The Lore of Life is very powerful spell lore in Warhammer Fantasy Battles that has a good mix of Augments and Direct Damage spells. It contains features of both a defensive and an offensive spell lore.
The Lore of Life is very unit-focused: the Augments mostly focus on protecting and healing units, whilst the damage spells focus on doing just that: large amounts of damage, to units. A Life Wizard works best with some solid ‘anvil’ units to Augment, but the power of the spells means that the Lore of Life can be useful in almost any army.
Of all the Lores in Warhammer, the Lore of Life is the one I have most experience with, since my Wood Elf army almost always includes a level 4 Life Wizard. It also means I may be somewhat biased, so feel free to leave a comment if you disagree with my opinions.
Lore Attribute: Lifebloom
The Lore Attribute of Life provides minor healing whenever a Life spell is cast. It allows you to prolong the life of valuable characters and monsters, as well keep the Life Wizard alive herself. A Dragon which took a light hit from a bolt thrower can be restored to full health, simply as a side effect from other casting. A wound taken from a Miscast can be healed. This is one of the best Lore Attributes in the game, possibly second only to that of Death.
Signature Spell: Earth Blood
It grants Regeneration… but only to the Wizard’s unit. I consider this to be absolutely the worst spell in the Lore of Life and never take it. Fortunately, as the signature, you can choose to never have it.
Perhaps if the Wizard is babysitting a big unit of Spearmen or Eternal Guard or something then sacrificing Shield of Thorns or Awakening of the Wood might be permissible, but the chances are is you don’t want a valuable spellcaster hiding in a unit that’s going to taking too many wounds. It might almost make sense for a Bretonnian Damsel… if the Knights didn’t already have the Blessing of the Lady.
Unless you can think of a very clear situation where your Wizard is going to be in a squishy unit that needs protecting and doesn’t already have a Ward or Regen save, then give this one a pass.
1: Awakening of the Wood
A fairly simple Direct Damage spell that gets somewhat better if the target is in a Forest. It’s not an amazing spell, but it’s reasonable for what it is, and gets stronger if you have Throne of Vines in play. Having a Direct Damage spell to take out the occasional Fast Cavalry, Flier, or Skirmisher unit is handy, but I would rarely choose this spell.
2: Flesh to Stone
A unit Toughness boost, that gets better with Throne of Vines in play. This spell is amazing. You can take some of the squishiest units in the game (Elves and Humans) and suddenly make them T7, which can turn the tide of almost any combat. Flesh to Stone is not Remains in Play, which is actually good: it means your opponent can’t dispel it in their Magic phase.
When using Flesh to Stone, keep in mind that in 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy, a roll of a 6 to Wound always succeeds. T9 Tree Kin are terrific fun, but they’re not invulnerable.
Nevertheless, Flesh to Stone is only 3rd-4th on my list of priorities for Life spells, depending on what my army consists of and what I’m facing. It’s a great spell, but the Lore of Life contains many great spells…
3: Throne of Vines
This is one of the best spells in the entire game. It boosts every other Life spell except Dwellers Below, and, most importantly, gives you a 2+ to resist Miscasts. Considering how common and dangerous Miscasts are in 8th Edition, this is unbelievably valuable.
This is the most important spell for you to have. If you don’t roll it, but roll a double, you are to choose it above all else. Under normal conditions, a level 4 Wizard has a 72.22% chance of either rolling Throne of Vines or rolling a double… which is not guaranteed. Thus, if your army has some ability to permit choosing or additional spells (I’m looking at you, High Elves), the Lore of Life is the perfect time to use it. If your Wizard doesn’t get Throne of Vines then it could cost you the game.
When playing against a Life Wizard, dispel it! Many of my opponents let it go without trying, because they put higher priority on the “flashier” spells. If you’ve got a bit of a Dispel dice shortage, then at the very least make sure you dispel it using your Power dice in your Magic phase. Even apart from the Miscast protection, the spell-boosting doubles the effectiveness of some Life spells. In the same vein as the comment above: if you allow an enemy Life Wizard to have Throne of Vines up the whole time, it could cost you the game.
4: Shield of Thorns
After the power of Throne of Vines, Shield of Thorns looks a bit tame… and that’s kinda because it is. It is an Augment that causes automatic hits against units in base-to-base with the target unit. Its main utility is it’s effectively a Direct Damage spell that can be cast into Combat.
Whilst I will use it if I roll it, I consider Shield of Thorns to be the weakest Life spell, excepting the Signature. It’s neat, but will rarely accomplish much.
A spell boasting obvious power, Regrowth allows you to resurrect models (although not Characters). Simple in concept, but tricky enough in practice that the spell description is one of the longest in the rulebook.
The important thing to remember with Regrowth is you want to try to replace models that were hard for your opponent to kill in the first place. Replacing a few Swordmasters is nice and all, but resurrecting a Tree Kin will have your opponent pulling his hair out. I played against a Bretonnian player who used Regrowth to resurrect three Questing Knights, just as I thought I was going to be able to obliterate them with shooting before they hit my lines. In this way, Regrowth also works very well for demoralising your opponent.
Regrowth is a valuable spell that I would place 2nd-3rd in my Lore of Life priorities based on what units I’m fielding and what my opponent is fielding.
6: The Dwellers Below
Dwellers Below is a nuke, plain and simple. Everyone in a target unit: Strength test or die. Very scary for many opponents. It’s obviously best against S3 targets like Elves and Humans, but can still do serious damage to S4. I wouldn’t bother targeting S5+ unless you’re desperate.
One reason the spell is so good is that it scales nicely with the size of enemy units. A large Horde could face the prospect of losing dozens of models to a single spell. Another, less obvious, reason, is its ability to assassinate characters. Since every model in the unit must take the test, targeting a unit containing a squishy S3 Wizard can definitely make your opponent sweat.
As the “flashiest” spell in the list, if you don’t have an urgent need to obliterate a unit, Dwellers Below can be good for soaking up dispel dice before casting Regrowth or Flesh to Stone.
Dwellers Below tends to be my #2 choice after Throne of Vines, although there are some situations where Regrowth is more important, such as if the army you’re facing has a large number of S4+ troops.
The Lore of Life is undoubtedly one of the more powerful Lores in 8th Edition Warhammer. With a strong Lore Attribute, Miscast protection, a nuke, and a couple of very powerful Augments, it can supplement almost any army without a problem. What it lack in Hexes and subtlety it makes up for in raw power.
The one thing I would comment about the Lore of Life is that it doesn’t scale very well to a large number of units, as all the spells are single-target. If you’ve got a nice Death Star unit to Augment, all well and good, but that doesn’t suit all armies. Despite the power of Life, High Elves and Empire in particular are probably better going for something else in large games.
The Lore also suffers somewhat in that certain spells are essential: Throne of Vines and then either Regrowth or Dwellers Below. This makes it a poor Lore for Wizards under level 4, and the Lore can backfire horribly if you roll badly.
The Lore is not particularly tricky to use, but still has some interesting tactics that can be developed, so I would recommend it for a Warhammer player of any experience.
Hits: Flesh to Stone, Throne of Vines, Regrowth, The Dwellers Below
Misses: Earth Blood, Shield of Thorns