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June 19, 2013

40K TACTICS: Tau Elites - The Riptide

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Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel  I'm here to talk in detail about our new Codex: Tau Empire.  Lets hit it!

ELITES: The Riptide

XV104 Riptide - The biggest and most impressive model from the new Tau range, the Riptide is a unit that has everyone talking; it has many claims to fame, what with some serious durability, amazing firepower, and some great options that really diversify its role. First up, a Riptide is the first monstrous creature in the codex - the Dawn Blade wielding Farsight doesn't count - and understandably generates quite a few strange looks because of it; such a large unit would understandably be perceived as slow, but the Riptide is anything but. As a Jetpack monstrous creature, it smashes through - or jumps over - terrain with aplomb and without fear of dangerous terrain, unlike its smaller battlesuit compatriots; with access to the same 2D6 inch Jetpack move in the assault phase, the Riptide can perform the same "Jump Shoot Jump" tactics with aplomb, though with less of an impetus on hiding and more on jumping out of range. Given the great range on most of its weapons, this means the Riptide can fire and stay out of harms way from nasty short ranged weaponry - such as Psycannons - and even use its Jetpack move to escape the clutches of mobile assault units at a moments notice. Considering how horrible the Riptide is in combat, this is quite the blessing; with a horrid Weapons Skill and Initiative of two with only three Attacks, the Riptide is unlikely to do much of anything to most units, though its high Strength and Smash special rule - owing to being a monstrous creature - is not without perks, allowing it to kill off a few models here or there or pretty reliably engage most vehicles and destroy them with ease. 

Of course, a Riptide need not engage such targets in melee, and should be kept away from close quarters as much as possible; unlike other monstrous creatures, the Riptide is not Fearless, and thus is very susceptible to Sweeping Advances. Though it has a pretty strong Leadership for a Tau model and is unlikely to lose combat against any enemy that you wouldn't actually mind the Riptide getting close to, the risk is far too great, especially owing to the costly nature of the model and its exceedingly low Initiative - even Necrons are prone to catch you half of the time!

Riptide Weapons
Thankfully, the Riptide is no slouch in the department that matters most to Tau - shooting. It comes with one 'primary' weapon and one 'secondary' weapon - much like the Titans it was designed to engage from a fluff perspective - and both can be fired simultaneously owing both to its (unnecessary) multi-tracker and status as a monstrous creature. The secondary weapon is a free option selected from one of three choices, all of them twin-linked; a smart missile system, a plasma rifle, and a fusion blaster. All three of them have their uses, and a wily player may want to model all three on their Riptide - this is not just possible, it is a good option - though I would likely go with the smart missile system simply because of its range; the Riptide's primary weapons mean it can stay far away from the action and fire without compromise, and you may want to take advantage of that with the secondary weapon system. Of course, it also depends on their role in the army and what you might be lacking; the plasma rifle and fusion blaster are very useful for targeting elite Infantry and vehicles alike, and should be taken accordingly if you have a deficiency in either area. 

My best recommendation is to experiment here, as I feel there is no one weapon that stands above the rest; find the one you prefer and stick with it. As to the primary weapon, the Riptide has two options; it comes stock with the Heavy Burst Cannon, a weapon which fires a whopping eight shots at Strength six, AP four with a tasty thirty-six inch range. Not bad! Given the mediocre Ballistic Skill of the Riptide, and the lack of twin-linking, this is obviously designed to be combined with Markerlight support; use it against light Infantry, such as Eldar Aspect Warriors, and watch as entire units evaporate when you increase your Ballistic Skill and remove their cover saves. It doubles as a decent anti-armour weapon against light vehicles such as Rhinos or Raiders, though it shouldn't be relied upon in that way; it is useful for putting wounds on monstrous creatures though, and when combined with a Skyfire upgrade, it can make Lords of Change, Harpies and the like weep.

The second option here is probably the most popular one so far, especially given it is a measly few tomatoes more; the Ion Accelerator, with its incredible range of seventy inches, its Strength of seven, AP of two and three shots. Though it lacks the mind-numbing rate of fire of the Heavy Burst Cannon, its Strength and AP make it far more threatening to elite Infantry, monstrous creatures and vehicles; again though, it is best combined with Markerlights so that enemies are both denied a save and avoiding some extra hits. The real value of the Ion Accelerator is two-fold though; its range is undeniably amazing, and allows the Riptide to be sat in a corner of the game table and fire across the board with impunity which, given it has Night Vision and can use Markerlight tokens to ignore cover saves, make it an incredible threat to nearly any enemy. That, and it can be over-charged like other Ion weaponry; after a successful gets hot roll, it fires a Strength eight AP two large blast that, at such an incredible range and given it can be combined with Markerlights, is one of the most brutal Infantry-blasting weapons in the entire game. Worried about Paladins or Tactical Marines alike? Vaporise them with this thing. Want to give Tyranid Warriors or hordes of Ork Boyz something to think about? Give them the beating of a life-time with the over-charged Ion Accelerator - given that its range isn't compromised by over-charging it, and that its Strength is so high, it can literally threaten most units in the game short of an AV 13 or higher vehicle and give them the shivers. This is where I feel the Ion Accelerator simply outclasses the Heavy Burst Cannon - it is more useful against vehicles owing to its higher Strength and AP, though it is slightly risky and unreliable unless paired with Markerlights - which the Heavy Burst Cannon also really needs - it threatens Infantry formations of any kind far more, and it will actually give multi-wound units with a Toughness of four a run for their money.

The value of the Ion Accelerator becomes especially apparent when combined with a particular support system option - of which the Riptide can take two - that being the Early Warning Override, providing the Interceptor special rule; given that many armies employ deep-striking units, usually composed of non-vehicle models, an over-charged Ion Accelerator essentially shuts down any kind of deep strike or Outflank play and does so with unflinching brutality. Those Chaos Terminators your buddy loves to send after your expensive vehicles may want to sit up and take notice; the range of the gun is what really defines this, as when one considers the immense size of the Riptide and its Night Vision special rule, there is almost nowhere to hide from its Interceptor shots.

Nova Reactor
So, we can conclude that the Riptide has some serious firepower. But what I haven't discussed yet is one of the Riptide's unique abilities; the Nova Reactor, and particularly how it combines with the weaponry the giant battlesuit carries. The Nova Reactor is essentially the literal form of risk versus reward; at the start of your movement phase, you can elect to activate the Nova Reactor and roll a D6 to see the result; on a +3, you get to pick one of four results, but on anything lower, your Riptide bungs out and takes a wound with no saves allowed. Nasty, and very, very risky. So are the 'Nova-charged' effects worth the risk? The answer is mostly a "no, unless you are desperate or kept the stock gun". One boosts the profile of your primary weapon; the Heavy Burst Cannon gains four additional shots, the Gets Hot rule, and fires Rending rounds, whereas the Ion Accelerator essentially fires its over-charged profile, but adds a point of Strength and gains the Ordnance special rule. Nova-charging the Heavy Burst Cannon is the best way to prove its worth, as Rending helps immensely against vehicles, elite Infantry and monstrous creatures; the downside here is that not only do you risk an easy wound from the Nova Reactor, but twelve shots with Gets Hot is never the best idea, particularly given there are few ways to re-roll to hit outside of employing Shadowsun, lots of Markerlights or Allies. 

The Ion Accelerator doesn't really need to be Nova-charged, though it makes it far more useful against vehicles; Ordnance makes a huge difference here, as does the capability of penetrating AV 14, though you should only really consider this if you are lacking in the anti-tank department elsewhere or really need a certain vehicle(s) taken out early on. The other three results are a bit less direct; one allows you to fire your secondary weapon twice, which is pretty handy although I would argue not worth the risk, and yet another allows the Riptide to make a Jetpack move of 3D6 rather than 2D6, though again I would only use this in desperate situations where you really need to get away from closing enemy forces. The last result grants the Riptide a +3 invulnerable save; given how tough the Riptide is, this is a pretty scary thing to face for enemies that would normally have to rely on lascannons and massed Rending shots to put the Riptide down with any kind of speed, though given it has a one in three chance of actually hurting the Riptide just by trying to use it, I too would only use this when times are dire and the situation calls for it. All in all, you don't need the Nova Reactor as much as you might initially believe; use it if you really need it, but not commonly, as those potential lost wounds can make a big difference when it counts later in the game.

Riptide Tactics
As far as sheer durability is concerned, the Riptide is one of the hardiest units in the game, period. With a Toughness of six making it almost entirely immune to Instant Death by conventional means, an incredible +2 armour save that allows it to laugh off small arms fire and missile launchers alike, a +5 invulnerable save that gives it a handy defence against lascannons and the like when it is moving outside of cover, and five wounds that give it an incredible amount of breathing room, the Riptide is second perhaps only to the Tyrannofex in terms of sheer survival odds; the flux of cover means the latters lack of an invulnerable save is mitigated, though a Riptide can admittedly take a big risk to get a + invulnerable save. Taking a deep breath here, one can also look at the speed of the Riptide and how it can avoid unfavourable engagements with ease; between jumping over terrain and intervening units, ignoring dangerous terrain tests, and moving 2D6 inches in the assault phase in any direction it pleases, the Riptide can - and should - use the high range of its guns to keep out of the line of fire for as long as possible, whilst presenting as much of a target as possible so that enemies waste their mostly ineffective firepower on it; there isn't too much in the game that scares a Riptide. Those that do though include fast moving assault units, or enemies that can exploit its lack of Fearless and cause it to either run off the board or be swept and destroyed; make sure to deploy smartly with the Riptide so that it can soak up some firepower and keep away from such units, and make sure never to forget its assault move. It is impossibly hard to kill compared to most other monstrous creatures, but it is not without fault; particularly in melee, the Riptide will eventually crumble if you aren't cautious with it. 

Equipment Options
Though the option is there and admittedly alluring, I would avoid taking Stimulant Injectors - Feel No Pain - on a Riptide; it is durable enough without them, and their cost is incredibly high, so much so that I feel they aren't worth the investment. From the two support systems that a Riptide can pick, I would recommend the Early Warning Override above all others, particularly when combined with an Ion Accelerator, though the Velocity Tracker is also a handy - but expensive - upgrade that allows the Riptide to add to a Tau armies' incredible Skyfire potential. The Riptide can also take two unique, but costly, drones; shielded missile drones that share the Riptides' Toughness of six, have a +4 invulnerable save, and come with missile pods. Though their firepower is minimal and unreliable, taking a cheap Drone Controller helps here to at least give them some better fire potential; they are intended both to give tough ablative wounds to a Riptide, provide some light fire support - which is humorous given they share the Supporting Fire special rule with the Riptide - and use their higher Initiative to allow the Riptide to escape lost combats without being swept so easily. I would say that though they aren't bad, they are maybe a bit too expensive to justify on a model that already pushes close to or above the two hundred nacho mark.

Overall, Riptides are pretty strong units that are fine additions to a Tau army; they soak up and will draw firepower like no other unit in the army can, and provide some amazing ranged attacks at an incredible range. Their cost, given their abilities, is very much in their favour, and they are versatile and mobile enough that they can engage multiple threats effectively and disengage from any unfavourable encounters at a moments notice. You can throw caution to the wind to empower them to some pretty high levels, and some inexpensive upgrades make them the last word in annihilating reserves before they even have a chance to strike at you. Denying enemy alpha strikes across an entire game board so easily is no mean feat, and given their threat potential against almost any unit and sheer durability, a Riptide is a fantastic option that you should really consider.

Example Builds - A lovely trait of our Elites is that there is no real "right" way to run them; they are versatile for the most part and can cut through enemy units faster than most armies could hope to match.

Riptide w/ ion accelerator, early warning override - 190
Riptide w/ velocity tracker, two shielded missile drones - 240

I hope you found my appraisal of the suits helpful and considerate.  You can read way more about Codex Tau Empire here, and we are open to any and all responses! So what's your go-to Riptide loadout and how are they working for you?
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