Oh man I think your becoming my hero Kai
*laughs* Brown-nosing aside. I really, really like Pathfinders and hope to use them more often now. Looking at the numbers for a Stealth marker team I add it upto about 55pts per marker (am I right Met?). That doesn't sound like 'economy of force' to me. I also don't like the idea of kitting a Stealth team out to fullfill the role of a Pathfinder squad. Just doesn't seem right to me. Don't get me wrong I'm sure it works but it seems to be an overly cautious, some might say paranoid, way of getting markers on the table. Not to mention an ineffective use of a Stealth team.
For me I look at the apparent loss of 200+ or so points as a worthy investment. I don't spend that much myself I must say, currently I'm scrimping on the upgrades so my Pathfinder unit weighs in at 181pts. Which I might add is little more than the cost of a three man Stealth team with 2xMD and Vre' with Marker. For which I get eight markerlights instead of three. This investment allows me to spread my acquisition of forces. Based upon my four corners principle where by I try to cover all angles.
Not to mention the 200pt 'chunk' which most people are refering to is in actual fact two parts. One of 96+pts and another of 80+pts. For your opponent to gain both easily they'd have to destroy your 'Fish with the 'Finders in it. Not an easy task (at least you shouldn't be making it one!) and the reality is the 'Fish can be denied them quite easily. If you really want to go all out on arming a Devilfish Gunship, you could create a 120pt+ monster with SMS and seekers. Thus giving your opponent a real pain in the neck while being able to sit back happily out of LOS. Meanwhile the Finders are only 48pts to your opponent if reduced below half strength (the cost of a 4xGD squad) and if he really wants the lot that's going to take some dedication from his firepower. No doubt taking the heat from other more worthy targets.
Like Kai I believe said most people seem to have a pathological fear of markerlights and will go to obscene lengths to eliminate them. For instance in one of the last games I played a force of some 100+ Orks (I think it was something like 120). It was a long game of take and hold. I'd placed my five Pathfinders away from the bulk of his forces with a LOS on the objective and a Balisik he had on the flank. As a reaction to that he placed a unit of about 15xFlashgitz and a Warbuggy opposite them. After their shamefully poor performance in the first two turns the Flashgitz made it into the jungle opposite and proceeded to gun them down. Now while it is always upsetting to lose a treasured unit I only lost 60pts in the end as the Pathfinders ran off the field, but he'd wasted a large elite unit and a Warbuggy trying to kill what he perceived as this high priority threat. In the end the Gitz were miles from the objective and got ignored by the rest of my forces. Complete overkill for him and a morale victory for me. The point is used wisely, with forethought and in unison with your other forces Pathfinders exemplify the tenents of the Greater Good.
Finally I'd like to pick up on the point of 'needing' to get the Pathfinders working from the first turn onwards. I'm slowly coming around to the idea of avoiding their deployment pre-game and instead deploying them in the first turn. The extra turn gives them some more time to manouvre into position and gives your opponent time to 'consider' the merits of my other units. My thinking is Pathfinders can offer a Tau force continued fire efficiency throughout the course of a game. As opposed to only within your first turn.
Consider this: on your first turn or turns most likely a Mech force will have suffer little or no loses. Later in a game a Mech force will suffer greatly under but a few loses. Using a unit of Fire Warriors rapid firing at a unit of MEq's as my example; 12xFirewarriors striking with BS3 score 12xRapid fire shots, wound 8 and kill 3. Take the same unit later in the game, say they've at half strength, but now supported by a Pathfinder unit; 6xFWs striking at BS5 score 10xRfS, wound 7 and kill 2. The same unit without Pathfinder support would only score 1 kill. You can apply this to all Infantry unit types. Pathfinders continue to offer Fire efficiency equivalent to a full squad for depleted units later in the game.
With this thinking in mind I consider Pathfinders more
valuable later in the game than in the first turn. Now discuss...