The Dawn Blade ContingentLike the Hunter Contingent, the bonus is quite powerful. However, the bonus is arguably better and this detachment is a bit more unweildy than the Hunter Contingent. For example, it appears to have many different options, but once you start eliminating bad pairings, you are actually left with few ways to build the Contingent.
Then you have to take into account the type of units that best use the Dawn Blade's special rule "Killing Blow." Models that are already pretty accurate or require an extra bit of 'oomph' to finish off their target are good choices.
The obvious pick is the Retaliation Cadre, It requires a Commander, a Riptide team, 3x Crisis teams, and a Broadside team. It is a very good fit for the DBC since it has a built-in accuracy buff and brings you in on turn 2 automatically. You don't even have to use the bonus, which gives you tons of flexibility in the deployment stage, with very few drawbacks. My only complaint is that it is not very flexible on unit choices. That said, the choices aren't bad ones and it meshes very well in a DBC.
Plus, if you aren't using all Battlesuits for your Core, then you aren't really an FSE player. Get outta here!
Auxiliary OptionsI am going to list the options in a 'yes' list and a 'no' list. This doesn't mean you really shouldn't use anything on the 'no' list. It just means that I find those options to be less optimal.
- Drone Net VX-1: hands down one of the best formations in the book, let-alone the auxiliary options. The blanket BS bonus to drones is reason enough to take it, but Interceptor is really good too. It is pretty cheap and if you need markerlights (and most FSE armies do) then this is one of the best ways to get them into your list. I think this is the "vanilla" auxiliary choice for the DBC since it is affordable, flexible, and will always be useful.
- Firebase Support Cadre: I think that this is only an option if you were looking to field a durable set of units to hold the fort for the first turn. Another Riptide is usually welcome too. The bonus is redundant alongside the DBC bonus, but it is possible that you'll want to take down two different heavy targets. Unfortunately, this does nothing to help your army's accuracy.
- Ranged Support Cadre: If you want Broadsides to hold the fort for the first turn, then this formation is pretty good. The pathfinders are usually inferior to the Drone Net VX-1 but can hold their own with these bonuses. There is no Riptide and it meshes better with the RC. Between this and the FSC, I'd say this is the better pick.
- Allied Advance Cadre: If only Vespid were better and/or cheaper. This formation isn't all that bad and it doesn't do anything for the RC. It does, however, give you a ton of infiltrators that will be really hard to root out of cover. I'm not exactly sure how well this formation will perform (it was dismissed pretty early due to the Vespid handicap) but I'd like to think that it could work if all you are looking to do is dig in until the RC comes.
- Counterstrike Cadre: this is actually a cool formation, but when you consider the minimum FSE tax of 19 points plus the 340 points of Devilfish tax, it really has trouble justifying its presence. If you wanted to take that many firewarriors and pathfinders, then you should probably be taking a Hunter Contingent anyways. I would be more inclined to include it if the units were given Objective Secured, but they weren't so I shan't.
- Rapid Insertion Force: so bad. it is almost the same as the Retaliation Cadre, but it puts big restrictions on your deployment options for a very small bonus. It only compounds the FSE shortcomings when used alongside the RC, and creates new problems. Since it doesn't bring anything to help, it is a bad choice as an Auxiliary. IMO, it is a bad choice period.
- Skysweep Missile Defense: another whiff. We aren't sure yet what the design team intended when they copy-pasted the formation from Apocalypse, but it sure doesn't do much. The Devilfish is a hefty tax for a 5++ against Flyers. I personally worry about them surviving a Drop Pod Assault, especially one coming in next to a Skyhammer Annihilation Force. They'll have to Jink so much just to survive, they won't be much use to the RC when it arrives. 3 Skyrays certainly aren't bad, but I think they are a bad fit for the Auxiliary.
- Assigned Air Asset: it may be the cheapest option, but it is expensive enough that you might as well take the Drone Net. This doesn't give you any boots on the ground to weather turn 1, doesn't increase your accuracy, doesn't stand a chance of taking out an enemy flyer single-handed, and gets ousted on performance by other S7 AP4 shooting platforms.
- Air Superiority Cadre: it is a really good formation that may be arriving on turn 1. However, if you aren't facing Flyers it is not much better than taking 3 regular flyers. Nothing personal, but they aren't that great of flyers without their bonuses and this one's bonuses are entirely dependent on enemy Flyers. If Flyers are huge in your area, then you might reconsider this one.
- Piranha Firestream Wing: this is a great formation. It will be really hard to remove before your RC comes in, and it can just sit back pumping drones and Seekers into your opponent. However, it doesn't do much to help your RC and doesn't increase your army's accuracy. It also gets expensive fast when you actually try to take advantage of the bonuses. This might be a good "Filler" formation, but I don't think it works as well for the Auxiliary formation.
Filling Out the Remainder
Here are a few options that Tau players might be interested in using to fill out their list:
- Combined Arms Detachment: Hey, it works and its cheap. Make it an FSE and it could actually be less than 100 points (not advised). This is flexible, can bring you Forgeworld (Tetras. Y'vahra) and lets you fill out your weaknesses. This could be a couple firewarrior squads led by a Fireblade to camp home objectives or it could be brought to take a Stormsurge or more Riptides. The possibilities are limited by the points you have leftover, and there's really not that much, so don't get too excited.
- Riptide Wing: Very expensive, and you'll have a hard time fitting this into your list. BUT, if you have enough Riptides to run the RW alongside the RC in a DBC then you should seriously consider it. Your opponent will have a rotten time trying to kill them all turn 1 and they have a very scary bonus. It is awesome, but costs about 600 points so you pretty much won't have room for anything but an RC and a Drone Net
- Optimized Stealth Cadre: Another amazing formation. It will be tough to shoot off the table and actually packs quite a punch against vehicles. Against a Gladius this formation can be destroying 3 Razorbacks a turn, cracking them open for the coming Killing Blow. They can also bring Homing Beacons to guide your RC in, though it is a pricey upgrade. Finally, the Ghostkeel unit can do some amazing anti-air duty with a Velocity Tracker. Some nice synergy, but it doesn't help you out with Accuracy.
- Ghostkeel Wing: The units are amazing and this gives you a blanket of Stealth to weather the enemy's first turn. Lots of S7 AP4 shooting from an MC so you know they'll always be handy.
- Infiltration Cadre: Depending on your auxiliary, you might still need marker support. This gives you that, plus some extra units. The fun point here, is that if any of these 6 units gets killed (likely) I believe that your RC automatically arrives on your turn. This is only a minor buff, but if you end up going second you could have a pretty nice alpha strike. And the auto-hitting seekers will be more potent against your Killing Blow target as well. Not my first pick, but some people like pathfinders.
Example ListThis is a list that I've been mulling over and refining over the past week. I have a tournament coming up in January so I've been trying hard to wrap my head around the FSE options I have. This list was taken by another player to a tournament and he performed very well with it. I'll highlight what I think works about it:
Dawn Blade Contingent:
-Retaliation Cadre. (2 crisis teams are minimum size with 2 marker drones)
-Drone Net VX-1 (all marker drones)
Optimized Stealth Cadre (ghostkeel unit has two Ghostkeels)
Lots of early warning override, lots of MC's, S7 AP4 spam, and tons of marker lights. The AP2 shooting is all in the RC.
The Ghostkeels, Stealths, and some of the marker drones hold the fort while the RC comes in later. The sheer amount of interceptor fire meant he was basically taking his shooting phase during his opponent's turn instead of his own. I don't own enough Ghostkeels for this type of list, but spamming one of the best units in the codex certainly can be done with the DBC and they only get stronger.
I, personally, am having a hard time fitting in everything I want because I simply do not own enough Riptides. I thought I had a ton (3) and it turns out that I'd need at least 4 to run a Riptide Wing and the Dawn Blade together. Oh well.
I am now forced to choose between an FSE CAD and the Dawn Blade depending on whether I want to field the Riptide Wing or not.
Combined Arms Detachment
Plus you get to see the look on your opponents' faces when you tell them your Riptides are all shooting twice this turn...But if you own 4 Riptides you could do that in the Dawn Blade too.
Thanks for reading! I'm off to keep changing my list until the submit deadline! I'll be posting my finalized list and how I hope to use it later.