Am I missing something here or what?
What is the point of playing the merchant fleet? They look like worse Protectors in pretty much everything.
The #1 merchant player plays a list that can be played as Protectors, but better. He just handicaps himself for fun I guess.
I get it they have more HP, but what use is that when they're so vulnerable to boarding and morale damage, especially the battleships.
Look at the Tolku, it has to fire from broadside but has an adaptive deflector at the front, like really?
You pay for that yet you will get very little use out of it.
The torps come out the front so you either do a high energy turn before launching them or risk hitting your own ships with it while the missiles are arcing towards the target.
The Vash'ya cruiser does way less dps, yet is more expensive, has 5 LESS troops and has the same problems as the Tolku
The light cruisers would be good if they were not so god damn slow.
The builds are awkward when compared to the Protectors, for comparison:
The Custodian build has 12 bays, the 5x Protectors has 10.
To match that as the Merchant Fleet you need at least 3x Vash'ya BS, and have some change to spare, but you have NO MISSILES AT ALL, which you know... actually kill things.
If you go 4x Vash'ya BS, you get 16 bays and no missiles, so you damage comes over a long period of time through bombing runs and 30 dps worth of escorts, which is a crippling weakness for a faction so slow and vulnerable to boarding and morale damage.
Let's not forget they get no Tau warfare either, which is HUGE.
tldr; Design is all over the place, the only thing they specialize in is being bad.