Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Playing Tau and having fun with the Screamer Star

If you enjoy playing competitively and your local gaming group has one or more Chaos Daemons players, then you more than likely have come across the list build known as the "Screamer Star".  To say the least, I was really impressed by this build, it incorporates, maneuverability, synergy, overwhelming firepower, and a defense that is nigh indestructible.  For many players that are looking to have fun, hearing that a player is fielding a screamer star list is enough to just not play.  Considering that in the last several months, players have refused to play me because they heard I play Tau, while all throughout 5th edition I had players climbing over each other hoping to get an easy win against Tau, I have found that the only way a player can guarentee not having fun is to simply not play.  Some of the greatest moments are from breaking an "unbeatable build", so I decided to put together some advice for my fellow Tau players on how to play against this build.   

What is the Screamer Star?
If you have no idea what the screamer star is, then here is a quick summary of it. The build requires Chaos Daemons players to take 2 HQs and one fast attack.  Fateweaver, 3-4 level 3 Heralds of Tzeentch on discs, and a unit of screamers.  By taking a one per army item and rolling for divination psychic powers until they get the 4+ invulnerable save power, and then thowing the rest of the powers into the lores of Change.  What does this mean?  A unit of jetbikes that, can throw out between 8D6 and 16D6 S6 BS4 Twinlinked AP4 shots that ignore cover.  The unit also has the added benefit of re-rollable 2+ invulnerable saves. 

Why play against Chaos?
For those who argue that competitive lists are not fluffy, you really need to ask yourself this question.  "Greater Daemon of Tzeentch, Heralds of Tzeentch, Horrors of Tzeentch, Flamers of Tzeentch, Screamers of Tzeentch, Soulgrinders dedicated to Tzeentch.  When you couple this with the fact that these servants of Tzeentch have the edge over an army that struggles to even understand that there is in fact an exsistence of the warp.  How is this not consistent with fluff?"

When a player refuses to play because he/she doesn't want to lose, she runs the risk of indirectly saying 2 things:
1.  I play only to win, fun comes second.
2.  I admit that someone else was able to outhink me before I even start playing.
If you are like me, neither of these statements is acceptable.

Finding the weak spot in the armor. 
For those of you hoping for a FAQ or an Errata to destroy this seemingly impossible to overcome build I want you to provide for you a little perspective provided to us from the history of the world.  A little under 2000 years ago, Rome outlawed the possession and production of the crossbow, claiming that "the weapon is powerful enough to destroy the world".  In response to this, Saxon warlords, took a hold of the technology and made it standard issue.  The world is still here, in addition to the fact that I can walk down the street to my local convenience store and purchase a crossbow at a reasonable price.  Whether we want to recognize it or not, the screamer star is still being used.  Using the tools we have at our disposal we can still put up a fight. 

What not to do
1.  Build your list around your opponent.
If you want to build your list to specifically take on the screamer star, then your victory (if you get one) will be short lived, as most competitive builds will then be able to exploit the fact that your list was not made to handle anything but Chaos Daemons Screamers. 
2.  Play to your opponent's strength
One of the bad habits we Tau players have developed this edition, is the notion that whaever we focus fire on will eventually be dead.  If you plan on taking out your enemy using massed pulse fire and missile pod spam, then you need to realize that before you can even BEGIN hurting the Heralds, the average amount wounds you will have to inflict on your enemy (successful to hit and to wound) is 648, and then another 72 wounds just to take down a single herald.  I know that it may be a hard thing to grasp, but after your opponent has thrown out his 2+ re-rollable, your best course of action would probably be to focus fire somewhere else. 
Surrender the 1st turn
Unless you can 100%  guarentee that you will seize the initiative, you must never allow your opponenet to take the first turn.  Your opponent may try to place troops to counter your deployment, this is okay, as long as you can fire first, which can prevent a lot of the nastiness from the daemons gaining momentum quickly.

Taking down the Screamer Star

"So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak". - Sun Tzu

 With both a large footprint and being able to remove almost any other enemy unit at will, it is kind of difficult to see past the main unit.  But one thing to realize when taking down the screamer star is that, the invulnerable save has 3 separate sources that it relies on.

1.  Fateweaver
Unless you are playing a game of double FOC, Fateweaver will be your opponent's Warlord.  With a 4++ save and T5 you are much more likely to take down Fate Weaver, granting slay the Warlord, and increasing the porbability that while rolling for the Grimoire your opponent will go from having an 11% chance of reducing the unit from 2++ to 5++ to a 33% chance.

2.  The Grimoire of True Names.
While this item grants an enormous buff (+2 to invulnerable save), it also is one of the units biggest weaknesses.  One thing to realize about the grimoire is that it affects the entire unit except the model bearing it.  meaning while the rest of the unit benefits from a 2++ re-rollable, the herald wielding this item is stuck with a 4++ re-rolling 1's only.  The rest of the unit has a 97% chance of shrugging off all wounds, the grimoire herald will only ever have a 58.7% chance (75% if Fateweaver hasn't used the staff yet).  If you remove the grimoire, you don't immediately stop the rest of the unit from having the 2++, but you do prevent the unit from being able to use the buff in following turns, think of it as an investment kill.  The next question you need to ask yourself is, "If the enemy surrounds himself with screamers, how will I be able to single out the Herald?".  The first answer that comes to mind is "Precision Shot", with Kroot, Sniper Drones, and ATS, no other army can spam precision shots like the TAU.  But with each Herald being a character, the Herald has a 2+ "Look out" roll.  The two ways a Tau player can overcome this is through the Warlord Trait, Precision of the Skilled Hunter, or through spamming Look out sir rolls with "Barrage Sniping".  By using the Airbursting Frag projector, you can spam LOS rolls.
If the Grimoire ever fails, your opponent is likely to turbo-boost the unit out of LOS and into cover, because the save will have been dropped from 2++ re-rollable to 5++ re-rolling 1's.  In order to counter this the Tau have a number of weapons that can avoid LOS and cover, being mobile and long range the Smart Missile System and the boosted Ion Accelerator will be the bane of your opponent.

3.  Forewarning
For simplicities sake, some Daemon players will make 1 of 2 mistakes:
- Place Forewarning on the same model that has the Grimoire
- Stop rolling for forewarning, on other Heralds once one has it.
 If the enemy ever places Forewarning on the same Herald as the Grimoire than you can use the above mentioned tactics, in order to guarentee that the screamer star will be dropped from a 2++ to a 5++.  If your opponent takes forewarning once (or is unlucky enough not to roll it), by removing the Herald with Forewarning, you will drop successful saves from 97% to around 78%. 

"The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him". - Sun Tzu

There are also other ways to exploit the Screamer Star, that will often leave your opponent dumb struck.
1.  Take the First turn
2.  Drop Misfortune
3.  Break the Golden Rule.
4.  Play around the star

Taking the First turn
If you are lucky enough to roll higher than your opponent for seeing who gets the first turn, never concede it in favor of deploying counter to his lines (Most intelligent Daemon Players will just reserve half the units in order to counter-counter-deploy).  If your opponent places the star on the table, he will more than likely place it out of LOS.  Exploit this by pressing forward with Smart Missiles, Seeker Missiles, and Barrage.
"What if the enemy places the Star in reserve?"  Then use this opportunity to scratch off scoring units and threats (the screamer star is 800+ pts. invested by the enemy, this usually leaves the rest of the army very vulnerable).  Forewarning being a blessing, means that any unit that arrives from reserves goes from having a 97% chance of shrugging off wounds to a 78% chance of shrugging off wounds, meaning that the unit has made itself vulnerable by placing itself in reserve.  

Another way to make the unit vulnerable is by using a Farseer.  If you are lucky to roll "misfortune" when rolling for powers, do not trade it in.  By succesfully dropping it on the star, the 2++ is no longer re-rollable, making wounds 6 times as likely to go through.

Breaking the Golden rule
Too often, I have heard other Tau players say "never assault".  But when engaged in an assault the star can't drop rediculous amount of flicker fire.  The trick is, staying alive.  Being able to strike at S5 AP 2 means that most screamers will eat Tau up.  The best way to counter this is with the FNP Riptide.  By boosting it's shield, you have now made it so that each Screamer has less than a 5% chance of inflicting a wound.

Play around the star
The most important thing to remember while playing the screamer star is, if you are not playing the scouring, it is not a scoring unit.  Meaning that you will still gain points, for slay the Warlord, First Blood and Line Breaker.  Target the Daemon players Troops and Fateweaver, capture objectives and split up your forces to minimize the effectiveness of the star.  

Thought For the Day
In competitive play, most players will fire both the SMS and HYMP with their broadsides while using interceptor.  The multi-tracker seems to only work during the shooting phase.  If this is allowed, how is firing both weapons while using interceptor legal?

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