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Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment
Old 20 Jun 2007, 02:54   #1 (permalink)
Kroot Shaper
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Default Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

Hi! I am new to TO, I've been lurking for a week or two & I just signed up today. I bought most of my army figs back in 3rd ed. At that time, I was reading dakkadakka and many fine posts about Tau tactics by JTS1486, Mauleed, and others. I recently got interested in working on my army again, so I thought I would share my current thoughts about one of my favorite Tau weapons.

Please note: I've read the following articles/threads about markerlights(MLs) & seekers (among others I don't recall specifically):
If you know of other good markerlight/seeker articles I haven't mentioned, please let me know!

Create general purpose army lists at various point sizes with the maximum useful amounts of markerlights and seekers to disrupt and confuse the opponent, without hobbling the crucial shootyness of the Tau.

This army will be capable of firing massive amounts of seekers early in the game to wreak havoc on the opponents lines, as well as boosting my forces abilities with the other ML capabilities.
I am interested in figuring out if can be an effective strategy at 400 pt. (combat patrol), 1000 pt., 1500 pt, and 1750 pt. levels.

Initially, I saw this army launching a seeker alpha strike on turn 1 and turn 2, dedicating virtually all ML shots to that, until all the seekers were exhausted. (Some folks think of Tau as an anime-style army. Surely, this is an anime-style tactic!)
Now, I am thinking of using that in a more unit-specific fashion, firing most or all of the seekers in particular units which must move forward. Some seekers would be held in reserve to be deployed at a schwerepunkt (focal point) or, late game, a target of opportunity. (I don't want any seekers left at the end!)

Tyndmyr's thread changed my thinking. Although he posited that they are always a waste of points, I was left with the thought that taking ML's for any one purpose is a waste of points. They can only have value when used variably (as TonkaTruckDriver noted). That variability should be both tactical and strategic.

In fact, I see masses of ML and seeker fire as an advanced tactic; the many options available would create confusion for a beginning player.

For an advanced player, I see massed ML's+seekers as creating a cloud of uncertainty for the opponent - we have several options with them, so they cannot know where we will place our true focus. If we can target a sufficient quantity of seekers in changing areas, through mobility and multiple ML source units, they will be hard-pressed to anticipate our plans.

The difference between a normal Tau army using ML's and Seekers will be the use of masses of each weapon system, allowing volley fire on individual opposing units. I need enough of each to ensure that 1) I don't lose too many ML's before I have fired most of my Seekers (forcing me to have Seekers left at end-of-game, making them useless) and 2) I don't lose too many Seekers before I have opportunities to use them (thus making the ML's less valuable).
Primary massed ML sources will be Skyrays, Stealth/Marker Drone teams, and Pathfinder teams.
The massed seeker carriers will come from Piranha squadrons, Skyrays, and the secret carrier (see below).
Massed Markerlights
Both PF and Stealth squads make good massed ML carriers, The pathfinder team is the cheapest, but is a soft target and has limited tactical mobility. Stealth teams are harder targets with more mobility, but are substantially more expensive. Lesser alternates are Sniper Drone teams, XV-8 teams, Commander+bodyguard team, and finally the Skyray. Sniper Drone teams again seem the cheapest. They are the softest target but share the holo protection of the stealth team. XV-8's, wherever in the force org chart, may be best served jumping around more, but could fulfill this role by also utilizing shield generators or shield drones in the unit (decreasing ML shots). Either of these would decrease their core effectiveness, even if ML shooting must be abandoned by that unit, so they are less flexible. Even though the Skyray only gets 2 ML shots (no more than any unit which may take Marker Drones), it is worthy of note because it is a Massed Seeker Carrier, it can be quite mobile while firing its ML's and it is protected by Hammerhead (HH) armor.
Massed Seeker Carriers
There are only three sources of massed Seekers: Fishes/HH, Piranha squadrons, and Skyrays. You might hold back a seeker on any of these sources to consume a Weapon Destroyed effect rather than crashing.
Any vehicle may take up to 2 seekers. For Devilfish and HH, that's only 2 seekers per Force Org slot. Counted alone, that's not very useful for these purposes. For a Mech or Hybrid Tau army with 3 or more hulls, all the Devilfish and Hammerhead hulls should be counted together as one of the massed seeker carriers for purposes of planning. (You can think of this as similar to the invisible anchor store at many malls.) If the rest of the army list isn't conducive to having these hulls, then they should not be considered merely for the seeker capability in this concept. These seekers should be fired as the hull moves into threat zones. For instance, a long-shotting railhead in the backfield would hold its seekers until more threatened seeker carriers have launched.
The second carrier is the Piranha squadron, with a maximum capacity of 10 seekers in 1 slot. That, with the best move-to-fire capability, lends it self to targetting vehicle side & rear armor - but that should only be a backup plan. The AT capability should be available elsewhere for these. The main concern is getting at least 1/2 of the seekers off before moving the squadron to a location it will be threatened.
Finally, consider the Skyray. I prefer to think of it as a new Hammerhead weapon choice: Railgun, Ion Cannon, and Seeker/ML turret. Once the bulk of its seekers are fired, its strengths are mobility and armor. My current thought is to arm it with the burst cannons, fire off most of the seekers on turn one and go a-tank-shocking (upgrades appropriate to this mission installed as well).

Limited Slots
My access to these units is limited by force organization slots. As I noted, I still must maintain AP (anti-personnel) and AT (anti-tank) capabilities. I don't want to rely on a single unit to provide one of these specialized capabilities (especially AP), as that would be an obvious weakness for my opponent to exploit. In HS, this means choosing Skyrays or railguns. In FA, this means choosing pathfinders(PF) or Piranhas.
I think I have a way out of this dilemma. Rather than trying to guarantee multiples of a particular unit type (PF for massed ML fire, for instance), I can merely attempt to ensure that I have multiple units that can fulfill that role. For massed markerlights and massed seeker carriers, I do have that freedom. Several units can fulfill each role, though with differing costs, force org slots, and other capabilities.

Still to consider:
Costs No doubt, this will consume a serious percentage of the army list. 10% of a 1750 list is 17 seekers - nothing to sneeze at. But Markerlights - especially Marker Drones - are an expensive addon. A three-shas'ui Stealth Team with 6 networked ML shots is 270 points - 15% of a 1750 list. The percentage cost will be even higher on smaller army lists, which leads to...
Scaleability Is it possible to even afford this concept in a 400 point list? Will it be able to win?
Quantity A crucial pair of questions are: "How many Markerlights are enough?" and "How many seekers are enough?" These questions are really intertwined; the number of markerlights will have an impact on the number of seekers that can be effectively used, and vice versa.
Tactics How does this change play for this army compared to a normal Tau army? How does this integrate with existing Tau tactics such as FoF?

EDIT: added URL for markerlight discussion from ATT
Originally Posted by Kugelblitz
Perhaps some sage advice to the youngling about the relative worth of their trade goods would be a more forthright approach?
Originally Posted by El'lyi'ot
"What course of actions furthers the Greater Good?"
Originally Posted by daniel.wilson
...kill the opponent from as far away as possible, preferably from orbit.
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 03:25   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

In short, no, seeker alpha strikes are not effective. I've written at length about exactly why, a search should pick it up.
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 03:57   #3 (permalink)
Kroot Warrior
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

(I'm going from memory here)

In a Combat Patrol I could see some issues but it could be possible.

the first issue would be the carrier of the seekers, your options include, tanks, transports, and fast skimmers. Tanks (excluding Sky's) are essentially out because 170+ points just for seekers seems a little much, transports at 100+ points still seems a little excessive, though you could also carry some other units with it, finally the fast skimmers, could be a good base but still at 80+ points a pop still not the best base. But then comes the sky ray

if you really really wanted too your best bet would be a sky ray..
1) 6 seekers...
2) ...for the cost of two piranhas (essentially) you get 2 more seekers and 2 burst cannons (the same as two piranhas)
3) better then a hammer head (which starts at 170 points) which is only useful if your facing SM (and still then at a stretch)

But the transports are the far second, especially if your allready planning on including them.

Next comes platforms for the ML's, pathfinders are out, way too expensive (even if you get two seekers you still have an excess of ML's) , stealth suits, maybe, but they themselves are expensive and they can't move if they're using ML's, sniper teams are viable, hard to hit, designated unit, and still pretty useful, next come the firewarriors, not a good base at all, unless its a Static list. finally drones, completely out of the question, much too expensive. so all your left with is skyrays and sniperteams for a decent second.

I could see the following lists:

skyray + upgrades - 140
8 fw - 90 ('ui leader upgrade)
8 fw - 90 ('ui leader upgrade)
sniper team - 80
- a static list, good for nids, orks, and IG (in my opinion) the seekers could be used for any big units, the 5\5 weapons for the hordes

skyray + upgrades - 140
6 fw - 60
4x crisis (50 point burst/misslie/mt) - 200
- a mobile list (minus the fw) that can mass the dakka and have the skyray for back up

Actually.. now that I wrote this I just might try it.. hmmm, ill be sure to record it and post if i do.

My first real try at any tactica so be nice... please?

P.S. Welcome to the forums.
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 04:04   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

I oncemade a game in wich I was defending a big walled conpund. I had a special rack of 8 seaker missils on top op a bunker. Once the ennemie breached the wall, every units with LoS targetted the breaching ennemie with ML and a volley of 7 seeker missils went raining on them. Result? Not worth the point cost!

Why? because hey don't produce a blast template. They are not strong enough to ensure instant death on elite units.

I rarely use them, and that only game I did rely on them, I was dissapointed. Instead of having 7 shots on that units, I could have had like 50 with normal weapons, wich, like in the XV8 cases, where more deadly than a seeker missil.

I see a seeker missils like being the equivalent of a TOW missil: to destroy armored threats or other hard targets at ranges. I would not rely on them to do the job of the infantry or tanks.
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 04:37   #5 (permalink)
Kroot Warrior
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

Infact another idea just hit me, I've seen lots of people say (more on ATT then here) that tau loose effectiveness at higher point values, especially over 2k, but at 2k you can afford a couple of ML's and seekers. Maybe ML's are the answear to higher points, think about what they give you, bonus BS, I take TA on everything because I want better BS, with a solid ML base you could easily save points on these, and everyone wants better BS, next reduce cover saves... SM/termis in CoD, think about all the people who use cover to protect they're hordes, from AP 5 weps, then theres the pinning ld negative thing, 8 ML hits on a IG squad (Lucky pf's) , 2 to improve BS of a squad of snipers to 5, 6 to reduce leadership... they wont move, a useful boon, especially with all of our pinning weapons. Then theres seekers for any left over hits, if a tank is approaching a firebase, with no heavy support just use ML's call in some seekers from somewhere behind it, 2+ to glance. all of that is the next step up from tactics like FoF and JSJ, it improves them, makes them more useful, and deadly

Now lets go to 3k, most likely a second force org chart, here you can take a sky ray and spend 1/3 of a % on a ML,maybe get one or even two pf squads, this is probably is what the high point tau army is supposed to contain...
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 15:07   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

If you write in german, do it right: Schwerpunkt! Capitalized first letter, as it is a noun, and no "e" behind the "r"!

Just kidding^^

I am with Tyndmyr... seekers in general are not worthy and in masses even more so.

Sorry, but such an army will never be able to compete in a serious environment, like a tournament.

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Old 20 Jun 2007, 15:23   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

Alpha strike used to be a viable tactic back in 3rd with the Forgeworld Skyray. Since it only requires you to light up once to launch all the seekers. However, with the advent of the Tau Empire Skyray, it is not as viable. In my opinion, seekers now should only be used against high piority single targets (ex. (rarely) lone Force Commanders or Dreads).
Originally Posted by Wargamer
Aha, a brilliant point Impulse!
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 15:45   #8 (permalink)
Kroot Shaper
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

Cool idea, but as someone said it's not cost-effective. You're paying 10pts for a missle thats only str8 with no blast, and is extremely limited in the new codex. Skyrays are OK, but unless you're fighting mechnised Dark Eldar or Eldar then I'd rather have a railgun or fusion gun.
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 16:00   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment

It might not be cost effective, but then, imperial armies have to pay a space marine's points for a BS 4 one shot seeker. Our markerlights might be mostly BS3, but at least if a markerlight misfires, we're not wasting our seekers.

ours are better at hitting, but then, theirs are, overall, cheaper to launch. Although we can move our seeker tanks over 6" and still fire them off with one additional weapon (e.g. railguns). If they move at all and want to fire a HK, it's either that or their lascannon/heavy bolter/whatever.
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Old 20 Jun 2007, 16:47   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Markerlight-Seeker Army Experiment


I think your history is getting in your way :-\

Piccolo's alpha strike concept was effective in 3rd ed for several reasons:

1. Pathfinders could be screened. With a wall of 40-50 Firewarriors and/or Kroot parked in front of them, you could be reasonably sure that the Pathfinders would survive to launch all your missiles.

2. Vehicles could bring 4 Seekers each. By including 2 squads of Pathfinders (and their mandatory Devilfish) along with 2 Hammerheads, you had the capacity to carry 16 Seekers, enough to keep your 16 Pathfinders busy for 2 turns.

3. Static Tau was much more viable. The old Ethereal rules, combined with screening,and the expense of bringing Battlesuits and Devilfish in quantity meant that there was frequently many more on-foot infantry present in your 'typical' Tau army. When you've got 120 models on the tabletop, 16 little Pathfinders at the back are much less of a target. In more modern Mech or Hybrid lists, that model count is often much smaller and contains a much greater percentage of Battlesuits and Vehicles, meaning your 16 Pathfinders are now going to have every Heavy Bolter on the table pointed squrely at their camoflaged heads.

The biggest reason you don't see alpha strike lists anymore though is more subtle. In Codex: Tau Empire, just about everything got better... except Seeker Missiles. In fact, Seekers got worse. XV8's got cheaper, Hammerhead options got cheaper, Devilfish got SMS access, Tau vehicles got indirectly better across the board, Gun Drones got better, Commanders got better, Special Issue weaponry and wargear was introduced... while simultaneously Tau vehicles had their Seeker capacity reduced from 4 to 2. So now you're essentially required to not only pay for the Missiles themselves and the Markerlights to launch them, but you also need to pay for a platform to launch them from. In 3rd ed there was almost always enough spare Seeker capacity to cover an alpha strike list without having to specifically include certain unit choices for this role.

I'd be curious to read what Piccolo's experience with his list design has been since 4th ed and Codex: Tau Empire were released. I suspect he's probably dropped it.

These days, the best way to use Markerlights is by including 1-3 to boost critical units during critical turns. More than this, and you're essentially required to field Pathfinders and then we're back to building an army around a handful of T3 models with a 4+ save and Ld8 that can't be screened. Without any Markerlights at all, you can occaisionally have difficulty against fringe lists like Godzilla Nids, Armored Company, Deathwing, or hoard Orks. Tetras are by far the best Markerlight platform, although not all gaming groups are into the Forgeworld thing. Occaisionally I'll field a small unit of 6 Firewarriors as my only Shas'la; when I do this, I'll frequently toss in a Shas'ui with a Markerlight with a spare 20 pts in order to give them something to do while they're brewing tea holding down the fort in the home quarter. Sniper Drones are also a good way to get Markerlights on the field in smaller games where you don't need the Heavy slot for more Railguns. That's about it though for what I consider to be "viable" Markerlight platforms. Everything else is either too expensive (Stealths), too fragile (Pathfinders) or occupies a Force Org slot I'd rather use for something else (Skyray).

Of course all of this is from a tournament perspective. If all you're out to do is make a fun themed list, by all means keep on with it!
"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
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