Tactica: XV-8 Crisis Teams

August 25, 2014 ·

Next up is the renowned XV-8 Crisis Team. They are the heart and soul of the Tau army, and they have been since Tau were first released. Let's see how to best utilize our old friends in 7th edition 40k. Strap yourselves in, this will be a long one...

Unit Description

An XV-8 team is made up of 1-3 crisis battlesuits and up to 2 drones per suit. An XV-8 has the same initiative, weapon skill, and ballistic skill as a Firewarrior, despite their status as elite infantry. Their elite status is shown in their higher leadership, an extra attack, and their crisis suit. The suit itself grants a 3+ armour save, an extra wound, toughness 4, and an impressive strength of 5. It comes with a built-in Blacksun Filter (Night Vision, Blind Immunity) and a Multi-Tracker (fire two weapons in shooting phase). In addition, the suit makes the model Jetpack Infantry.
They can each take three weapons or support systems in any combination. The veteran upgrade has further access to signature systems (one-per-army items). The possibilities for these teams are limitless, granting them a level of customization unmatched by any other unit in the game.

Battlefield Role

A crisis team can fill any role required, which makes it very hard to describe what their role in the Tau army is. Some players build their army around the crisis teams, selecting other units to complement them. Other players put the crisis teams in last, filling any holes left by their other units. They can be Anti-infantry, Anti-tank, Anti-air, Anti-transport, Anti-TEQ (terminator equivalent, or 2+ armour saves), Anti-monstrous creatures, etc. Their high strength and extra attack even make them not-so-bad in close combat, though "dedicated close combat" is one of the few battlefield roles that they are NOT capable of executing well.
If you have tons of Firewarriors and Broadsides with Missile Pods, then you are short on Anti-TEQ and maybe Anti-Tank so you throw in some Helios* or Sunforge-D*.
You've got Hammerheads and Piranhas so you are short on medium firepower. Missilesides are too slow to keep up with your vehicles, so you take some Deathrains* or Fireknives*.
You know you are going to be facing a Green Tide (horde of Ork Boyz) army, so you start your list building with a couple squads of Heatwave-D*. 
Your opponent is notorious for bringing mobile artillery, so you add a couple Sunforge* or Fireforge* monats (single crisis suit) for Deep Striking behind enemy lines.
All this is to say that their battlefield role can be almost anything you want it to be, and they will be good at doing it.

*See HERE for an XV-8 naming guide.


Again, the possibilities make this a hard thing to nail down in a Tactica summary, so I'll say a few words about each option. Let's start with the weapon choices, in order of popularity:
  • Plasma Rifles. Often taken as a pair to maximise AP2 fire output. As AP2 is lacking in other parts of the codex, I am putting this as the most popular weapon choice. 
  • Missile Pods. I consider this weapon a close second in popularity. The Missile Pod is awesome and cramming more of them into your list is never a bad idea. The only reason this one loses out to the Plasma Rifle, is because Broadsides can put out more Missile Pod fire with greater accuracy. Can be taken as a pair, but are often twin-linked to save points.
  • Fusion Blasters. Crisis suits are the best firing platform for this weapon, though it is available in a few other parts of the codex. Either taken with a Plasma Rifle for low AP utility or twin-linked and put on a suicide Monat for Deep Striking next to enemy heavy armour.
  • Flamers. A handy add-on for Overwatch support, but rarely the suit's primary weapon
  • Burst Cannon. Works great on an XV-8 but there are plenty of other sources for S5 firepower, so it is not usually taken.
  • Specialty Weapons. The Cyclic Ion Blaster and Airbursting Fragmentation Projector are both excellent weapons, but you can only take one of each in your army. In addition, their profiles make them less synergistic with the more popular weapons (Plasma Rifles and Missile Pods). 
Now, the support systems. Often Crisis suits will forego any support systems to save points, but there are a few popular ones.
  • Stimulant Injectors. Though too pricey to put on a suicide Monat or your cheap Deathrains, it can be a good investment for full squads carrying dual weapons.
  • Advanced Targeting System. Super cheap and easy to put in the list, and it synergizes well with the Plasma Rifle and the squad veteran upgrade.
  • Target Lock. Perfect for getting the most out of your units and ensuring that each suit is using his weapons to the fullest.
  • Drone Controller and Vectored Retro Thrusters really depend on what you are building the squad to do. They are usually a "one-per-squad" type of system. 
  • Counterfire Defense System. A useful upgrade, but Stealth Suits make better use of it. You're probably better off just tacking on a spare Flamer for Overwatch defense.
  • Velocity Tracker. Fairly useful on Deathrain teams, but expensive. Broadsides and Tau Fliers should be your primary anti-air, but if you need the mobility, or don't have those models, the crisis suits can fill the gap nicely. 
  • Shield Generator. A 4+ invulnerable save is awesome, but for the same points you could buy two Shield Drones, and the Stim Injectors will usually be the better option anyways.
  • Early Warning Override. Awesome system, but Riptides and Broadsides are better suited for this system, as their weapons are more potent. 
  • Positional Relay. Only useful for bringing in Outflankers and it is a "one-per-squad" upgrade. Situational at best, but a Reserve-heavy list could make good use of it.
 Here are a few common ways to setup your crisis teams:
  • Basic. Helios, Fireknife, and Deathrain are all high utility loadouts and are the most common choices. Squads with these loadouts are used both at range and up close, using terrain to stay alive. Usually each suit will carry the same equipment to help focus the team's targeting priorities.
  • Deathrain Marker Team. The crisis suits carry Missile Pods and a Target Lock. One of the suits trades a Missile Pod for a Drone Controller. Then they take the maximum of 6 Marker Drones. The Drones fire at a higher ballistic skill and the Deathrains are free to target other units. 
  • Suicide Monat. A single crisis suit that Deep Strikes onto the battlefield to fire with close ranged weapons, doing as much damage as possible before being destroyed. Usually carries Fusion Blasters or Flamers, depending on the intended target.
  • Close Support. An uncommon build, but fun nonetheless. Use cheap, close weapons like Burst Cannons and Flamers an a couple suits accompanied by some Gun Drones. Using the Jetpack Thrust move to stay out of assault range, the team peppers an enemy infantry advance and acts as a speed bump when the enemy eventually catches up to them. Vectored Retro Thrusters are a good support choice, especially if the squad contains a drone or two. This is essentially building a mini-XV9. 

The Executioner

I will share one of my favorite unit builds: the Executioner. It is composed of a Shas'O carrying two plasma rifles and an ATS, two Shas'ui with two plasma rifles and ATS, and a Shas'vre with M3S, CCN, and choice of third system. The unit costs a bit under 300 points before you add in drones and the other support systems on the Shas'O and Shas'vre.
At 12" the unit puts out 12 plasma shots that Ignore Cover and are twin-linked. The ATS gives you good odds of landing some precision shots for picking off special weapons or standard-bearers (especially that model granting Feel No Pain to the rest of the unit). It is designed to surgically cut specific units or models from your opponent's army, crippling its overall effectiveness and is the perfect unit for carrying out the Nen'em'Ka (Spear Thrust) strategy.

Combos Synergies and Lists

As the tried and true heavy hitter of the Tau army, the crisis team synergizes well with virtually everything in the codex. A few units stand out though.
  • Naturally, the XV-8 Commander has the most synergy with a crisis team. They are all wearing XV-8 battlesuits after all.
  • Broadsides. Unlike the other battlesuit variants, XV-88's do not compete with crisis teams for an Elite slot in a detachment. They also put out more firepower with greater accuracy, lightening the load on your crisis teams and acting as the bait for the Kayoun strategy (Patient Hunter).
  • Hammerheads. In truth, a Hammerhead cannot put out the same amount of firepower as a full crisis team, but it does bring a powerful Large Blast attack on a decent vehicle chassis. This gets your opponents' attention, drawing anti-tank firepower that would otherwise be insta-killing your crisis suits. Like all Tau vehicles, it can also provide mobile cover for your crisis team as it moves about the field.
  • Markerlight sources. Everything synergizes with Markerlights, so this has to be put in here. Crisis suits can twin-link their weapons to improve their performance but nothing beats a couple Markerlight hits. Pathfinders can be especially synergistic, as they can take the Recon Drone and guide in Deep Striking crisis teams


Crisis teams require the mastery of a few basic skills. Practicing these tactics will vastly improve your crisis team efficiency and turn a good unit into an unfair one. 
  • Jetpack Thrust moves+Cover. Do a little bit of research on the odds when rolling two dice. This helps you gauge how far you can move your suits out of cover or how far they'll be able to go when making a dash for an objective. You also might find it extremely helpful to start bringing terrain pieces that ACTUALLY block line of sight to a crisis suit. Crisis suits need to avoid being targeted to stay alive and keep shooting, so block line of sight because regular cover isn't going to be enough.
  • Wound allocation (aka Shenanigans). Lack of LoS blocking terrain results in targeted crisis suits and, inevitably, unsaved wounds. Taking the veteran upgrade allows you spread wounds around in the squad. With a couple drones and decent Look Out Sir rolls, your squad can take 4-5 wounds before losing any of its shooting power. Attaching a Commander adds to the resilience with his 4 wounds and 2+ LOS rolls. 
  • Rearranging. The thrust move allows you to jump back in cover, but also lets you "rearrange" your squad. You can cycle wounded suits to the back of the unit, or position drones so that they are out front. This is an incredible ability, as it lets you move to get all your suits in optimal shooting range, then prepare yourself for incoming fire by choosing what models will get hit first. Other races struggle to get their powerful weapons in shooting range without making them easier to hit. This rearranging can be the difference between losing a suit and not. Even if it postpones the loss of a crisis suit by only one turn, that is one more turn you have to shoot with it, and a single crisis suit can make a difference.
  • Pre-measure. In past editions, this skill was learning how to gauge your distances (usually 12" or 18") but now you can pre-measure whenever you want. Abuse this advantage. Crisis teams usually have to be within 18" of enemy units in order to maximize their shooting potential. Jumping your suits the minimum distance before hopping away again will keep them just close enough to shoot at full capacity and just far enough that a charge is likely to fail. 

Deep Strike Assault

XV-8's Deep Striking all over the field, getting up close to use their short range weapons or getting flank shots on vehicles. This is Mont'ka (Killing Blow) and aims to hit your opponent hard, all at once, crippling his ability to retaliate. Farsight or a regular Tau Shas'O with the no-scatter warlord trait, are excellent leaders for this assault, as they do not scatter while Deep Striking.
Usually, this requires Reserve Roll manipulation through ally characters or by taking a Comms Relay in a Bastion or Aegis Defense Line. Without the manipulation you are at the mercy of the dice, hoping that all your suits arrive on the same turn. The drawback to this tactic is giving your opponent an advantage early in the game, so your units on the board need to be pretty resilient in order to last until reinforcements arrive. 

Let's Get Tactical

XV-8's are speedy. You have good odds of moving them 12+ inches a turn, while firing both weapons. Their Jetpack also allows them to hop over walls or other obstacles. This makes them excellent objective cappers. Keeping the crisis unit costs low, and investing the points in other heavy hitters gives you decent infantry units capable of moving about the board and nabbing tactical objectives as they come up. Most objectives will be within 24" of eachother, so positioning your XV-8's to go for either (depending on what Tactical Objectives you draw) can be a good way to go. VP's are what wins games.


Load them up with Missile Pods and plant them in your deployment zone. They do the same job that Missilesides do, but they get to be a bit more mobile at the cost of accuracy. More Missile Pods is never a bad thing, so they work great as an alternative to Missilesides or even alongside them.

Suicide Monat

Very simple tactic. You drop a single crisis suit carrying a twin-linked Fusion Blaster as close as you can to an enemy vehicle (you need that 9" Melta range). It is about a 40 point investment for a shot at killing a vehicle outright. This tactic is less effective in 7th edition, but it still works and has the added bonus of possibly grabbing Tactical Objectives that you wouldn't normally be able to go for. 
Alternatively, if you know that you'll be facing an horde army, or want to prepare for it you can switch the Fusion Blasters for a couple Flamers. This is 10 points cheaper but you have to land even closer to your target to make the most of your two template attacks.
This tactic is more viable in armies that can field lots of Crisis suits, like Farsight Enclaves or in an Unbound army.


XV-8's are the heart and soul of most Tau armies. They are insanely customizable and can do darn near anything that you want them to do. They have a bit of a learning curve before you get the hang of them, but once you master the basics for fielding them, they only get more powerful. 
Adaptability is a tool that has no points value, but is a huge advantage. Crisis suits give you so much choice while list-building, deploying, and playing. Few armies can change their original strategies in the middle of a game, sometimes they can't even change it after Deployment is over, but Tau can because our battlesuits are built for dealing with every situation at a moment's notice. A crisis suit has good stats and weapons, but its real strength is in the intangibles that it brings to your army.

Thanks for reading! Comment below if you think the article is missing something. Goodness knows, a full article on Crisis Suits could go on for pages and pages.


TheGraveMind said...
August 27, 2014 at 3:41 PM  

I use them for plasma and fusion platforms the most. Missilepods and pulse can be put elsewhere in the list. But you are right that they are extremely flexible and good at filling in the gaps of your army.

M. Jared Swenson said...
August 27, 2014 at 11:56 PM  

I absolutely love my xv8s. Always run with at least a minimum of 2 full squads. Some have asked me why I don't convert to farsight if i love them so much? The answer is simple. I just don't like farsights signature wargear. Sure xv8s with objective secured would be nice, but the signature wargear of the empire too powerful to give up. Besides I am finding stealthed jinking devilfish are doing a great job of objective camping.

Skyler Hoeft said...
September 5, 2014 at 7:35 PM  

Jared, I agree with your sentiments. The FSE were much stronger in 6th edition, but 7th edition has taken away most of their advantages over an Empire army.
The new scoring/Troop/Unbound rules allow you to basically play an FSE list but with Empire wargear.

That said, I do love FSE purely for the themed list option. The hodge podge suit lists also fits my army fluff better. That is pretty much the only thing they bring to the table nowadays.

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