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.