Tactica: Riptides

October 24, 2014 ·

My Cadre's HBC Riptide.

This is the next article in the Tactica series. Remember, this is a community exercise and all comments and suggestions are very welcome. I’ll make any changes before it’s posted in the Tactica section.

So – Riptides!


Riptides were the shiny new model in the Tau Codex (well other than the flyers which I’ve never seen anybody use!), and they have proved very successful (if you’re a Tau player) and very controversial (if your not!). What I want to do in this article is try and get to the heart of why they’ve been so successful.

Basic Stats

There must be very few people who don’t know the basic stats of a Riptide, but just in case you’ve been living under stone for the last few months….! The Riptide is a T6 Jet Pack Monstrous Creature with a 2+ armour save, a 5+ invulnerable save and 5 wounds. Its primary weapons is either a Heavy Burst Cannon (S6 AP4 Heavy 8) or an Ion Accelerator (S7 AP2 Heavy 3, or in Overcharged mode S8 AP2 Heavy 1 Large Blast, Gets Hot). It has a twin linked secondary weapon and you can choose between a Fusion Blaster, SMS or Plasma Rifle. However, at the start of every movement phase, the Riptide can choose to try and Nova Charge its Nova Reactor by rolling a d6. On a 3+ it can choose one of 4 “buffs” – it can fire its secondary weapon twice, it can move 4d6 in the assault phase, it can increase it invulnerable save to a 3+, or “buff” its main weapon. A Nova Charged Heavy Burst Cannon (HBC) is S6 AP4 Heavy 12, Rending, Gets Hot, and a Nova Charged Ion Accelerator (IA) is S9 AP2 Heavy 1, Large Blast, Ordinance. However, if you fail your Nova Charge Roll, you take a wound, with no saves allowed (although the FNP roll from a stim injector works). It can also take any of the Battle Suit Support systems (with the exception of the Vectored Retro Thrusters), although a Stim Injector costs more. Finally, you can take 2 Shielded Missiles Drones, which provide 2 ablative wounds with a 4++. Crucially these Drones are also T6, keeping the unit’s majority toughness at 6. Oh and you also get 4  S7 AP4 Missiles.

So, pretty impressive, but it comes at a price. You can get 3 tooled out Crisis Suits for fewer points, or 3 Broadsides for around about the same, and once you add on support systems and/or drones, it gets really pricey.

Battlefield Role

By itself the Riptide is not particularly “killy”. For the same points, both Broadsides and XV8’s can lay down more firepower. However, that’s not the point. Neither of them can bring the “package” that  the Riptide brings. And that is the key to the Riptide’s success – what it brings to your Cadre is “utility” - you can do things with the Riptide you simply can not do with other elements of your Cadre.

For Example

·         Durability. Riptides are pretty tough – even against low AP weapons (with a Nova Charged 3++), and particularly if they bring a stim injector. Only Broadsides compete in the toughness stakes, and then not very convincingly. As a result they make great …

·         Fire Magnets. It takes a disciplined opponent to ignore the big scary monster that really isn’t doing that much damage to their army, and focus on the things that are ripping their army to shreds. In some ways I use them like I used Hammer Heads in 5th – to present my opponents with something scary to focus on, while the stuff that really huts them gets on with that job. As such, Riptides are great distraction units  - which makes them very good at….

·         Pressure. IMHO, Riptides should (usually) be used aggressively, throwing them forward to put pressure on your opponent – you can only ignore Riptides for so long before you MUST deal with them, and that’s because Riptides are pretty good …..

·         Assault units. With Kroot no longer being an assault unit (they never really were TBH), Riptides are the only things in your Cadre that can even pretend to be good in assault. They can make a mess of vehicles with 3 Smash attacks on the charge, and give Terminators, or other elite infantry, pause for thought with 4 s6 AP2 attacks.  However, it is as a Tar Pit that they really shine  - with T6  a 2+ save and (maybe!) a 3+ invulnerable save and FNP, Riptides are pretty durable in assault (keep an Ethereal nearby, giving him Stubborn though..!). And finally, probably the most significant ……

·         Mobility. Even without their 4d6 Nova Charged Thrust Move, Riptides are pretty speedy, and with the Nova Charged Thrust Move, they are downright fast! This makes them great for hit and run tactics (NB I don’t mean the Hit and Run USR, but rather classic Tau “fire and fade”), objective contesting and snatching Line Breaker.

And I haven’t even mentioned damage output! Don’t’ get me wrong, the damage a Riptide can put out is OK, it’s just not the main reason you take them in a Cadre.

But talking about damage output for a moment, some thoughts on the main guns. The problem with Riptides is that, by themselves, their main guns are not that great. The HBC will only kill 2 or three marines on average, and will barely scratch the paintwork of a wave serpent. If your opponent spreads out, the IA’s large blast will probably kill around the same once you allow for cover saves, even if it doesn’t scatter. However, where the main guns really shine is when you take the relevant upgrades, and support them with marker lights and/or a Commander with the appropriate support systems.

If the Ion accelerator picks up a few marker lights it becomes really scary – in a recent tournament I was able to pick up 8 marker lights allowing the Large Blast to ignore cover and almost guaranteeing it would not scatter. The resultant blast decimated a unit of Terminators and a squad of Grey Knight Strikers. If the Nova Charged Heavy Burst Cannon can pick up even 2 marker lights, and has an Earth Caste Pilot Array, it almost guarantees 12 hits. If it also has a Commander attached, giving it Tank Hunter, because it rends, and you’re rerolling 12 dice, looking for sixes, it shreds AV 12 vehicles and can also make AV13 and even AV14 sweat.

And don’t forget the secondary weapons – being able to double tap with the Fusion Blaster or the SMS can be useful.

So, in summary, the Riptide’s main battlefield role is not fire power – it’s utility, doing all the things that other elements of your Cadre struggle with, but properly supported, it’s fire power isn’t bad!


There are so many things the Riptide can do, it makes a detailed tactica hard. However, here are some examples

·         Anti Air. Riptides can take Velocity Trackers and Early Warning Overrides. Pushing a Nova Charged HBC/ Fusion Blaster, Riptide with VT and EWO,  into midfield, really hurts flyers. It might not kill them (hint, if you attach a Commander and give the Riptide Tank Hunter, it probably will!), but it will at least force them to the edges of the board to get outside the HBC’s range. In this way you can protect your Skyrays from shorter range weapons (eg Crimson Hunters, Necron Flyers) allowing the Skyrays to blow the enemy flyers off the board next turn.

·         Anti FMC. Flying MC’s hate HBC Riptides with Skyfire. Volume of (rending) shots just blows them out the sky. In one game against a Demon Flying Circus, a combination of Riptides and Skyrays killed 4 Flying Demon Princes in one round of shooting. Remember that the Skyray’s marker lights are Skyfire marker lights which you can use to boost the Riptide’s BS.

·         Anti Deep Strike. An Ion Accelerator with EWO makes Terminators think twice before Deep Striking. In one tournament I killed 5 Chaos Terminators with an IA blast before they could do anything. However, its more intimidation than actual threat. Because you can’t pick up Marker Lights, the IA’s blast is more likely to scatter and do nothing. I often remind my opponent about the EWO on the IA in the hope that he decides not to deep strike the terminators, because I would rather that, than him deciding to Deep Strike and risk the blast scattering.

·         Pressure. Riptides are disposable (!)  i.e. they don’t score and they only give up VPs in Purge the Alien. More and more I’ve been throwing them forward  to put pressure on my opponent, while the rest of my army kills stuff.

·         Contesting and Line Breaker. Riptides are durable and fast. They tend to be around at the end of the game, and can reasonably easily score line breaker and contest objectives.  

·         Counter Assault. If a unit doesn’t have a power fist or equivalent, Riptides can assault them with reasonable success. More importantly they can hold them up for a turn or 2, letting you deal with the rest of the threats bearing down on you. Look out for other MC’s however. Wraithknights and Dreadknights just pound Riptides in assault

·         Punching Vehicles. The best way to kill Wave Serpents or AV14, is to have a Riptide punch them! Need to be careful though – if the Landraider is full of elite assault units (Thunder Hammer Termies for example), then the Riptide will probably die next turn. Best thing to do is set up other units so that the Termies are caught in a withering Overwatch, and hope you take a few out before they get in there. Also, you don’t want to push forward with your Riptides and punch Wave Serpents until you kill the Wraithknights - and make sure you have the 3++ up or the Blade Storming Guardians inside the Serpents will kill you next turn.

Load Outs

You need to make three decisions when loading out a Riptide –which main gun, which secondary gun, and what support systems.

Main Gun

The obvious choice is an Ion Accelerator – who doesn’t like AP2 large blasts! And that is what I ran more often than not. However, more recently I’ve been using the HBC and the decision is by no means as easy as it seems.

While the IA is excellent against elite infantry, the HBC is far more flexible – it’s good against almost everything.However, the key difference is in performance with and without support. The IA is still OK without support, and in particular gains relatively little from being Nova Charged. However, supported properly, with marker lights and a Commander giving out Tank/Monster Hunter and Ignores Cover,  the HBC becomes particularly deadly.

Secondary Weapon

IMHO, the choice is between the SMS and the Fusion Gun. The Plasma Rifle is a bit unimpressive TBH, it just doesn’t seem to complement either the IA or the HBC.

The Fusion Gun is good if you’re pressing forward with the Riptide to put pressure on your opponent (particularly if he has vehicles). It’s also good if your Riptide has a Velocity Tracker, and you’re moving into midfield to discourage flyers. The SMS is probably better on a Riptide that is being used a little more conservatively, and hanging back. Where it really comes into it’s own is in the later game when you can ripple fire it to winkle out those last few models that are hiding behind terrain.

If I was pressed I would say that the Fusion Gun is better on an HBC Riptide that is being used aggressively to get maximum benefit from the shorter range of the HBC, and the SMS is better on the IA Riptide that is staying back a little and using the IA’s range.

Support Systems

There are really only 3 support systems that shine on Riptides IMO – the Early Warning Override, the Velocity Tracker and the Stim injector.

I’ve already mentioned the benefits of Sky firing Riptides. The one that benefits most from Skyfire is the HBC Riptide, although the extra range on the IA can sometime help. The Riptide that benefits more from the EWO is the IA Riptide, for discouraging Deep Striking marines and terminators. Having said that, I usually run EWO’s and VTs on both.

Stim Injectors are more difficult. Arguably, you’re spending 35pts to give the Riptide an extra wound or 2 over the course of the game. On the face of it not bad. However in my view the problem is opportunity cost – I would usually rather have an EWO and a VT.

There is one other “support” system that is a “must take”, and that’s the Earth Caste Pilot Array. This synergies so well with the HBC Riptide that, if you’re running a Farsight Supplement list, you just must find points for it! Even if you’re running and Emprie list, it’s so good think hard about Enclave allies (and at the same time pick up a Talisman of Arthas Moloch – so good!). However, what ever you do, don’t put it on an IA Riptide (GW – what were you thinking whey you gave O’Vesa an Ion Accelerator!). The HBC benefits so much more from being Nova Charged, and the fact that you then re-roll those irritating “1s” to hit, is just gravy.

Finally, Shielded Missile Drones. Until now, I’ve never seen the point. They are expensive and losing one forced a leadership test. HOWEVER, with Grav Guns you can make a case for adding a couple to “protect” your investment from being wiped out by a unit of 5 White Scar bikes wielding 2 grav guns with a Combi Grav on the sergeant!

Combos Synergies and Lists

The key I think with Riptides is supporting them to maximise their relatively mediocre damage output. Marker Lights, Raven Commanders and allies (i.e. a Farseer guiding one and casting prescience on another) are key to making them work well. You’re spending so many points on the Riptide, a little effort to get the maximum from your investment, is worth it.

You also need to invest points in other units that increase your damage output. If you rely only on Riptides to kill stuff, you might be a little disappointed.

As for lists, I think Riptides work in most lists, whether providing mobility and counter assault punch to a static gunline, or moving forward in support of a Mechanised Cadre of Fire Warriors in D’fish. I also think they work best in pairs. IMHO the ideal pairing is one with an HBC, Fusion Blaster, EWO, Velocity Tracker and an Earth Caste Pilot Array, and the other with an Ion Accelerator, SMS, EWO and Stim Injector.

I’ve never been able to come up with a list that I’m happy with that runs 3 Riptides. For me the extra points on the 3rd Riptide just doesn’t leave enough for the rest of the Cadre. You either end up scrimping on marker light support (pathfinders over a Commander with Marker Drones), scoring (Kroot over Fire Warriors in ‘Fish, although I’m coming round to that approach!), or on other units that deal out more damage.

All thoughts welcome. What have I missed, what have I got wrong?



Werner Fernando Oroxon Ramirez said...
September 19, 2013 at 2:25 PM  

My Riptide with EWO nd Velocity Tracker has done more for the my army that the other combinations

TheGraveMind said...
September 19, 2013 at 3:06 PM  

For me the Secondary weapons are backwards. SMS with the HBC, and Fusion/plasma with the Ion. SMS doesn't do much to most Ion targets, while it will work against infantry with the HBC.

I normally run fusion or plasma. Lately I've been leaning towards plasma. I use mine to control the midfield, and often Go for riple fire to get 4 plasma shots. These are twin linked, along with the Ion's blast or even solid shots can help clear out a unit. Also makes it a good choice if you don't want to risk the Blast due to proximity.

A sky fire Fusion riptide has a pretty nasty threat range, since you really don't need the extra dice against most fliers.

leon de pinda said...
September 24, 2013 at 11:46 PM  

hmm, very interesting. I don't own one yet due money and all, but they seem interesting in deed. my friend has one and the n1 problem I face is him walking to my lines and smashing my stuff without me getting a chance to stop him. so I have a little request, can you do a post about the new space marines and how to prepare against them? I have seen some pretty nasty combo's, such as full scout bikers ignoring terrain, or tank hunting devastators. thanks in advance anyways.

Anonymous said...
September 25, 2013 at 9:33 AM  

I would only ever take the HBC if I was using an enclave 'tide. The HBC just isnt very good without the nova charge, and it is too unreliable without the re roll.

Embrace Your Inner Geek said...
September 26, 2013 at 11:26 AM  

Taking points in order

I suspect the choice of secondary weapon is not clear cut. As with many things it will depend on what's in the rest of your army. I'll put something in the article to this effect.

I have not yet played new marines. There is only one marine player in my local play group. Have a gaming day and a 2 day tournament in October, so might get some experience with them then.

I tend to agree on the HBC combining well with the Earth Caste Pilot Array. Unless it's Nova Charged, the HBC is not that impressive. However, the really powerful combo is when it is also combined with a Puretide Chip with Tank or Monster Hunter. The rerolls to wound/penetrate increase teh number of rending hits, and that makes a huge difference.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Join us on Google Plus

Join us on Google Plus
Join the WT community on Google Plus

About Warhammer Tau

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!

Who's Watching?

Tau Army Tactics
  • XV-805 Commander
  • Skyray
  • Devilfish
  • Coming Soon:
  • Ethereals
  • Commander Farsight
  • Commander Shadowsun
  • Riptide Battlesuits
  • Crisis Battlesuits
  • Stealth Suits
  • Fire Warriors
  • Pathfinders
  • Piranha
  • Broadside Battlsuits
  • Sniper Drones
  • Hammerhead
Books About the Empire

Favorite Blogs

Non-Tau Blogs

  • Saim Hann Progress Update - Ok, update! The Saim Hann army has grown a bit. I have purchased three Warp Hunters and two Dark Eldar Jetfighters (I really do not like the Crimson Hunter...
    2 years ago
  • The 5th Crusade - This blog will document the Black Templars 5th Crusade. Here's my narrative. In 41399, Elements of the Black Templars were dispatched to the Kybiss sector ...
    4 years ago
  • The Gates Open... - So like most people, I have a couple of armies. This blog is for my chaos armies. I never really planned on being a Chaos player, in fact, 5th edition da...
    4 years ago