I am going to be discussing a few of the changes to Warhammer 40k with the arrival of 7th edition, and what they mean for Tau players.
Hu Jin Tau touched on some of these, but I'd like to examine them in a bit closer detail. The short answer, is that things have changed, but we are still in the fight, with some new tricks too.
Jink has been altered. This is both good and bad for us Tau. The new rule, I believe, was intended to nerf Waveserpent spam by, at the very least, taking away their offensive capabilities when benefiting from crazy cover saves. While this puts a little bit of a handicap on Eldar transport firepower, it cripples the already mediocre Tau battle tanks. Skyrays need those markerlights to make their missile salvos effective, but if they have to jink to stay on the board before the enemy flier comes on, then they might as well be terrain. Hammerheads will not be able to use their weapons' large blast profiles if they jink, taking away one of the only things they had going for them.
"But... Markerlights!" You might say. Markerlight sources are expensive and hard to keep on the table. Hammerheads already needed markerlight support to be effective, but now they need more? And they still won't be able to use their Blast profiles?
In addition, Skyrays are now drastically less effective. They can't destroy fliers or vehicles with one missile, so they'll have to rely on volume of fire to glance vehicles to death. Since they have a limit of 6 shots, they are not built for volume of fire and you'll be lucky if you can down a single flyer with the Skyray. At this point, suits with Velocity Trackers are the only way to get rid of enemy air support (outside of our own Fliers).
Still, in the words of CoffeeGrunt: "The best Deny the Witch measure is a Pulse Round to the face"
Charge range through cover is a flat 2D6 -2 inches. Not a huge change, but before you were likely to lose 3 or 4 inches. Many of the units in our codex ignored difficult terrain on the charge anyways, so this is a small buff for other armies and, conversely, bad for us.
Photon Grenades have changed. Now they have a thrown blast profile, so even our BS3 firewarriors have good odds of hitting their target. This blast wont hurt anything, but it Does force a Blind check. Unfortunately, Blind checks now only occur once per phase, but that one failed initiative check is going to hurt tremendously. Much more useful than Stealth under 8" imho.
Scoring! Devilfishes can now claim objectives and hold it against anything but an enemy Troop choice. Granted, a dedicated Land Raider will be even tougher, but we can take 3 Devilfishes for the price of one Landraider, and our vehicles are faster. Watch out for those zippy Eldar. We may be a bit quicker than Astra Militarum, but that doesn't mean we are actually Fast. Devilfishes will be back in style, and maybe with Carbine Firewarriors too (forcing a Pinning check AND a Blind check? Yes please)
- This means it's business as usual. Mass firepower is still the name of our game.
- Tau will have to have good Alpha Strikes to set the pace early and keep those psykers under control. So you may not be reserving as many units as you used to.
- Devilfishes will be popular again, and they will make your opponent furious as they run around snagging objectives while enjoying a 3+ cover save on top of a universal buff to 7th edition vehicles.
- Hammerheads will become even rarer (Longstrike will almost cease to exist) and maybe Skyrays too.
- The occasional Blind will be hilarious when your opponent's hyper assault unit suddenly can't even hit a Firewarrior in close combat.
- Tau seem to have been hit with the Nerf bat overall, but not that hard. We are still strong, and now we can freely use tactics to our advantage without feeling sorry for our opponent because we are "OP".
- Long range anti-tank firepower is no longer an option for Tau. It used to be our thing, but now we can't do it effectively. We are going to need to play smarter and be prepared to get our hands dirty. This isn't the end, it just means that we need to work on our "close" game, which Tau are pretty good at anyways.
- I also expect to see more Enclave players. Crisis suits are now even more important than ever, and FSE is the only way to get them onto the board in sufficient numbers.
- And finally, some things just don't change...
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