Hi all, welcome to the third unit review for the Tau - I'm going to dodge around the codex with these reviews, mainly because I want to! Today, we're going to look at the Ghostkeel!
Battlefield Role Designation
Actual Battlefield Role
Stubborn, difficult to shift unit with a decent fire output
Taken on its own and not as part of a formation the Ghostkeel sits in one of those slightly unusual areas to my mind within the game at present - and that’s because of the debate you’ll need to have with yourself when taking one. It is ridiculously durable for its cost, and in two of the three games I’ve used it, my opponent simply hasn’t bothered trying to hurt it. Therein lies the problem though, in both of those games, the fact that I had an unharmed ghostkeel running around the table did not affect the outcome of the battle. Granted had a couple of damage rolls gone my way in the second I could very well have tabled my opponent, but quite simply the damage output from the Ghostkeel isn’t stellar - it's good, but not great. Its native BS means it needs help to be a decent shooter and it won’t have objective secured so can’t perform a role as an objective camper very well. It’s unusually decent in combat for a Tau model though, and can certainly threaten or tie up big backfield shooting performers (think devastator centurions for example).
In terms of flexibility however it can most certainly be kitted out to fit differing battlefield roles. You can go full tank hunter by taking the Fusion Collider and Fusion Blasters, or anti horde with the Cyclic Ion Raker and Burst Cannons. This loadout also provides you with enough decent strength shots to threaten lighter vehicles. A mixed loadout can be the best of both worlds, I’ve found the Fusion Collider to be underwhelming without buffs, and given it’s not going to be tearing apart the enemy regardless that’s a good way to go in my view. On that basis, I’d lean towards the Cyclic Ion Raker and the Fusion Blaster loadout - the twin linked gives more benefit to the Fusion Blasters than the Burst Cannons, whilst the higher strength of the Cyclic Ion Raker means you have more flexibility in targets for a high rate of fire weapon.
One thing I should note is that the Ghostkeel can be taken in units of up to three models. At this point, they do become highly effective, particularly with the modestly priced Target Lock upgrade allowing them each to target different units. This multiplies the efficiency of each of its roles, and getting hit by up to 18 Cyclic Ion Raker shots and 12 Burst Cannon rounds is going to spoil anyone’s day, not to mention the potential for half a dozen melta shots if you choose to go anti-tank.
Anywhere from 130 to 225 depending on your desire for upgrades (and therefore 675 for a full unit). The unit is viable at either end of that spectrum too.
When I kit this fella out it tends to hit the nice mid-point of 165, that’s taking Fusion Blasters, an Early Warning Override and Velocity Tracker (you can easily save points if you don't have to worry about fliers). It can clearly come cheaper than this, and if you want to max the cost and boost its durability to ridiculous levels, why not take a shield generator and stim injector to really hit the heights of 225pts?
If you’re taking it on its own then it has very little synergy with other units, though being as durable as it is you could argue it becomes a fire magnet. As I’ve discovered though this durability can sometimes work against you and force your opponents to choose other targets instead.
Its main threat therefore, and the role in which it is clearly intended to perform and excel, is in the formations. It appears in two in the Tau book, the Optimised Stealth Cadre and the Heavy Retribution Cadre. Now as the base cost of the latter of those formations is 850pts, I’m going to remove it from my consideration. It requires two stormsurges and a unit of Ghostkeels and is clearly meant for huge games. I may edit something in later but I don’t think you’ll see it on the tables all that often at this point. Notwithstanding that however, the Ghostkeel’s role in the formation is key to getting re-rolls to hit for the big guys. The main place you will see Ghostkeels is as part of the Optimised Stealth Cadre alongside two units of stealth suits. In fact, unless you’re playing small points games, you may not see it outside of this formation, the benefits are that good. As part of that formation, the Ghostkeel becomes the lynchpin to taking down tanks, providing +1BS, Ignores Cover and hitting the rear armour to itself and the stealth suits if they’re close enough.
If you’re taking it as part of these formations, it’s highly synergistic, so much so in fact that it actually results in Tau players taking a unit (stealth suits) that previous tended to get left at home.
Essential, desirable or whimsical?
Whilst I wouldn’t really go so far as to say it’s essential, the durability of the model makes it highly desirable, and the Optimised Stealth Cadre is pretty much an essential component in a decent sized Tau list.
How many dice will you need?
Very much depends on the weapon options you choose - for a single model maxed out with Burst Cannons and the Cyclic Ion Raker 10 shots is a really good output and with the option to take 3 in a squad that's a lot of dice. On the flip side however the twin Fusion Blasters and a Fusion Collider loadout means you won’t need many.
Fairly reliable - the secondary weapon system being twin-linked makes it reliable despite the low native BS of the model, and the high rate of fire of the Cyclic Ion Raker also adds to its reliability. The Fusion Collider is where it lets itself down really (and needs markerlight support - because more markerlights just make blasts more and more accurate) but on the whole, it's a pretty reliable performer - just don't expect miracles.
On its own a decent Stilton - the moderate damage output probably limits it from hitting Camembert heights, but that can all change if it’s included as part of an Optimised Stealth Cadre.
It’s not an essential choice in a Tau list by any means, but when you throw in the benefits it gets and hands out as part of the Optimised Stealth Cadre then it’s highly likely that you’ll be seeing a lot of these on the tabletop. I’ve got one, and I’m certainly interested in getting more - not least because it’s a truly stunning new model!