The question of whether or not Orks are a “top tier” army has been the subject of some debate amongst 40k players on the internet lately, particularly on Dakka (view the current thread here). The thread mostly consists of poster Frank Fugger offering an insightful analysis of the army while fighting off a horde of nerd-raging knuckle-draggers. There are a few exceptions however (Primarch and Mahu, most notably).
At the risk of coming late to the dead horse beatdown unlike me since the whole Orks thing was way back in July last year... except for Abuse Puppy and his recent wall-of-text, I’ll throw in my two cents since both sides aren’t really debating the viability of Orks, but the competitive nature of 40k armies and the tournament scene. It should also be be noted that Stelek has chimed in on the issue, and in fact has been asserting that Orks are one of the least competitive armies in 5th edition 40k for quite some time (view article here). More recently, he has commented on the same Dakka thread, posting highlights of the conversation (link).
The release of the Ork codex represented a significant shift in game design from previous army releases in late 4th edition, most notably Chaos Space Marines. Prior to the Ork codex release, it was mostly trash with the exception of a few very specific builds that relied on favorable rock-paper-scissor matchmaking to perform well in a competitive setting like what the ETC Teams try to do with their pairing. Afterwards, they managed to catch up with codex creep and perform on a level above pretty much everyone else.
It’s easy to point to Grand Tournament results like Nathan Fluger and claim that Orks represent the best all-around army in Warhammer 40k, but is this a valid set of data on which to base such a conclusion? Orks dominated early on because they were suddenly made viable and operated completely outside of the 4th edition meta-game. They continue to be a dominant force mostly because people have been slow to adjust to 5th edition.
Ask yourself, what are the armies that tend to dominate Orks? The answer in every case will be those armies which take full advantage of the changes between editions (Vulkan marines, Immolator spam, mech IG, and so on).
Orks do indeed dominate 4th edition armies in the 5th edition ruleset, but does that make them competitive? Well, that obviously depends on your definition of competitive, and it raises a number of more important questions about the Warhammer 40k meta-game. Theoretically, if 99 people bring crappy lists to a tournament and 1 person brings a slightly less crappy list and wins with it, does that make that list competitive? Relatively speaking, yes. But compared to good lists, it’s still garbage.
That’s more or less the status of Orks in 40k.
Now, I don’t feel as strongly as Stelek that Orks are a crap army. I simply believe they are a straightforward, mediocre army with an very mild learning curve. Without a favorable ruling on deffrollas affecting vehicles, they struggle badly against Land Raiders due to their lack of meltaguns. Even with the ruling they suffer against Land Raiders... please drive your expensive pseudo-melta weapon towards my real melta weapons. Sure, Nob bikers and a Warboss can take it down eventually key word with 6’s to hit, but they get slaughtered by the combination of massed firepower and Assault Terminators that get thrown at them on the following turn. You scratched my ride. Your going down. And that’s if they DO kill it. If they don’t, then the opposing player gets to cut out the heart of the Ork force unscathed. Game over.
But AV14 isn’t the only weakness in the Ork codex. Mechanized armies are difficult for Orks to cope with in general because of their heavy reliance on CC to crack armor. This has been mitigated somewhat in a recent shift in Ork list building towards Battlewagon spam with boarding planks, now that people have figured out how to beat Nobs on bikes (I still have trouble with Charlie’s army, but I chalk that up to him being a good player). Furthermore, while Orks can go mech, their big weakness is that they need to disembark to do anything, which breaks the #1 rule of mounting up: STAY IN THE TANK. Orks units need to expose themselves to be of much use, a weakness that is easily exploited by players who know how to sacrifice units, tank shock, and use flamers... the last bit was some quotes by Frank Fugger.
- Danny Internet in Greenskins versus Meta-game: Are Orks Competitive?