Tactica: XV8 Commander

July 9, 2013 ·

This is the first tactica. Remember, this is for all. Comments please - where have I gone wrong, what have I missed? Let me know and I'll edit it before saving for posterity!

XV8 Commander

If you don’t take one of these in your Cadre your doing it wrong!

Well that was a quick one…!

The longer version …..

The Basics

The Commander comes stock in an XV8 battle suit, which has all the benefits of a “normal” suit, but with 2 more. He can take 4 options from the weapons or upgrade lists, and on top of that, any signature system. The other main differences are that his BS is boosted to 5 and he has 4 wounds.

However, what makes him special are the various upgrades you can take. I wont run through them all, you can all read the codex for yourself, but this is the Commander’s strength – you can pretty much kit him out to do anything.

The other thing to note is that the Commander has access to all the Tau warlord traits, unlike the Ethereal.

Battlefield Role

People often talk about buffing HQ’s, that enhance the rest of your army (e.g. Space Marine Librarians), and stand alone HQ’s that are used independently from the rest of the army (e.g. Mephiston). The Commander is the ultimate “buffing” HQ. By that I mean he can be built to enhance any function within your Cadre, or to plug gaps in your Cadre. What I usually do when building a list is build the list first, and then kit out my Commander to complement or boost the rest of the list.

An example …… you have a unit of Broadsides that are your main anti air asset. You’re worried about Vendettas killing them before they get a chance to shoot. Fit out your Commander with Iridium Armour, a shield generator, Stim Injector and 2 shield drones and put him out in front of the Broadsides to tank Lazcannon wounds.

So, the Commander’s role is to support and enhance other units – and broadly speaking he does it in 4 ways, although each can be combined. He makes an excellent “tank” i.e. taking wounds for more fragile units, if he take a Drone Controller he gives attached Drones his BS5, and he hands out USRs to attached units as if they were sweeties! Finally, he can be kitted out to be a pretty formidable fire power unit in his own right, where he (almost) crosses over to being used independently rather than in a support role.


You can build the Commander to be very tough to kill. The first step in doing so is giving him Iridium Armour. He then has a 2+ save and T5. When I build the Commander into a Tank I usually leave it at that. The reason is I want to use his hard points for other upgrades i.e. I’m using him in a role other than simply as a tank. However, you can make him even harder to kill by giving him a shield generator, a stim injector and 2 Shield Drones…. the name O’Mortal was coined for a build like this!

The problem with a tanking character is that he can’t be everywhere. A clever opponent will position units to avoid the tank, and shoot into the flanks of your unit. This is easier to do when units are going forward (XV8s with plasma rifles for example), harder with units that stay at range (Broadsides). Also one of the things I've found playing Newdar is that their mobility makes tanking characters less useful.

Drone Buffer

Making Drones BS5 is huge…not really for gun drones, but for marker drones.

Pathfinders have limitations as marker light platforms. They are static and fragile. Drones are mobile and have a better save and are tougher. Their biggest draw back is their BS of 2… attaching a Commander with Drone Controller solves that problem.

It makes the unit expensive, and you can argue it’s a “waste” of the Commander’s potential, but marker lights are so crucial to a Cadre that I’ve never found dedicating a Commander to the role of providing resilient, mobile and reliable marker lights was a waste.

The load out I usually use is Commander with 2 missile pods, Drone Controller, target lock and 2 marker drones. The Target lock allows him to fire his missile pods at a separate target, and the marker drones are 2 points cheaper than the same marker drone taken as a fast attack slot. I’ve seen some people take no weapons at all, leaving room for a stim injector or a shield generator (or nothing at all, making him as cheap as possible), but I always feel that “wastes” his BS5. If you go down this route however, another option is to take the Command & Control Node making the marker drones twin linked. It's not that big a deal, as they’re BS5 anyway, but it gives them a re roll against flyers, allowing you to put one or two tokens on a flyer that Longstrike can then pick up…!

USR Dispenser

A number of upgrades give the Commander USRs that he can then grant to a squad simply by joining them. These are

Puretide Chip – Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter (other stuff that’s not important)
Command & Control Node – Twin Linked
Multi Spectrum Sensor Suit – Ignores Cover
Vectored Retro Thrusters – Hit and Run

The most useful is the Puretide Chip. Rerolls to wound Monstrous Creatures and re rolls to penetrate armour are really powerful on units wielding missile pods (e.g. Deathrains and HYMP Broadsides). Twin linking weapons and making them ignore cover is also useful, but less so. You can achieve the same result (more or less) with 3 marker light hits. An additional argument against using the C&CN and the M3S on a Commander is that he can’t shoot if using them, wasting his high BS. Best place for these upgrades IMHO is in a Farsight bomb, or perhaps on a Shas’vre in an XV8 squad.

Hit and Run is again less useful. While it’s obviously good to be able to get out of combat, it’s best not to be there in the first place, or have sufficient redundancy to be happy to lose the unit ASAP, so the rest of your army can shoot the assaulting unit some more. Again, the best place for a vectored retro thruster IMHO is in a Farsight Bomb. Because you intentionally put the Bomb in harm’s way, it is often difficult to avoid assaults.

Having said that, Hit and Run can be good in some allied builds - Hit and Run assault terminators, or maybe even Hit and Run Seer Council for example.

Independent Gun Platform

Because of the variety of weapons he can take, and signature systems and support systems (not to mention his BS5), you can use the Commander in a specific fire support role, to plug a lack of a certain “type” of fire power (whether it be low AP, High Strength, volume, range bands etc etc).

So if you lack AP 2 in your army take 2 Plasma Rifles. If you lack high strength weapons (really, in a Tau Cadre!) take twin missile pods, or if you lack melta take a couple of Fusion Blasters. You can also add in support systems to build him for a specific role. For example, if you want an aggressive build that is perhaps moving forward to support a Devil Fish full of Fire warriors, build him with a Fusion Blaster and a Plasma Rifle, but give him a Stim Injector making him more survivable, and a Vectored Retro Thruster to get out of combat, the risk of which is greater if he’s moving forward.

Another example - if you lack Skyfire (again…really in a  Tau Cadre!). Two Missile pods, a Puretide Chip, Velocity Tracker and Early Warning Override, will make most flyers sweat. 

Need something to provide volume of fire (again unlikely in a Tau Cadre!) – 2 Burst Cannons a Drone Controller and 2 Gun Drones. Twelve S5 BS5 shots

I’m not however persuaded that this is the best use of the Commander – the Codex as a whole is so flexible that you can usually build the army to cover most bases, without tooling up the Commander as a dedicated Gun Platform. 


There are of course all sorts of variations on these themes, and a myriad of different builds, depending on the role you want your Commander to fill. Some examples..

·      Broadside Babysitter – Iridium Armour, Puretide Chip, 2 Missile Pods, Velocity Tracker, Target Lock, 2 Shield Drones. If you have a Quad Gun, put him on the Quad Gun. If you want more survivability, swap out one Missile Pod for a Stim Injector.

·      Mark’O  - Iridium Armour, Drone Controller, 2 Missile Pods, Target Lock

·      Support’O – Iridium Armour, Puretide Chip, Drone Controler, C&CN, M3S, Stim Injector.

·      XV8 Team Leader – Iridium Armour, Puretide Chip, Fusion Gun, Plasma Rifle, Drone controller (if you are adding gun drones or marker drones to your XV8 team)


The XV8 Commander is IMHO the Tau Cadre’s premier HQ choice (Ethereals are up there, but not quite on the same level). The thing that makes them such a stand out unit is their flexibility – if a standard XV8 is a swiss army knife, the XV8 Commander is a swiss army knife that has spend most of its life work in the Leatherman factory, and picked up a few tips!

The reason for the Commander’s flexibility is the ability to take 4 options from the weapon or battle suit upgrade lists, plus any Signature System. That, combined with its independent character status, allows him to spread the benefit of these upgrades to other Tau units (including Riptides). That’s the key – the ability to “hand out” benefits to other units, makes for a very flexible HQ, that can enhance most lists.

The secret to using the Commander well, is working out what benefits your Cadre needs, and then knowing how to kit out your Commander to deploy those benefits effectively. And finally, working out on a game by game, turn by turn basis, which unit in your army needs the buffs.

For example, at the weekend I played a game against Newdar Wave Serpent spam. However, he also had a Wraithknight. I needed to decide whether to attach the XV8 to a Riptide for 5 AP2 monster hunting shots against the Wraithkinght, or to my double Death Rain team for 12 S7 tank hunting shots against wave serpents (I went for the Death Rains because I had Skyrays to deal with the Wraithknight).




Hu Jin Tau said...
July 10, 2013 at 1:39 AM  

Awesome model, I love the Farsight color scheme, just never had the guts to dress my blue boys up in red. Nice banner and drones too.

And I agree completely, you have to take at least one of these guys. He gives your cadre access to all the toys, and he is a powerhouse of a battlesuit. His escorts aren't too shabby either.

Taking two is also a good idea as you can have one raising hell all over the table and install the other one into a unit of broadsides and gift the big boys with a nice little bag of goodies as well.

Tim said...
July 10, 2013 at 5:48 AM  

Honestly I don't think these guys are a must-take. I could easily see a good list supported by an Ethereal + Shadowsun or Ethereal + Fireblade, or an Ethereal + Dark Strider, or Farsight. Really, its the ethereal that is the the true must-take.

That said, XV8 commanders are damn good.

Skyler Hoeft said...
July 10, 2013 at 11:11 AM  

when comparing Commanders to Ethereals, a lot of that depends on what type of army you are running.
IMO, the ethereal only wins out when you are castling large amounts of firewarriors behind an Aegis.

One thing I would add, is that a Commander can make use of All of the Tau warlord traits (especially if he is carrying missile pods)

Embrace Your Inner Geek said...
July 11, 2013 at 6:28 AM  

@ HJT - thanks for what you said about the model. My new Cadre won best painted at a tournament at the weekend, which I was really pleased about.

@ Tim - I agree he's not a "must take" and that's what's great about our new Codex, there are no real "must takes" (including Ethereals IMHO) and only a few real dogs (Vespids and the Flyers).

@ Skyler - good point re the Warlords Traits, I'll put in something about this.

Andrew Stants said...
November 5, 2013 at 7:43 AM  

It is too bad that a lot of what you suggested cannot be done as any character in the Farsight Enclave list cannot take Signature Systems from the Tau Empire codex.

Hu Jin Tau said...
November 6, 2013 at 6:21 AM  

@Andrew: Not necessarily true, at least not 100%.

The characters in the Farsight list already have almost all of the signature systems, just maybe not distributed the way you may want them to be. Plus Farsight's army has some of its own goodies.

You also have to remember that this Tactica was developed before he Farsight Enclaves release, and still remains valid in a Tau Empire army. And you can still bring Farsight in that army.

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Warhammer Tau is a group of wargamers who feel that they have a little something different to offer other Tau Empire, Kroot, and allied players... even if it's just a starting point for discussion! Our goal is to produce at least one article per week to inform and encourage the Tau and Warhammer gamer community. For the Greater Good, of course!

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