Sunday, 12 June 2011

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Beasts

The Lore of Beasts is favoured by a lot of players for low-level "backup" wizards. This is because of the Signature Spell, Wyssan's Wildform. When you're looking at a level 1 wizard, the wisest choice of Lore is generally the one with the best Signature Spell, as it's the only spell you can guarantee he can select. Other than this though, I have not seen this Lore used heavily; it is not the Lore of choice for lord-level spellcasters.

What does it do?
The Lore Attribute, Wildheart, is really rather pathetic. It means all the spells in the Lore get a very marginal +1 to cast against "bestial" targets. Even if it were against all targets, I would not rate this ability highly. Under 8th edition, spells are generally not cast by the barest margins - players don't deliberately cut it fine, for fear of failing and being unable to cast further with that wizard, that turn. It's true that it makes all the spells slightly harder to dispel, but compared to some of the other Lore Attributes, this is disappointing.

On the other hand, as I have stated earlier, the Signature Spell Wyssan's Wildform is excellent. It gives the target unit +1 Strength and Toughness for a full turn, which is not to be sneezed at. The spell can make a promising unit extremely dangerous, or a moderate unit very tough. The target of Wyssan's Wildform will give a far better account of itself as a result of the spell. What's really significant about the spell is its being the Signature Spell - there are better spells in the game, but none you can automatically select on every mage using that Lore. The casting level of the spell is steep for a "number 0" spell, however its casting level reflects its usefulness.

The Flock of Doom sounds promising (anything with Doom in the title sounds good), however it's really rather useless. Strength 2 hits are not going to scare anything. You can't even boost the number of hits. All this spell is really good for is trying to knock out war machines, where the Toughness of 7 means Strength 2 is as good as Strength 5.

Pann's Impenetrable Pelt allows you to boost the Toughness of a nearby character by +3. If you get this off at the right time, it might be useful. The boosted level affects all characters in range, however this will only really be funny if you've stacked your units with characters and get them all into combat at the same time. In all it's really only an adequate spell.

The Amber Spear completes the meagre attacking arsenal of the Lore of Beasts. It effectively allows the caster to fire a bolt thrower, which can be boosted to hit like a cannonball. The most obvious target for this spell is large monsters, which tend to dislike bolt throwers and cannons quite a lot. Unless you manage to get into the flank of a unit of cavalry however, it's not likely to do all that much against a unit. If you wished you had another artillery piece, this could be the spell for you.

The Curse of Anraheir gives the target unit -1 on all To Hit rolls, and makes "all terrain" Dangerous Terrain, which will be failed on a 1 or a 2. I have heard various argument about whether "all terrain" applies to open "terrain". I am inclined to think not, however there is nothing in the latest FAQ about it at the time of writing. This spell is a fairly effective way to reduce the damage you will take from a particular unit, however it's nowhere near as crippling as some of the penalties available in other Lores, which tamper with Strength and Toughness.

The Savage Beast of Horros is a far more promising alternative to Pann's Impenetrable Pelt. I for one get far more excited by the prospect of making my characters into ludicrous blenders than I do about making them harder to kill for a while. +3 Attacks and +3 Strength is a more than handy boost. Even a Goblin (bless his vile little boots) looks fearsome with a stat improvement like that. Unfortunately, Goblins can't get this spell. This is actually particularly unfortunate, because the boosted version of this spell affects all characters within 12". Given the price of a Goblin Big Boss (I think they're free, or perhaps you get paid points for fielding them...), you could easily squeeze a dozen or more Goblin heroes in range and boost them to Hulk-like proportions. Ah, such a pity. You wouldn't like them when they're angry...

And finally, we have Transformation of Kadon. This is an odd spell, which allows the wizard to turn himself into a hideous monster. As in, a really big, rather frightening hideous monster. The low level of the spell will turn you into something handy like a Hydra. The boosted level of the spell... Have a look at the stats for a Mountain Chimera, if you have not already. It's in the rulebook. Go on, I'll wait...

OK, so hopefully you now know the full destructive capability of what you can turn yourself into. Don't forget breathing fire into combat and Thunderstomp. What this all means is, if you get this spell off at the right time, you could well wipe out an enemy unit. Unfortunately, that timing is absolutely critical. Most of the time, you will have to voluntarily charge the unit containing your poor little mage into combat and then hope you get the spell off. Should you fail or your opponent dispel it, you will still be a feeble little wizard in combat with something probably far nastier than you.

There is also the problem of what state your wizard will be in when the spell ends. Wounds suffered are carried over, so what may seem like a flesh wound when you're a huge and beastly will probably kill you when you crash back to earth. But hey, we all make sacrifices...

Who can get it?
High Elves
Wood Elves (Spellweaver only)
Lizardmen (Slann only)
Vampire Counts (using Forbidden Lore)
Daemons (using Master of Sorcery)

Who will use it best?
As funny as a spell like Transformation of Kadon is, most players are unlikely to try to form a plot around it. In fact, most high level wizards wouldn't go near a spell such as that. Compared to some of the other top-level Lore spells around, this one is a monstrous (Get it? Get it? Yes, I know. My hat is around here somewhere...) gamble.

It is worth mentioning at this point that, as many players have already noticed, Transformation of Kadon negates any magic and mundane items you are carrying and you can't cast other spells. However, it does not negate other upgrades you may have, such as Vampire Bloodline Traits. Nor does it negate the effects of items in your unit that you yourself are not carrying. This means you can be a Vampire Lord with Red Fury, in a unit with a banner conferring Hatred, and become a Mountain Chimera. Your maximum possible kills will be a rather handy 66 models, although that would take some heroic rolling. At some point someone will pull this off, then spend the rest of his life boring all his friends with stories about it. Ah, fun times...

Beyond this spell, most players will be underwhelmed by much of this Lore, which is obviously not an incentive to use it. If not for the Signature Spell, I doubt we would see this Lore used much at all. I suspect I will have a crack at some devious plan using the area effect of The Savage Beast of Horros on a teeming horde of hero-level characters, but this is more indicative of my own madness than any real promise in the Lore.

All races can find a use for a spell that adds to a unit's Strength and Toughness, so we will continue to see secondary, level 1 mages select the Lore of Beasts for Wyssan's Wildform alone. Otherwise the Lore won't get that much use at all.


  1. The Lore of Beasts is an excellent 'support' lore for competitive armies.
    Most Beastmen run 1 lvl 1/2 Shaman with this lore. Beasts do get a +1 for most of these spells, making their lvl 2 a lvl3 for the casting value.
    That doesn't address the main concern of this lore: very high cast values. with most spells at 10+, even a lvl 4 struggles to get off more than one spell from this lore. Beasts have a bit of a leg up, but other casters? Not so sure as I have yet to play them
    Wyssan's is key, but for a signature spell to have a 10+ casting value? That's a rough sig spell.
    The only spells I wouldn't take (in competitive play) are the Amber spear and the Transformation.
    If you do get A-spear off, and flub the wound? What now? You just wasted 3-5 dice.
    Transformation locks you out of your casting....and is garunteed to be dispelled.

    That being said, the 'boosted version' into a mountain chimera, can bring down ANY foe. 4d6 (primal fury if beastmen) s7 poisoned attacks? Not much can survive that.
    I don't want to know what CAN survive that.

    Good write up.


  2. To be fair, a level 4 will get a 10+ spell off more often than not with only 2D6, although it's a gamble to cut things so fine. I don't think the casting values are too big a problem, although if you're using Wyssan's Wildform as a spell on a level 1 backup mage, the required casting value really means the little guy will need 4 dice to do it comfortably - a lot for a backup using leftover dice.

    I don't really rate Transformation, and you can't even use it when you're mounted. Having said that, I did find myself fighting a mage-turned-Hydra at one point, and even when I dispelled it, he just cast it again. So I guess it works for some people, sometimes...