Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Tau Army Review – Devilfish Transport

After looking at Fire Warriors, lets turn our attention on one of the best ways to keep them alive, mobile and useful; making available a devilfish transport.

Following the format of the previous article on Fire Warriors I'll quickly go through the basic strengths and weaknesses, the equipment they can be upgraded with, and typical unit loadouts, and finally my opinion of them.


Good transport capacity
Good armour for a transport (resilience helped further by the disruption pod upgrade)
Good mobility
Good protection for the fragile Tau troops


Expensive compared to other codexs (especially compared to the newer codex such as the Space Marine Rhino or the Imperial Guard Chimera)
Either has drones which make it 2 kill points in anniltion missions or much take the Smart Missile System upgrade which can make the transport get even more expensive


Disruption Pod

Excellent increase in the tank’s survivability for a very small cost. There should never be a Tau tank that doesn’t have it.

Targeting Array

A cheap upgrade that increases the shooting damage by 33% (excluding any gun drones which are not affected by it.

It really depends on the weapons on the devilfish and whether it has the multi-tracker as to whether the +1 BS is worth it. For the cost of a fire warrior (rather than half the cost on a devilfish) you could increase the firepower of a crisis suit firing a missile pod and a plasma rifle. If the devilfish only has a burst cannon it’s not worth it.

Also consider how often the devilfish will fire. If you use the devilfish to ferry Fire Warrior or Kroot towards objectives you’ll probably be moving more than 6” a lot, meaning that the most the devilfish will be able to fire is 4 Str 5 SMS shots, is it worth making that small amount of firepower better ?


Increases the firepower of the devilfish while on the move. For gun drone equipped devilfishes it means you can fire 5 str 5 shots while moving 12” rather than none. On SMS equipped devilfishes it allows the vehicle to move 6” and put out an impressive 7 Str 5 shots at longer range to the standard devilfish. A nice useful upgrade


Removes a kill point from the devilfish, increases the range and amount of firepower, however it comes at a price (25% increase to the base cost). Adding a SMS also makes other upgrades useful for making the best use of it (ie. the multi-tracker and targeting array).

The decision on whether to add the SMS depends on your view of the devilfish in anniliation missions, and what you want your devilfish to do during a game, and particularly how often it will be moving more than 6” a turn (ie. can only fire one weapon if upgraded with a multi-tracker).

Sensor Spines

This will avoid the dreaded 1 on a differcult terrain, which can be a nice benefit. However you have to weigh up how often this will come up, as being a skimmer a differcult terrain test is only needed if the devilfish starts or ends it’s move in differcult terrain. Even if an objective is in difficult terrain you can make your full move to be right on top of the objective and even if you immobolise the devilfish it’s still a nice bunker for the troops inside. Overall I would skip this upgrade especially when considering how much it would cost to add to all vehicles in an army list (normally 3-6)

Flechette Discharger

An interesting upgrade. If the skimmer moves over 6” assaulters need a 6 to hit it, but the dischargers will put a str 5 hit on half of them. Against an ork mob of 30 boyz this means that 10 will die before they get to strike. However in reality this will have little effect as it’s the nob with a powerclaw that is the real threat, so the main advantage is that it might deter small units wishing to assault the vehicle.

You also have to consider the cost of upgrading all devilfishes, and the fact that if an enemy unit is close enough to assault they are close enough to use short ranged anti-tank guns such as meltaguns which would also ignore the disruption pod. Ideally you shouldn’t be getting the devilfish that near the enemy apart from a late turn dash to contest/claim an objective. Would it be better to spend the points elsewhere to help kill the enemy near the objective rather than hoping on flechette dischargers to save the devilfish.

Decoy Launchers

This wargear took a hit in 5th edition. Skimmers moving over 6” used to only get glancing blows from shooting, now this is not the case. In most cases a hit will be a penetrating hit more likely than a glancing hit (meaning the decoy launchers are useless) or you’d rather have the vehicle immobolised rather than risk losing the main weapon (particularly in the case of hammerheads). In general I would advice against adding decoy launchers and spending the points elsewhere.

Blacksun Filter

With the short range & only medium strength of the devilfish weapons this is not worth it. To spend points on blacksun filters it needs to be on something that can really affect them game in a night fight, ie. do something significant turn 1, eg. pop a key transport at range. Killing a couple of infantry if there is a unit that has deployed forwards is not worth it, especially when you are putting the devilfish more at risk by moving it close to the enemy early.

Target Lock

With only a few str 5 shots it’s not worth being able to split fire, better to spend the points elsewhere

I will cover seeker missiles in a separate article.

Be Ruthless

Tau have a lot of very good cheap upgrades, and it’s essential to weigh up the benefits of making the devilfish better against other cheap upgrades that could be bought to aid your army list. For 5 pts would could:
  • Allow 2 Broadsides to fire at separate targets
  • Allow a shas’el or team leader to fire at a separate target
  • Give a Skyray a Blacksun Filter (can be a game winner in Dawn of War, eg. a Skyray allows a broadside team to fire on a landraider full of terminators turn 1 forcing them to walk all game)
  • Be half way to extra drone protection for a crisis suit unit
  • 1 point away from an extra kroot hound
Tau are an army that can spend way to much on upgrades, and you must be ruthless and only take what you think will really help your army in a worthwhile way in the majority of your games

What Do You Want Your Devilfish To Do

Before I move on to typical set-ups, when choosing the set-up you must give thought to what you want the devilfish will be doing.

A main role will be to protect troops inside and give them much needed mobility, so this question is what else.
  • Do you want the devilfish to be part of your main firepower ?
  • Do you want it to keep a low profile until late in the game when you want to dash troops to objectives ?
  • Do you need to reach objectives far away with the devilfish (which would mean moving 12” most turns and be more at risk being of destroyed) ?
  • Can you get enemy transports destroyed and keep enemy infantry in the 18”-24” range, so you can move forwards 6” and fire all weapons at them ?
All these questions will determine which devilfish set-up is best for you and your army list.

Typical Devilfish Set-ups

Cheap Transport (sometimes refered to as the Dumbfish) – 85 Pts

Upgrades: Disruption Pod only

This is the cheapest version. It’s still worth 2 kill points due to it’s drones. In non annihilation missions the drones can be a useful distraction unit and even move to contest objectives on turn 5. Lets look at the contesting threat of drones on a devilfish:
  • Devilfish moves 12”
  • Drones disembark with the back of the drone base 2” from the devilfish, ie. gaing 3” forward movement
  • Drones run d6” in the shooting phase
  • Drones make a 6” assault movement to get 3” from the objective
In total the drones on a devilfish can contest an objective 25-30 inches away. Not only will the enemy rarely expect this, but if the game continues the enemy on the objective will probably be forced to shoot the drones rather than firing on the approaching devilfish.

This devilfish focuses on being a cheap transport and nothing else. No temptation to engage the enemy to make use of expensive upgrades, and no temptation to move slowly to get more shots off. Keeps the fragile troops protected and keeps them moving to where they need to be.

Cheap Devilfish Plus – 95 Pts

Upgrades: Disruption Pod & Multi-tracker

The addition of the multi-tracker allows the cheap fish to fire 5 str 5 shots while moving 12” (as the drones are allowed to fire if the vehicle can fire at least one gun). 10 pts for 5 str 5 shots a turn is not bad. However if you need to fire the drones you can always disembark them.

One disadvantage is that moving within 18” to fire gives the enemy the change to move forwards and fire meltaguns or rapid fire plasmaguns which can be dangerous to the devilfish.

Warfish / Gunboat – 120 Pts

Upgrades: SMS, Targeting Array, Multi-tracker, Disruption Pod

With the ability to fire 7 Str 5 shots at BS4 the devilfish can more meaningfully contribute to the army's firepower, plus it can still transport troops to objectives, and lastly is only worth one kill point in annihilation missions. A couple of warfishs packed with fire warriors can deliver a torret of str 5 shots.

However it does suck up a lot of points. To fire the maximum 7 shots the devilfish also needs to only move 6”, and it can be hard to coordinate multiple devilfishs onto the same target without losing some of the firepower because a devilfish has to move over 6”.

There is also the danger of moving with 18”, which will allow an enemy that isn't wiped to move to within 12” to fire meltaguns or rapid fire plasmaguns.

My Experiences with the Devilfish

I started using the warfish in 5th edition, and it's firepower output was impressive, but even with the addition of fire warriors rapid firing it's didn't seem to kill enough, and was exposed to enemy counter attack.

As soon as the devilfish was destroyed the troop unit inside normally followed soon afterwards (if not the same turn).

My use of the devilfish is now to keep it mainly to transport the fire warriors or a small unit of kroot. Staying further away from the action makes it much more likely to last till turn 4/5 where it is essential for getting the troop units to objectives (or just keeping them alive in annihilation missions. Therefore I have moved to using the Dumbfish configuration. I found the extra 70 pts from downgrading my 2 devilfishes much better spent on crisis suits and/or broadsides.

This is not say that I think this is the only way to use the devilfish. It will really depend on what you need your devilfish for. If you are light on str 5 fire power you might the warfish argmenting that. If you have larger fire warrior squads you may not be so concerns with engaging the enemy with their devilfish.

The Dumbfish is just what's working for me at the moment.

Well there's the end of my devilfish overview, hopefully it has been useful and/or interesting. If you think there's anything I've missed or wish to let me know anything please leave a comment.



  1. I think it's worth keeping the drones on the fish, just for the enhanced contest range. Also the flechettes hit every model automatically, and wound on a 4+. In your example this would result in about 12 dead orks. More then worth it for a 10 point upgrade I think.

    The dumbfish is working for me as well. Good write up.

  2. In non kill point missions I completely agree with keeping the drones on the devilfish.

    My issue with flechette dischargers (however bear in mind that I not used them so far), is that they still won't stop an ork nob fisting the devilfish out of the air and then the fragile embarked tau troops dying soon afterwards. Also I find my devilfishs are normally killed by shooting the majority of the time (maybe because I play to avoid close combat unless I have to contest an objective).

    To be fair the flechette dischargers aren't too many points (especially if they are only put on devilfishes). How have you found them when you used them ? and why have you now removed them to use the dumbfish ?


  3. Although they won't stop an ork mod from tearing your devilfish out the sky, what they will do is thin out the number of orks you have to kill to get to the nob with power klaw. For the sake of the price of one firewarrior I think they are a bargain.
    I have found them to be incredibly useful. Great for dissuading charges against your fish. Makes them great for lane blocking as well.
    Sorry, I should been a bit clearer, I use flechettes on my dumbfish. They normally die to deepstriking melta. Which is going to become more prevalent with the new angels codex.

  4. Ah, Dumbfish with Flechette Launchers, I see now.

    I've never used the Flechette Launchers, but I've been tempted so I always look out for how my vehiciles die. What I've seen is that it's never a full squad that attacks a devilfish (normally they've been wittled down by the rest of the Tau army), so the Flechette wouldn't kill that much.

    So the actual numbers of enemy the Flechette Dischargers would kill, combined with the how often the vehicles are killed in close combat (not often in my opinion), means (IMHO) that the 10 pts cost per vehicle is not quite worth it. Rather than spending 40 pts on my 4 vehicles I'd rather have an extra deathrain (twin missile pods crisis suit).

    However the 10 pts cost is not much, and won't break a list, so I'm definitely not saying a list with Flechette Dischargers is a bad one. There will be a game where an opponent is discouraged from charging the devilfish because of the Flechette Dischargers that could change the game.




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