Tayne’s Tau Tactica: The Sky Ray, by Graeme Nicholls

15 Dec

Ok guys, in what’s fast becoming a regular blog feature here, I’m apologising for this post and the last being late. This one is completely my bad, personal reasons yadda yadda yadda, nowt interesting or thankfully upsetting, just a lot. The other one? Well… my guess is a gremlin ambushed the system. I mean, that’s the only way they’d be posted late, right Dave?

Anyhoo, on with the show. This week, lets delve into a choice that always gets comments when I bring it out to play; the Sky Ray. Sharing a heavy support choice with the mighty, Railgun toting Broadsides and Hammerheads, the Sky Ray is normally forced out in favour of one or both of the other two choices.* As such, I think it’s worthwhile to discuss both the options and features for the tank.

At base, it carries six single-shot seeker missiles. These are just like krak missiles, but they roll to hit using a BS of 5, ignore intervening cover and have an unlimited range. To launch, you need to spend a markerlight token on the target, and it hits the facing viewed from the Sky Ray, not the squad that put the markerlight on the enemy unit to start. It comes with two of these marker lights, a choice of secondary weapon systems (two forms of S5 shots or a pair of gun drones) and the handy Target Lock. This last bit of wargear allows any vehicle to fire each weapon at a separate target, so for the ‘Ray, we have the potential for two missiles (via marker lights) and two lots of three S5 shots from paired Burst Cannons.

On top of this, the Tau player can give it a number of options open to all vehicles. First, the disruption pod, which every tank you come across in a Tau army should carry this item. For 5 points, it grants a 4+ cover save against any shot originating from more than 12” away. 5 points, a cover save. Thank you very much. I’ll be brief for the rest, but that Dpod is one of the sweetest… cutest… little darlings, I’m sure Tau woo them, take them home to a romantic dinner, put on some mood music…

Ahem. And we’re back with the rest, which are: Sensor spines (ignore dangerous terrain tests), targeting array (+1BS), Blacksun Filter (double range seen in nightfighting), Multitracker (fire as a fast vehicle), flechette discharger (any attacker in CC wounded on a 4+ before attacking) and decoy launchers (ehh.. just ignore this).

Ok, can you remember all the names yet? Nope? It’s fine, we can’t really either.

So what use can the Sky Ray be to a Tau army? Well, Tau are a shooting army, and we can do either a heavy gunline (Broadsides that don’t move) or a mobile gunline (Broadsides that do move). We use superior weaponry in the forms of Railguns, Missile Pods and non-overheating Plasma Guns, not assault to win. The Sky Ray at first glance misses these requirements. It’s seeker missiles are outclassed, the marker lights are better gotten from a squad of Pathfinders and we have a plethora of S5 shots, a few more at a BS3 will rarely tip the battle for us.

All of which makes it both expendable and ignorable.

Here’s my take on the Sky Ray’s place. It’s the third tank in our list, after two Hammerheads with Railguns. It advances up one flank with its eye on the enemy objective, should there be one. Move it quickly, we don’t want to give assaulters an easy chance to hit. If you can, take a multitracker, gun drones and a flechette discharger on top of the Dpod (but these are ALL optional. If you need points, cut the upgrades from here first before the rest of the list).

What we get is a both a potential contester and a delivery system for a second contester, the gun drones. Chances are, the Hammerheads will be shot by the tank busting weapons first to negate their Railguns. If so, the Sky Ray advances up the flank, picking targets where it can but any hits are a bonus. If the enemy do shoot the Sky Ray, winner! That’s one less shot against the parts of your army you want safe. If it makes it to the top, take a lesson from Eldar and tank shock the objective holding unit. Detach the gun drones first and tuck them away safe and viola, two units contesting whilst your hold your objective.

Of course, this is an ideal situation, but every shot at the Sky Ray is a unit that’s not shooting our more precious targets. If they get the Sky Ray, its decoy run worked. If it reaches their lines, suddenly they have to deal with it or lose their objective. As an added bonus, any marker light hits can fire its missiles and, as it has advanced, it is likely to hit side or even rear armour. Pathfinders are definitely scarier when launching missiles!

That’s my take. I don’t use the Ray often, normally in a mechanised list only but I do find it has a place. Anyone else?

*There’s an even scarcer a fourth choice for Tau, teams of Sniper Drones. Maybe it’s just scarcer for me as there’s a player locally that brings the Sky Ray. Me…


4 Responses to “Tayne’s Tau Tactica: The Sky Ray, by Graeme Nicholls”

  1. Arnold.P December 15, 2011 at 14:12 #

    I quite like the idea that by advancing, especially in mission based games your opponent is forced to shoot it and thus saves some shots that may come your way on the tanks that can really deal out the damage.

  2. Chris Green December 15, 2011 at 16:11 #

    I’d take a sky ray as my third heavy support slot in 2k. Why? Because a lot of people ignore units that aren’t a direct threat to them. If you have a choice of shooting the unit that will shoot you back or the unit that will boost the first unit’s shooting, they will always go for the shooty unit and ignore the boosting unit. It’s why my pathfinders rarely get shot at and people prefer to shoot the crisis suits. I’m not saying they’re making a mistake, as BS3/4 suits have rounds where everything hits and wounds so need to be shut down but it really means you have another source of markerlights.

    In a 40k universe where MSU is so prevalent at the moment, pathfinders can be sometimes annoying that you can *only* shoot one unit a turn (obviously you can take a target lock on a team leader but i don’t think its very efficient to spend 15pts to shoot one BS3 markerlight at something – or 35pts if you plug in a couple of wound allocation drones).

    So i’m a big fan of sky rays in their rules and how they work in a tau army. I was one of the only people who used one in 4th when mech tau was really popular. The only problem now is their price and as 40k has turned into more of an MSU spam fest and a guns war, it’s become increasingly more important to have more guns over the quality (particularly as you can make normal crisis suits twin linked BS4 with missile pods – my vigueur préféré (that’s me trying to sound posh)).

  3. BadBoy December 17, 2011 at 02:15 #

    Maybe at 1750 and below which you Brits like to play but anything ober 1850 you want to put in as many Broadsides as possible.

  4. Steve True December 17, 2011 at 23:57 #

    Although I have never used them I always thought the Sky Ray would make a perfect first strike tank.. If you have several Markerlights in your army and you painted several vehicles you could get upto 6 shots off against enemy vehicles in the first turn.. This should result in it getting it’s points back in 1 turn and leaving it free to shoot forward to contest or slow the enemy down as it is no longer a priority target..

    May be difficult to do but very unsettling for your opponent especially if it is all his transports you have just taken out.

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