Friday, March 10, 2017

KOW - New Spells: Soul Drain and Weakness

Last week I discussed "Blood Boil" one of the three new spells in the Clash of Kings Organised Play book. It was the spell that was getting all the early attention, with some believing it was overpowered and others saying it was useful. As is often the case, the truth was very much in the middle with its situational nuances skewing it one way or the other depending on your army and build.

In this post I thought that I would look at the other two new spells and give my early assessment of their utility.

Soul Drain - 6” range, rolling 6 dice to hit and may target enemy units that are in melee  Roll to damage as normal with Piercing (1)  If one or more points of damage are scored, choose either the caster or a single friendly non-allied unit within 6”  Remove one point of damage from the chosen unit for each point of damage dealt to the target  If this is cast into melee, the target will not take a Nerve test at the end of the Shoot phase. [30 Points]

When Drakaar Opted For "Husky", This Wasn't What He Expected

I don't think that there is any doubt that this spell can be useful. Assuming a De 4 target however, your expected damage is 2 wounds with a very limited chance of getting more than 3 wounds. These wounds will be able to be able to be transferred to  friendly unit. Lightning Bolt (5) will have an expected damage output of 1.67 wounds against the same target.

This spell has a number of "issues" in terms of tactical application. The key one is the 6" range. This has two downsides:
  • unlikely to come into play until mid to late game 
  • close range puts your mage at risk
So you are paying 30 points for a spell with a limited time window that puts you at risk and generally does no more wounds than current direct damage spells? I don't seeing it being used much. While there may be a very finite set of circumstances where it can be beneficial, I see them as so small as to make the spell a pretty rare choice.

Yes, it can be cast into melee but in reality that advantage promises far more than it delivers given the spells other characteristics.

Given that you have to forgo casting a given spell to cast it the overall opportunity cost in terms of relative effect, risk and cost seems too high.

Edit: No cover modifier on Soul Drain 

Weakness - 18” range, rolling 2 dice to hit  If one or more hits are scored, the target unit has a -1 modifier when rolling to damage enemy units during the next turn  A natural six will still damage  This effect only applies once – multiple castings on the same target have no effect  [20 points]

Knees! It's Always The Knees That Go First!

Effectively, reverse-Bane Chant. In their next turn your opponent has a modifier that approximates CS(-1)/Piercing(-1). The spell has an expected 75% chance of being successful cast - similar to Bane Chant Crushing Strength but far better than a successful Bane Chant for Piercing. This makes the spell attractive against shooters in particular as you have a 75% chance of Piercing (-1) while if they have Bane Chant (2) they only have an expected success rate of 25%.

However again range is a problem if you are going to use the spell to target shooters. At 18" you need to be well within their range (or expected threat range) to cast the spell. This means again you are putting yourself at risk to maximise effect. I think you'll find that while this has situational application there are existing spells that give you more certainty in their utility.

So overall I'm of the opinion that both spells will have situational utility, the set of these scenarios is so small that you are better served using existing spells. Of course, some people may wish to use them for fluff or narrative purposes but they should recognise their choice is probably competitively sub-optimal. 


  1. Mummies back by a High Priest (or Necromancy) with heal were already hard to shift. Add in Soul Drain and Rally, along with an overall meta shift with the changes to scenarios (suggesting more grinds games) and you have a nice little grindy package.

  2. 100pts: Mounted Druid with Weakness.

    Fast moving inspiring, with a small heal, which can now park itself in terrain 18" from a ranged horde on turn 1 and debuff. -2 to hit and inspired keeps them safe from the horde targetting them. Nimble, individual, movement 9 and the penalty for charging into terrain keeps them out of trouble from melee chaff, and anythin that does go after them then gets mired for a couple of turns, unless it is also pathfinder.

    I think there are some casters that will love this spell.

  3. I agree that there are situations where it can be useful but I maintain that the cost - both in points and opportunity (not casting Heal/BC/LB) - make them less attractive. When you take these new spells you need to know you are getting something significantly better because of your sunk costs.

    I may be proved wrong over time but that's the beauty of choice