You play Tau and are in an Apocalypse game. You need firepower. You need to get your troops into battle without them being shot up by that Reaver Battle Titan your opponent fields. You need big. You have a LOT of disposable income and incredible modeling skills. You, my dear neckbeard, need a Manta.
The Manta is one of the largest, heaviest, dakkaest and most expensive models ever made by Games Workshop, second only to a particular walking rape machine that could solo an entire apocalypse formation. Sold at £1050 (or roughly $1385 for those from Glorious Nation of Americaland, or €1200 for blessed citizens of sacred Europolis Union (may it last thousand, or more likely, thirty years, give or take HERESY!*BLAM*)) it is prohibitively expensive even by Forge World standards. Seriously, you could get yourself a good laptop, next generation console and desktop for this kind of money. It is notably the only model in the game that has a gun that can't reach the other end of the model. It is roughly as wide as two Thunderhawks are long and one and a half time as long, sports enough weapons to lay waste to entire armies and is able to carry an army on its own. Intended as a superheavy drop ship, it can pull double duty as a small spacecraft to defend Tau capital ships from enemy action and can be employed as a Titan hunter. The funny part? It's the size of a Fury Interceptor (well about half the size if the measurements below are correct). Makes you feel sorry for the "fighters" launched by Tau starships against other warships, doesn't it? Despite that, a single Manta is equal in firepower with most other factions bomber wing, and quite capable of destroying an escort ship on its own with a lucky roll. Furthermore, it EATS enemy interceptor wings thrown at it on 4+. Makes you wonder just how low-tech the Imperium's small spacecraft are if something equal in size is outperforming dozens of them by that much. Its more likely that GW is really really shitty at keeping scales consistent between different books, let alone different game systems. Not that it matters since they’re outnumbered hundreds-to-one by the Furies regardless. And their main guns are basically the Tau equivalent of lances.
Interesting enough it comes with quite a few models on its own: 2 Devilfish, 2 Hammerhead Gunships, 8 Battlesuits, FOUR DOZEN seated (and therefore useless in a regular game) Fire Warriors, eight Drones, and one seated Ethereal (also useless unless you make a floating space pope throne). So you could theoretically subtract the cost of those models (between 450 and 500 dollars). The cost is still absurd.
On the Tabletop
Want to field a Manta? That'll be well over 1800 points. The guns increase the cost by nearly 600 points, for a grand total of 2469 points for the entire thing. What do you get for this, aside a massive resin paper press? For starters, a T8 3+ beast with 60 wounds. It deteriorates over time, but you have to lose half your wounds to start noticing anything. And paired with a 4++ save, your life expectancy just went up a lot. And with 20"-60" Supersonic movement, it can be wherever it wants to be during a battle. And with BS2+ that won't drop to 4+ until you have less than 10 wounds, it remains effective in combat. Hilariously it also has 5 attacks at WS5+ S8, so while it's not very effective in combat it can hold its own in a fight. The Manta can also opt to hover, getting a 20" speed and stops being a flyer. It also has the odd rule that it adds 12" to the measured distance of weapons used against non-flyers, to symbolize how high up it is.
The Manta carries an entire army's worth of heavy weapons:
- It comes with a pair of Heavy Rail Cannons. Two shots of S18 AP-5 D2D6 that deal an additional D3 Mortal Wounds on a 6+ Wound roll, and deal double damage against Buildings and Titanic targets, this will really ruin the day of any Titanic unit it hits. Sure, with only 2 shots a single miss will really hamper your damage output, but with S18 you'll need T10 to not get wounded on a 2+. If both hit you're looking at an average of 14 wounds, discounting the extra Mortal Wounds from rolling sixes. Powerful against vehicles and other large units, but nigh useless against blobs. And as a Macro weapon the Manta can move and shoot with the thing.
- Six long-barreled Ion Cannons make up for the Manta's secondary armament. Clocking in at 18 S7 AP-2 D2 shots this will really ruin the day of any TEQ that gets hit by it through sheer attrition alone. While you could opt to overcharge them to turn the weapon into a Heavy D3 gun which is 2D3 against units with 10 or more models, units that are the prime target of the Ion Cannons rarely come in those sizes. And while you could easily tank the Mortal Wounds suffered from rolling ones it's not really worth it.
- Sixteen Long-Barrelled Burst Cannons bring the pain in the form of a grand total of 64 S5 AP0 D1 shots. This can eat several units of GEQs in one turn, so assign your shots carefully and don't forget you don't have to blow your entire load in one turn. Aim at the right targets and they'll serve you well. If you're feeling ballsy they could even turn them against vehicles: a tank with less than T10 and with a 3+ save can expect to eat 6 wounds on average. Not your preferred targets, but it can be done.
- Two Missile Pods. Nothing special here: four shots of S7 AP-1 DD3 can support your Ion Cannons against targets with worse saves than 2+ and could be used to finish up tanks.
- Ten Seeker Missiles. Using them is simple: slap 2+ Markerlights on any tanks with a maximum of 8 Wounds, and no matter how tough it is you can evaporate it with a single salvo. You can do this only once per battle, but it's worth it.
Another draw of the Manta is that it's also a transport. If you can somehow still afford an army after this, it can carry 55 models in its upper deck and 145 in its lower deck. 55 models for the upper deck translates into 3 Strike Teams with 2 Drones each and a Pathfinder team with 2 drones as well. The final spot can be filled by an Ethereal, a Cadre Fireblade, an additional Drone for the Pathfinders or, by technicality, Shadowsun.
The lower deck can transport 145 models who are Infantry or Drones. This is a total of 12 Fire Warrior squads with 2 drones each, or a variety of Pathfinders, Stealth Battlesuits (which is allowed) and sniper teams, as well as Ethereals and Fireblades. It can also transport Kroot Carnivores and Shapers, but no Riders or Hounds. It can additionally carry eight XV8 or XV9 Battlesuits, so no Broadsides or Ghostkeels. Coldstars are allowed however, as is Shadowsun. Because of poor wording it can additionally transport four Devilfish or Hammerheads, on top of the 145 Infantry/Drone units and Battlesuits, meaning that you can fit more than an entire army in there. The double-decked Devourer Dropship come to mind.
As for tactics: plonk it down and watch your opponent bring everything they have to bear in a failed attempt to kill it. Devour chunks of his army with it, then use the rest of yours to finish the battle. Big targets die first, with units that pose a threat to the rest of your army going next so your other forces are more difficult to deal with.
The Manta has a nice round 100 Power, which makes it an army in its own right. Tactics remain the same: plonk it down and let 'er rip.
If you field a Manta, you are automatically That Guy. Nobody else would buy, paint and field this mothermucker. While having a staggering amount of Dakka, it is hardly the most cost-effective (both in points and dollars) way to get it. If you want the Titan-killing power of Heavy Railguns, field the Tiger Shark AX-1-0 instead: it costs only a third of the points and a sixth of the cash. Use the rest of the points and money elsewhere, stuff your Fire Warriors and Battlesuits in an Orca and drop them from there. Even just fielding this thing is a pain in the ass due to its HUEGness, and collectors would be better off spending money on cheaper models. The Manta is so ridiculous that in Battlefleet Gothic it gets a 4+ save because fuck you, that's why.
Alternative Take:Yes, the Manta is defintely a That Guy move. But is a sweet looking model nonetheless, so worth saving up for to buy someday. Also, Orcas are no longer in production so fuck anyone who says take an Orca instead.
Whenever monetary resources are not available, sheer skill and enthusiasm can allow a dedicated 40k fan to get his/her own Tau manta, as shown by some awesome people who have managed to build their own mantas using foam, cardboard, etc. The example shown to your right used only $40 of foam plus required tools and extra materials. Of course this is hard work, but hey! You are a smar/tg/uy! You get shit done! And because Forgeworld wouldn't let a filthy xenos aircraft be the costliest thing they ever sell, the Imperium's Warlord Titan!
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada I & II
In Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, the Manta is single-handedly the most powerful bomber in the game. No surprise given the sheer size of the damned thing. Boasting a ludicrous 120 hull damage against ships per-Manta, it is also the toughest by a wide margin and has the best AA attacks out of any bomber. It is only limited to its pop size. Only one per-launch bay.
|Forces of the Tau|
|Command:||Cadre Fireblade - Ethereal - Ethereal Guard - Tau Commander|
|Troops:||Drone Squadron - Fire Warrior Team - Pathfinder Team - Stealthsuit Team|
|Auxiliaries:||Gue'vesa - Kroot (Great Knarloc - Kroot Carnivore Squad - Kroot Hound |
Krootox - Lesser Knarloc - Shaper) - 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 - Hover Chair - Piranha - Sky Ray - Tetra - Swordfish|
|Flyers:||Barracuda - Razorshark - Remora - Sun Shark - Tiger Shark|
|Kor'Vattra:||Manta - Orca - Automated Fighting Drone |
Automated Barge Drone - Automated Bombing Drone
|Vessels of the Tau Kor'Vattra and its Auxillaries.|
|Space Station||Tau Space Station|
|Battleships||Battleship (Tau Merchant - Or'Es El'Eleath |
Stronghold - Warsphere)
|Cruisers||Light Cruiser (Tau Merchant - Tau Protector) |
Cruiser (Tau Merchant - Tau Protector - Bastion)
|Escorts||Escort (Tau Merchant - Tau Protector - Nicassar Dhow)|
|Titans||KX139 Ta'Unar Supremacy Armour|