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3 basic strategies of using magic effectively 
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Joined: Tue May 12, 2009 8:56 am
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Hello Everyone.


Lets face it: Magic wins warhammer games!

With the inclusion of strong game winning magic lores in the 8th ed BRB and the 2d6 powerdice (+more) it is no surprise that the effectlve use or defense against magic wins games.

Therefore its very important to use you magic in such a way to get the most out of it! Hence, the focus of this thread is to present my thoughts and hopefully start a fruitfull discussion on the effective use of magic to win games, not so much to defend against enemy magic. Other threads do that very well.

I normally play in a comped environment with ETC restrictions on magic, or similar. This influences my view on things, but i will do my best to look beyond that fact.

Most of what is in this post is tacit knowledge for at least many who often attend tournaments. The idea is to verbalize and share this, and improve it for everyone.

The three approaches

As i see it, there are 3 basic strategies to get an effective magic phase:

* "The All in one basket approach"

* "The 1-2 Punch"

* "The Trickle approach"

Your aim each magic round is to get of key spells and or draw out his dispel scroll as early as possible, so you can get of your imporant game winning spell later in the game.

What not to do:

In most cases you can expect your opponent to dispel your biggest and most threatening spell with his dispell dice each magic phase.
So you should not throw most of you dice at a single key spell, see it dispelled and throw you last couple of dice at a small insignificant spell. The result being you only get a small insignificant spell of each round.
In stead try something different:

"The All in One Basket Approach"

Well this is a very straight forward approach giving the fact the DE sorceress can throw as many dice as you have at a given spell. Since you will in most circumstances have more PD than your opponent has DP, simply throw all your dice at the key spell. It is very unlikely that he will be able to dispel it with dice, leaving him with 2 options. Eat your key spell, or use a scroll.
All in all you stand a good chance to either get of your one key spell or draw out his dispel scroll.
If you use this strategy often, dont expect your mage to survive long though :)

I dont have much to say about this strategy. It can be effective, but in most circumstances I won't recommend using this strategy as you sole approach.

If you do, one way to do it would be lv 1-2 fire/metal mage with PoK, and usually throwing all your dice at an appropriatly boosted signature spell. PoK to give you some protection vs miscasts. What you lack though is the proper key spells to win the game, and it cannot be used in many comped tournamenst ETC for instance.

This is a very basic strategy and can be compared with delivering a huge chop with a greatsword which just powers through your enemies defenses.
Nothing subtle or covert about it. But can be effective.

"The 1-2 Punch"

If you accept the fact that your most important spell will be dispelled by your opponents dice each magic round. You focus naturally shifts from "what is the biggest baddest most important spell i can use this magic phase" to "What is the 2nd most important spell i can cast this magic phase".

That shift is very important. And you should always keep this in mind when selecting what spells to cast in each magic phase. "Since my opponent dispels my most important spell this turn, what is the 2nd key spell to get off in this magic phase?"

What does this mean? Well in most cases its much more effective to cast 2 equally important (key) spell rather than a single key spell with 1-2 minor spell with little to no effect.

One of the reasons shadow magic is so good, is because it can work very well with the 1-2 punch strategy.

Lets take an example.
You are in a critical part of the game with a game deciding close combat in progress. It is your turn. You have a shadow mage with mindrazor, withering, enfeebling foe and miasma.
Well my suggestion would be to make sure to cast 2 key spells. In this situation it would be to split your dice towards withering and either mindrazor or enfeebling foe (Dagger / No dagger), instead of most on mindrazor, a couple on miasma.
If you use the 1-2 approach the net effect will be a gamechanging withering/enfeeblement as apposed to a lackluster miasma.

If you accept the fact that the 1-2 punch is one of the most effective ways to structure your magic phase, the next question of course becomes. How to I make sure i have 2 key spells in each magic phase. More on that later..

You can compare the 1-2 punch with a skilled swordsman making 2 important and debilitating attacks against an opponent who can only parry one attack. Therefore he makes sure the 2 attacks are both key attacks, leaving your opponent in a lose, lose situation.

"The Trickle Approach"

The trickle approach is to quite simply to overwhelm you opponents magic defense with many low cast spells. Each spell cast in itself may not be gamechanging, but when you get 2,3 or even 4 lesser spells get through each round. In the longer run your magic will be very effective.
This is a strategy that DEs do very well (Especially with the help of Sacrificial Dagger).
As with the 1-2 punch, the idea is to make sure you opponent does not have a single key spell to dispel each magic phase, but instead throw many smaller spells, where some of them will get through. This has the added bonus of being very difficult if not impossible to defend against even with dispel scrolls. Because you leave your opponent with no solid spell to use his scroll against.

A good start to a trickle approach is to include a lv4 with dark and sac dagger, i would recommend at least another spell caster though, as the lv4 will have trouble using all your PD, and to make sure you have key spells both at range but also in CC.

If you build your magic with the trickle approach in mind you can have a very potent magic phase, which is very reliable and very difficult to defend against.

For instance, with 7-8 PD it is not uncommon to get off Chillwind (doing damage, and rendering an opponents shooting unit unable to respond), Word of Pain (to either protect a vulnerable CC unit or cripple another shooting unit) and Bladewind (to take out an enemy warmachine) while your opponent dispels Black Horror and Spirit Leech. But the 3 spells you got through his defenses have a great effect on the game.

The Trickle approach can be compared to a musketeer attacking with a flurry of blows. The defender can't parry all attacks, and even though each attack does not win the fight on its own, you will get several though his defenses, each attack weakening your opponent until your final strike to end the battle.

Spell Selection

Now all the above is fine and dandy, but it means that it is very important to plan your magic phase when you make your list.
For instance, if you plan on using the 1-2 punch approach, you have to make reasonably sure that you have 2 key spells at range, and 2 key spells to cast into CC, or you won't be very effective. Make sure to keep this in mind when selecting spells.
What I do is to prioritize the spells before I roll them.

For instance, when facing a low Initiative army with my semi shooty DEs with a shadow mage, I often go for a 1-2 punch approach. Then I have to make sure I get 2 key ranged spells and 2 key CC spells.
My priority would often be:
1 Withering (as its a key both in CC and at range)
2 Pit
3 Mindrazor / enfeeble
Leaving me with 2 strong ranged attacks (withering + pit) and 2 strong CC debuffs (withering + enfeeble/mindrazor)

So, when at spell selection and army generation, ask yourself "What 2 key spells do i aim at in CC and at range?" "Is it reasonably sure to get them?"

9/10 times, I will combine the before mentioned lv4 shadow mage with a lv2 mage which takes miasma and a nonimportant spell, to make sure your lv4 has the spells he/she needs.

If you sit down like I did and go meticulously through every lore, and combination of lores, you will see how difficult it actually is to make sure you get the spells you need with a single lv4.
Enter the lv4+2 setup, or the dual lv4 setup, which can be very very effective and allow you to switch tactics during the magic phases. However some lores like fire and metal can work equally well in both a trickle approach and a 1-2 approach.

A Lv1 fire + lv1 metal leaves with a strong 1-2 punch ranged magic phase. However you have no CC spells.

A lv4 dark with ruby ring and sac dagger gives you a strong trickle base mainly at range. I would suggest combining it with another lore either to expand on the trickle strategy and focus on low casting value spells, or to supplement your lack of CC spells with a shadow mage.

A lv4+2 death with sac dagger+dispel scroll is also a very effective way to handle a magic phase. You can be equally potent both at range and in CC (with Soulblight, Doom&Darkness).

A single lv2 with ToF with fire is actually a very versatile spell caster. You have more than 74% chance to get another strong spell (Flamecage or Sword) along with the signature spell for a strong 1-2 punch ranged attack phase. This can be supplemented with a more CC oriented spellcaster, or can be in addition to a lv4 dark mage.

My point being: It is important to plan your magic phases as early as the army list design. What key spells will you have at range? What key spells will you have in CC?

Shadow and Death in the ETC 2012:

Now what spurred all this for my part was the ETC deciding to add a 4 dice cap to shadow and death spells. Therefore I am going to give you a very short summary of my thoughts that led to this article.

In the ETC and many other tournaments where I participate, magic, especially Shadow and Death magic, is heavily comped. In the ETC, for instance, you can only generate 2 extra PD each phase, and shadow and death lore can only be cast with a max of 4 dice.

This restriction effectively eliminated the "all in one basket approach", and led me to theorize on other ways to build an effective magic phase.

The 2 natural responses were the 1-2 punch and the trickle approach. So I decided to look further into them. Hence the thoughts above.

The 4 dice max is a huge nerf to shadow magic, as several key spells in the lore (mindrazor and 36" range withering) became very hard to cast reliably and therefore not viable.

So I had a look at Book of Ashur (as DEs' only way to raise the chance to cast them succesfully), and compared the probability to just +4 to cast and +4 with dagger.

Here are the probabilities:

Shadow casting success percentages
Death casting succes percentages:

In short these were my conclusions:
BoA does indeed raise the chance to cast mindrazor and withering36", but still not enough to make the cost worthwhile. Instead you should focus on the lower cast spells 18"withering, enfeeble, pit, miasma.

Shadow with Focus Familiar
Now the interesting thing i realized was that if you equip the shadow mage with a focus familiar and extend the range of his shadow spells with 6", you can cast a 24" withering with 95% probability, which raises the value of withering a lot, and combines well with the 24" range of our RXBs. Making shadow much more viable.

Sac Dagger
As seen in both tables, Sac Dagger is an amazing tool to raise the probability to cast a spell succesfully. And not surprisingly, it's extremely good. Much more can be said on this item based on the above numbers.
To be honest, I was amazed at how much reliability a sac dagger adds to a lv4s magic phase.

Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:35 am
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Joined: Wed Sep 02, 2009 3:09 pm
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Location: Baltimore
Lets face it: Magic wins warhammer games!

No it doesn't. It has a role, and an important one at that, but it doesn't win games unless you or your opponent are doing things very wrong.

Interesting article other than that though with some useful points for people struggling with the magic phase, thanks for doing it.

One risk of the trickle approach is that you may fail to cast a spell by throwing too few dice at it, which ends that caster's magic phase (a pretty dire outcome if it's your level 4).

"While all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. So answer the question."

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Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:09 pm
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Thanks a lot, Scyloc, for these thoughts. :D
It is always nice to see an estimated general taking the time to record his experience, for the greatest glory of Malekith - and his followers.


Myself, facing superstrong magic defense (HE or Dwarfs), I resorted mostly to the "all in one basket" approach, which very often leaves the opponent with a full basket of unused DD.

"The All in One Basket Approach" vs "What not to do"
May I suggest one variant, in-between?
"The All-but-one in One Basket Approach"

Spare one die for the fun.
If IF, good, that was what you wanted, let your opponent dispel the lone remaining PD.
If no IF, then all DD will be thrown at your main spell (with 6-6 possible result).
Then you'll get 1 more chance for PoD.
If it gets off, that's a chance for a real spell.
If it fails, you break concentration, but there's no more PD anyway.


Using PoK to protect a mere Lvl1 seems a waste to me.
I'd rather take 2 Lvl1 with signature spells, probably Fire, and whichever has the best target gets all PD. If she fries herself, so better for her rival.
Note that IF is by no means suicide, it is at most Russian roulette. ;)

About your survival chances after IF/miscast:
Probability of IF according to the number of dice thrown:
Dice   IF     Dice   IF
 1    0,0%     7   33,0%
 2    2,8%     8   39,5%
 3    7,4%     9   45,7% 
 4   13,2%    10   51,5%
 5   19,6%    11   56,9%
 6   26,3%    12   61,9%
Red... wrote:
One risk of the trickle approach is that you may fail to cast a spell by throwing too few dice at it, which ends that caster's magic phase (a pretty dire outcome if it's your level 4).

This is mitigated with the use of the sac dagger.
Without dagger, and when there's only 1 caster, it is indeed not advisable.


Red... wrote:
Lets face it: Magic wins warhammer games!
No it doesn't. It has a role, and an important one at that, but it doesn't win games unless you or your opponent are doing things very wrong.
May I suggest a compromize?

Magic wins some warhammer games!
Magic helps tremendously most warhammer games.
Magic is so powerful a tool that not using it is like fighting single handedly.

As a matter of fact, I've heard about a French DE list which fares well in tourneys with no sorceress at all. :shock:
http://www.warhammer-forum.com/index.ph ... pic=185715
(all in French).
But that's an exception, indeed.


As a Mod's note, hoping you did not mind, I edited slightly your post for a better presentation, easier to read. A couple of typos were solved, too.
Please still keep credit for the whole article, which is now the newest addition to the D.R.A.I.C.H..

Winds never stop blowing, Oceans are borderless. Get a ship and a crew, so the World will be ours! Today the World, tomorrow Nagg! {--|oBrotherhood of the Coast!o|--}

Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:20 pm

Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:06 pm
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Location: the Netherlands
A very interesting article....never thought of classifying magic tactics like that..but it works.

I do agree with Red that magic is by no means wins a game. In a evenly spaced out game, with a good tactical opponent, the game winning spells will often only come through at the end, or not at all.

Looking at my own style i think i will often use the trickle approach...and then..just once every 6 rounds or so...go for the all in one Basket Approach.... Always leave your opponent guessing.
I do agree that the trickle approach can be risky, but that risk is negated in no small part through our Sacrificial Dagger

@Calisson...hmm..interesting notion of using all in one basked approach on strong magic defense armies...i often use the trickle approach there. Just to get him to blow DD on useless spell..or even force dispel scrolls early. Will have to try that some time.

Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:36 pm
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Joined: Tue May 12, 2009 8:56 am
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Hello there everyone.

Thx for the replies.

I have a confession to make.

The statement "Magic wins warhammer games!" is used and meant as a hook and not as a universally true statement.
It is meant as a blunt statement to capture someones attention, with some truth in it, but not all of the truth.

Of course its very uncommen to win warhammer with magic alone. But in the 8th edition, magic has become a much more important aspect.
If outplayed a lucky mindrazor at a key moment can actually win you the game even though outplayed and outclassed.
As can a Purple Sun, a Spirit Leech early in a game to take out oppositions lv4 mage, a dwellers from below, a gateway with str 11-12..... The list goes on.
Many spells can drastically alter the outcome of a game (or mistcasts).

But of course so can a well played movement phase. But thats for a later thread.

Thank you for editing the post. Its much more reader friendly.

Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:53 pm
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I like to go for the trickle with Dark Magic. It's nice because like you said you can quite easily shut out an opponent's shooting because he'll be more scared of other spells, and with a bit of luck + dagger + power of darkness you might be able to get the big nasty spell off at the end of it anyway!

I played a chaos player the other day though who managed to cast pandemonium once, and used the black tongue on me too. I don't remember the precise rules for them but lets just say I had three cataclysmic detonations that game...

Edit: I still wiped him out :twisted:

Kairon of the Coiled Mist (Group 36 - warrior)

Stats: WS4 S4 T3 D3 I4
Equipment: Light Armour, Sea Dragon Cloak, Bastard Sword
Skills: None

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Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:11 pm
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