Tau HQs Part 2

April 28, 2013 ·

This is part two of our three part series looking at the HQ’s available in the new Tau codex. For part one, please click here.
In the previous codex there was really no reason to want to take and Ethereal, they were weak, didn't do much, and if one died your entire army had to take a leadership check… and Tau leadership isn't that great. So have they gotten any better? Let’s first examine the generic Ethereal and then move on to the two characters, Aun’Shi and Aun’Va.

The Generic Ethereal

Coming in at 50 points this is our cheapest HQ option, and probably the most fragile. The generic Ethereal has no armor save and no options to get one. It does have an Initiative a single point better than your standard Firewarrior,3 base attacks and weapon skill 4?... This is really odd because there is no way you would ever want to get this guy into close combat, the two close combat upgrades feel almost like a joke as well; AP4? +2 Strength? Who is scared of strength 5 Tau?
But he/she/it does come with several good special rules; one is a 12” Ld10 bubble, another is stubborn to any unit it joins and finally “Invocation of the Elements”.  Pay attention because this is where it gets interesting. On its movement phase the Ethereal gets to select one special rule to confer to every non-vehicle unit within 12”; think of it as an IG orders only they happen automatically. You have the option to:
  • Make all models stubborn
  • Fire an extra pulse weapon shot when shooting at half range (aka the triple-Tap), which works on Kroot as well
  • Feel no pain on a 6+ (hooray?)
  • A unit can run and still fire snap shots after moving
The best part is you can reuse a single power indefinitely, although if you lose the Ethereal the power ends immediately. Speaking of losing an Ethereal, if he dies he gives your opponent 2(!) victory points, in a game where 1-2 points makes all the difference this is something that really bears consideration.

The powers the Ethereal grants is really designed for a mass gun line of Firewarriors; which as luck would have it is the best way to protect it. Add on a shield drone or two and maybe even a Homing beacon in case you need to call in some reserves for a “danger-close” deep strike.  The nice thing about the Ethereal is that the powers are bubble so if you huddle 2-3 squads of troops near it you can expect a veritable wall of S5 against anything that comes close. The trick is just keeping him alive.


So what happens if you double the points of an Ethereal and slap a name on it? You get double the awesomeness right?...ummmm.
The Blade master has all the special rules as a generic Ethereal plus one more.”Blade master” let’s you pick one of two different stance while in close combat (rending and rerolling saves). He does have a 4++ but honestly that won’t stop a whole lot when you get jumped by a dedicated assault unit. And therein lies the problem; he’s a close combat model you would never want to take into close combat. His save sucks; he only has 4 attacks, I5, and WS5. Sure it’s impressive by Tau standards but anything from any other codex is going to laugh at you when you decide to charge with him. Oh yeah he has EMP and Photon grenades but if you’re doing your job right he should never need to use either of them.


I was getting ready t o say that you should always take Aun’Va over Aun’Shi because he gets to fire off two Element powers instead of one, everyone in the army gets to reroll their leadership and moral checks, he gets to shrug off any wound when you roll a D6 over the shot’s AP (bring on the plasma!), and once a game can order the whole army back up from ground, and has a couple of body guards. Not only is he a few a points cheaper than Aun’Shi, but is exactly what you would expect when you are paying double the points of a generic Ethereal. That was until I saw he isn't an independent character.

That’s right, this guy and his guards can’t join a squad meaning he is going to be target number one of any drop podding or deep striking units and will give up those two points pretty easily to massed bolter fire. I would suggest you hide him in a Devilfish, but fishes can’t hold bulky models… Darn.

In Summary
So let’s do a quick recap, of the three Ethereal options the one only one that should really be of any interest is the cheapest variant,  the other two are either over priced, or too fragile to be of any use.

Generic Ethereal: Cheap, easy to kill, gives two points for slaying a Warlord, but can hand out some serious buffs to surrounding units with several “bubbles”. I think he is actually a pretty good HQ but you need to use him wisely and build you tactics around him and maximizes his protection.

Aun’Shi: Double the price of the generic version but all those points go to close combat toys that are pretty sad by non-Tau standards. It’s a fun model, but a poor HQ choice.

Aun’Va: So close, and yet so far. His abilities are impressive and fairly desirable; however he’s a soft target and you can expect to lose him pretty quickly. Once again: a poor choice for your HQ.


Tim said...
April 28, 2013 at 6:33 PM  

Aun'Va is god-like. Army-wide re-rolls for leadership checks, and two invocation powers is pretty nuts. He's also tough. He gets his armor save (5+), then a Paradox of duality save, and then a 6+ feel no pain roll. Not bad at all.

Sure he can't join squads, but you're forgetting fortifications. Deploy him in a bastion, have his guards man the heavy bolters and extend the range of his invocation powers. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Aun'shi - yeah can't see him being useful.

Ethereals are an auto-take for me. Join a big squad of kroot and hold the line. Be sure to bubble wrap with fire warriors and no one will get close to him without being rapid fired 3x per model - including the kroot.

Try playing some games with them, just be smart about it.

Anonymous said...
April 28, 2013 at 8:06 PM  

you forgot aun'shi can do 2 invoc of elements as well just like aun'va but, unlike aun'va, aun'shi has the IC rule so you can tuck him in a unit of fire warriors to keep him alive.And you shouldn't underestimate aun'shis close combat ability, sometimes it's unavoidable. I've personally have had aun'shi whoop Drago back into the warp. Yes it is all a matter of luck of the dice but those stats do help

Tim said...
April 29, 2013 at 7:42 AM  

@Anonymous, you are incorrect about Aun'Shi. He does not have Great Invocation, only Aun'Va does. Therefore Aun'Shi can only invoke ONE elemental power per turn.

Fire Ant said...
April 29, 2013 at 3:22 PM  

Liked the article but there are some... Questionable lacks in the tactical thinking process here ;) First of all, Generic Ethereal come with a Shield Generator build in, so he possess a 4+ Inv Save from the start - sure, it's nothing to sing songs about but it might be just about enough to shrug this Precision Shots off his back and keep him in the game...

Not to mention a very simple tactica to make any Ethereal much more survivable and actually let his auras spread wider!

Simply make a Papamobile - take a Devilfish with SMS for one of yours FW squad, deploy them seperate from transport and on first turn march Ethereal inside it - now he have the protection of a vehicle, add SMS to the fray and, the key thing, now his 12" auras are measured from the hull of the tank, adding quite a few extra inches to the range.

Right? ;)

Casey Roberts said...
April 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM  

Tim, I've played with the idea of aun'va in a bastion and I think it has merit. What I don't like though is that I now have to pay X points to make him survivable, and placing him in the bastion is really just telegraphing a large chunk of points to my opponent before we even know who is going first.

That's not to says you can't make it work, I just see aun'va leading to a single list/style of play.

Tim said...
April 30, 2013 at 4:20 AM  

Well give him a try - actually use him in a game. Thats the only way to know.

Casey Roberts said...
April 30, 2013 at 7:21 PM  

Fire ant, I've checked and double checked, but I don't see where the generic Ethereal has a shield generator.

Now this doesn't make him bad, in fact I really like him. In the games I've played I put him and a squad in a devil fish, give them another squad in a devil fish for company and send them racing across the board. When everyone piles out of the transports you have an absolutely insane number of S5 shots.

I doubt it's as amazing at higher point levels, but at 500 points its absolutely devasting when you back them with some fusion piranhas.

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