Greetings, Shas’la. Now that you’ve purchased your Start Collecting T’au set and have taken your first steps towards serving the Greater Good, you most likely find yourself asking the eternal question of all aspirants: “What do I buy next, fam?”.
Well, that’s largely a matter of opinion, but conventional wisdom, which I happen to agree with, would tell you to get back in your transport, return to your local plastic dispensary, and purchase the same exact box for a second time.
The Start Collecting boxes are an incredible value, the T’au variant being no exception. At normal cost without the benefit of the deep discount of the Start Collecting box, you’d be looking at $141 retail. The Start Collecting box represents a 40% discount in value and is generally filled with things that you will eventually end up wanting more of anyway. Fire Warrior Strike Teams fill the role of long-ranged objective babysitters. Breachers are a unit more explicitly designed for taking an objective away from an opponent thanks to their withering close-ranged assaults. Both of these units are Troop choices, which are important things to have when attempting to fulfil force organization requirements for Battalions or for taking advantage of the Objective Secured or “ObSec” rule. Crisis Suits are effectively the Swiss Army Knives of T’au and are able to fill a variety of roles, be it going after large, armored tanks and walkers, elite infantry, or swarms of lesser combatants. Ethereals, while not the sexiest of HQ options, are solid additions to lists containing several infantry or Tactical Drone squads.
How you choose to build and arm your Crisis Suits is ultimately a matter of what type of competitive environment you wish to pursue. If you’re looking for LGS-friendly builds that won’t make enemies of friends or create a series of never-ending arguments on the “fluffiness” of your list construction, treat them as normal Crisis Suits and use them to fill the gaps in the rest of your army. Are you wanting to bring cutting edge, tournament-winning builds to the table? Build your Crisis Suits as Commanders in XV8 armor. They typically exhibit markedly higher performance than normal Crisis Suits with their 33%-higher rate of points-for-performance thanks to their near-flawless accuracy and fourth hardpoint.
Arming Crisis Suits and Commanders is largely a matter of need. Do you need a source for dealing with large, hardened targets like Knights, Primarchs, or Land Raiders? Fusion Blasters are generally your friend. Need something to deal with light transports and tanks? Look to Missile Pods. Want to tangle with elite infantry? Plasma Rifles are your answer. Need to take on hordes of infantry? Flamers and Burst Cannons are decent options. Want a generalist weapon that can be effective against a wide variety of targets? Use Cyclic Ion Blasters.
How your build your Drones is tricky, but I personally lean towards building lots of Gun Drones. They are point-for-point one of the strongest performing offensive models in the game with their four S5 shots for their pittance of a point cost. If you are planning on running two 3-man Crisis Teams, I’d suggest building at least 12 Gun Drones. If you run your Crisis Suits as Commanders, you can still use those Gun Drones in Tactical Drone Squadrons. Shield Drones are good escorts for weaker units and Commanders. Marker Drones are arguably a little over-costed and are generally overshadowed by the next purchase suggestion.
This brings us to the third purchase, for which I recommend the Optimized Pathfinder Team. Like the Start Collecting Box, it includes multiple units in a single package sold at a cost well-below the value of its component parts. Pathfinders are important sources for Markerlights and holding objectives, while the Devilfish Transport is a near-necessity for Breacher Teams (if you so decided to build one of your Fire Warrior units into Breachers). If you’re searching for what Drones to use as chaperons for your Pathfinders, I’d suggest Shield Drones as damage sinks.
Next, if you chose to build your Crisis Suit models into normal Crisis Teams, it’s time to buy a pair of Commanders. They are one of the most efficient sources of anti-armor in the faction. Buy two and build them with Fusion Blasters.The Coldstar variant is actually quite decent, but there isn’t much that it does that is particularly vital to T’au that can’t be made up for in other places.
Finally, grab pair of Stealth Teams. Despite their rather lacking offensive value, they are strong utility pieces that can provide Homing Beacons to your Crisis Suits and Commanders, act as tactical reserve deterrents and counter-infiltrators, are fairly tough with their T4, 3+ save, two wounds, and their -1 to-hit penalty, and can act as decent objective grabbers and harassers.
This represents a pretty solid core to start from. How you expand from here is largely a matter of taste. For consistent long-ranged anti-armor threats that are not mounted on a battle suit, Longstrike and a pair of Hammerhead Tanks can’t be beaten. They’re hyper-accurate, wound reliably, and hit pretty hard when they sneak damage in. Alternatively you could look to Ghostkeels with Fusion weapons. They’re less accurate, but have a much higher damage ceiling with their multiple shots. They’re also pretty difficult to dislodge thanks to the penalties involved in shooting them. If you feel adventurous enough to take on Forge World models, a Y’avhra suit is a fast-moving wrecking ball thanks to its high movement and auto-hitting flamer weapon. Riptides and Broadsides, unfortunately, underperform for their cost and are generally not recommended.