Morkish Cunning – Building A New Ork List: Blood Axe Kommandos
For this week’s experiment, I was super excited to jump into one of my absolute favorite list themes from 8th Edition – Kommandos! Although I think my Evil Sunz list was ultimately one of the best ideations for a greentide Ork list in 8th Edition because of their +1 to charge, I smashed almost a hundred reps with this Blood Axe army, trying to get the positioning and unit placement perfect enough to bring to a GT. Its viability was just a hair too low for me to switch to it, but boy was it a blast to play and see the shocked expression on an opponent’s face when it did its thing. As we all know, 8th Edition is very different from 9th Edition, so over the course of six test matches I thought to see if this overlooked combo still had some hidden potential.
As a reminder, over the next few weeks we’ll be continuing my journey of experimentation across many different themed lists and combos unlocked by Saga of the Beast, the codex and the new edition’s rules. Also, please keep in mind that all of these “experiments” are not intended to craft the best Ork list, but stress-test various fringe ideas to see if we can’t mine up a new gem or two to take into your tournaments. In the future, we’ll be looking at the following lists:
- Gretchin Dakka – A Grot Mob list that prioritizes Mek Gunz and Forgeworld Grot Tanks to obliterate the opponent with high volume/strength/damage shooting.
- Ebony Kans – A Goff list that utilizes Thraka and Makari to maximize the resilience and melee combat of Killa Kans’ incredible melee and ranged potential.
- The All-Rounder – Evil Sunz list featuring a Biggest Boss Zhardsnark, teleporta delivered boyz, a Visions of Smoke enhanced Gorkonaut, and Mek Gunz for ranged threat.
- Kommandos – A Blood Axes list that features massed Kommandos supported by Snikrot, Thraka, and Korkscrew Scrapjets to maximize terrain usage and deepstrike threat overload
- Trukk Boyz – A Snakebite list that favors resilient transports swarming on objectives for Primary dominance. Check it out here: https://www.grimdarkfilthycasuals.com/morkish-cunning-building-a-new-ork-list-trukk-boyz/
- Greentide – A Feral Orks list that relied on extreme amounts of Boyz backed back Painboys and Big Meks to outlast enemy shooting until it’s too late! Check it out here: https://www.grimdarkfilthycasuals.com/morkish-cunning-building-a-new-ork-list-feral-greentide/
So for our third list, I’ve tested out a Blood Axe-based Kommandos list versus six different opponents (Eldar, GSC, Alpha Legion, Knights, Space Marines, Ad Mec) Let’s take a look at the proposed list:
The List – A Kommandos Battalion
Deep-Strike Death Ambush
- Boss Snikrot
- Ghazghkull Thraka
- Nob w/ Banner
- 15x Kommandos
- 15x Kommandos
- 15x Kommandos
Sneaky Git Decoy
- Weirdboy – Warphead Upgrade w/ Warpath & Da Jump, Relic – Scorched Gitbones, Warlord Trait – Kunning But Brutal
- 27x Slugga/Choppa Boyz, Nob w/ Double Killsaws, 2x Tankbusta Bombs
- 9x Slugga/Choppa Boyz, Nob w/ Double Killsaws, 1x Tankbusta Bombs
- 9x Slugga/Choppa Boyz, Nob w/ Double Killsaws, 1x Tankbusta Bombs
Engage On All Fronts Crew
- 3x Deffkoptas
- 3x Megatrakk Scrapjets w/ Korkscrew Upgrade
- 1x Shokkjump Dragsta w/ Gyroscopic Whirlgig
- 10x Gretchin
The Game Plan
If you like sneaky gits, it doesn’t get much sneakier then this! In 8th Edition, this was a right proper cunning trick, and I’ll lay it all out for you. Starting with deployment, I want the Weirdboy and 30 boyz to drop first as close to the enemy line and out in the open as possible. Assuming I’ll footslog the boyz up with their Warpath casting Weirdboy, the opponent should see a juicy, ripe target and will counter deploy to get guns in range to kill them. Then, we want the two squads of 10 boyz to deploy completely obscured from enemy fire, even if they have to be on the far side of the board. Following that, you also want to deploy the deffkoptas well out of sight behind obscuring terrain as they’ll be your primary means of going for Engage In All Fronts later. The Shokkjump Dragasta can be backfield deployed out of range of enemy guns as well, as it’ll just use its innate ability and a stratagem to teleport in and out on the subsequent shooting phase. Your gretchin should start on an objective marker in your territory, while the Megatrakks should *try* to get a little cover, but stay in range for a potential turn 2 charge.
Before the game starts, however, you’re going to trigger the Kunning But Brutal warlord trait to reveal your genius feint and redeploy the blob of 30 boyz and Weirdboy far back behind obscuring terrain with their 2×10 ork boyz buddies. From here, looking at your deployed army, you should have an effective “null-deploy,” meaning that the only thing potentially exposed to enemy firepower are the three megatrakks that are too fat to fit behind buildings.
With (hopefully) nothing to lose in the Turn 1 shooting phases, your only goal during your first turn is to spend one CP to Mob Up one unit of 10 into the big unit of 30, creating a 40 man unit with 2x Killsaw Nobs, then move your Megatrakks into better positions. If viable, send the Koptas in to spread out into obscured table quarters. Turn 2 is where this beautiful death egg hatches. During your Turn 2 movement phase, we want to move the Scrapjets into range of where the Waagh Banner will land; these things are great when hitting on 4s, they’re next level when they hit on 3s. At the bottom of the phase, your second squad of 10 boyz Mob Up with the squad of 40 to create the ultimate doomsday 50 boy blob with three Nobz armed with dual Killsaws.
During the reinforcement step, all three squads of kommandos appear and array themselves on the enemy’s front line, in range of Thraka, Snikrot and the Banner. If all goes well and the Kommandos complete their deepstrike charges, you’re potentially looking at 4x14x3 (168) choppa swings and 4×3 Powerklaw crunches, rerolling 1s to hit, rerolling 1s to wound, with a +1 to hit. Yikes! On top of that, during the Psychic Phase, the Weirdboy will first cast Warpath with a +4 to the roll (Scorched Git Bones and Waagh Energy) and only needs a 3+ for success. Then Da Jump (only needs a 3+ for success) to move the doom blob of 50, arrayed in tandem with the Kommando crew. With so many boyz, you can present a combat line that covers almost half the field with no difficulty of being in range of Thraka’s buff to boost your earth-shattering attacks to 6×47 choppa (282) swings and 21 Killsaw whirls.
This list also wants to make the absolute most of the Blood Axe traits. First, in theory, once the Kommandos land, they should be rather resilient. They’ll enjoy 4+ save when in cover, or even on open ground if the enemy shooting is more than 18” away. The ability to fallback and charge (if the enemy somehow doesn’t die in the combat phase) is also critical for zipping around the map while still being able to recharge any target and maintain combat priority.
Preferred Secondary Choices:
- Battlefield Supremacy Options:
Engage on All Fronts is the only real option here, thanks to the koptas and your surging infantry. Domination would seem like it would make sense, but this technique relies on complete full-frontal threat overload, and after the ambush triggers on Turn 2, you have very little left in your own backfield except a lonely Weirdboy and his pet grots to sit on table quarters.
- No Mercy, No Respite Options:
Unlike most Ork lists, we have three great While We Stand We Fight picks with the Ork boy doomsday blob, Thraka, and the triple Megatrakks that must all die for the point to be negated. If the boyz and Thraka die, you’re doomed anyways, so we might as well run with it! Thin Their Ranks is matchup dependent, and Grind Them Down is a reasonable option.
- Purge the Enemy Options:
Titan Hunter & Bring It Down both work well if the situation allows them, with the Doom-blob killing on average one knight or four leman russes per turn.
- Shadow Operations Options:
Raise the Banners, Deploy Scramblers and Teleport Homers are surprisingly all bad options. The trouble here is that every frontal unit is so offensively oriented; stopping to perform actions prevents the crushing wave of bodies and attacks from flowing forward.
- Do I have enough deepstrike threats to both overwhelm the enemy and hedge my bets if 2-3 units fail their Turn 2 ambush charge?
- How badly will blast weapons affect the survivability of this list?
- Will the Megatrakks perform as well as their math seems to suggest?
- Does Thraka bring enough to the table to merit joining a non-Goff army list?
- Just like always, I’ll wish I was Evil Sunz when coming out of deepstrike.
- The doom-blob and Thraka will obliterate one side of the table.
- I want to love Snikrot and find a place for him, but I’m guessing that without an invulnerable save, he dies early in combat.
Test Case – Kommandos vs. Craftworlds Eldar
Matched against GDFC’s own Brian Moy, I was rather excited to play “The Scouring” versus his Craftworld Eldar. He had never played against Ork Kommandos before, while he himself was running a different sort of list featuring Wraithlords, Wraithseers, Hornets and Wave Serpents. Looking at the board, we found a rather dangerous arrangement of terrain. Plenty of ruins in both our backfield, but with a relatively open center chocked full of rather close together objective markers. The central field of play was guaranteed to be a place of action and lots of death as we fought for primary scoring dominance. Although I won the roll-off, I opted to give the Eldar the first turn, presuming my massed deepstrike could be more reactive to his moves if I waited things out.
My own deployment had been very much as described above. All 50 boyz were tucked safe and sound in full obscurement, 1000 points sat immune in the Teleporta or in ambush, and my Scrapjets tried to catch a little line of sight blocking with a large back-center piece of terrain. Null-deployment, right? Big wrong. With the new sizing of 9th Edition boards and the short distances between deployments on the Scouring’s mission (old Dawn of War style), the speed of the Craftworld vehicles easily allowed the left center objective to be claimed by two Wave Serpents, and the other by 2 units of 3 Hornets. The speed of the Hornets was especially important as it allowed their dual star-cannons to connect with the tail end of a Scrapjet. With a base size almost as large as an Imperial Knight, these T6, 4+ Save, 9 wound units didn’t have a chance. Twenty-four S6, -3AP, D3 damage shots later, one Megatrakk was kaput, and the other limping with only 3 wounds after its buddy exploded. Looking at the math afterwards, I suppose the second buggy got off easy. The third, exposed to the opposite flank’s Wave Serpents, also took enough to bring him down to a single wound remaining. Meanwhile, I had further forgotten that Craftworld D-Cannons are Blast weapons and couldn’t care less about the obscuring ruin protecting my Ork Boys, plinking off a fair few.
Opening up on my own first turn, things were already not looking great. Both Megatrakks were hopelessly injured and didn’t have the line of sight angles to survive. With no other option, both rushed forward in a suicidal run, hoping… and failing to make 10-11” charges. Sticking to the plan, however, our Ork Boyz counted their relatively heavy losses from the D-Cannon, Mobbed Up and decided to bide their time. During Brian’s Turn 2, he’s already seen the writing on the wall. Spacing out his army across his rear board and moving his nearly impenetrable Wave Serpents to the mid-center to further exasperate my eventual ambush, it was child’s play for the Hornets to wipe away the remaining Megatrakks, my gretchin and yet more Ork Boyz.
Finally, however, the time was right! The Turn 2 death egg was ready to hatch! I Mobbed Up the last crew of boyz into a still respectable 40 model blob and readied them for Da Jump. Kommandos landed in mass in the center of the board, 9” away from enemy Wave Serpents, a Wraithseer and those damned Hornets. Focusing the Kommandos towards the Wave Serpents, Thraka towards the Wraithseer and leaving a nice big pocket for the Ork Boys, we came to the Psychic Phase. Going in the proper sequence, we started with Warpath, rolling snake eyes. This is a bad start; if the Warphead Weirdboy takes enough damage from Perils of the Warp on his first cast, he’s very vulnerable to dying from his second cast roll if he rolls a 10, 11, 12 or 2, killing himself and hurting everyone around him. Knowing the consequences, we burn the reroll and get a 3, failing the cast. The all-important Da Jump is next. We roll snake eyes again, periling and leaving the mobbed boyz stranded. Things have gone from bad to worse!
With 45 Kommandos, Thraka, Snikrot and a Banner in position, we still have plenty of teeth left on the table though. The first Kommando unit charge rolls on 8, then a 7. Failed charge. The second Kommando unit declares on the Wave Serpent, which overwatches and plinks off a couple before they successfully reach the target with a 10” charge. Snikrot’s up next; with the charging Kommando unit depleted from overwatch causalities, they can no longer daisy-chain back enough to reach his aura, due to new coherency rules. Snikrot rolls a 4” into an 8”, failed charge. The third Kommando unit is in prime position to hack up those darn Hornets, but roll a 6” into another 8”, failed charge. With only one depleted Kommando squad in melee, Thraka is the last option and successfully makes it into the enemy Wraithseer, landing just barely in range of the fighting Kommandos for his aura buff. In the subsequent Fight Phase, we cripple but fail to kill the Wave Serpent, and Thraka decides today is the day to roll three ones to wound, failing to kill the impetuous Wraithseer.
On Turn 3, we decide to call the game. After retreating the injured Wave Serpent, a combination of Hornet, infantry and other vehicle fire blow away the stalled Kommando units, opening up easy kills on Snikrot and the Banner due to new character targeting rules. With nothing left except Thraka and an ever diminishing squad of boyz, all we can do now is pick up models and examine how such a spectacular failure could sink the list.
- The new board size absolutely matters. Out of all the changes to Orks in 9th Edition, this is perhaps the most impactful and complex. Da Jump and the Teleporta were army defining options for Orks, allowing surprisingly versatile play. Towards the end of 8th, many players were beginning to master deepstrike screening, but with such smaller areas of play, it’s extremely difficult to find truly advantageous deepstrike landings for large units.
- The deviation to “Hold” based primary scoring further deeps this problem. Now, chaff units aren’t just screens, they’re vital units brought in to score primary objectives and need not worry about the old “Kill More” scoring of ITC play. With more armies bringing them, there is more ubiquitous deepstrike screening.
- Terrain also didn’t go the way I hoped. I thought that with 9th Edition’s more dense terrain, the Kommandos would see more play with their cover and reroll abilities, but with the requirement that objectives not be placed in terrain, and with most objectives placed in the center, the mid-board becomes a sort of kill-zone on some missions. It’s the worst place for all these deepstrikers to arrive, but with screening and objective control in mind, it’s the only place for them to arrive.
- Once again, the board size changes reared its ugly head. All Kommandos could have enjoyed a 4+ save if 18” away from shooting, but they rarely realized this benefit because of shallow board size and disadvantageous terrain orientation, allowing replete -1 or 0AP shooting to brush away the vast majority of the army.
- 9” charges hurt, even with the ‘Ere We Go reroll. This could have been a completely different battle with even just +1 to charge. If I was to ever attempt this again, Snikrot gets dumped and everyone gets painted red for Evil Sunz.
- Coherency had the biggest negative impact on a list I’ve experimented with to date. The 15-man Kommando mobs were too thin to effectively daisy-chain models back to its needed characters’ auras while presenting the necessary combat spread on a 9” charge.
- Roll fails, even extremely easy ones, are a natural occurrence, but when an entire game-plan relies a single roll (even if it has a 96.5% chance of success with a reroll), you’ll eventually be eating the most bitterest of defeats at the worst of times
- This list gives up Thin Their Ranks, Bring It Down, and even Attrition secondaries like crazy! Yikes! Buggies and boyz just don’t mix. Lean hard one way, don’t attempt combine arms.
- Blast was certainly a factor at times, but the bigger problem was indirect fire. A truly all-comers Ork list has a means to reach indirect units. A great option is a deepstriked vehicle that has a small base-size that can opt to make a 3d6 charge into annoying mortar units.
- We’ve seen some isolated great performance from Deathskulls buggy lists at large tournaments, but I just don’t see the appeal. Their bases are far too large and they die far too easily. I don’t even want to imagine how painful such a list would be vs. a couple units of Eradicators.
- Snikrot is a wimp. Don’t take him. He dies like a chump without an invulnerable save, and his attacks are very lackluster.
- Thraka is a badass, but without rerolling 1s, getting exploding 6s, or enjoying a 6+++ from Makari, I just don’t see him as a value at 300 points. Keep him in a Goff list, he’s incredible there.
It pains me to say, but the Kommandos list, my long-held, never played 8th Edition trump card, soured before it could claim glory. We could debate the choices of Evil Sunz vs Blood Axes as a clan trait, but it’s the map size (to a lesser extent character targeting and coherency rules) that dooms this list and playstyle. Sadly for Snikrot and the sneaky gits, that’s a fundamental factor that won’t change in a new codex or FAQ. Secondary scoring is also spectacularly unfavorable for this in-your-face style.
Looking at the list and how the action played out, I can’t help but wistfully wish for what could have been. Why, for example, did the Specialist Mobs in Saga of the Beast have to become their own separate detachments? Not that it would really benefit them much, but thematically wouldn’t it make sense for a detachment of Blood Axes to receive the additional specialist mob effects of “Sneaky Devils” on all the Kommandos? Or perhaps Deathskulls with Boomboyz? Goffs with Tin Heads? Evil Sunz with Pyromaniacs? Feral Orks with Snakebites? Many of those Specialist Mobs seem as if they were designed to be built within existing clans, but Games Workshop thought otherwise at the last minute.
Although the list did have better performance vs. more elite matchups (it crushed Knights, no surprise) we’ve just got to take the losses in stride and remember we’re here to experiment. Speaking of which, coming up next we’ll be taking a look at a Goff list that features a very interesting combination with Thraka, Makari, and Killa Kans. Following that, after the Imperial Armor book is released, we’ll see the other end of a grot-focused list featuring all those fun little grot tanks. As always, feel free to share your own list ideas or favorite thematic directions; heck, maybe we’ll take your idea for a spin after we get through the starting topics! So, leave your comments below and follow us on the usual social platforms to stay current with the latest GDFC releases. If you’re interested in joining our Discord community, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an invite!
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is a founding member of Grim Dark Filthy Casuals, Author, Content Lead, Warboss, Tournament Organizer, and GDFC’s Chief Krumpin’ Officer