shining Spear, +Exarch, +Autarch [400pts]
Aspect Warrior Warhost c/w 8 Shining Spear, +Exarch, +Exarch [350pts]
Guardian Warhost c/w 5 Guardians, 1 Farseer, 2 Hvy Wpn Platform [150pts]
Guardian Warhost c/w 5 Guardians, 1 Farseer, 2 Hvy Wpn Platform [150pts]
Ranger Troupe c/w 4 Rangers, +1 Ranger [125pts]
Ranger Troupe c/w 4 Rangers [100pts]
Swords of Vaul c/w 3 Falcon, 2 Firestorm [250pts]
Swords of Vaul c/w 3 Falcon, 2 Firestorm [250pts]
Night Spinner Troupe c/w 3 Night Spinners [175pts]
Engine of Vaul c/w 1 Scorpion [250pts]
Engine of Vaul c/w 1 Scorpion [250pts]
Engine of Vaul c/w 1 Void Spinner [275pts]
Engine of Vaul c/w 1 Void Spinner [275pts]

Context - Mick was currently winning the tournament, he was eight points ahead of me and six ahead of second plane. So on this system that means that any sort of win will guarantee him a top podium finish including a victory points win. That fact more than anything will drive what I'm expecting will be a super cagey game dominated by sniping and artillery bombardments. Let's see how my prediction plays out. 

Deployment was super cagey on both sides but a clear reflection of the corners and wanting to stay away from artillery barrages (photo)

Turn 1 
Eldar win initiative and give it to the tau 

Tau spaceship comes on to take out two of the big war engines... it does a damage in a voidspinner and missed the second shot because the target was in terrain. Doh. 
Eldar Voidspinner activates to clear the blast marker followed by Tau tetras shuffling sideways to stay out of death range. 

The rest of the turn involves lots of stalling, Eldar gaurdians shuffling around, orcas picking up troops, suits shuffling into the orcas, Eldar scouts on overwatch. Tau BTS on overwatch, Eldar Falcons carefully advancing to keep their AA bubble covering as much as possible. 

Some highlights did include the hammerheads doubling forward to snipe out and break 2 falcons. They enjoyed it for about 4 seconds till they were taken out by a void spinners. The second unit would also do the same to snipe out the other falcons but couldn't match the achievement and the 3rd unit lost the only guy who could reach with a failed terrain test. 

The AX10 would attempt to come on late in the turn to snipe a  scorpion but couldn't find his target amongst the trees. Nor could the barracudas who zoomed in to try and pick off the night spinners. 

Eldar didn't achieve much else, a few failed activation rolls due to blast markers meant casualties were relatively light. 

Rally phase - Barracudas and ax10 both survived flak to escape the board trailing a blast marker. And the other units shed blast markers. Eldar falcons rallied and the rest shed blast markers. 

Turn 2 
Tau win initiative and use the central hammerhead formation to attack a scorpion, they lose one in the terrain and manage to whiff the roll completely. 

Eldar kick off with a voidspinner who bomb the hammerheads who just rallied but couldn't land a hit. Followed by a scorpion who couldn't land a shot. These trees were made of some serious shit. 

Tau would respond with 3 hammerheads who would move into the middle of the table and pick off a scorpion with their lances. 

Void spinner responded by breaking the hammerhead unit in my deployment zone which fell back out artillery range. 

Tau orca came down onto the eldar objectives on my left breaking the gaurdians there after killing 5. 

The eldar response was swift with a redeployment of the falcons with flak bubble in tow killing 2 hammerheads after a double move, breaking the formation. 

The second orca Flew through the flak bubble (taking a dc) to attack the falcons killing 2 with macro and breaking them. 

With the orca threat spent the eldar feel more brave, shining spears engaging my hammerheads in the middle and wiping them from the board for the loss of a single spear. 

My BTS decided to abandon the blitz and advance on the take and hold objectives 

Eldar night spinners bombed the crisis suits that had hopped out of the orca in the middle and half were wiped, the rest broken. 

AX10 was tasked with silencing a scorpion in the open but nothing but wiff ensued. 

Some eldar scouts came out of the woods in the middle of the board so the tetras decided to double up and blast them with some baracudda support killing 2 and breaking the formation. 

Sadly the Tau fun finished here with the end of our activations so it was all eldar. They kicked off with a failed activate by falcons who advanced to the middle of the board, some rangers advanced triple towards the eldar take and hold objectives and the gaurdians on my right advanced to secure the other set of objectives. 

Rally phase - Eldar flak proved too effective shooting down both barracudas and an empty orca with the unbroken falcons. 


All eldar formations rallied and cleared blasties except for the falcons on the eldar blitz and all tau formations did the same except for the hammerheads who fell back to be a soft wall around the blitz. 

Turn 3 
The avatar pops into existence next to my BTS/Sup Com and the objectives I placed 

Eldar win initiative on a tied roll. 
Gaurdians kick off the turn by engaging the tetras next to my sup com unit wiping them out and consolidating to grab the objectives. Avatar retains to engage the sup com unit and intermingle the last hammerhead wiping both formations from the board. Not bad for a free unit. 

The third activation would be the shining spears who engaged the remaining tetra formation wiping them out. 

The AX-10 zoomed onto the board slaughtering the scorpion it had struggled to land a hit on all game, so satisfying. 

Void spinner no 1 responds by bombarding the suit formation holding one of the eldar objectives on my left breaking them with disrupt. 

The other suit formation would advance slightly to shoot the scouts who were contesting those objectives killing them off before falling back on the objective. 

Void spinner no 2 bombards the suit unit killing none but dropping a couple of blasties. The night spinners would follow up with the same trick dropping 3 more blasties. The unit was broken in the end by rangers who advanced and snipered a suit away and the objective was captured by the falcons who zoomed in at the last 

So a tight finish with the eldar scooping it up for a 2-0 win with take and hold and BTS. The eldar would kill 2625 points worth of tau for the loss of 750. 

Conclusions - I was under no illusion at the outset of this game, it was the army I picked as the winner of the comp in my first article and far enough ahead on points that the result was essentially a foregone conclusion. My feeling as well is that Tau are seriously outmatched in this pairing, even if my spaceship had somehow taken out the voidspinners which had secure positions in area terrain I didn't have much of an answer for the scorpions who could easily break the hammerhead formations with their double macro sniping or the various engagement options eldar bring. Just look at how easily the suit formation BTS was destroyed by the avatar and there was no real defence against that. At the end of 2 the gaurdians advanced after I was out of activations, summon the avatar automatically, engages automatically etc. 

Sidebar - got distracted at this point so I could go and see the biggest engagement I've ever seen. (Photo) 


So overall a great weekend and great opponents all the way through. I absolutely recommend to anyone who plays epic to get out and have a crack at the next comp that comes near you. It's a great opportunity to find new opponents and see armies outside of your comfort zone. 

My feeling for a long time has been that tau are pretty underpowered compared to most lists and trying them out at a competitive setting just reinforced that for me. I like the theme of the army and I can see what the designers were intending but an army that doesn't have any real engage options just isn't competitive in epic where so many games come down to a big important engage. Their shooting isn't enough to compensate for this lack of engage and frankly isn't that impressive anyway. Every game I felt like I was pushing hard for every minor advantage and if you look at my results the 3 wins were all against armies that I classified prior to the comp as being fairly sub par in terms of optimised tournament lists. The only two players I went up against whose lists I rated as good beat me 2-0 and if I'm being honest only the game against Norto's Tau in round 1 felt like I had a chance to win it, I was totally outclassed by the Eldar. 

I love what Matt shadowlord has done trying to make Tau more competitive and in hindsight I feel like a jerk for questioning the power level of one of his earlier additions. In my mind Tau still have a long way to go before they will be a competitive list and as we watch tournament after tournament come and go with either no Tau in attendance or with the 1-2 armies that come achieving little I hope the Net Epic ACs are paying attention.  

Apart from a boost to engage one other thing I'd love to see in Tau is a more intuitive markerlight option. Having them on skyrays is counterintuitive most of the time because you don't want your hammerheads up close and personal and with the other options being squishy pathfinders or even more squishy tetras you are struggling. The 30cm range means that you are exposing that unit to stupidly high risks against a unit that must be dangerous or you wouldn't be bothering and then they need to stay alive through a succession of activations as you attempt to take advantage. Something like a markerlight drone for 25pts or a suit with a markerlight option would be far more practical and actually help Tau become the shooting force they are supposed to be. It would still be risky to use given the short range but perhaps worth the effort. 

The other thing I was paying attention to was a Norto with his Tau force, in my mind his list was a little stronger and more flexible than mine and he is a far more experienced Tau player than me. His results though were pretty comparable, 3 wins, 1 draw, one loss against my 3 wins, 2 losses. I was hoping that with Norto running a very different build to me and being the stronger general it might reflect that the issue was on my end but his final position being comparable to mine (7th) just reinforces in my mind that there really are no Tau builds that are on par with the top builds for many other factions. 

If you happen to know a magic secret to Tau that actually works I'd love to hear it so share your thoughts or if you think I'm dead  by all means share your commiserations and let us know your experiences. For me I'll try a few more alternative versions of the build and finish up the painting, tactics article coming too, but I won't be taking a Tau to another comp until some sort of serious revision is done. 

Signing out, thanks for reading. 


  1. shit yeah good read steve. like u said at cancon im getting famous on your blog.

    I do feel the same with the tau. Viorla is defs better then the standard tau. but still cant compete against some of the strong builds.

  2. My regular opponent uses Tau (epicUK list mind you) and he swears by putting skyrays in his fusion head formations. They regularly hit like a tonne of bricks against my Guard. Personally I feel that if you make Tau shooting too powerful without coordinating with markerlights would make them too powerful. I feel that that coordination is important to stop them simply blasting everyone to kingdom come without having to think about it. We see the Tau as a "puzzle list" where if you can use the right things in the right combos they're very strong but not as strong when working independently.

    Thanks for the write up it was a good read

    1. Interesting idea in the fusion head formation and I reckon that's largely a reflection of meta. One key difference between EpicUK and Aus is that Uk plays terrain as infinately high which gives a much more closed board for shooting purposes and favours assault and short range attacks in ways we don't see in Aus. That unit would be great in that context but if you look over the tables and games I played I would argue that the fusionheads would be useless on that fairly open desert table I played on twice (once against gargants) whilst being solid against the marines and the Iyanden on their respective tables. Against the Edlar its doubtful they could have closed to do anything useful regardless of the table because of the tripple disrupt artilery and the shining spears who can engage as far as the fusionheads could move+shoot. Still I can see how a more agressive hammerhead formation would be a good delivery system for a markerlight and I'll have to give it a go.

  3. Hey Steve,

    Firstly, I enjoyed the write up and reviews. Thank you for posting these.

    Secondly, re list/skimmers/engage...
    I have previously read your strategy article re marines (what's useful and what's not), and in that context the list is, as you say, a very soft list.

    The list was intended to focus more on skimmer shooting given the (probable) prevalence of eldar (and tau).
    Tournament versatility aside (i.e. make it general as i'm not JUST fighting eldar/tau) what would you suggest for countering a skimmer heavy army?

    Terminators might be devastating against guard infantry or even a tank unit but fighting skimmers turns 4xRegular + 4xMacro CC into 4xRegular FF.
    Mightn't seem like much, but to remove the single most appealing advantage of a 300pt unit is pretty rough. Otherwise you might as well send 2x assault marines for half the cost (armour is the same, movement is double, points are halved).

    On a slightly different point most other factions allow expansions on their units, i.e. Guard Tanks add more tanks for x Points, Eldar Guardians add more sticks for y Points. Marines don't have those expansion options which seem to aid Engage actions immensely when available. What would you recommend to even those odds? Just Engage later in the game after thinning enemy numbers?

    Thirdly, I ran the warhound pair partially to increase the BM breaking point. 1 warhound breaks after taking a single damage point. By contrast 2 warhounds needs one of the pair to be fully destroyed before the unit breaks.

    As you said it would have been helpful to not have the Warhounds as the BTS though. Most of my planning was based on the devestators/tactical being the BTS not the warhounds and i'm rewriting the list with that in mind. That said, the Warhounds weren't destroyed on any other games and they were definitely thrown into fray every time.

    Lastly, I actually forgot an entire squad of land speeders for the entire tournament, not that it would probably made that much difference. Live and learn.

    Thanks for your patience during the game. It was very educational (as was the whole event) and any advice would be more than welcome.


    1. Hi Chris, glad you enjoyed the read and our game, it was definitely one of the more dramatic ones I had.

      If you're after list building tips for marines I'd suggest checking out my article about marine list building! I'm no great expert on them but the builds at the bottom of the article come from excellent marine players (including our current Cancon Champion). I reckon that a good balance of shooting and engagement options with double thunderhawks is the best generic marine build out there unless you want to try for the lander shenanigans option which tends to be high risk high reward. You are right though about the issue of skimmers and I don't have a solution for you against Eldar. In my mind Eldar and generic marines just aren't in the same league, if your opponent is as clever as you and their list is maximising the potential of Eldar I'd wager they will win 9/10 games (the 10th being luck...) The powers that be in the Epic community still haven't woken up to this imbalance yet though so we will all just carry on until they do!

  4. Cheers Steve for the write up of Cancon. I was trying to see how you and norto went as I have plans of tau for Briscon. After reading your article, I'm rethinking my plans but hopefully I can still get them done in time. Shame the basic suits can't get marker lights, when it's fairly easy for them by 40K rules to take them..

  5. Does Norto have pictures of his Tau online anywhere? I'd love to take a closer look at how he modeled his supremacy suits up using the onslaught miniatures. It looks like a relatively simple addition of some railgun bits but additional pictures would be great if available somewhere. Thanks!