Following on from the previous Tau post about the decline in Tau players at tournaments, my thoughts turn to how I can improve my Tau. After the poor performance at the last tournament (44th of out 52), partially due to bad match-ups and mistakes on my part, I would to look at a way to improve my list.
Looking back at my games, particularly the ones I lost, problems seem to fall into one of two camps.
One is army match-up. The Tau really struggle against fast melee armies. Heavy cav and beast daemon armies spring to mind, and although I haven't faced them yet I expect Blood Angels using assault troops with decent of angels would be a big pain. These armies tend get to the Tau lines very quickly and overwhelm the kroot layers before the enemy is weakened enough, plus they normally have the speed to catch the retreating crisis suits. Although adding more kroot screens and piranha blockers could help it would still be an uphill fight,.plus the more points invested in screens and blockers the less firepower you have to kill the enemy, so adding more screens may only delay the inevitable rather than change the outcome of the game.
The other group of problem games involved not de-meching the opponent fast enough. How good are the hammerhead submunition templates, burst cannons, plasma rifles etc. if you can't get the enemy troops out of their transport, your anti-infantry firepower is wasted or proving ineffective (such as firing at transports that they have little chance of affecting). Also vehicles can produce pretty large no go areas whether it's the threat of assault from the occupants or just the threat of deadly firepower. Both issues can stop the Tau from advancing and using it's firepower as best as possible (which normally includes getting plasma rifles in rapid fire range of infantry).
As armies seem to be getting more and more mechanized it can really mean that if you can't kill vehicles you die, hence "De-Mech or Die".
I'm finding that if you have too much anti tank you will de mech the enemy early, but will be a bit ineffective at killing the infantry, however because they have been de meched fast you will definitely be in with a chance of winning. On the other hand I'm finding that if I don't have enough anti tank that the enemy is able to advance on my lines too easily which normally means I am pinned back from advancing. These battles tend to be much harder, and my lines are likely to be breached with my expensive firepower units not having the room to get away.
From my experiences I believe it is best to go a bit heavier on the anti tank, and then worry about the rest (anti infantry, scoring, blocking). Say you think you need 3 railguns considering your local meta I'd advise taking 4. If you de mech the enemy fast you can still use hammerhead submunitions and broadside SMS against the enemy. If however you have bit of bad dice and/or one of your railguns dies early you could be in for a very tough game.
More anti tank you say, buy which type ? Tau have two main anti tank weapons. The railguns and the missile pod. If you want to kill a tank then only a railgun will do. The missile pod will get damage roles but is much better at suppression fire, ie. hoping to at least stopping the vehicle firing. For example if you have a full rhino advancing on you with extra armour, no damage result apart immobolised or dead will do, but getting a side shot on a vindicator, a "can not shoot" will allow you to move onto other threats that turn. It's good to have a good mix of anti tank but for targets which have to die to stop then really ruining your game it has to railguns, so make sure you bring enough. It take too many missile pods to destroy a rhino (on average), much better you bought a couple of extra railguns so you can fire the missile pod AND the crisis suits secondary weapon at the rhino's occupants.
I think the best way to get enough anti tank firepower into a list is to de mech the Tau army. Now this tactic has more risks for a Tau army because any enemy anti tank can be redirected towards our crisis suits and broadsides which will probably be instant killed. However swapping a hammerhead for a unit of broadside will significantly increase the railguns hits. Also minimizing devilfish will allow more crisis suits to be taken.
You will take a bit in mobility but the extra firepower should allow you to de mech and therefore slow and disrupt the enemy better and sooner.
Part Two will show how I've made a small tweak to my current army list by applying this new thinking.
What's your thought on the importance of anti tank to anti infantry firepower ? Is partially de meching the Tau army too risky (and doing the enemies job for them) ? What's do you think the required railgun count is for the points level you play at ?