Any tau player with a game under their belt knows that tau dominate the shooting phase. However, with tau’s best close combat unit being a mediocre character and having no psychic phase presence, other armies tend to try to bully tau in those phases rather than take them on in a shooting war. Well I don’t put up with bullying like that so it’s time to teach tau to fight back.
Tau, like Guard, can end a game fast if they are allowed to shoot too many times. Your opponents will know this and will try to tie your units up in combat to prevent their army from being shot. With tau’s dearth of close combat ability, a single threatening unit can end the game if it ties up on your frontline units and prevents them from falling back. They will kill your unit in your turn and murder the rest of your army in theirs. So, as the tau player, how do we prevent that scenario? (If you play a close combat army, are doing some opposition research and dont know how to prevent units from falling back, check out the excellent article “Cracking the Screen, part 2” by Nick Nanavati.)
Tau have two ways to prevent combat: flying screens and overwatch. Tau overwatch is brutal and good opponents will try to find ways around it by charging from outside of line of sight or charging just a corner of your army so not as many units get to shoot. To counter this, give your shooting threats good line of sight and try to cover hiding spots such as walls that your opponet can use to avoid your overwatch.
In addition, try to string your units together rather than having them each seperate so as to maximize how many units can shoot. However, good players can find ways into your army regardless. That is when you must utilize flying units to deny them hostages to use against you.
Flying units cannot be trapped in combat. If your opponent tries, the flying unit will leave and the previously untargetable unit will get shot into a million pieces. Therefore, you must maximize the use you are getting from your cheap flying units. Put them in front to deny deep strikes, zone close combat units and force your opponent to take turn after turn of tau firepower. Make sure to include enough flying units to allow your army to get to the end of the game. Take drones for sure, but consider also including some off the wall picks like stealth suits and piranhas. These units can keep a combat army from getting ahold of you while you hit them with ranged firepower. In addition, be extremely careful about preventing your opponent from charging your fire warriors as that is a game losing scenario. Leave them far back out of rapid fire range or in a devilfish, anything to keep them from getting charged.
There you have it folks, with these tips and tricks, you should be the one giving wedgies and swirlies to combat armies. If you play a combat army and are staring in horror at the idea of having to play against an unchargable wall of shooty tau death, have no fear. There are strategies you can employ as well to get you back into the fight. 40k is a very complex game and plans are incredibly hard to pull off without having to adapt them on the fly. I will cover assault armies options vs gunlines at a later date, stay tuned.
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As always, a big thanks to Games Workshop for the Images used in this Article.