Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lores of Magic: The Daemon Lore of Slaanesh

Continuing our review of the Lores of Magic in the Daemons of Chaos book, today we're looking at the Lore of Slaanesh.

What does it do?
As with all older Lores, the Lore of Slaanesh does not possess a Lore Attribute. I'm sure that's an advantage in some ways. Less for you to forget, right? Anyway, onto the spells...
Acquiescence is the Signature Spell of the Lore. It has an 18" range, and makes the target subject to Stupidity for the rest of the game. The best targets for the spell obviously have low leadership, and are out of range of the influence of the general and BSB. Some players employ flanking units that fit these criteria perfectly. For example, did you know Varghulfs have a leadership of 4? You might not, given that the value is not often used. What about Furies, with leadership 2?

To be honest, these are extreme examples. More often you will find yourself presented with targets around leadership 7 or 8, floating around the flanks or sitting back with the missile troops. The key to this spell is its casting value is only 5+. This means you can just throw the odd dice at it whilst saving most of the pool up for more important tasks. If you've found a really good target, your opponent will definitely try to dispel it. Otherwise he might decide to take his chances, and may find his plans unravelling thanks to a bad leadership test later in the game.

Acquiescence will often feel like more of an annoyance with which to needle your opponent than a more basic magic missile, which yields immediate and certain results. However, it offers the ability to mess with a player's plans randomly for the rest of the game. The uncertainty it seeds may well have your opponent hating the spell before the battle is over. Just remember to mark it in some way, so you remember it's in play.

Cacaphonic Caress hits all enemy units (including those in combat) within 2D6", and inflicts D6 Strength 3 hits on each unit. The kicker is that it ignores armour saves. That makes it the bane of armoured troops, in particular those with low toughness - hard on the outside with a soft, squishy centre. Players with a lot of heavy cavalry will be very nervous about Cacaphonic Caress, especially if it's on a model that is likely to be in the thick of the fighting (like a Keeper of Secrets). This could put it in range of a lot of targets at once, which would make the spell crippling to a knight-heavy force.

The limitations of this spell are obvious, however. It doesn't concentrate damage on a single target, which means a unit will only ever cop a maximum of 6 Strength 3 hits. Armoured or not, larger units simply don't care about that sort of damage. The variable range could also prove frustrating - you're guaranteed to hit the unit you're in combat with, but the rest is in the hands of the dice gods. All of this means that sometimes this spell will look extremely menacing, and sometimes it will be useless (early in the game it will be out of range altogether). The cheekily cheap casting value of 6+ means you can casually toss dice at the spell, but unless you've got some good targets, the other player probably won't even both trying to stop it. When the fates align and you find yourself surrounded by Bretonnian knight units (or something similar), there will be few spells your opponent would rather dispel.

Succour of Chaos is an augment spell from before they had defined it as a category. It may be cast on a friendly unit within 18" and engaged in close combat. In the following round of combat (not a full turn like newer augment spells invariably last), the target gains Always Strikes First and rerolls failed hits.

Unfortunately, there are not that many good targets for this spell in the Daemon list. Slaanesh units tend to have ASF already, and that coupled with their high Initiative generally gives them rerolls to hit as well. Khorne units have a solid Initiative (enough to swing before a lot of opponents) and are frequently led by Heralds who give them Hatred (with the exception of Flesh Hounds). Tzeentch units can't really fight, and rerolls are not going to change that.

A Keeper of Secrets with its ugly face on
This doesn't mean that you will never find a decent target for Succour of Chaos - just that not every unit will benefit. An all-Slaanesh army would see this spell as largely irrelevant (which is ironic, given that it's their spell). Nurgle units have low WS and Initiative and decent Strength, so they are logical targets. Bloodletters without a Herald, or which were already fighting and have worn out their Hatred, are a great choice. The conclusion here is that provided you have fielded a mixed force with a bit of variety, you will be able to find a unit that would appreciate the benefits of Succour of Chaos. If you've gone for a Slaanesh theme or built your army around innate rerolls and high initiative, it ill do little for you.

"Slicing Shards of Slaanesh" is best pronounced with a thick Sean Connery accent. It is also the fourth spell in the Lore of Slaanesh. It is a magic missile with a range of 24", which inflicts D6 Strength 5 hits. For a casting value of 7+, this would be a decent spell. But wait, there's more! After you do the hits, the unit must take a leadership test and if it fails, it cops another D6 Strength 5 hits. This pattern continues until the unit is gone, or it passes the leadership test.

This spell has the potential to inflict catastrophic damage to the right target. Units with low leadership and no BSB reroll are in serious peril - no matter how many of them there are. When you consider that Daemon armies have options like the Greater Icon of Despair or (God forbid) the Masque, you could find yourself with a target which is almost no chance to pass a leadership test - which means its fate is sealed. The presence of Phantasmagoria in the same Lore (and spells like Doom and Darkness waiting in the wings elsewhere) offers some truly nightmare-inducing combinations that your opponent will be scrambling desperately to prevent.

Even if you can't manage to align things quite right for the perfect crime, there will be plenty of targets that want nothing to do with Slicing Shards of Slaanesh. Strength 5 is nasty for a magic missile, let alone one that could potentially be inflicting 2D6 or more hits against targets with modest leadership.

The next spell is Pavane of Slaanesh. It targets an enemy model within 24" and line of sight of the caster. The target must take a leadership test or suffer D6 wounds with no armour saves allowed. The casting value of 8+ is relatively cheap, given the decent range of the spell. It's a fairly standard sniping spell, but once again it's in an army (and a Lore) with the potential to mess with leadership values. Most characters feel fairly safe taking a leadership test within range of the general and BSB, but try knocking 2 or 3 off their leadership and see how comfortable they are.

The final spell in the Lore of Slaanesh is Phantasmagoria. The spell lasts one full turn, and whilst in play all enemy units must take all leadership tests with an extra D6, discarding the lowest. The casting value of 10+ is a bargain for something that affects all enemies on the table.

This spell has the potential to destroy your opponent's plans. An army that is susceptible to Fear and Panic could find itself losing units left, right and centre when Phantasmagoria is in play. Units will fail Fear tests and drop to WS 1 in combat, ensuring they get smashed in combat. Then they will have to take their break tests with a greatly increased likelihood that they will fail (and virtually no chance of rolling Insane Courage). Then the units nearby will be taking Panic tests with an extra dice... Casting this spell at the right time could see an enemy army fold like a house of cards.

Armies that are resistant or immune to psychology will suffer less when Phantasmagoria is cast, but that doesn't mean they don't care. Most armies take break tests, and nobody wants to have to roll an extra dice there. Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings will care the least about the spell, however if you're holding Slicing Shards or Pavane of Slaanesh in your hand, they will still pay attention. Those spells have the potential to be dangerous, and they could be downright lethal if Phantasmagoria gets through.

How will it be used?
The Daemons of Chaos book is slightly frustrating in the way its Lores of Magic are doled out. Heralds of Slaanesh may be upgraded to level 1 wizards, in which case they automatically choose from the Lore of Slaanesh. However, if you want more than a single level caster, you have to go bigger - much bigger. Daemon Princes may choose the Mark of Slaanesh and be upgraded to level 2 wizards, however this costs a small fortune and is based upon a Lord choice that is not much in favour. You'd be better off getting a gaggle of level 1 Heralds for the same cost, if the Lore of Slaanesh was your main motivation.

The only other option is a Keeper of Secrets. It alone can be a level 3 or 4 wizard (the traditional "lord" levels of spell-casting). However, this does not come cheaply. Given that the most common equipment for a Keeper is Spirit Swallower (in an attempt to maintain a very large points investment that comes with only 5 wounds and a massive enemy crosshair on its horned brow), a standard army cannot afford to lavish points on magic levels. A level 4 Keeper of Secrets with 100 points of equipment comes in at a stonking 670 points - meaning you would need to be fielding at least a 2680 point army to get it into your Lords allowance. Given most tournaments are 2500 points or less, a level 2 is probably the most you would ever find in a competitive environment.

All of this is a shame, because there is nothing wrong with the Lore of Slaanesh - it's got some menacing spells that are cheap to cast. This means that it is possible to get a few Heralds and share the load a bit (the casting values are not out of the reach of petty wizards), but there is nothing like a high level caster to really force your spells home and cause your opponent angst.

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