Tuesday, March 1, 2011

8th Edition Primer: Magic Synergy Part 2

Last week, I made a lengthy (3,000 words!) post about how the various Lores interact with each other.  Specifically, the goal was to create a usable tool so when a player uses a Level 4 Light Wizard, they can make a smart decision about what Lore to take on their Level 2 Wizard.  

This post has more to do with overall list synergy than specific interactions.  Thus, it will have more to discussions of what types of lists each Lore works best with.  In short, last week was more about what to take on your level 2, this is more about what to take on your level 4.

So where do we start?  I'm a big advocate of the overwhelming force theory of Fantasy list building.  A balanced list that is 1/3rd magic, 1/3rd shooting, and 1/3rd combat will often get stomped by a more focused army.  A focused list will use the type of target priority skills we take for granted in good 40k players and destroy you.  They will decide, for example, that your shooting isn't scary, and that your magic is meh, and your combat is the only scary thing.  So they will focus their resources on destroying your combat units, and then you fall apart.  Now you can argue, "a truely balanced list won't have a single point of failure or success."  That's true in 40k.  Not in Fantasy.  Unlike 40k, in Fantasy there are simply match ups where certain units are worthless or ineffective, and you can't change that.  It is possible that each 3rd of your army will be suited to killing my army equally well, but that would be a stroke of luck, not a stroke of good list building.

So you need a plan.  The plan can be shooting someone off the board, magicking them off the board, or combating them off the board.  Once you have your plan of how you will remove the opponent's models from the board, you pick the other two wings of your force to compliment that.  And that is where the synergy with Magic comes in.  It makes no sense to have a plan to win in close combat with big blocks and to pick a Lore of magic that doesn't further that agenda.  So we have to pick our Lore wisely.

For this guide, I'm going to stick with shooting and combat.  Running a "magic first" army, at least in with the current army books, means running Dual Slann or Teclis.  Nothing else is reliable.  If you get three low power dice phases in a row, your magic first plan will sure look dumb.  Cannonballs and swords still work regardless of power dice.  But yes, Dual Slaan and Teclis can run an army based on magic as the primary means of winning, and I will cover those in the appropriate Lores.  There are few other exceptions which I'll detail when appropriate.

So I'll go through each Lore and describe the synergy (or lack thereof) with different army styles.
Lore of Fire

Shooting: The more wizards with Fireball you have, the better the lore is for a gunline army.  If you have a shooty army with shooty core choices, and war machines, Fire is a strong choice.  However, the Fireball spam plan only works when you get reliably good magic phases with lot's of dice to throw.  Only Dark Elves can reliably do that.  So what about Empire gunlines, or High Elves?  They can use Fire too, just not Fireball spam.  Cascading Cloak and Fulminating Cage punish enemies for getting to your in close combat.  What does a shooty army not want, enemies in close combat.  Synergy. 

Combat: Generally speaking, if you're in combat, direct damage spells aren't so hot.  A close combat force generally wants to be in combat turn 3 at the very latest.  So that means half the game your wizards won't be casting their DD spells.  You can do better.

Magic: As I mentioned before, thanks to Dark Elf Power of Darkness spell, you can run 4 level 1's with Fireball and blow units off the board.  Combined with bolt throwers and crossbowmen, it's effective.

Lore of Beasts

Shooting:  This Lore isn't as bad with shooty armies as you might think.  Amber Spear is a Str 10 bolt thrower, and The Curse can help your shooty army outshoot the enemies.  But still, why do that when Fire is much better at standing and shooting?

Close combat: This is supposed to be the bread and butter of of the Lore of Beasts.  Wyssan's Wildform transforms average units into powerhouses.  The remainder of the buffs, though, are character specific.  Boo.  You gave a character +3 toughness.  Great.  I'll just butcher the unit he is with instead and ignore him.  If you are running a Beastman army, it may benefit you to run a L4 and a couple of lvl 1s.  If you can successfully cast Wyssans 3 times per turn, your Gors are getting a lot tougher. 

Magic:  A "magic first" list can be done with this Lore.  Multiple casters with Lore Master each transforming into a Mountain Chimera could wreck someone's face.  I'd call this a gimmick build at best, but it can be done.

Lore of Metal

Shooting:  It has enough offensive magic between Searing Doom and Final Transmutation to contribute to the shootiness.  Enchanted Blades and Plague of Rust combine very well with a shooting army, especially one with a lot of small arms fire.  Transmutation of Lead and Glittering Robes are strong because it helps you win the mirror match.  What happens when my gunline army fights another gunline army?  You use your magic to gimp their shooting and buff your own.

Combat.  Surprisingly, Metal works well in a combat army too.  Final Transmutation works well against everybody.  Gleaming Robe is good when thrown on soft but strong combat units like Blackguard and Swordmasters.  Enchanted Blades and Transmutation of Lead mean you could potentially be hitting someone on 2's with your beater units.  If you can bring a lot of high strength attacks to beat that turn, you're set.

Lore of Light

Shooting:  Lore of Light is actually pretty decent for a shooting army.  Pha's gives you some defense in the mirror match.  It has some decent direct damage of it's own, and Net is great at slowing down enemy units.

Combat:  Light is all about combat buffs, though.  For starters, Pha's grants your some shooting defense.  Speed of Light makes you hit more easily, hit faster, and be harder to hit back.  Birona's makes you charge farther, hit more, and hit faster.  Now this Lore isn't for everyone.  High Elves gain next to nothing from these buffs, to name one.  Look at what they do: increase movement, attacks, and initiative.  Thus, this Lore has synergy with armies with slow movement, few attacks and low initiative.  The first two that springs to mind is Lizardmen and Vampires.  Lizardmen is obvious.  Saurus warriors who hit everyone on 3s with an extra attack and ASF are stupidly good.  We get that.  But Vamps?  Yup. Forbidden Lore and Lore of Light.  Your mega horde of dirt cheap undead getting a dose of Birona's Time Warp?  Yeah, that's actually quite bad assed.  With Pha's to protect it from warmachines until your 100+ strong unit can charge 17" across the board next turn?  Super strong.  Regenerating Grave Guard with ASF and Initiative 10?  LOL.  So in summation, some armies don't benefit much from Light in close combat, but the ones that do... well they really get nutty.

Lore of Life

Shooting:  Life is many things to many people.  But what it isn't is a good Lore for a gunline/shooty army.  There isn't enough good direct damage, no snares, and only a little shooting defense.

Combat: Lore of Life is strong in a particular type of combat army: death stars, or more accurately, proto-stars.  The difference is a death star is self-sufficient.  It has all the tools it needs to be unstoppable all in one package.  And it costs anywhere from 1/3rd to 1/2 of your army points.  A proto-star is a unit that has some aspects that are downright amazing (Swordmasters, Temple Guard, Blackguard, Bloodletters, Knights of the Realm etc) but with innate weaknesses like slowness, low toughness, weak armor.  A proto-star needs buffs to become imba, but once they do they shine.  The drawback is, if you can't get the buffs off, you're vulnerable.  The plus side is they are cheaper.  Instead of a mega unit of Chaos Chosen that costs half your points, you can have 3 units of Swordmasters in a force easily.  And Life is the Lore for them, if that army can take it.  Life is the nuclear fusion that turns proto-stars into full on suns.  Where is does not have synergy with is MSU combat armies.  The buffs are good, but only being applicable to one unit per turn means your MSU army still isn't going to be standing toe to toe with big blocks in heads up combat.

Magic: Here is another "magic first" exceptions.  Life lends itself EXTREMELY well to a magic-centric army plan.  You can make a nigh-unstoppable High Elf or Slaan magic bunker that can reliably cast Dweller's Below every turn with IF, and not fear a miscast in the slightest.  The Lore can put defensive buffs on your bunker, prevents miscasts, and has the most offensive spell in the game.  Assuming you get enough dice, which Teclis and Slaan do, your bunker will always be full power go.

Lore of Heavens

Shooting:   This is a fantastic Lore for a shooty army.  The inherent ability of hurting fliers seems somewhat bad, until you realize that fliers can get to a shooty army fast, so something that kills them faster keeps your lines shooting more.  The signature spell is super good in the mirror match, as is curse of midnight wind.  Having a plan for how your gunline beats other gunlines is a good thing.  Harmonic Convergence is bra-roken with warmachines.  Re-roll all to hit and to wound rolls of a 1 in a bubble.  Guess what's the only number that cannons and bolt throwers don't wound on?  Nothing is worse than hitting a dragon with a cannonball only to roll a 1 to wound.  This makes your warmachines shine.  Wind Blast is also great.  Combat armies want to close with shooting armies by turn 2.  If you can use this spell to delay them until turn 3 or 4 while you shoot the piss out of them, you will go further.  Chain Lightning is much better than it looks.  The weakness of warmachine armies tends to be that they don't like having to waste warmachine shots taking out MSU forces since there are no cherry targets.  Chain Lightning eviscerates MSU forces.  That is synergy.  Warmachines devastate blocks.  Chain Lightning devastates MSU.  Strong.

Combat:  Harmonic Convergence and Midnight Wind are of benefit to combat units for sure, but I can't really see a reason why you would choose Heavens for a combat centric force as none of the spells are of comparable benefit to other Lores.

Lore of Shadow

Shooting: Shadow has a surprisingly good synergy with an offensive minded shooting army.  The signature spell helps against the mirror match AND in slowing down the enemy combat units.  Enfeebling and Ockham's are quite good for when the enemy comes to grips with your soft shooty units.  Withering makes your smalls arms fire better.  Pit of Shades and Penumbral are substitutes for warmachines.  As you might have noticed, Shadow works best with shooty armies that use small arms fire and don't have as many warmachines.  The magic lowers toughness, which is a buff to smalls arms fire.  There are two psuedo-war machine spells.  And the ultimate spell is a combat buff that will make people sorry that they got near to your bowmen.

Combat: Shadow is also one of the top Lores for combat units.  The across the board debuffs, and Ockham's buffs mean that your plethora of weaker troops will be able to stand toe to toe with tougher foes.  And the psuedo-war machine spells can contribute meaningfully in armies that rarely have such devices. 

Lore of Death

Shooting:  This is not the strongest Lore to take with a shooting army, but there are some synergies that can be exploited.  First and Foremost is Doom and Darkness.  -3 Leadership means that a key enemy combat unit is much more likely to break from your shooting.  If you can cause a handful of casualties and break someone's best combat unit, even if they rally next turn, you have put them on a major delay.  Soul Blight is good for shooting armies for the same reason as the Shadow strength and toughness debuffs, but in a single package.  The snipe spells are meh in a shooting force, but the ability to pick out key targets in an army which usually can't is not to be overlooked.  Finally, Purple Sun is a warmachine of it's own.  It is powerful enough that it's often worth eating the miscast to ensure you cast it the first turn.  

Combat:  Pretty much everything Death can do for a combat army, Shadow does more efficiently.  Purple Sun may be better than Pit of Shades, but Pit casts easier.  Soul Blight may hit both strength and toughness, but the Shadow buffs are easier to cast.  The snipe spells aren't as useful to a combat army, since they can allocate close combat attacks on characters, which shooting armies cannot.  

Magic: I hesitate to put this in here, but there are magic armies that utilize Death as a "magic first" option.  Dual Slann with Life and Death can do damage.  Purple Sun and Dwellers below in a single force is very sexy.  Fateweaver can have both without a second caster in the mix.  Unlike Life, Death spells don't help for your magic bunker so it's rare to see a Death only magic based force.  But when you have two Lord level casters, Death makes a really good companion to Life.


  1. I had to laugh when I realized that the anti-flier attributes of Heavens are actually good for something, recalling the somewhat unexplainable anti-flier theme present in the magic items in the BRB.

    Good article as always. I'm looking forward to using some stupidly good Saurus buffed by Light for my next game.

  2. I'm working on a shootier Empire army, as I figure that probably gives me the best chance of dealing with the most problems. However, I'm really having a hard time balancing the requirements between my shooting, as my warmachines are essentially what will be winning the game for me, and my infantry blocks, which will have to finish the game for me at some point.

    Do you have any advice on the balance between the Empire's meager infantry and our outstanding artillery? As a note, I intend to field the War Altar with my Arch Lector as it seems to me that it allows the empire to cheat a bit and field a second wizard with full access to the lore of light.

  3. I'm not a super big Empire guy but my thoughts are to max out artillery and use Lore of Heavens on your level 4. Lot's of MSU Pistoliers to harass, redirect and stall the opponent's advance.

    As far as infantry, I'm inclined to say Halberders are the best but I'm guessing a nice fat block with BSB and crown of command might be the way to go.