The Hunter Contingent
The special rule for these formations is that any unit in them can combine firepower with other units and act exactly like a single unit for that shooting attack. Plus, if you combine 3+ units you get +1 BS for the attack.
Pretty snazzy. This helps Tau use MSU without losing all of its synergy and Markerlight buffs. It also alleviates some of the pressure on Markerlights by having +1 BS built in. But this goes much further than markerlight efficiency... let's get serious about Firepower.
|Tau don't mess around.|
Add in some Markerlights. You will not miss with anything. Even Invisibility won't save him if you can land a couple Markerlights on his unit.
Add in Darkstrider. (Note: you'll have to take him in a separate CAD since he isn't available as an option in the Hunter Contingent). Now you are wounding more often. Missile Pods are instant-death to T4, Pulse Rifles are wounding most MC's on 4+ (re-rolled too). Ion blasts are insta-killing T5 models. You get the picture.
Think he's had enough? Heck No! Add in an Ethereal and a Cadre Fireblade for some extra shots. Maybe give your pathfinders one of the Grav-Accelerator drones to extend all your pulse rifles to 36" range.
If you can find the points, put it all on a moving Tidewall Rampart just to make sure your opponent knows he isn't killing any of your models without your permission.
So that is only one guaranteed dead unit per turn, big deal!
Think again: Target Locks, Split Fire, and Gargantuan Creatures. All these things allow models to shoot at different units, while maintaining some of the special rule buffs (not the +1 BS or marker buffs). A couple Stormsurges could annihilate several Razorbacks in one shooting phase with ease. Broadsides and Crisis Teams can too. If you plan your army with Target Locks and Stormsurges, you could easily have an entire army shooting Twin-Linked weapons with Tank/Monster Hunter that Ignore Cover. And it only cost you the 150-200 point Buffmander.
In order to pull this off, it takes careful planning during list-building, deployment, and very specific shooting orders. Unfortunately, all the nuance and tactical thinking that goes into utilizing this special rule will be lost on your opponent, who can't see anything past his tears of rage.
Is it OP?
I think that in order for it to reach its full potential, you necessarily have to bring multiple Stormsurges, either in the Heavy Retribution Cadre, or as a unit in the Hunter Cadre. The D missiles are necessary for putting down those Gargantuans and Superheavies. Any Hunter Contingent that doesn't have a Stormsurge really shouldn't be all that scary to an opponent because Tau weapons are actually not all that great against hard targets. We need the contingent bonuses to be able to handle Knights and the like.
One more thing. Getting the first shooting phase is immensely important for this army. If your opponent seizes, or you end up going second, your super combo attack could get neutered real quick.
How do we handle it?
Notable Mention CombinationsHere are some other ways you can have fun transferring bonuses within your army.
Optimized Stealth Cadre
Most people agree that you could also attach a Commander with a Velocity Tracker, Target Lock, and Missile Pods. He'll be shooting at BS5 (or 6) and hit rear armour against Flyers while ignoring cover! Give him the PEN and it is probably toast. Naturally, the PEN will help the Ghostkeels take down those tougher vehicles too.
Firebase Support Cadre
Heavy Retribution Cadre
Not the greatest formation to put in the Contingent, since the Contingent is almost entirely geared toward a massive Alpha Strike, but a powerful Beta Strike could be just the ticket against Drop Pod armies.