The Best Tau Empire Units by FOC – A Hit List

Best Warhammer Tau Units

The new Tau Codex for Warhammer 40K is a great book to delve into. There are endless combinations of different units, equipment-options and abilities. Great fun.

I found it far more difficult to pick a “definitive” best-off-list for the Tau Codex than I did for the Dark Angels. That is a good thing. It means there are fewer choices that are indisputably better than others. A lot of it is weighting preferences and possible combinations.

The following are my favourites from the new Codex after having it for a few weeks. Read on and let me know if you agree!


#1 – HQ – Ethereal

Ahh… Ethereals you ask? Yes.

Ethereals are truly a little gem hidden in the Tau’s HQ section (which, admittedly, is filled to the brim with awesome things). Many Tau players still shy away from Ethereals, scared by the prospect of giving away an extra VP or two.

That said, Ethereals shouldn’t be in the thick of it in the first place, as long as things are going your way. Moreover, unlike Ethereals in the previous version, the risk is well worth it I believe.

Think about it:

  • Ethereals are dirt-cheap as HQ choices go.
  • With Stubborn, Failure is Not an Option and the Calm of Tides ability from their Invocation of the Elements, Ethereals have just about any tool you could ever want to keep your (possibly rather fickle) Tau army holding their ground.
  • The other “Invocations”, Storm of Fire and Zephyr’s Grace in particular, allow an Ethereal to coordinate the different elements of a Tau army, moving units where they need to go, applying pressure where it needs to be.

Tau are a “shooty” army, no doubt about that. Yet even with the fresh boost from the 6th Edition Codex, Tau cannot mimic the static gun-lines of Imperial Guard (or Space Wolves) armies.

If the battle-plan of a Tau army is to engage, dis-engage, and re-engage the enemy with focused precision, then the Ethereal is the oil in the machine that makes all parts move smoothly.

Seriously, give the little guy a try on the table!


#2 – Troops – Fire Warriors

I am a big fan of Games Workshop’s Fire Warrior miniature. It was the humble Fire Warrior, not the Crisis Suits or skimmer-tanks, that make me a Tau-fan back in the day. Sadly, Fire Warriors’ were delegated to an “as-cheap-as-possible” Devilfish-upgrade to score objectives… and little else.

Ironically, the big changes that make the Tau Fire Warriors a far more attractive option in Warhammer 40K 6th Edition are often not found in the Tau Codex entry for Fire Warriors at all.

The following things make the humble Fire Warrior useful again:

  • The 6th Edition change allowing rapid fire weapons to move and shoot clearly boosted Fire Warriors a great deal. No more getting into 12″ rapid-fire range to be “useful”!
  • Tau Army-wide rules, notably Supporting Fire, give Fire Warriors greater synergy with the army, even if you opt to expand your Markerlights to aid Crisis Suits or tanks, not Fire Warriors.
  • Characters such as the Cadre Fireknife, Ethereals or Darkstrider can multiply the damage-output and make Fire Warriors a more offensive threat, you choose to do so.

Of course, Tau Fire Warriors are still a far cry from all-round-useful troops such as Grey Hunters. They are good enough now, however, to gain a fixed role in a Tau battle-plan (other than somehow stay alive till the last turn and grab an objective that is).

This, and the still awesome miniatures, make Fire Warriors my top-choice for Tau Empire troops.


#3 – Elites – XV8 Crisis Suits

Elites are another crowded slot for the Tau. I wanted to give the XV104 Riptide another nod, simply because it is cool, incredibly useful and has an awesome model.

Realistically, however, it is quite feasible to build a very good Tau army list without a Riptide. Writing a good Tau list without Crisis Suits will be much, much harder. XV8 Crisis Suits are – and will remain – the workhorses of (almost) any Warhammer 40K Tau Empire army.

I’ve previously written a bit on XV8 Crisis Suit load-outs and their use in Warhammer 6th Edition.

Long story short: Don’t leave T’au without them!


#4 – Fast Attack – Pathfinders

This is rapidly turning into a very “old-school” 4th-Edition inspired hit list, as I keep ignoring all the shiny new units for the Tau. At least Pathfinders do have fantastic new plastic miniatures!

Still, I wasn’t overtly impressed with the two new Tau flyers. Pathfinders, however, still offer a Tau Army the best, most plentiful source of Markerlights. Without any other “must-have” choices competing for Fast Attack, Pathfinders are the clear winner (even after considering that they’ve lost a point of armour save, making them highly vulnerable to Bolters now).

What Tau Pathfinders lost in body protection, they more than gained in cool, useful options.

  • Pathfinders can take Rail Rifles and Ion Rifles. The former lost some range, but are no longer Heavy 1 and gained a nasty AP. The latter offer the typical Ion-weaponry choice between a nasty shot and an overcharged nasty template shot. All tempting options, which make it (too) easy to loose sight of the Pathfinder’s “markerlight-mission”.
  • Pathfinders can take some all-new drones, most notably the Recon Drone. This splendid little drone adds both a Homing Beacon and  a Positional Relay to your forward-scouting Pathfinders, making them a great anchor for all your reserves.

Pathfinders are the ultimate “battle-field preparation unit”. They mark enemy units, so you can shoot them more effectively. They guide in reserves, so you can deploy them with more precision.

If the Tau are a “synergy army” (and I think they certainly are), than Pathfinders still are the first and last choice to take to make that synergy work for you on the table.


#5 – Heavy Support – Hammerhead Gunship

Pick the best Tau Heavy Support choice? Now that is a challenge!

Tau Heavy Support is filled with awesome options, including the legendary Broadsides and Hammerhead. The Broadsides, with new rules and a new model, are probably the other strong contender for best HS-choice, especially in the “Missileside” configuration (high-yield missile pod, smart missile system, missile drones), which is proving very popular.

Still, I am going to go with the Hammerhead here, which not only got a lot cheaper (in the “Railhead” version), but benefits both from 6th Edition changes and the re-design of Ion Weapons, resulting in one of the meanest tanks for this “infantry-edition” of Warhammer 40K.

Here’s what I like:

  • A backfield AV13 skimmer with a jink cover-save on the move (which can be improved with Disruption Pods) make the Hammerhead an incredibly durable tank.
  • In 6th Edition, the Ion Cannon now has Overcharge, giving you access to a Str. 8, AP 3 Large Blast (add Markerlights to make it ignore cover, if you need to!)
  • The Railhead is now much cheaper. Still 72″, Str. 10, AP1. Can’t argue with that!
  • The awesome Longstrike upgrade (who I misjudged in my Special Character article, blissfully ignoring the usefulness of a 72″ range, Str. 10 AP1 weapon with Tank Hunter and (!) Preferred Enemy (Imperial Guard)).

The many options make the Hammerhead an incredibly versatile and durable vehicle. If you’re skipping the Hammerhead for all-out Missileside-spam, you’re missing the juiciest part of Tau HS!


#6 – Your Thoughts?

There you have it.

The Pins of War Best of Tau Empire hit list!

Do you agree? Or not?

Which Codex entries would you pick for the best of each FoC-entry?