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July 3, 2013

40K TACTICS: Tau Fast Attack - The Flyers

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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!


Our Fast Attack slot has notably been the source of Markerlight and light fire support with little durability for many editions running, and little has changed; if you want to "light up" targets and provide bonuses to other firing units, this is the place to go to first. These units perform such roles better than ever, but new potential upgrades and weapon options mean that such teams can be used in an altogether different capacity, that of providing heavy firepower for a minimal cost in a similar way to Devastators and Havocs from Space Marines codices. With the addition of two distinct fliers and some needed re-balances to existing units, the Fast Attack section is stronger than ever and deserves to be filled up to provide your army with the much needed Markerlights to function effectively; that, and more firepower never hurts in a Tau army!

Sun Shark Bomber - As one of two entirely new flyer units to the Tau force, Sun Shark Bombers - at first glance - appear to follow the trend of the Dark Angels flyers as 'balanced', but perhaps slightly over-costed units that definitely don't compare favourably to the new edition's chief of the skies, the Heldrake. But enough of that; the Sun Shark enters the game as one of the stronger bombers that can be found, with its titular weapon one of the more reliable and quantifiable that can be found. Whilst a Strength five AP five large blast might seem a bit weak when one considers much stronger large blast weapons can be found sparsely throughout the codex - with the Riptide and Hammerhead proving particularly effective - the maneuverability and sheer speed of a flyer means that this is perhaps a more reliable weapon, albeit one that effectively has a thirty-six inch range and relies upon turning and the like. Unlike other bombers, the Sun Shark can potentially drop six bombs throughout a match; though it is one use only. a D6 is rolled for each time one is dropped, with any roll but a one generating yet another bomb to use in the next turn. Unless your dice aren't particularly helpful, you should reliably expect to make at least a handful of bombing runs in each game. The Sun Shark also has some decent weaponry to complement its Pulse Bomb(s), with a missile pod - that can and should be twin-linked for a minimal investment - and two seeker missiles available for your perusal; though the firepower is strong, the Sun Shark's Ballistic Skill is predictably mediocre, and thus it works best when combined with Markerlights. 

It must be said that whilst bombing a unit and then shooting another target entirely is fun and very handy, it wouldn't be all that great if it were unreliable; this is where the Sun Shark's Networked Markerlight is quite useful, as though it suffers from the same issue of Ballistic Skill, it can be used by the Sun Shark to boost its own Ballistic Skill for subsequent shots. Whether it uses Markerlights to boost its Ballistic Skill or fire off a seeker missile at a designated target, the Sun Shark works pretty well when using the tokens either it, or allies, generate. It also comes stock with two unique Interceptor Drones, sporting ion rifles that are identical to those carried by some Pathfinders; firing either two twin-linked Strength seven AP four shots that hits on a five and up, or over-charging them to fire a nasty Strength eight AP four small blast with the added risk of Gets Hot. This extra firepower is very useful for both anti-Infantry and anti-vehicle duties; given that they have Skyfire and Interceptor, they can be used alongside the Sun Shark's missile pod and seeker missiles to provide some very handy anti-flyer firepower that is, surprisingly, quite favourable compared to the dedicated anti-flyer Razorshark. The Drones also have unique special rules that allow them to disembark even as the Bomber is zooming; like any other Drone, they can then be used to block enemies, tarpit minor units and provide some effective and mobile harassment.

Of course, the Sun Shark is not without weaknesses. As far as fliers go, it is quite fragile; with a front armour of eleven, and ten for the rear and side values, the Sun Shark is very susceptible to the majority of anti-flyer weapons, and unlike most, even fears the touch of a flying monstrous creatures' vector strike. Massed fire from high-rate-of-fire heavy weapons or regular Infantry weaponry, such as bolters, can bring the three hull point-Sun Shark down with alarming ease compared to other fliers, and it is in this way that its impressive firepower is balanced out. The Sun Shark will likely crumble to Interceptor fire from a very popular Aegis Defence Line with the quad gun, and though it will likely be able to drop its first bomb off before it is destroyed, the Sun Shark is unlikely to prove its worth in one round of 'shooting'. Thankfully, the Sun Shark has access to some very useful upgrades that help to mitigate such issues; an incredibly cheap option are the Decoy Launchers, providing a +4 invulnerable save against shots inflicted by a weapon with the Interceptor rule. This is handy not only against Aegis Defence Lines, but also against Tau sporting very common Skyfire-enabled Battlesuits, and the cost is so minimal that adding them in is near mandatory. Disruption Pods are handy, but given that zooming Flyers only benefit from the Jink rule when they evade, the Sun Shark's firepower is mostly being sacrificed if the Disruption Pods are ever actually used, and they aren't cheap either. Of course, the main reason to take the Sun Shark is the bomb, and given that it isn't affected by Evade, you can continue to drop them and stay alive that much longer. 

Still, the Sun Shark likely won't survive if faced by a flyer such as a Heldrake, Vendetta or Night Scythe; given how common these are in the current meta-game, this means the Sun Shark is a risky choice no matter what route you go. However, given that it can drop a Strength five large blast on one Infantry unit, fire up to six Strength seven and two Strength eight shots at an enemy flyer or vehicle, its versatility is superb. As far as pricing goes, I feel that when compared to the Dark Angels' Nephilim and Dark Talon, it is favourably priced, but as always, it pales considerably when compared to flyers such as the Stormtalon, Stormraven, Night Scythe or the infamous Heldrake. A useful unit, but seeing as Tau already bring devastation to both fliers and Infantry elsewhere far more efficiently and with greater durability, the Sun Shark - and indeed the Razorshark - likely won't see too much use competitively. A note here that the Sun Shark Bomber cannot hover, and though this shouldn't be too much of an issue, an intelligent opponent will exploit your limited direction, minimal arc of fire and enforced speed to their advantage and effectively avoid most of the damage a Sun Shark can deal.

Razorshark Strike Fighter - As the kit sibling to the Sun Shark Bomber, the Razorshark is another new flyer introduced to the Tau Empire, serving not as a bomber but instead as a dedicated anti flyer - and by extension, anti-vehicle - unit that is oddly only marginally more effective in an aerial duel than the Sun Shark. When talking specifically about firepower, the Sun Shark averages a similar number of hits to the Razorshark in terms of Strength seven AP four shooting - the trade-off here is that the Razorshark's main gun can be fired in any direction, meaning it can fly past other fliers, deny them any return shots, whilst continuing to pepper them with ion-tinged death on their rear or side armour - invaluable against Heldrakes and the like. 

The Razorshark carries up to four unique weapons; the Quad Ion Turret that fires four Strength seven AP four shots, a burst cannon that can and should be upgraded to a missile pod, and two seeker missiles. Unlike the Sun Shark, it lacks a Networked Markerlight, which is somewhat disappointing given its weapons aren't twin-linked and thus rely on other units' Markerlights - which often don't have Skyfire - to maximise its damage potential, particularly against flyers, though the issue is lessened against ground vehicles. The Razorshark is definitely far better at dealing with such units, owing to its far superior arc of fire, though the lack of a pulse bomb or any dedicated anti-Infantry weapon means it is definitely a less versatile choice. With its one-use only missiles and weight of firepower, it should do just fine against other flyers, particularly if you use its speed and unlimited arc of sight to fire at their exposed rear armour; that its weapons can fire all around them means that its inability to hover isn't as much of an issue as it is for the Sun Shark, too. The lack of twin-linking does hurt though, meaning its average number of hits is similar to the Sun Shark; that, and a result that forces the Razorshark to snap fire - or Evading - can be a serious deterrent to its usefulness.

Much like the Sun Shark, the Razorshark is quite fragile as far as fliers go; sharing an identical front armour eleven, with side and rear armour ten, most anti-air weaponry will blow the Razorshark out of the sky with little resistance. A Quad Gun, a Heldrake's Meteoric Descent, or even the Vector Strike of a typical flying monstrous creature will likely prove to be enough to rip the Razorshark to shreds, or at least force it to Evade so as to dodge destruction immediately. As noted, being forced to snap fire effectively destroys the damage potential of the Razorshark. This is where Disruption Pods and Decoy Launchers come in very handy, equally so with the Sun Shark - though, again, the lack of twin-linking means Evading is a bit more harmful here - as the boosted saves provided by them can mean the difference between safe-guarding the flyer or losing it before it can fire a single volley. Given how costly and fragile the Razorshark is, you should probably consider these. All in all, much like the Sun Shark, the Nephilim and the Dark Talon before it, the Razorshark is a mediocre flyer that, whilst arguably a stronger choice than its Dark Angels equivalent, is outperformed by other units within the codex; Broadside Battlesuits have emerged as one of the best anti-flyer units that can be found in any codex, and given that a team of two with Skyfire costs similarly to a Razorshark, I feel it is decent, but not as worthwhile as other choices.

Example Builds - The Fast Attack choices are interesting and can be used in a multitude of different roles. Here are a few for you to consider.

Sun Shark Bomber w/ twin-linked missile pod, decoy launchers - 168
Razorshark Strike Fighter w/ missile pod, decoy launchers - 153

Did you find this article helpful to your efforts with the Tau army, or perhaps not so much? Let us know in the comments below - we appreciate any and all feedback!

I hope you found my appraisal of the Tau flyers 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 Flyer loadout and how are they working for you?
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