Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Fickle Nature of Spam

You can have too much of a good thing!!!

I was looking at list construction last night for the Skaven and had got excited about the ability to take Level 1 Wizards for the bargain basement price of 65 points.

Skaven Engineers can default to the Warp Lightning spell which inflicts D6 Strength 5 hits on a unit if successfully cast. These guys can fulfil a role missing in the Skaven list i.e. a semi-reliable non-template based ranged attack.

The spell has a casting level of 6, meaning your Level One needs to roll at least 5 to get it off successfully. To me this means that I need to roll two dice to have a reasonable expectation that the spell would be cast.

I ran a list on the weekend that had three of these beasties plus my Grey Seer. At the time it felt “difficult” and giving it some thought I’ve worked out why.

When you roll for Winds of Magic you’re expected outcome is 7 Power Dice. The list I had on the weekend had 4 channels and a condenser (excessive, I think so) and this should generate an extra dice giving you 8 total. If you look to fully utilise your three engineers then you would need to allocate 6 power dice. This should result in the spell being successfully cast 2.5 times. Obviously your opponent can then attempt to dispel. However, more importantly it leaves your Grey Seer with just two dice (on average) to utilise his spells. Given the higher casting values of the more “useful” spells this really put your phase under pressure.

And this is just averages….you will deviate from the average 8 PD most turns.

Dropping one of the Engineers changes the dynamic. You lose one of the channelling attempts but will still on average have 7.83 PD. By using the same assignment of two dice for each Warp Lightning you end up with your Seer having 3.83 dice. Far more respectable.

Obviously just because you have three Engineers you don’t have to have them all throw Warp Lightning every turn. You may like the redundancy that having the option gives you and the ability to fully utilise those high PD turns. However I think there is a strong case to say that your Seer can better utilise those dice – especially with his 4+ to cast. Also if you really want a third Warp Lightning you can have the Seer generate his spells first so he gets to choose it before the Engineers opt to default to it.

So spam can potentially look really attractive but once you scratch the surface there is always a cost. Engineers do have other functions in addition to their electrical skills – and there are few models of better value than a 15 point Engineer. However you must always keep in mind your main game plan and the Skaven spell deck is best utilised by a Grey Seer backed up by a cache of power dice.

Things aren’t always as they first seem.

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