Tau Pathfinders are a much debated unit. And I often wonder whether Tau Pathfinders are better than a Tau Skyray. Especially when Tau Pathfinders don't take up a Heavy Support slot in my army.
(These Tau Pathfinders were painted by Dave who I've comissioned to give me a hand with painting my Tau army because I'm a painfully slow painter.)
Tau Pathfinders: Awesome support unit or waste of points?
For many players, facing Tau Pathfinders is facing FEAR itself! The Tau Rail Rifle is a comparatively pathetic weapon compared to the vast array of laser powered death that the rest of the Tau army can deliver. So I've chosen to give all 8 of my Pathfinders nothing by pulse carbines with markerlights.
So that's 8 shots, hitting on 4+ at range 36". So I'm pretty much guaranteed 4 markerlight hits. And as I have found from recently fielding a Tau Sky Ray, just 2 markerlight hits can be extremely devastating.
The negative attitude towards Tau Pathfinders comes from having to buy this static unit a transport. But now in 5th edition, that transport can be given to a Tau Firewarrior team. Not so bad when you consider that it has a Marker Beacon, which allows Deep Striking units to reroll the Scatter dice.
Now I only need to address the cost of the Tau Pathfinders themselves. At 12pts each they're quite a steal when you consider the range 36" markerlight. Simply chuck them in some cover (or use their Scout move to help them get there) and they can concentrate on lighting up priority units throughout the game.
If they get shot at by a particularly nasty volley of fire, simply make them Go To Ground. You'd be amazed how much firepower will be wasted on a 72pts 6 man squad.
So when you consider that they can be as cheap as 72pts, they're a real bargain (minus Devilfish) when you're never going to use that Fast Attack slot anyway.
I need to check the rules, but as Pathfinders get the Scout rule, then so too does their Devilfish, which means it can Outflank.
So when it comes to getting your much needed markerlight fix, which is better: Tau Pathfinders or the Tau Skyray?
Technically the Pathfinders are cheaper if you want a Devilfish for your Firewarriors anyway, plus they can put out up to 8 markerlight shots, which will typically get you 4 markerlight hits. But in all honesty, I can't think of many units (apart from a tree hugging Lictor) that I'd need 4 markerlights on to effectively kill. Usually 1 or 2 does the trick when combined with a high fire rate unit like Tau Battlesuits or Tau Stealthsuits. Or Tau Broadsides for when you absolutely have to hit that tank with your railguns.
I'll come back to this question after some more playtesting. But right now, the Tau Skyray is king simply because it's a tough vehicle that can cruise around 12" while firing all its guns and you don't have to worry about it coming on from reserve, while Pathfinders are pretty useless on the turn they arrive, especially if you've given their Devilfish to another squad.