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Monday, October 11, 2010

Armies in 8th: Magic Part 9: Lore of Shadow

Second last of the main rulebook Lores, joy! Lore of Shadows is all about fiddling with statlines to improve your army's effectiveness and the damage spells are generally secondary to this but very powerful. The Lore Attribute is a great way to move your spell-casters out of harms way and/or move combat characters into 'harms' way or simply provide a very impressive 18" mobility to your characters before the shooting phase. This is particularly effective in moving spell-casters about after each spell to drag them into range and out but be aware, if you fail to cast a spell, the spell-caster could be stuck in a very dangerous position.

Let's take a look at the spells.

Signature Spell - Melkoth's Mystifying Miasma: Cheap to cast with a massive range which negatively affects a unit's attribute (chosen by the casting player) for a turn. And I can spam it? Yes please. Even the Level 2 spell is pretty easy to cast with a good range and negatively affects 4 attributes. Whilst having multiple casters with this spell is great to really hamper multiple units' effectiveness, even one or two spell-casters with this can target units you want to take out in combat or effectively stop in an opponent's phase (i.e. low movement or BS). This can effectively allow your units to target and eliminate a unit a turn with minimal retaliation in combat and protect a unit from counter-charges/shots, etc. Miasma is particularly effective at combining with Enfeebling and Withering to provide loss of Strength and Toughness across multiple units.

1 - Steed of Shadows: This is a nice spell to move characters around after your movement phase if you've made a mistake or need that little bit of extra movement but the Lore Attribute already does this for virtually free and with a longer range. Cheap to cast though and does provide that little bit of extra mobility.

2 - The Enfeebling Foe: Here's where Shadow starts to really screw with opponent's magic phases, especially when combined with other Lores to create a lot of Remains in Play spells. Enfeebling is a RiP spell which reduces an opponent's unit strength for a fairly decent casting cost but okay range. The level 2 of this spell doubles the range for a minimal increase in casting cost. Other spells which rely on strength as a test characteristic (i.e. Dweller's Below from Lore of Life) will gain a huge benefit from this as well as any low T armies who are now much harder to wound.

3 - The Withering: The second RiP spell of Shadow, this spell affects Toughness but is harder to cast than Enfeebling whilst still limited by range (doubled for Level 2 just like enfeebling). This can make S3 shooting much more effective, especially combined with other spells which can make shooting more reliable (i.e. Curse of Arrow Attraction) as you become more likely to inflict wounds. This obviously helps a large amount of combat units as well or even non-combat units in combat. Any unit which is in combat and does not rely upon strength enhancing weapons and has a low standard strength (i.e. 3) will be able to do a lot more damage with Withering cast. The important thing to remember about both of these spells is their short range, the Lore Attribute and they are RiP. The short range can be overcome through smart use of the Lore Attribute and once they are cast, they keep going unless your opponent dispels them and because they can effectively take units out of the game, casting them on strong opposing units will greatly encourage your opponent to hamper their own Magic phase to do this. Against MSU armies this is obviously less effective but your units still gain the benefits of opposing units having lower S or T but combined with Miasma can still reduce the effectiveness of 3 or more units (depending how many casters have Miasma).

4 - The Penumbral Pendulum: This is the another spell which combines very well with the stat reducing effects of previous Shadow spells. Reduce a unit's (or multiple units) initiative and watch as they get whacked by multiple wound S10 hits. With an average range of ~21" (or double with Level 2), this spell has quite a bit of reach and works exactly like cannon and can therefore be very effective at taking out a large number of models across multiple units. This is particularly effective when combined with a fast character (say on a horse) and the Lore Attribute as you can hit whole ranks of multiple units by getting into their flanks. The spell (particularly level 2) is moderately difficult to cast but when combined with low I armies and/or Miasma, Pendulum can do a massive amount of damage. However, Pendulum is based on a random dice roll for distance and not only needs models to fail initiative tests but then wound them as well and bypass any Ward/Magic Resistance saves.

5 - Pit of Shades: Another damage spell which relies upon an initiative test by opposing models but models which fail this simply die (much  more reliable than Pendulum in this matter0. This obviously combines very well with Miasma and can do a lot more damage to large block units than Pendulum due to using the small (or large) blast template and not relying upon a random roll to measure distance. Whilst still relatively short-ranged, again the Lore Attribute can come in handy to get a spell-caster in range and then pop back away after Pit has been cast. Pit has a high casting cost which is increased moderately for the level 2 casting which raises the damage potential (large blast) but makes it more unreliable (scatter 2D6). All low I units beware.

6 - Okkam's Mindrazor: Very high casting cost and for a reason. Rather than affecting statlines, Okkam's mindrazor replaces a unit's strength with its leadership. Yes, all high Ld units can now have strength 8/9 and basically crush face in combat. This can make even mediocre combat units in high Ld armies very formidable in combat which can easily screw with your opponent's plans and support your more able assault units very well. Limited range but less of a hindrance since it is cast on a friendly unit but can be doubled by raising the casting cost (generally not needed).

Lore of Shadow is perhaps one of the most synergistic Lores out there. Whilst Life really revolves around Throne of Vines, Shadow can affect multiple spells and abilities across the whole ruleset and can drastically alter an opponent's game plan as stats are reduced and lots of models are destroyed. Without the stat reducing spells, Shadow is an okay damage Lore but it can really do a lot of damage once a unit's initiative has been lowered. One major drawback of Shadow spells which affect statlines is their randomness. Rather than reducing stats by a set amount they are generally a D3 reduction. Reducing a BS4 unit's BS by 1 isn't that impressive but dropping it to BS1 is. A couple of poor rolls after spells have been cast can basically mean your opponent is unaffected.

Verdict: Great. Whilst Shadow does rely upon reducing unit stats (which are random), Miasma can be cast multiple times and once a unit is weakened, the damage spells of Shadow are very potent. The Lore Attribute is also very effective at overcoming the limited range of many Shadow spells and expertise in using this ability and ensuring your army has the characters to do this will improve the success your spell-casters have with the Shadow Lore. An early long-range cast of Miasma and swap can bring your spell caster well within range for Pendulum or Pit of Shades and a quick swap back out towards the backlines. Beyond this, the Lore Attribute can also keep spell-casters out of harm's way and move combat characters closer to the fight. Again, Shadow spells are primarily about negatively impacting upon statlines (or positively with Mindrazor) and using this to the army's advantage and then providing damage through damage spells like Pendulum and Pit.

P.S. no points for knowing where the picture is from. Every gaming nerd should...

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