Age of Sigmar 3.0: Endless Spells

An article by    Age of Sigmar Gaming Goonhammer        0

One of the promised major changes to Age of Sigmar 3.0 was an overhaul to Endless Spells. Launched alongside Age of Sigmar 2.0’s starter sets, Malign Sorcery was an “Expansion Pack” but quickly was adopted as part of the core game. In theory, Endless spells were a really neat idea. They were unique models that when cast could be moved by both players to be a disruptive presence on the field. In practice the results were more mixed. Players had to put aside valuable points for endless spells to cast them. Predatory spells required players to trade off moving models, even if they weren’t their’s which meant that you could just as easily see it turned back on you. As a result players brought maybe one (some armies were an exception) predatory spell and if they brought any Endless Spells at all they tended to focus on stationary buff spells like Chronomatic Cogs or Balewind Vortex.

Different solutions were attempted throughout 2nd edition to try and remedy this situation. Invocations were “endless prayers” which functioned very similarly but were limited only to specific factions. Seraphon gained “Bound” versions of Endless Spells which cost 10 points more but could not be controlled by an enemy player. Ossiarch Bonereapers had a mechanic where each endless spell gave a caster -1 to future casting rolls while it remained on the field (though these only ever applied to their faction specific ones).

Now with 3.0 we get a ground-up rewrite that makes them a lot more appealing. A lot of warscrolls were rewritten to account for these massive changes and it’s worth taking a look at what changed and which ones are worth using.

Mechanical Changes

Endless Spells are now properly documented into the core rules of Age of Sigmar (as if being an expansion ever hurt them). Games Workshop must have noticed players reluctance to use the mechanic and removed a lot of the risk from using Endless Spells. Instead of both players alternating moving all of the models Endless Spells are either “Controlled” or “Wild”. When an Endless Spell is cast it is under the control of the Wizard who cast it, and remains that way until either the Wizard dies, the wizard casts a second predatory spell (they can only ever maintain control of one) or the spell moves more than 30″ from the caster. Only the player who controls the spell gets to move it, so little fear about accidentally seeing your Gnashing Jaws throw Mortal Wounds on your own men! If a player loses control of an Endless Spell it becomes Wild.

In the new system, players still alternate moving models but first they alternate moving “Controlled” models, and naturally they only move the ones they control. Then players move Wild spells similar to the old system, starting with whoever’s turn it is. This mechanic is probably a bit too generous. With the smaller board size, 30″ is a pretty hefty chunk of the board and you’re not liable to lose control very easily unless your opponent snipes your wizard or you make a conscious decision to cast a different spell. Regardless, it’s going to open up a lot of options that weren’t there before.

The other key change is when these spells are moved. Previously Predatory Spells were moved at the top of the round, and now they are moved in both players Hero phases. That means double the damage (or whatever your spell does).

General Trends

In general endless spells got way more expensive. Looking at all the Endless Spells and Invocations prices went up by 83% on average. Some of course didn’t go up by nearly that much, and a few lost points but in general things are much more expensive. this is a bit justified due to more frequent movements resulting in more effective abilities. Similarly, some were “nerfed” to compensate for being able to procc twice. The damage on some spells were reduced and a 2+ was added for Mortal Wounds to keep them from being guaranteed.

Also, with Mortal Realms being removed as a mechanic any spells that previously received buffs from being played in a specific mortal realm is now gone. This hurts a lot of spells but others do fine despite it.

Spiteswarm Hive. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Spiteswarm Hive. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Warscroll Updates

The new General’s Handbook 2021 includes warscrolls for all the Malign Sorcery and Forbidden Power expansions, which are available to any faction with a Wizard. The differences range from slight number shifts to a complete overhaul of the mechanics so for the sake of documentation I’m going to go through every one, comparing what they used to do and what they do now.

Malign Sorcery

Aethervoid Pendulum

Unique among the Endless Spells, it had some niche value in 2.0 because it moves in a straight line, and only in the direction you set up. It dealt d6 mortal wounds over anything it crossed over. It’s been nerfed a fair bit here, only d3 damage on a 2+. I’m sure the concern was surrounding the double move like most endless spells, but since it can only move in one direction its much easier for an opponent to jump out of the way on the second turn and the 2+ while almost a sure thing, isn’t guaranteed anymore. It also took a 15 point hike. Oof.

Winner or Loser: Loser. The points hike combined with the new “controlled” mechanic removes much of the value this once had, removing much of the need for a spell that follows a “safe” path.

Balewind Vortex

Previously, the Balewind Vortex could be cast by a wizard with 10 or less to add +1 to casting, +1 to saves and an additional 6″ range to spells. Sadly it never quite fit in with the rest as it was not part of the Malign Sorcery set but the Storm of Magic campaign from Warhamer Fantasy Battles. For whatever reason, Games Workshop carried it forward to Age of Sigmar and then just as quietly buried it for third edition. Shame, as it was a good spell, but we do what we must.

Winner or Loser: Disqualified.

The Burning Head

This spell used to do a lot. It did D3 mortal wounds for those it passed over, reroll hit rolls of 1 for units wholly within 9″ and in Aqshy dealt an additional mortal wound all at a budget price. Now it only does the mortal wound part (on a 2+) and then disappears afterwards so it doesn’t even get the double changes. It lost 10 points but can’t say it’s worth that.

Winner or Loser: Loser. It was a decent budget option but even with the discount there’s just better mortal wound dealers.

Chronomantic Cogs

In second edition Chronomatic cogs did two things. The caster could speed it up giving every unit on the field +2″ of movement or slow it down to give that specific wizard an additional casting for the turn. One of the better spells available it fared extremely well in third edition.

Now, the sped up form gives +1 to charge for everything within 18″ of the spell which makes it more likely it will only benefit you (with proper positioning). Whether you’d prefer the 2″ to movement or 1 to charge is going to be open to debate but failing a charge can be very dangerous, leaving your units out in the open so +1 to charge could save our life. The “Caster mode” got better, giving a bonus casting to All Wizards in 6″. About the only potential downside is that an enemy wizard could benefit but if they get within 6″ of it something went wrong.

The crazy thing? The cost went down 15 points. The casting value went from 6 to 7 but that seems a fair trade.

Winner or Loser: Big Winner. It does what it did before but better and cheaper.

Emerald Lifeswarm

A healing predatory endless spell, it heals D3 wounds to a unit within 1″ (or restore an equivalent number of models). While the casting range and movement has been nerfed a bit, it still does what it always did and for armies lacking healing this can be an essential choice to keep them alive.

Winner or Loser: Winner. Even the loss of the bonus from the realm of Ghyran can’t stop the usefulness of this spell.

Geminds of Uhl-Gyish

Oh wow this spell used to do a lot. A two part spell, one piece from Ulgu and one from Hysh. Each sphere does D3 wounds to units it passes over and the Ulgu piece also caused -1 to attacks and the Hysh piece caused -1 to hit. If you were in Ulgu or Hysh the matching piece could reroll wounds.

Now there’s no meaningful difference between the two parts. Each piece deals a single mortal wound on a 2+ and blocks all command abilities, both being issued and received. With the rise of more generic command abilities, and more CP to spread around its going to be more vital to block those off ASAP.

Winner or Loser: Winner. The loss of the old version does suck, it was a very unique power. Still, the ability to block 2 units of from receiving command abilities is still very good

Malevolent Maelstrom

Previously this spell was like a null-field, giving an additional unbinding after a Wizard has attempted to do so (if possible or you chose to do so). For every spell unbound by the endless spell it gains a charge. At the end of the combat phase you roll a die and add the number of charges. On a 7+ deal d3 mortal wounds within 12″.

The general idea remains but the mechanics behind it got flipped on its head. Now it gains charges for successfully cast spells within 12″ and dead models add a charge and it explodes on a 10+.

Winner or Loser: Loser. It really only was popular due to the budget price of 10 points, but without the null-field it’s just a mortal wounds machine and there’s way easier ways to set that up. It also got an insane point increase of over 500%. It might be good for dismantling a castle but it remains too difficult to set up.

Prismatic Palisade

-1 to hit for units within 6″ of it and counted as infinitely tall line of sight blocking terrain. In 3rd edition it loses the -1 to hit but keeps the line of sight blocking.

Winner or Loser: Winner. With the limit on modifiers losing the -1 to hit is fine and even with a small price hike it maintains its value as a barrier to protect delicate units.

Purple Sun of Shyish

This one changed up a fair bit. Previously you rolled a die for each model in a unit it moved over, and on a 6+ killed a model. If the unit had a wound characteristic of 6 or more it dealt 2D6 wounds instead, plus a -1 bravery aura within 6″.

Now, you must roll a die after it moves for each unit it passed over and ends within 1″. It deals D3 mortal wounds on a 2-5 and D6 on a 6. This is notable because a lot of endless spells had their rules changes so they can only affect one unit it passed over, but the Purple Sun gets to go crazy.It also is unusual in that before you move it you roll a die and on a 5+ it can turn wild!

Winner or Loser: Loser. But a soft loser, the new mechanic is more reliable but isnt as good at dispatching hordes, which is what the sun was designed to do. It’s still a decent source of mortal wounds, but the fact it can go wild is a really weird chain to latch around its neck.

Quicksilver Swords

The spell functionally works the same in both editions, you pass over a unit and roll 12 dice. For each 6+ deal a mortal wound. While it previously used to deal wounds on a 5+ to Chaos units, it instead dropped that for the fact that this bypasses ward saves!

Winner or Loser: Winner. Bypassing Ward saves is way more useful than a slightly better chance to deal a mortal wound against Chaos. It took a hefty point increase but I think it might be worth that.

Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws

In 2nd edition it dealt D3 wounds to every unit it passed over and ended within 1″ of it and had a -1 bravery bubble. In third it lets you roll a die for each model in a unit it passed over, and deal a mortal wound on a 6.

Winner or Loser: Loser, but…. Malign Sorcery came packed with too many spells that worked functionally the same, dealing D3 or D6 mortal wounds over units it passed over and it could be hard to tell how they were meaningfully different. This change gave them a useful niche as a horde killer, especially since the purple sun doesn’t do that job as well as it used to. This all sounds good except the new Suffocating Gravetide does the same job for 5 pts cheaper.

Soulsnare Shackles

Originally, this spell had 3 components which allowed you to roll a die for each unit within 6″ of any one of the pieces. On a 3+ it halved their movement. Additionally, roll a die at the start of the movement phase for each of these units. They deal D3 Mortal wounds on a 6. Now, units within 6″ can’t run or charge and it kept the mortal wounds!

Winner or Loser: Winner. Big Winner. Holy crap, prevent charges? And there isn’t a roll to be made? That is crazy powerful and well worth the 25 point increase. I expect to see these pop up a lot.

Suffocating Gravetide

Previously it would deal D3 mortal wounds to units it passed over and gave cover to models it was closer to than the model shooting. Now it just has you roll a die for each model in a unit it passes over and deals a MW on a 6.

Winner or Loser: Winner, but… Its basically Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws and lost all utility. It’s 5 pts cheaper and has a more consistent movement profit so if you want one of these, I’d take this one.

Umbral Spellportal

Both editions largely work the same. You set one piece down and then another 18″ away. If a Wizard within 1″ casts a spell they can measure from the other portal, essentially increasing the range by almost 19″. The range has been cut slightly, as you used to be able to set the first piece up 12″ away and then set the second up 18″ away from that, but you still needed to be within 1″ anyway.

Winner or Loser: Winner. Losing the Ulgu bonus of being able to put both pieces anywhere on the field hurts, but it’s still an incredibly powerful ability for casting short range spells like Hand of Dust without getting too close. It didn’t even gain any points!

Credit: Liebot – https://instagram.com/liebot_pics

Forbidden Power

Forbidden Power was an expansion that came out about a year into Age of Sigmar’s 2nd edition that added more endless spells (and a universal terrain piece nobody used that is now gone) for any army to cast. It…wasn’t very good. I bought it and never felt the urgency to build it, let alone paint it and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any of the pieces in games I’ve played. It got the same treatment as Malign Sorcery and wow did it do it favors!

Soulscream Bridge

Essentially works the same, though previously you had to set the first piece up within 6″ now you just set up both parts within 18″ of the caster. Then units within 6″ of one edge can move to the other side, ending their move as long as they can end more than 9″ from the enemy. It did lose a -1 Bravery bubble for non-DEATH units but this probably makes it more appetizing to people not Grand Alliance Death.

Winner or Loser: Winner. Of the Forbidden Power spells this one was probably the most useful, as moving slow units a large distance all at once was a huge boon. The fact you don’t need to set the first piece within 6″ anymore allows you to set them very far apart. Preserving its general use was probably the right move, and it lost 30 points!

Shards Of Valagharr

This endless spell has 2 pieces, and you draw a line between the closest point on both. In 2nd edition any units it drew a line through took -1 to hit, in 3rd it halves their movement and they lose FLY if they had it.

Winner or Loser: Winner. Definitely more practical, -1s to hit aren’t as useful now that there’s a cap, and since Ensnaring Shackles no longer halves movement this fills a niche, without needing a roll to hit. Good stuff.

Lauchon the Soulseeker

Works quite different now. In the past it allowed you to take a unit wholly within 3″, move the model 12″ (18″ in shyish) and drop off the unit wholly within 3″, taking one model off as the toll. You can’t stop within 9″ of an enemy unit. There were so many limitations here that really hampered its use. The fact you had to sacrifice a model meant this seemed to be built for large hordes, but the wholly within 3″ really hamstrung that from a mechanical standpoint. Even if you did that, 12″ isn’t a lot compared to the Soulscream Bridge’s 18″ and all it has going for it was being more maneuverable.

The new version doesn’t let you transport units, but a Wizard. Functionally its the same otherwise, dealing a Mortal Wound instead of killing a model (naturally, this would be a problem for a Hero).

Winner or Loser: Winner…? giving it a niche as a “get the fuck out” card for Wizards probably is a better lot than what it was, which was a worse Soulscream Bridge, and it lost 5 points but 55 is a lot to spend on an emergency button you hopefully don’t need to use.

Horrorghast

In 2nd edition it subtracted 1 from the Bravery of units within 12″, and 2 bravery from units within 6″ of it. Bravery debuffs are a dawn a dozen, yawn.

But this new Horrorghast is something. It now blocks Command Abilities being issued or received within 12″ and if a unit fails a battleshock test within that range it loses D3 additional models

Winner or Loser: Winner. This probably turned the crappiest spell in Forbidden Power into one of the best Endless Spells. Definitely the winner of most improvement.

Future Updates

There are a few unanswered questions about what this means for faction specific spells, which will probably come out with the battletome FAQs at launch. Some of the key issues:

Ossiarch Bonereapers endless spells added a mechanic where they were “Soul-linked” to their Endless Spells, which gave the caster a -1 to casting but kept the spell solely under their control. This seems like an unnecessary restriction upon them now that endless spells are more easily bound to a caster and much more difficult to rip away. This will probably get errata’d away or given some other benefit (like unlimited range, though I’m not sure that’s worth the cost).

Seraphon face a similar dilemma as their “Bound” Endless Spells seem obsolete in the face of the current mechanics. Indeed this problem seems to be answered as their matched play points don’t mention the bound spells at all. Whether or not they’ll get some bonus to Endless Spells to compensate remains to be seen.

As for other factions, its possible changes will need to happen to bring them more in line with the new ideas for balance, but we’ll have to wait and see on that on. There’s probably other things that need ironing out, we’ll see on release day which is only about a week away!

What Endless Spells are you most excited or disappointed in? Disagree with any of our assessments? Let us know below or contact us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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