Today, I want to talk about how the first three Dataslates could be used to enhance your current Ork army or be used to get the gears turning on a new Orks list. For each product, I'll present both tactical and theme reasons you might want to invest in the use of these choices. The theme choices are from both a fluff and modeling perspective. The tactical suggestions involve tactics, listbuilding, and strategies.
Note that this is not meant to be a treatise on how to abuse the new Formations rules, but how to use them like a reasonable person. For example, I'm not going to assume anyone reading this is going to take two squads of 30 Boyz and a Big Mek, then fill the rest of their army with Broadsides and Riptides. I'm not saying whether or not that is or isn't a viable option in your army. What I am saying is that I'm not going to be talking about the impact of Formations and other new rules on the hobby and whether or not we need to start using comp. Other people are already doing a great job facilitating that conversation in other articles.
Be'lakor is a bad dude. His stat line is pretty much the same as a regular Daemon Prince, though he has a bunch of really cool abilities. Most notably, he is an Eternal Warrior and a powerful Psyker with access to the entirety of Telepathy.
The fluff for Be'lakor is interesting, but I would argue that he wouldn't waste a lot of time with Orks. For use with Orks, I would actually suggest throwing out the baked-in fluff for this Character and developing your own.
Stormboss - We don't really have a Warboss who is also a Stormboy. Be'lakor's rules would be the basis for a really awesome Stormboss. Of course, the use of Invisibility and other Telepathy powers could easily be explained with the use of Technology which doesn't always work as intended. I would say that the Stormboss' "Lord of Torment" ability which grants extra Warp Charges can be represented by the Character becoming emboldened by the enemy's cowardice, and is more willing to press press as many dangerous-looking buttons on the jetpack's controls as he can at once. For modeling this guy, I'd probably make use of the basic plastic Warboss from the Assault on Blackreach set and use Dakkajet parts or Stormraven parts for his rad jet pack.
Fly Mek - So, this could be a really interesting project. Most of the rules justifications for this Character would be similar to that of the Stormboss, but instead imagine an Ork Deff Dread that transforms from a robot into a Dakkajet when it enters Soaring mode. I'll let that sink in.... yeah... feels good, doesn't it?
Daemon Warboss Tuska - I plan on building a returned-form-the-warp-as-a-daemon-prince Tuska model for the Adepticon Team Tournament. I'll likely be using the Bloodthirster rules for him, but if you'd rather use Be'lakor to represent this bad dude, then there's literally nothing stopping you. I'd suggest starting with a base Daemon Prince model, then bulk out the musculature and build your own Power Klaw. For the head, I would take one of the normal heads and build upon it with Greenstuff. For the right proportions, you'll have to make the head about twice the size and make sure the model hunches forward slightly.
Note that Be'lakor isn't a Formation which means that to be properly used with Orks, you'll need to bring in some Chaos Space Marine troops. There aren't a whole lot of good options here that could be theme-appropriate. I'd bring some Chaos Cultists and use them as Diggas. Diggas are humans who are, inexplicably, able to live on the fringes of Ork kulture. They even try to emulate the Orks and their ferocious nature. I might suggest painting them like normal humans, but give them Orky weapons and green face paint. Heck, even give them Mark of Khorne. Why not?
You may want to also take advantage of the opportunity to do some other modeling projects by adding more from the Chaos Space Marines Codex. It isn't a giant leap from the confusing mass of tentacles and gross which are the Chaos Spawn to giant balls of bitey hunger which are Squigs Of Unusual Size. This would also be a fantastic opportunity to try and hone your sculpting skills. Squigs are very easy to sculpt in comparison to other creatures.
Be'lakor brings some very enticing options to the table. A lot of reasonable Ork players prefer not to run a gun line. While this is admirable, this decision makes it really tough to deal with certain threats.
One of the Orks' main weaknesses right now are Monstrous Creature Characters. One of the main things which made our army competitive in 5th edition was our ability to swing a Power Klaw in combat and guarantee that we'd do something by the time the dust settled. This is no longer the case against Monstrous Creature Characters and reasonably powerful Independent Characters. They will challenge you and you'll have two options: either the boyz swing with futility and lose numbers while the Nob stays alive, or the Nob accepts the challenge and dies before he can swing. One of the ways to deal with this is to try and get two characters into the combat, have one challenged out, and then pray that your opponent's awesome Character doesn't roll any precision hits which will kill your other Power Klawed Character before he can swing. This is by no means a fun or reliable way of dealing with these kinds of threats.
Be'lakor seems like a wonderful way to get a model which can tank other Monstrous Creatures for you and reasonably survive the turn it'll take for him to engage them. With his fast speed, his Invisibility giving him a great save while closing distance, his Eternal Warrior protecting him from the most grievous wounds, and his impressive number of quality attacks, he's a really reliable unit to use for headhunting.
I can't wait to try him out in an actual game because this is all conjecture at this point. I'd love to see how well he can last carving through Wave Serpents, Land Raiders, and other vehicles while the Battlewagons zoom forward, generating threat of their own. If anything, he'll give the meat and potatoes of the Ork army the opportunity to get into position and actually make it into assault.
Of course, nothing is certain against a spammed Tau and/or Eldar list, but we're already playing Orks here, so let's not quibble over such pointless topics. In a regular game against an opponent who won't be bringing a friendship-destroying list, Be'lakor could solve quite a few problems that exist in the Ork portfolio.
Tau Fireblade Support Cadre
The Fireblade Support Cadre (henceforth referred to as the Cadre) presented a new concept in normal games of 40k which is the Formation. A Formation is a specific set of models which can be added to an army outside of any Detachment, though it still interacts with the army's Primary Detachment as if it were an ally from its home Codex. The Formation consists of a Riptide and two units Broadsides, each with three suits and whatever drones and other upgrades you care to use. In addition, the unit receives Tank Hunters (!!!!!) and an ability called Bane of Angels which gives the unit Preferred Enemy against all kinds of Space Marines and gives all kinds of Space Marines hatred against the Cadre.
You may take this detachment as many times as you like, though this article assumes the Orks are still going to be the primary focus of your army and you will not be taking more than one or two Cadres.
One of the most simple themes to use with the Tau in general has always been to assume the Orks are Blood Axes who are simply selling their services as mercenaries. The Blood Axes are oddly pragmatic and the Tau are really willing to work with anyone who will listen to them. Interestingly enough, most people are also willing to work with the Tau as long as the Water Caste has a chance to talk to them... but that's a conversation for another day.
I've often lamented my decision to go with an Ork contingent of my own devising rather than the Blood Axes. They're really wonderful for mixing and matching with other races. A great SAC (small allied contingent) of Orks for the average player would be to paint and play them as that clan.
At any rate, for the purposes of the Fireblade Support Cadre, perhaps the pilot of the Riptide has been separated from his main fleet along with a small contingent of other Tau, but he's determined to get the job done whatever it takes. Fortunately for him, he's come across a rogue band of Bloodaxe mercenaries who, after a short discussion with the group's Water Caste ambassador, are willing to fight for them at a fair price.
Of course, there are several Orky conversions you could do instead of running the Tau models as-is. I try to steer away from these as the difficulty level is rather high and Tau/Ork konversions for the purpose of using them as Tau units just aren't my style for some reason. Additionally, if you're purchasing the models to make one or more of these detachments, you may want to keep them as close to basic Tau as possible so that they look reasonably nice alongside any of your armies.
The benefits of the Cadre to an Ork army are probably kind of obvious. The Broadsides in the Detachment can be used to fulfill the same role as your Lootaz are now. They provide an exceptional and resilient gun line to an army whose gun line tends to be fragile against a great many threats.
Six Broadsides with High-Yield Missile Pods replacing the Railguns are 390 points. You're probably going to add some drones and make one suit in each squad a Shas'vre in order to protect the squad from falling off the board. I'm not sure which drone's you're going to want to choose. Shield Drones are great tools, but I'd consider the use of offensive drones instead. Missile Drones are very nice for this and are each practically a Loota in and of themselves. The addition of an Early Warning System to give the models Interceptor (which could save your Ork units from deepstriking Melta and Flamers) greatly improves the value of these units. With the Shas'vre upgrade, 6 missile drones and Early Warning Systems added to each unit, the Broadsides will run you 584 points for both squads.
An extreme number of 39 Lootaz is 585 points points not including the Battlewagons, Mega-Armored Warbosses, and/or Fortifications you need to keep them safe from enemy fire. These Lootaz will, on average, hit with 26 strength 7 shots assuming they haven't gone to ground. The Broadside teams will hit with 24 strength 7 shots and 12 strength 5 shots which ignore cover and don't need line of sight. The Orks and the Broadsides actually almost have an equivalent average damage output versus certain vehicles, though the Broadsides have a clear advantage against infantry.
The difference in resiliency between the two units is complicated. The Lootaz boast 39 wounds while the Broadsides are sporting 24. The Lootaz are often placed in a situation where they can go to ground for a 3+ or a 2+ cover save with an unremarkable change to their ballistic skill while the Broadsides are greatly discouraged from such an action. With so many ways of removing cover saves these days, however, the contest of resiliency must go to the Broadsides boasting a 2+ armor save and a leadership of 9. The scales tip even further on the side of the Broadsides when taking into account their Early Warning System.
This resiliency also allows you to leave them on the board. This is extremely helpful in that you won't be wasting precious Battlewagon space on Lootaz or relying on the somewhat dubious Skyshield Landing Pad. You can pile Boyz, Nobz, Burnaz, or whatever your assaulty heart desires inside your Battlewagons and scream forward while your Tau employers rain fiery, explodey death on the enemy.
I'd like to make a quick note on Railguns. I think that another great way of running these units is to actually give them Railguns. With these, I might take a couple of missile drones per squad and then actually just add some Lootaz to the army for medium strength fire. Try them out in one or both squads before gluing your arms on. I think that the addition of the Tank Hunters rule makes the Railguns a much better choice than they once were and these monsters will really give your opponent a bad day, especially if you include Markerlights in your army.
Now, I know the idea here is not to take an actual allied detachment of Tau and that's fine. I would argue it's not a bad idea just so you can get the unbelievable buffing power of Markerlight Drones in your army. If you can improve your chances of hitting or remove cover saves, the Railguns with Tank Hunter become dangerous to almost everything you can expect to encounter on the battlefield. Also, there are far worse things than adding a Battlesuit Commander and a squad of Kroot to your army list.
The Riptide is a wonderful machine which can take quite a bit of punishment and has a low line-of-sight profile compared to some of the other big beasties out there. He doesn't have to do a whole lot of work in order to hide on today's battlefields. For the Ork army, it exists apart from the Broadsides in that it doesn't really have an equivalent to compare it to. The addition of a Riptide to an Ork army is slightly paradigm-altering. Suddenly, the Ork player can bring things like Melta and high-quality blast weapons to the game. I, however, have one loadout I would probably always take. I'd use the Riptide as a hunter.
With the Broadsides backing it up and the Riptide's awesome Heavy Burst Cannon, weight of fire is really taken care of at this point. I'd suggest going ahead and ditching your Twin-Linked Smart Missile System for the Twin-Linked Fusion Blaster. I'm not saying the Fusion Blaster is a better weapon in general; I'm saying it's a better choice in this list. Although the Riptide is more than capable of wrecking a vehicle in assault, you're going to want to keep your Orks between it and the enemy whenever possible. That's really what the Orks are there for, after all. At any rate, with Tank Hunters, the Fusion Blaster really has a very good chance of incinerating a Land Raider, which have been showing up in lists these days.
Whether or not to take a Stimulant Injector is tough. I feel as if the firepower that the Riptide brings to the table does not warrant a 35 point upgrade to give it an additional 5+ feel no pain. I'd prefer to give the beastie Skyfire with the Velocity Tracker. This will add some flexibility to this tough model. I'd also add the Early Warning Override. This may not seem as useful to a medium range, put-forward unit like the Riptide, but it will be a deterrent, particularly with that Fusion Blaster. This Riptide standing amidst your Boyz simply dares your opponent to come anywhere near his charges. I wouldn't suggest adding the Shielded Missile Drones. They're kind of expensive even though they're a nice shield and add a little firepower. The most damning thing about the drones is that the Riptide isn't fearless and the last thing you need is a Riptide running away from a hard-fought position.
That certainly was quite a long explanation for something so simple, but I felt it was important to show the work on this one and really compare what you're getting in this to what you've already got. There is value in taking this when you consider the Lootaz' overall resiliency issues both due to armor save and leadership.
Adeptus Astartes StormwingThe Adeptus Astartes Stormwing is a Codex: Space Marines Formation which allows you to bring a Stormraven and two Stormtalons. The Stormraven gets Strafing Run as long as there is one Stormtalon still alive. Both Stormtalons escort the one Stormraven in from Reserve.
I'm not sure if I'd include any Ork flyers or Stormboyz in a list which includes the Stormwing. I have a feeling Ork pilots would never be able to help shooting at Space Marine flyers and Stormboyz would, even though it's impossible in the game, probably do their best to try jumping onto the Space Marine flyers and tear them apart in mid-air.
This Formation is very single-minded in its application alongside Orks. You'll need to keep your distance due to the One Eye Open rule, so you'll probably want to keep the Stormwing in a tight formation. The Formation will make a wonderful headhunter against prime targets. It has the strength and quality of fire to take huge chunks out of almost any unit, including vehicles and monstrous creatures.
I recommend the Assault Cannon, Twin-Linked Multimelta, and Hurricane Bolters on the Stormraven. I know that a lot of people love the Multimelta/Lascannon version, but this variant often spends the last two to three turns of the game shooting uselessly at units of infantry. You won't want this Formation to just wound units. You want it fly over to remote sections of the board which your Orks will find it impossible to reach and finish these units off. This is why the Hurricane Bolters have been added.
The base Stormtalon is a phenomenal value. It puts out a lot of Dakka and is capable of busting armor with its Assault Cannon. One of my favorite maneuvers is to fly behind a Heldrake and shoot it in the butt with the Stormtalon's turreted Assault Cannon. There is something to be said for the Skyhammer Missile Launcher, though even at BS 5 and an insane range, I don't like that it is not twin-linked. With so many points tied up in these three flyers, I'm not sure it's all that necessary.
In all, I'm not sure if I really recommend using this Formation with Orks. Much of the time, you'll find yourself either in Hover Mode or flying off the board to avoid One Eye Open. I'll try to get some playtesting in to confirm this observation, however. According to the Allied Formations rules, you could avoid One Eye Open by taking Tau as your Primary Detachment, but at that point you're not playing an Ork army really.
I don't recommend adding Dakkajets to a list which includes the Stormwing. Flyers take up a lot of room on the board and they're difficult enough to maneuver as it is.
The Scouring and Big Guns Never Tire
Many of the units involved in these Formations are normally Heavy or Fast choices. After reading the rules several times, I think that the argument is strong for these units being neither Fast nor Heavy for the purposes of The Scouring and Big Guns Never Tire. You might either be an argument in favor of using these Formations or not depending on your play style and houserules regarding flyers and scoring and placement of objectives.
If the rumors about the rest of the releases for December are true, I won't be re-visiting this topic anytime soon. I was really hoping for an Ork Dataslate, but that was actually kind of a silly dream. Of course Games Workshop's goal is to sell their new models and Formation boxes. The Orks aren't even on their radar as a business. Not for a while, anyways.