This was written for 4th/5th Edition and with the last codex. That being said, please disgregard EVERYTHING in this until I update it. There are many knowledgeable Tau players on Dakka Dakka; they're your best bet for this sort of thing for now.
Crisis Suit Loadouts - The Basics - OBSOLETE!
I'm leaving this all in as a placeholder for now so it will be easier for me to update when the time comes.
The basis for determining how to outfit a Tau Crisis Suit is that it has three Hardpoints that must be filled. With the exception of Wargear, all options for Crisis Suits occupy a Hardpoint (two Hardpoints in the case of Twin-Linked weapons). This will determine what you take, and you'll want to choose Weapons and Support Systems that compliment each other to make your Crisis Suit an effective combatant.
There are four kinds of Crisis Suits in the Tau Codex:
- Shas'o - A Commander model (which is mandatory), this is the top-of-the-line. Better WS, BS, Wounds, Attacks and Leadership. Can take Wargear, Special Issue items.
- Shas'el - A Commander model, this is the budget version. Still above average WS, BS, Wounds, Attacks and Leadership. Can take Wargear, Special Issue items.
- Shas'vre - An upgraded Crisis Suit model, this has minor upgrades to stats. Can take Wargear, Special Issue items. Can be taken as a retinue for Commanders (up to two) or as the leader of a Crisis Battlesuit unit (an upgrade).
- Crisis Battlesuit - The standard Crisis Suit.
Taking one of the Commander suits is a requirement, so make sure that you plan accordingly when designing your army. You'll want to come up with a role for your Commander, especially as the Commanders are the only ones who naturally have a BS higher than 3.
The Shas'vre upgrade is 40% more points than a basic suit, and all you really get is a slight boost to WS and I, and the ability to take Special Issue items and Wargear. Regular Crisis Suits can have a single Team Leader for half the point increase, and still get access to Wargear. This can be a big deal, especially as it helps you play the "wound allocation game".
A note on Special Issue equipment: Each Special Issue item (weapon or wargear) can only be taken once per army, and only by the models listed above.
Crisis Suit Weapons
Tau Crisis suits have a wide array of weapons options available, and in several cases are the only place in the army where you can get that weapon. Careful weapon choice is critical to ensure that not only to your Crisis Suit's weapon systems work well together, they also fulfill a need in your army.
Because the weapons found on Crisis Suits are usually hard to get elsewhere, it's best to maximize the firepower of your Crisis Suits. I highly recommend running two (or three for some upgraded Crisis Suits) weapon systems; if you don't, you'll find your Crisis Suits under-performing. There may be a use for highly-defensive Crisis Suits, but I have not seen them yet.
An additional note is that if you take two weapons, they become Twin-Linked; you don't get to shoot with both of them independently. You cannot take three of the same weapons system on a Crisis Suit.
Twin-Linked weapons count as a single weapon system for purposes of shooting.
This is your workhorse weapon. A move-and-fire Autocannon with a 36" range, this (sadly) is one of the longest-range weapons in the Tau arsenal. A good rate of fire combined with a respectable strength makes this a go-to choice for popping light vehicles at range, which is critical for taking down most transports that you'll be facing. It's also not a bad choice against infantry or monstrous creatures, and can inflict Instant Death on T3 models. The only thing remotely comparable to this in the Tau army is the Ion Cannon, which takes up a valuable Heavy Support slot. Oh, and the Kroot Gun is also a little bit like the Missile Pod, but the Krootox platform has its own problems and is not a good substitute.
This is a meltagun with a funny-looking square end; the rules are exactly the same. Tau armies should be relying on Railguns to some degree for their anti-tank needs, but having a few Fusion Blasters are good as an extra layer of security. It's also one of two S8 weapons in the Tau arsenal (the other being one-shot Seeker Missiles), and as Railguns are usually busy putting the hurt on armor, the Fusion Blaster is good for those T4 units with multiple wounds and/or Feel No Pain. The obvious drawback is the short range; while Tau close-range shooting is very good, Tau close combat is atrocious. You can also get Fusion Blasters on Piranhas and Stealth Suits, but on Stealth Suits you're mixing anti-light infantry with anti-armor.
The Tau are risk-averse (apparently), so their Plasma Rifle has one less strength than the Imperial version, but it also doesn't Get Hot. Plasma Rifles are at a point premium, but it is ideal against your standard Marine Equivalent (MEQ), wounding on a 2+ and ignoring armor save (and Feel No Pain, incidentally). It's also one of the few weapons that the Tau have that can punch through a 2+ save, and your other choices in this area are the highly unreliable Cyclic Ion Blaster, the Railgun and the Fusion Blaster. Rapid fire means that you get some use out of it at 24" and can really put the hurt on at 12". It's also a decent backup when facing side/rear armor on most vehicles. It's also the only place in the Tau army you can get this weapon.
Identical to the Flamer found elsewhere throughout the game. This is best used as a hold-out weapon, because if you're close enough to use it, you're likely close enough to get charged the next turn.
I have had a big change of heart with regards to the Burst Cannon on Crisis Suits. When I stopped running any Firewarriors on foot, and removed the SMS pods from my Devilfish, I found myself with a noticeable lack of anti-infantry weaponry. So I did what any good wargamer would do: I promptly ignored my own advice.
I advocate running Burst Cannons on cheap Crisis Suits, and running them twin-linked. This gives you a decent chance of hitting without Markerlight support, makes them more efficient on a points per hit basis, and keeps the overall cost of the suit down. These are definitely not a must-take item, but are a better option for a third Crisis Suit squad than, say, Stealthsuits. I'm running my unit of three with Flamers for the third hardpoint, which brings a squad of three to a very affordable 123 points.
Airbursting Fragmentation Projector
This is Special Issue. It's a move-and-fire, 18" range barrage weapon that ignores cover saves with S4 and AP5. It's fantastic against IG, Orks and other squishy infantry that rely more on cover than on armor, and the Pinning Test that it causes is nice too. Best suited for a Commander (due to the higher BS reducing scatter more), I've found it's best used as an ancillary weapon. In 5th Edition, the ability to ignore cover saves at a distance is a very nice ability to have.
Cyclic Ion Blaster
This is Special Issue. A high rate of fire does not make up for a low strength and a poor imitation of the Rending rule. The only real advantage I see to this is that it's not too many points.
Crisis Suit Support Systems
Support Systems are all the additional options that Crisis Suits have to make them more effective.
This Support System allows you to fire two weapons from your Crisis Suit. This is a very common option, as Crisis Suits often mix weapon types. Good use of a hardpoint, as it increases the fire output of a Crisis Suit. If you're not running Twin-Linked weapons or a Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker, this should be your only option.
The Shield Generator adds a decent Invulnerable Save to your Crisis Suit, but is pricey for what you get. I find that using Shield Drones as ablative wounds is safer and more effective.
The Target Lock allows the model equipped with it to fire at a different target than the rest of its squad. I feel that unless you have a special idea in mind for this, it's a waste of a hardpoint. If you really feel the need to split fire, consider the Hard-Wired Target Lock instead.
The Targeting Array adds one to the model's BS. This is a good choice for models with a Twin-Linked weapon, as it greatly reduces the model's need for Markerlight support. You'll be hitting 8 out of 9 shots on a basic Crisis Suit with this.
This allows you to double the distance rolled when using the Night Fighting rules. Because it is dirt-cheap, it's a common option if you're short on points, or are running a suicide suit.
Allows the model to attach one or two Drones. This is commonly taken as a Hard-Wired Drone Controller. Shield Drones are the most effective choice, as they really help your unit of Crisis Suits to stand up to anti-tank fire. Your two wounds don't help against S8 or higher weapons (which cause instant death), so the Shield Drones are used to help soak fire, dying if necessary. For most Crisis Suit squads, I recommend running two Shield Drones from a Hard-Wired Drone Controller, as they dramatically increase the survivability of the squad.
Gun Drones are 2/3 the cost of Shield Drones, but don't increase the survivability of the squad nearly as much, and don't add much to the firepower either. Leave them at home.
Markerlight Drones are able to use the Markerlight and still jump-shoot-jump, but you're really paying a premium for this. If you insist on getting Markerlight support from these Drones (which, with BS3 aren't terribly useful), I'd suggest running them with a Stealth Suit unit.
Advanced Stabilisation System
As Crisis Suits are Relentless, this is a pretty pointless upgrade here. Save it for your XV88 Broadsides.
This is Special Issue. If you have a special reserves unit that you really want to come in Turn 2, or want to keep all but one reserve from coming in, this is a good upgrade. I'm on the fence about it, having used it for a while and eventually getting rid of it.
Command and Control Node
This was made obsolete by 5th Edition. There are no more Target Priority checks (thank goodness).
Crisis Suit Wargear
These are the extra gear that allow upgraded Crisis Suits to get that extra edge. Wargear does not take up a hardpoint.
This allows you to regroup, even if under 50% of the initial unit size. With attached Drones counting towards the unit size, this is a worthwhile upgrade on units of total size three or more.
Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter
A Blacksun Filter that does not use a hardpoint. Great for freeing up that hardpoint to use for other Crisis Suit Support Systems or Crisis Suit Weapons.
A Multi-Tracker that does not use a hardpoint. Great for freeing up that hardpoint to use for other Crisis Suit Support Systems or Crisis Suit Weapons.
Hard-Wired Target Lock
A Target Lock that does not use a hardpoint. Great for freeing up that hardpoint to use for other Crisis Suit Support Systems or Crisis Suit Weapons.
Hard-Wired Drone Controller
A Drone Controller that does not use a hardpoint. Great for freeing up that hardpoint to use for other Crisis Suit Support Systems or Crisis Suit Weapons.
Grants the model a 2+ armor save, but reduces the assault phase Jetpack move to d6. It's rather expensive for what you get, and should only be used on models that will stay away from the enemy (the improved armor save probably won't save you in close combat, as most close-combat units have a power weapon). If you're going for durability, I'd also add two Shield Drones (who get the same armor save as the controlling model).
Special Issue. This conveys Feel No Pain on the model, and can really help protect your suit from small arms fire. Much of the fire directed at your suits will bypass the Feel No Pain, but it can help hold up an enemy squad in close combat for a bit longer. I'm also on the fence on this upgrade, and don't run it myself.
Special Issue. Protects a killpoint for one more turn. Unless you're running a story campaign, I'd leave this one alone.
Special Issue. I hate the idea of this, for several reasons:
- It only actually works in the rare cases where the suits lose combat, fall back, but don't get wiped out
- You're planning for failure, as you can only use it when you lose close combat
- Most close combat models have a decent armor save for use against the blast, mitigating the effects
Leave it at home.
Crisis Suit Nomenclature
There are some common terms for various Crisis Suit loadouts. Some of the more popular ones are:
- Fireknife - Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod and Multi-Tracker
- Deathrain - Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Support System (usually Targeting Array)
- Helios - Plasma Rifle, Fusion Blaster and Multi-Tracker
- Sunforge - Twin-Linked Fusion Blaster, Support System (usually Targeting Array)
There are more, but these are the ones that I am discussing.
Crisis Suit Roles
Crisis Suits are a key element in any Tau army, as they carry armaments that are either unique to the Crisis Suit (Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle, Flamer) or found in only a few other units (Fusion Blaster). I've mentioned this before in the Burst Cannon entry, but since you can get S5 AP5 everywhere else in the army, you should not be putting it on a Crisis Suit. Therefore I'm going to completely ignore Burst Cannons in this analysis.
Crisis Suit loadouts should not be decided in a vacuum. You should examine what you already have in your Tau army and use the Crisis Suit to fill in gaps. Because you are usually using Crisis Suits to perform roles that nothing else in the army does, plan for some form of redundancy. One bad round of shooting or one average round of close combat can cost you an entire Crisis Suit unit and leave you unable to deal effectively with certain kinds of threats. Be aware of how your Crisis Suits work with the rest of your army; for example, you can use Devilfish to help block assaults to your Crisis Suits or use them as jump-shoot-jump cover. If you're going Broadside-heavy for your anti-tank, you can use Crisis Suits as mobile anti-tank for those hard-to-reach vehicles. Carefully examine how your army works together.
One other consideration is whether or not to include bodyguards for a Commander Crisis Suit. These are ten points more than a standard Crisis Suit, and all that ten points gets you is a modest increase in close combat ability, and the ability to use Wargear and Special Issue items. I find that this is not worth it, especially as it prevents your Commander from joining another unit of Crisis Suits.
Unit size is another decision that does not have a correct answer. I prefer to run large squads of suits, as this allows me to get the most out of my Markerlight hits. Markerlights are a force multiplier, so I like to make the "number" they multiply as large as possible. The most important consideration is how it works within your army.
A unit of three Fireknife suits will run you a little over 170 points. A moderate amount of anti-tank fire will eat that unit up unless you take pains to protect that unit. This is rather important as Crisis Suits are often used in roles where they deal out a great deal of firepower (like a Heavy Support unit) but do not have the staying power of most Heavy Support units, so opponents tend to focus fire on them for the easier kills. Even single suits require some protection strategy even if you don't want to sink more points into the unit.
Cover is a free way of helping to protect your Crisis Suits (well, free unless you're using another unit to provide the cover). This will protect you against half of all shooting that comes your way (if you're even in line-of-sight to start with). This is a rather unreliable way to protect a small number of high-value models, though.
Shield Drones are your best choice for protecting your expensive, fragile unit. They have the same Toughness and Armor Save as the unit they're with, add two wounds to the mix, and don't cost all that many points (about 30 for a pair). It allows you to safely soak a bit of anti-tank fire, and you can play some wound allocation games as well: the one lascannon shot goes to a shield drone, while those two bolter hits get spread out among a regular Crisis Suit and the Team Leader (for example). In my experience this greatly increases the survivability of the unit.
The one drawback of Shield Drones is that if they are destroyed, they can easily cause a Morale Check for your unit. This is why it's VERY important to have a Bonding Knife. If you have a unit of three Crisis Suits with two Shield Drones, and you lose 1 Crisis Suit and both Shield Drones in one shooting phase and fail that LD8 check, your Crisis Suits will flee off the table unless you have a Bonding Knife. Totally worth it.
Commander Crisis Suits
Mixing a Commander Crisis Suit into a unit of other Crisis Suits gives you even more durability, allowing you to take up to four Shield Drones for the squad. If you can keep this unit out of close combat, it's very durable.
I'm going to state the blatantly obvious here: different Crisis Suit weapons suit different roles. That said, I'm going to go over the roles for the suit loadouts listed above. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but will give enough of a baseline to allow you, the reader, an idea of what you should use in your army.
The Fireknife Suit runs a Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle and Multi-Tracker. This is a generalist model, which some people hate. The strength and range of the Missile Pod and Plasma Rifle compliment each other to a degree, and you have a bit of low AP shooting as well. If you're short on Elite slots because you love Stealth Suits (or for whatever reason), this is a popular choice as it covers your light vehicle killing and some of your AP2 needs. There are people who despise this build and prefer to specialize all of their Crisis Suits; if this is your playstyle, then the Fireknife is not for you.
The Deathrain Suit runs Twin-Linked Missile Pods and a Support System, usually a Targeting Array. This loadout makes your two shots very accurate, hitting 8/9 shots, and allows the Deathrains to operate independantly from Markerlight Support (which is usually limited). They can also fire at full effect up to 36", allowing you to keep them safe with distance. Because they are not a high Strength or Low AP platform, they are also often less scary than other weapons that you have and tend to be lower on the enemy's target priority list.
There are other viable alternatives to the Targeting Array on Deathrains. Blacksun Filters are a very cheap choice that greatly assist in popping light transports in turns with Night Fighting; the Dawn of War scenario in particular, where the first turn is Night Fighting and transports generally get a turn of moving safely without needing to pop smoke. If Drone Controllers are used, a mixture of Shield and Markerlight drones could add both durability and some added punch for your entire army (although it would greatly increase the point cost of the squad).
The final option is to put an auxilliary weapon system on the third hard point. Firing the auxilliary weapon will prevent you firing the Missile Pods, so in my mind it's best to keep it cheap. The only good option that I see for this would be to add a Flamer, as it is very cheap and could be useful against hordes in mid to late game. The only other weapon I could even envision putting there would be a Fusion Blaster if you really felt you needed some anti-tank backup.
The Helios Suit runs a Plasma Rifle, a Fusion Blaster and a Multi-Tracker. This is a close-ranged hard target killer, and as such, I would only run this in groups of three for reliability. At 12" you have three shots that will ignore all regular armor saves, wound most everything on a 2+, and cause Instant Death to all creatures T4 and lower. You also have decent anti-vehicle capability (especially on side and rear aspect shots). It may be tempting to Deep Strike these suits, but I feel that Deep Striking is too unreliable and can put you in an untenable position.
The Sunforge Suit runs Twin-Linked Fusion Blasters and a Support System, usually a Targetting Array. Again, with this loadout, you're hitting 8/9 shots, but you have to be very close to a target to be able to affect it, and it's only one shot per suit. If you have an extra Elite slot, you could run this suit with a Missile Pod as an auxilliary weapon and Deep Strike it, hoping to get close (and using the Missile Pod if you're not). Having run this configuration for a while, I don't really like to think it could still be viable.
See the Deathrain section for ideas on other Support Systems.
Crisis Suits can be held in Reserve to Deep Strike. Having tried this several times, I usually don't like it. The reason I don't usually like Deep Striking are:
- Every turn a suit is not on the table, it is not shooting
- It's easy to put yourself out of position after spending a turn or three in Reserves
- It's not a bad way to lose a suit (and the Tau aren't designed about being risky)
If you do Deep Strike, consider keeping only one unit of Crisis Suit in Reserves and use:
- Positional Relay to bring them into play right away
- Pathfinder Devilfish to allow you to re-roll the Scatter Dice if you want to
Still not very reliable, but it is a decent way to get close-ranged suits where they need to be without taking enemy fire. The best way to see if you want to Deep Strike your Crisis Suits is to try it over the course of several games. You'll get an idea of which opponents it works well against and which ones it does not, and how it fits your play style.
There's nothing like surprising an opponent by charging one of their units or vehicles with a squad of Crisis Suits. While definitely not suited (ha ha! Lorek made a funny) to close combat, they don't fare too badly against other non-CC units. Three attacks on the charge, S5 and a 3+ save mean that they can hang for a little while, and can definitely squish a lone Imperial Guard squad. Unless you think you can win the combat quickly and not get bogged down (of if you're desperate), it's usually not a good idea simply because if they get stuck in close combat, they're not shooting. Keep this option in mind, though, and they will surprise people on occasion.
You Read the Whole Thing!
Congrats on reading this whole diatribe. Now I can just link to this article instead of posting in the inevitable "How Do I Equip My Crisis Suit" thread that pops up every week or two. I hope this helps, and if you feel like giving me any feedback (especially about things that I didn't cover, or even something you disagree on) I'll take it to heart and will quite possibly update this article.