Saga of the Beast Preview: Faction Focus – Orks

Warboss Dustin here with my initial thoughts today on this morning’s reveals for the new Psychic Awakening: Saga of the Beast book. Every grot, boy and lunkheaded Nob knows that every Warboss is looking for rules that are not only fun and flavorful but also have enough teeth to make a squig jealous.  We got a good glimpse of some of the madcap fun on the horizon and a few hints at the grit us competitive bosses really like to dive into. Let’s stop muckin’ about and run down each item, in turn, :

State of the WAAAGHH

One of the biggest critiques with post-Codex Ork play is that lists have become a bit stagnant.  Most everyone, myself included, have leaned hard into the Evil Sunz Kulture for the backbone of the army, supported by a supreme command detachment of Shokk Attack Guns and/or a battery of Bad Moons Lootas. Orks have two fundamental problems – they need to get into melee fast, and they’re extraordinarily inaccurate in shooting. These two Kultures shore up those deficiencies, but at the cost of making the other clans often overlooked.  Bringing Ghazghkull Thraka, boss of bosses and Goff powerhouse, to the forefront, certainly looks like an attempt to bring the Goffs back to the table.

The Biggest of Bosses: Ghazghkull Thraka

Comparing Thraka’s datacard in Psychic Awakening vs. the Codex shows some immediate superficial improvements to the big man. The incredible new model now comes armed with an even more massive klaw and kustom shoota, with better stats to boot.  Compared vs. old Thraka, his new klaw gained an additional -1 AP and an additional +1 damage.  These are certainly steps in the right direction for his main melee weapon. Post-Codex, old Thraka was rendered obsolete when Da Killa Klaw powerklaw relic was released, which was objectively better in every way vs. Thraka’s own Kustom Klaw, especially as it was equippable on a non-named warboss at less than half the points cost.  Looking at the profile today, Gork’s Klaw will score you +1 more flat damage per wound vs.  Da Killa Klaw, but the relic is still able to reroll all failed wounds. Mork’s Roar, on the other hand, is rather aptly named.  Although it has twice as many shots and a -1AP vs. Thraka’s old Twin Big Shoota, the big boss will likely be advancing every turn and hitting on 6s with the weapon, making Mork’s Roar really just a bunch of loud noises than a legit danger to anyone.

With a bigger and badder model, it only stands to reason that Thraka would go up from his previous 8 wounds. This will ultimately be a double-edged sword for Ghaz.  Previously he was able to advance within his mob of boyz, fearing only snipers and shield breaker missiles.  With assassins and character killing shooting becoming more prominent post-codex, Ghaz has seen even less use as his previous 8 wounds weren’t impossible to plink down before he made melee contact.  With 12 wounds now, he’s lost that character protection but gained a very unique ability to only take four wounds per phase. The big question aspiring Goff Warbosses need to ask themselves, is can they get Thraka to make contact with the enemy before three turns of shooting has passed.   In my opinion, the answer is he cannot in most instances, and the reason is one easily missed detail – Ghaz no longer has the infantry keyword.

The infantry keyword has enormous impact across the entire Ork Codex, with the vast majority of its synergies played along that unit type.  Let’s examine a list of things that Ghaz has sacrificed in the process as a byproduct of losing the keyword:

  • Rules as written, Thraka’s +1 Attack aura will not apply to him.
  • Rules as written, Thraka or any other warboss’ aura to run and charge will not affect him.
  • Painboy’s Dok’s Tools “Feel No Pain” save will not work on him
  • Painboy’s Sawbonez ability to heal d3 wounds at the end of his movement phase is gone.
  • Ghaz can no longer be Da Jumped
  • Ghaz can no longer receive the benefits of a Grot Shield
  • Ghaz has lost access to the fight twice stratagem (but can still fight on death)
  • Perhaps most importantly, he can no longer follow his boyz through ruins and must walk around terrain.

Although the lunacy that Thraka’s own aura won’t apply to himself is a hard pill to swallow, it’s far from the most egregious point on the list. Losing Da Jump will force skilled warbosses to use the Teleporta stratagem for positioning Thraka to overcome his poor movement, which would otherwise be further penalized by the ubiquitous Thunderfire Cannon “Tremor Shells” stratagem now that he has lost character protection.   Terrain interaction also cannot be underestimated.  The secret to overcoming the greatest warboss of all time is to have five Primaris marines stand on the second floor of a ruin and just shoot down.  In competitive environments that feature NOVA style Ls, Ghaz will be spending two turns just walking the perimeter of the walls to get into a position to charge… but only if he didn’t advance to get there.

Psychic Power Showcase – Clever Talk

Moving on from the depressing story of Thraka, we have other uplifting news to focus on.  The Blood Axes clan has always been one that was on the cusp of competitive playability. They have access to an excellent Kulture trait (gain the benefit of cover when +18” from the enemy, and can also charge or shoot after falling back) that is useful both offensively and defensively, and two fantastic stratagems (a fire and fade equivalent and cheaper version of the Teleporta).

Massed Kommandos supported by Snikrot and a unit of Ork Boyz has been a secret army list I’ve been tinkering on for some time, and this spell is an excellent addition to that playbook. Will this power alone bring Blood Axes into the forefront?  To be honest, probably not, but if we see a new plastic version of Kommandos and some interesting combinations with the new subkultures, we very well could.  Speaking of which….


Perhaps the most exciting new addition hinted at in this article is new Ork subcultures that seem to be additive to existing main cultures. We have seen similar concepts already with the ‘ardboyz and Skarboyz.  Both ‘ardboy and Skarboyz rarely see use because they are prohibitively CP expensive and provide only marginal benefits. The Pyromaniacs Subkulture is equally underwhelming and does not offer enough to make burna units viable, but the main deciding factor for whether these subkulturs see use is whether they are a free additive, like Marines doctrines, or if they continue to cost CP. For me, I can’t wait to see what flavorful and powerful subkulturs might be born from this new aspect.

Kustom Jobs

Much like with subkultures, it’s hard to make a full judgment on the viability of Kustom Jobs until we see more.  At present, the Mek Shop is perhaps one of the worst competitive choices to add to an army list. Its costs are excessive and attaining the Kustom Job forces an important unit to lose a turn. The Mek Shop would need to fundamentally change, which is possible in Psychic Awakening, for us to consider it a choice outside of narrative missions.

New Stratagems

Three new stratagems have been previewed to date, and all of them have some interesting uses.

Klever Spanner is perhaps the weakest of the three shown off today due to the inherent cost dynamics of running a Loota focused Ork list. Warbosses going for heavy shooting burn through Command Points alarmingly fast and a single mob of Lootas or Shokk Attack Gun can easily use up 7 CP per turn. Lootas get the most out of these extreme CP expenditures by maximizing the amount of Deffguns in the unit; you’re always going to want to field a full unit of 15 Lootas with no spanners.  Spending 2CP on that unit of 15 and cutting one Deffgun out for a spanner to have the ability to reroll their number of shots doesn’t seem very economical.

Now here’s what I love to see as a warboss. We have a stratagem that is not only heckin’ flavorful, but also extraordinarily potent.  Ork Dakkajets have always been on the boundary of competitive unit choices, and I believe this stratagem gets them the little bit extra surprise factor to make them an even more attractive combination. A full flyer wing of three Bad Moons Dakkajets is a not unreasonable choice and gives you an enormous threat to enemy castles. A big question that many clever Warbosses will be asking themselves is if they can justify the rather sub-standard Burna-Bommer when you can guarantee it triggering its “Explosive Demise” ability, applying 3 mortal wounds to all units within 6”.

This is what you wanted to see, and I imagine it’s an ability that will be used by every Ork player at the start of the game.  The Warboss on Warbike has been a very common pick, and for good reason! With the incredible speed to race across the board and dish out high levels of damage, Warbosses on bikes were only held back by their paper-thin 4+ save that lacked an invulnerable. Often, the warboss on bike was a suicidal cruise missile that obliterated anything it touched, then died in the ensuing enemy shooting phase…. But no more! Now your Warbosses can fight toe-to-toe with even the best Space Marines characters and potentially come out alive.  This stratagem is also the death knell for new Thraka because it will put regular Warbosses’ melee potential almost at parity (and in some cases superior) to poor Ghaz.

All in all, the reveals for the Ork side of Psychic Awaken has given us enough to whet our appetites for the new book and have hinted at some other new aspects that can change the Ork game.  The disappointing Thraka Datacard notwithstanding, I’m excited to see greater potential in the less used Ork clans and more reasons to bring out some of the dustier models that are a part of the larger Waaaagh.

What are your takes on the new Orks revels from today? Comment below and join us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with all the latest from GDFC.