Saturday, 11 June 2011

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Life

 The Lore of Life gets a bit of bad press at the moment. The Lore is extremely popular, to the point where it can seem almost ubiquitous. In just two tournaments, I have already fought at least 5 armies with a level 4 Life mage. Indeed, in the first tournament I was using the Lore of Life myself (had I realised everyone else would be using it too, I would have chosen something else...).

OK, so why is it so popular, and why does this displease opponents?

What does it do?
The Lore of Life is largely defensive. It is the Lore of choice for players who want to be able to influence a game with magic, with minimal risk. This largely comes down to a particular spell, but we will get to that later.

The Lore Attribute, Lifebloom, is quite possibly the pick of all Attributes. Every time you successfully cast a spell, you can heal a lost wound for a model anywhere within 12". Under the right circumstances, this effectively means you are casting 2 spells in 1. If your characters are tough cookies that really have to be worn down by your opponent, this Attribute undoing all their hard work could prove very frustrating.

The Signature spell of this Lore is a little bit underwelming. Earth Blood gives the wizard and his unit a weak form of Regeneration. This may sound promising to you, however you are most likely to want Regeneration on a unit that is in combat. On the flip side, you are unlikely to want your wizard to get caught in a combat. There are some exceptions here. Slann and Bretonnian Damsels can potentially be in a combat without being in real danger themselves, by sheltering in the second rank. However, in general terms a lot of players will find themselves not using this spell, or perhaps just as a use for leftover dice.

Awakening of the Wood is a fairly weak magic missile spell. Its range of 18" is inconvenient, as it means your mage is already approaching charge range of opponents before he can cast the spell. The spell only does 1D6 hits, which becomes 2D6 when the target is in a forest. Having no boost option makes the spell less flexible and ultimately less than threatening. It's nice to have an offensive spell in your Lore, however you really want something more potent than this.

Flesh to Stone is very handy. The spell adds +2 Toughness to the target unit, which is a very significant boost. The range of 24" means you are generally likely to find a decent target for the spell.

The "number 3" spell in the Lore is Throne of Vines, however I am going to leave that spell to last. You will understand when we get there.

Shield of Thorns is one of those spells that often feels ineffective. You augment one of your units, and all enemy units in base contact cop 2D6 Strength 3 hits. The spell remains in play, so if your opponent is distracted by other things, it could potentially be in play for a while. The hits inflicted by this spell are unlikely to concern any serious combat units, which will have the numbers to absorb the hits they take (which are low strength anyway). This spell can come into its own when your unit is engaged by multiple enemies, given it will hit each unit with full force.

Regrowth allows you to bring back dead models, provided the unit itself has not been wiped out. There are not many situations where I can see this spell having a significant impact. A maximum of 4 Infantry, 2 Cavalry or (best case) 1-and-a-bit larger models means you are unlikely to be able to resurrect models at the same speed as they are being killed. Characters and monsters cannot be healed by Regrowth, which would have been a far more powerful use for the spell.

The Dwellers Below is the top-level spell in the Lore, and is the sort of spell that can ruin games for your opponent. All models in the target unit must pass a Strength test or be slain, with no saves whatsoever. This means every character in the unit is in peril, no matter how well equipped they may be. Killing off your opponent's general, BSB, or other critical character may well win you the game, although it will not likely win the spell any admirers. Really the spell would have been potent enough if it allowed the target ward saves or only inflicted a single wound. Spells like this serve as a disincentive for your opponent to go for the "all eggs in one basket" approach of placing all their important characters in one place. Nobody wants to see their entire array of characters wiped out with a single spell.

And now we come to the real reason people love and hate this Lore. Throne of Vines is a very strange spell - all it does in its own right is allow the caster to prevent a miscast on a 2+. This may seem quaint, although you have to remember that spell effects taking place before rolling miscast results means that even if you miscast whilst playing Throne of Vines itself, you can still ignore the miscast on a 2+. Many players live in perpetual fear of miscasting, especially when their spellcaster is a Slann or Lord of Change (the loss of which would probably doom their game). Being able to ignore the perils of casting on a 2+ is a great lure for a lot of risk-averse players. However, if this was the only ability of the spell it would be fairly inconsequential, even if it would still be a favourite amongst certain parties.

Throne of Vines also boosts the effects of the other spells in the Lore of Life. It improves Life Blood to a proper 4+ Regeneration (however the inherent problems with the location of the spellcaster remain). Awakening of the Wood hits at Strength 6 instead of 4, making it considerably more fearsome (and quite lethal if the target was foolish enough to stop in a forest). Flesh to Stone adds not +2 Toughness, but +4. This is an outrageous bonus - to call the boosted spell a potential game-winner is not really to do it justice. In many cases, the spell will make its target practically invulnerable for 2 rounds of combat. Shield of Thorns hits at Strength 4 instead of 3, making it a more credible threat for most enemies. Regrowth gets boosted to D6+1 wounds of models restored, which is far more impressive than the basic spell effect. Mercifully The Dwellers Below is not affected by Throne of Vines, however the real effect of the spell here is allowing the player to throw a mountain of dice at the potentially devastating Dwellers, with little fear of repercussions in the form of miscasts.

Who can get it?
High Elves
Wood Elves (Spellweavers only)
Lizardmen (Slann only)
Daemons of Chaos (using Master of Sorcery)

Who will use it best?
The Lore of Life tends to be most effective when used by a level 4 magic user, preferably backed up by the ability to generate extra power dice. This gives the user the power to throw a lot of dice at Throne of Vines, followed by something like Flesh to Stone. As such, armies like High Elves with the Banner of Sorcery, Lizardmen led by a Slann with Focused Rumination, and Daemons with a Power Vortex will be the most threatening when using Lore of Life.

Having said that, there are very few targets that would say "no" to the basic +2 Toughness offered by Flesh to Stone, and a lot of players love to have a spell like The Dwellers Below up their sleeve. The Lore offers options for most races, which is probably part of the reason it is so popular. Add to that the potential to protect your wizard from a miscast, and the Lore will be particularly favoured by players with expensive or important lord-level mages.

What do you do about it?
I won't normally include this section when talking about the various Lores, however in light of how prevalent the use of the Lore of Life is, and how disliked it is amongst some players, I thought I might make a few points. So, if you find yourself playing an opponent using the Lore of Life, here are a couple of things to remember:

Dispel the Throne of Vines. If there is any chance your opponent is going to be throwing a spell like Flesh to Stone (which will become unmanageable if it's boosted to +4 Toughness), it is imperative that you dispel Throne of Vines, which will be coming first. If you let them cast it, Throne of Vines will boost almost every spell that follows it that phase. Furthermore, it will allow them to hurl a pile of power dice at a nasty spell like The Dwellers Below without really worrying about a miscast. It is far better to get the Throne out of the way first, and let them worry about miscasting with the remaining spells. Also bear in mind that if they get Throne off despite your efforts, you can dispel it in your phase, or at the start of their next one - before they take advantage of its effects with their first spell that turn. I have played too many people who let Throne of Vines ride because it wasn't doing anything in its own right, then lived to regret it when I threw 6 dice at something like Flesh to Stone.

If your opponent is waving The Dwellers Below around, it's a good idea to keep your important characters as well spread as possible between your units. That way, it minimises the damage you will take if they get the spell off. If it's not going to blow your game plan, it's also a good idea to keep your best character out of your best unit. Make them choose between slaughtering your elite troops or having a crack at your most important model.

Well, that's about it. Hopefully in time players will stop favouring the Lore of Life and decide to give something else a try. In truth, 4 of the spells are nothing special. There are better balanced Lores with more to offer, so it may be that in time the Lore of Life will be no more commonly used than any other.


  1. Mind you, on a side note at plus 4 toughness targets go from toughness 3 to 7 and therefore can be killed by the screaming bell ability.

  2. P.S. that would be funny to watch the horror as ordinary troops automatically take D3 wounds no save.

    1. I've never seen it happen, although I did see an Ogre under the old book get up to Toughness 7, only to have an altercation with the Bell when it mistook him for a war machine...

    2. I don't think many Skaven players have considered it, personally it is situational but deadly if you get Deafening Peals when using the bell, your posts have been really helpful and got me thinking more tactically, one of my main problems was forgetting what magic items I had. Thanks for replying.

    3. Hahaha, well if you're not going to remember your magic items, I suggest saving the points and buying more troops. :P