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Units: Skyray - The Empire Strikes Back
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 17:08   #1 (permalink)
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Default Units: Skyray - The Empire Strikes Back

In preparation for the release of the new Codex, the folks at MTT have begun work on an entirely new set of articles for an entirely new tactical website called The Advanced Tau Academy which will replace The Guide to Mech Tau. As the new name suggests, the site will discuss tactics and strategies relevant to all army playstyles.

Every few days, I'm going to post the "beta version" of an article here for comments and critique. When the new codex is realeased, this new site will be available where these articles will be collected. This is the 2nd in the series. Here are the others which have been posted thus far:

Tactics: Markerlights - The Beginning

At the end of each article is a section titled "The Bottom Line". This is an opinion paragraph that details how I like to configure and use the unit. Furthermore, you'll occaisionally see a few sentences in italics in which I've broken from the flow of the discussion to offer a brief opinion. As such, take everything said there with a few grains of salt. Depending on your playstyle and personal preferences, these comments may be entirely inappropriate.



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.
Edit: Ability removed as of Tau Empire update. - Khanaris

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 Seekers can 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 of 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 put single 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.
Edit: Ability removed as of codex update. - Khanaris

The Skyray I use is equipped as:

1 Skyray [Edit]
[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 is always useful, especially for a vehicle that skulks around terrain pieces.

[size=8pt]Sorry, Tonka, I just have to remove the points cost becausethe new codex rules are not official, and we don't want GW on our backs. Thanks - Aunny[/size]

Edit: Under the new codex, the Skyray may no longer fire more than one missile per Markerlight hit. - Khanaris
"i like to think of playing against my list as being like punching jelly. you put all your effort in but it just moves out of the way and you cause no damage. then your arm is covered in jelly. and the chicks come out and start wrestling in the jelly, and i drink a beer with stone cold steve austin, and we watch the chicks jelly wrestling, and then the slap-bass funk starts wakka chakka wakka wakka woh" -- Spooky, describing Mech Tau

"You can of course make a list that attempts to work via fragility and easy VP donation and Pathfinders fit into that just fine." -- kai
T0nkaTruckDriver is offline  
Old 02 Feb 2006, 17:25   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

It sounds like the Disruption Pod rules are now more like the description in IA3 under the Tetra. That's good, I thought the Disruption Pod to be rather useless before.
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 17:48   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Well, one thing caught my eye; immortals are toughness 5, as are destroyers. This means that seeker missiles cannot instantly kill them, and that unless you wipe out the squad at once, they still get up again. However, a squad of 3-5 destroyers really has something to fear in the skyray. They cost up to 275 points for a squad... and the skyray, at nearly half that, can wipe them out... in one turn.

I would basically boil the skyray down to;

If your pathfinders either;
die too much
can't see what they need to too often


Seeker missiles are your best friend

then take the skyray. that volley of 6 seekers first turn or two volleys of 3 can really devastate your opponent; stopping a rhino rush, obliterating toughies with 3+ saves, etc.

I'd say take pathfinders AND the skyray in 1850-2000. In 1500, I'd say that it depends on your army... If you just want your one unit being more efficient, or if you want one unit of the enemy's wiped out, your choice can change... I would be interested to see what you have to say about pathfinders, Tonka. I find them as more of a late game asset. Combo'd with the skyray, you'll have markerlight fun all game long!
War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over. - General William Sherman
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 18:40   #4 (permalink)
Kroot Warrior
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Great job, seems like you have hit just just about everything. One thing to point out, though it may not be relevent in this article, is that the railgun may not be as necessary anymore (piranhas, fusionblaster suits, and deepstriking beacon guided Xv8s all provide possible alternatives) and thus it could be more acceptable to lose a valued railgun for the skyray.
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 19:00   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Originally Posted by T0nkaTruckDriver
... The special Seeker Rack on the Skyray allows any number of its missiles to be triggered by a single Markerlight hit...
I am pretty sure that in the new codex, a single Markerlight hit will only allow a vehicle to fire a single Seeker Missile at the marked unit. I don't recall seeing anything in the Sky Ray's codex info that would allow it to break this rule (nor do Networked Markerlights break this rule).

I am not sure how this will impact your analysis.


“One of their light walkers carried a weapon of lethal effect. It fired a form of ultra-high velocity projectile. I saw one of our tanks after having been it by it. There was a small hole punched in either flank – one the projectile’s entry point, the other its exit. The tiny munition had passed through the vehicle with such speed that everything within the hull not welded down had been sucked out through the exit hole. Including the crew. We never identified their bodies, for all that remained of them was a red stain upon the ground, extending some twenty metres from the wreck.”
Major Kane
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 19:14   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Awesome post, same for the marketlight one ... I'll surely go on your website often, and also get me one Skyray (because I kept place for one in my org chart) and an extre missile turret for railgun conversion ... (or switch).
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 19:30   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Great article Tonka! As a Mech/Hybrid player who uses a lot of ML's and seekers with the current codex, I am extremely excited about what is to come. I agree with most of your conclusions, and I look forward to drop ML's from some of my other units in favour of the Skyray, and use it with the ever present Pathfinders. I just can't wait to start playtesting!

I will surely build myself a Skyray, that is a given. Though I'll probably start by making a "modular" Hammerhead/Skyray before I decide on which to use. One thing that strikes me about the "new" Tau, is that if we get the advanced stabilisers for the XV88's, Skyray and in addition to that AV12 rear armour (!) for all Hammerheads, it is going to be very difficult indeed to pick what to put in those precious Heavy Slots. Perhaps a nice problem to wrestle with though

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Old 02 Feb 2006, 19:40   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Great article Tonka!

Yeah I'm in the same boat LtCariad now that we have good heavy support choices I can't make up my mind on this should I add broadsides and sniper drones, or skyray's and railheads. I will most likely now play static tau and go marker crazy.

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Old 02 Feb 2006, 19:46   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

Forgot about the sniper drones! They are also a heavy support choice... *sigh*
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Old 02 Feb 2006, 19:49   #10 (permalink)
Kroot Warrior
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Default Re: Skyray: The Empire Strikes Back

One question. Can Skyrays purchase the two additional Seeker Missiles availible to other vehicles and if they can would there be any advantage of taking extra?
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