Start Competing: Malign Sorcery & Forbidden Power

This week we’re doing something a bit different with Start Competing. Rather than focus on a singular army we’re going to focus on two game expansions which granted more power and versatility to your army, no matter what army you have. This has been long overdue since often they serve to accent many armies who lack certain options, like new spells to cast, including universal endless spells and new relics to take alongside your current ones. As such, this guide is like a supplement to any Start Competing article regardless of army.

Endless Spells in 3rd Edition

As a general mechanic, Endless spells are separate models that you add to your list during list building. Many armies have a suite of their own, around 3-4 that only they can take while the Endless spells in Malign Sorcery and Forbidden Power are generic and any army can use them.

Some endless spells are stationary and a unit has to walk up within range of them to receive their effect. Others are known as predatory endless spells, and get a move at the end of the Hero phase – for both players. The only way to remove them is to burn a casting or unbinding to attempt to roll over the Casting Value on the warscroll. Generally speaking, if you want to remove an Endless Spell your opponent has, remove it on their turn, they cant summon it back and you wont lose one of your castings as a result.

Their value in the meta has oscillated up and down, so what changed in 3.0? Previously, predatory endless spells were seen as too much of a risk. Both players got to take turns moving them at the start of the round, with the player who is going first receiving priority. This means your opponent could easily turn it around on you if they so wished.

In 3.0 the spells move more often and they are yours alone. As long as the wizard who casted it remains alive, you can move the spell at the end of both hero phases – not just one. If that Wizard dies, it goes wild and then can be used like they worked in 2nd edition, with the player who’s turn it is getting to choose to move it. So as long as you’re cautious with your wizard, this is a huge positive for the player.

At the launch of 3rd they cost a little too much, Games Workshop assumed that being able to move them twice made them twice as valuable. This was corrected this Summer with the cost drastically dropped putting many of them in exactly the range they need to be. In this article we’ll cover the two generic box sets, and leave the faction exclusive ones to their own respective Start Competings.

What is Malign Sorcery?

Malign Sorcery was a “Battle Magic Expansion” that was released day and date with the Soul Wars expansion in 2018. Although technically an expansion, due to its simultaneous release with the “2.0” version of Age of Sigmar it’s widely considered a part of the core game. The box set includes 13 models for endless spells. As of this writing about half of them see comp play.

In addition the book contained rules for new spells and new artefacts. If you bought an older copy of the box, the book that outlines these may still be in there. Just ignore them, the artefacts no longer allowed in Matched Play. The rules for the Endless Spells will be in your most current General’s Handbook.

What is Forbidden Power?

Released in 2019, Forbidden Power was a follow up of sorts to Malign Sorcery. It’s much more of a narrative expansion pack, as the storyline included within is rather involved. It follows Lady Olynder, Mortarch of the Legion of Grief on her mission to unlock a Stormvault, one of many prisons where Sigmar keeps important relics and souls he does not want to be tampered with.

The set isn’t nearly as useful or important to own as Malign Sorcery, but the recent balance patch has raised their value in the esteem of the community. Included are 4 universal endless spells, 2 new allegiances and 2 new mercenaries. Much like Malign Sorcery, if you bought an older copy just ignore that other stuff, you’re here for the endless spells.

Malign Sorcery

  • Aethervoid Pendulum – Casting Value 5. Moves 8″, but only along a line it is set up on. For each unit it passes over, on a 2+ deal D3 mortal wounds. This used to be a popular endless spell because even if your opponent controlled it, they couldn’t change the direction. This is no longer an issue, making it a super mediocre mortal wounds spell which you cant change directions on and you got so many “deals Mortal Wounds” spells in this box. D
  • Burning Head – Casting Value 6. Move the model 8″, after movement, it does D3 mortal wounds to every unit within 3″ on a 2+. It is removed after it deals any mortal wounds. The only thing saving it is how cheap it is, its otherwise a mediocre mortal wounds spell that doesnt even have the deceny to stick around. D+
  • Chronomantic Cogs – Casting Value 7. Its effect has changed constantly, but as of this writing it is one of the best buff spells in the game right now. When summoned you must choose to speed up time (Reroll charge rolls for all friendly units wholly within 12″) or slow down time (Reroll casting rolls for your wizards wholly within 12″). Both buffs are excellent but due to the short range you need to figure out exactly what you’re going to do with this when planting it. If you’re going to use it to charge, make sure to estimate where your units will end their movement so you can benefit from the buff. A-
  • Emerald Lifeswarm – Casting Value 6. Move it 8″ and if it lands next to a unit, heal D3 wounds. Lost some esteem now that rallying and heroic recovery exists, and lost the healing when placed down for double dipping. It’s still fine but only if you lack better methods of healing, because the amount it heals generally wont keep up with the damage you’re taking. C+
  • Geminds of Uhl-Gyish – Casting Value 6. Move 8″, and keep both models within 6″ of each other. This was massively simplified, and for the better. After it moves, roll a dice for each unit either ball passed over or ended within 1″ of, and on a 2+ deal a mortal wound. If it’s not negated they cannot issue or receive commands until the start of the next combat phase.
    So, this is a weird one. Its effect wears off in the combat phase instead of your next hero phase which means they’ll still get All out Attack/Defence in the combat phase or any other faction abilities they might use. What it does shut down is everything in between: All Out Attack/Defence in the shooting phase is gone, At The Double and Forward to Victory can’t be used in their turn and Redeploy and (possibly most importantly) Unleash Hell can’t be used in yours. It’s definitely one of the better spells, but you have to have a plan with it. B+
  • Malevolent Maelstrom – Casting Value 5. It’s now predatory, and moves 8″. Place a die next to it as a counter starting at 1 and anytime a wizard successfully casts a spell or a model is killed within 12″ of it, tick the counter up by 1 to a max of 6. At the end of the combat phase roll a die and add the counter. On a 10+ deal D3 mortal wounds to each unit within 12″ and then goes away.
    It’s…not great. A convoluted setup, doesnt move nearly far enough to get it into your enemy’s backline and away from your own, and then disappears? It’s like a more expensive and frustrating flaming skull. D
  • Prismatic Palisade – Casting Value 5. Range is 8″, units within 6″ cannot make shooting attacks, the range of this is increased by 3″ each round. It’s good in theory, especially if you don’t have many shooting attacks but your opponent does. The issue is setting it up close enough to enemy ranged attacks to do something is very difficult (they are ranged for a reason after all). If it is dispelled, the counter is going to restart and by then you probably closed the gap. You could set it up with the spell portal, but thats more points and another casting spent on a situation you aren’t always going to encounter. C
  • Purple Sun of Shyish – Casting Value 8. Set up within 8″, move it 8″. For each unit it crosses and ends within 3″ of, roll a die and on a 1 it insta-kills a model. Even if that doesn’t work, everything within 6″ has -1 to saves.
    This is incredible. Currently considered the scourge of the Meta, everyone fears it. While the chance to kill a model can be very swingy, it can also be exactly what you need at just the right time. Move it up next to Archaon and a 1 in 6 chance of sending him to the shadow realm is probably more reliable than the damage most armies can deal to him in one turn of combat. Even if it doesn’t work, -1 to save will make it easier to chew through units. About the only problem is its casting level of 8 can make it a little tricky to cast without bonuses but it also makes it more difficult to dispel. This is the best Endless Spell for the moment, the one all others wish to be compared to. A+
  • Quicksilver Swords – Casting Value 6 and a range of 6″. Move it 8″ and when it lands, pick a unit it passed over and roll 12 dice, on a 5+ deal a mortal wound, ignoring ward saves. A bit of a sleeper hit but if you have the space for it, it can be super useful. On average it deals 4 mortal wounds, not huge but given Nurgle’s place in the meta it can be very useful for killing off a weaker character or finishing off a unit for something that relies on their ward saves like the Warsong Revenant. B
  • Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws – Casting Value 8. Another banger and possibly the best of the “deal Mortal Wounds” spells. Movement is 3D6″, then after it has moved deal the difference in movement between what you rolled and the target’s movement in mortal wounds. On the turn it came in, you get to reroll the movement. On average you’ll roll about an 11 so if you get that or higher, stop, otherwise roll again. While of little value against fast targets, itll absolutely shred through things like Nurgle, Stormcast or Ironjawz. A-
  • Soulsnare Shackles – Casting Value 7, set up all shackles within 8″ of the caster. Any unit within 6″ of a shackle cannot run or charge. In addition each unit within 6″ takes D3 mortals on a 6. This requires some planning but is ultimately very good. It’s best used as a screen, forcing enemies to go around or charge from much further away than they might want to. It does cut both ways, so you do need to plan a bit how to use it. Either drop it on a unit you dont want to get into combat (e.g. they are there solely to hold a point) or be ready to dispel it on your follow up turn to move up and charge. B+
  • Suffocating Gravetide – Casting Value 6, set up within 8″. Move 8″ and then any unit it passes over, roll a die for each model in the unit and for each 6 deal a mortal. Naturally, it’s a solid Horde clearer, though rolling on 6s isn’t likely to do a ton of damage unless it’s a big horde. I’d generally stick to Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws or Quicksilver swords. The only benefit is this is much cheaper than either of those. C+
  • Umbral Spellportal Casting Value 5. Set up one portal within 12″ of the caster, and then the second within 18″ of that. If a wizard casts a spell within 1″ of a portal, it can “pass through” the portal and come out the other side, being measured from the second portal instead. This is a pretty solid spell with a TON of utility. It’s a bit expensive, so generally you want to bring it if you’re doing something that feels gross. The most popular uses are Nagash’s Hand of Dust and Teclis’s Storm of Searing White Light which are both powerful spells held back by shorter range. B+

Forbidden Power

Forbidden power comes with 4 new endless spells and after some changes in 3.0 the box is much more of a value than it once was with all of them having some value in the right lists.

  • Horrorghast – Casting Value 5 and a range of 12″ with a movement of 8″. A vast improvement on its previous incarnation. Any unit within 12″ cannot use commands in the battleshock phase (so generally speaking this means Inspiring Presence) and any unit which fails a battleshock test loses D3 additional models. A fun little tool to add in with leftover points, about the only concern to have is the large bubble means your own units could be affected too. C
  • Lauchon the Soulseeker – Casting Value 6, set up within 6″ and a friendly Wizard can hitch a ride for 18″. They take a mortal wound before they jump out, but can still move after, meaning it’s a fantastic way to get your Wizard in (and out!) of danger. There are technically no limits on the size of the model but they must be wholly within 3″, so that’ll generally limit it to smaller foot casters, who probably need it most. B+
  • Shards Of Valagharr – Casting Value 5 and a range of 18″. Movement is a little wonky, rather than move them in the normal manner, you pick one up from the field and put it back down within 12″ of the other piece. If you can draw a line between it and cut through a unit, that halves the movement and they cannot run or teleport. Really dangerous particularly on armies that rely on their speed like Ironjawz or Daughters of Khaine but nobody wants to be stuck moving 2″. B+
  • Soulscream Bridge – Casting Value 6. Basically a teleporter, set one side of the bridge down within 6″ of the caster, and then the second 12″ from that. Any unit within 6″ of a piece can “jump” to the other side, as long as they end more than 9″ from an enemy, like deep striking. An incredibly good teleport for certain lists because it doesn’t actually count as moving. In particular, for Cities of Sigmar lists with Irondrakes they can get their standing still shooting bonus. Otherwise, its still good for slower armies who otherwise lack a teleport. Setting it up is a bit awkward, but if you dont get a teleport otherwise it’s solid B

Arkhan the Black
Credit: Silks


As things stand right now, Endless Spells are in a powerful place. While their influence has waxed and waned, as it stands any army with a wizard should seriously consider at least one in their list. They add anything from mortal wound output to deadly debuffs to essential buffs. Even if you don’t have a wizard, the Arcane Tome is there now, why not consider expanding your horizons?

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