Fantasy Fisticuffs #4: The Orruk Warclans Smashin’ an Bashin’ the Meta

One of the newest battletomes to the AoS range, the Orruk Warclans are already making their mark on the competitive scene.  Let’s take a look at what they offer.

In light of last week’s surprise early release of the Winter FAQs, I thought we might give those armies a chance to stew on their changes, and log a few more games, before we tackle any of the adjusted books.  That meant picking one of the newer armies to receive their 2nd Edition tome, for this weeks article. With most eyes on the Bonereapers, let’s instead talk about perennial fan-favorites, and recipients of an absolutely killer set of new rules; the Orruk Warclans.

Every flavor of Orruk (or Ork for most of us), have been among players favorite armies across both Age of Sigmar, and 40k, but are frequently damned with a reputation of being a “for fun” army; a kind way of saying players should have no expectation to win games.  While not always the case, these armies tended to have sillier, or highly random rules, which leaned heavily into an idea that just causing mayhem on a game is victory unto itself.

With the Orruk Warclans book, this has changed, instead resulting in a tightly written, diverse, and yes, still fun, set of rules which is already making waves competitively.

As is the case of the best AoS books, Warclans offers several distinct ways to play, functioning very literally as three armies in one.  This provides great bang for the buck, and likewise means owners of these models have some real flexibility in choosing a playstyle that matches their own.

I want to look at these separately and give some tactical insight into each.

Ironjaws: The Ironjaws, formerly an army all their own, make up one branch of the Orruk family tree.  The chief engine which drives this army is the incredible “Mighty Destroyers” allegiance ability.  In short, heroes can spend a command ability in the Hero-Phase to give an additional out-of-sequence, move, charge, or attack, to a unit in range.  Access to this insanely potent ability ranges from simply being a Megaboss of any sort, to the very attractive Command Trait “Brutish Cunning” which grants a free use of the ability each turn. 

This makes Ironjaws a very CP intensive army, but creates literally unparalleled movement/table control, and tremendous burst-damage once the inevitable grinding has begun.

In tandem with this come further allegiance abilities granting some cheeky bonus movement to units which have been damaged in any phase, and also the excellent “Smash and Bash” which allows IJ players to immediately choose the next unit to fight if a unit completely wipes out an opposing unit.  This means some selective order of operations can be very rewarding as this ability even bypasses the Hedonites of Slaanesh Loci which would otherwise see your hardest hitters strike last.

Secrets to Success – IJ, surprisingly, reward clever, even defensive counterplay, just as much as they do balls-out-offense.  While powerful alpha-strike is doable, and even solid, it can easily leave units out of position of the army’s jaw-droppingly good support pieces.

Warchanters are your best friend, and likely the best unit in the entire book.  A flat +1 to damage, no rolling required, turns even the modest Ard’ Boy into a blender, and combined with Mighty Destroyers, creates literally oppressive amounts of damage.  It is fair to say no list will entirely skip Warchanters.

Gore Gruntas are also shockingly efficient units, when these buffs are considered.  Their high speed and charge bonus in combat marries perfectly with Mighty Destroyers, and their numerous attacks were meant for the Warchanter.  They can be an excellent hammer or scalpel as needed, but make sure to consider the placement of support heroes in future turns. The Ironfist Battalion makes a terrific work-around that ensures this unit can operate all on its own, still with great results.

Finally, order of operations really is the word for the experienced IJ player.  Whether it is maximizing the value of Smash and Bash, or executing the Hero Phase correctly, you will want to slow down and think things through.  A teleported support piece receiving Hand of Gork can be positioned where needed to hand out an unexpected buff or Mighty Destroyer, freeing up other units to do unpredictable things in your turn.

Bonesplitterz:  While the least overtly meta of the three Allegiances found in this book, the inheritors of the Savage Orks still have some tricks that can create competitive and deceptively hard-hitting lists.  The most straight-forward of their abilities include a flat 6+ feel-no-pain save and the ability for half of your units to get a 5” move post-deployment. 16.7% more defense is never a bad thing and as it has infinite range, it can be more forgiving to positioning.

Their Monster Hunter ability will vary tremendously in usefulness depending on your local players.  Bonesplitterz units chosen to fight against keyword Monsters can choose from a list of temporary buffs with modest boons ranging from +1 to hit, to having a 6” pile-in.  Further, killing a monster provides army-wide immunity to battleshock for that turn.

Also highly dependent on your meta, but potentially very disruptive are Bonesplitterz Clans options such as Drakkfoot.  This amazing Clan grants you the ability to both completely ignore Ethereal as a rule, as well as ignore ALL abilities which ignore damage.  Previously unkillable models such as Gortrek literally fold to a Drakkfoot list, and challenging armies like Hagg Nar Daughters of Khaine suddenly lose significant parts of their survivability.  Armies such as Fyreslayers (whose numbers at tournaments I expect to rise), become downright fragile without their “after saves”.

Secrets to Success – Bonesplitters have access to an amazing Spell Lore, with a wide variety of helpful spells that grant everything from dramatically increased mobility, to saves, and even hits.  Combined with the excellent Wurggog Prophet (whose own in-built spell can do severe damage to hordes of all kinds) and Wardokk, you will likely have a range of great support spells and abilities, plus flexibility.  Against a particularly nasty and durable large unit consider using the Wardokk dance, and artifacts on the Wurggog to make it easier to hit the 10+ cast you really want to generate large numbers of mortal wounds.

Boarboys are great candidates to receive stacked buffs from your spells.  With a casting of Breath of Gorkamorka, this unit can move between 24” and 36” AND still charge… all while flying.  Any failure in screening by your opponent can and should be exploited. Depending on needs and buffs available, they can also easily become massed attacks on 2’s and 3’s, or have 3+ saves for surprising durability.

Arrowboys are the other ideal recipients for these and other great supports.  The army has a fair bit of access to abilities which generate extra attacks on 6’s to hit.  Combined with an absolutely silly volume of arrows, and other buffs, bigger units of Arrowboys behind screens which stress many opponents out all game long.

Big Waaaagh: The final Allegiance in the book is likewise the one having the most instant impact on the tournament scene.  Big Waaagh allows you access to both Ironjaws and Bonesplitterz units, along with a wholly unique mechanic based on building Waaagh points.  These are accrued by taking various units, fighting and charging with larger units, and simply having your General alive. As point thresholds are met you unlock more and more abilities which include things such as spending a few to gain +1 or +2 to a spell-cast, or the simple, but unbelievably powerful flat +1 to hit, and wound.  These abilities simple work for your whole army, and see you literally just getting better as the game goes on.

Shocking, however, is the ease with which you can still access the Ironjaws Mighty Destroyer.  As units/heroes draw their battalions, command traits, etc… from their allegiance of origin, you are a Brutish Cunning away from having ALL of your powerful options available to you.

Secrets to Success – The things which worked well in the other allegiances generally work as well, or better here, with a few specific notes.  For some units the added +1 to hit and wound actually become extraneous. This may free up supports and buffs to be used elsewhere, or be removed altogether, but it should be said.

Of special consideration absolutely must be the Rogue Idol, from Forgeworld.  This unit natively has both IJ and Splitterz keywords, and in doing so can receive all, and I mean, ALL the buffs.  It is actually fairly easy to give a Rogue Idol a 2+/5++ save, with an 18”-27” move, with a FREE Mighty Destroyer move in addition, plus both the Warchanter buff all while hitting and wounding on 2’s.  As of the time of writing this, the Idol is just starting to show up in competitive lists, but in my experience, he has been doing a LOT of work as a durable, murder-machine who can be anywhere on the table as needed.  For added value, he gives innate +1 to casting in an aura, making buffing him that much easier/safer, AND further helping the Wurggog Prophet act as a mortal wound street-sweeper.

A final tip for the Big Waaagh is to simply encourage measured patience.  This allegiance has as much alpha-strike potential as the best of them, but its Waaagh Point bonuses are so potent that restraint is usually rewarded.  Treat this case-by-case, if a specific strike can take out a lynchpin for your opponent’s strategy, but often planning to engage in Turn 2 or even 3 can be a smarter call.

Conclusion:  The Orruk Warclans is an absolute dream of a book that rewards players for being both brutal, and cunning.  In offering a higher skill ceiling, that sees the book improve in the hands of skilled or more experienced players, it proves to be another of what I would call high-watermarks for AoS design.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Mark Gottlieb

Writer, Game Designer, and owner of Fortunate Sun Studios, I have always tried to lead a life in some way built around paying back to gaming, and the gaming community. This hobby, and everyone in it, saved my life on more than a few occasions, and now I get to put my heart into helping it thrive for everyone!

2 Responses to “Fantasy Fisticuffs #4: The Orruk Warclans Smashin’ an Bashin’ the Meta”

  1. Ytook December 26, 2019 3:44 am #

    Another great overview article, thanks!

    Really enjoying these, been into AoS since the beginning but never really got into the competitive scene. Don’t think I’ll be attending tournaments but I’m definitely appreciating it more and more.

    • Mark Gottlieb
      Mark Gottlieb December 26, 2019 11:24 am #

      I’m glad I can be of service. I encourage everyone to at least give an event a shot, too. As I always say, not every meaningful competition is a 80+ player GT. Just attending a ten player event can be a great time and a chance to try your favorite list out against some people you might not otherwise play!

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