The T’au Empire is a relatively young contender for power in the galaxy in the grim dark future of Warhammer 40,000, and they rely on extremely advanced technology and a civilization-wide commitment to the Greater Good to make up for their relatively brittle physique. They’re master tacticians who have a plan for any situation, and they’re pragmatic enough to change their plans as soon as the situation requires it, unlike some of the more dogmatically inclined zealots of, say, the Imperium and the Traitor Legions.
The Pathfinder Kill Teams are the embodiment of that philosophy of war, with their many specialists and tools for any situation, as well as their all-round excellent ranged weaponry.
In the game, the Pathfinders excel at shooting, and while they’re not at all durable fighters, their use of artificially intelligent drones give them a defensive and supportive edge that the AI luddites of other civilizations couldn’t dream of taking advantage of.
So if you like an advanced tactical Kill Team with some of the best shooting out there, and you’re not afraid of having to remember many rules and synergies, the Pathfinders might be just the Kill Team for you.
[Note: This article has been updated to incorporate the changes from the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate]
Abilities of the Pathfinder Kill Team
Pathfinder Drone operatives offer powerful bonuses to their Kill Team, but it comes with a few disadvantages: They can’t perform mission actions, they’re worse at controlling objectives, they don’t benefit from cover as well as other operatives, and they mostly can’t wear equipment. They also measure line of sight differently, since they have a near-360 degree field of vision from their discs rather than eyes.
Pathfinder weapons with “Pulse” in their name, such as Pulse Carbines, can be augmented by a Pulse Accelerator Drone, so look for that when outfitting your Kill Team.
This ability allows Drones to act as the target of shooting actions that would have otherwise targeted a nearby friendly non-Drone Pathfinder operative – another reason to keep Drones near your most important operatives.
Operatives with the Markerlight ability can use one Action Point to place a Markerlight on an enemy target. For each Markerlight a target has placed upon it, any Pathfinder operative gains a series of bonuses to shooting actions against that target. Markerlights are excellent for focusing fire on key targets that are difficult to take down, and using them is key to success with a Pathfinder Kill Team.
Art of War
Your Shas’ui Leader can use this ability once per battle. It then gets to choose one of two bonuses that will last for the rest of that Turning Point. Mont’ka lets every Pathfinder objective in your Kill Team (and that’s everyone) perform a free Dash action in their activation, and Kauyon grants any friendly operative in Cover an extra automatically succesful normal save dice when rolling defence dice each time an enemy shoots at it in that Turning Point. Additionally, since the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate, Kauyon also lets friendly Pathfinder operatives make a Mission or Pick Up action for 1 less Action Point than it would normally cost (even to the point of making the action cost 0 Action Points. So: it’s a one-time Kill Team-wide defensive or offensive/mission boost in one Turning Point if your Leader is alive to trigger it.
Special Close Quarters ability
When the Pathinder Kill Team is played in Close Quarters battles (ie Into the Dark missions), since the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate, friendly operatives can perform the Guard action (an action unique to those missions which lets you spend an action to be able to make a Shoot or Fight action as a reaction in an opponent’s activation) while they have a Conceal order, but they can only use it to make Markerlight actions (see above).
Operatives of the Pathfinder Kill Team
As per the latest update, a Pathfinder Kill Team has 12 operatives (unless certain conditions are met, as explained below), rather than the 13 it had at release, and you can choose between the following operative types.
Shas’ui Pathfinder (must take 1 per Kill Team)
This is your Leader, so you have to bring him in your Kill Team, but he’s also a decent fighter with a 3+ Ballistic Skill and a Bonding Knife that’s actually not a terrible melee weapon, which is a big deal in a Pathfinder Kill Team. He is also responsible for declaring Arts of War (see above), and has the Holographic Readout ability which lets him give a nearby non-Drone friendly operative a -1 to Action Point cost for performing a mission action once per battle.
Shas’la Pathfinder (12 allowed per Kill Team)
This is your standard operative, but with good use of Markerlights (see above) and the Pulse Accelerator Drone to boost its already good Pulse Carbine, it can provide some great shooting. Note, however, that many of your special operatives also have Pulse Carbines in addition to the rest of their loadout.
Blooded Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
The Blooded Pathfinder has a Suppressed pulse carbine with a 3+ Ballistic Skill and the ability to shoot while the operative has a Conceal Order, as well as a Bionic Arm melee attack that’s better than the fists of regular Pathfinders, so it’s a great choice if you want to sneak up on the enemy.
Drone Controller Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This operative is remarkable for the way it interacts with Drones. You can set up a Drone at the same time as this operative during deployment (and it doesn’t have to be set up near this operative), and the Drone Controller also has a unique action that lets i either a) activate a Drone that hasn’t activated in that Turning Point and have it ignore the first three characteristics of its Artificial Intelligence rule, so that it can perform mission objectives and so on (see above) or b) perform a free Dash or (slightly worse than usual) Shoot action with a Drone that has already activated in this Turning Point.
This means that the Drone Controller is absolutely essential to bring in your Kill Team if you’re already bringing Drones, and there’s no reason not to bring it, since it also has all the same weapons and statistics as standard Shas’la Pathfinder.
Assault Grenadier Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This is another great upgrade to the standard Shas’la operative, as it comes equipped with three types of grenades for free. It also has the Nanocrystalline Headgear ability which prevents any modifiers to its Action Point Limit (so it can’t really be stunned) and its Weapon and Ballistic Skill.
The three grenades it comes equipped with (EMP, fusion and photon grenades) are all very useful in different situations, so make sure to keep this operative alive until it can get to the most valuable targets among your opponent’s operatives.
Medical Technician Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This operative has the Medic! ability which can revive an incapacitated nearby friendly operative once per Turning Point (with 1 Wound remaining, but useful nonetheless) and the Medikit Unique Action that heals a nearby friendly operative up to 6 Wounds unless it has been revived in the same Turning Point. Keep this close to those of your operatives most likely to get into combat or to be targeted by enemy shooting.
Transpectral Interference Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
The Transpectral Interference Pathfinder can ignore Obscured when targeting enemies and can also use it’s Unique Action System Jam to give a visible enemy operative a -1 to its Action Point Limit. It’s a bit of a strange combination of abilities, but the fact that System Jam‘s range is only limited by visibility makes it a very effective way to disrupt your opponent’s plans.
Communications Specialist Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
The Communications Specialist has only one Unique Action to distinguish it from a regular Shas’la operative: Signal let’s you spend 1 Action Point to give a +1 to the Action Point Limit of another nearby friendly operative. That might not sound like much, but if you can get this operative into a position where it doesn’t have to move, it can Shoot and use Signal so that another nearby operative can do more in an activation.
Weapons Expert Pathfinder (2 allowed per Kill Team)
This operative is the only operative in the Pathfinder Kill Team that actually has more than one weapon loadout to choose from, so it’s good that you can field 2 of them in a Kill Team. The Ion Rifle has two weapon profiles, where one has a chance to gain Armour Penetration on a critical hit roll, while the Overcharge profile has AP1 automatically, but causes mortal wounds to your operative when you discard attack rolls of 1. The Rail Rifle has a slightly lower damage profile (it’s actually a bit worse than a Pulse Carbine in that regard), but it has AP1, scores critical hits on a 5+ and does 2 mortal wounds on each critical hit, which is absolutely great, so make sure to field a Weapons Expert with one of those.
Marksman Pathfinder (1 allowed per Kill Team)
The Marksman Pathfinder is the sniper of the Pathfinder Kill Team. Its Ballistic Skill doesn’t worsen when it performs Overwatch actions, and tis Marksman Rail Rifle has a standard profile that’s just like the Weapons Expert Rail Rifle mentioned above, but it also has a Dart Round profile that lets you shoot it while the Marksman has a Conceal order, for the low cost of scoring critical hits on a 6+ rather than the standard profile’s 5+ for that Shoot action. The bonus to Overwatch actions does become a bit less good due to the fact that it’s used for a weapon that relies on critical hits anyway, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is an essential operative to bring in your Kill Team for the mortal wound output alone.
MB3 Recon Drone (1 allowed per Kill Team, counts as 2 operatives)
This large drone has a Burst Cannon that can reroll attack rolls of 1 and use the Fusillade special rule to divide its attacks between enemy operatives in a small area. This can be useful, but its real value is in its Analyse Unique Action, which lets it select an enemy operative and a friendly operative and then activate that friendly operative and let it reroll all of its shooting attack dice against the chosen enemy operative during that activation. The only range requirement for the Unique Action is that the Drone has to be able to see the enemy operative, not the friendly operative, so you’ll be able to use this often and you can choose a Marksman or Weapons Expert sitting far away as the friendly operative for the action.
The Recon Drone also has better survivability than most other operatives in your Kill Team, and it can give you an extra Recon option in the Scouting step of missions with a Scouting step, so it’s no wonder this drone counts for two operatives.
MV31 Pulse Accelerator Drone (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This drone is the one that rewards you for taking a lot of Pulse Carbine-wielding operatives: any friendly operative within square/3 inch range of this drone gets one automatic succesful normal hit on any shooting attack made with its Pulse weapons, making it one of the more useful drones in your arsenal.
MV33 Grav-Inhibitor Drone (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This drone has an ability that subtracts 1 inch from the Charge and Dash actions of enemy operatives moving within 6 inches of it, which is a great ability for a Kill Team that really doesn’t want to get into close combat. It also has a Grav Wave Unique Action which places a token that leats a nearby Pathfinder operative Fall Back at a lower Action Point cost than it normally has, so this is a defensive drone in much the same way as the Shield Drone, but specifically targeted at keeping you out of close combat.
MV1 Gun Drone (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This is one of the more straightforward drones: It simply has a Twin Pulse Carbine which is like a regular Pulse Carbine but with full rerolls to all its attack dice. It’s generally preferable to choose other, more synergetic drones over this one.
MV4 Shield Drone (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This drone is designed to make optimal use of the Saviour Protocols rule that lets it take wounds instead of your other non-Drone operatives: it has a 4+ Invulnerable Save and can roll an additional dice to ignore non-mortal wounds on a roll of 5+. This is a great drone for keeping one of your more valuable operatives alive.
MV7 Marker Drone (1 allowed per Kill Team)
This drone has the same Markerlight Unique Action that your non-Drone operatives have, but it adds 2 Markerlight tokens to a target rather than 1 each time.
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Ploys of the Pathfinder Kill Team
Grants a free Dash action to friendly operatives close to a killzone edge if they don’t finish the Dash close to your own killzone edge.
For 1 Turning Point, add 1 to the Save characteristic of any non-Drone friendly operative in Cover when rolling aganst enemy shooting attacks.
Reroll one of your attack dice for any attack roll for 1 Turning Point as long as your attacking operative is close to another non-Drone friendly operative.
Once per battle, friendly operatives close to your Leader can benefit from the Art of War ability he triggered in the previous Turning Point (if he did so).
A Worthy Cause
Lets one of your non-Drone operatives activate before anyone else in a Firefight Phase if he is close to an enemy or close to an objective marker, and then the player with the Initiative gets to make their first activation (so if you have the Initiative, that’s two activations in a row). As per the latest balance update (December 23, 2022), it can only be used once per battle and if you have the initiative.
Lets you shoot once at an enemy that’s already within Engagement range of one of your operatives without your own operative providing Cover for that enemy for the purposes of that attack action (but it can still be in Cover for its defence roll).
Lets one friendly operative perform Dash actions in 1 Turning Point while in Engagement range of enemy operatives.
Equipment of the Pathfinder Kill Team
Target Analysis Optic
Makes any target of the bearers Shoot actions be treated like they have one more Markerlight token than they actually have for the purposes of that attack (as long as they already had at least one Markerlight token).
The bearer adds 2 Markerlight tokens to an enemy target rather than 1 when they apply Markerlights.
Orbital Survey Uplink
Gives the bearer an action that can apply a Markerlight to each enemy within triangle/2 inches range of the bearer.
Drone Repair Kit
Lets you heal a nearby drone as an action. The amount healed is potentially higher if the bearer is a Drone Controller operative.
A Cover-ignoring area damage grenade that scores critical hits on a roll value equal to the Save characteristic of the target (so if the target has a 3+ Save, you score critical hits on 3s or more!).
An Armour-Piercing single target grenade that causes mortal wounds on critical hits.
A grenade that slows the enemy target.
Significantly improves the bearers ability to move vertically (climb or drop).
Tac Ops of the Pathfinder Kill Team
Mark Enemy Movements
Awards you a Victory Point at the end of every Turning Point where at least half of the enemy operatives in killzone have one or more Markerlights on them.
This Tac Op gives you a Victory Point when you scored more Victory Points than your opponent from playing the mission objective in a Turning Point while also having more than half of your Kill Team Concealed.
This Tac Op is scored when the Wounds total of incapacitated enemy oepratives in a Turning Point is greater than the Wounds total of friendly incapacitated operatives in that Turning Point, and more than half of your Kill Team has an Engage order.
Playing the Pathfinder Kill Team
The best and most obvious way to play a Pathfinder Kill Team is to combine the many synergies you get from Markerlights, drones and abilities to unleash some really serious shooting as often as you can. The Pathfinders should generally avoid close combat, but if you’re bringing drones, you have many ways of keeping your operatives alive even if an enemy operative gets past all your gunfire.
Remember that you still have to play the mission objectives, however, and make good use of Tactical Ploys and the Mont’ka Art of War to move into position when you’ve made sure the enemy has taken enough hits from your shooting to not pose a threat to your operatives.