Tau Battlesuit Weapons

March 13, 2009 ·

March 13, 2009

Which weapons to give your Tau Battlesuits is a tough question for many Tau players. Tau Battlesuits have the widest choice of weapons, so there are a wide range different Tau Battlesuit configurations, often with fancy names that few but the die hard Tau players can remember.

I'm taking my Tau army to the Carnage tournament in just a few weeks, so I've taken the time to playtest all the various Tau Battlesuit weapons and combinations in 5th edition 40K. Some popular choices I found to be weak, a number of specialist choices were extremely limited by their armament while the classic 'Fireknife' configuration was impressive, if expensive. Then there are the experimental weapons like the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector and Cyclic Ion Blaster.

Plasma Rifle/Missile Pod/MultiTracker

The 'Fireknife' combination is one of the most expensive set ups, but one of the best. There's nothing like dishing out 3-4 high strength shots for each of your squad members. Monstrous creatures, space marines and light vehicles have a tough time against this unit, mostly due to the high strength, although the AP2 plasma rifles certainly come in handy, especially when in rapid fire range.

Low AP weapons are a must have in a Tau army when you have access to so few, which means Tau can struggle against Space Marine Terminators.

While the combination is expensive, it's quite devastating. One of my friends fields a Shas'el with 2 bodyguards armed in this way, plus some targeting arrays thrown in so that the whole unit his on a 3+. While expensive, the squad is guaranteed to slaughter whatever they shoot at and often finish it off in close combat too.

I've seen people field 'Fireknife' teams of 2 battlesuits with 1 of them upgraded to a team leader with a targeting array as a budget option to the Command team.

Plasma Rifle/Fusion Blaster/MultiTracker

The same cost as the Fireknife configuration, this close range monstrous creature, tank and Terminator killer lacks long range firepower, which can be crippling against certain armies. Great as a unit to hold in reserve which can come on and obliterate anything nasty in your deployment zone.

I've never seen anyone field these, even though they're often posted online. I personaly prefer the range of the Firekife team.

Twin Linked Fusion Blaster/2 Shield Drones

The suicide unit of 4th edition. Usually 1 Battlesuit on his own, deep striking next to a vehicle. With Kill Points to be considered no one takes his choice anymore and in truth, I always felt it was too risky taking it in 4th edition. But then, some people are VERY lucky with the Scatter Dice.

Burst Cannon/Missile Pod/MultiTracker

Cheap, cheerful and destructive! I've had great fun with this squad in preference to my usual 6-man Stealth Suit team. For just a few points more you effectively swap 3 burst cannons for 3 missile pods, higher toughness, higher strength and a couple of shield drones on a team leader with bonding knife to boot!

The obvious appeal of this team is that while being cheap, they pump out lots of shots, making short work of infantry while being able to engage targets at range with their missile pods. A nice versatile unit and not too pricey. An affordable choice instead of the Fireknife team for smaller games.

Flamer/Twin Linked Missile Pod

Since 5th edition, this configuration has exploded across the internet, although it was increasingly popular towards the end of 4th edition.

The missile pods are designed to engage targets at range while the flamer burns troops that get too close. Originally people took this unit as a cheap elite slot to jump shoot jump from cover, but some clever chap realised that for 1pt more they could ditch the black sun filter that filled the compulsory third hardpoint for a flamer.

In 5th edition they're used very much the same way, but jump shoot jump from behind a Tau tank. Some players equip this unit with a single missile pod and twin linked flamer in favour of burning more troops at close range as a counter unit for anyone engaging the tank that they're hiding behind.

Plasma Rifle/Cyclic Ion Blaster/MultiTracker

Typically a choice for a Tau Commander, the plasma rifle takes out armoured targets while the ion blaster hoses down light troops with its 5 shots (usually hitting on a 2+) and often scores a single rending his as well. You have to give the ion blaster to a Tau commander who hits on 2+ to make the most of all those shots. Some people have talked about swapping the plasma rifle for a burst cannon to gain maximum shots.

Airbursting Fragmentation Launcher/Twin Linked Missile Pod/MultiTracker

Also typically given to a Tau Commander, this unit acts much in the same way as the flamer/twin missile pod battlesuits, taking refuge behind a Tau tank, then making jump shoot jump attacks with the missile pods against range targets and hitting light troops at close range (usually in cover) with the Air Bursting Frag Launcher. Some players often swap the twin missile pod for twin linked flamers for maximum troops killing in cover.

Final Thoughts

Generally, you will only field 2 Tau Battlesuit teams in a game, unless you're going up to 2,000pts. One of those teams will most likely be the command team, unless your Tau Commander likes to go it alone.

I've adopted my friend's Tau Command team configuration, simply because it's hard as nails and blows everything away. 3 Tau Battlesuits hitting on 3's with plasma rifle and missile pod will kill almost anything (especially when rapid firing). The best part is that you don't have to risk the unit's safety to ensure a kill. Your guns are range 24" and 36" so you can dance around at a distance as much as you like. The other close range units will certainly die should you have a bad dice roll.

The problem with flamers

I know it's 5th edition and the age of the cover save, so everyone has gone flaming crazy. But can Tau Battlesuits afford to go flaming? I don't think so.

While some players seem to be keen on the counter units, I can't help but wonder "What the hell are you doing huddling in your own deployment zone?"
The Tau can't afford to get too close, not without being certain of a kill. The Tau also can't win a battle out outright attrition where one unit kills another, then another unit kills that unit. We just don't have the numbers.

It's been proven that Tau die if they just sit there and wait for the enemy to come to them. So how are flamer battlesuit in an offensive roll? Not very good, because they can only move 6" and shoot while enemy bikes, landspeeders, wartracks and even jetbikes can move 12" and use their flamers. Don't even get me started on the Hell Hound!

So for the most part you're shooting your missile pods. Missile pods are still good, after all they have the same stats as an autocannon (dakka dakka!), but you could get so many more shots for your points. And now that everyone and his squig seems to get a cover save of some sort, the Tau need all the shots they can get.

You need multitrackers for maximum shots

You need all the shots you can get to reap all the kills you can get. This means the more shots your Tau Battlesuits can pump out the better and the higher the strength of those shots, the better.

This puts missile pods at the top of my Must Have list. In fact, it's thanks to this weapon that Tau Battlesuits can become so versatile and engage targets and light vehicles from afar. Combine it with a relatively long ranged gun like the plasma rifle or burst cannon and you can safely fire away and keep your distance.

This means that multi trackers are essential for all your Tau Battlesuits. Because why would you want to fire a twin linked missile pod when you can fire a burst cannon as well for practically the same points? Plus it makes them far more versatile for taking on all manner of targets.

When you can no longer afford to specialise due to the need for more troops, you have to choose your weapons wisely. So if you can engage all types of targets up close and from afar, then it doesn't matter which army you end up facing.

As a wise man once taught me...okay, it was Neil, you have to be patient with the Tau, then strike the killing blow. You chip away at your opponent slowly and wittle them down. The long ranged firepower of the Tau Battlesuits works in the same way, with the jet packs being able to safely carry you away after firing.

Then you can leisurely shoot an enemy squad from afar for a number of turns, then charge in and wipte them out rather than sit behind a tank, jump out at the last minute with your flamers and pray that you kill enough of them, which I feel is a recipe for disaster should you have a bad set of dice rolls.

I'm sure that some people will disagree with me, but this is what I have found works and makes deep striking my Tau Battlesuit teams far safer and more destructive, because they will almost always be in range of their target.

Finally, always give your Tau Battlesuits a couple of shield drones. It horrifies me how many players don't, then see their elite choices get butchered. Shield drones don't just give you a 4+ invulnerable save, they strike at Initiative 4 in close combat as well. "Wwwiiiirrrr....DONK!"


anton said...
March 13, 2009 at 7:13 PM  

do people not usually comment on this blog?
I've gotta say, this was a well written article that was really needed to us Tau n00bs out here in the eastern fringes.
i'll definitely make sure to utilise some of these tips when my army is functional
so thanks, it really helped

Adam Hunter said...
March 14, 2009 at 12:50 AM  

Hi anton,

I get a fair few comments. I think people are often put off because they have to enter a code to comment which is primarily to keep spambots out.

Tim M said...
March 14, 2009 at 6:28 AM  

Hey, thanks for your thoughts. I too, think you should take shield drones, altho, I get a lot of flak from some other Tau players, who prefer to take a min unit of gun drones to pop out in front of the unit to give the 4+ cover. My HQ is always "fireknife" and then I use elite squad pimped out for whatever army I'm playing.

Anthony Yeates said...
April 5, 2009 at 2:08 AM  

In my opnion, flamers are a valuable commodity as a fall back weapon on Missle Pod suits, playing against my freinds Nurgle Daemons I found that Twin-Linked Flamers are much more effective than you'd first think. In a single round of shooting I wiped out a unit of Plaguebears to a man with only two XV8s.

On the issue of Sheild Drones, I like to take a sheild genarator on my Shas'el as it reduces the footprint of the unit, making it easier to hide.

bruce said...
July 10, 2009 at 1:00 AM  

I always tend to have at least one team with twin linked missile pod and target array. Their job is to take out any transports that are on the table (and they do a good job of it!). The config gives each shot an 89% chance to hit and the high str means they are also good for knocking down high toughness foes if needed. It may be less shots than a missile pod/burst cannon combo but it makes those shots always count. they haven't let me down yet.

Anonymous said...
July 10, 2009 at 5:20 AM  

i usually use another configuration, out of this list, expecially for my shas'o + bodyguard.
i put at all multitraker, plasma rifle, burst cannon. if i have enough points i give to bodyguards the +1 BS system?

Max S said...
July 13, 2009 at 5:07 AM  

This is a well written article; good advice.

As I have a limited amount of Crisis suits in my collection, my commander is a Shas'O (always shas'o for the better BS) equipped with Plasma Rifle, Advanced Fragmentation Projector, and Shield Generator. I also like to give him Iridium Armour and Stim Injectors, to keep him alive under heavy fire.

I like the versatility of the Plasma Rifle, and the AFP is useful in the right situations. Because I often battle on a board with a few ruined buildings, the AFP cover save cancellation is quite useful. Once, I managed to kill four Chaos Terminators with one AFP shot! (My oponent has never forgotten rolling that many 1's :P)

I agree with the usefulness of Shield Drones, but seeing as I already have a Shield Generator, I assign the S-Drones to my two Broadsides. However, when the Commander is on his own (usually in smaller battles) he gets S-Drones. Otherwise, Gun Drones are useful for catching incoming Exorcist Missiles and Dark Lance shots. Sometimes the G-Drones even kill something, eg. two lucky 6's destroy a Rhino.

For my other Crisis suits, I usually end up using a pair of lone fire-knife Shas'vre team leaders. Instead of a multi tracker, though, they get a targeting array, and take a hard-wired multitracker. More expensive, but more effective. And of course, a pair of G-Drones.

Because they're cheaper, I have experimented with a 6-suit stealth team, with and without targeting arrays. I've found they're useful when used in the right situation for killing light infantry, but when I leave them over-exposed and too close to the enemy, they get spotted and chopped up (eg. Dark Eldar Archon + Retinue assaults stealth team. Insta-slaughter.)

Conclusion: Crisis Teams are tougher and more flexible. I will be adding more to my Tau force.

Anonymous said...
September 6, 2009 at 10:10 AM  

I notice know that your 1500 point list now has a squad of Twin linked flamer suits. What changed your mind?

Adam said...
September 6, 2009 at 2:12 PM  

They act as a very effective deterrent. And when they don't deter, they wipe out squads of Orks, Nids and Guard in one huge conflagration!

Anonymous said...
September 6, 2009 at 4:14 PM  

With the way flamers work in 5th edition, you can inflict immense numbers of wounds with TL flamers (and maybe gun drones). Even if the templates only hit some of the squad, the wounds can be spread around the entire squad, and with re-rolls to wound(I love TL flamers) that's a lot of dead things with 5+ armor (im thinking of eldar, nids, orks and guard)

Anonymous said...
September 26, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

I usally arm my Shas'O with a Airbuisting Frag Projector, AND the cilic ion blaster. The shield generator is a must, and I usally heavly upgraded it with HW systems including a stumulant Injector

you may be thinking, 'why give so many upgrades to a unit?' Well, after a few turns of no cover large blast and an assult 5 weapon, heads start turning...

Anyway, with a 3+ armor save, 4+ invunerable save, and a feel no pain, it can live long enough to sterilize half the battlefield, and with drones in front, it can be saved from assult

Master Darksol said...
September 29, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

Awesome post! It was very thoughtful and well-written. Glad to know I didn't make a mistake assembling all my suits in the Fireknife setup.

...and as far as the code to keep the spambots out... I opted not to have it on my blog, and I have yet to be visited by a spambot. If one does show up, as the moderator, you can always delete it.

suneokun said...
October 6, 2009 at 1:59 AM  

Great post ... after 'playing' with 5 different configurations on five different Crisis Suits I've come to only one conclusion ... magnets.

Depending on the tactics and opponent I prefer either fireknife (especially when I know they'll be 2+ monsters about), or deathrain plus flamer.

I like the AFP, and have won games with it against guard and eldar (2+ cover save, pah!) ... but I'm yet to be convinced.

Flamers are your friend in fifth edition and the AFP/Flamer combo is particular lethal against hordes... Just make sure you put the AFP on the Shas'El.

Multitrackers are essential, but I'm not convinced about targetting arrays yet. I like them, but are they worth 10pts?

...but I'm still in love with markerlights. Fluffy, tactically vulnerable - but joy!

In a recent Apoc battle we took the Mirage formation (and interdiction cadre) resulting in 30+D3 markerlights a turn. D3+1 of which could hits anywhere automatically (in LoS) and every 3 hits resulted in a precision strike on the unit (everything friendly hits on a 2+)

Talk about a force multiplier - I thought I was playing hordes...

The Warhound titan lost all void shields and a structure point in turn 1 ... and couldn't shoot back thanks to the 12" stealth field around the MIRAGE ... he was surprised.

boders said...
November 1, 2009 at 10:48 AM  

Nice work.
Very helpful and clear article.

D-Ka'T-Kor'ar said...
December 16, 2009 at 8:29 PM  

I usually equip my elite team with the dreaded Fusion blaster-plasma cannon combination.
"setting blaster to 'deep fried'"
usually the team leader has a shield gen., HW multi tracker, and bonding knife (with occasionally other goodies) and the 'henchmen' with a multi-tracker. also the drones i take is one shield and a marker.

The boards that my club plays on usually has a fair amount of terrain on them and that makes it really easy to get these guys where they are needed (usally deep striking is better though)
-for hunting termies, I hide them behind a smart-fish and Ion-head phalanx, and inevitably his termies will deepstrike in. due to the scatter dice or lack of room for error, I can usually get a markerlight shot off and 9 anti-termies shots off as well. About 0-1 left, and game continues with the battlesuit squad dicing up devastators and regular marines, using the tank wall as cover and jumping!

also, for heavy support, I take a broadsides unit filled up and leader takes a target lock. 2 non leader broadsides fire at target, target most likely goes bye bye! I then attempt to pass a moral check, and if passed, I can pick another unit!
I think it is that a good tactic, and would you voice your opinion, maybe see the "Error's" in my ways. (as in, the target lock thing obsolete and cant use it? I have not tried this in a tournament yet, and my group was unsure if i could, (some said yes, some desperately pleated no))

Adam said...
December 17, 2009 at 12:10 AM  

I think you could be on the money there.

If you read my Grand Tournament reports from October, many of the other Tau players were fielding two teams of plasma rifle/fusion blaster battlesuits.

As for your Broadside team, you have to declare if the team leader using his target lock to fire at a seperate target before anyone in the team fires a shot. I don't know where this 'LD test to fire at a seperate target' comes from.

D-Ka'T-Kor'ar said...
December 17, 2009 at 12:17 PM  

In 4th edition, a target priority test is where you take a moral check to fire at a separate unit than the rest of your squad. Does that rule carry on to 5th edition, or do you automatically pass now in 5th edition?

and for my plasma fusion team, I attempt to keep them in reserves for as long as I can or at least until elites are on the table. then the massacre starts.

keep up the great battle reports!

Adam said...
December 17, 2009 at 12:18 PM  

I think you need to buy the 5th edition rulebook. lol

D-Ka'T-Kor'ar said...
December 17, 2009 at 12:23 PM  

I have one, but don't know if the rule transfers over to 5th edition

Anonymous said...
January 2, 2010 at 9:47 PM  

yeah it does transfer over but obviously if there is no unit infront of the 2nd enemy you've chosen to fire at you dont need to take a morale check.
in my 2000pt army I field 3 crisis teams as elites and take 2 shas'o commanders with no body guards. I take 2 squads of crisis as fireknife and the last squad as the plasma/fusion/multi tracker combo which deep strikes.
as for the 2 shas'os i fit one with AFP/twinlinked plasmas (I know BS 5 but you would not know how many 1s i role, lol) the other shas'o i take the CIB/plasma/shield gen/hardwired multi tracker. In my last game which was against necrons the CIB commander wiped out a squad of destroyers with his CIB on the first turn and then killed a lord and half a warrior squad.

D-Ka'T-Kor'ar said...
January 3, 2010 at 9:30 AM  

yes, crisis suits really don't need it, but i was talking about those BIG BAD BROADSIDES. Instead of filling up 2 heavy support choices with 1 or 2 broadsides each, I fill up one choice with 3, and equip the leader with a hardwired target lock.
that way i save space for a sky ray and a ionhead.

I perch the broadsides in come cover or near forests and have a fairly large squad of kroot around them with krootox, and have them sit there at the far end of the board.
Of course now all the side armor and rear armor facing the other way at the broadsides, and thats where the ionhead and skyray come in to play.
I have them stationed at the other corner, and they just sweep foward targeting the rear and side armor because all the front armor is facing the broadsides at the other end of the board.

of course this doesnt work well with hoard armys.

Anonymous said...
May 6, 2010 at 1:07 AM  

Hi Adam.
As a newbie to playing Tau and 40k in general, I must say a big 'thankyou' for your site!
I've been mulling over suit configurations for eons! Then stumbled across your site - eureka!
After playing a few matches against 'the green tide', and not doing too well, I'll definately be using the twin-linked flamer approach next time!
...why didn't I think of that?...
p.s. what would your tactics be against bikers and defkopters??
Cheerz again!

alexander said...
May 23, 2010 at 5:40 AM  

hi, i love this blog and "borrowed" your warfishes idea.
My current list is: (i live in South Africa, we play 1650)

leader, blast, missile pod, +1 bs, 1 shield drone, mt,
2x3 fireknife battlesuits
2 xv8's, twin flamer, fusion blaster
3x6 fire warriors
2 warfishes
1 warfish (pathfinders. firewarriors are held in reserve,
then walk inside)
6 pathfinders
2x2 broadsides, 2 shield drones (no move+shoot)

I follow this blog. If you have any ideas that could help, it would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...
January 5, 2011 at 2:34 PM  

I do plasma flamer mt combo on my suits and then take 2 shield drones to a squad, as long as you know how far everything moves its easy to move up kill a squad and move back.

Anonymous said...
March 24, 2011 at 5:07 PM  

hi, i was wondering can a crisis battlesuit take two individual guns; such as two plasma rifles?

Dan said...
April 2, 2011 at 12:09 PM  

No, having two of the same weapon makes them twin-linked on a battlesuit. So the plasma rifles can't fire individually.

The only exception is Commander Shadowsun's twin fusion blasters.

Anonymous said...
August 13, 2011 at 8:57 PM  

I have to agree with you about the flamers, I tried it out once because I trying out different weapon combos with extremely bad results. Usually I would destroy my cousin but when I tried flamer I almost lost.

Anonymous said...
August 12, 2012 at 1:44 AM  

You are awesome, I love your posts. Saving up for my second commander now, would love a post on how to make the Tau sniper suit that you have posted.

Commander of the breakaway faction acueda'edacu

Anonymous said...
December 10, 2012 at 6:50 AM  

I used to deep strike a unit of plasma rifle/ fusion blaster behind enemy armor but, I found that I would kill all his tanks but then all these guys would be in my deployment with good armor my fire warriors had trouble with. Now, I run fire knife units.

I really appreciate your blog. I've read it for about a year now and I know there is a change in authors but it seems to still be great! Thanks

Thomas Pugh said...
December 16, 2012 at 12:23 PM  

Im starting a tau army getting the first units for christmas
what should i get for my first battlesuit?

David Drage said...
December 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM  

The Plasma Rifle/Missile Pod/MultiTracker combination is always a good place to start. It is useful against vehicles and infantry.
There are other combinations that are good too, I like this one...

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