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Aun'shi- the Warlord of the latest expansion pack "Gift of the Ethereals", is the 2nd Tau Warlord for Conquest, and features a unique set of abilities - as well as drawbacks! I love "tricky" card interactions, and so I was immediately intrigued by Aun'shi. He and his signature squad both have a forced reaction- after they attack, they must retreat from battle and head back to HQ. While that very much fits the fluff of Ethereals in the Universe, it is something you really have to consider when playing as or against this warlord!
First, let's take a close look at Aun'shi. Nothing new with starting cards or resources: 7 for both. Aun'shi's stats are, however, some of the best with 2 ATT and 7 HP (Along with Ragnar and Nazdreg). Aun'shi has two traits: Soldier and Ethereal. Finally, all Tau units you control at a planet with Aun'shi gain armorbane. That is huge! However, after attacking he must move to the HQ.
Clearly some strategy begins to present itself before even seeing any other cards- keep Aun'shi in the battle as long as possible before attacking! He has some major drawbacks - unlike every other warlord, he cannot win planets by himself if the opponent has an inexpensive unit there for the command struggle. He can win the command struggle and probably kill the unit (he hates Sanctioned Psykers!), but he will not be able to trigger the battle ability. However! With some high damage, ranged units at a planet with him - destruction can be wrought upon the enemy!
Next we get to his signature squad. He is joined by 4 Ethereal Envoys who's abilities look quite similar. They are one of the most cost-effective units, stat-wise. Costing a mere 1 resource for 1 ATT, 3 HP, and 1 command icon is a steal. They are saddled with Aun'shi's same Forced Reaction. With the low cost, low attack, these make excellent command struggle winners, although with some combos we'll discuss below they can become pivotal in battle.
Aun'shi would be incomplete without his Sanctum- a place to meditate on wrecking his foes. This is an excellent support, and it's a shame it's only a "1 of". Remember what I said about ranged units earlier? Imagine having the Stingwing swarm (or Vior'la Marksman with an Ion Rifle!) at a planet with Aun'shi when you possess the sanctum. The swarm attacks in the ranged phase, then can ready and do it again? That's potentially a bloodied
warlord! Love this card.
The Honor Blade is Aun'shi's signature weapon. Bolstering the attack of all tau by +1 the synergy here is painfully obvious. This card is so good, and unlike the Sanctum, the Tau have at least some ability to dig for the blade.
Finally, the event Ethereal Wisdom sees 2 copies in your deck, and temporarily grants a target Tau unit +1 ATT and the Ethereal trait. While granting the Ethereal trait may seem moot at this point, it's clear that Aun'shi has a de facto 5th card that, while not included in his signature squad cards, is an absolute necessity.
So, to review, Aun'shi's signature squad is alright. The Ethereal Envoys are so-so. but a good buy at 1. The Honor Blade and Aun'shi's sanctum are both great right off the bat! Ethereal Wisdom is so-so until we look at...
Kauyon Strike. When this card was released in The Scourge, people knew it was meant for Aun'shi. Suddenly all of your Ethereal units can descend upon a battle at Combat Action speed! "Oh, your warlord is exhausted? Bummer, cause here come some of my mates to rough him up!". Suddenly Ethereal Wisdom + Kauyon strike becomes one of the most powerful combos in the game. Need that Stingwing Swarm moved? done. Just watch out for tricksy Eldar and their nullify!
Editor's note: How did I not mention this card originally?
The final card that must be brought up is the Aun'ui Prelate. While he is a bit pricey at 4 resources (and thus fairly easy to telegraph as a result), his utility is obvious. Swinging for 4 and making the rest of your Tau swing for +1? Catch an enemy warlord exhausted and it's all over. Plus, he can trigger your Homing Beacon just in case you don't have any other Ethereals returning home. Fantastic card, that has often been the deciding factor in my games.
In conclusion, Aun'shi presents a unique, combo-centric, potentially very powerful deck archetype to the Tau (who were, in my opinion, very lacking under Commander Shadowsun). I have played with and against Aun'shi fairly extensively at this point, and I've come to the conclusion that he can definitely win, but not always consistently (I will note that several store championships have recently been won with Aun'Shi so take my opinion with a grain of salt!). If the right combos are pulled off, and the right cards drawn- Aun'shi can win huge. However, with some clever plays by your opponent, everything can fall apart pretty quickly. I've had the most success with Aun'shi as a warlord sniper (which I think he does even better than Ragnar!). With a honed deck, and in the right matchup, Aun'shi is a killer. Against a savvy opponent with a strong understanding of Aun'shi - he can be easy to play around. Against opponents who aren't quite as strong with the Conquest rules or aren't prepared for Aun'Shi- he stands a good chance to win it.
Give Aun'shi a try, and sound off in the comments what's worked (and what hasn't worked!) for you. Who do you prefer to ally with?
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