Monday, 6 December 2010

Magic - The Root of All Evil?

Just a brief note on magic, before (hopefully later this week) I start on my magic er... articles. Not at all a huge rant. >_>

Basically today I'm looking at what I feel is the biggest problem in WHFB, magic. Particularly the big hitters. We'll also look at how to protect oneself from them.

Why is it the biggest problem? Because it's so damn alpha-strikey. If you can imagine two balanced armies ( and not that competitive, lets say Empire and High Elves). They each have a level 4 with the lore of life. They each have Dwellers, and the Empire player has a Power Scroll, while the High Elf is packing the Book of Hoeth (rather than bringing Teclis). Now, as far as the magic game goes, here's how this breaks down.

Option One:
High Elves go first (more likely, Skeinsliver and less units generally). The Archmage moves within 24" of the Empire level 4 and uses 6 dice on Dwellers Below. The Empire Wizard Lord fails his strength test, and the high elf player has magical dominance for the whole game.

Option two:
High Elves go first again, and move up and cast Dwellers. The Empire General passes his strength test. Then, in the Empire players turn, he uses his Power Scroll to cast Dwellers on the Archmage, who fails his strength test, and then the Empire player has magical superiority all game.

Option three:
Empire go first, and move up and Dwellers the Archmage. He fails his strength test, and the Empire have magical dominance for the entire game.

Option four:
Empire go first, move up, Dwellers, the Archmage passes. The Archmage then uses Dwellers on the Wizard Lord, who fails. Advantage, High Elves.

Option five:
Both Wizards pass their strength tests. Deuce. This isn't likely (you're more likely to have one fail), but if this happens the assassinations continue from the HE player (book of hoeth) but the Empire's ability to do so is diminished because they're using a Power Scroll.

So, you guys must surely see the problem here? This applies in a lot of games in WHFB. Prophetess trying to Dwellers a Spellweaver but the Spellweaver also trying to Dwellers her. A Dark Elf using Pit of Shades/Purple Sun on a Slann while the Slann tries to get it Dwellers'd. Teclis using Dwellers on a Grey Seer while the seer tries to 13th him. It's madness. In my opinion, you should get Look Out Sir! from these spells. Or a Ward Save, or something. It's absolutely ridiculous that they are so Alpha Strikey. I was watching a game between WoC and Daemons of Chaos (using MoS for Beasts) the other day, and it was great. No stupid alpha strikey assassination spells. The Daemons guy had the whole lore of Beasts, and the Chaos guy had the lore of fire.

However, as crappy as it may be, it's the way the game is now. So, let's have a look at these deadly as hell spells and see what we can do to protect ourselves from them.

The spells are:
The Dwellers Below
Purple Sun of Xereus
Pit of Shades
Curse of the Horned Rat
The Final Transmutation (sort of, it's probably the worst, but most reliable)

Ok, so, lets go through these in order.

Everyone knows this one. Strength test or die, 24" range. So, ways to protect yourself. Some armies have natural protection from this (Vampires, Daemons of Chaos' Greater Daemons) while some are pretty weak to it (Teclis, Slann, any elf wizard except Malekith, any human wizard). So, ways to buff yourself up. Well, one of them is getting a mount! Some mounts (for example, the screaming bell, or a daemonic steed, or a cold one, yes a cold one) have higher strength, which will better protect you from this spell, if it's a particularly bad weakness. Personally this is the reason I've started taking the bell. If your opponent has this, try and set up pretty far from him if he's going first (with your wizard, not your whole army, also warmachines, as this instakills them).

Overrated imo. It's not all that great, because you can't rely on it the same way you can rely on the other spells. Unless your target is literally RIGHT in front of you. It's an init test, and most wizards have I3, but quite a few of the "top tier" armies have higher, with Skaven, Elves, Warriors and (some) daemons having pretty good initiative. However, this spell does run roughshod all over armies (even I4 can expect substantial casualties). It's a particularly good spell to give to Teclis if you're running the "sit in the 2nd rank phoenix guard" (the guys in front are immune cause of the banner of the world dragon). So, how to protect yourself from this.... If you're not blessed with high initiative, you're kinda screwed. Very few armies get mounts that increase initiative (Empire get Pegasi!). However, what you can do is position yourself so that your enemy has his own men between himself and you. And stay far away. It's unlikely to go over 18".

Are you a Treeman, Slann, Fateweaver or a Dwarf? Well, this is your maker. It's ridiculously accurate, and will kill most of the above at least 2/3rds of the time (bit less for the important Dwarfs). Not much you can do about this bad boy. At all. It's possibly the best "assassination" spell (easier to cast than Dwellers), but it's also very very specific. Only good vs low initiative.

Honestly, this one is probably the easiest one to avoid. Plop yourself in a unit of 20 models, you're done. Or, sit in anything but an infantry unit (for example, cavalry, buy a horse!). Be wary of this spell turn two though, as Skaven Shooting can wear you down turn one for a 13th turn two. I'd always keep my wizard in the biggest unit available to me, or on a horse. Really easy to avoid.

Hardest one to avoid fully, also the least specific. This one doesn't care who you are, everyone dies the same to it. Problem is, the rate they die at you'd be as well bringing something like Pit of Shades/Purple Sun. Chances are they die the same to that, and some people are more susceptible to it. Also, half the spells in metal are pretty poor. >:

Well, hope that helps folks. Now to end with a problem.

Say you have a Slann. You want to take the potion of strength to make you less vulnerable to Dwellers. Ok, great. If this works, so would taking a Sword of Might, no? Or a Halberd.

What do you think of that? O.o

Hope you guys enjoyed the article.


  1. I think there should be one minor change to the way magic works. Either you get a Look Out Sir roll on those spells, or they only cause one wound on characters if they fail (no ward save, nothing but just one wound). I don't mind big crazy unit killing spells but I do mind if they fry my prize characters because of one bad dice roll.

  2. Well that's just it. I also am fine with huge unit killers. It punishes you for trying to get too much out of the "hordey VP denial" aspect of WHFB. However also making these spells capable of destroying wizards was a step too far in my opinion.

    I'm ok-ish with pit of shades, it's not as reliable as a mass-killer, it's a sniper spell that's been around a while.

  3. It's the "no Saves" bit that is annoying. I believe Purple Sun does allow LOS! Coupled with its random range and straight line I think it is a reasonable spell.

    Dwellers and Pit need changing. Shame GW are not likely to give an errata.

  4. Ok being a lizardman player all the above affect my slann so ive come up with a near perfect counter to alot of those spells and thats the discard 6's disaplin. Ok all the spells are 24 inches and thats the range of the Dis. Alot of people have said that im helping them because they can't micast but trust me if thats the price i have to pay to keep my slann in the game then ok and anyway if i want them to miscast i'll give them mine.

  5. Generally You got the point, except for Purple Sun and Pit of Shades – characters hit by them benefit from LoS, because these spells use template. But it doesn’t change too much because of The Dweelers and The Final Transmutation. Rules read literally at this moment give High Elves such advantage, that they are invincible. Why? They can be easily protected from such spells, on account of their Battle Standard and Banner of The World Dragon, so Teclish in such protected unit is safe and able to cast one of the mentioned spells with irresistible force every round. With a simple trick all heroes in the magic-proof unit can also be protected from close combat and the unit is practically unbreakable – I will not give You the clue how to do that , but You are smart enough to figure out how it works:). The Pheonix Guard unit with Ward 4+ gives also excellent protection form shooting (which is generally too weak to bother, but just to be sure). My solution is simple - we absolutely must treat spells which hit every model in the unit as specific template spells, thus allowing LoS to work against them.