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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mastering the Master of the Black Arts

Well I thought I'd make my debut on this totally awesome blog. Thanks to Ben for letting me contribute - what a top notch guy.

I guess I should introduce myself a little. My name is Blair, and I play Vampire Counts. I've been playing for about 1.5 years now, and stuck to VC the whole way. I get out to quite a few tourneys around the area (which is Durham, NC), and probably have attended around 10 or so, including a couple of GTs. Compared to others though, I'm still pretty new to WHFB.

Anyway, I thought I'd start off by posting up a VC magic guide I wrote a while ago. Enjoy.

Vampire Counts have arguably one of the most powerful magic phases in the game. With almost every character as a caster, it is relatively easy to end up with 9 or more PD in a list. Add to that 2-3 bound spells and an item that lets you store dice, VC magic usually packs quite a punch. However, it is also integral to how the army plays. Without an effective magic phase, the army struggles.

So how do you make the most out of your undead raising, macabre dansing, nagash gazing magic phase? Let’s start by going over the spells:

Invocation of Nehek (4+, 18” range) – Do I really need to write something about this?

1.) Raise Dead (5+, 12” range) – A more versatile spell than most people give it credit for. There are numerous things you can do with a block of zombies that you can place anywhere within 12” of the caster. Use it to place them directly behind a unit in case they break in combat, bait frenzied or units with hatred out of position, redirect charges, or just use it to provide a cheap meat shield against pesky shooting. Remember they are worth 50VP no matter how many you raise, so don’t just throw the poor zombies away needlessly.

2.) Vanhel’s Danse Macabre (7+, 12” range) – Gold. Pure and utter gold.

3.) Gaze of Nagash (8+, 24” range) – A nice magic missile. Not great, not bad, just nice. Great for taking out light units, or for scaring your opponent into using a dispel scroll.

4.) Curse of Years (8+, 18” range) – Great against an army with big blocks of infantry troops. It’s not fantastic, but will usually draw out a scroll at the least.

5.) Wind of Undeath (12+, battlefield) – Overrated in my opinion. Sure it’s pretty devastating, if you get it off. But with all of the effective lower cost spells, why throw 4 dice at this thing? The only big use I see is using it to draw a scroll out.

6.) Summon Undead Horde (12+) – Kind of pointless. I can see using it if you really, really need to bulk up your army or heal a bunch of hurting units, but IoN is more reliable and pretty much can do the same thing.

Alright, on to the using-it-effectively part:

Protect your casters. Duh, right? Still, it’s pretty detrimental if one of your casters dies needlessly. Just remember, every vampire you lose is 1-2 less PD, potentially a game-changing bound spell, and for certain a dispel dice. Don’t throw them into a risky combat, or have them jump out of a unit if they could be subject to shooting.

Prepare for the late-game. Sure, this means bulking up your infantry (if you have the respective powers), but you also need to try and draw out some scrolls. VC magic can be game-changing if you can get that right spell off (95% of the time this means Vanhel’s), so try and weaken your opponent’s magic defense early on. Though a little risky, a successful Curse of Years on a big-VP infantry block or a successful Wind of Undeath will almost always draw out a scroll early on.

Be mindful of your bound spells. Don’t’ forget about them, but don’t use them every turn either. I’ve had many opponents who forget that the Corpse Cart has the ASF spell, and so they don’t save dice for it and it goes off in a crucial combat. This is especially effective with the Book of Arkhan, as you don’t want to reveal who has it too early in the game. It also helps to read your opponent some. If they are good at saving DD for your bounds, use them earlier on to get your opponent to use some dice up. If they tend to forget, save them for last.

Use some theatrics. I don’t mean you should work on your Les Miserables part while you play WH, but some acting can be effective. For instance, you can really build up a spell to be more effective than you know it actually will be (Me: “All right, here comes the big one.” I grab 3 dice and roll them in my hands a bit. “Aaaaannnnddddd…Curse of Years is cast on a…11!” Opponent: “Scroll.” I proceed to mentally pat myself on the back to congratulate on how sneaky I am.) Also, you can ‘pretend’ to focus intently on one side of the battlefield, while the spell you really want to get off that turn is located on the opposite end.

Don’t be tempted by the ‘big blast’ spells. The most effective spells for the VC army are IoN, RD, and Vanhel’s. And what’s more, these three spells can all be cast on 1-2 dice each. Don’t needlessly risk blowing up one of your mages with a miscast trying to cast Wind of Undeath because it ‘would be totally awesomesauce if it works’.

Well there you go. Hopefully this was helpful and not just mindless rambling. And hey, even if you don't play VC, maybe this will give you a good idea on how to effectively STOP the VC magic phase.


  1. And here I thought the way to be theatrical while playing Warhammer was to steal a cape from a LARPer!

  2. Great guide, Blair. During our game in January's tournament, I thought you were very crafty in your use of the magic phase. Very intelligently played. Darn you!