Tactica: Skyray

July 13, 2013 ·

My Cadre's one of 2 Skyrays

Next in our Tactica series, Skyrays.

Unit Description

The Skyray is an AV13 tank armed with a twin linked burst cannon, 6 seeker missiles and 2 networked marker lights. However, its claim to fame is that it comes standard with a velocity tracker, giving it Skyfire. All for a relatively modest price.

Battlefield Role

To understand the Skyray, first you need to understand how Seeker Missiles work in the new Codex.

In the past Seeker Missiles were pretty rubbish. The only way to launch them was by picking up a marker light. So, first you needed to hit with a marker light on BS3, and then you used that marker light to hit with the Missile on BS5. It always struck me as a very expensive S8 AP3 shot, when you factored in the “opportunity cost” of the marker light. However, Seeker Missiles are much better now. First they have 2 firing modes. Either you can shoot them straight off the rails using the firing units BS (which is good for Skyrays, being BS4) or you shoot them like you used to, picking up marker lights. However, there are 3 advantages if you use a marker light. First they fire at BS5, second they have the Ignores Cover rule and finally, they do not count towards any restriction on firing caused by the vehicles movement.

For Skyrays, this is important, because it means you can fire all 6 missiles straight off the rails at BS4, without the need for any marker light hits. As a result, nine times out of 10, you will be firing the Skyray’s missiles straight off the rails, picking up one of the networked marker lights to fire them at BS5. You might pick up 2 other marker lights to fire them of the rails, all ignoring cover, but the only reason you might fire the Missiles using marker lights, is if you want to move your Skyray. This might be important – if you want to pick up a jink save for example, but is not the normal mode of fire.

So, with that out the way, you can split the Skyray’s battlefield role into 2 – before it fires its missiles, and after.

Before it fires its missiles, the Skyrays’ primary role is as an anti flyer unit. Because its marker lights have the Skyfire rule, and are networked, the Skyray can fire them first, and then use one of those marker light hits to fire all its missiles at BS5. In my experience a volley of 6 seeker missiles at BS5 “usually” kills an AV12 flyer, and certainly kills an AV11 one. In it’s primary role, the Skyray’s use is pretty straightforward.

There are a couple of things you need to look out for however. Firstly, you need to make sure that your Skyray survives until it can shoot the missiles. It’s not that hard, it is AV13 after all, however it is probably best to give it a D’pod so it can pick up a 3+ jink save on turn one. That means the vendettas you want to kill will have a harder time killing the Skyray the turn they come on, allowing you to retaliate more reliably in your turn.

The next thing to think about is how many missiles you want to fire at any one target. Now, I’m not a math hammer guy, so if your looking for detailed tables of probabilities etc then look elsewhere. My rule of thumb with Skyrays however is “use it or lose it” accordingly I have never fired anything less than all 6 missiles in one salvo. Now, on occasion that has been overkill (man was that Storm Talon dead!), but in my view better that than “wasting” a few shots, not killing the flyer and getting killed next turn with missiles still on the rails. That is particularly true when you consider that the Skyray really only gets one chance to kill that Vendetta. By this I mean there is no point in taking of 2 hull points and finishing it off next turn … you’ve got nothing to shoot next turn.

Finally, you need to be careful with movement – because each seeker missiles is one weapon, to shoot all of them, the Skyray needs to stay still.

If you’re opponent has no flyers then the Skyray can deliver a pretty devastating alpha strike, particularly if it can pick up 3 marker lights to fire all its’ missiles at BS5, ignoring cover….!

So, you’ve shot all your missiles, you’ve killed a flyer – what now? Once it has fired its missiles the Skyray has 3 roles –a smart missile platform, a marker light platform and a blocking unit.

Smart missiles are awesome, and should always be taken on Skyrays. One problem Tau armies can have is wiping units off distant objectives, particularly if they are out of sight and/or in cover. We don’t’ have many fast units that can get to them, and no units that can assault an objective. So a crappy little unit of cultists, hiding in a building, can lose you a game… but not if you have SMS (they are also really good against Guardian Jet Bikes). However, to use the Skyray in this role you need to change your mind set when you use it. Until it fires its missiles, the Skyray is a stationary, backfield unit – you need to stay still to shoot all it’s weapons and because they have a long range, you tend to keep it towards the rear of you Cadre. However, once you’ve fired its missiles you need to think about moving up with your Skyray. SMS have a 30” range now, which is great, but not huge. A few times I’ve forgotten to move up my Skyray, only to find that I don’t have the range to kill the scoring units in my opponents backfield.

So, around turn 3, start moving forward more aggressively with your Skyrays (if you can!).

The Skyray is also a handy marker light platform – unlike all other platforms it’s BS4 naturally, and the marker lights have the Skyfire rule. This makes the Skyray good at starting marker light chain reactions (i.e. using one high BS marker light to get a hit, and then having marker light units with lower BS pick up that marker light to increase their chance of hitting.).

For example, your opponent has 2 Vendettas. Your Skyray shot down the first one when it came on, but you need to deal with the second one. You have the Skyray, Longstrike in a Railhead, and a bunch of Marker Drones lead by a Shas’o with a Command and Control Node. You fire the Skyray’s Marker Light at the Vendetta and get one hit. You pick up that hit with the Marker Drones, and fire them at the Vendetta using the marker light token to boost their ballistic skill to BS2, which is also twin linked thanks to the C&CN. You then use all the resulting marker light hits to fire Longstrike’s Railgun at the Vendetta, probably at BS4 (depending on how many Marker Drones you have).

Finally, the Skyray is a big model and is great at getting in the way of incoming assault units, buying you an extra turn of shooting. If they assault your Skyray, great – you get another turn of shooting because, while the Skyray doesn’t fire overwatch itself, an assault on a vehicle triggers the supporting fire rule, allowing other units within 6” with this rule to fire overwatch.

Load Out

Smart Missiles System and D’pod. The SMS because it is so much better than a TL Burst Cannon (and it’s a free upgrade), and the D-pod to help keep it alive from shooting attacks until your opponents flyers come in.

Combos, Synergies and Lists

IMHO Skyrays work best in a mechanised list. They provide additional hulls to increase target saturation, providing protection to Devilfish full of Fire Warriors. It’s probably best if it’s not your only source of anti air fire power. If they are, what happens if your opening salvo doesn’t down the Helldrake? As a result I’ve found they work better in pairs, and/or with Skyfire Riptides.

An alternative is to have a unit that, while it doesn’t have Skyfire, can use the Skyray’s Skyfire Marker Lights to best advantage – for example, a unit of Deathrains or a unit of HYMP Broadsides.


Skyrays are great at what they are designed to do – blowing flyers out the sky. They also have a useful secondary role as a platform for Skyfire Marker Lights, and Smart Missiles Systems. The big problem with Skyrays however, is they sacrifice efficiency in their secondary roles, for greater efficiency in their primary role i.e. they are really good at shooting down flyers, but not that great as a marker light platform or SMS platform! But then again…. they don’t cost a lot of points!

Again -  this is a "living" document and a community project. What have I missed?



TheGraveMind said...
July 13, 2013 at 10:55 AM  

I've been running one or two a lot. I faced cron\csm. A heldrake and two scythes. From a distance, AV13 is hard to kill. Opening salvo took down both scythes. Following turn I moved up to block wraiths, markered the drake, boosting pathfinders, which let my suits take it down. I run a hybrid list, but I love them. They are normally my only skyfire too.

17yearoldhobbyist said...
July 13, 2013 at 11:11 AM  

Great post. Because you asked: you said to "boost" the drones BS to 2 but they are already BS 2. Still great post. Was considering buying a skyray. This has let me know how to use it!

Embrace Your Inner Geek said...
July 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM  

Thank guys

When I talked about the drones BS, I was talking about boosting its snap shot BS at flyers. Make sense?


17yearoldhobbyist said...
July 14, 2013 at 1:56 AM  

Ohhh. Yes I get it. Sorry 'bout that

Gergő said...
July 14, 2013 at 6:54 PM  

Thanks for this artilce (and the series in general), it's really insightful!
Just one question: The way you describe markerlight-chaining (in order to bring down flyers, by firing the skyray's skyfire markerlight, and using said ML hit to increase BS for non-skyfire ML/normal shots ) I believe was ruled illegal by the general 6th-ed FAQ, was it not? I mean the part on page 4 about no special ability can ever improve the BS1 of a snapshot.

Cheapshot45 said...
July 15, 2013 at 8:42 AM  

This is a great article. I also however, was under the impression that you cannot increase the BS for snap shots based on the 6th Ed. FAQ. Doesn't change the fact that Skyray is a beast.

Skyler Hoeft said...
July 15, 2013 at 2:09 PM  

The 6th ed FAQ was written before the Tau codex, and codices take precedence anyways.
The codex specifically allows this on pg. 68 under "Pinpoint"
It reads "Pinpoint can increase the Ballistic Skill of Snap Shots and Overwatch"

Skyler Hoeft said...
July 15, 2013 at 2:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boss Hog said...
November 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM  

Great article. I'm thinking of including two skyrays in my 1850pt army list. Most of the army is complete but stuck between another 3 man broadside unit or two skyrays. What you suggest? I already have one unit of three broadsides.

Boss Hog said...
November 12, 2013 at 1:34 PM  

Great article. I'm seriously thinking of including two skyrays in my 1850pt army rather than a second 3 man broadside team. What are you thoughts on this? Or should I go two 3 man broadside teams?

Unknown said...
February 14, 2016 at 5:28 PM  

One major thing that's changed this edition is that you no longer need to move to get that jink, but it now forces snap shots until the end of their next turn. This undermines their primary anti-air role, so it is probably best to deploy in cover these days. Accordingly, sensor spines may be a compulsory upgrade. Dangerous terrain is often not a big deal, but that 1/6 occasion when it leads to your early demise... well I prefer reliable army builds, so that my strategy can unfold with as little need as possible for luck.

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