Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

A review of past Tactics by commanders during the First, Second, Third & Fourth Phase Expansion.
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counterwave
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Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#1 » Aug 22 2016 11:34

Greetings ATT!

I was hoping to get some thoughts on the Rail Rifle vs. Ion Rifle. I searched and found some articles that mention these awesome weapons in passing, but no dedicated breakdown. I understand that both weapons have strengths and weaknesses and it's all in how you intend to use them, but if you could only have one, which is the more reliable choice in an all-comers environment?

My instinct is the Rail Rifle, because S6 AP1 is too good to pass up and there are lots of other places to get S7, but I would appreciate the wisdom of Commanders that have experience using them.

Thanks in advance!
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Panzer
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#2 » Aug 23 2016 12:25

Rail Rifles are awesome but WAY too expensive for such a squishy unit. You pay more for the Rifle than for the guy using it and they practically die just by looking at them. I gonna field 3 of them in one of my units nontheless just because I like them but one shouldn't expect them to perform decently. Crisis with Plasma Rifles are just so much better.

Ion Rifles...never. We already have enough sources of S7 AP4 and overcharging them for a S8 AP4 small template isn't really making a big difference while it risks losing your expensive guy even faster thanks to Gets Hot!

In general Pathfinder are only "worth" it with no upgrades and using as Markerlight platform but even there they got outclassed by the drone network formation and the Commander with Drone Controller.

mothyy
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#3 » Aug 23 2016 07:00

They're interesting weapons, but there are several significant drawbacks.

If we consider the pros and cons of each weapon first.
The rail rifle is a 30" rapid fire weapon, S6 AP1. The AP can be highly effective against 2+/3+ armour infantry, and a 15 inch rapid fire range gives you a good chance of doubling your shots against a target. The strength 6 limits the effectiveness to infantry and possibly T6/7 monstrous creatures however, so you are unlikely to be able to use the AP1 to harm vehicles.

The Ion rifle is also a 30" rapid fire weapon, but S7 AP4. It can be overheated to a Heavy S8 AP4 Gets Hot small blast, which can allow you to possibly scratch some transports if neccessary. Against 4+ armour infantry this can be quite dangerous, as your 4 man pathfinder squad can drop 3 small blasts on their heads. The Gets Hot can really hurt though, as you only have 5+ armour to protect you, and the cost of each model is already so high.

Adding Darkstrider to these squads may have some potential. With darkstrider, your overheated ion rifles can instant death toughness 5 enemies, while your rail rifles will instant death toughness 4 (looking at you, space marines).


Overall I feel the weapons are perhaps not overpriced, so much as given to the wrong unit. Pathfinders are very squishy with their 1W and 5+ armour save. If you take a minimal pathfinder squad with 3 of these weapons it will set you back between 74 and 89 points for a mere 4 models, and as such they are easily overshadowed by crisis suits, which can get the same results with much more durability and maneuverability, using either plasma rifles or cyclic ion blasters. However, as my main buddy plays 30k Mechanicum, with models with T5 4+ armor and FNP, I am considering giving the ion rifles + Darkstrider a try to see how they perform. I will probably be adding a Commander to the front of the squad with Iridium Armor to give the squad some survivability, possibly as well as fielding them on top of a Skyshield for a 4+ invuln save.

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Panzer
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#4 » Aug 23 2016 08:03

mothyy wrote:They're interesting weapons, but there are several significant drawbacks.

If we consider the pros and cons of each weapon first.
The rail rifle is a 30" rapid fire weapon, S6 AP1. The AP can be highly effective against 2+/3+ armour infantry, and a 15 inch rapid fire range gives you a good chance of doubling your shots against a target. The strength 6 limits the effectiveness to infantry and possibly T6/7 monstrous creatures however, so you are unlikely to be able to use the AP1 to harm vehicles.

Just to add a little bit. If you consider T6/7 MCs as possible targets then you should consider AV10 light vehicles as possible targets as well. You glance them on 4s and pen them on 5s where the AP1 really comes into play. That being said we have enough S7 spam almost everywhere in our codex so we don't have to rely on Pathfinder desperately trying to pen light vehicles. :D

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TauMan
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#5 » Aug 23 2016 03:31

Did no one ever consider arming an entire firewarrior squad with Long Shot Pulse rifles? :crafty:

Just checked the codex and the Long Shot is classified as Rapid Fire, but issuing it to a squad would mean losing it's Sniper classification. However think of a pulse rifle with the stat line of Str 5 / AP 5 but and a 48" range!

I don't know what the point value would be, but an Ion rifle is 10 points and a Rail rifle is 15 points, so somewhere between 8-10 points seems fair. Wait wouldn't the rapid fire range be 24"?! :eek:

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PS Think I'll work up the stats for a FSE "Fortifications Squad" armed with Longshot Pulse Rifles. Wait for future developments! :P
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#6 » Aug 23 2016 04:36

TauMan wrote:Did no one ever consider arming an entire firewarrior squad with Long Shot Pulse rifles? :crafty:

Just checked the codex and the Long Shot is classified as Rapid Fire, but issuing it to a squad would mean losing it's Sniper classification. However think of a pulse rifle with the stat line of Str 5 / AP 5 but and a 48" range!

I don't know what the point value would be, but an Ion rifle is 10 points and a Rail rifle is 15 points, so somewhere between 8-10 points seems fair. Wait wouldn't the rapid fire range be 24"?! :eek:

The TauMan Abides

PS Think I'll work up the stats for a FSE "Fortifications Squad" armed with Longshot Pulse Rifles. Wait for future developments! :P


I don't think you can do that as the Long Shot Pulse rifle is what the Heavy Support Drone team uses. There is no mention of being able to equip standard Firewarriors with this weapon.

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Vector Strike
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#7 » Aug 23 2016 07:35

Firewarriors cannot use a Long Shot Pulse Rifles.

===

I'd only use special weapons with Pathfinders in an Infiltration Cadre, and only Ion. Rail is too expensive

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Panzer
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#8 » Aug 23 2016 10:54

Vector Strike wrote:I'd only use special weapons with Pathfinders in an Infiltration Cadre, and only Ion. Rail is too expensive


I really don't see the point in Ion Rifles on Pathfinder even if they'd cost only 5p. They don't give us anything we don't already have plenty of from other sources usually.

The Rail Rifle though even though it's really expensive gives us armor ignoring S6 shots on 30" which we would get only from Crisis Plasma Rifles (with 6" less range).

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Vector Strike
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#9 » Aug 24 2016 06:23

Panzer wrote:
Vector Strike wrote:I'd only use special weapons with Pathfinders in an Infiltration Cadre, and only Ion. Rail is too expensive


I really don't see the point in Ion Rifles on Pathfinder even if they'd cost only 5p. They don't give us anything we don't already have plenty of from other sources usually.

The Rail Rifle though even though it's really expensive gives us armor ignoring S6 shots on 30" which we would get only from Crisis Plasma Rifles (with 6" less range).


Because it makes Infiltration Cadre pathfinders more threatening and prone to be killed, which is exactly what I want them to do (as I'd play Infiltration Cadre with a reserve-heavy army)

Outside that, I wouldn't even field pathfinders at all

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Panzer
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#10 » Aug 24 2016 06:38

Vector Strike wrote:
Panzer wrote:
Vector Strike wrote:I'd only use special weapons with Pathfinders in an Infiltration Cadre, and only Ion. Rail is too expensive


I really don't see the point in Ion Rifles on Pathfinder even if they'd cost only 5p. They don't give us anything we don't already have plenty of from other sources usually.

The Rail Rifle though even though it's really expensive gives us armor ignoring S6 shots on 30" which we would get only from Crisis Plasma Rifles (with 6" less range).


Because it makes Infiltration Cadre pathfinders more threatening and prone to be killed, which is exactly what I want them to do (as I'd play Infiltration Cadre with a reserve-heavy army)

Outside that, I wouldn't even field pathfinders at all


Well so do I but honestly, none of my enemies except maybe for the tyranid player is even a little bit impressed by so few S7 AP4 shots. AP1 shots however are REALLY threatening since they could possibly take a terminator out with every shot without any problems. At half range possibly two even. One or two AP4 shots aren't much more threatening to Marines than our basic AP5 spam.

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imran_tauyab
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#11 » Aug 24 2016 09:34

I'll be keep a squad in reserve and using some positional relays I'll bring the squad in right next to a juicy target.

If they're left to slog it across the table they're bound to get picked off.

With outflank and PRs you can pick and choose where they come on.
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Ell'ran
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#12 » Sep 12 2016 03:06

The thing most people forget about Pathfinders is that they can outflank, which makes both the Rail Rifles and Ion Rifles much better on a few different levels. I personally haven't used a Pathfinder team dedicated to markerlighting in a very long time. I either use them for their Recon Drone or their special weapons/carbines and draw more mobile and harder to kill markerlights from elsewhere in the cadre.

While Devilfish are expensive, they are a way to deliver the more expensive Pathfinder rifle units into action, as well as keep the Recon Drone safe for Deepstrikers, but that's another conversation. Assuming both timing and luck (and Positional Relays) are on your side, you can bring in either Ion or Rail rifles into the weak ark of a vehicle that would normally be untouchable by Pathfinders, like a Dreadnaught or Wave Serpent moving up the side of the field. This is where adding a Devilfish to the team would be good, because it would greatly increase the threat range of your team coming in from Outflanking. I can say from my experience with Stealth Teams that enough Strength 5 weaponry can bring down almost anything, and just like my Stealths you're not using just S5 in this maneuver. If you face off against regular opponents often enough, they may start to ignore your Pathfinder's for their Markerlights ability, since you never use it anyways, and thus allow them to make the occasional Markerlight hit when you decide to stand your ground. Also, you may start to influence their deployment, forcing them to make choices and make mistakes, increasing your influence over the battlefield before the fight even begins.

If you're not outflanking then their uses and survivability decrease somewhat, but the important thing to remember is to keep them in cover. Other people have already mentioned it, but I will reiterate that they are very effective against anything with a 2+ save. Both are very good vs MCs, and when paired with Darkstrider these types of combat Pathfinder teams start to become very scary.

As for Overheating your Ions, it's a small chance that it will overheat. But just because it overheats doesn't mean it's dead, I've made the overheat save and it's not impossible to do, just 66% chance of failure. However, I have found that using Ion Rifles in Rapid Fire mode is more effective than overcharging them.

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Harlequin2
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#13 » Sep 12 2016 06:19

Ell'ran wrote: Assuming both timing and luck (and Positional Relays) are on your side, you can bring in either Ion or Rail rifles into the weak ark of a vehicle that would normally be untouchable by Pathfinders, like a Dreadnaught or Wave Serpent moving up the side of the field.


You can but the issue with that is that we have so many other units that can do that exact job but just better. We've had XV8s doing just that since 3rd edition. Plasma Rifles are basically Rail Rifles, -1 AP but on a tougher platform and Cyclic Ion Blasters/Missile Pods do the exact same thing as Ion Rifles.

Honestly, the only reason I'd take Ion Rifles/Rail Rifles is to give Pathfinders a bit more bite as they sit in the backfield. If I had to choose, it'd be Rail Rifles, just because my backfield tends to lack a bit of AP1/2. It'd dissuade Terminators a bit more from dropping in nearby, though it's 45 points for 3.

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Ell'ran
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#14 » Sep 12 2016 07:40

Harlequin2 wrote:
Ell'ran wrote: Assuming both timing and luck (and Positional Relays) are on your side, you can bring in either Ion or Rail rifles into the weak ark of a vehicle that would normally be untouchable by Pathfinders, like a Dreadnaught or Wave Serpent moving up the side of the field.


You can but the issue with that is that we have so many other units that can do that exact job but just better.

True, but we aren't discussing whether or not Pathfinders are a better choice than Stormsurges or Piranhas. If I was going to take Pathfinders with special weapons, this is how I would do it.

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Harlequin2
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#15 » Sep 13 2016 05:36

Ell'ran wrote:True, but we aren't discussing whether or not Pathfinders are a better choice than Stormsurges or Piranhas. If I was going to take Pathfinders with special weapons, this is how I would do it.


I know, and I gave my answer in the second part of my reply.

Harlequin2 wrote:If I had to choose, it'd be Rail Rifles, just because my backfield tends to lack a bit of AP1/2. It'd dissuade Terminators a bit more from dropping in nearby, though it's 45 points for 3.


Still, it's important to consider how you're using the Pathfinders when you're kitting them out and if you're thinking of using them in a certain way, but another unit can do the same job but arguably better, then that's an important factor to take into account. I mean, if I was to outflank Pathfinders then I'd probably give them Ion Rifles to better target the sides/back of light armour. Since I believe that other units are better in doing that job, I'd find another use for them. In the backfield, we already have Broadsides providing Strength 7 AP4 shots whilst AP1/2 is a niche, so if my Pathfinders were there, I'd give them Rail Rifles.

That's just my take though.

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Unicornsilovethem
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#16 » Sep 13 2016 09:08

counterwave wrote:My instinct is the Rail Rifle, because S6 AP1 is too good to pass up and there are lots of other places to get S7, but I would appreciate the wisdom of Commanders that have experience using them.


My instinct is that both of these special weapons exist on the wrong unit. Pathfinders have low toughness and are already a high priority target for most opponents. Paying extra to have your pathfinders killed even sooner sounds like a very bad idea to me. Especially since Crisis Suits have excellent substitutions for both of those weapons in Plasma and Cyclic Ion. Sure their range is a bit worse, but you have higher toughness and much better mobility to make up for that.

The one use I could consider for these weapons is if you could use them together with the formation that gives them infiltrate, stealth and shrouded. That would be a nice sniper team. But of course we can't do that, since the unit loses stealth&shrouded as soon as they fire any weapon other than markerlights.

Spend your points elsewhere, and join me in dreaming for an update that lets us put these weapons on Sniper Drones where they belong.

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Elphiel
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#17 » Sep 13 2016 10:27

I have to agree, that pathfinder in their current form are not the frontline navy seal team the fluff suggests. The main reason is, that even if we want to use them as fighting infantry (i do that a lot as i love the pathfinder fluff) we always have to pay the tax for the markerlights, we cant get rid of. If markerlights would become optional for lets say +1 or +2 points while reducing the current point cost of a pathfinder with the same value, they could become a solid firewarrior and breacher alternative.

But thats where wish thinking starts and i believe thats not something we like here on att

Ricordis
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Re: Tau Pathfinders - Rail vs. Ion Rifles

Post#18 » Sep 15 2016 01:30

I once tried fielding 4 man teams of pathfinders. One Shas'ui and 3 Shas'la with Railrifles.
Also a grav-inhibitor drone.
I played against Blood Angels with tons of assault terminators and it worked pretty well.
But I had no counterfire to fear. On any other match-up I would never have tried that.

I like both weapons but the wrong guys are carrying them.

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