I’ve been building, playing, and critiquing Ork lists for a while now and many things keep cropping up, so here’s some solid advice on pitfalls to avoid and ways to make an Ork army. This is less of a ‘what units to take’ guide and more of a ‘how make your army work with your style, how to gear and equip your units, what units are good for what, and what units to avoid’ guide.
-It is always better to max the squad size as far as possible. That allows the Orks to use mob rule and gives them enough durability to win CC against difficult opponents (so you’ll have enough boyz to hit back after the enemy strikes) and weather fire. Exceptions are deffkoptas (can’t get big enough to really matter) and gretchin mobs (though you still want at least 10-19 gretchin.) Some units just aren’t feasible to max out like nobs and especially meganobz, though larger units do tend to perform better.
-There are 2 styles of Ork army: mechanized and non-mechanized. Mechanized armies have nearly everything in a transport (either trukks or battlewagons.) There is no middle ground on this issue for Orks unless you’re using battlewagons as transports for some of your troops because battlewagons actually have a chance to weather your opponent’s anti-tank fire.
The reason this is so goes something like this: your opponent has the ability to take out say, 2 trukks a round. If you’ve only got 2 trukks, then they both die the first round. If you’ve got 4, then half your trukks survive past the first round. If you’ve got 6 trukks, then 2/3 of your trukks make it, and so on. Once a trukk is destroyed, it also tends to be incredibly bad for the Orks within, often effectively neutering an already handicapped squad (due to small mob size). Some units can take the punishment of a transport’s death like nobs and meganobz, but they’re better off in a battlewagon anyway.
-Looted wagons make decent if unreliable transports if you’re really hard up for a transport.
-Transports should be open-topped so your units can fire out or assault out of them at will. Extra armour, red paint job, and grot riggers are all good upgrades, but generally too expensive for trukks. When it comes to battlewagons they’re all excellent though. Reinforced rams are good for all transports though for the ability to reroll dangerous terrain checks, allowing you to drive through terrain without worry (virtually). The ramming ability will rarely come up but allowing trukks to tank shock is handy.
-Every HQ in the Ork codex has a role to play except for one. Weirdboyz are unreliable and almost as much a threat to the mob they’re in as a boon if you’re playing an opponent with blast weapons (due to deepstriking). If you use one I recommend the warphead upgrade to prevent as much poor rolling as possible.
-Warbosses are solid CC monsters. I always recommend power klaw because the rest of the Orks can handle things with poor saves so the army needs all the power klaws it can get. Using a big choppa to strike before marines is all well and good but it only nets you a third as many dead marines as a power klaw and against things like carnifexes and hive tyrants the big choppa gets you nowhere. Most importantly the power klaw gives you a strength 10 weapon to employ against vehicles like monoliths and land raiders, which gives you an effective way to kill them. If you have a warboss and you take nobs or meganobz, always take them as a troops choice so they can capture objectives.
-The kombi-weapon options are pretty good for the warboss. The skorcha is excellent and the rokkit is alright if you give him an ammo runt to reroll his inevitable miss. The problem with the rokkit is that the unit he’s with is rarely going to want to shoot at a tank. The twin-linked shoota is decent if he’s on foot, but hardly necessary.
-Cybork body is pretty much a necessary for the warboss. He often runs into power weapons and the save is very helpful to keep him surviving until he can use his power klaw.
-There are basically 3 versions of the warboss: bike, ‘eavy armour, and mega armour. The ‘eavy armour warboss is cheap and you can basically put him anywhere. The bike warboss is more expensive but is basically a carnifex on wheels. Don’t worry about putting him in a regular walking boyz mob to have him shoot out to engage vulnerable targets once the mob gets within 18”.
-Big Meks are useful in 2 ways: kustom force field and shokk attack gun. If you use a KFF make sure that it’s worth the cost. Keep in mind that it only gives a 5+ cover save, so for it to pay for the whole mek in casualties prevented it generally has to be prevent wounds to 14 boyz which means granting a cover save that wouldn’t otherwise be granted to 42 wounds from shooting to boyz. It’s tough to adjudicate if that’s going to happen, so just go be the rule that you want him protecting at least 60 boyz, several vehicles, or a combination of the two. Big Meks with shokk attack guns are fantastic at engaging targets with good armor saves which the rest of the list traditionally does poorly but you never want to leave alone. They’re incredibly pricey and fragile. There’s a good tactica for where to put them here: http://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...ad.php?t=34858
but basically you always want to put them in some other unit.
-Wazdakka Gutsmek is pretty much there just to allow you to field a warbikers as troops. If you’re fielding warbikers he’s worth considering, but otherwise not all that great.
-Mad Dok Grotsnik is very solid if you combine him with a full mob of slugga boyz (or a full transport of them), but that’s the only thing worth using him for. Meganobz shrug off regular attacks plenty well and Grotsnik helps them none against the AP1 or 2 or power weapons they’ll usually have to worry about. 4 more meganobz is much better. Though, giving the meganobz cybork bodies if you have Grotsnik in your army is worth it.
-Ghazghkull Thraka is pretty solid if he’s riding in a transport. His ability to automatically get a 6 for his WAAAGH! is pretty good combined with charging out of an open-topped transport. Don’t make the mistake of joining him to a unit of regular boyz and slowing them down.
-Old Zogwort is pretty much there for fun. He’s rarely effective for his points but turning your opponent’s super incredible HQ choice into an irate squig is worth more than mere points can ever represent. Some opponents don’t even have independent characters though, some independent characters can just stay out of his range, and his other psychic powers are unreliable and have great possibility for harming your own troops just like a normal warphead.
-Nobs are good but are more effective in a transport (battlewagon over trukk) or on bikes. Always take a painboy and as many nobs as you can afford in the squad. Take 1 powerklaw per 3 or 4 nobs to deal with tanks and heavily armoured infantry. Equip your nobs with a variety of different wargear loadouts to spread wounds around the squad without removing models. I also recommend cybork bodies for the whole squad, but not necessarily ‘eavy armour. Feel no pain and cybork body together is the equivalent of a 3+ save against normal wounds but you still get a 5+ invulnerable against wounds that ignore armor. ‘Eavy armour only buys you 9% fewer wounds taken from regular sources if you put it on top of cybork. It’s helpful certainly but not necessary if you’re looking to save some points. All of their upgrades are decent, though twin-linked shootas are best left to walking nobs. Equipping a nob with a bosspole is pretty much necessary because of their problems with leadership. Leading them with a warboss is a great idea too to keep their morale in line and also to allocate strength 8 or 9 wounds to the warboss to prevent instant death for the nobs. Nob bikers are pretty strong, albeit costly. Building them goes much like the guidelines for other nobs except you definitely want cybork for them all instead of just being recommended. The higher points invested in them is worth protecting.
-Meganobz are nice, but only in a transport. If you’re doing the nobs in transport thing, meganobz are typically a better choice than nobs.
-Burnas are nice in a transport, especially a battlewagon, but are otherwise fragile for their points. In the battlewagon you can just roll around spewing templates out the side, which is horrendously effective albeit expensive.
-Tankbustas are rarely worth it due to Glory Hog making them act like morons. They can’t hit the broadside of a barn anyway and are also fragile for their points. Tankbustas in a battlewagon are pretty decent because they can get close to a vehicle faster and launch all their rokkits from the comparative safety of the vehicle but this option is expensive not very effective for their points. Gear them to fight at range or in melee. For ranged a nob is not necessary but is helpful for morale with the bosspole. For melee taking some tankhammers and a nob with powerklaw is nice but a regular slugga boy mob is going to be better at fighting infantry and generally handles tanks just fine and costs much less.
-Lootas are good at what they do and what they do is something the Ork army needs: long ranged firepower. They can take down light vehicles with ease and are decent at killing infantry at range. Make sure to deploy them in some cover as they don’t deal with morale checks from losing casualties well. They also still have 2 attacks each and furious charge, so in a pinch can mix it up in assault.
-Kommandos are great for showing up and charging on the same turn. Snikrot especially helps with this and I highly recommend him. They don’t deal with dedicated CC specialists that well, being essentially slugga boyz, but the Nob or Snikrot does well against tanks and the unit does great against vulnerable rear line units. With a regular nob leading the squad there’s a chance that the unit will come in some place where they will be utterly ineffective, that chance is much lower with Snikrot. Don’t bother with big shootas or rokkits for kommandos, for the same reasons you don’t bother with them for slugga boyz (below). Burnas are really good for them though.
-If they’re in a transport, they’re better of as slugga boyz, especially if they’re in a trukk because the trukk is liable to die at any moment and you want to get them out asap (only point in shootas in a transport is to stay inside and shoot.) I’ve seen shootas in battlewagons and that works alright too.
If the boyz are walking, they are generally better off wielding shootas. Here’s a breakdown of the two types in more detail:
-Shoota Boyz: having a ranged weapon allows them to be within effective striking distance a turn earlier than sluggas, sometimes two, gives them a way to deal with dedicated CC units that isn’t playing to those units’ strengths, takes very little away from their CC ability, and lets them participate in the battle while camping an objective. They will still stomp most units into the pavement in assault. Shoota mobs are the most versatile unit in all of 40k, use this to your advantage by outshooting assault-based enemies and assaulting shooting enemies to be on the winning side of any engagement.
-Slugga Boyz: unlike their versatile brethren, slugga boyz only do assault but they do it slightly better. In particular they are much better at being assaulted than shoota boyz which is important since many foes are likely to be mechanized and Orks have trouble dealing with that from range. If you can’t kill vehicles before getting in assault range of the troops inside, you are going to get charged. Also, shootas cannot fire into an assault, and so get no benefit from their ranged weapons if your opponent is locked in combat with another unit, and so they get no benefit from their shootas in a counter-assault role. Hence, slugga boyz serve well as a unit to put in the center of your army’s push to act as counter-assaulters for units on the side of them or as bait for your opponent’s vanguard (such as terminators in a land raider.) So, losing out on a great deal of shooting ability gets replaced by a moderate increase in assault power but there are many situations in which you will not feel the loss of shooting.
-I personally like to have a mix of shoota and slugga mobs in a non-mechanized army so that I can better cater to my opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Generally my shootas will be going after objectives on my enemy’s side of the board while my sluggas bully the middle of the table.
-Always put a nob with power klaw in with your mobs. I recommend a bosspole too. The power klaw is generally very tough for your opponent to ferret out and is a lifesaver against models with good saves, T4 and multiple wounds, high toughness models, and vehicles. A big choppa doesn’t really do much that the boyz mob couldn’t already do.
-‘Ard boyz are almost never worth it except in transports where space is limited so paying for overly expensive upgrades isn’t a bad plan. The fact that the 4+ armor save costs almost as much as another Ork boy makes it really not worthwhile most of the time. Sometimes a big unit of boyz with 4+ armor is really nice for holding up against berserkers and the like in CC so you don’t lose combat as hard. 10 berserkers assaulting a unit of boyz can wipe it out with few casualties if the boyz don’t have something making them a little tougher.
-Stikkbombz are never worth it for boyz. You still strike after marines even with the charge and imperial guard and tau aren’t going to put up much of a fight in CC.
-Rokkits are also pretty much never worth it for boyz. You want your boyz to be running towards the enemy or shooting infantry in the shooting phase and using rokkits as anti-tank weapons prevents both of those for the chance to fire a few shots, most of which will miss. You’re paying a premium in points to prevent your mob from doing what they’re good at to do something they’re terrible at. Just not worth it. Powerklaws work great for taking out vehicles. Big shootas are a nice addition to shoota mobs (place them near the back to make the make the most out of their range) but rarely needed for slugga mobs who will generally be running and may not shoot altogether for fear of the enemy sacrificing models that will prevent you charging.
-Bosspoles are a decent enough way to spend your leftover points but not mandatory by any means. A bosspole gives you about a 50% (less if you’re testing from failed assault) chance to keep a debilitated unit with its powerklaw in the game. When I had them in all my boyz mobs I was getting use out of them once every 10 games or so. I’ve since dropped them and haven’t missed them.
-Boyz mobs are the backbone of any Ork army. They’re versatile and tough, don’t skimp on them.
Gretchin: Best taken with as few runtherds as possible (15-19 gretchin and 1 runtherd is optimal IMO). They’re probably the best objective holders in the game for their points against shooting, but have little firepower and tear like wet paper in CC as they’re going to lose combat by a ton and get mowed down as they flee. A unit of 20 models with 4+ cover saves is crazy good for 67 points though. I like to say that my Boyz fight, but my Gretchin win games because they take care of the objectives. These guys are a little investment that frees up your more expensive forces to go kill the enemy instead of being tied down to objectives.
-Stormboyz with a powerklaw nob are a good choice. The bosspole is pretty much required due to their max size being low and them being a prime target.
-Warbikers are another good choice. A nob with powerklaw and bosspole is pretty much required. I prefer them to stormboyz since they have a devastating shooting option as well as being able to fight well in CC. Stormboyz do a little better in assault though, and are half the cost albeit not as tough and virtually no save to the warbikers’ 4+ cover and 4+ armor and 3+ cover when turboboosting. Stormboyz can charge into cover without dangerous terrain checks though. It comes down to preference.
-Deffkoptas are somewhat of a wild card. You can turbo-boost them in front of everything in your army to have them soak up a round of shooting from your enemy. 2 wounds each and a 3+ cover save is pretty solid. On the other hand, they’re surprisingly weak in CC. Tough yes, but only 2 attacks each base at strength 3 unless they charge. They’re decent vehicle hunters, though expensive. Each basically has a 55% chance of hitting with each shot they fire. For anti-infantry there are better options (like warbikes).
-Warbuggies are decent if you have a bunch of vehicles. They can’t outflank like deffkoptas or ignore terrain like deffkoptas and can’t tie up ranged specialist squads like deffkoptas but are pretty tough for their points if you have other vehicles as well. Their optimal role is probably tank hunting in a mechanized list. Giving them big shootas is a reasonable option if you’re hurting for anti-infantry ranged firepower but generally not worth it, especially in the current metagame. Skorchas likewise are more trouble than they’re worth. Keep your warbuggies as low points as you can though and don’t worry about upgrades. Also, in a list where they’re the only vehicles they are too vulnerable to survive your opponent’s focused anti-tank for long and I would not recommend them.
-Battlewagons are best used as transports. Battlewagons with killkannons are expensive for what they do, but then again the Ork army lacks low AP weaponry, so you’re paying a premium for a rare ability. It’s easy to put too many upgrades onto a battlewagon, so choose its role carefully and gear towards that and only that. There are plenty of battlewagon tacticas floating about though.
-Looted wagons make decent transports in a pinch but I don’t recommend it. Looted wagons with a boomgun and ‘ard case are pretty decent for providing low ap large blasts, but only if you’ve got other vehicles because if they’re alone they will just get quickly destroyed. They’re still probably high priority to kill for most opponents. Taking 3 with boomguns in a game of less than 1,000 points can be fun and amusingly effective against some opponents.
-Killa Kans are pretty amazing, one of the underdogs of the Ork codex that most people write off. They’re incredibly cheap and for their points are extremely tough. The grotzooka is an amazing weapon for killing infantry and light vehicles and with their bs of 3 their other weapons have a decent chance of hitting too. Kustom mega-blastas are a little too pricey to be worth it though. A squad of 3 gets 9 str 10 power attacks on the charge too. Sure they’ve only got a ws of 2 but they still hit ws 4 troops on a 4+, same as dreadnoughts or deff dreads.
-Deff dreads are just not worth taking over killa kans. Their ranged ability is laughable until they get within template range, at which point a deff dread becomes about as effective as a pair of grotzooka kans are from 18” away. 2 AV 11 vehicles are tougher than 1 AV 12 vehicle too. The kans get more attacks than a deff dread does unless it takes 2 DCCWs, at which point the kans outclass it at range completely and still have the same number of attacks on the charge. They both hit on the same number against ws 4 stuff and that’s most of what they’ll be fighting in any combat that’s not going to be utterly one-sided anyway. If your heavy support choices are full and you’ve got a big mek it may be worth taking a deff dread as a troops choice but not usually.
-Flash Gitz aren’t worth it. Too many points for too little output that’s unreliable anyay. If you insist on using them take a painboy or put them in a battlewagon. The more dakka and shootier upgrades are both good if you do take them though. You’re still better off getting your anti-infantry firepower elsewhere however. For 30 points you could have either a flash git with 2 str 5 shots with 24” range and bs 2 or you could have a warbuggy with 3 str 5 shots that are twin-linked at 36” range.
-Big Gunz are decent ranged support, especially kannons. Zzap guns are too unreliable for killing tank (average penetration strength is 10.5 to kannon shells that are average penetration strength 11.5 and are cheaper) and zzap guns are also too expensive to be shooting at even the most heavily armored infantry. Big Gunz are also fragile, even a single heavy bolter has a good chance of killing crew and forcing them to run or wrecking the gun. They do ranged support well though, something Orks generally lack. Most people consider them too fragile to be relied upon and I’m inclined to agree. Generally deffkoptas or warbuggies do the tank hunting thing better.
Building an army:
-Figure out if you want to run a mechanized army or big walking mobs
-Figure out how many regular boyz you want and how many other troops you want. You can run green tide with all the orks you can get or you can have a solid backbone of a core of Orks and lots of walkers or lootas or just a few boyz mobs and be heavily invested in nob bikers and/or other fast units, it’s up to you. IMO it’s best to have versatility so having ranged support, some tough dedicated CC troops, and some speedy units like bikers, stormboyz, and kommandos is the best way to go about things. This lets you deal with a variety of threats.
-As with any army, keep in mind how your units will work together and challenges you’ll be likely to face when designing your army to act as a cohesive whole instead of a random collection of units.
When it comes to competitiveness in the timed tournament scene for Orks and current heavily mechanized metagame, battlewagon-based armies are currently the most competitive.
I’d say most comments about army lists fall somewhere in the above (mine certainly do.) There are exceptions to some of these things, where you may be willing to pay more for a certain unit to fill a role desperately needed. And, of course, the above are all mechanical considerations. Liking certain models, enjoying the randomness of certain things, betting against the odds for the chance to do something awesome like with Zogwort, etc. obviously have bearing, this is merely an evaluation of those units and the roles they play by someone with a great deal of Ork experience.