Warhammer 40K: T’au Empire’s Longstrike
Today we look at Tau’s mechanized HQ, Longstrike.
Longstrike is unique among the HQs in the Tau Empire codex, being not a character on foot or in a battlesuit but one riding in a Hammerhead tank.
As such, he comes with a statline to match- movement 12″ gives him significant mobility, weapon skill 6+ and strength six are largely useless. Ballistic skill 2+ gives him a strong offensive capability with his weapons, while toughness seven and twelve wounds give him a decent (though not amazing) defensive profile, in combination with 3+ armor. Three attacks and leadership nine round out his profile. At 205pts base, Longstrike is unfortunately rather expensive, although he does bring a lot to the table. Only one of him can be included in an army, and he is locked to the Tau sept.
Special Rules and Wargear
Longstrike comes with a number of special rules, some standard to his chassis and others unique. For the Greater Good allows firing overwatch in support of nearby units, while Hover Tank and Explodes follow the normal rules for Tau tanks.
Fire Caste Exemplar gives +1 to hit to all Hammerhead tanks within 6″ of Longstrike, which includes himself. Tank Ace grants him +1 to wound when shooting monsters or vehicles, a reasonably common occurrence. And finally, his XV02 Battlesuit gives him a “free” Markerlight counter on any unit he shoots at, though only he benefits from it.
Unlike many unique characters, Longstrike does have a number of options, as benefits the Hammerhead chassis he rides in. The main weapon can be either a Railgun or Ion Cannon (with the latter costing +5pts), and the secondary weapon comes base as a pair of Gun Drones, but can be switched out for a pair of Burst Cannons (-4pts) or Smart Missile Systems (+10pts). He can also take up to two Seeker Missiles, at 5pts each.
Longstrike’s obvious use is to buff one or more other Hammerhead Gunships, as he is clearly set up to be their leader thanks to his buff aura. This role has not changed much in 9th Edition, as he still benefits them in all of the same ways he did before. The changes to the core rules did alter things a little bit, as he and his friends no longer take the Heavy penalty when moving but also cannot freely leave combat. Unfortunately, in the broader scope of things, Longstrike’s strategy has become largely untenable this edition.
Like most Tau units, Longstrike’s plan is broadly to sit with a group of his friends, hitting on 2s and rerolling 1s, and blast away at whatever is in front of them until it is dead, then move in to take objectives. With scoring becoming so much more important this is a difficult thing to achieve, but even more so now that there are so many resilient units that can eat the full shooting of such a cluster of units and come out strong enough to still cause some severe damage- you aren’t going to wipe out a block of Deathwing Terminators in a single turn with that level of firepower, or any level of firepower realistically- and this is a huge detriment to Longstrike’s game plan.
Add in the fact that melee combat is a lot more punishing for Tau (since they can’t simply escape with Fly) and that long-ranging melee units are far more common, and Longstrike is in a very bad spot. He already suffered in many matchups because his fragility (due to lack of invuln, etc) could often be a big detriment, and now that is even more true with stuff like Multimeltas running around and also more people are bringing hard-hitting melee units that can easily kill two or even three Hammerheads in a single phase. In short, Longstrike simply does not bring enough to the table anymore – or more accurately, Hammerheads don’t and as a result, Longstrike is out of the picture as well.
Longstrike is not abjectly awful, being more able to hide behind terrain these days and he has the mobility to potentially scoot about and do some damage, but for 200+ points he really needs to be compared to other options that Tau could be fielding, such as a pair of Farsight Enclaves Commanders with CIBs. And by that measure, he simply doesn’t look particularly good. The Ion Cannon is actually a weapon with a solid profile and good use cases in 9th Edition (being able to effectively target Marines, Terminators, and Raiders), but that alone is not enough to make up for the unit’s other deficiencies.
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