40K: T’au in 8th – Which Units are the Greatest Good

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Everyone in the T’au Empire fights for the Greater Good. Some goods, however, are greater than others.

Let’s talk T’au. Everyone’s favorite herd-creatures-turned-anime-heroes have some pretty cool things they can pull off in Eighth Edition. They have an variety of strong guns in their arsenal, and a good T’au army can toss out a ton of shots–nothing new there. But their firepower has seen some significant changes with the release of eighth. Strength 5 isn’t quite as strong as it used to be, for one. It used to be you could wound Toughness 3 on a 2+, now it’s on a 3+. Which, admittedly, you’re wounding higher toughness things on a 5+ instead of a 6+ but it seems like Toughness 3 models are much more common.

That said, the changes to AP and Damage have helped bolster some of their other units–so basically like everything else, the army has changed, but it’s still kind of up in the air what ultimately will and won’t work out. There are still a few strong contenders pulling ahead of the pack though, even though the game is newly released. Crisis Commanders, for one, can put out some serious firepower and take advantage of the new deep strike tactical reinforcement rules to great effect. So here’s a quick look at which T’au units have received the greatest good in this edition.

Crisis Commanders

Okay but what if instead of legs it also had guns?

Let’s go in swinging. So, a couple of big changes have really helped shape how these battlesuits have improved. The commanders specifically–though the normal crisis suits are good, these guys stand out a bit. For one they’re cheap. At six power rating (or 7 if you want to give them some shield drones for survivability), they can be equipped with up to four guns in the battlesuit wargear list. Or three guns and a piece of equipment. But they’re BS 2+, so they’ll hit whatever they shoot at, and with the ability to load up with, say Cyclic Ion Blasters or Missile Pods they can be capable of throwing out 8-12 strength 7 shots, and several more points of damage in between. And with the way tactical reinforcements work now, they can always be in range, so on turn 1, they can get where they need to be, light you up, and then even if you try and charge them–with fly they can just fall back next turn and shoot you some more. Tough, cheap, effective. And they come with a once per game ability that can make a turn of shooting really really count.


Well they’re still missile boats–but they’re missile boats that can still move and shoot (and also take a support system to let them ignore that penalty) and pump out 16 shots, half of which deal D3 damage every time someone fails a save. Great to drop on a unit full of Feel no Pain or Disgustingly Resilient troops. They haven’t changed all that much from their previous edition incarnations–but the buff to their loadout is worth mentioning.


These are surprisingly resilient. They’re fast enough to dance around on the battlefield and have enough firepower that you should always be able to shoot at something. More importantly though, the Devilfish is resilient. At toughness 7, most small arms fire will have trouble wounding it, and with a 3+ save and fly, it can be hard to pin down. So you can fly up, shoot a unit, charge them once they’re softened up, then (assuming you survive) fly back and shoot them some more. And with 12 Wounds your opponent will actually have to put effort into taking out your Devilfish. They won’t explode just from a sideways glance.


Markerlights are amazing in 8th. They provide a cumulative series of benefits based on the total number of hits that starts with rerolling 1s on to hit-rolls, then culminates in a +1 to BS–though this does require 5 hits to pull off. But still–Pathfinders have always been good at putting out a number of markerlights–and now they’re even easier to use. Especially given their synergy with the various missiles you can give your units. Need to get some mortal wounds going? Light up a target, fire some missiles, and reroll those inevitable 1s.

Shield Drones

Shield drones are the real MVP though. In 8th, Drones are set up in coherency with a squad–and after that they can float around wherever they’re needed. You can dump wounds to them from nearby infantry and battlesuits (thanks to their Saviour Protocols), which comes in handy for drawing out those powerful shots. Plus they’re no longer tied to wargear or anything–they can act independently and form up a squad of blocking units that won’t cause battle shock to your units with weapons when they inevitably get blown away.

And as we like to say in the T’au K’itchen: There’s no greater good than a good grater.

  • Crevab

    Everyone I’ve seen talk about Tau in 8th is all about Fire Warrior hordes backed up by buffing units(Pathfinders’ P.A drone, Ethereals), Drones, and a few specialized suits

    • AX_472

      then they haven’t fought a dedicated assault army yet. try that on tyranids and they’ll pile in to your whole force and eat it by the end of turn 3. fire warriors damage output has been majorly reduced and if you fight a fast assault army a static gunline will be massacred. and because the tau are crap shots you can’t rely on advancing and shooting with pulse blasters and carbines, 5+ is not reliable.

      • ZeeLobby

        Then that player needs to learn to bubble wrap. There’s no reason your gunline shouldn’t be shooting from multiple layers. I’ve already seen a guard horde shave off every wave of a Tyranid army. Tau shouldn’t be any harder. First rank gets assaulted. Then they fall back around the second. Second rank fires. Rinse, repeat.

        • Karru

          The problem with Tau is the fact that they have worse bubble wrap options and they are priced higher than Guard while still having just as bad aim.

          Kroot are their only real Bubble Wrap unit and they cost 6pts a piece for a dude with Toughness 3 and 6+ save. That really isn’t the best bubble wrap, especially once you compare them to Guard and their Conscripts which cost 3pts per model.

          I have yet to see a “working” Tau list this edition. I played against Tau yesterday and utterly wrecked them with my Guard army. It was a gunline of sorts, more mobile with Breacher Teams in Devilfish and Crisis Suits Deep Striking. Other than that, it was the basic Tau army of Broadsides, Fire Warriors and Pathfinders with Kroot bubble wrap and Ethereal/Commanders buffing the line.

          The game was over on Turn 3 after I had killed all his Suits, most of his Fire Warriors and Kroot. His Devilfish got to move on the first turn and then blew up after my Heavy Weapons opened up. He brought 6 of his 12 DS Suits in, having equipped 3 of them with Missile Pod and Plasma Rifle and the other 3 with Dual Burst Cannon. All of them also had Advanced Targeting System.

          These guys felt and looked nice on paper, but during play they were very bad. The lack of Markerlights shined hard on them, as they missed over half their shots during the game, causing minimal losses to my Guard. Pathfinders were just a waste of points, we both agreed on that. He took the usual 10 Squad with Markerlights but quickly realised that it was utterly pointless since my army had no such target that would require the Tau army to go completely all-out on it.

          Fire Warriors were meh. The times they hit, they would do nice damage. The Kroot were… bad. My Lasguns cut them down fast thanks to their bad saves, low toughness and my large number of shots. Ethereals and Commanders were useful, but only in the backlines really.

          Overall, Tau feels odd in many ways right now. They don’t really feel like their own thing any more. Currently they feel like worse Guard in many ways thanks to their loss of many unique rules.

          • Jose Delgado

            Yes who did this article havent idea about taus and seems dont have played vs tau in 8th also.

            As 80% of tau weapons was s5 ap5 and have gone from hit with 2 to 3 and instakill due to ap5 to dont do nothing, but cost the same that allways.

            Every suit is overpriced and he said broadsides are good in 8th when they are umplayables due to his cost.

            Markers good? A joke and it is obvious that he havent played tau in 8th,gone from +1 bs for every marker to reroll1 and +1 bs for 5!!they are useless now and only used for the rerol 1 that every army have with cheap hqs tha have this aura.

            Ohh and hqs,taus hq havent auras as every other hq have got,we have the same ability that allways had them but nerfed and it is aura now.

            Taus as someome said are horrible in 8th,do the same that other armys but worse(more cost and less bs)but cant melle or magic.

            Oh and they lost the jump and didnt get a buff in rangue of weapons so old 18″shoot and jump 2d6 to safe is gone,now shoot 18″ and be rdy to be charged after

          • Kyu

            Gunlines have never been a fully effective way to play tau. After all they’re not guard. It’s been a massive shakeup for sure but I think after the dust has settled and people have had time to work out how to make the most of their abilities we’ll be looking at a much more balanced opinion of them.

          • Mkvenner42

            Unfortunately, T’au play a lot differently than before.

            Units like Marker/Gun Drones, Ghostkeels, Stealth Suits, Quadmanders, and Pathfinders are the workhouses this time around.

            I have yet to use the Stormsurge, Riptide, and Sunshark Bomber (the latter being pretty decent against hordes) and kind of feel they aren’t needed. When my Y’Vhara comes in, I would feel more comfortable going against a Nid horde.

            Ghostkeels and Stealth Suits have really stepped up to the challenge and make a huge difference. Drones are the bubble wrap of choice. They have Fly, are tougher, and only need a Drone Controller to be at Fire Warrior BS. With Savior Protocols they extend the loves of Battlesuit by a huge margin.

            I feel that it’s too early to really gauge how the T’au Empire will fare, but a Supreme Command Detachment with a bunch of Dakka Commanders calling Kauyon with sporting fire from other auxiliary will rip up a Nid horde.

            It’s interesting to find new ways to stop a Nid assault. Winning the deployment choice can go a long way. Bubble wrapping with the right unit can help. Picking the right support systems now is a big deal.

            This article really only touches the topics of units (which is what it says on the tin) but needs to divulge a bit into the support systems to really show why these units are good. Devilfish are obviously not benefitting from that.

          • Guillermo Cordido

            and finally vespids are a good option

  • Crevab

    Everyone I’ve seen talk about Tau in 8th is all about Fire Warrior hordes backed up by buffing units(Pathfinders’ P.A drone, Ethereals), Drones, and a few specialized suits

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    Suits are going to be good. T5, 3+ save and 3 wounds is rough, especially for lowly tac marines.

    Coldstar, in general will see a lot of play. He is ridiculously good.

    Devilfish are good but they are really expensive.

  • AX_472

    sorry but markerlights aren’t better. them not being expended is cool but its to hard to get 5 hits for just +1 to hit. eveything but HQ choices still at BS 4+ means stray marker lights on drones and squads are now a bit crap, you need a whole squad of pathfinders to get +1 to hit which still only ups your hit rate to 2/3 instead of 5/6 you could get on 2 or 3 squads easily with pathfinders. This’d be fine if at least crisis bodyguards (now 45pts without equipment) could hit on 3+ naturally but nope. It’s kinda fair as tau were really strong but gunlines are now pretty ineffective. hitting on 4+ or 3+ with 5 markerlights, and now usually wounding on 3’s instead of wounding most things on 2’s is a big hit to the effectiveness. add pile ins and consolidates dragging in surrounding squads and gunlines are almost completely dead. tau have been hit hard in 8th, farsight enclave style crisis suit lists may be more common now as battlesuits are the best thing we have left.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      If you are constantly getting pulled into combat during consolidation, then you did not place your models correctly.

      Bubble wrapping is important.

      • Patrick Chua

        looks like you all never had faced khorne berzerkers yet, I chewed out almost 100 guardsmen in 1 whole turn of melee. Thats just using 10 zerkers and kharn (they got into hth fast) the ability to attack twice in the fight phase made them deadly aff. pile in twice consolidate twice I was able to prance around the bubble and murder them squishy men

      • AX_472

        only played one 8th game with my tau so far and yes my 4 gun drones from a strike team and a fireblade did effectively block the consolidation. but you would need a lot of drones to adequately protect an army that way. you’d need at least 2 drones for every 5-6 infantry models. which is do-able but a lot of drones

  • Massawyrm

    Sorely missing from this list: TIDEWALL fortifications.

    They’re not cover saves anymore – they’re open topped vehicles. Your infantry shoots out, but no one can shoot in until they frag a T6/7 W10 4+ outer shell. Gunrig has a giant gun; shieldwall puts a mortal wound on the shooting unit for every 6+ rolled to save against it, and the Droneport gets drones that use an occupiers BS. Put Darkstrider in a Markerdrone Droneport, have him laz a target with his 2+ BS Markerlight, then let the 4 markerdrones take their shots with a 2+ BS, rerolling 1s. Bam! 5 markerlight hits on anything within 36″. Put a 3 Railgun unit of 9 Pathfinders in the Droneport with him, and you’ve got some firepower laying into that first unit while the remaining Pathfinders begin lighting up the second unit.

    The key to Tau now is unit priority. Pick a unit, evaporate it, then move onto the next one. Spread yourself too thin and – as many Tau players are learning – you’re a goner.

    • J Mad

      lol even as a Non Tau player, i want a Tidewall in my Army!

  • benn grimm

    No mention of the loss of jet pack movement? Definitely one of the cooler more unique things in previous 40k editions and pretty important to current Tau players I’d have thought. Not sure why you think markerlights have been improved, unless by improved you mean got a frenzied nerf batting… Not saying it’s a bad thing, but they definitely got nerfed.

    • ZeeLobby

      Eh. The positivity is always overwhelming here. Having written a couple lists, I really miss the buff commander option. Always thought it was one of the cooler things Tau could do.

      • benn grimm

        So overwhelming it rings false tbh atm…

        • ZeeLobby

          Lets put it this way. I come to BoLS for several reasons, but cutting edge tactics is not one of them :D. You usually find better/realistic tactics in the comment section. And of course forums offer the best font of tactical knowledge.

    • Lexikon

      Yes, it’s a big deal to T’au players. Losing jump-shoot-jump (JSJ) is a nerf, but more importantly it’s a huge cut to the character of the army. It would be like if they gave marines a 4+ save or Necrons lost reanimation protocols.

      • benn grimm

        For sure, and it’s a fun action you can utilize to greater effect the better at the game you get, a rarity in 40k tbh, plus it just oozes cool.

        • ShasOFish

          It also let Tau players care about the assault phase. Most of the time now, it’ll just exist.

          • AX_472

            what we need is pistol breachers or a pistol wielding stealth suit unit. 🙂

    • stinkoman

      JsJ would have to have a significant jump movement. the way things move in 8th, it wouldn’t lend much if it were something like a D6 advance move (im guessing)

      • Lexikon

        I miss it’s original 3rd edition incarnation where it was just a simple 6″ move in the assault phase. I’d prefer to go back to that.

  • davepak

    The loss of JSJ is huge for the tau – many of their weapons are actually short range (18″) and this is VERY close in 8th edition, where charges are much faster than ever.

    The JSJ was the essence of the tau – the maneuvering for position, using terrain to its utmost, or even working your own infantry lines – this is what allowed the differentiation of skilled tau players from those who relied upon riptide formations and other gimmicks –
    sadly, without it, crisis suits are just over-costed bs3 models.

    oh, and the “real mvp” is not shield drones – it is gone drones – they have FOUR shots now, and are 8 points each. combine this with their movement, toughness, and the savior protocols – MVP.
    It does take skill to work arourd their targeting limitations – but player skill should not be lacking.

    • AX_472

      and having fly so they act as bubble wrap protection to charge, pile in and consolidate moves, then fall back and shoot in your turn. very very good. lol.

  • Łukasz Krokos

    1 thing i agree is that commander is good but all others points from this article is plain stupid.

    I found 2 ways to play tau
    – 3 stormsurges + 20 patfinders in 2 devilfishes + shadow sun for rerols. 6 drops and u kill 600+ points turn 1
    – 8 commanders with missles + 2×5 pirahnias

    All because markerlights are so bad. Storm doesnt care coz rerolls and +1 hit, commanders hits on 2+. Other options are unplayable since everything is so expensive and there is no way to make it efficient.

    • AX_472

      ghost keels are still pretty good, although no where near as well protected as stealth suits whose stealth effect is not limited to shooting attacks. Also a crisis suit with a shield gen is about at its old price. not something i usually run a lot of but its good for bodyguards. also the adv. targeting system is awesome, a crisis suit with one and 2 burst cannons mashes infantry pretty good. also paying a mortal wound to use the nova reactor is great. add an advanced targetting system to a nova charged heavy burst cannon for 12 S6 AP-3 shots is gonna make marine players weep. lol. 2 smart missile systems adding 8 more shots at S5 AP-1 on that build is none too shabby either. I’m really happy the heavy burst cannon is worth taking at last!!!! 🙂