Tactica: Fire Warriors

August 18, 2014 ·

Hello and welcome to the next installment of our Tactica series. This time we will be looking at our basic grunt: the Fire Warrior.

Unit Description

The Tau Firewarrior has most of the stats of your standard Astra Militarum Guardsman, however he is almost double the points! This is mostly due to his superior equipment. Tau have abysmal reflexes, and so both their Initiative and Weapon Skill are 2 instead of the 3 most average humans have. 
He has a 4+ armour save, carries Photon (defensive) grenades, and either a Pulse Rifle or a Pulse Carbine. Both are S5 AP5 weapons but while the Rifle is rapidfire with 30" range, the Carbine is an 18" assault 2 weapon that causes Pinning checks. The weapon of choice, by far, is the Pulse Rifle.
The unit has access to a veteran upgrade, who can then add a couple Drones to the squad, and/or take a Markerlight . The unit can be "bonded" and they can be outfitted with EMP (haywire) grenades and can take the Devilfish as a dedicated transport.
The unit does not have very much flexibility in equipment options, but that keeps them focused.

Battlefield Role

One look at their stats and equipment and you know that these guys are meant for shooting stuff and almost nothing else. As Troop choices, in many detachments they will be benefit from Objective Secured, but that will not come into play often, though it does synergize nicely with the Devilfish. The Pulse Rifle is rightly feared by the enemies of the Empire and sets a Fire Warrior team on a level above most standard infantry. While your Broadsides and Crisis suits are targeting the enemy's prime elements, your Fire Warriors can quietly outmatch everything else at range.

Loadout

The standard equipment for a Fire Warrior is more than enough to make the unit effective but there are some options that can help with the unit's overall utility. The veteran Shas'Ui upgrade is great for units that will be operating on their own, especially full units that represent a larger point investment and will be taking more leadership checks throughout the game. However, his option for taking a Target Lock and Markerlight should probably be passed on most of the time. 
Giving your Fire Warriors Pulse Carbines will change their role somewhat. The shorter range and special rules turns them into an excellent disruption unit, but they will not be engaging the enemy at range. These units  do not interact with the Tau infantry HQ's as well as the Pulse Rifle does, making them better suited for independent operation.
EMP grenades are a per-model upgrade that can be a waste against horde armies, but a godsend against heavy vehicle lists. Usually, either every Fire Warrior unit is carrying EMP's or none of them will. Remember, during Overwatch one model can still throw an EMP grenade, though it will only matter if the thing charging you is a Walker or Chariot.
Adding Drones to the squad has its benefits but Tau players don't always have the points to spare. Marker and Shield Drones won't be a good choice for Fire Warrior teams but Gun Drones can be, since they add more layers to the unit's defensive capabilities. The high Initiative can save the unit from being overrun after losing an assault, and their twin-linked weapons will be more accurate during Overwatch. The Pinning capability is just a situational plus.

Combos, Synergies, and Lists

As our grunt infantry, they belong in most lists and synergize well with just about everything, but a few in particular:
  • Devilfish- Taking a Devilfish as a dedicated transport for this unit (in 7th ed) gives us a durable, slippery, quick vehicle that can steal or contest objectives from enemy units. It also is a necessary component in the deadly "Fish of Fury" attack.
  • Tau Infantry HQ's- All of the different Ethereals are custom-made to hang with your Firewarriors and make them better in every way. Cadre Fireblades make your backfield objective holder into a long range threat, especially against horde armies. The infantry HQ's are dirt cheap too.
    Darkstrider presents some fun options as well, making the unit deadlier and giving them a good deal of deployment flexibility.
  • Broadside Battlesuits- The other essential unit to a Tau central firebase. They can handle all the things that your Fire Warriors can't crack, and the Fire Warriors can use their numbers and defensive grenades to screen the Broadsides from assault. The Broadsides' twin-linked weapons can be a great addition to your Overwatch as well.
  • Markerlight Support Units- Obviously, everything is better with Markerlights, but Fire Warriors have no other way to improve their middling Ballistic Skill of 3. This is a good thing, because if they were BS4 base, there would be no end to the complaining from other players and they would cost more than a Space Marine! Their weapon is great, but when you have a BS4 or BS5 Fire Warrior pulling the trigger, it is phenomenal . 
Farsight Enclave (FSE) armies require Bonding Knife rituals to be taken. For this reason FSE Fire Warrior teams are discouraged in a full FSE army since they are effectively 11% more expensive than a regular Tau Empire one, with no significant benefits. Fully Mechanized cadres may not benefit from Firewarriors as much as conventional cadres, since they aren't shooting while embarked, but they can still pull their weight, especially in 7th where their Devilfishes can handle the objective capping. Mechanized cadres will rely more on powerful Fish of Fury attacks than prolonged firefights at range to remove enemy infantry.

Tactics

Basic

The Tau Firewarrior unit is incredibly easy to use. Just point and shoot because they aren't equipped to do much else. If your opponent tries to hide, they can move 6" a turn while still being fully functional and they don't need a cover save against most small arms fire. They shoot stuff and cap any objectives when they need to, easy as that.
A cheap way to get the most out of your Fire Warriors, is to max out the squad and add a Cadre Fireblade. Plop them down on an objective in your deployment zone and go to work. Twenty-four S5 shots at 30" is no laughing matter, and it costs less than 170 points! Add just one Markerlight token and the damage potential starts getting vicious. His high leadership should keep the unit from fleeing after the unavoidable return fire takes its toll on the unit, and he can put an accurate Markerlight hit on other stuff while his unit mows down infantry.
Even without the Fireblade, they are a great unit and are the cheapest source of S5 shots in our codex, so there aren't any units in our codex that can put out S5 shots better than some Firewarriors.

Gunline/Castle

A few large units of Firewarriors accompanied by an Ethereal and put in hard cover or behind an Aegis Defense Line becomes a difficult target to remove. Though this formation wont be killing the enemy at range, it turns everything within 15" into a kill zone. Adding EMP grenades will make even a couple Imperial Knights think twice about charging in. Broadsides turn the whole thing into a respectable "castle" that your opponent cannot afford to ignore.
Usually the answer to these formations is either Deep Striking a unit behind the Aegis or Barrage artillery weapons. Both can be deadly to massed Firewarriors caught in the open so deployment can change if you know your opponent has some.

EMP Grenadiers

This is a squad of Fire Warriors (usually 6 or 8) carrying Pulse Carbines and EMP Grenades, often mounted in a Devilfish as well. Though not a super efficient shooty unit, it is capable of storming objectives and catching enemy vehicles off guard. The Devilfish can drop them off near some enemy vehicles in the backfield then zoom off to cap enemy objectives. The Grenadiers can have their way with any vehicle they can assault and their 18" weapon range is perfect for disruption tactics. In a pinch you can try to shut down a low Initiative shooty unit with a Blind check and some Pinning attacks.
The unit is fairly expensive, but can turn into a real pain for your opponent as their Blind, Pinning, and EMP attacks start to add up over a couple turns.

Fish of Fury

A tactic as old as the Tau codex, and it still works great. Here is how it works: a loaded Devilfish advances toward an enemy unit and the Fire Warriors disembark within Rapidfire range (15" for Pulse Rifles) while the Gun Drones disembark from the Devilfish as well. The unit will be at full shooting capacity because they were safe in the Devilfish up until now. The unit unloads everything it has into the enemy unit, doing as much damage as possible. When they are done, the detached Gun Drones use their Thrust move to position themselves, along with the Devilfish, between the Fire Warriors and whatever survived the attack, screening them from assault. If the enemy has 5+ armour, the warriors deploy to the front and sides of the Devilfish to deny them a cover save, if against 4+ armour or better they deploy out the back of the Devilfish and shoot under the skimmer. Irregardless, they have to be in Rapidfire range.

This tactic can be amplified by using two Devilfishes on the same target, resulting in a Double Fish of Fury, though it is difficult to orchestrate correctly. An Ethereal can also be added and left inside of the Devilfish to provide an extra shot to the Rapidfiring Fire Warriors and the detached Gun Drones. It is also worth noting that Gun Drones can detach from the vehicle and Assault the targeted enemy unit after the FoF attack, possibly tying them up in close combat on your opponent's turn.

Conclusion

Tau Fire Warriors are (in my humble opinion) the best basic infantry in the game. They have a clear, focused goal and everything about them is perfectly suited for the role; no wasted points on stuff they won't use. 
  • The Pulse Rifle or Carbine is S5, allowing them to hurt anything short of AV12 or Toughness 9
  • Their armour is 4+ allowing them decent armour saves against the oh-so-common AP5 weapons (including our own!) and a higher level of mobility, as they can venture away from cover.
  • They are cheap enough to field in large quantities, but expensive enough that every trooper can matter.
  • Their Ballistic Skill is average, but they have lots of synergistic units that help them get more shots off AND increase accuracy. 
  • Their greatest weakness is in actual close combat, but anything that gets into combat with Fire Warriors is hardly going to care whether they are WS2 or 3. Plus, no matter how skilled the opponent, the best they can hit on is a 3+ while the worst you can hit on is a 5+. The Photon Grenades and Overwatch fire can knock the wind out of an enemy assault and end with a surprising victory for the Fire Warriors.
Few infantry can boast the same level of balance in offense and defence as the Tau Fire Warrior. Rejoice, for you are the envy of other commanders, wishing their expensive-unfocused Tactical Marines or less-than-useful Guardsman would learn a thing or two from the Tau.

Comment with your thoughts on Fire Warriors!

5 comments:

Pr0Golf3r said...
August 21, 2014 at 1:52 PM  

Firewarriors are great! However I need something clarified as I have not read the new 7th ed rules. EMP grenades seem to be a highlighted topic in this article however what benefit do they have against vehicles and imperial knights! Haha, I was a bit surprised to see that they are worth taking. Also I really like this series, a lot more condensed and easier to read than most things on forums. Thanks.

Skyler Hoeft said...
August 22, 2014 at 5:13 AM  

EMP Grenades have the Haywire special rule, which I believe is unchanged from 6th edition. Instead of rolling to penetrate a vehicle you roll one dice per EMP attack.
1:nothing
2-5:glancing hit
6:penetrating hit

This is especially useful against larger vehicles and Titans, because the EMP grenades are just as effective against a Land Raider as they are against a Rhino.

They are highlighted in this article because I really like them and they are cheaper since the new codex came out (2 points per model instead of 3)

Pr0Golf3r said...
August 22, 2014 at 8:58 AM  

I see, that is quite good, never thought of doing that, thanks! What are you planning to focus on next in the series? :)

Skyler Hoeft said...
August 23, 2014 at 5:49 AM  

it is all very fluid, we write on what comes to us. I will try to get a tactica up for the more basic units first though. I also like to have personal experience with them, hence the lack of a Broadside tactica.
Open to suggestions!

Pr0Golf3r said...
August 25, 2014 at 9:40 AM  

Eh I haven't bought piranhas yet and would quite like to know some strategies on how to use them to see if they are worth taking. Thanks :)

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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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