Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Heavens

With the exception of Skink Shamans (who have no choice), I have only seen one person actually elect to use the Lore of Heavens in 8th edition. This would obviously suggest that the Lore is far from popular (at least where I play), however does this mean it is no good?

What does is do?
The Lore Attribute for the Lore of Heavens is called Roiling Skies. Basically whenever you target a unit that can Fly with a Heavens spell, it will suffer D6 Strength 4 hits in addition to whatever the spell effects are. This is handy against the right target – Flying Units like Harpies, Furies, Warhawk Riders will not appreciate this sort of damage. Larger targets such as characters on anything short of a Dragon will also notice, although the Toughness of 6 on the Dragon should be enough to largely ignore this effect.

Iceshard Blizzard is the Lore’s Signature Spell. It’s a hex spell that gives the target -1 on all To Hit rolls, and shooting units such as war machines that do not roll To Hit must roll a 4+ or will not fire at all. The spell lasts a full turn, so is guaranteed to affect 1 enemy shooting phase. The penalty on rolling To Hit may be enough to swing a combat. On the right target this spell could be effective, however for some targets 7+ might feel a bit steep (10+ to increase the range, which may well be necessary against distant targets such as war machines). Not the best Signature Spell in the game, but it can be useful.

Harmonic Convergence allows a friendly unit to reroll all 1s for To Hit, To Wound and armour saves. This lasts for a full turn, so could benefit a unit in multiple rounds of combat. Rerolls such as this tend to work best on high-statistic troops, such as knights on the charge, which will often be hitting fairly easily, wounding on a 2+, and even saving on a 2+. Where your odds are this good, the spell is practically allowing you to reroll everything you have failed. It offers excellent protection against the sort of horror rolling on your best unit that can cost you the game. The rerolls will of course benefit any unit, but you will get the most mileage on something where you can be fairly sure that your rerolls will succeed.

The spell can be cast to affect all friendly units within 12”, which could be extremely handy. You might immediately think of your caster being in the centre of the battle line when multiple combats erupt simultaneously, however there are other uses. For instance, if your caster is on a hill, in the centre of your shooting, you could potentially boost several war machines and missile units. How many people have rolled a 1 To Wound with a cannon? Rerolls like that can win games.

Wind Blast is a very strange spell. It is a magic missile that pushes an enemy unit D3+1” (D6+2” when boosted), directly away from the caster. The spell does no damage unless the target is pushed into impassable terrain or another unit, in which case the units involved suffer D6 Strength 3 hits. This damage is fairly insignificant, so obviously the primary purpose of the spell is to move the target unit. You could use this spell to push an enemy war machine or shooting unit off the back of a hill, which would cost them a round of shooting. However, a range of 24”, such targets may often be out of range. A more common use might be to push a unit out of charge range, or to force them out of your unit’s flank arc. You could force a dangerous enemy unit behind a harmless one, blocking their charge. The potential uses are probably endless. There are not a lot of ways in the game for you to monkey with your opponent’s movement, so players are probably not used to this spell’s potential.

You may find that this spell will be most useful coming from a highly mobile wizard, such as one mounted on a flying monster. Your nefarious plans will likely be dictated by the angle you can get on your target, so being able to relocate yourself up to 20” before casting could have a big impact.

Curse of the Midnight Wind is effectively the opposite of Harmonic Convergence. Instead of allowing a friendly unit (or units) to reroll 1s, you force an enemy unit (or units) to reroll 6s. In some ways this is a more useful spell, as it will allow you to force your opponent to reroll Poison and Killing Blow rolls, which can be critical. You are less likely to get good mileage from the upgraded version of the spell, which affects all enemy units with 12”, because it requires your wizard to be in the midst of the enemy. So this spell is less flexible than Harmonic Convergence, however it could keep your general from having his nut lopped off. There is something to be said for that…

Urannon’s Thunderbolt is a basic magic missile, however the D6 hits it delivers are at Strength 6. Any spell that does only a 1D6 hits can fizzle pretty badly, depending upon what you roll. However, at Strength 6, the spell is a character hunter. It will threaten anything brave enough to leave its unit, and if the poor sod is flying about on a monster, he will cop bonus hits due to the Roiling Skies, just for good measure (to help you feel better when you roll a 1 for the hits from the Thunderbolt). With a good roll on your 1D6, this spell can wipe out small units, and it can make a sizeable dent in armoured troops such as knights. Most armies include something that will not want to be hit by this spell, so it’s obviously not a bad one to have up your sleeve.

Comet of Casandora is a potentially devastating spell, which is unfortunately hard to control. You place a marker anywhere on the table. At the start of each subsequent magic phase (both players’ phases), you roll a D6. On a 1-3, nothing happens and you place another marker on the pile. On a 4+ the Comet arrives. It strikes with a 2D6” radius, doing 2D6 hits, plus 1 per marker on the spell (so a minimum of 2D6+1). The hits are at Strength 4 plus 1 per marker (so a minimum of 5). Basically you are going to leave a great smoking crater when the spell arrives. It can’t be dispelled once it’s in play – it just keeps getting scarier and scarier until the point when it strikes. You can choose to boost the spell to a 24+ (which is colossal), in which case the spell starts with 2 counters instead of 1 (meaning it will start at 2D6+2 Strength 6 hits), and it adds 2 counters instead of 1 every time it fails to come down.

The destructive capability of this spell should be fairly apparent. It could potentially hit everything in an area 24” across, and do horrific damage to each unit. Unfortunately, your lack of control in when the Comet strikes is the spell’s great weakness. Your opponent is guaranteed to have at least 1 movement phase before it strikes, which means if you place it incorrectly or your targets are too quick, they may all get away. This means the obvious targets for the spell are fairly static units (things like a hill loaded with missile troops, which may prefer to stand and take the damage than waste turns trying to get away), or units which are not in a position to escape. This could occur where battle lines meet, or close behind the front lines.

Because you don’t know how large the blast area will be, you must make a risk vs reward decision in its placement. The only place you know is guaranteed to be hit is within 2” of the marker. As such, you could place it directly over the head of your most important target. Of course, if you gamble a little and move the marker slightly further away, you will probably hit more units. An average roll of a 7 will give you a pretty large reach, but planning around that and then rolling a 2 will be very disappointing from such a seemingly potent spell. It’s also quite easy to hit your own units with the Comet, either due to an unexpectedly large roll for its blast area, or because it took too long to arrive and the line of battle shifted. Such is life (or death, in the case of those standing under the descending Comet)…

The final spell in the Lore of Heavens is Chain Lightning. This spell is a souped up version of Urannon’s Thunderbolt. It does D6 Strength 6 hits, then on a 3+, it will step to another enemy unit within 6”. This pattern may be repeated until you stop rolling 3+, or run out of targets. Although you can’t target a unit in combat with the initial spell, you may choose to step the damage across onto them from the previous target. The only ways in which this spell is inferior to Urannon’s Thunderbolt is that its range cannot be boosted, and its casting level is 15+ instead of 10+ for the base level Thunderbolt. On the plus side, its potential for damage is far greater (provided there are enough targets clumped together), and the spell is direct damage, instead of being a magic missile. So you don’t need line of sight to find your target.

Who can get it?
High Elves
Bretonnians (Prophetess only)
Daemons of Chaos (using Master of Sorcery)
Vampire Counts (using Forbidden Lore)

Who will use it best?
This Lore really has a little bit of something for everyone. There is a handy augment spell which will probably work best with good troops or war machines; there are 2 hex spells, one of which largely negates the dangers of Killing Blow and Poison; there are 3 attacking spells, 2 of which could do considerable damage if the dice are willing; and there is a rather unique spell that allows you to shove enemy units around. With a range or spells like this, most players should be able to find something useful to do each turn.

If your army is likely to struggle against large, mobile targets such as Lord on a flying monster, the Lore of Heavens will help deal with that particular problem. You probably won’t bring a Dragon down with a couple of lightning bolts, but you will certainly scare it and its rider. Anything smaller than that won’t last very long if you can get past your opponent’s magic defence.

If there is one thing the Lore of Heavens is lacking, it is the ability to inflict large numbers of casualties relatively reliably. Chain Lightning offers real damage potential (provided you can roll 3+ enough times), however that damage will be spread between a number of units. Comet of Casandora could do cataclysmic damage if it comes down at the right time, but you have little control over whether that will happen. Urannon’s Thunderbolt is a good spell for threatening valuable targets, but it’s not much good for cutting swathes through grunt troops. As such, the Lore will probably work best in an army that doesn’t rely upon its magic to do this, or where other spells (from another wizard) are available to fill the gap.

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