How do you plan Savage Worlds combats based on PC ability?


Last night I ran my first Savage Worlds combat, to try to get a feel for the system. The combatants were two sword-wielding fighting men against three orcs (extras) and their chieftain (a wild card). I enjoyed a lot of the combat, but when all the orcs had been dropped, all progress seemed to stop. We had endless whiff and ping on both sides. I have already read about reducing whiff and ping in SW, and that advice is good for combats that are underway. My question is about planning combats ahead of time.

Savage worlds doesn’t have a challenge rating or threat level system, which makes sense in many respects, because of the general unpredictability of encounters. Unfortunately, it means that without having experience with the system, it’s hard to guess at what threats will not be boring. In the case of the orc chieftain, for example, his high Parry and Toughness made it impossible for the PCs to damage him without acing out the wazoo. This wasn’t a question of a sure-thing TPK from a massive threat: the PCs, too, had high parry, which made it almost as difficult for them to be hurt. Even when we slowed down the combat to really look at bonuses everyone could work for, we kept whiffing and pinging.

In retrospect, I probably would have done better to replace the chieftain with plain old orc who was a wild card and had a higher Strength and Fighting. He could’ve hit the PCs more easily and been hit more easily himself.

So, my question is: how could I have known that from the start? Is there a simple often-right-enough formula for comparing PC traits to threat traits? Is there other common wisdom on doing this?