A Cadre Fireblade denies himself the honour to don the mantle of the hero in favour to guide and support the common Fire Warrior with his hard-won field experience. His purpose on the battlefield is to lead and direct the fire coming from gun lines and to provide the cadre with accurate markerlight fire.
The Cadre Fireblade is a martial infantry HQ-choice for the Tau. The model is cheaper than a Commander, which makes it a viable choice for smaller scale games, but more expensive than a Ethereal. It is not as flexible or powerful as a fully equipped commander, but due to its special rules and its supportive role, it still has a place in ones army list.
Since the Cadre Fireblade is an HQ choice, its weapon skill, attacks and initiative values are higher than that of a normal Shas'la or Shas'ui, but that does not mean that they are not low compared with the HQ-choices in codices of the other races. Additional to that, the Cadre Fireblade does not have options for special close combat gear, so, if possible, he should not participate in this barbaric struggle.
The ballistic skill of the Cadre Fireblade is equal to that of a Commander, but since he has no options for ranged weapons he can choose from, and since he cannot be equipped with a Drone Controller, which would pass his excellent ballistic skill to the drones, it does not seem that the Cadre Fireblade does profit by the high ballistic skill, at least at first glance. One has to keep in mind, that the Cadre Firblade is more of a supporting character, and it is in this role, where he can contribute most and where the markerlight comes into play.
Since the Cadre Fireblade does not wear a battle suit, his strength and his toughness are not augmented, which means that they are the same of a normal Fire Warrior. Close combat is not a place where a Cadre Fireblade should be, so the low strength value is not a great loss. The low toughness combined with a moderate armour save on the other hand, could be very dangerous for the Cadre Fireblade, since the list of weapons, that cause instant death usually have a low AP-value to bypass the Combat Armours save. One should keep an eye on the positioning of the Cadre Fireblade in the unit, so that he cannot be picket out by incoming fire.
Only the Commander and the Ethereal can boast with a higher leadership in the Tau list. The high leadership ensures that the unit, the Cadre Fireblade is attached to, will be harder to get pinned, will pass their moral checks, caused by heavy losses, more easily and makes it easier to rally the unit.
The Cadre Fireblade is an independent character with all the special rules that comes with that. The unit, the Cadre Fireblade is attached to, can use his leadership to rally, even if the unit size is below 25%.
Due to the low toughness and the moderate armour save, the Cadre Fireblade considerably benefits from the special rule “Look out, Sir!”, which gives him a great deal of survivability if he is attached to a friendly unit.
Being an independent character, the Cadre Fireblade also gains the Precision Shot and Precision Strike special rules, with which shooting respectively close combat attacks, that hit with a die roll of 6, can be directed to models, chosen by the controlling player of the Cadre Fireblade, to snipe unit leaders or heavy weapons.
Should the Cadre Fireblade be involved in close combat, one can use the Precision Strike special rule to try to kill enemy models, that have not attacked, yet, like models, equipped with power fists.
It is also possible to challenge with the Cadre Fireblade, and although it is likely that the Cadre Fireblade is not going to survive the challenge, it is possible to soak up some close combat attacks and so bind an enemy unit or independent character (with some lucky dice rolls) for a turn. This is very situational, though, since Tau units normally get charged and therefore give a tied up unit of the enemy a round, in which they cannot be shot at. This might be an option if one needs time to reposition units, but is still very situational.
If the unit passes a leadership test, one model of this unit can fire at a different target. This ability is very situational, since all the weapons in a unit of Fire Warriors are the same. It will not make any difference if a single Pule Rifle/Carbine shoots at a different target, unless to zero in on a single survivor of a decimated squad to pick up an easy victory point.
Since the Cadre Fireblade does not have a target lock like a Fire Warrior Shas'ui equipped with a markerlight, it will mainly be used to generate markerlight support coming from the Cadre Fireblade himself. This ability does not work automatically like a target lock, but since the Cadre Fireblade has a very high leadership, it seldom fails.
Splitting fire might also come handy, when the Cadre Fireblade man a gun emplacement. This way, the Cadre Fireblade can shoot at targets, that are too tough for the pulse rounds coming from the Fire Warriors.
Although the Split Fire rule mostly is going to be used by the Cadre Fireblade himself to give markerlight support with his high ballistic skill, it may also be used on a Fire Warrior to throw an EMP-grenade at a nearby vehicle, while the rest of the unit shoots at a different target. This case is rather hypothetical, but can be used to destroy a Transport and shooting at the already disembarked occupants at the same time.
This special rule enables the Cadre Fireblade to declare to fire Overwatch at an enemy unit, that charges a friendly unit that is within 6”. Since the Cadre Fireblade does not have equipment, nor the choice to get the equipment, which might boost his ballistic skill during firing Overwatch, he still has to Snap Fire at ballistic skill 1. Here the Cadre Fireblade has the opportunity to choose between the Pulse Rifle and the markerlight. Although the Pulse Rifle can shoot twice at Overwatch, a hit with the markerlight may assist the charged unit the most, since they might benefit from the Pinpoint rule, which boosts the ballistic skill of the charged unit by one per markerlight hit.
If both, the Cadre Fireblade and the unit he is attached to, stay stationary during the movement phase, every Pulse Rifle and Pulse Carbine in the squad get an additional shot in the Shooting phase. This special rule makes the Cadre Fireblade a remarkable leader of gunlines.
Volley Fire does stack with the special rule Storm of Fire from the Ethereal and/or the Volley Fire rule from other Cadre Fireblades. Although this sound like a good idea, this will occupy both of your HQ choices, that might be better invested in a Commander, and creates a tempting target to ones enemy, since the unit is relatively expensive, not very durable and includes one or even two HQ choices that are not too hard to kill.
Unlike the Storm of Fire rule form the Ethereal, which last until the start of the Ethereal's next movement phase, Volley Fire does not apply during firing Overwatch.
Manning Gun Emplacements
Due to the special rule Volley Fire, the Cadre Fireblade will mostly be stationary the whole game. If the Cadre Fireblade is in base contact with a Gun Emplacement, he is able to man it and create a firing position that is not to be underestimated. Here, the high ballistic skill of the Cadre Fireblade can be of great use, since he can guide the deadly rounds, coming from the Gun Emplacement, with great accuracy.
If the gun emplacement has the special rule interceptor, the Cadre Fireblade can use it to fire at a unit, that has just arrived from reserve at the end of the enemies movement phase. Provided the unit is in line of sight and in range of the gun, of course. Next turn, the Cadre Fireblade may not be able to shoot with the Gun Emplacement again, but he can still use the Pulse Rifle or markerlight, while the unit, he is attached to, still benefits from Volley Fire.
If the Cadre Fireblade man a Gun Emplacement, which has the special rule skyfire, one can use the Split Fire rule on the Cadre Fireblade to try to bring down flyers or flying monstrous creatures, while the unit can shoot at a target, that is easier to hit.
In additional to that, the Cadre Fireblade will also get a cover save while he is manning the Gun Emplacement, which provides further protection for this rather fragile HQ choice.
An occasion could arise, when one needs the markerlight support coming from the Cadre Fireblade with his high ballistic skill. Since the whole unit has to be stationary to benefit from the special rule Volley Fire, there should always be a Fire Warrior in base contact with the Gun Emplacement, too. This way, one is able to shoot with the Gun Emplacement and get an additional shot with all Pule Rifles and Pulse Carbines in the squad, while the Cadre Fireblade uses his markerlight.
Equipment and Options
Beside the Pulse Rifle, the Cadre Fireblade is also equipped with a markerlight. The high ballistic skill of the Cadre Fireblade almost grants an auto hit and turns him in a very good supporting unit. Combined with the special rule Split fire, the Cadre Fireblade can direct the makerlight support where it is most needed, while the unit he is attached to, still can use the Volley Fire special rule.
The only options a Cadre Fireblade has, is to take any combination of two drones of Marker drones, Gun drones and Shield drones. While the army might profit form the marker drones support, and while the Cadre Fireblade will profit from the protection a shield drone grants, gun drones have a better synergy with the Cadre Fireblade, since these drones, which are equipped with Pulse Carbines, benefit from the Volley Fire rule as well.
Fire Warriors seem to be the obvious choice for a Cadre Fireblade. With their long ranged Pulse Rifles, they are going to have a target starting from turn one, and so be predestines as excellent gunline troopers, that will not suffer from the forced loss of mobility. A maximum unit of Fire Warriors, with an attached mix of drones, does not only ensures that the Cadre Fireblade is save and secure, it also unleashes a firestorm of pulserounds. If this unit is supported by markerlights and even the Warlord Trait Trough Unity, Devastation, which allows to re-roll To Hit rolls of 1 for one Shooting phase, this unit can cause a great deal of damage.
Although the rapid fire range of the Pulse Rifle is shorter than the maximum rang of a Pulse Carbine, it is best to attach the Cadre Fireblade to a unit, that is only equipped with Pulse Rifles, to gain the most of the Volley Fire rule.
Since the necessity to stay stationary to benefit form the Volley Fire rule, a Cadre Fireblade is not a good option for a Fish of Fury run. Although it can get the unit, the Cadre Fireblade is attached to, in a better position, one does still loose two turns of firing, one to get into position and the second while disembarking from the Devilfish and so wasting a lot of the supporting potential of the Cadre Fireblade.
A pathfinder unit equipped with a Pulse Accelerator Drone greatly benefits from the special rule Volley Fire, to rake the enemy with gunfire from a further distance. Combined with the special rule Scouts, provided by the Pathfinders, with which the unit can be redeployed before the games starts, the threat range of the unit is equal to that of a unit of Fire Warriors equipped with Pule Rifles.
The Cadre Fireblade might also use the Split Fire rule on a pathfinder model, that is equipped with an ion- or a railrifle, to take down an independent character, monstrous creature or a light armoured vehicle, while the rest of the unit brings their Pulse Carbines or their markerlights to a better use on a different target. Another point, that speaks for this combination is that Pathfinders usually are a static element of ones army due to the markerlights, so one won't forfeit mobility.
The great disadvantage of this combination is, that either the markerlight support, mainly coming form the pathfinders, or the special rule Volley Fire will not be used, which wastes a lot of potential and makes it a double-edged sword. Another point one should keep in mind, is that Pathfinders wear Recon Amour, which a lot of standard weaponry will bypass, so the Pathfinders should keep their head down and look for some cover.
Through the host of new options the pathfinders get with the new codex and through the upgrade of the Pulse Carbine, the possibility to use pathfinders more aggressively is very tempting. A Cadre Fireblade can support them in this case. If one only uses pathfinders for the makerlight support, a Cadre Fireblade should better be attached to a unit of Fire Warriors.
To attach a Cadre Fireblade to a drone squadron offers some benefits for both, the Cadre Fireblade and the drones. Although gun drones do have a lower ballistic skill than Fire Warriors, the fact that their Pulse Carbines are twin-linked, gives them a higher possibility to hit their target. If they stay stationary during the movement phase, the Volley Fire rule, granted by the Cadre Fireblade, will increase their offensive potential.
Since the drones make up the majority of the unit, the Cadre Fireblade is going to benefit from the higher toughness from the drones.
There are two downsides to this combination. First, the Gun Drones have to forsake their mobility in order to benefit from the Volley Fire rule and second, Pulse Carbines do have a shorter range than Pulse Rifles, so the unit has to get closer to the enemy. Either the unit has to move first turn, and so do not get the benefit from Volley Fire, or stay stationary and probably do not have a target to shoot at.
Ways to protect the Cadre Fireblade
Since the Cadre Fireblade has a low toughness and only a moderate armour save, he needs some sort of protection. The best way to use a Cadre Fireblade is to attach him to a unit, where his special rules are of great use. This is also a good way to keep the fragile Cadre Fireblade save, since he benefits from the ”Look out, Sir!” special rule.
Shield drones might also be a good way to protect the Cadre Fireblade, since the drone can always use its invaluable save, that would normally bypass the armour save granted by the Combat Armour.
Barricades, ruins or an Aegis defence lines also grants a great deal of protection to the Cadre Fireblade and the unit, he is attached to. Due to the Volley Fire rule, the Cadre Fireblade will be stationary the whole game, so camping behind terrain, that grants a cover save is not a bad idea.
Going to ground combined with the Warlord trait Exemplar of the Selfless Cause, which allows units, that have gone to ground, to stand up without forcing them to Snap Fire, also might save the Cadre Fireblade form weapons, that bypass the combat armour. Even without the warlord trait, the unit might use markerlight support to raise its ballistic skill again.
Another way to protect the Cadre Fireblade is to block line of sight with a Devilfish. The Devilfish moves out of the way during movement phase and swings back after the Cadre Fireblade and his unit shot, by moving flat out in the shooting phase.
The Cadre Fireblade is not an HQ-choice, that jumps around the battlefield and kills enemy models en mass or destroys tanks on his own. He also has a limited choice of equipment, so there is not a lot of flexibility given. Especially the lack of a drone controller seems to be a downside, although the Volley Fire rule combined with the high ballistic skill the Cadre Fireblade would grant to the drones would be over the top.
BUT due to the special rules the Cadre Fireblade has, he can enhance the potential of a unit, he is attached to, greatly. Units will also benefit from the high leadership of the Cadre Fireblade, which makes it easer to pass pinning and moral checks. Perhaps because the Cadre Fireblade does not have a great choice of options, one can concentrate more on his supportive role in the army and using his makerlight to the max.
Forgoing the pursuit of personal glory by supporting his cadre, the Cadre Fireblade really embodies the spirit of the Tau'va.
What do you think? I am sure that I have forgotten some important point. Maybe you have a certain strategy with the Cadre Fireblade I haven't thought of? Feedback and suggestions are very welcome