Tau Fast Attack – Part 2: The Vehicles - Furious, But Fragile

With six options available, the Fast Attack section is second only to HQ for being crowded out. Last time, we looked at the infantry models available. This time, we're going to see what the vehicles have to offer.

The Piranha is first up, and the most obvious change is the twenty point cost reduction. That sort of drop goes a long way, bringing it more in-line with its closest analogue in another book, the Space Marine landspeeder. The Piranha is a little less effective, given that it's a BS3 18" melta gun rather than a BS4 24" melta gun, but it's got AV11 in the front, which isn't nothing.  Being immune to the most common small arms fire in the game in your front arc is still useful, even if Piranha are otherwise as fragile.  Of course, it's not all good news for the little skimmer; the disruption pod's price jump means it'll rarely be worth taking anymore, and the fusion blaster upgrade has doubled in cost. And of course, the targeting array has disappeared. Since the vehicle itself is pretty reasonable, however, what this will mostly mean on the table is that it'll make more sense to take, say, three or four bare-bones Piranha compared to one or two fully-loaded ones. Being able to fire off their own seeker missiles also makes a big difference for tank-hunting Piranha, since as Fast vehicles they can fire two weapons, but only come with one by default. They're still fragile, that hasn't changed, but their burst cannons picked up an extra shot, their fusion blasters picked up an extra 6", and they dropped in cost by a full third. It's hard to complain about that kind of trade-off.

Given their fragility, and their role as forward combatants, a lot of the vehicle battle systems are of pretty questionable utility for the Piranha. The blacksun filter shouldn't come into play given the vehicle's rather short ranges, and the advanced targeting system is likewise a bit underwhelming, particularly if you're running with fusion and spend most of your time shooting vehicles. The automated repair system can safely be considered a waste, too, since as an open-topped 2HP vehicle the Piranha is far more likely to be destroyed than lose a weapon but be otherwise unscathed. Decoy launchers aren't bad, particularly if you regularly find yourself going second; leave the Piranhas in reserve, and when they come on they have a better-than-Jink save against any Interceptor weapons, and can Flat Out to make up the lost ground from not starting on the board. Sensor spines are likewise pretty useful, as you can land in area terrain without worrying, or even hide in area terrain or ruins. Certain builds, particularly anti-horde burst cannon Piranha operating in schools of three or more, can also benefit from the flechette discharger and the point defence targeting relay; you can block a huge amount of board with less than two hundred points, and they're not that easy to remove in close combat, too. Generally speaking, though, with the Piranha less is more.

There is one unfortunate change to the Piranha, however, or more accurately to the Piranha's drones. Sadly, units composed entirely of drones no longer count as scoring or denial units. This means no more swooping in late-game, detaching drones, and being able to threaten to contest an object from between 15" and 30" away.

The Piranha is an excellent little vehicle, but it's no longer the only one in the Fast Attack slot. Like most of the 6th edition codexes, Tau have suddenly found themselves with a pair of flyers competing for space there, as well. The Razorshark strike fighter and the Sunshark bomber are fairly similar, sharing a chassis (11/10/10), a pair of seeker missiles, a love of S7 shooting and an 'optional' add-on that you'd really never pass up, but there are a couple of key differences between them.

The Sunshark bomber costs a hundred and sixty points, plus the optional-but-really-mandatory 5 point upgrade to make its missile pod twin-linked. For that, you get the aforementioned missile pod, a S5AP5 bomb and a generator that makes new bombs on a 2+ each time, a networked markerlight and a pair of drones armed with twin-linked ion rifles. From that loadout you may have noticed that, as a weapons platform, the Sunshark is sort of at odds with itself. Since its drones count as passengers, they are reduced to snap shots if the Sunshark travels more than 18" in one phase, but their rapid fire weapons want to get in as close as possible, and the flyer's bomb works best if it can be dropped over the widest possible range of targets. So half the bomber wants to be slow and steady, and the other half wants to be fast and nimble. The Razorshark, on the other hand, is a more straightforward unit. It costs fifteen points less than its sibling, with a similarly no-brainer upgrade (5 points to turn a burst cannon into a missile pod) and a quad ion turret. The turret is a four-shot S7 weapon, which like most ion weapons can be overcharged to generate a blast, in this case a S8 large blast. This gives the Razorshark six S7 shots on the go, plus its seeker missiles, and its S8 large blast allows it to function not unlike a bomber, albeit one whose bombs can go off prematurely as it were, thanks to Gets Hot. The Razorshark is a decently reliable fighter-hunter, since both the missile pod and the quad turret are mounted in such a way that it can overfly its target and fire backwards to get rear armour shots, and can do a pretty good job as a ground-attack flyer, especially with a couple of markerlights to give it a re-roll on its Gets Hot or Ignores Cover as appropriate.

The vehicle battle systems list is almost entirely useless for both of the Tau flyers, which is sort of ironic, since Tau are the only 6th edition codex whose flyers can actually get access to their vehicle wargear section. Decoy launchers are basically a must, giving you a 4+ save against Interceptor weapons for just 5 points, but it's the only upgrade in that class. Disruption pods aren't bad, but again, they're not cheap. Aside from those two, however, the options range from a marginally worthless waste of points to actively, literally useless. Tau flyers are fragile enough that the automated repair system isn't likely to come into play, lack the shot-volume and high-strength-low-AP necessary to make meaningful use of the advanced targeting system, and will never be on the table Turn 1 to deal with night fight then, and aren't likely to survive to see it possibly turn up again in Turn 5, so even at just a single point the blacksun filter is a waste. But those options look like downright sober investments compared to sensor spines, flechette dischargers, and the point defence targeting relay; flyers ignore terrain, non-Hover flyers can never be engaged in close combat, and the only weapon that can use the PDTR is the burst cannon, which you're probably swapping out for a missile pod anyway.

Of the two, I prefer the Razorshark, but there are pretty decent arguments for and against the pair of them floating around the various 40K communities. Unfortunately, neither of them are really great at competing for points against other units when it comes time to build a list. The Razorshark puts out half as many S7 shots as the same points worth of XV8 suits with double missile pods, and the Sunshark has an even lower shot-to-point ratio and a bomb whose effects can be replicated without too much trouble by a decent-sized Fire Warrior squad. The Razorshark is an okay flyer-hunter, particularly since it can get side and rear shots without any real difficulty, but Tau already have the Sky Ray and the velocity tracker for their suits, making them the only codex that doesn't need to turn to their flyers to hunt their opponents'.

Of the three vehicles in the Fast Attack section, it feels like the Piranha is the only one you're likely to see regularly on the table-top. The flyers aren't bad, and they're not particularly expensive either; the Razorshark is cheaper than every other 6th edition flyer, and the Sunshark is cheaper than most of them, and all of the bombers out there. The problem is more that, within the context of the Tau codex, they're kind of redundant, and while they're cheap for 6th edition flyers, they're still not actually cheap in their own right. While it's kind of a shame, ultimately I'm pretty happy when the biggest problem with a unit is that it's good, it's just not good enough.

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