Just what is the deal with the new Ork codex? I’ve spent a significant amount of time pondering it, because it’s a bit tricky. Of course, the first book of a new edition is always tough to work out, but the Ork codex in particular has a strange mix of things that were left exactly the same and things that changed just enough to be totally different from what they were before while still looking similar enough.
Especially in the face on an unstable meta this is a particularly complex problem to untangle and it’s not one that I think I have a strong grasp of yet. On the other hand, most of the rest of the internet seems to have decided to go with the most absurd possible opinions on what the book means. I’ve seen a lot of lists and ideas floating around in terms of what “the new Orks” are going to be and most of them seem to have an overall plan that is something like “lose on turn 1, go downhill from there.”
New Ork Basics
So the first thing we need to establish: the new book is different from the old book. Duh? Yes, well, a lot of people seem to be under the impression that this isn’t the case- that the new book just updates a few point costs, nerfs a few things, and is otherwise unchanged. And in some cases that is true- there are some units that hardly changed at all. But there are also a lot of units that underwent radical shifts in how they work, even if they are superficially the same. Even something as simple as a shift in which Battlefield Role (or Force Org slot, in the old parlance) a unit occupies can make a massive difference, despite everything else being the same. So don’t judge a book just by its cover, nor a new codex by its most superficial aspects.
Second, yes, many things did get toned down from before. The KFF and Deffrolla are the two most obvious candidates here, but they’re not the only ones. This is pretty normal and happens to every book- some units get stronger, some units get weaker, and particular egregious things tend to get toned down. Tau didn’t get to keep their S10 AP1 Broadside shots, but that doesn’t mean their book is worthless. Eldar lost automatic access to Fortune and Doom, but that doesn’t mean they are in any way bad. Daemons don’t get Eternal Warrior or armor-ignoring poisoned Flamers anymore, but it still turns out they can do just fine. When a new book comes out, what is good will usually change, so get used to that or get over it.
Lastly, and just to emphasize- the existence of a new book and a new edition does not completely change the fundamental aspects of the game. Black is not white. Up is not down. Bad strategies are not good. Many things are different, and the value of many choices have shifted- but many other things have not changed at all, and a bad plan is usually still a bad plan. The mathematical realities of how things work is still, in most cases, just the same, so throwing all of that out the window just is not going to get you far.
So the first thing we should probably talk about is Mob Rule and how it works now. The old Mob Rule was actually just fine most of the time- it was a Fearless rule with some limitations on it that made for interesting list-writing decisions. The new Mob Rule is… well, it’s more random and often more damaging, but it’s also more likely to keep you active in a lot of cases. You have a 60% chance to simply pass the check straight up (outside of combat, anyways)- so reasonable odds there, at least, and with a Warboss present or some other morale-booster that can potentially go up even higher. If you fail that, you get to roll on the chart, and for a starting Ork squad 5/6 of the results should cause you to pass the check at the cost of a few casualties. For ‘Ard Boyz, Meganobz, and other well-armored units the consequences for Mob Rule are actually pretty minimal; for the more standard Ork units, however, it’s a bit less pleasant. Your typical result for either will be 1-2 dead orks, which is a pretty small price to pay, but with some good/bad rolls it’s possible to lose up to six. Obviously that’s an outlier, but everyone knows that bad rolls never happen in dice-based games, right? Right?
The main fallout of the new Mob Rule is actually somewhat interesting- before, reducing an ork unit to less than ten members was actually very powerful, because it often meant that a simple assault with a reasonable squad could wipe the unit out, or a Pinning check could lock them down and give you another unit to deal with them. Now, however, simply reducing them to ten models still gives them a ~70% chance to pass a Pinning check anyways- and in combat, their odds of sticking around are likewise pretty good. (50%+, depending on how much the combat was lost by.) This means that small Ork squads that have kept their character are no longer ignorable or trivial to deal with. The flip side, however, is that every Leadership check is generally going to rack up a few more casualties on the unit, and with the ability to force multiple checks per turn from Tank Shock and such, that can wind up being a way for the enemy to get some free kills. For small squads this isn’t really a disadvantage because the situations in which they lost those models they essentially would have been wiped out/rendered useless anyways, but it can be a way to whittle down a larger squad. And let’s not forget that ‘1’ result on the chart- it is entirely possible for a mob of thirty Boyz to be Pinned or Swept in combat or whatnot.
Another important addition is ‘Ere We Go, which gives Orks a not-quite-Fleet ability to extend their charge range. Although it’s strictly worse, especially combined with the ability to call a Waaaagh! and hit the enemy after starting 16″ or 20″ away it can make Orks a lot faster than they “seem” despite moving at exactly the same speed as normal infantry. Frankly, this almost can’t be considered an advantage so much as it is a basic requirement of being an army that wants to get assaults off- Orks don’t have Move Through Cover, so terrain of any type will slow them down (and lack of terrain will mean they evaporate in droves to normal shooting.) However, it’s very much worth keeping in mind when playing as (or against) them- typical Ork charge ranges will be 6″-9″, as opposed to the 4″-7″ you’ll likely see off other armies, at least before subtracting out terrain.
One thing that a lot of people have- correctly- noted is that the Ork Heavy Support slot is very, very crowded. You have Battlewagons, Mek Gunz, Lootas, and more in there, which can make for pretty fierce competition for space. Of course, if it’s allowed you can just field two or three CADs, but many tournaments aren’t going to allow this sort of thing because of other armies, so I don’t think Orks can lean too heavily on that solution. However, there are some pretty good units available between the different slots, so I think it will be more of the standard “you can only get the units that actually fit your army” kind of decisions that a lot of people have to make. Tau, Eldar, Daemons, SM, etc, all have crowded slots as well, so we’ll see to what degree this becomes a real limiter on Orks.
(Formations, which we’ll talk about more below, also alleviate a lot of the Ork problems.)
Gear of Wars
Orks have some really big ups and some really big downs when it comes to wargear in the new book. Their relics, although limited to one per character, are amazing. Lucky Stixx combined with Mega-Armor is pretty unstoppable, as it allows a Warboss or Big Mek to tank Flamer wounds and other obnoxious things for their squad. Much like an Iridium commander attached to some Kroot, you can let the big guy take regular shots and pass AP2 stuff off to his nameless buddies, so I think this is a trick you’ll end up seeing a lot. Oh, and in case that weren’t enough, it’s also a mobile Waagh Banner. Da Finkin’ Kap is another prime choice that will make it into virtually every list- an extra warlord trait on one of the best tables available is something that you will pretty much never turn down; it gives you a very good reason to run a second HQ so you can get both of these items.
The Deffroll and KFF, staples of every single Ork army ever under the old book, both got a lot worse- but that’s hardly a surprise. Both of them can still be worth taking, but they’re no longer the go-to picks they were before. Rokkits, on the other hand, are universally cheaper, so expect to see a lot more of them around despite their unreliability. The twin-linked ones especially are a nice option to have, as are the ones on the many vehicles that can get them.
Units to Watch
These are the units that, from first glance, jump out at me as things that may end up being common inclusions. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are necessarily powerful or auto-picks, but they definitely bear paying some attention to.
PAINBOYZ: As a cheap HQ that hands out FNP to the large mobs or Orks, Painboyz are gonna see some use. How much, exactly, is hard to say, but I would be surprised not to see most Ork armies fielding at least one of them because being able to roll a 5+++ in addition to your other saves will cut down on Ork casualties from all sources quite a bit.
WARBOSS: Since he’s the guy that gives you the Waaaaagh!, which is pretty critical to getting charges off, expect to see him a lot of the time as well. He’s also a prime candidate for Da Lucky Stixx and is a pretty strong fighter compared to most HQs.
TANKBUSTAS: These guys haven’t gotten nearly as much attention as I think they deserve. So for 7pts per Ork, you can give every single model in a squad Rokkits- oh, and also you get the Tank Hunter rule in the bargain and also occasionally some bonus VP at random. Guys, that is a fantastic package, guys. For those that haven’t seen it in action, Tank Hunter is one of the best special rules you can possibly have and their ability volley out large numbers of S8 AP3 shots is No Joke. They’re fragile as all get out, but with protection from a Battlewagon they can roam around the field ruining peoples’ days.
MEGANOBZ: Large numbers of Power Klaw attacks, 2+ armor, two wounds, all for the cost of a Terminator. Do it. (Also see below.)
STORMBOYZ: They actually compete with Warp Spiders in terms of speed, and that is saying something. The 2d6″ run allows them to cover some crazy distances, especially in combination with a Waaaagh, but remember that Dangerous Terrain tests will tear your guys to pieces because of their shitty armor. 9pts is a pretty cheap price for a unit like them, though.
MEK GUNZ: The basic Kannon actually went down in price, and they were really good before- however, they did lose out in terms of Morale, so be careful there. Lobbas also got cheaper, and barrage weapons are still excellent. Most of the “new” guns are middling, but the Smasha (Str d6+4 AP1) and Traktor (S8 AP3 skufire, brings stuff down) both can potentially fill some significant holes in the Ork arsenal. Note that you can take them in units of up to five now as well.
BATTLEWAGONS: AV14 is still tough to kill, although you can no longer rely on that 5+ to protect you all the time. Still, Explodes results are pretty rare, so you can do alright- just watch for Serpents slithering into your side arcs. Orks need to get a lot of models across the field as quickly as possible and Trukks are not generally going to do the job properly, so these are your best bet. They also can mount a pretty significant array of guns on them, which may not be the worst thing in the world this time around. (Also see below.)
FLASH GITZ: I’m not sure what to think here, exactly. You have a chance at reasonable Ballistic Skill, a weapon with good stats and a good profile. On the other hand, they’re not cheap, I’m not sure what they do is strictly needed, and they’re fighting for one of the toughest slots in the codex. As I said, worth keeping an eye on.
Things That Belong in a Garbage Can (Because They Are Garbage)
TRUKKS: Okay, guys, do we remember when Trukks were bad because they were paper-thin and could only carry a very small number of models and weren’t really all that cheap? Well all of those things are still true, so why the hell is everyone suddenly spazzing out over lists with six or nine Trukks in them? Sit the fuck down, a Trukk carrying anything other than Meganobz is pretty underwhelming.
*ORKANAUTS: These guys are really expensive, aren’t Assault Vehicles, are kinda middling in close combat (AV13, no Stomp/Str D, no special immunities) and are not even close to cheap at all. Why do we care about this expensive kit that looks like a refrigerator, again? Being able to get a really wide KFF bubble is cute, but given how slow they are I don’t think it’s worth it- all the models you care about are gonna outpace them pretty quickly.
KANS AND DREADS: Kans are AV11 HP2 and are subject to “morale” now. Do you remember what we said about Trukks, above? Have you seen any units of Killa Kans on the table recently? Do you understand why you haven’t? In a world of S6/7 multishot weapons, they just don’t last long enough- especially since the “best” gun (Grotzooka) got more expensive and their Rokkits are the only ones in the whole codex that didn’t get a discount. Dreads actually got better, but not by enough to make a slow AV12 melee platform viable.
STOMPAS: Alright, I’m exaggerating for effect here- Stompas aren’t actually bad, and some armies will really struggle with them. But expecting that you will get to roll your 4+ repair attempts on them is pretty optimistic most of the time- a lot of people are gonna drop in and hit it with Meltaguns or otherwise bring it down in a single turn of shooting. All in all it’s probably one of the most “fair” Lords of War they have printed, but understand that does it no favors in terms of trying to build a strong list.
GHAZGHULL: Read the damn Escalation FAQ- Lords of War do NOT give up additional Victory Points in normal games and Ghazzy is not required to be your Warlord (although he can be.) However, with decreases to his abilities and no real compensation, I can’t see why you would ever be worried about this guy, so stop telling people that all Lords of War are broken and OP and cheesy and you won’t play against them.
Formations and Charts
So let’s get this out of the way- the Ork “special” Force Org isn’t worth it. It doesn’t have Objective Secured, and that is a huge loss. In compensation you get a handful of extra slots and Hammer of Wrath sometimes? Uh, no, thanks. The critical thing to remember here is not that you expect to be stealing objectives from people with OS- it’s that if you don’t have it, people will be able to do that to you.
With that said, the formations from the supplement are AMAZING. Holy shit. Two of them in particular stand out- taking three five Battlewagons and giving them all Scout and taking 3×5 Meganobz and giving them Fear/Fearless/WS5. Both of these not only take a good unit and give it some incredibly relevant boosts, they also free up slots that you want to be able to take more of- in 1750+ games, I don’t think you have a good excuse for not fielding both of them. The “take some units and combine them into one giganto-unit” formations are actually pretty lackluster, however- as cute as the idea of 180 Slugga Boyz in a mob is, the unit is just too inflexible to really work out right. And how stupid would you feel if you get charged by a blob of Guardsmen with buffs up and get your ass kicked?
So the formations add a ton to the Ork arsenal, but I think the downside here is that they need them to really work out well- depending on how tournaments rule things, you may be limited to one formation, which will make things tricky.
~Kirby out, do you think the Orks made the cut?