Thursday, 14 February 2013

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Slaanesh

And now we come to the final Lore of Magic in the new Warriors of Chaos book, the Lore of Slaanesh.

The Daemons of Chaos were re-released shortly after the Warriors of Chaos, and they use the same Lores of Magic. However, their Lore Attributes are different. I will include both in this review.

What does it do?
Lore Attribute: Warriors of Chaos
The Lore Attribute of the Lore of Slaanesh is Bliss in Torment. When a spell from the Lore is cast, you roll a D6 for each wound caused by the spell. For each dice that rolls a 6, the caster adds +1 to his Weapon Skill, Initiative and Attacks until the start of the next magic phase.

A bit like Bloated with Disease in the Lore of Nurgle, the usefulness of this Lore Attribute will depend upon the casting model. A Daemon Prince that was already intending to dash into combat and carve its way through the enemy with an impressive array of starting stats will be happy to receive the boost that Bliss in Torment offers (although his WS and In will hit 10 rather quickly, so it's only the extra Attacks that will really matter). On the other hand, a lowly Sorcerer with Strength 4 won't do much with the enhanced statistics (although a couple of WS boosts could make him hard to hit), and would probably be avoiding combat anyway. A Sorcerer Lord is somewhere in between, and if the player happens to have splashed out on a weapon to increase his Strength (not inconceivable for a model that starts with 3 Attacks), then he might get some decent mileage from the boost.

The slight downside to Bliss in Torment is that most of the spells in the Lore that deal damage are direct damage or magic missiles. This makes it less likely that the caster will be able to charge into combat and then make good use of the spells (the magic missile in particular can't be used in this way). As such, it's probably likely that the you will cast a spell, boost your stats a bit, and then wait and see if your suddenly (temporarily) more impressive caster is enough to dissuade the enemy from charging.

Lore Attribute: Daemons of Chaos

The Slaanesh Lore Attribute for Daemons is Born of Damnation. Whenever a spell from the Lore does one or more unsaved wounds, you choose a unit of Daemonettes or Fiends within 12” of the caster. Roll a dice for each wound inflicted. If you chose Daemonettes, the unit gains a model for each roll of a 5+. You get a new Fiends on any rolls of a 6.

Really you're looking at 2 spells to really make use of this Lore Attribute – Slicing Shards and the boosted Cacophonic Choir. Under the right circumstances, both spells stand to inflict a real number of wounds on the enemy, and could see you rolling a lot of dice to create bonus Daemons. The choice between Fiends and Daemonettes is really a no-brainer, provided your Fiends haven't all raced off out of range. You might get twice as many Daemonettes, but the Fiends are easily twice as good. Any time you're rolling a decent number of dice there is the chance to produce an above average number of 6s, and a good roll here could see a small unit of Fiends become very substantial and menacing. Whether it's worth keeping the odd Fiend within 12” of your caster just in case is debatable – but if you're a Keeper of Secrets racing across the table at the enemy, there is a good chance the Fiends will be right beside you, just waiting for that Cacophonic Choir to butcher the enemy whilst bolstering their own numbers.

And all the rest...
From here on in, the Lore of Slaanesh is the same for both Warriors of Chaos and Daemons of Chaos. On we go...

Lash of Slaanesh is the rather underwhelming Signature Spell in the Lore of Slaanesh. It's a direct damage spell that draws a line 24” from the caster, inflicting a Strength 3, Armour Piercing hit on any models touched by the template. Targeting is done as per a cannonball, so characters will get Look Out Sir. It costs 6+ to cast and can't be boosted.

I struggle to find an up-side to this spell. If you're in combat you probably won't be able to cast it, unless part of the front of your base is not in contact with the enemy (giving you a clear path to Lash units you're not engaged with). This means it's not even a sneaky way to try to boost a couple of your stats using Bliss in Torment once you're engaged. A line of Strength 3 hits is really not going to scare anyone – not lone models, nor decent-sized units. Even smaller elite units will shrug off the unimpressive damage, even with Armour Piercing. The spell would be moderately dangerous against certain targets if it ignored armour entirely, but this is not the case. Unless your enemy has spare dispel dice just sitting around with nothing else to do, he is probably not even going to bother to dispel Lash of Slaanesh – he'll just be glad you're not spending your power dice on something useful.

Next we have Acquiescence. It's a hex spell with a range of 24”, which can be doubled if you increase the casting value from 6+ to 9+. For one full turn, the target unit gets the Always Strike Last and Random Movement (D6) special rules. This is a mean little spell, and would have been a far more useful Signature Spell than Lash of Slaanesh. Forcing an enemy to strike last is useful, and would be particularly so against things that would have benefited from rerolls to hit due to Always Strikes First.

As handy as Always Strikes Last is, players will probably just as often be casting this spell for the Random Movement effects. Capping a unit's potential charge distance at 6” is a very effective way of keeping an enemy unit out of combat, or out of position in general. Also lowering the flee distance to only a single D6” should making fleeing from a charge or a lost combat extremely dangerous for the target.

A word of warning here, however. I can imagine inexperienced players using Acquiescence on the enemy and forgetting that they are granting the target the ability to charge 360 degrees due to Random Movement. Then could spin on the spot and charge straight sideways or backwards. If you're going to use this spell, make sure you're not opening new avenues of possibility for your opponent.

Pavane of Slaanesh is a direct damage spell with a range of 24”, which can again be doubled if you boost it from a casting value of 7+ to 10+. It's a character-sniping spell, as it can pick models out of units, and forces the target model to take a Leadership test on 3D6 to avoid suffering a wound with no armour saves.

The odds of doing a wound with this spell are pretty good, although if the target has decent Leadership and a BSB reroll, he might get away with it. The downside is the ability to only inflict a single wound per casting. This is fine if your target only happens to have 1 wound left, but most worthwhile targets will have more than that. Often you will be using the spell to soften up a target in preparation for close combat, unless an enemy wizard is kind enough to miscast and leave himself mostly dead in preparation for your spell.

The next spell is Hysterical Frenzy. It has a 24” range and Remains in Play. It can target any unit, friend of foe, and counts as an augment or hex respectively – although the effects of the spell are the same regardless. The target gets Frenzy (or an extra attack if it already had Frenzy), and it can't be beaten out of the unit (you have to dispel the spell to get rid of the craziness). The target unit also takes D6 Strength 3 hits at the end of the caster's magic phases (so they'll take hits almost straight away).

There are a few potential uses for this spell, and what you focus on will probably depend upon whether you are the sort of player that rates Frenzy or thinks of it only as a liability. The most simple use for the spell is to grant an extra boost to a decent combat unit, turning it into a pack of very angry blenders. There will often be times when a combat hangs in the balance, and the additional attack for everyone in the front rank will make all the difference. Given the flexibility of when you can end a Remains in Play spell, you can always terminate it before you suffer any ill-effects from the Frenzy (although you will have taken the D6 hits already).

The flip-side of the spell is using it on an enemy unit. If you can find a very vulnerable target (say an enemy wizard that wandered out of a unit), you might be able to kill it off with the Strength 3 hits. Otherwise you're hoping to disadvantage the target through the downsides of Frenzy. However, being a Remains in Play spell, you can only guarantee to force one of the downsides on the target – forcing them to take a leadership test to avoid charging (unless you were incredibly cunning and already have a combat going that you're planning to lose and flee from, and want them to be forced to follow – that would be some good forward planning). Anything beyond that will take place after the enemy magic phase, during which they will have the chance to dispel the spell.

Assuming that your enemy somehow failed to dispel Hysterical Frenzy (it only costs 8+ to cast, so maybe they simply had other things to do with their power dice, or were lured into leaving it in play for the extra attacks), the target will be forced to pursue or overrun, and their enthusiasm can be suitably exploited. By this point it feels like there are a lot of “ifs”, so the odds of getting this far into your elaborate scheme seem minimal. Still, there are options if you think you are cunning enough to pull them off.

An interesting question is whether the damage done by the D6 Strength 3 hits from Hysterical Frenzy count for the Lore Attribute, Bliss in Torment. You might think so, but the wording of the attribute starts by saying, “When a spell from the Lore of Slaanesh is successfully cast...” This suggests to me that the damage from Hysterical Frenzy comes too late (after the spell has been cast, rather than immediately), and so the Attribute does not apply. Others may disagree with me, but that's my interpretation.

Next up is Slicing Shards, which is a 24” magic missile, cast on a 10+ (there is no boosted version). The target takes D6 Strength 4, Armour Piercing hits. They then must pass a Leadership test to avoid another round of hits, and will keep testing and being sliced until they pass one.

Unless you find a target with miserable Leadership and no BSB reroll, you're obviously not going to hammer the target too badly with this spell. That is, unless you have another spell in play like Phantasmagoria (or perhaps Doom and Darkness from the Lore of Death). Planning around combinations of spells like this is optimistic, but the results can be spectacular when they come off. Still, against a target with moderate Leadership you are a reasonable chance to get at least one round of extra hits, at which point Slicing Shards merely resembles a slightly expensive magic missile. Of course, this spell is the second-most effective way of racking up rolls for the Lore Attribute, so you may get a little extra mileage from the damage you inflict.

The penultimate spell in the Lore is Phantasmagoria. It's a hex spell with a range of 24”, and costs 10+ to cast. It can be boosted to affect all enemy units within 24”, however the casting cost then doubles to 20+. For one full turn, affected units must roll an additional D6 when taking Leadership tests, and discard the lowest.

Anyone familiar with Lizardmen already knows what a difference and extra D6 can make to Leadership tests, although this time it's a penalty rather than the bonus granted by the Cold-blooded special rule. The extra dice will mean that units that would normally be reliable are suddenly on shaky ground. The 2D6 average of 7 becomes closer to 9 when you're rolling 3D6 and dropping the lowest roll. Good Leadership doesn't look that great under these circumstances.

The ability to boost Phantasmagoria to hit everything within 24” is significant. The casting value of 20+ might sound steep, but it could be well worth it if the situation is right. There are numerous ways an army can fold as the player loses control over his troops. Stubborn units are nowhere near as stable, you can expose numerous units to a chain of very risky panic tests, and units testing for Stupidity are in real danger of losing a turn.

Being a largely Leadership-based Lore, there are a couple of spells that will pair well with Phantasmagoria if you have the magical superiority to pull off a combination. As mentioned, Slicing Shards could get really nasty on a unit with crippled Leadership. The odds of forcing an enemy unit to do your bidding through Hysterical Frenzy improve when paired with Phantasmagoria, as well.

The final spell in the Lore of Slaanesh is Cacophonic Choir. It's a hex spell with a range of 12” and is cast on a 12+. The target suffers 2D6 hits that wound on a 4+, with no armour saves. If at least one wound is suffered, the unit also gains Always Strike Last and Random Movement (D6) for one full turn, just as if it had been targeted by Acquiescence. All in all, it's a rather nasty set of effects. But that's not all – you can boost the spell to hit all enemy units within 12”, although admittedly the casting value becomes a hefty 24+.

I've already discussed the benefits of Acquiescence, so I won't bother going through that again here. Let's focus instead on the damage side of things. This is a nasty, nasty spell. With a decent number of hits, it's well capable of maiming its target, be it well armoured or high Toughness. In effect, the only defence against the damage from the spell is a ward save. Small, elite units and single models (including war machines and monsters) will not want anything to do with Cacophonic Choir. It's a strange spell that wounds a Steam Tank or Warsphinx as easily as a Snotling, but there you go.

The short range of the spell is offset by its being a hex, rather than direct damage or a magic missile. It means you can rush into combat before casting the spell, which will in turn put you closer to more targets. The boosted version of the spell is downright brutal, as a charge into the centre of the enemy lines could see numerous units hammered by the damage and crippled by the spell's other effects. A Daemon Prince will love this spell, lunging in to engage the enemy, then cutting chunks out of the army whilst boosting his own stats through Bliss in Torment.

How will it be used?
The Lore of Slaanesh is a strange mix of the dangerous, the tricksy and the downright rubbish (that would be you, Lash of Slaanesh). It's not a straight-forward Lore with which to maim the enemy through direct damage, or boost your units through simple augments. As a result, it might not be to everyone's taste.

In some ways, the Lore of Slaanesh is similar to the Lore of Nurgle. Its Lore Attribute looks promising for a Daemon Prince or suitably prepared Sorcerer Lord, but doesn't offer a lot to your regular Sorcerer. Likewise, the Signature Spell is far from ideal, although at least the Nurgle one might get some use by fast characters, whereas Lash of Slaanesh really isn't going to scare anyone.

This Lore offers a couple of spells that could bog an enemy army with very slow Random Movement, or knock the edge off their effectiveness in combat by making the Always Strike Last. There is a relatively tame character-sniping spell, the ability to Frenzy yourself or your enemy, and a variable magic missile, a spell that can cripple enemy Leadership, and then a brutal short-ranged damage spell that also bogs nearby units. There is variety there, and some potential game-turners when used correctly. However, many of the spells are not always going to be useful, and some players might find the Lore too fiddly for their tastes.

You can read about more Lores of Magic here.


  1. I think Slaanesh is the sleeper lore. Over time it is really going to ruin peoples day. Particularly on a DP with +1 spell. Being able to do thinks like make their warmachines move 1d6 and then no longer shoot. Making people take terror/fear/hellcannon panic on 3d6 and giving ASL while throgg eats thier face is just going to be horrible. It will take more skill than the other lores but I am very, very scared of what Nick Hoen is going to do with this.


    1. You're right, I forgot to mention forcing war machines to move with the Random Movement. Of course, if you do it with Cacophonic Choir, they'll probably all be dead anyway...

      Yeah, Slaanesh is a more subtle lore than most. I think good players will enjoy using it (especially if other people are under-rating it).

  2. I agree, it's got the one spell that will tear an enemy deamon Prince a new one while he's in combat. While Nurgle looks good I will be making slaanesh my prefered choice. Nice write up again Greg.

  3. I have to say the Lash of Slaanesh has proved very deadly so far as it can attack multiple units that fall under the line. Against multi ranked units like Skaven and Undead (or if you put the Sorcerer on a Steed of Slaanesh and have him cast it sideways across a horde unit before he flanks it) it can easily get a lot of kills. I ended up with a Sorcerer with +3 WS, I and A from the Lore Attribute after spending just one remaining power dice on Lash of Slaanesh.

  4. I think the other use for hysterical freenzy is to make an enemy Immune to psych and thus unable to flee. Useful against tricksy lizardmen. Can it be bubbled? That'd be amazing!

    1. Yeah, that is another potential use, but it's still dependent upon your opponent choosing not to dispel it in his turn - before you declare any charges. And no, there is no bubbled version - that would indeed make it more impressive.

  5. Forcing your enemy to be frenzied, also makes them have to pursue, which they may not want to do because of where they may end up.