I love the visual of XV9s and I'd like to make them useful for us.
So far, I've discovered that 2 XV9s with stock equipment are just plain better than 3 XV8s with 2 burst cannons; they cost exactly the same, but the XV9s will dish out more firepower (32 to 24 shots). Adding support systems will just increase the efficiency gap between them.
2 stock XV9s vs 3 XV8s with 3 burst cannons each hardly increase the efficiency gap (32 to 36 shots) - but you'll get enough points for a Drone Controller and 3 Gun Drones (giving the Hazard team 12 extra shots, alterating the ratio to 44 vs 36) or 2 ATS and almost 2 drones!
But we already have so many S5 shots around (2 XV9s cost the same of 23 fire warriors, or almost 2 full teams)... how about the fusion cascade (it's worth noting this weapon was S6 in 7th - it's S8 now )?
2 XV9s with fusion cascades cost more or less 2 stock Coldstars. They fire on average 8 shots, netting 4 hits. Against T5-7, they'll do 2.68 wounds and vs T8, 2 wounds.
3 XV8s, each with 2 fusion blasters, will cost 10p less, but their performance will be quite worse. Against T5-7, they'll do 2 wounds and vs T8, 1.5 wounds.
you'll need 3 XV8s, each with 3(!) fusion blasters, to get a better results (but they'll break 300p), albeit at 18" instead of 12". Against T5-7, they'll do 3 wounds and vs T8, 2.25 wounds
Darn it, the Commander does their job for 100p less!
Maybe the phased ion gun?
While its profile is closer to the airburst fragmentation projector, that weapon is simply a worse burst cannon, so no point comparing them. Let's do a (damage) PIG vs BC comparison (curiously, PIG average is 4 shots):
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Saves XV9 XV9+ATS XV8 XV8+ATS
T3 6+: 5.36 5.36 4.66 5.36
T3 5+: 4.45 5.36 3.59 4.45
T3 4+: 3.59 5.36 2.68 3.59
T4 3+: 2.00 2.68 1.77 2.68
T4 2+: 1.32 2.00 0.91 1.77
T5 3+: 1.32 1.77 1.32 2.00
T6-7 3+: 1.32 1.77 0.87 1.32
T8 2+: 0.45 0.68 0.23 0.45
As you can see, against most common enemies, 2 XV9s with 2 PIGs each simply supercedes 3 XV8s with 2 BCs each; with the point difference (16p more to the XV8s), you can add 2 ATS to the XV9s and even improve those numbers (as the 2nd column shows). If you give ATS to the XV8s (increasing the efficiency gap), they only surpass XV9 PIGs with ATS on T5 3+ (marine bikes), but are still worse against common infantry and big fellas, and on par vs footslogging marines.
Each ATS on a XV8 is one extra gun drone to the XV9s!
This comparison tells me that, in general, SX AP-1 is better than SX+1 AP0, everything else equal. Also, I'm not counting the AP-4 on a to hit of 6, which makes the PIG even a better deal.
However, the double-barreled burst cannon is superior to the PIG in pratically all ways. It alone inflicts double wounds and in average 1.5x more damage (1.32x vs 2+ saves) than an ATS PIG! Again, not counting the AP-4 for the lucky 6 for the PIG, but with half the number of shots, they won't really matter much. So, sadly, I must confess the PIG isn't a worthwhile option for the XV9 while the double-barreled burst cannon exists - even if a XV9 with a PIG can get a drone or an ATS over one with the stock weapon.
The last contender is the pulse submunitions rifle. Once the most expensive XV9 weapon upgrade, it was a horde killer. Will it live up to such expectations when it's now, alongside PIG, the cheapest upgrade?
Again, the burst cannon is the closest weapon to it, profile-wise (same 4 shots average from PIG). Similar deal than PIG vs BC: 16p cheaper per unit (2 XV9s vs 3 XV8s) and the PSR is better than the BC 1.24x vs T3, on par against marines and termies and increasingly better against T5-6 stuff (they equalize at T7+). With ATS, 2 XV9s with 2 PSR each can almost dent 1 wound on a Land Raider! Not their main target, but in desperation...
The biggest advantage of the PSR is range (30", 6 more than in 7th) and the S6 - but hey, there are plasma rifles for that!
However, to confirm my theory from PIG vs BC, let's do a PSR vs neutron blaster, Vespid's weaponry. 12 vespids (full unit) have a cost between 2 XV9s with PSR and 3 XV8s with 2 BCs each.
Vespids deal 1.2x damage on average over an ATS PSR! And up to twice the damage vs marines (S5 AP-2 do wonders vs them). Neutron blasters lose bite vs T7, but, again, not their main target. This solidifies my opinion that AP is better than strength, unless you're fighting hordes of high average Toughness t-shirt save enemies.
After doing these comparisons, I might value XV9 weaponry as this:
1. double-barreled burst cannon. Easily its best weapon.
2. fusion cascade. Deal a lot of wounds and can be useful outside the common T4-5 bracket the other weapons do well.
3. pulse submunitions rifle. Not a bad weapon per se, but double-barreled burst cannon firepower is just greater.
4. phased ion gun. Only really good if your dice like to roll 6s. Double-barreled burst cannon is better than it in all other situations.
All those options are simply better than their XV8 counterparts, meaning small XV8 units with fusion blasters, airbursting fragmentation projectors and burst cannons aren't good cost-effective options. CIBs, flamers and missile pods still rule on XV8s, of course.
However, the Commander is better than the XV9 with fusion cascade and, with the double-barreled burst cannon being better than the other 2 weapons... I think this will be the most cost-effective build:
1-2x XV9, double-barreled burst cannon, ATS
101-202p. 16-32 S5 AP-1 shots at 18" and BS4+.
1x XV9, double-barreled burst cannon, drone controller, 4 gun drones
130p. 32 S5 AP0 shots at 18" and BS4+.
Total: 231-332p for 48-64 S5 shots.
The same point value would give you 29-41 firewarriors - able to fire 57-83 shots at 18" with pulse carbines or 15" with rifles. However, they don't have the means to come that close to the enemy unless the enemy comes to them or they advance (getting them on tidewalls or devilfishes will severely reduce fire output).
It's up to you if you rather condense such firepower in 6-7 models or divide between 30ish troops. The XV9s will help you with unit count to start the game (29 firewarriors are 2.4 full units, and 41 are almost 3.5 full units), but the Firewarriors will help with objectives and field presence.
What do you guys think? Feel free to comment, suggest, appoint mistakes on both my English and calculations!