Are Orruk Warclans Top Tier?

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

Joining me today is Pat Nevan. No doubt familiar to many of you from the Bush Radio podcast, Pat is one of Australia’s top competitive players. Pat specialises in Mortal Khorne and took them to an excellent 4-1 result at Australian Masters 2019.

Pat and I have been arguing back and forth for a while now, over where exactly Orruks sit in the evolving meta. Pat managed to review the new Battletome on Bush Radio in just two words: “They’re filth”. In today’s article, I give Bendigo’s silver-tongued cavalier the opportunity to expand on that insight.

After Pat has made his case, I’ll make my own, and then throw it out to let the public decide in a Twitter poll. So sit back and enjoy the spectacle of two overweight, middle-aged nerds arguing themselves to a standstill about something of zero importance, and then vote in the poll to determine which of us embarrassed themselves the least.

Pat Nevan: Orruks are Tier One Easy Mode

Are Orruks are Tier One Easy Mode army?  Is water wet?  Should Ultramarines Dice be banned from competitive play?  Is Tzeentch a fun army to play against?  These are the debates that rage on the chat pages of the Measured Gaming Community. 

You, gentle reader may be wondering if we are all afflicted with some sort of brain-rotting tertiary stage syphilis and the answer is of course, Fish.  Nevertheless the Orruk question is a bitter dispute that has been raging since the release of the new Battletome.  I say they are a Tier One Easy Mode army, Pete says they are not. 

We both have our supporters in this struggle, or had at any rate.   Like a man calling for Chastity in a brothel Pete now stands alone.  (Give yourself some bonus points if you know where I stole that joke from).  

Anyhow the terms of my argument are simple:

  • Tier One  applies to the power level of the army and they are certainly top tier.  Not as strong as the most grotesque examples of tier one foolishness perhaps, but top tier nonetheless. 
  • Easy mode is a measure of how simple the army is to play.  Easy to write a list, easy to run an army and easy to solve the problems that plague all tournament armies. 

If you, as an Orruk player are about to employ whatever series of grunts and gestures you use to approximate speech and say, “they are no good if you shoot off the support heroes” take a moment to shut the fuck up.  All armies are struggle when you kill all the heroes. 

So like a Maw Krusha hauling its fat overpowered ass 24 inches across the table to make a charge move, we waddle into my reasons why Orruks are a Tier One easy Mode Army.  Sit back, relax and enjoy the most pointless argument since, “Should I take penicillin for my syphilis, Yes or No?”

(Seriously, 24 inches of movement before charging, really?)

Simple solutions to complicated problems

All Tournament armies face the same set of problems: Movement, Dealing with Petrogash and Buffchaon, ward saves, spell casting, command point shortages etc etc.  The Orruks just happen to have very easy answers to most problems. 

Ironjawz are definitely the strongest here, with some of the best allegiance abilities in the game:

  • Need extra movement? No problem. 
  • Someone got you chaffed up in your turn, just kill them. 
  • Feel like Alpha striking with your Krusha’s?  Why you can move them 24 glorious inches before you make a charge roll. 
  • Out of buff range, just move in the hero phase. 
  • Feel like being clever?  Charge someone with Mighty Destroyers, retreat out in your movement phase to 3 inches away from something you want to hit, and pile back in. 
  • Some ass has made you fight last in the combat phase, use smashing and bashing to fight right away. 
  • And none of this start of the combat phase crap for you.  Buff that unit of gore gruntas, Mighty Destroyer it then move it 18 inches downfield. 

Now before anyone says anything about Mighty Destroyers costing command points, remember you only have half a dozen or so ways to get all the command points you need.  Let chumps with low tier armies worry about resource management. 

As for the rest, take Big Waaagh for the extra movement when someone is foolish enough to shoot you, or the dispelling buff, or the ever-popular 40 inch flying Rogue Idol. 

If you’re feeling a bit jaded with that take your savage cousins.  Move or shoot in the hero phase, explode those sixes, take the tribe that obliges your opponent to charge off objectives, or the one you can’t retreat from, or the one that ignores ward saves. 

Seriously, all ward saves, every last one of em.  Remember when Orruk players were bitching and moaning that ignores ETHEREAL didn’t apply to the ethereal amulet?  Now that takes some Chutzpah.


Awesome buffs, awesome troops and an endless variety of super awesome tricks to fuck your opponent into the ground.  All easily applied and extremely user friendly. 

A 10 year old child should go 4 and 1 with this army, and not one of those genius 10 year olds, one of the crayon eaters will do just fine.

No doubt my esteemed opponent will have some gibberish about historic win percentages and probably a mention of Tzeentch just to be topical and deflect attention.   I will concede that the Orruks wont be Tier One forever but that’s down to Battletome creep. 

By any halfway reasonable standard they were Tier One Easy Mode on release, and as dumb as spamming command points to turn the five Ardboyz you just killed off into ten fresh ones.

Peter Atkinson: Orruks are great…but not Da Best

So what’s a Tier One Easy Mode army? If you don’t already know, reading Pat’s article certainly won’t have helped, because from Day One he has refused to set any parameters for what it actually means, enabling his definition to lurch around as the facts stubbornly refuse to align with his assessment.

I can tell you what it’s not: it’s not a really good army. Orruk Warclans is definitely a really good army, and if that’s all that Pat had proclaimed them to be, I never would have disagreed in the first place. So let’s not allow this to be framed as “Pat says Orruks are good, Pete says Orruks are shit”. I’ve certainly never said Orruks were anything but a very competitive army. I’m not the one making wild overstatements here, so let’s bear that in mind; all I’m questioning is the ludicrously high bar that Pat set for them.

Subjectively, I think that their strengths (which Pat has generally articulated well) mean that they can whale on a lot of armies, but they generally lack heavy rend and mortal wound output which can limit their performance against OBR; they struggle badly to shift a well-played Fyreslayers army; and Tzeentch are just doing the same things as Bonesplitterz but with better rules and lower drops. So their bad matchups are all very strong in the meta, which puts a natural ceiling on their performance, even if they can utterly annihilate armies that are in any way soft.

But what about objectively – are they achieving what we’d expect a top tier army that is easy to win with to achieve? What does that even look like?

Winning loads of games

The first thing I’d be looking for is that they rattle in a heap of 5-0s. Given that they have a good install base, they could even achieve this from day one (Pat did later try to claim that “That will never happen again”…Awkward).

Someone has to go 5-0 at every event, so that should be very achievable for a top tier army that is easy to pilot, right? And yet those 5-0s have been…shall we say…scarce. Very scarce.

The book came out in early October, and the stats on THWG show that in the stretch from release to the Winter FAQ, they achieved, in the grand scheme of things, fuck all. Individual people certainly achieved great things with them, and Gork will forever smile upon them, but that’s in no way the same thing as a faction being dominant.

Quite the opposite in fact.

In all that time, Orruk Warclans were taken to events 1070 times, and secured 14 podiums. That’s a 1% chance of turning up with a Warclans army and securing a prized position. Pat did try to dismiss this on the basis that the people using the army must be mostly shit players, but that rather defeats the point of Easy Mode, no? Unless this is the world’s first Easy Mode army that is hard to win games with, which is kind of a contradiction in terms.

Worth noting here is that I’m not citing the (mediocre) win percentage in that period, because it would be right to point out that this figure was mashed in with games played under old rules in that timeframe. But there was nothing about the old General’s Handbook rules that was stopping people from going out and racking up 5-0s with the new book when it came out – it just didn’t happen.

So what about the latest stats?

So Pat kept waiting and waiting for this deluge of 5-0s. Guess what folks – we’re still waiting now.

The latest stats on THWG are post-December only, and still those big tournament performances are thin on the ground. In the time since the Winter FAQ, we’ve already seen Tzeentch, Fyreslayers and OBR rack up 17 podiums between them. So Orruk Warclans must have a heap too, right?

Yeah…not so much.

Just a single, solitary podium to show from 169 attempts, and an overall 48.5% win rate for the book.

Just recently, we had Super Saturday, with four huge tournaments spread around the globe: Cancon in Australia, Heat 1 in the UK and the LVO and Waaaghpaca in the USA. You’d expect a Tier One Easy Mode army to be muscling its way to the podium at some of those, wouldn’t you?

Pat wisely declined to take my bet on that, and whaddya know…zero podiums at all of those events combined, including 0 of the 8 finalists at LVO where they weren’t even using the new Tzeentch book.


Pat warned me about this…

Yes, Pat predicted that I would use facts to back up my argument. What a strange concept! Well I guess even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

I’ve referred to the stats to support my viewpoint because they illustrate the reality of what is happening out there. I do sincerely understand why Pat didn’t want to bring reality into this, because it’s deeply inconvenient to his argument, but the reality is that Orruks are not racking up the results that you’d expect from a Tier One Easy Mode army.

That would mean winning events, and plenty of them. It would mean 5-0s left and right, and podiums galore. We’ve seen it before with FEC and Skaven, we’re seeing it now with Tzeentch, and I hope we see it again with Sons of Behemat.

But you know where we’re not seeing it? With Orruk Warclans.

So there we have it! Two nerds arguing over something inconsequential is what you were promised, and two ners arguing over something inconsequential is what you got.

Vote in the Twitter poll, have your say and then I promise we’ll shut up about this forever.

A note on Tier calibration

For anyone wondering about S-Tier or even Q-Tier, I’d like to point out that “Tier One Easy Mode” is Pat’s terminology, not mine. It’s a phrase that Pat coined to describe Slaanesh in their prime, and if they weren’t top tier, I don’t know what was. Hence the heading of today’s article, asking whether they are “top tier”, rather than referencing any specific tier scale.

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