Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lores of Magic: Lore of the Great Maw

The Lore of the Great Maw can be found in the 8th edition Ogre Kingdoms army book
The Lore of the Great Maw (or Gut Magic as it was previously called) first appeared in the 6th edition Ogre Kingdoms army book, when Ogres became an army in their own right. Like much of the book, the Lore was fatally flawed. The spells didn't follow the normal conventions of spellcasting, with everything being cast on a 3+ (and becoming harder if the spell had already been cast that turn), but requiring a 7+ to dispel anything in play from a previous turn. However, therein lay the problem - the most important spells (the ones that increased the effectiveness of your units) were Remains in Play, and could be dispelled in your opponent's turn. You could make your unit Stubborn, but by the time your opponent charged them, the spell would be gone. This, coupled with many spells damaging your wizard, miserable spell range and the inability to field a Slaughtermaster in a normal game to compensate, made Gut Magic a very frustrating proposition.
The 6th edition Ogre book was a disappointment, including Gut Magic
However, it is a new day, and the Ogres have a new book. It's no secret (or surprise) that the book is a vast improvement on the old one. Ogre mages can now access Lores of Magic other than their own, so how does the new Lore of the Great Maw stack up? Let's take a look.
What does is do?
Bloodgruel used to be a spell in its own right, but now it is the Lore Attribute for Lore of the Great Maw. Whenever the wizard successfully casts a spell, roll a dice. On a 2-6 the wizard regains a wound lost earlier in the battle, and will add +1 to the casting roll for his next spell. On the roll of a 1 the wizard cops a Strength 6 hit. I guess you could say this makes it risky for a Butcher or Slaughtermaster to cast a spell when he is reduced to 1 wound, however in all likelihood he will regain a wound, rather than finishing himself off.

Butchers and Slaughtermasters probably see combat more frequently than your average wizard, and their defensive stats are nothing to be sneezed at. Consequently they will quite often lose a few wounds, but will still be there once the fight is over. Being able to heal yourself as a side effect of casting other spells is useful, even if it is not quite as reliable or versatile as the Lifebloom (the Lore Attribute for the Lore of Life).
Butchers are tough, and see more combat than your average mage. They're also really ugly...
The Signature Spell of the Lore is Spinemarrow. It has a range of 12" (which can be boosted to 24" if you increase the casting value to 9+), and makes the target unit Stubborn. Importantly, the raft of Remains in Play spells are gone, and the effects of Spinemarrow last one full turn. So you are guaranteed to be Stubborn for 2 combat phases, with the chance to cast it again before the third round comes along.

As a rule, Ogres will find it very difficult to make use of Steadfast due to having more ranks than their opponents - really large units of Ogres are not a common sight due to the points cost, whereas other armies can often rank models up for a fraction of the price. They need to rely on other ways to make their units Stubborn, which makes Spinemarrow a potentially important spell. It being the Signature Spell means you have the option to get more than one copy, which could be equally important.

Bonecrusher is a magic missile that inflicts 2D6 Strength 2 hits, ignoring armour saves. Its range can be doubled from 18" to 36" by boosting the spell, but you can't increase its damage potential.

In the right situations, Bonecrusher can be a very useful spell; however a lot of the time you may struggle to find a good target. It is most useful against well armoured, Toughness 3 models such as human and Elf knights. It is also a real threat to those characters you see flying about on a Monstrous Beast like an Eagle or Pegasus - they often rely on their good armour to protect them, and a few 5s or 6s from this spell could see them off. It is also a nice spell for targeting something like a Steam Tank, which has great Toughness and armour, but suffers as soon as it loses a couple of wounds.

Strength 2 is the pay-off for ignoring armour saves, but it does mean the spell is far from ideal against many targets. It will struggle to really clean off small, annoying targets that a more normal missile would handle with relative ease. It will also do little to massed units, so unless you're struggling to find a use for your power dice, Bonecrusher will often be passed over in favour of more effective spells.

The one exception to all this is when players take the Greedy Fist. At the time of writing this, the latest Ogre Kingdoms FAQ states that spells cast by the bearer of the Greedy Fist benefit from its rules. This means that any wizard that is unfortunate enough to be hit by Bonecrusher will immediately lose most or all of its levels and be rendered useless - the feeble Strength of the spell doesn't matter, as it's only the hits that are required. Most mages will be safe from this attack due to hiding in units (players opting for this "tactic" will instead choose the Lore of Death to pick them out), however models without this option such as a Lord of Change or a wizard on a monster are in serious trouble.

Bullgorger grants a single unit within 12" +1 Strength for a full turn. When cast on a unit such as a large regiment of regular Ogres, this promises to be a very damaging spell. More importantly however, the boosted version of the spell affects all friendly units with 12" (although the casting cost doubles to 14+). If your wizard is in the centre of your lines, this promises to make a lot of Ogres very dangerous, and you could see a good number of enemies reduced to a squishy paste.

It's worth bearing in mind that even units with great weapons stand to benefit a bit from Bullgorger, thanks to the impact hits from their Ogre Charge - something that great weapons do not affect. If your unit rolled a 10+ on the charge and is doing D3 impact hits per model in contact, boosting the Strength of these and the Stomp attacks could be very handy indeed.

Toothcracker is much the same spell as Bullgorger, except that it boosts the target's Toughness instead of their Strength. The benefits of this should be fairly apparent. Ogres have a decent Toughness of 4, but little armour (with Mournfangs being the main exception). This means they are fairly resilient, but will still get dragged down quickly by good troops. Giving them Toughness 5 makes them a whole lot more difficult to kill. Toughness 4 Gnoblars would be a shock to opponents as well, however they will probably rarely be seen in large enough units for it to really matter (at the moment they are most commonly used as exceedingly cheap disposable units).

Being able to boost the spell to hit all units within 12" means you can give your army an iron-hard centre, albeit at a casting cost of 16+.

Braingobbler forces an enemy unit within 18" to take a Panic test. Being a hex spell, it does not require line of sight or the frontal arc, which is helpful for a spell like this. In this era of rerolled Panic tests thanks to the BSB, the centres of most armies are largely immune to spells like this; however peripheral units are still vulnerable. Missile troops and flanking units will often fall out of the sphere of influence of the army general and BSB, and these are the ideal targets for Braingobbler. Not only will they be testing on a reduced Leadership with no rerolls, but they will quite probably be close to the table edge - meaning a failed test will see them gone from the game immediately.

It is worth remembering that a spell that causes a Panic test will not cause the target to flee from the wizard - it will turn and flee from the nearest enemy unit. This means those dirt cheap, single Sabretusks that everyone has running around can scoot up near the target and hopefully shepherd it off the table.
My Ogre wizard chose a different culinary path, becoming a baker instead of a butcher...
Trollguts is the last of the set of augment spells available in the Lore of the Great Maw. Like the others it has a range of 12", which can be boosted to affect all units within range. The cost is higher than the other spells, requiring a 12+ normally, and a 20+ when boosted. However, except in rare situations where Flaming Attacks abound, granting your units Regeneration will make a massive difference to the game. Ogres are tough. Ogres with a 4+ ward save are doubly so.

The final spell in the Lore is The Maw. It places a small template (large when boosted, with the cost jumping from 15+ to 21+) within 18". It scatters using an artillery dice, but is likely to hurt if it lands on your target. Models take an Initiative test, or suffer a Strength 7 hit doing D6 wounds. Models that pass the test still take a Strength 3 hit as they escape.

Against large, multi-wound targets, The Maw seems like a poor man's Pit of Shades. A target that fails its Initiative test is in real danger of being hurt, but provided it has good Toughness and a lot of wounds, the spell is unlikely to be fatal. Where The Maw is superior is the ability to inflict weak hits even on targets that escape its worst effects. Landing it in the middle of a unit will get some results, even if they're not the best target imaginable.

Unfortunately, possibly the best target for this spell is a unit like Ogres. You could hit a lot of models with poor Initiative, and their odds of survival are poor. A direct hit will almost certainly cripple the unit. Sounds good, right? Well, if you are casting The Maw, you are an Ogre player. And if you roll a misfire for the scatter, you become the target. Your opponent can place it wherever he wants, although there is thankfully still the chance that it will scatter. Still, it is unfortunate that the best target for the spell is your own models when there is a chance that they will cop the full force of it. This does not mean the spell is not worth casting, however there is definitely a danger element involved.

How will it be used?
In the past this Lore was the only option available to an Ogre Kingdoms player, however now it has to compete with the Lores of Death, Beasts, Heavens and even Fire. If you include a Butcher or Slaughtermaster, then one wizard must take the Lore of the Great Maw, however this does not have to be the army's main spellcaster. Being required to take a wizard with this Lore is not really the worst thing imaginable. The Signature Spell is a useful one for the army, so you are guaranteed at least one spell that you would consider using. The question then is whether the other spells merit focusing on the Lore of the Great Maw, or if it will be relegated to a bit role.
Firebellies further confuse the choice of Magic Lores for Ogre players
The decision will probably revolve largely around the structure of the Ogre army in question. An army that backs itself in combat with a decent number of Ogre units will benefit greatly from magical support in the form of Spinemarrow, Bullgorger, Toothcracker and Trollguts. Any one of these spells getting through could swing a combat, and woe betide your opponent if you get more than one off at once! The other spells offer moderate flexibility in the Lore, however the main focus will normally be this suite of augment spells. They promise to get more out of an army that is combat-focused without having an overwhelming advantage in combat - low WS, moderate resilience and small numbers hold them back from being the dominant force you might wish them to be. However, with spells from the Lore of the Great Maw at your disposal, the possibility remains of boosting your troops to another level, and reducing your enemies to the easy meat your Ogres always saw them as.

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