Which Tau Special Character is Worth Taking?

Commander Shadowsun

Warhammer 40K Tau Special Characters!

Tau was the first 6th Edition Codex which received new special characters. After lamenting the lack thereof in the Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angels Codex, I am excited to see some fresh blood added to the roster again. Time to take a closer look!

#1 – Commander Farsight

Hero of Vior’la, Renounced Traitor to the Greater Good

Commander Farsight – everyone’s favourite Rogue Tau!

Farsight is also now the most expensive Special Character in the Codex (as they’ve seriously tried to make Aun’Va “fieldable”). His trademark equipment – plasma rifle, shield generator and his signature Dawn Blade – aren’t great for the points. One could easily build a Tau Commander with the similar or better capabilities (minus the tank-chopping blade) for less.

Two things make Farsight interesting – and unique. First, his hard-coded Warlord Trait of ‘Through Boldness, Victory‘, which allows flawless deep strikes for him and his unit. Second, his Farsight Enclave rule, which grants him the ability to take a Bodyguard of up to 7 Crisis Suits.

Thus, the “Farsight Bomb” tactic, as it was called, has successfully made it into 6th Edition. One doesn’t even have to forfeit the use of Kroot or multiple Hammerheads, as one did before.

In summary, Farsight is no auto-include. If you do have a specific battle-plan in mind, he does offer a few unique, worthwhile tricks. Field Commander Farsight for the following:

  • Farsight Bomb: Deepstrike a large unit of Crisis Suits – with precision.
  • Armourbane: Chop up vehicles with 2D6+5 armour penetration
  • Background: Who doesn’t like playing Tau and (!) flipping the Greater Good?

#2 – Commander Shadowsun

The True Disciple of Commander Puretide

I’ll be open up-front. Even though Farsight got the spiffy new model, Commander Shadowsun got the best rules treatment in the shift from 4th Edition to 6th Edition (yes, that includes Aun’Va).

Above all, she can now finally join a unit and even got a unique rule – Defender of the Greater Good – after languishing for years as the “character-that-couldn’t-join-units” before the (on purpose) notion of non-IC characters were even introduced.

When Shadowsun join a unit now, she grants that unit Stealth and Shrouded. This is why, despite Defender of the Greater Good, you probably don’t want to join her into a unit of Stealth Suits!

Stealth-Shrouded XV8 Helios Bodyguard anyone?

The downside is that you now have to buy her Drones extra, which used to be free. This makes Shadowsun – all things considered – the only Special Character that went up in points (by some 40 pts actually, for the same load-out).

That said, her Command-link drone also changed – from a Leadership bubble to a re-roll To Hit rolls of 1 gadget. One more reason to stick her with plasma-sporting XV8s, not Stealth Suits.

Not to mention the benefits of having this drone nearby as your Riptide is laying into it with a Nova-Charged Heavy Burst Cannon!

Take Shadowsun if you’re serious about playing Tau in a more aggressive, get-in-close way!

#3 – Aun’Va

Father of His People, The Great Leader, The Shining Light

There is little point in comparing the old Aun’Va with the new version. Aun’Va in 4th Edition was .. well .. a curiosity in itself, as to how and why he was designed the way it was.

Anyhow. Aun’Va. The Eldar Ethereal and Great Leader of the Greater Good.

Despite his elaborate titles, he’s a comparatively cheap character (exactly twice the points of a regular Ethereal). His key ability – Great Invocation – fittingly allows him to use the Ethereal trademark ability of Invocation of the Elements twice per turn, instead of once.

This makes him the “best” Ethereal boosting nearby units and infantry.

His Warlord Trait – Exemplar of the Selfless Cause – drives that focus home, allowing you to play going-to-ground-and-back-up shenanigans with nearby infantry.

Is it worth it?

Honestly, I don’t know. I do doubt it, however.

I think some really good design-thoughts have been put into Aun’Va, both to make him viable and to create a Special Character that boosts an infantry-focused Tau Army (as opposed to Farsight and Shadowsun, who both sync best with other Crisis Suits).

I’d love to see an Aun’Va list putting this to the test. Invocation of the Elements, while nice, isn’t Farseer wizardry or IG orders. Mastering this rule with Aun’Va, I believe, doesn’t bring enough benefits to be worth building an army around. Admittedly, I might be wrong.

#4 – Longstrike

Titan-Slayer, Terror of T’Ros

Longstrike isn’t a HQ choice – a character in the usual 40K sense – but a “named” Hammerhead-upgrade, similar to Space Marine’s Chronus (though Longstrike cannnot disembark).

What does Longstrike add to your Hammerhead?

  • Ballistic Skill 5
  • A Black Sun Filter (a 1 pt. upgrade otherwise.. )
  • Supporting Fire and Overwatch, usable multiple times if multiple enemy units trigger it

Ballistic Skill 5 is nice, though I don’t think it’s worth the price of  Longstrike in itself (unless you truly have no markerlights in your army). So Longstrike’s worth largely hinges on the question of whether or not the idea an Overwatch/Supporting Fire Hammerhead is worth it?

While the idea is nice in theory, I’d be inclined to believe most people would see the “assault-unit-trap” of a Longstrike-Hammerhead (with Ion Cannon?) hovering within 6″ of multiple tasty charge-targets (e.g. Firewarriors, etc..) from a mile away.

I wouldn’t bother with Longstrike.

#4 – Darkstrider

The Shadow that Strikes, He that Walks Unseen

Darkstrider is the Cadre Fireblade equivalent for Pathfinders. It’s the comparison to the Cadre Fireblade that will determine on whether or not you opt for Darkstrider.  He also does have cool fluff. Similar to Farsight, his “going-against-Tau-tradition” vibe will make Darkstrider popular.

Darkstrider’s main tricks are:

  • Structural Analyser: Enemy at -1 T for shots from Darkstrider’s unit, so Pulse Rifles will wound Marines on 2+ and Instant-Kill  T3 type characters.
  • Fighting Retreat: Consolidate D6″ away (or any direction) from a charging enemy after fireing Overwatch.

So how does this compare to the Cadre Fireblade, specifically the latter’s Volley Fire ability?

Let’s look at the case of  a unit of 12 Firewarriors shooting at Tactical Marines within 15″ of their Pulse Rifles, ignoring Drones, Markerlights and the shots from either Character himself.

  • Character-less Firewarriors:

24 shots = 12 hits (on 4+) = 8 wounds (on 3+) = 2.667 unsaved wounds (3+ save)

  • Fireblade Firewarriors:

36 shots (if static) = 18 hits (on 4+) = 12 wounds (on 3+) = 4 unsaved wounds (3+ save)

  • Darkstrider Firewarriors:

24 shots = 12 hits (on 4+) = 10 wounds (on 2+) = 3.334 unsaved wounds (3+ save)

Thus there is undeniably more straight-up punch for rapid-firing Firewarriors from the (cheaper) Cadre Fireblade. The downside, of course, is that the Cadre Fireblade’s unit needs to remain static to use Volley Fire. Darkstrider’s Structural Analyser always works (except on Overwatch).

If the Cadre Fireblade cannot use Volley Fire for a turn – due to moving – Darkstrider’s damage bonus draws even in the above example.

Along with Fighting Retreat, I am seriously tempted to use Darkstrider over a Cadre Fireblade. For a more mobile Infantry unit (most obviously a Pathfinder unit), I think the Structural Analyser wins out over Volley Fire over the course of the game.

What do you think?

#5 – Aun’Shi

Master of the Blade, Saviour of the Fire Caste

Aun’Shi is an Ethereal who like’s to get up close and personal! He is not so much a new character, but a revived one from the really old Tau Codex, which Games Workshop brought back (similarly to how they returned Asmodai for the Dark Angels.

For his close combat-prowess (by Tau standards), you’ll pay more than twice as much than you do for a regular Ethereal, even though Aun’Shi comes with a Honour Blade (5pts for normal Ethereal) and a Shield generator (25 pts piece of wargear, which Ethereal’s cannot usually take) and Photon Grenades. His Weapon Skill and Initiative are also superior to other Ethereals.

He is equipped for close-combat!

His signature ability is Blademaster, which allows you to switch between Rending and making your opponent re-roll failed saves.

The big question is… do you want pay those extra points so your Ethereal can swing a sword?

With his skills, Aun’Shi might be the meanest duelist among the Tau. He’s still nowhere near similarly costed close combat characters in other books (Chaplain Cassius, for example), nor do the Tau have any usable close-combat unit to support him.

Personally, I would stick with a regular Ethereal, spend the extra points elsewhere, and try to stay out of close combat.

#7 – Verdict

Overall, I like the Tau Empire Special Characters.

Games Workshop did a great job in sharpening the background for the established Characters, as well as adding interesting new ones. None of the Special Characters are “auto-includes”, though they (almost) all bring interesting things to your army if you do bring them along.

I like Shadowsun (sneaky, but pricey) and Darkstrider (probably better than most people think) best, but that might be a personal bias towards the more cunning type of Tau characters, and not a denigration of the others. I’d be genuinely interested in seeing an Aun’Va list work, and pleasantly surprise that Games Workshop kept the “Farsight Bomb” in.

What do you think?

Which Tau Special Character would you field? Which Tau Character would you hate to face?

I am looking forward to your thoughts!




I am Zweischneid. Wargame Addict. Hopeless painter and founder of Pins of War. I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to share your favourite miniature pictures and wargaming videos at www.pinsofwar.net.
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  • http://twitter.com/titanspodcast Chris Slade

    I think you may have sold Long Strike short.
    The fact he confers Tank Hunters is massive, as it greatly improves your chances for penetration results. In addition, the extra 17 percent chance to hit means that you don’t have to rely on marker lights to support the army’s only S10 platform in sixth ed. And for the occasional IG match up, preferred enemy is rather nice.

    So all up, what you get for 45pts is massive given that we use to pay 170 or so pts for hammerheads anyway.

    • taudau

      Also, compared to Pask and Chronus Longstrike offers the best value for the points invested on his platform. His railgun gets pretty close to auto penetration, and his overwatching SMS does not need LoS.

  • taudau

    A good article, but I think you are underestimating Longstrike.

    He also has tank hunter and preferred enemy (Imperial Guard)!

    To me that pretty much makes him an auto include for an anti-tank railhead. He hits on a 2, can reroll his penetration rolls and rerolls any misses against Imperial Guard.

  • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid


    Good points on the Tank Hunter and preferred enemy for Longstrike. Duh!

    I guess I was in tunnel-vision mode trying to figure out what to do with an overwatching Hammerhead :)

  • Kingstiger

    I feel like you may not be accounting for Aun’va’s Paradox of Duality… thing. All those saves against low AP (and thus, usually high-strength) weapons has some fairly hilarious potential.

    • petrow84

      Unless he will be chopped up by tesla/bolter/lasgun fire.

    • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

      There’re limits of space, of course. Aun’Va is less vulnerable to low AP weapons, more vulnerable to high AP mass-fire, than your usual character.

      That said, I was simply more interested in what he can do – actively – to make the battle, less on how good he is at avoiding being killed.

      If his “active” contributions aren’t worth it, it doesn’t matter whether he’s tough to kill or not.

      • Vlad

        He could get insta killed by S6 weapons, some of which have either no AP value (Warp spiders), or have AP 5, making the paradox of duality give the same save as his armour.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.rivera.9026 Joseph Rivera

    Something to add to why Darksider is the Best is to put him in reserve in a unit of Firewarriors and a devilfish and Bam! outflanking scoring unit

  • Darcy

    Aun’va for me is a must have.

    Reason for this is simple, 12 inch bubble for leader ship, and a army wide re role for leadership etc. this means i don’t need to up grade any unites to have a leader, that in it self saves me 40 points as I have 2 squads of fire warriors and 2 squads of broad sides with in his bubble. And to have everyone go to ground when all enemy are in firing range. Next turn they are up and firing.

    • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

      Yeah. I’ve seen people try the “go-to-ground”, “fall-back-voluntarily”, “be-back-up-next-turn” with Calgar’s LD-ability back in the day.

      It’s certainly easier to do it now with Aun’Va (and more worthwhile for FW than for Space Marines).

      Not sure if “must-have” is what I’d categorize it in, but I’ve seen him be quite popular (since writing this article) in armies that are build to maximize on Aun’Va’s strengths.