Well after looking at the basics of the Hunter Contingent, and the change to our pre-existing formation (here) it's time to look at the owww ahhhh part of the codex, with a look at what I think are the best of the remaining formations in the new Tau Codex
Optimised Stealth Cadre
This is my favorite formation, it includes the stunning new Ghostkeel model, the formation is so good that it gets my XV15 Stealth suits that haven't seen a battlefield in years out of the case, it helps with anti-tank, and is very very markerlight efficient.
For this formation you will need a unit of Ghostkeels and two units of Stealth Suits. There is no restrictions on size of the formation so it can be as cheap as 310pts (however I think you should always upgrade the Ghostkeel's secondary weapon to at least a twin-linked burst cannon, making the minimum cost 315pts). What makes this formation so good is the Wall of Mirrors special rule:
Since the previous codex when broadside railguns were reduced from strength 10 to 8, Tau have struggled a bit with high value armour. A hammerhead is a bit expensive for 1 shot a turn that misses a third of the time. We were almost forced to take fusion guns and try to get within 9" to get the melta effect with either Piranhas or Crisis Suits. However most vehicles have low value rear armour, perfect examples being Predators, Necron vehicles with Quantum Shielding, Leman Russ tanks. For most of the these vehicles the rear armour is 2 to 3 points less than the front armour, meaning that the strength 5, 7 or 8 (all three units can get fusion weapons) guns in this formation could really do a number on them.
Lastly be aware that the Ghostkeel is the lynchpin of this formation. If the Ghostkeel's are dead the Wall of Mirrors does nothing, so if you opponent snipes your Ghostkeels you'll just be left with subpar Stealth Suits. Keep your Ghostkeel(s) safe (well as much as possible given the short range on the Ghostkeel's weapons). For this reason I think the formation really starts to shine when you put a 2nd Ghostkeel to the Ghostkeel unit, making it much harder to take out the Ghostkeel unit.
Burst Cannon or Fusion ??
This is more of a personal choice and will depend on the type of vehicles you normally encounter and how much anti-heavy tank firepower your army already has. With fusion to get the most of it you have to get within 9" for the melta ability to take effect, which may be dangerous.
Outside of 9" you may think that with ignore cover you'd want the AP1 of the fusion gun, however with four times the shots and a good strength of five, the burst cannon will kill as many marines as the fusion gun. Going against rear armour, in terms of stripping hull points the burst cannon does just as well as the fusion gun against anything it can hurt (AV10 & 11).
The fusion also has the chance of causing instant death to T3 and T4 models, but to start with I'm going to try saving points and just using the burst cannons. This will give my 315 point formation 6 str 7 shots and 30 str5 shots. I can't wait to assemble and paint my Ghostkeel so I can try it out.
The biggest issue with this formation is that it is quite a large formation, which may make it hard to fit into a Hunter Contingent along side a Hunter Cadre*. The formation consists of a Commander, 3 units of Crisis Suits, a Broadside unit and a Riptide unit; taking the crisis suits as units of one, but giving them weapons will see the formation cost roughly 500-550points, and this will rise sharply if you add more crisis suits and additional wargear. Personally I also don't like spending too much on HQ characters and this formation forces you to bring a second commander* (after the one in the Hunter Cadre).
The whole formation gains Relentless (only really a factor for the Broadside, but a very nice buff). If the whole formation is kept in reserve then they all deepstrike on turn 2 automatically (even the Broadside) and get +1 BS on the turn they deepstrike.
Again nice benefits, and will cause absolute havoc the turn they deepstrike (with a guarantee that they will come in early). To make the most of this I would try to put a few homing beacons in your army. Ethereals, Tetras & Stealth Suits & Pathfinders (one of their special drones) can buy them. Also remember that a unit does not need to be on the table at the start of the turn for it's homing beacon to be used (unlike the Imperial equivalent) so you could deepstrike a Stealth unit with a Homing Beacon and then deepstrike Crisis Suits with 6" with no scatter (you just have the risk that the Stealth Suits arrive after turn 2).
Also be wary that deepstriking the formation will mean a large amount of points are off the board for what could be 2 enemy shooting phases, so you will have to build the rest of your army with this in mind.
* Both of these issues can be removed by playing the Dawn Blade Contingent from the Montka Campaign, for which the core formation can be the Retaliation Cadre.
I think the top 3 picks for formations to add to a Hunter Cadre to make a Hunter Contingent are the three already discussed (Firebase Support, Optimised Stealth & Retaliation), and along with the cheap Drone Network auxiliary choice, are the main ones you should choose between. There is however one more formation that I think is good, it's just very expensive to field:
Heavy Retribution Cadre
This formation is expensive. It contains a unit of Ghostkeels and 2 units of Stormsurges, making the minimum points 850, and you will want to spend more on weapon and wargear upgrades (eg. replacing the flamer secondary weapons, giving the Stormsurges an invulnerable save etc.). To field the formation as pictured above (from the GW website) the unit would cost a minimum of 1110, and more importantly cost you £315 to buy.
Although the formation is (in my mind) impractical to field apart from in the largest of battles the formation rules are nice. The Stormsurges can reroll to hit against targets within 12" of any of the formation's Ghostkeels, plus if an enemy unit is fired on by 2 or more of the units in the formation then they can not Run or move Flat Our, plus must halve the results of charges range in their next turn (helpful to reduce their mobility and keep the Ghostkeels from being charged).
If you have big pockets and regularly play big games this formation may be worth it for you. However in smaller games I would rather have a Ghostkeel unit as part of the Optimised Stealth Cadre and not be forced to bring at least two Stormsurges.
Well that's it for the formations from the new Tau Codex that I believe are going to be used regularly. However that's not all the new formations that will be used in Tau armies. The Montka Campaign supplement gave us other formations, such as the Riptide Wing, Drone-Net VX1-0, Etheral Council & Ranged Support Cadre among others.
Next post I will go over the Co-ordinated Firepower rule and it's implications and then look at the additional formations in the Montka Campaign supplement.
What do you think of the formations I've dicussed ? Will you be using them ? Did I miss out a formation that you think is great ? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, happy gaming :)