The US Department of Defense (DoD) routinely uses wireless sensor networks (WSNs) for military tactical communications. Sensor node die-out has a significant impact on the topology of a tactical WSN. This is problematic for military applications where situational data is critical to tactical decision making. To increase the amount of time all sensor nodes remain active within the network and to control the network topology tactically, energy efficient routing mechanisms must be employed. In this paper, we aim to provide realistic insights on the practical advantages and disadvantages of using established routing techniques for tactical WSNs. We investigate the following established routing algorithms: direct routing, minimum transmission energy (MTE), Low Energy Adaptive Cluster Head routing (LEACH), and zone clustering. Based on the node die out statistics observed with these algorithms and the topological impact the node die outs have on the network, we develop a novel, energy efficient zone clustering algorithm called EZone. Via extensive simulations using MATLAB, we analyze the effectiveness of these algorithms on network performance for single and multiple gateway scenarios and show that the EZone algorithm tactically controls the topology of the network, thereby maintaining significant service area coverage when compared to the other routing algorithms.