Thursday, 5 July 2012

Lores of Magic: The Daemon Lore of Nurgle

The final Lore of Magic in the Daemons of Chaos book is the Lore of Nurgle. Time to have a look at it, then.

What does it do?
As with the Lores of Slaanesh and Tzeentch, the Lore of Nurgle gets no Lore Attribute due to its 7th edition origins. This means we can get straight onto the spells.

The Signature Spell of the Lore is Miasma of Pestilence. It affects all enemy models in base contact with the caster, and drops their Weapon Skill, Strength, Toughness, Initiative and Attacks to 1 for a full turn. In case you've not heard of this spell before, yes - you read that correctly. The casting value if a preposterous 3+, and it basically makes your caster immune to attacks from models in base contact. It also makes the enemies extremely vulnerable - WS and Toughness 1? That is worse than a drunken Snotling...

Miasma of Pestilence is an amazing Signature Spell in a Lore that is available to tough characters who are looking to be in combat. Great Unclean Ones and Nurgle Heralds are some of the tougher options in the Daemon army, and casting this spell makes them much more so. Realistically, the only threat then becomes models not in base contact - those offering support attacks from back ranks. Generally speaking, the number of these will be limited.

Offensively, Miasma is brutal. Affected models are almost entirely reliant upon any saves they have, as they will be hit on 3s and wounded on 2s - by everything. Even the Nurglings lugging a Palanquin about will demolish opponents when this spell is in play. That's 6 attacks that normally don't do a lot, suddenly elevated to lethal against anything without a good save. Friendly models adjacent to the caster also stand to benefit, as they can have a go at the weakened enemies as well.

This is one of those spells that tends to show up gaps in the rules, unfortunately. How do Breath Weapons and Thunderstomp work? The FAQ states that when a unit has multiple toughness values or armour saves, you use the value of the majority or in the case of a tie, the best. This means that when the enemy unit drops to only a small number of models, you may find yourself breathing and stomping on those weakened by Miasma. Stream of Bile is a useful ability to begin with, but against Toughness 1 enemies, it's horrific.

Speaking of Breath Weapons, the next spell in the Lore of Nurgle is Stream of Corruption. Thankfully it may not be used in combat, or it would have been a dire combination with Miasma of Pestilence. The spell lets the caster use a Breath Weapon which forces models touched to take a Toughness test or suffer a wound, with no armour save allowed.

As resilient as Daemons can be (and Nurgle ones in particular), there are still enemies that trump them in combat. They tend to be expensive, elite troops - exactly the sort that hate brutal Breath Weapons being sent down their lines. This attack will kill half of the Toughness 3 models hit by the template, and a third of Toughness 4 ones. Given how many models you can fit under a flame template (especially those on smaller bases, like Elves and Dwarfs), this will be potentially devastating to their chances of winning combat once they engage. Of course, this is dependent upon the caster getting up to the side of the enemy, but on any decent angle the damage will be considerable.
A Great Unclean One

Any spell with such a limited range will only get one or two chances per game to really shine, but provided you're not in a massive hurry to engage the enemy (which would most likely be the case when your Great Unclean One wants to get into combat and thus be safe from artillery), Stream of Corruption can be crippling to an important target.

Next up we have Pit of Slime. The spell targets a unit within 24" and forces it to take a Strength test. If failed, the unit may not move or shoot for a full turn. The spell is unusual in that you test using the worst Strength in the unit, rather than the best or the majority. This means a lot of knight units would find their horses testing rather than themselves, and respectable units may be held back by a weak mage in their midst, who stepped in something icky.

The benefits of a spell like this are fairly obvious. It's perfect for setting up flank charges, preventing enemy assaults and choking up their lines with a big, immobile regiment. Against many targets you're a 50-50 chance to pin the unit in place, or prevent it shooting. Obviously the spell has the potential to disappoint (they're only a single successful test away from the spell doing nothing), so you don't want to pin all your hopes on it and then find yourself out of position when the target passes its test. On the other hand, war machines will fail Strength tests automatically, so they're an ideal target if you're in range.

Rancid Visitation is a magic missile with a 24" range. The target takes D6 Strength 5 hits, then must take a Toughness test or face another round of hits (and so on, until they pass a test). This spell is similar to Slicing Shards of Slaanesh, however that spell is based upon Leadership ratherthan Toughness. Unfortunately this makes the Slaanesh version superior, as far more can be done to affect a target's Leadership than its Toughness, and there are more targets with glaringly poor Leadership to begin with. Of course, the reverse is also true - Your opponent can shore up the Leadership of his units, but he can't do anything to improve their Toughness.

As with Pit of Slime, Rancid Visitation is unusual because it targets the lowest Toughness in the unit. It would be rare to find too many examples of characters with lower Toughness than the regular troops, but it can happen. And it makes some targets such as Stegadons (with squishy little Toughness 2 Skink riders) ideal - the beast will cop a lot of hurt thanks to its weaker riders.

Rancid Visitation may not offer the same potential for mad combinations resulting in global domination as Slicing Shards of Slaanesh does, however that does not make it a bad spell. Against many targets you are a decent chance to be rolling 2D6 Strength 5 hits, and if you're a little lucky it might be more. That is a lot more damage than most units want to absorb, and for a mere 8+ to cast, this is certainly a worthwhile spell.

Shrivelling Pox is the sniper spell in the Lore of Nurgle. It targets a model within 24" and line of sight of the caster. The target must take a Toughness test of suffer D6 wounds, with no armour saves allowed. This spell will make any character without a good ward save nervous, especially if they have low toughness.

Shrivelling Pox is the second spell in the Lore which is an exact replica of a Lore of Slaanesh spell (in this case Pavane of Slaanesh), except that it targets Toughness rather than Leadership. I've already disussed the pros and cons of targeting the different characteristics - Leadership is more readily boosted and easier to knock down as well. The effectiveness of Shrivelling Pox will depend upon the army you're fighting. Some races (such as Dwarfs) are pretty good at fielding Toughness 5 characters, who will more than likely shrug off the spell (if the player is game to let it through). Other races (most notable Elves) struggle to find a character above Toughness 3, which means this spell will make them very unhappy.

The final spell in the Lore of Nurgle is Plague Wind. It targets an enemy unit within 18", with no line of sight required. Every model in the unit must take a toughness test or suffer a wound, with no armour save allowed. In addition, for every 3 unsaved wounds inflicted, you get a base of Nurglings who all form together in a new unit near the target.

Any spell that hits every model in the target unit is nasty, especially in this era of 8th edition where units are larger than they ever were before. Killing half of the models in a Toughness 3 unit is brutal, and the Nurglings are a substantial bonus. Unlike the spell Tzeentch's Firestorm, you actually stand to gain a lot of models from Plague Wind. If you manage to target a unit of 30 Toughness 3 models, on average you stand to gain 5 bases of Nurglings. That's 15 wounds' worth of daemonic swarms - a wound for every wound you inflicted. The result is a unit that will take a substantial amount of killing, and it's still only worth 50 victory points. Depending on your target, you could effectively remove a unit from the game - kill half of it, and leave the rest bogged by a teeming horde of Nurglings.

MOAR Nurglings!
Plague Wind would be a worthwhile spell, even if you didn't get the bonus unit from the wounds inflicted. Any decent-sized unit (armoured or otherwise) will suffer badly from the Toughness tests. Add in the bonus of the Nurglings and this spell has incredible potential. Your opponent may wonder why you giggle at the sight of a unit of 50 (or even 100) Skavenslaves, but all will be revealed when you cast this spell on the unit and end up placing more Nurgling bases than he could ever hope to kill before the game is over.

Just make sure you have a lot of spare Nurgling models if you plan on trying this at home.

How will it be used?
As with the other Lores from the Daemons of Chaos book, you are very restricted in terms of which models can select the Lore of Nurgle. You have the choice of Nurgle Heralds, Daemon Princes with the Mark of Nurgle, and Great Unclean Ones. The Heralds can't go beyond level 1, and Daemon Princes are capped at level 2.

Only the Great Unclean One can go beyond level 2, and it's not a cheap option. On the other hand, of all the Greater Daemons in the army, the Great Unclean One is the only one that can really get away with minimal investment in Daemonic Gifts. 10 wounds is a lot more forgiving than than 5. This means upgrading his magic level is actually a viable option in normal-sized games. Given the usefulness of some of the spells, you could do a lot worse.

A Palanquin's bigger base means more enemies in contact
Nurgle Heralds should seriously consider forking out the points to become level 1 wizards, if only to have access to the Signature Spell. It's a nasty, nasty spell and preposterously cheap to cast. It will help keep your Herald (and his nearby friends) alive, and will make facing him extremely dangerous. It gets even better if he's on a Palanquin of Nurgle, as the extra Nurgling attacks and increased base size will make matters that much worse for the enemy. Simply having the option of the spell will often result in your opponent having to hold onto 1 or 2 dispel dice, so long as you have a single power dice held in reserve.

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