Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Tzeentch

It's been a while since I reviewed a Lore of Magic. I've had a couple of requests to look at the Skaven and Wood Elf Lores, however right now I thought I might focus on something that generates a bit more excitement, with the new Warriors of Chaos book. Maybe then I'll get into a rhythm and can look at those other lores that are now well overdue...

I've chosen to start with the Lore of Tzeentch, however this was pretty much a random decision. The people I have talked to about the new book seem to rate this as the weakest if the new Lores. Let's take a look and see if there is actually anything wrong with it, or if this is just a matter of personal preference.

As an aside, I notice that the Lores in the new Warriors of Chaos book seem to be a blend of the spells from the old book, and those found in the Daemons of Chaos one. I wonder if this is an indication that we could find the exact same spells in the new Daemon book, when it appears. Time will tell.

As predicted above, 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 for the Lore of Tzeentch is Boon of Magic. When a spell from the Lore is successfully cast, any of the casting dice that rolled a 6 add an extra dice to the power pool (although they can only be used by the caster of the successful spell). This is really a token effect, and probably less significant than those offered in the other Lores in the Warriors of Chaos book.

Extra power dice are always nice, but there are a few things here that should ensure that Boon of Magic contributes little. Firstly, the spell must be successful. This means your opponent has either failed to dispel it, or has let it through. I suppose the odds of this increase thanks to the fact that you're rolling 6s (the casting roll should be at least moderate as a result), but if the extra power dice are important, your opponent may even go out of his way to block the attempts that include 6s.

Secondly, if you're rolling 2 or more 6s, you've cast the spell with Irresistible Force. That's great – your opponent can't prevent you from generating a couple of extra power dice. Unfortunately, you're also going to be rolling on the Miscast table. Almost every result on that table results in you losing D6 dice, or the caster dying or not being able to cast again that turn (he may also have been reduced to the magical equivalent of a vegetable, to boot!). There is a very good chance of you generating 2 or 3 dice and then losing them all in the resulting Miscast. Even if you manage to have some dice left, your opponent won't have spent any dice trying to stop your irresistible spell, and will be well-placed to stymie your remaining efforts.

Finally, the rule preventing other casters from using the bonus power dice is just a little weird. As a trend, this sort of restriction seemed to have been dropping out of the game. The dice pool nowadays is fair game to anyone who wants a little power. Putting this additional restriction on Boon of Magic seems unnecessary, and further increases the impact of the Miscast issue I've already mentioned.

In all, Boon of Magic will generally have limited impact on a game. It's most likely to generate dice when you're already getting magic past the enemy defences, so you're probably just compounding a situation of magical superiority anyway.

In defence of Boon of Magic, it must be said that there are a number of spells in this Lore that are cast on an 8+ or less – within reach of even a moderate mage using only a single casting dice. You may find yourself getting a bonus crack at a cheap spell after forcing your last attempt past the last of the enemy dispel dice. This might be handy, but it's not really something you can plan around.

Lore Attribute: Daemons of Chaos
The Tzeentch Lore Attribute for Daemons is Fires of Change. Whenever a spell from the Lore does one or more unsaved wounds (excluding wounds from Warpflame), you choose a unit of Horrors or Screamers within 12” of the caster. Roll a dice for each wound inflicted. On a 4+ you get a new Horror, and on a 6 you get a Screamer. Any models created in this way just get tacked onto the chosen unit, which might mean replacing lost models or building a unit up larger than it was to begin with. This is not an earth-shattering Lore Attribute, and is frankly probably not as useful as the one for Warriors of Chaos. A best-case scenario might see you get about 10 Horrors, if you land one of the more dangerous spells on the enemy and roll quite well for damage. That would be fairly significant, if only it didn't require the alignment of so many variables. A spell like Tzeentch's Firestorm has the potential to pound a large regiment with high strength hits. Bit it could just as easily miss or land with no strength to speak of.

Realistically, this Lore Attribute will generally just see the odd extra Daemon pop up as spells like Blue Fire and Bolt of Change chip away at the enemy. There will be special occasions where a massive roll on Infernal Gateway or Firestorm really smash a target and Horrors start appearing by the handful, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.

On with the show...
And now that we're done with the different Lore Attributes, we can focus on everything else, which is the same for both Warriors of Chaos and Daemons of Chaos.

In addition to the Lore Attributes, the Lore of Tzeentch has an extra effect that applies to every spell except Treason of Tzeentch. This rule is called Warpflame. Any unit that suffers wounds from a spell with Warpflame takes a Toughness test at the end of the phase. If it fails, the unit takes D3 wounds with no armour saves allowed. If the test is passed, the unit gains Regeneration(6+) for the rest of the game. If the unit already has Regeneration (as it may if it's already been hit by Warpflame), then it adds +1 to its Regeneration rolls for the rest of the game. To say that this is a 2-edged sword is an understatement. Even units with a moderate Toughness of 3 will pass their tests half the time, and the end result will be enemy units getting progressively tougher and tougher as you pound them with magic.

I find Warpflame a frustrating rule. There are ideal targets for its effects, such as Toughness 3 or 4 characters with exceptionally good armour saves. The perfect target will also already have a Ward Save (but not Regeneration) as this will mean that even if they pass their test, they're not actually getting any better protected. The ideal target for Warpflame is irrelevant, however – you're not going to be choosing your targets based on this fickle side-effect of the spell. You will be choosing your targets based on the damage the spell proper inflicts, and any damage done by this additional rule is a bonus. Of course, the addition of Regeneration to your enemies is really not a bonus for you.

As a final frustration, the Lore of Tzeentch is packed with spells with “Fire” in the title (not to mention the Warpflame rule itself). However, none of these spells count of Flaming Attacks. If they did, the Regeneration granted by Warpflame would be less frustrating, as at least subsequent spells from the Lore of Tzeentch would ignore it. As it is, spells from this Lore end up reinforcing the target against further bombardment from the same Lore. It seems ironic that players who favour the Lore of Tzeentch may end up deliberately packing more Flaming Attacks into their army in order to negate the bonus Regeneration they keep granting enemy units.

Blue Fire of Tzeentch is the Signature Spell in the Lore of Tzeentch. It's a magic missile that does D6 hits at Strength D6. So on average you'll expect about the same damage as a low-level Fireball. However, the spell could end up arriving with a pitiful Strength of 1, or pound the target at Strength 6. This variability means that Blue Fire of Tzeentch is an unreliable spell for dealing damage to a target, however it's great for making opponents nervous. Do they let it through and hope you roll poorly, or do they block it in case you roll a couple of 5s and 6s? Blue Fire is cheap, cast on a 5+ for 24” range, or an 8+ for 48” - it's not like you'll waste a lot of power in throwing it out there to worry your opponent (especially if you roll a 6 during the casting, thanks to Boon of Magic).

Tzeentch sorcerers are not always pretty
Of all the spells here, this is the one most likely to have you actually thinking about the potentially damaging effects of Warpflame. This is because a Toughness test to prevent D3 wounds is probably as likely to harm the target as the fickle combination of rolls for hits and Strength. An enemy hero flying about on a Pegasus (generally with a good armour save) might be willing to take his chances with the hits themselves, but a 1 in 3 chance of taking D3 wounds with no saves might make him uncomfortable.

The next spell in the Lore is Treason of Tzeentch. It's a hex spell that messes with the target's Leadership for one full turn. The unit must use its lowest Leadership value, and may not benefit from a BSB's rerolls or the general's Inspiring Presence. The spell is cast on a 7+ with a 24” range, which can be doubled if you boost the spell to a 10+.

The usefulness of this spell will depend upon the army you are fighting against. Armies like Orcs and Goblins rely very heavily on the leadership of their general and the rerolls from the BSB. Any army that is susceptible to psychology will miss the rerolls in particular, as anyone can roll badly when they only get one shot at the test. Treason means it's possible to prey upon a unit that might normally be considered safe because it's in the heart of the enemy formation. Being able to panic or terror-bomb a unit off the table and leave a big hole in the enemy lines could be a game-winner.

There are already discussions on the internet about how this spell affects models with a split profile, such as cavalry. Steeds tend to have a relatively terrible Leadership value, so if you are reduced to using that, Treason of Tzeentch would be crippling. However, the rules for cavalry do explicitly state that “the mount's Leadership is never used, unless a special rule states otherwise”. Whether the effects of Treason qualify in this case is open for debate. I would favour the answer being “no”. The Leadership of mounts is not specifically mentioned in the spell description, and so I would suggest that the spell is not actually targeting mounts, but rather preventing the unit from using the Leadership of characters etc. I could see it making sense for the spell to result in the riders losing control of their mounts, but GW will have to release an FAQ or Errata for that before I am convinced that this is how the spell is meant to work.

The next spell is Pink Fire of Tzeentch. The spell is basically a magical Fire Thrower. You place a flame template touching the caster, then move it toward the enemy a number of inches equal to the roll of an artillery dice (with a misfire equalling 0”). Models underneath the template take a hit at Strength equal to the roll of a D6. So it might not hurt much, but it could be brutal. If you've managed to get yourself into a good position with a good target for the spell, your opponent probably won't want to chance a bad Strength roll. The spell is only an 8+ to cast, so it's well worth a crack for the caster.

Given the variable range of the spell and the shape of a flame template, the ideal target for this spell is the side of a horde or straight down a deep, steadfast-style formation. The casters most likely to achieve positions like this will be Sorcerers on Disks of Tzeentch, or Daemon Princes. If it lands in the right place and rolls high for its Strength, Pink Fire could effectively remove a unit as a force on the table.
We're going to be seeing a lot more Daemon Princes on the table under the new book, and their speed would be an asset for a couple of the spells in the Lore of Tzeentch
Next we have a spell that has escaped from the Daemon Lore of Tzeentch, if in name only. Bolt of Change is a magic missile with a 24” range, and can't be boosted beyond its base casting value of 8+. This is slightly strange, as there was scope to improve both its range and its damage potential with a boosted version (ala Amber Spear in the Lore of Beasts). The spell works like a bolt thrower, ignoring armour and piercing ranks, and hits at Strength D6+4, doing D3 wounds.

A spell like this is moderately threatening to monsters, rogue characters and war machines. If you could boost it beyond D3 wounds it would be extremely lethal to these targets, but that remains its limiting factor. Alternately, you might find an opportunity to fire the spell down the line of a knight unit, in which case a decent Strength roll and a refusal to roll 1s to wound could see you wipe out a whole row of them. Again, only relatively quick casters are likely to get into position to target a unit in this manner, but if you do, the casting value will probably feel like a bargain.

Next we have Glean Magic (another name from the old Daemon spells). It's a direct damage spell with an 18” range (cast on an 8+ and again cannot be boosted) that results in a mental duel between an enemy wizard and the caster. Both parties roll a dice and add their magic levels. If the target wins the roll-off, nothing happens. Otherwise the target takes a Strength 3 hit, loses a magic level, and hands a randomly determined one of his spells over to the caster, permanently.

This spell will be most effective on a high level caster, where he can either dice off on equal terms with enemy wizard lords (with draws going in his favour), or can lean heavily on low-level targets and start stripping their spells and levels. The strength 3 hit is a quaint side-effect, and will make targets nervous if they've already lost a wound. However, the wording of Warpflame would suggest that the wizard himself will be safe from an additional D3 wounds provided that he's sheltering in a unit (the hits go on the unit, rather than a specific model). So the primary effect of Glean Magic is thieving magic from the enemy, rather than killing off their wizards.

Tzeentch's Firestorm is yet another spell name from the Daemon Lore. It's a direct damage spell with a 30” range. Cast on a 13+, it places a small blast marker which then scatters D6”. You can boost this to a 16+, which results in the spell using the large blast marker, however it will then scatter 2D6”.

Tzeentch's Firestorm is similar to the Flame Storm spell in the Lore of Fire. In fact, it's exactly the same, except that it hits at Strength D6 rather than Strength 4. So as with so many of the spells in the Lore of Tzeentch, it's unreliable. However, it also has far greater potential. A big Strength 4 template will hurt some units badly, but others will shrug it off without too much concern. A large blast marker at Strength 6, however... For most single-wound units, this is the apocalypse.

I think the trick with these spells is not to worry about the potential for scattering, and to always boost the spell (unless you have found a tiny unit that fits under the small template, which would suggest it's not really a very worthy target). Granted, the boosted version scatters an additional D6”, however the odds of rolling a Hit are the same. You might do some damage with a good Strength roll on a small template, but the same roll on a large template will blow a massive gaping hole in your target. It's this potential for destruction that makes the spell exciting, and toning it down (“playing it safe”) is really just denying yourself some of the enjoyment (and making your opponent less nervous). If you're aiming at the centre of the enemy army, a large template is a good chance to land on something after scattering anyway, so you might as well take a chance. Between the D6 Strength and the scatting, Tzeentch's Firestorm is a variable spell anyway – so you might as well give it a chance to really live up to is potential.

The final spell in the Lore of Tzeentch is (as it was in the previous book) Infernal Gateway. It's a direct damage spell with a 24” range (cast on a 16+), and it inflicts 2D6 Strength 2D6 hits on the target. However, the spell is not the thing of horror that it once was. Previously, rolling an 11 or 12 for the Strength resulted in the target being removed, regardless of the size of the unit or the number of hits. This potential terrorised opponents and combined with the Infernal Puppet, saw comp scores take a beating as a result. But the Puppet is no more, and the destructive potential of the spell has been curbed as well. Nowadays, a roll of 11 or 12 on the Strength results in the target taking 3D6 Strength 10 hits, rather than the usual 2. For many targets, this will still be a fatal blow. However, large units and characters hiding in smaller ones are now safe from automatic destruction.

Infernal Gateway remains a potent spell, and a thing of horror for small, powerful units and things like monsters. However, it is no longer the potential game-breaker that is was before.

How will it be used?
The Lore of Tzeentch is the most straight-forward of the 3 Lores of Magic found in the Warriors of Chaos book. 6 of its 7 spells are direct damage or magic missiles, although they vary a bit in terms of their effects. If you were looking for ranged supporting fire from a wizard (and this may often be the case in an army containing very few missile troops and artillery), Tzeentch would be the obvious choice.
Tzeentch characters have easy access to flight and frankly ridiculous ward saves, but is it enough to make people mark their Sorcerers that way?
Chaos players actually have a total of 7 Lores at their disposal, as they can also access the Lores of Fire, Death, Metal and Shadow from the main rulebook. Of those, the one that performs the most similar role is the Lore of Fire. Fire offers some spells that are superior for certain purposes, most notably Fulminating Flame Cage (which can savage a moderately capable unit if it moves, no matter how massive), and its Signature Spell Fireball, which remains one of the most simple and effective spells available. Flaming Sword of Rhuin is also different from anything the Lore of Tzeentch offers. However, the other spells in the Lore of Fire are pretty sub-par, and this is where Tzeentch comes out on top. It has spells that can hit seriously hard, threatening targets that wouldn't care about the Strength 4 that dominates the Lore of Fire.

With so many Lores on offer, it's likely you won't see Tzeentch wizards all that often. Even in a fire support role, the Lore of Fire is probably better for low-level Sorcerers thanks to the excellent Signature Spell. However, a Sorcerer Lord or Level 4 Daemon Prince with this Lore will add significant (if unpredictable) fire-power to an army, and this will be what some players are looking for.

You can find reviews of many other Lores of Magic here.


  1. Thanks Greg this was very useful.

    Looking at the new DoC book and assuming Tz themed army what would you give LoC? Tzeentch or Metal?

    1. Interesting question. I'd probably favour the Lore of Tzeentch on a Lord of Change because it's a bit less situational. The damaging spells (except Final Transmutation) are only a threat against targets with armour, and are the main compelling reason to choose Lore of Metal. On the other hand, Infernal Gateway is almost as threatening to most targets against which you would want to cast Searing Doom.

      I would feel like the Lord of Change was more likely to always have decent spell targets with the Lore of Tzeentch, and given he's your main caster, you really need him to contribute. Given that Searing Doom is such a useful signature spell, I'd tend towards having Lore of Metal on a Herald as backup, instead of on Big Bird himself.

      Of course, the Daemon Lore Attribute is different from the Warrior one described here, but could still prove useful.