Standard caveat: this series is meant to discuss Orks in high-level competitive play. I realize that many people have done just fine with Orks in many, many games and even tournaments; reminding me of this, or telling me about how you do just fine with your Orks or there’s a guy at your shop who is awesome and plays Orks does not meaningfully impact what I’m writing here. There are, realistically speaking, only a small number of high-level tournaments held in the entire world each year, and ‘Ard Boyz certainly isn’t one of them. I’m writing this article not to bash on Orks or those who play them, but to shine a light onto how I analyze an army and its strengths (or weaknesses.) By knowing what the potential failures of a list are, it becomes possible to understand and avoid them; hence, this rather lengthy and pompous discussion of an army that, by Internet reckonings, I must loathe with a passion in order to write such vile slander about.

This time around the block we’re going to go into what I see as one of the biggest failings of the Ork codex; however, this isn’t going to be just about Orks, as there are other codices that are prey to some of the same problems, so other armies can take the examples to heart. The elephant in the room is, of course, their ability to kill tanks- or, more accurately, their inability to do so in many cases. Don’t get me wrong- Orks do have several useful units in terms of getting AT firepower, but they suffer from units crowding each other out as well as most of their options being expensive, unreliable, slow, or all of the above.

First off, what do we want from our anti-tank? Orks are a melee army, and that means that they want to be assaulting the enemy as soon as possible. That means we need to be cracking open transports in turns 1-2 so that we can make our charges on turns 3-4. (It would be nice to charge things earlier, but our opponents often don’t let us, so this is a more reasonable expectation.) We also need to keep heavy firepower units from shooting us as we approach- Predators, Basilisks, etc, can really mess us your plans if you leave them to do their thing.

This brings us to our first lesson: melee is not anti-tank. Melee does not kill transports early. Melee does not shut down enemy guns before they shoot us. Melee is not even unusually efficient at killing tanks, as a Klaw has about the same chances as a Meltagun of killing most tanks. If your army is relying on point-blank range attacks, either melee or melta, to do all of its work, it is conceding a HUGE portion of its strategic viability to the enemy- what will you do against someone like BA, DE, or Eldar, who can move faster than you and still shoot? More importantly, every mech army is going to be prepared for you and simply throw a suicidal transport in the way of your unit to deny you the ability to charge their important units. Good firepower destroys the targets you want, not the targets the enemy wants, and melee-as-AT will usually fail that test. Melee units can be used to destroy tanks, but doing so requires suppressing (i.e. shaking/stunning) them with other means first and then hitting them with the followup punch of an assault afterwords.

So we need ways to destroy, or at least suppress, tanks with shooting. What options does the Ork codex have for doing this? Lootas are the obvious choice, but not strictly the only one. Tankbustas seem like they should be another such unit by name alone, and come with Rokkits, which are a weapon with pretty excellent stats. Deffkoptas and Buggies also carry Rokkits and are very mobile; Killa Kans and Boyz, while slow, can potentially bring some firepower of their own. Big Gunz get Kannons (and Zzap Guns, but we’ll ignore them because they’re unmitigatably horrible) as an option, and HS also brings us the Battlewagon, which can mount a Deffrolla, potentially one of the most damaging AT “weapons” in the game. So let’s look at these piece by piece.

Lootas are fantastic; there’s no two ways about it. They get an extra-random Autocannon, potentially netting up to three shots per model, and have the range to make proper use of the profile. If a squad of Lootas aims at a transport, that transport is usually going to die from the massive flurry of shots it gets hit with, even AV12 like Chimeras and Devilfish. Lootas compare favorably to such AT favorites as Hive Guard and Long Fangs, being able to consistently wreck anything they are able to penetrate and suppress up to AV13- they can safely be labeled one of the best long-range shooting units around these days. So what’s the problem? The problem is that, like any unit, they aren’t perfect. They have only middling survivability and no mobility to speak of, nor can they take out battle tanks like Leman Russes or Land Raiders.  These are not crippling weaknesses- in other army books, this might just mean adding some other units to fill these gaps; however, lacking other good options, Orks end up relying heavily on Lootas. The fact that they fight with other units (Kommandos, Nobz) for Elite slots makes things extra awkward.

Tankbustas are, on the surface, exactly what Orks want- every model in the unit carries a Rokkit and they can upgrade to a S10 melee attack or a short-range AT shot with better accuracy. Looking a little deeper, however, and we see the problems: they are extremely expensive and fragile- unlike Lootas, they can’t expect to stay in backfield cover the whole game using range to shield them from the worst of enemy shooting. Given their middling range and fragility, a transport seems like a natural option for them- except that they don’t get a dedicated transport option for some reason, meaning they have to steal someone else’s (which is very awkward in the Ork book) or take a Battlewagon. Neither option looks good- a Trukk’s survivability is extremely low, which isn’t a problem for throwaway units like Boyz, but on Tankbustas, losing a third of the squad when it inevitably blows us is a rather pricey affair; a Battlewagon, on the other hand, is another of our AT platforms (as we’ll talk about below) and thus wants to be rushing straight towards the enemy to make use of its Deffrolla, but in doing so it prevents the Tankbustas from firing unless they disembark- and disembarking is a suicidal proposition for T4/6+ models. Just as importantly, Battlewagons are often needed for other units in the army to ride in, so we can’t afford to be handing out our very limited supply of them willy-nilly.

Deffkoptas and Buggies we’ll discuss together, because their strengths and weaknesses largely match each other. Both of them are fast (able to move 12″ and shoot) platforms with a twin-linked Rokkit attached. Both of them have a limited degree of resilience (W2 and cover saves for the Kopta, being a vehicle for the Buggy), although not terribly impressive- small arms fire is quite capable of downing them and anything larger will usually put them down in a smoking heap. The comparisons between the two are endless, but I’ll simply sum things up by saying that I think Buggies are better because they can be used for blocking duties and don’t ever worry about morale; however, these concerns are largely irrelevant to our discussion here. The important thing on both of them is the TL Rokkit, which is (sadly enough) the most accurate gun in the army. While slightly better than even odds at hitting are manageable- IG and Tau get by with worse- adding in the factors of cost and fragility and the units are looking decidedly worse than Lootas. Not terrible, mind you, and entirely good enough to use, but certainly not a shining godsend for the Ork codex. Just as importantly, they miss one of the major gaps in the Ork armory, namely handling high AVs effectively- they are little better than Lootas at handling such targets, although thankfully they do cover the gap in terms of mobility and can easily reach the targets that Lootas may be unable to see/reach. They are also a bit pricey, running 35+pts each, which is not particularly amazing for the features you’re getting.

Another source of Rokkits comes from foot units, such as Boyz mobs and Killa Kans. The former, while not amazing, are semi-reasonably choices as they’re units you’re going to be taking anyways and they add a small amount of AT firepower. However, the key word here is “small”- one BS2 shot per 10 Boyz is amazingly unreliable and, as often as not, won’t get to fire because your transport moved fast or you ran the unit- your primary goal is to get into melee, after all. Kanz, on the other hand, are a little bit better-looking; they have BS3, a rarity for Orks, and every member of the squad can carry one (although admittedly this is still not a lot of shots total.) Both units also have the advantage of resiliency,  Boyz by virtue of sheer numbers, and Kans thanks to AV11. However, like Buggies/Koptas they don’t solve our problem with high AVs. Unlike those units, they lack the mobility to make best use of their guns, and in fact are distinctly lacking in mobility. Kans also suffer the problem of fighting for space with another unit (in this case Battlewagons), which ends up making them a redundant choice at best.

Big Guns look like an odd choice at first, but they are extremely cheap (20pts/shot) and BS3, with reasonable, if not impressive, range.  With three shots per slot, they have some favorable comparisons with Buggies/Koptas and have the same profile with regards to inflicting damage. However, unlike their cousins they are extremely fragile and have pathetic morale, making them liable to be wiped off the table by a stiff breeze. Being featured in the HS slot also puts them in competition with other units, a competition that does not shine favorably on them, so we sadly must surmise that they are not much of an option.

Lastly we have Battlewagons and their attendant Deffrollas. The ‘Wagon itself is a reasonable vehicle, with strong front armor but somewhat lacking on the sides; this is often a problem because of the huge side facings on the model and because, by its nature, it tends to be advancing deep into enemy territory and thus exposing its side facings to virtually anyone who cares to try and hit them. Its transport capacity is excellent, however, able to carry a large squad of Boyz into the heart of the enemy and it has several useful upgrades, all with a reasonable price tag. The Deffrolla itself is not actually a weapon (rendering it immune to being destroyed and negating any value of Shaking the vehicle) and can inflict a rather devastating series of automatic hits on anything it rushes into, but like melee options it is not, by itself, a weapon you want to rely on to do all your tank-hunting for you. However, as an addition to our toolbox it’s rather excellent, doing a great job against the largely-static heavy battle tanks that are difficult for other Ork units to handle.


Alright, so let’s take a step back and look at what we have. In our Elites slot, we have Lootas (and potentially Battlewagons from Nobz.) In FA, we have Buggies/Koptas. In Heavy Support, we have Battlewagons, Kans, and Big Gunz. Since Battlewagons are our only realistic way of handling high AVs (and our only way outside of the assault phase), they are more or less a required component, meaning that Kans and Gunz simply do not make the cut; since our Wagons can perform dual duties, this is not the worst thing in the world. Buggies are cheaper and benefit more from our KFF as well as serving roles in blocking, so they get the nod over Koptas. We now have three “suites” of AT, each differently-purposed; is that really so bad?

Well, look at the math. In an 1850 list (which is neither huge nor tiny and gives us a good look at what our list can do), we can get 30 Lootas, nine Buggies, and three filled Battlewagons, plus a Mek and some other small toys. How much damage are we likely to do to the enemy with this? Our Lootas will get roughly three “kills” on transports (destroyed or immobilized, assuming either AV12 or smoke) and our Buggies will get roughly 1.5 “kills.” If we compare that to, say, a Tyranid list of the same points (which has a similar goal of de-meching the enemy and assaulting them and thus takes similar kinds of firepower), it will have generally better firepower from its Hive Guard, Tyrannofexes, and Harpies- it averages as many kills as the Ork list from Hive Guard alone and the MC firepower tips the balance even further. If we look at a Tau or IG gunline list, our Orcs are starting to seem pretty sad, and likewise if we look at the various flavors of Marines and their massed Missile, Las, and Melta fire.

The lack of specialty weapons is also telling; by “specialty,” I mean weapons with the Lance, Melta, or some other special rule that allows them to destroy vehicles more effectively, including such bonuses as AP1. Orks have, for all intents and purposes, no such guns, which magnifies some of their other problems. BS2 and the random rolls for some of their units mean that it is very possible to roll a ‘1’ for your Lootas on a critical turn and fail to kill something, or to roll poorly on to-hit, etc. Other armies are not immune to this effect either, but it is one of the reasons that such specialty weapons are worth paying a bit extra for- Meltaguns have a major leg up against other weapons when rolling on the damage chart and generally penetrate more often as well. Simply put: there are times when the only thing that matters is killing one particular tank sitting on one particular objective, and Orks can’t always do this with sufficient regularity, or at least not as much as would be nice.

Ork firepower is not pathetically low- while we might prefer higher, it’s certainly possible to live with and it isn’t so bad that the army is utterly nonfunctional (hi, Necrons!) In the end, it’s simply one more piece of the puzzle that, when assembled, shows a picture of an army lacking a number of important parts. Ork shooting can be effective, but it tends to be saddled with some other major disadvantage- fragility, in the case of Lootas; expense and fragility, in the case of Buggies; and worse fates, for most of the other units. A well-designed Ork list tries to work around these limitations and it can, to a degree; as I said, it is only at the top end of play skill that these problems become critical to the point that the army is no longer properly held together.