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Pathfinders - Join the debate
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 20:54   #1 (permalink)
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Default Pathfinders - Join the debate

[size=16pt]Pathfinders…the great debate![/size]
Some would say that GW wrote the Fast Attack section of the Tau codex drunk at a party on a Friday night. Other however would argue that GW employees are not the sort to go to those sort of parties, and in fact when they devised the concept of Pathfinders they gave the Tau a remarkable and unique unit. So many different opinions, just one unit – lets take a look.

What are they? – Essentially very similar to Fire Warriors, the major different being they carry chunky laser pens (markerlights) on the end of their carbines, and have to take a Devilfish.

So these markerlights…? – The markerlights are the main reason that people take pathfinders, not just improving the BS (effectively) of other units they can also be used to fire Seeker Missiles, which handily don’t need Line of Sight to fire! Furthermore the Markerlights can deal with those pesky sniping units lurking around in cover and relying on their cover save for survival. A nice combo that I have found useful is a markerlight followed by a Railgun submuntitions blast into an area of cover – try it yourself on horde like armies! Which bring me onto…

What do I markerlight? – Marker-lighting is often best used for your biggest and best guns – the ones which will do the most damage if they hit. However it’s best to look at the situation each turn before choosing automatically anything that carries a railgun. Besides – Hammerheads have BS4, and Broadsides have twin linked weapons! Instead it I best to markerlight the most dangerous unit of the enemy, this could well be the fastest one, or the most far forward – but the one that will cause you the most trouble IMMIDIATELY. Don’t get too tied up in destroying all of his tanks, when he has assault squads bearing down on you for instance!
As for alternative units to use the markerlight, stealth suits are a popular one because all 3 shots from their burst cannons will then hit on 2+’s! Crisis Suits too, with a mediocre BS may benefit too, especially when firing plasma or with their one-shot fusion blasters.

Other Uses? – Although marker lighting may be the most popular reason to have pathfinders, that is not it. A squad of pathfinders has access to the closest thing in the Tau Armoury to the sniper rifle – The Rail Rifle – to give 3+ armour save armies some nightmares. From what I have just described about Pathfinders they sound a very dangerous unit, but hence aren’t they going to be targeted quickly? Especially if they have these Rail Rifles you speak of? Certainly – and you can use this to your advantage too! Only just a bit more expensive than Fire Warriors, Pathfinders can be used as great bait. This becomes an even more worthwhile target once you start taking smaller 6 man squads or less – if your opponent choose to shoot you then it’s a fire magnet and not much lost, but if he doesn’t that’s an average of 3 markerlight hits a turn!
Furthermore, lets not forget that any unit in a Devilfish is a very useful scoring one indeed. The pathfinders can rely on the protection and speed of their Devilfish to stay out of combat, be transported to the best vantage points for shooting, then in the latter stages zoom off to claim an objective!

What the…? – … says your opponent as you tell him that all five of your seeker missiles from various tanks are coming straight towards his heaviest tank! Where did they come from? - As already mentioned, seeker missiles can also be fired from a markerlight hit, and the great thing about them (apart from being one of the few tau weapons with strength 8) is that they don’t need Line of Sight. If you decide to take them it adds another trick up your sleeve definitely, and suits most Tau players styles – engaging the enemy at little risk of being shot at/assaulted back! Simply load up your pathfinder Devilfish with Seeker Missiles, and using your pre-turn move hide it behind cover…wait until the markerlight hits start coming…then fire away from the safety of being invisible to the enemy! And not just tanks should fear the seeker missiles, with a good strength they are also invaluable for the purposes of instant kill on frustrating multi-wound Commanders, Death Company, Necrons or the like.

And this pre-turn move you speak of? – Very useful indeed, read the section in your Tau codex carefully and use this to your advantage. As already mentioned it could be used to hide the devilfish away in cover to become a gunboat – or perhaps you could use it to deploy a whole Pathfinder squad themselves in the best sniping position over the whole battlefield. If you are using the team as bait then perhaps you want to advance towards the enemy… Or perhaps your plans involve the pathfinders sitting back anyway with the non-scoring Devilfish causing some havoc tank shocking? It’s up to you, but use this special rule to your advantage whatever you do!

Meh! The sceptics will say! – And they have valid points themselves…Even small decoy units of Pathfinders are going to cost you a minimum of 128 points due to the fact that the Devilfish is compulsory – therefore you don’t see them appearing much in lists of 1000pts or below.
Secondly, some don’t value their static uses, to be able to fire their markerlights they do indeed have to be stationary. To some pure mechanised players, even though they have a devilfish, it means everytime that they travel in the Fish, they cannot jump out and fire with markerlights in the same turn (however do remember the pinning pulse carbines that come as standard!).
Furthermore, Pathfinders aren’t the most basic of units to use like many other Tau ones. They don’t have great offensive capabilities themselves and instead are used for enhancing the fire of others – therefore it is true that skill has to be used for the commander to get the best out of his expensive unit, and they will indeed prove a waste of points if you choose the wrong targets.

To conclude – Pathfinders in my opinion are a great unit when used right, and are unique in their weapons and capabilities. To be they have so many advantages that outweigh the cost, and I find them often valuable beyond the points that I paid for them. However like any unit there are drawbacks, but I urge all players to at least give them a bit of a try out before you discard the idea – For the Greater Good!

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Old 01 Nov 2005, 20:59   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders - Join the debate

I like them. They support my Crisis Battlesuits very well and don't limit me taking the unversatile Death Rain and Burning Eye suits. They can also offer additional heavy fire support with Seeker Missiles and sometimes Rail Rifles. They can also hold their own in battle with their Pulse Carbines. Only bad thing is that they must take the Devilfish. I know that is what makes them Fast Attack, but why not just increase their points a little and give them all Jetpacks?

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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:07   #3 (permalink)
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The devilfish just costs too much for me to take these guys.

Other than that, everything else is pretty much dead-on. The markerlight is an extremely unique weapon compared to most 40K stuff, and can be very useful. I think the FAQ revision that allowed marker-lit shots to deny cover saves is one of the best abilities in the game. The markerlight/seeker combo was an inspired idea as well, and really set the Tau apart as a technology embracing civilization that is ready to put the hurt on people.

Unfortunately, markerlights only shoot 36", pathfinders are fairly expensive (after the devilfish, especially), and come in small squads. This means they have to be fairly close to the enemy to work, and they aren't tough enough to survive much fire in return. They're such a neat unit, and they are pretty handy to have along, but in the end, they just aren't cost-effective enough for me to justify taking.
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:22   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders - Join the debate

Pathfinders are a bit like broadsides, in that deployment can be key. If they lack proper LOS, their markerlights will be rather useless. They can always move to get a better vantage point or avoid assault, however, and in this respect are more mobile than broadsides.

I've always liked them, just in games of 1500+. Then they have the widest variety of weapons to choose from, and a variety of targets too.
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:23   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders - Join the debate

Great article I don't see the devilfish much of a problem if you play Mech Tau...

- Fixed the title size tag..
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:33   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders - Join the debate

that's a rather intresting idea, black behemoth, arm pathfinders with a light stealth suit frame w/ jetpack instead of the 'fish. The Tetra sort of does this itself, but I like the idea of a light recon suit, and I think it makes more sense than having the recon unit in a large APC.

As for the pathfinders as they appear in codex:Tau, they're a decent unit. The required 'fish kills them for me, however. They are a static unit, and requiring them to take a transport is a waste of points in a traditional, static Tau army. Seeker missiles are kinda neat, but personally I'm no more willing to pay 10pts for a single missile shot any more than I am to pay 15 for a HK missile when I play my marines.

Pathfinders are a neat unit, but I just don't think they're worth it without a lot of supporting units.
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:41   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders - Join the debate

I looove pathfinders... mainly cuz I suffer from seeker mania and the DF doesn't stop me cuz I'v got mech tau... however, if we could mount jetpacks on them, they would be awesome
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:46   #8 (permalink)
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Pathfinders are great. *Ive said it before and I'll say it again: *they are a heavy support unit with a transport. *How many armies do you think wish they could this?. *Plus with the pregame move they can be set up much better than any other heavy support. *And they really will earn their points back, and more, if you use them right.
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Old 01 Nov 2005, 21:49   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders - Join the debate

Originally Posted by 42
As already mentioned, seeker missiles can also be fired from a markerlight hit, and the great thing about them (apart from being one of the few tau weapons with strength 8, and a termie cracking AP!)
great article 42, thanks for still hanging around, at least a bit
However, I fail to see that seekers will penetrate termies, aren't they AP 3? Or do I need to take a closer look into their description?

Myself, I tend to use pathfinders as an invisible unit, as good as it can be done. When something critical shows up, or I fail to kill something, I've hopefully enough foreseen it and placed my pathfinders so that they can light it up ASAP...

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Old 01 Nov 2005, 22:18   #10 (permalink)
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If I am playing an otherwise static force, Pathfinders are almost a compulsory choice for me. They are invaluable in making sure that you get the most out of your Heavy Support. Sometimes I will even take two units, one with Railrifles acting as snipers and a second marking targets.

If I am using a mech list, I rarely take them. Part of this is because I normally need all of my available Devilfish for Fire Warriors (which isn't really a good excuse), but I have definitely seen how much their effectiveness is diminished when they are forced to move around all the time.

A lot of this will change when the new codex comes out, of course. I think I am probably going to want a lot more markerlights in the army after that.
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