Shield Drone Barrier

A review of past Tactics by commanders during the First, Second, Third & Fourth Phase Expansion.
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Lord_of_OYAP
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Shield Drone Barrier

Post#1 » Dec 03 2016 07:46

This article will focus on what is possibly the least commonly used drone, the Shield Drone. Due to the flexibility of the Gun Drone, with its twin-linked pulse carbine, and the force multiplying Marker Drone, the Shield Drone is often ignored. However, for those wishing to take a fluffy and somewhat effective unit, the Shield Drone is not an entirely bad choice.

The first thing that needs to be established is what exactly does a Shield Drone do? To state the obvious, it has a shield generator, of equivalent power to that of a Crisis Suit, that being a 4++ save. This save only applies to the model with the generator, meaning only the actual drone with the shield generator will get the save. This may seem essentially useless, as why would you want to take a weaponless unit that has a save that only applies to itself? This brings us to the various methods in which you can make the seemingly pointless model become highly effective.

The most obvious usage for them is to take two with your characters or independent characters; an Ethereal would be far less vulnerable to high strength firepower with two ablative drones. A Commander could escape instant death from lascannons and the like with two floating 4++ drones. These uses, while the most obvious, are only a part of what can be done with these drones. The Tau Codex states that in some, unusual cases "entire squadrons [of drones] have been so altered [with shield generators] - such as the Shield Drone barrier used with some success in the great tank duels of the Almo'th plains". (pg.52 Tau Codex) This is possibly the best usage for the Shield Drone, acting as an ablative shield against anti-tank weapons such as lascannons or Vanquisher Cannons. The high invulnerable save means the drones can weather such fire, and if they die, they are only a low-priced weaponless unit.

The intervention of drones between vehicles confers a 5+ cover save for shooting at the vehicle. When you add in Disruption Pods? 4+ cover save. There is only one catch for this: The vehicle must be 25% obscured. The most feasible way to achieve this would be low vehicle stands and drone stands of varying heights to cover as much as possible. Obscuring the line of sight of the vehicle shouldn't be a problem, as drones are jetpack and can jump-shoot-jump, without the shooting part. This way vehicles such as the Hammerhead suddenly are far harder to kill, even when out in the open. This tactic will be most effective covering vehicles as they have a high invulnerable save allowing them to soak up AP2 and AP1 anti-tank weapons. Due to the low chance of hitting the vehicles, fire will be redirected to the less valuable and highly resilient Shield Drones.

A 4+ cover save is invaluable in tank duels, especially against foes such as the Imperial Guard, who have equally ranged weapons on more resilient tanks. Even though the Shield Drone does not confer the save it has to any other unit, the save can still be quite useful. Despite the complete lack of offensive firepower the Shield Drone can definitely possesses functional applications, that can only strengthen a Tau army.
Last edited by Lord_of_OYAP on Dec 04 2016 12:29, edited 2 times in total.

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Ell'ran
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#2 » Dec 03 2016 09:28

An interesting concept, do you have any field experience to show for it? Batreps or anything else?

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Lord_of_OYAP
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#3 » Dec 03 2016 10:03

I have never implemented it, although I plan to in my next battle. I stumbled across the idea recently. Any feedback from your experiences with it would be wonderful!

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AnonAmbientLight
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#4 » Dec 03 2016 10:07

Your focus in application seems to be with screening vehicles. It is not a bad idea, but there are a few problems with how this will play out.

First of all, getting that 25% will probably be very difficult to achieve. Our vehicles are already raised quite a bit above ground. The only time that you might be able to get this 25% is with units that are on the ground, and relatively short in height. Most units that can fire at our tanks will likely have a nice view of it.

Secondly, I am all but certain that those cover saves do not stack the way you think they do. The BRB was already FAQ'd in regards to Jinking and Going to Ground. You cannot do both in that example and stack the cover saves. I would assume that using intervening models, and Jinking do not stack either. It is one or the other. Even still, a good point to be made here is the fact that you could use the 25% rule to get 5+ then use disruption pods to get a respectable 4+.

Lastly, shield drones are in a weird place. They are great, cheap wounds that have a nice 4++ save, but they only have 4+ armor saves. That's their greatest weakness. Having a squad of shield drones would be great to soak up high S and armor piercing weapons (as intended) but would do poorly against normal rank and file guns. It is very unlikely that your opponent would ever waste such shots on them and would instead use weaker weapons which will have just as powerful an effect. You may get one, maybe two turns if you're lucky, out of such a set up before they are shot to hell. That would be a waste of points.

Screening devilfishes are not really needed anyway. Devilfishes can jink and use DP to get a 3+ cover in the open. That's pretty strong. The FAQ was released that allows embarked units to still fire in the following shooting phase if the transport jinked. Screening a Hammerhead or Skyray is not necessary since they have long range capabilities which would not require the need for a unit like you described.

As for the shield drone, it used to be a good model when it took the armor save of the unit it protected. It doesn't do that anymore which lowers its usefulness considerably.
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Lord_of_OYAP
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#5 » Dec 03 2016 10:27

On achieving the 25%, the lowest available stand I have found is 1.4 cm, coupled with the increased height of the Shield Drones makes covering the required area on the standard Devilfish style body easy. Because Shield Drones have both an extended bottom segment and two antennae, they individually cover more than enough area.

Thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that jink and obscured do not stack, and I will revise my article to reflect it accordingly.

To address the threat of massed small arms fire against the barrier, it should be deployed far back along with your Hammerheads, not to the front lines where any model can hit it, which comes to the next point of the inefficiencies it will have with Devilfish, which I am now inclined to agree with. The focus of the revisions will be mainly on Hammerheads, because they can benefit the most from this tactic. Hammerheads most certainly need this, especially when faced with long range anti-tank weapons such as the Vanquisher Cannon, the Battle Cannon, and even Hunter-Killer Missiles.

Thank you again for the great feedback, and I will edit my article to reflect the helpful advice I have received.

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Ell'ran
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#6 » Dec 03 2016 11:29

Not trying to be negative, but before continuing with this article I would advise getting some games in and experimenting more with this tactic to see if it is actually worth the time to write an article about it. The only positive experience I've had running a unit of Shield Drones under the current ruleset, was with a Commander who was also wielding an Onager Gauntlet and dual fusion. In many people's opinion, the Shield Drones got gimped by rules changes way too hard, and I tend to agree.

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Lord_of_OYAP
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#7 » Dec 03 2016 11:41

Great idea! I will continue to update this article as I try out the idea more. Also if anybody else tries it out, I would love to hear how it worked out.

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AnonAmbientLight
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#8 » Dec 04 2016 02:38

Well crap. Wrote a big thing and it didn't save it.

Long story short, shield drones are not useful the way you plan to use them. Shooter will likely see over the drones, terrain can often give you free cover, and other units already in your list could provide the same kind of cover for your tanks(riptide for example).

Shield drones are also very limited in scope and application. Your opponent would likely never use high S low AP weapons against shield drones, and most small arms fire cannot reach that far (assuming your hammerheads are in the back field). The shield drones are basically never going to get shot at.

A gun drone or marker drone, in the same role you have in mind, would be far more fluid and versatile. A gun/marker drone can go on the offensive if you do not need screening. A gun/marker drone can threaten approaching targets.

I do not think the method of using shield drones specifically to screen Hammerhead chassis in the backfield would be useful.

The shield drone does need some love though.
Sky IS Falling, T'au WILL Suck, Sell Me Your Models

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Jefffar
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#9 » Dec 04 2016 06:26

I'm going to turn this topic on its head somewhat.


What if you place the shield drones close to the enemy heavy weapons instead if close to the unit you want to screen?

A shield drone unit of considerable strength, say about 12 inches from a squad of Long Fangs, can grant a considerable portion of the table cover. Forcing your opponent to either accept reduced shooting effectiveness, move his heavy weapons (reducing their effectiveness again) or spend time and energy removing them when he would rather be killing something more threatening.

The drones jump-run-jump ability could be used to keep them in position if the heavy weapons unit moves, or to clear a lane of fire to engage the heavy weapons before closing it back up again to resume the blockade.

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Ell'ran
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#10 » Dec 04 2016 06:41

At that distance though, the SW player could just remove them...or enough of them with whatever bolter spam they felt like removing them with. I am sorry but I just don't see Shield Drones as a screening unit as being feasible unless I see batreps that prove otherwise.

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Jochmann
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#11 » Dec 04 2016 07:02

My opinion on shield drones is mixed. I love using them as "look out, sir" sacrifices on commanders etc., and even in drone units I use them sometimes as additional protection and "no, you don't want to waste shots on this unit" models, but a unit consisting entirely of shield drones is a waste. You could guard Firewarriors or breachers with those, as bolterspam is usefull against both and the opponent might consider removing the drones first and you could tie up shooty units in CC with those and hope that you don't loose the CC or pass the moral check, but it is a niche unit, more for fun than for results.

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Jefffar
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#12 » Dec 04 2016 07:23

Well yes, but you're still making him waste fire on a unit that can't score, can't shoot and won't assault.

That being said, this tactic works just as well defensively if you use Gun Drones, but then you get to shoot back.

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Lord_of_OYAP
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#13 » Dec 04 2016 10:54

Thank you for all the great recommendations. Since the Shield Drone is rather inflexible, I believe I will entirely redo the article or post a new one about all Drones, with Shield Drones as a smaller section. Thanks for all the advice, and I hope you all have more when I rewrite this article!

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Jochmann
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#14 » Dec 04 2016 11:58

I think that is a good idea. Do you want to make a submission for drone units or drones in general, with the subpart of drone units?

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Lord_of_OYAP
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#15 » Dec 04 2016 12:08

I will focus on drones, with drone units and drones in other units being a sub part. Would it be better to rewrite this article or start a new one?

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Crooked Bird
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#16 » Dec 04 2016 12:09

Lord of OYAP

I'd just like to commend you on your attatude throughout the critique process. It's hard to create something and put it out there for judgement. It is all to easy to become defensive and deny valid criticism. Your acknowledgment of deficiencys and willingness to rework your submission serves as excellent example to others and an demonstration of the best of ATT.

Best of luck going forward.
Crooked
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Lord_of_OYAP
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Re: [Article Submission] Shield Drone Barrier

Post#17 » Dec 04 2016 12:24

Thank you Crooked Bird. I hope to make the best article I can, and I hope to improve this article until it reaches that point.

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AnonAmbientLight
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Re: Shield Drone Barrier

Post#18 » Dec 04 2016 02:24

Looking at the academy articles, I see that there are no posts about drones. Perhaps it would be worth it to do a full write up on all of the various drones the Tau Empire can use. Our 7th Ed codex did give us a few new ones. There's clearly some tactics and out of the box strategies to be employed that might help new players and get an interesting discussion going.
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