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Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Article: Warhammer Fantasy Magic Item Review - Part 5


Magic Items Review Part 5: Arcane Items

Arcane Items are strictly Wizards only, so they're much more limited in an army than other types of Magic Items. Arcane Items add an extra level of functionality to a Wizard, mostly boosting their own spellcasting prowess or granting protection from enemy spells. There are some weird choices that are best avoided, and most of these items are also expensive, taking a big chunk of points from your Wizard’s allowance. However, since most Wizards can’t take Magic Armour they can afford to spend a little extra on these items, and usually a Wizard only needs a ward save and a specific Arcane Item to perform well.

A lot of messing around in the errata for this one, the Arcane Items seemed to have caused a rules kerfuffle or two.

Book of Ashur

For Lord Wizards only, the Book of Ashur gives a straight +1 bonus to both the Wizard’s casting and dispelling rolls, quite a hefty bonus. Unlike most other Arcane Items, it’s always active and used in both side’s Magic Phases. Accordingly, it’s massively expensive.
At 70 points, the Book takes up most of a Wizard’s magic item allowance, leaving just enough points for some protection, the Talisman of Endurance (5+ ward) being a good choice. A level 4 Wizard with this item is going to dominate both magic phases, and as such needs protecting with the rest of your army.

Feedback Scroll

If you use this item at the right time, and are lucky, it can cripple or kill an enemy Wizard. You can use it when an enemy Wizard successfully casts a spell, it goes off as normal, but then you roll a dice for each power dice that was rolled in the casting. For every 5 or 6 you roll, that Wizard suffers a wound with no armour saves (if any) allowed.

This item is best aimed at bigger Wizards who are casting with handfuls of dice, about 5+ dice, so you get a good chance of causing wounds. However, there are downsides.

First is the cost. 50 points is a large sum, especially since it will take up a Hero’s item allowance.
Secondly, if the Wizard you want to affect gets an Irresistible Force, you’re unable to use this item. As stated in the errata, the bearer can’t use the scroll if a dispel attempt isn’t possible, such as if the spell was cast with Irresistible Force, or the user failed a dispel attempt earlier in the phase. (This applies for the Scroll of Leeching, Sivejir’s Hex Scroll, Dispel Scroll and Scroll of Shielding too).

Timing is crucial for this item, and more than a little luck is involved too; you want an enemy Wizard to use a lot of dice on one spell, but not get Irresistible Force.

The spell must be successfully cast too; you can’t use it on a Wizard who just failed to cast his spell.
Due to all these extra requirements, it’s better to get some other item instead of this one.

Scroll of Leeching

Like the Feedback Scroll, timing is important when using this scroll. Unfortunately, there won’t be a time when you’ll get much out of this expensive item.

When you use it, you get a dispel dice for every power dice the enemy Wizard just used to cast a spell, up to the usual maximum of 12. Yay!

But this isn’t that great. Used against a basic spell, you’ll net two, maybe three dispel dice. If the enemy throws a whole bunch of power dice into one spell, you’ll net the lot, of course. This is also bad, because the enemy Wizard just spent all his power dice on casting a big spell, and instead of dispelling it you just looted all the dice. All those dispel dice you now have. What are you going to use them on? They just threw most of their power dice into casting a big spell anyway, they’ve either got nothing else to cast or just have a few magic missiles to use, in which case, you’ve just gained a lot of dice for little point.

There is one method to get use from this item, and that’s using it against a basic spell to get some extra dispel dice against a larger spell that you expect later in the magic phase.

This item requires some thinking ahead and timing to use, but its restrictions on when to use it and its cost let it down. It’s much better to use a dispel scroll instead of messing around with this one.

Sivejir’s Hex Scroll

If you ever feel the need to spend 50 of a Wizard’s magic item allowance on a big chunk of wacky nonsense, this unpronounceable scroll is your man.

When you use it, the affected Wizard must roll equal to or under his Wizard Level on a D6, and if he doesn’t, all his stats, except Wounds, are reduced to 1. This can be quite good if you can time things so that the Wizard you want to toadify is in combat, and if the Wizard is the enemy General, you’ve reduced his Inspiring Presence leadership to 1 into the bargain.

The problem comes in when the Wizards you most want to affect with this item (the level 4 guys) can avoid it on basically a 3+ save: they’ll only fail on a 5 or 6. Level 1 and 2 Wizards aren’t worth using this item on unless they're the only Wizard the enemy has, and when was the last time you saw a level 3?

As well as getting it to work in the first place, your opponent can attempt to remove it at the start of each of his magic phases on a 4+. This can be troublesome, but you can use that window to kill the affected Wizard while he’s in toad form. It’s important to note that the scroll does not affect the Wizard’s mount, and as stated in the errata he still has his basic special rules (so an affected Vampire is still Undead and so on)

It might be one of those wacky items, but if built into a strategy the Hex Scroll is a weird, crazy way of taking out an enemy Wizard. If you’re not building an army around it, don’t take it.

Power Scroll

This particular item received a total rewording in the errata, and its affects have completely changed from what’s printed in the book. To save time, here are the changes:

“One use only. A Power Scroll can be used when the Wizard makes a casting attempt. During that casting attempt, the casting value of the spell is halved. You cannot choose to boost a spell when using the Power Scroll.”

So yes, casting Purple Sun on 8, Dwellers Below on 9, Curse of the Horned Rat on 13. 13! This item is crazy like that. Any Wizard can get great use out of this item, as long as you wait for the opportune moment when you really need a certain spell to be cast.

Wand of Jet

At the same cost as the Power Scroll, the Wand of Jet at first doesn’t seem as good. It allows you to boost the casting roll of a single spell by D6, effectively giving you a free power dice for a crucial casting.

However, the Wand gains extra worth because you choose whether or not to use it after rolling the casting dice, not before. This lets you save it until you really need it, instead of accidentally wasting it on a spell that you could have cast without its help. This extra ability makes the Wand of Jet an extremely useful utility item, and worth including on a Lord Wizard.

Forbidden Rod

If you’ve just made a pants roll at generating winds of magic, this item can save your Magic Phase, but will also likely kill or severely maim the character using it. +D6 power dice is good, but the bearer also suffers D3 wounds, with no armour saves allowed. This is enough to kill every non-special character Wizard in the game, excluding the Ogres. It’s powerful, but comes with a higher price than its own point cost. If you must take it, don’t give it to a Wizard without a ward save, and certainly don’t take it if your army only has one Wizard.

Staff of Sorcery

This ain’t in the book!
Yes indeed, while perusing the errata for the main rulebook I found an entire Magic Item had been added at some point. It is on page 4 of the errata, and it is 35 points for a +1 bonus to the bearer’s dispel attempts.

This allows the Wizard much greater presence in the enemy Magic Phase, and if your army has only one or two Hero Wizards, it can be a good choice to help deal with enemy magic. The Dispel Scroll is ten points cheaper, but that can of course only deal with a single spell. On a higher level Wizard it’s rather useful, granting a total bonus of 5+ to his dispel rolls. A good, solid item.

Trickster’s Shard

This item functions as a deterrent for enemy Wizards, carrying a risk of wounding them if they successfully dispel one of the bearer’s spells. Unfortunately, it’s only a 5+ chance to cause a wound, and only if the dispel is successful, not attempted. This means that the Trickster’s Shard is most often weak and ineffectual. However, it can find use with a Wizard that casts lots of low difficulty spells in one phase, increasing the chance of this item working. Still a poor item on the whole.

Earthing Rod

This item gives the Wizard using it a once-a-game re-roll on the Miscast table. This can be a life-saver if you roll one of the worse results on the table, and you can also choose when to use it in case the initial roll isn’t so bad. Best used on a level 4 Wizard as they are more likely to suffer Miscasts during a battle.

Dispel Scroll

Good old faithful Dispel Scroll. You all know the drill; immediately and automatically dispels any enemy spell you want, except one cast with Irresistible Force. The Dispel Scroll has gone under a considerable change however, like other Magic Items, you can only take one of them. Previously, you could take any number of “scroll” items in your army, and it was common to see “scroll caddies,” level 1 Wizards whose entire job was to carry around a pair of Dispel Scrolls. Unfortunately those days have passed, and you can only have one. The Dispel Scroll is still as good as it ever was, you just have to be more careful when to use it.

Power Stone

The Power Stone is a great one time item for that spell you really need to cast. Cheaper than the Wand of Jet, lets you attempt a high difficulty spell with just one power dice. Unlike the Wand, you must declare its use before rolling to cast, but its most efficient purpose is saving it to use with that last remaining power dice. A good item that goes well with any Wizard.

Sceptre of Stability

This item is essentially the same as the Wand of Jet, but for dispel attempts instead of casting attempts. You choose to use it after rolling instead of before, making it very useful in case an important dispel attempt falls short of the mark. Ten points cheaper than the dispel scroll is also nice, and easily included on a cheap Wizard. Taking it in the same army as the dispel scroll is helpful, as it gives you two defences against two separate spells, and it’s a nice point filler.

Channelling Staff

Stuck square in the “okay” zone is the Channelling Staff, giving a +1 bonus to the bearer’s channelling attempts. This means your chance for getting that extra power or dispel dice is on a 5+ instead of a 6. It’s an okay bonus, but channelling is just a happy bonus rather than something you should plan around. A point filler item, nothing more

Scroll of Shielding

This item functions like the Dispel Scroll, except instead of dispelling the enemy spell, the target of that spell receives a 4+ ward save against any wounds that spell might cause. Essentially, it’s giving them Magic Resistance 3 just for that spell. Of course, while it doesn’t work against the Purple Sun and its ilk, it’s great for blocking various magic missiles.

It’s vastly cheaper than the Obsidian Lodestone, which also gives MR3, and has “infinite” range, as you can use this scroll on any enemy spell, no matter where its caster is or where the target of the spell is. Against spells that ignore armour saves (the Lore of Metal, for example) it’s golden (sorry).

It also lets you block such spells without spending dispel dice, useful if you want to conserve them for other spells or simply don’t have enough to attempt a dispel.

While you might not use it every battle, the Scroll of Shielding is an effective, cheap magic defence.


Given that the Arcane Items are more restricted and expensive than other magic items, and that your Wizards are important guys, you can afford to be more picky with choosing them. One or two powerful Arcane Items is better than a smattering of okay ones, and beyond the nigh-obligatory Dispel Scroll it’s a simple matter of boosting your Wizard’s performance. One thing to note is that almost all of them are one use only items, and it’s often better to just not take one or take a Talisman instead, unless you really want a particular Arcane Item.


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