Tau Unit Tactica: Skyray

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Often dismissed as too much of a "one shot weapon" on account of its heavy Seeker loadout, the Skyray instead offers much to the Tau Commander willing to exploit its true potential. Admittedly, the Skyray doesn't fit well in every Tau army; however, if your army normally features 3-6 Seekers, a Skyray will likely fit well with your playstyle. Let's take a closer look.

What the Skyray Has to Offer

Boasting 6 Seekers, 2 Networked Markerlights and a secondary weapon of your choice, the Skyray has very diverse weaponry. While each of these assets can be gotten elsewhere in the armylist, the Skyray puts a unique twist on each of them.
The special Seeker Rack on the Skyray allows any number of its missiles to be triggered by a single Markerlight hit. The advantage here is twofold. First, the number of Markerlight hits required to pull off a successful first turn Alpha Strike is substantially reduced... to one. This means that fewer points need be spent on Markerlight carriers and also that the Markerlights we did include will be easier to protect. In order to fire 6 standard Seekers on a single turn, we would require 6 separate Markerlight hits... which would require, on average, 12 Markerlight carriers. While not impossible to pull off, this would certainly be expensive.
Second, since all of our Seekers can be triggered by a single Markerlight, the remaining Markerlights we've included can be used to guide other weapons on the first turn. Any Commander which includes any quantity of Seekers has come to learn that it's almost mandatory that they all be fired absolutely as soon as possible in order to prevent their loss in the event the vehicle they're mounted on is destroyed. This essentially requires that every single Markerlight carrier in the army dedicate themselves exclusively to this task until all Seekers are away. The Skyray's special Seeker Rack allows those Markerlight carriers to devote themselves to guiding other weapons allowing even further devastation in the early turns.
The Skyray's Markerlights also offer something that the Tau can't get anyhere else in their list... mobility and durability. Even once the Skyray's primary armament is exhausted, having a pair of BS4 move and fire Markerlights mounted on an AV13 fast moving skimmer is a Tau Commander's dream come true. The Skyray itself won't be percieved as much of a threat (after all, it's already expended all its ammunition) and even if it does see some fire, it's got AV13 and Decoy Launchers to protect it. Furthermore, don't forget that Markerlights cannot be removed by "Weapon Destroyed" results since they don't have a Strength characteristic.
So while the Skyray may at first glance appear to be just a Hammerhead without a main gun and a lot of Seekers, it really does offer some fun tactical options unavailable anywhere else.

But isn't 165 Odd Points a Bit Pricey for All That?

If you discount the cost of the Skyray by the cost of its Seekers and it's Secondary Weapon, you essentially end up with an 85 point vehicle with Multitracker, Decoy Launchers, Target Array and Target Lock. Used purly as a Markerlight platform, this equates to 63.8 pts per Markerlight hit. While not the cheapest source of Markerlights in the list, it's certainly not the most expensive either, and is still the only Markerlight that can move and fire and is mounted on an AV13 decoy launcher-equipped skimmer.
Not bad.

So What's not to Like?

The biggest downside to the Skyray is that it occupies a Heavy Support slot. For all its nifty features, the fact remains that Markerlights and Seekerscan be brought elsewhere in the list. Railguns can't. So if you're playing a smaller game and can fit all your necessary Railguns in 1 or 2 Heavy slots, feel free to include a Skyray. However, in larger games it's going to be awfully hard to justify using such a valuable force org slot for something other than a Railgun.

Vehicle Upgrades

The Skyray comes with 6 Seekers and a Target Lock. You must choose either a Pair of Gun Drones, 2 Burst Cannons or an SMS as a secondary weapon. Although the SMS is always a nice option, the fact that Markerlights cannot be removed by "Weapon Destroyed" results means that it only takes 2 glancing 4's to destroy a Skyray. For this reason alone, the 2 Burst Cannons are attractive since it allows you to tolerate an extra "Weapon Destroyed" before losing your tank.
Here's a list of the other available upgrades in order of generally accepted utility:
  • Multitracker - Since the durability of our vehicles relies on moving > 6", we lose the ability to shoot unless this upgrade is purchased. For this reason the Multitracker is essentially considered 'standard equipment' on all Tau tanks.
  • Decoy Launchers - For 5 points, Decoy Launchers increase the survivability of your vehicle by 11%, reducing the chance of a glancing hit destroying it from 33% to 22%. Because it will save your vehicle 1 out of 9 times and costs 5 points, is worth taking on vehicles which cost over 9 x 5 = 45 points... which is all of our vehicles. The sheer cost/benefit of this upgrade makes it essentially standard on every vehicle in a Tau Army. Don't leave home with out one!
  • Target Array - A 5 point upgrade that not only improves the BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skillof your Markerlights but also of your Secondary Weapon? Sounds great! If you're going to the trouble of bringing a Skyray, you should include this upgrade.
  • Blacksun Filter - Since Markerlight hits can be used to auto-pass Night Fight spotting roles, a BSF on a Skyray essentially allows you to improve the Night Fight performance of two other units on the table. Use the Skyray's Target Lock to mark 2 separate targets and then use those Markerlight hits to auto-pass your Night Fight spotting roles for two backfield heavy hitters. Not a bad way to spend 5 points.
  • Disruption Pod - Since we always move > 6" whenever possible, this upgrade is only useful on the first turn, if you're stunned, or if you land... and even then it only works half the time. Not a bad upgrade if you've got spare points, but clever deployment and careful playing can make it unnecessary.
  • Flechette Dischargers - In general, our Main Battle Tanks tend to operate from the rear and therefore are rarely in assault. In general, this upgrade is more useful on Devilfish.
  • Sensor Spines - The ability to enter area terrain is of limited utility for skimmers and of almost no utility whatsoever for skimmers that aren't transports.
  • Target Lock - Comes for free included in the price of the vehicle.

The Bottom Line

The Skyray is an amazing vehicle. So much so that I almost always find room for one, even in games as large as 2000 points. The value for me, is twofold.
  • The utility of move-and-fire Markerlights cannot be overstated. Sure, Markerlights can be bought elsewhere in the list and for fewer points, but a Markerlight is only good if you have LoS to the target you want to mark! A Skyray makes a great support vehicle for a Stealth team moving up a flank. Its Target Lock allows you to putsingle Markerlights where you need them, rather than wasting a full Pathfinder team lighting up enemy armor for a Hammerhead. The mobility, durability and precision of the Skyray more than makes up for the slight increase in cost of its Markerlights.
  • The ability to launch 6 Seekers at a target has some fun implications. Most people see S8 and immediately think "light vehicles". I see AP3 and immediately think "4-5 dead Meqs". The Skyray makes an excellent emergency response unit. Against Necrons, the Skyray means dead Destroyers on the first turn. Alternately, when those Immortals veil behind your lines, you no longer need to worry about downing 10 models with T5 and a 3+ save in order to eliminate the squad... you only need to down 5. Against 'Nids the Skyray means a dead Elite Carnifex on the first turn. Against Eldar it's a dead Wraithlord. Against Marines it means a dead Bike Squad, or a severely weakened Assault Squad. In short, the Skyray gives you the ability to point at a unit and say, "remove 5 models please". Now that's power.
The Skyray I use is equipped as:
1 Skyray
 [SMS, Multitracker, Decoy Launchers, Target Array]
Although the BSF is an attractive option, Night Fight occurs rarely enough that I generally don't equip my "take all comers" lists with them. In a tournament setting where I know the missions beforehand and can determine the prevalence of Night Fight ahead of time I sometimes find the points for one. Although having 2 Burst Cannons is nice in the event of a freak outbreak of glancing 4's, the added utility of the SMS isalways useful, especially for a vehicle that skulks around terrain pieces.
 




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