Fireblades (or Shas'nel in Tau) are members of the Tau Fire Caste. Consisting of the most grizzled and seasoned veterans of their Cadre, their skills in the art of the Fire Warrior way of battle has led them to eschew Battlesuit technology, preferring instead to be equipped with a Pulse Rifle and Bonding Knife. Fireblades typically serve as field commanders and their experience on the battlefield has made them experts in directing firepower to maximize damage to enemy targets. Owing to their status, Fireblades also wear heavier armour than standard Fire Warriors.
Despite their name and choice of equipment, don't expect the Fireblade to do much CQC especially when he/she is going up against... Well, anything really. Keep them back and protected.
The path that the Fireblades have taken mean they can never rise to the rank of Shas'o, instead being limited to that of Shas'nel. Nor does the title carry the esteem associated with those who wear Battlesuits. Nonetheless, the Fireblades are still highly respected, not least because of their willingness to forgo prestige.
On the Table
These are the second cheapest HQ choice in the Tau codex beaten out only by naked Ethereals which automatically makes them of some use in small point games or as a cheap HQ in an allied list. His features include a BS5 markerlight, a cheap source of bonus drones. Apart from a cheap HQ the main advantage is giving a fire warrior squad an extra shot each with a special rule.
While this may not be "good" it was hilarious prior to 7e to take an allied Eldar/Tau army with a Farseer, an Ethereal, and a Fireblade. Invoke Fire with the Ethereal whilst Rapid firing with a guided Fire Warrior squad including a Fireblade and laughing as your foe suffers a statistical 39 Str5 hits not including drones from one squad. Sadly, 7th ed nerfed this by making Tau/Eldar Allies of Convenience, so no more Guide.
Funnily enough, as the rule is worded nothing prevents you from adding more Fireblades to a Fire warrior team (specially in 7th Unbound lists). For each Fireblade you add, there is one more shot for the ENTIRE team (and to the other Fireblades too!). 10 fireblades with 10 Fire warriors throw 11 shots each at 30 inches (total 220 shots, with half at BS 5). MORE DAKKA for the greater good. This isn't very useful for normal games, but in Apocalypse you can have a squad of 12 Fire Warriors and 10 Fireblades are putting out 11 shots EACH at max range, 12 at half, for a total of 242 shots at max range, of which 110 are at BS5. In Apocalypse games 600 points worth of HQ is small change. The amount of fire out of the squad is normally only seen from massed Guard firing lines, but is coming from a total of 22 models that is only 708 points (which is one Titan or a couple Baneblades). You can live the dream of all 40k players and erase a squad of Ultramarines every turn.
In normal games, the best use of a combined Fireblade squad is to have a surviving Fireblade join another squad after his first is wiped out, making it as if you still have the same amount of dakka as before.
BUT WAIT, 8E!
Fireblades still retain their cheapness, but now hit on 2's when shooting. They come with a Pulse Rifle that you'll probably never use, a markerlight, and some grenades. They also confer an extra shot to all Pulse Rifles, Carbines, and Pistols at half range. Combined with T'au sept they help form Terrifying gunlines. The biggest reason you want to take one is the EZ markerlight hit, which helps form markerlight chains to get that juicy +1 to shooting. If you are running a Gunline, and have not taken a Fireblade, you have done something wrong.
|Forces of the Tau|
|Command:||Cadre Fireblade - Ethereal - Ethereal Guard - Tau Commander|
|Troops:||Drone Squadron - Fire Warrior Team - Pathfinder Team - Stealthsuit Team|
|Auxiliaries:|| Great Knarloc - Gue'vesa - Kroot Carnivore Squad - Kroot Hound |
Krootox - Lesser Knarloc - Nicassar - Vespid Stingwing
|Battlesuits:|| Battlesuits (XV02 Pilot Battlesuit - XV15 Stealthsuit - XV22 Command Suit |
XV25 Stealthsuit - XV46 Vanguard Void Suit - XV-8 Crisis Battlesuit
XV88 Broadside Battlesuit - XV9 Hazard Battlesuit - XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit
XV104 Riptide Battlesuit - XV107 R'varna Battlesuit - XV109 Y'Vahra Battlesuit
KV128 Stormsurge Ballistic Suit - KX139 Ta'Unar Supremacy Armour)
|Vehicles:||Devilfish - Hammerhead - Piranha - Sky Ray - Tetra|
|Flyers:||Barracuda - Manta - Orca - Razorshark - Remora - Sun Shark - Tiger Shark|