The Lore of Shadows is a powerful offensive Lore, with a solid mix of Hexes, Augments, and Direct Damage. It can allow any army to take on solid targets such as Monsters, as well as permitting fancy tactics by moving Characters around. The Lore of Shadows performs very well in competitive 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy, and is one of the most popular Lores amongst players.
Lore Attribute: Smoke and Mirrors
The Lore Attribute of Shadow is an interesting one: it allows the caster to swap places with another character. It’s not inherently powerful, but leads to some interesting tactical options and can be used as an emergency escape.
If you plan for it, you can pull off some fancy tricks. A quite well-known one is to have two pegasus-mounted Dark Elf Sorceresses, one a Level 4 Death, and the other a Level 2 Shadow. On first turn, the Shadow Sorceress zooms across to be in line with the other army main battle line. If the Winds of Magic are favourable, then the Shadow Sorceress will cast something, and switch places with the Death Sorceress, who will try to send a Purple Sun of Xereus along the enemy army. If the Winds of Magic aren’t favourable, then you’ve only put a Level 2 in danger, not your uber Level 4. The tactic’s of questionable use, but it’s a neat trick and shows what can be done with Smoke and Mirrors.
Signature Spell: Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma
The Lore of Shadow opens with a Hex that reduces one of WS, BS, I, or M (or boost for all). This is a quite versatile spell that can work in pretty much any stage of the game, and against nearly any unit.
Whilst it’s tempting to go for the boosted version every time, remember that you don’t always need it. If you’re trying to outmanoeuvre a foe, you just need to hit his Movement; if you’re trying to outfight a foe, you may only need either Weapon Skill or Initiative; and so on.
Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma is a pretty good spell, it’s easy to cast, it’s got a massive range… it’s only disadvantage is it’s sometimes difficult to use subtle spells like this to their full potential. Having been on the receiving end many times, I would say it’s often not used very well, being more of an annoyance than a threat. It’s worth experimenting with, but it’s unlikely to be a game-changer.
1: Steed of Shadows
Steed of Shadows is a fairly simple spell: it allows the caster or another character to make a single Fly move, immediately. This has interesting potential, either for getting another Wizard in place for a good spell (such as the like the tactic shown in the Smoke and Mirrors Lore Attribute), for getting a kitted-up combat Character into place, or for something fancier, like repositioning a Battle Standard Bearer.
The spell doesn’t specify anything about unit types, so you could potentially use Steed of Shadows to move a Dragon and its rider. Cheesy!
The usefulness of this spell really depends on what other Characters are in your army. If you’ve only got the Shadow Wizard and a Battle Standard Bearer, say, then there isn’t much you can gain from it. If you’ve got other powerful characters who can use the positional advantage, then go for it. For this reason, Steed of Shadows is most commonly useful on a Level 1-2 Wizard, except in very large games.
2: The Enfeebling Foe
The Enfeebling Foe is a Hex that reduces a unit’s Strength. It’s not usually a game-changer, and isn’t very versatile: reducing Strength is rarely useful outside Close Combat, and if you’re relying on reducing the foe’s Strength you’re cutting things pretty fine. There are better Hexes available within this very Lore, such as…
3: The Withering
The Withering is like the Enfeebling Foe’s more useful brother. It’s almost identical, except it reduces Toughness instead of Strength. It’s extremely versatile, usable in almost every turn and phase of the game, and can dramatically increase the effectiveness of any attack you launch, be it shooting, magical, or close combat.
Usage is easy: pick something big that you want to kill, Hex it with The Withering, and then slam it with everything you’ve got. I favour large amounts of shooting, but that’s just personal taste.
4: The Penumbral Pendulum
After a mixed assortment of early spells, the Lore of Shadows gets into its stride with The Penumbral Pendulum. It’s a very simple spell: the Wizard shoots basically a small cannonball out of their finger. Now, the foes get Initiative tests to avoid the effect, but generally you don’t shoot cannons at things that are any good at dodging… so fling it at Monsters and the like.
The nice thing about The Penumbral Pendulum is unlike many damage spells, it scales somewhat with game size. It’s got decent range, (and can be boosted for more) and can be boosted for a fairly long range, and will hit everything from the caster out to the end of the range. For bonus points, try to snipe the odd character: sure, they’ll probably get Look Out Sir!, but it’s worth a try.
5: Pit of Shades
The Pit of Shades is well-feared, as an almighty nuke. You chuck out a small template (boost for large) that causes models to take an Initiative test or go to their “DOOM!”, as the spell description states so dramatically. It’s quite versatile, because as a template it works nicely against units, and as an Initiative test is has a solid chance of instantly killing big Monsters. It won’t scale amazingly for large games, but it’s a very nice spell that is almost always a good option.
6: Okkam’s Mindrazor
Above and beyond a mere nuke, we have Okkam’s Mindrazor. Where Pit of Shades will occasionally swallow an important Monster or Character, Okkam’s Mindrazor will decimate entire units of Monstrous Infantry, Heavy Cavalry, and pretty much anything else.
Okkam’s Mindrazor allows a target unit to use their Leadership as their Strength. Coupled with high Leadership troops, and/or a joined Character or nearby General, you can turn a unit into an unstoppable killing machine. I’ve seen this used to allow High Elf Spearmen to annihilate a Hydra with no casualties, turning the entire game on its head. I’ve seen it used to have Repeater Crossbowmen to charge and decimate Bretonnian Knights.
There’s obviously risk: if you roll badly on Winds of Magic or the spell otherwise doesn’t succeed, then the chances are is whatever unit you’ve put in danger is screwed. You can try to use it defensively, but in my experience people tend to not charge their precious units into S9-10 infantry.
Okkam’s Mindrazor is undeniably one of the most powerful spells in the game, and can be used effectively by pretty much any army. Like other spells of this calibre, I’ve never seen a player pass up the opportunity to take Okkam’s Mindrazor if they roll it.
The Lore of Shadow is well known to be one of the most powerful Lores in 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy. It’s got a couple of early duds, but it comes home with a strong combination of direct damage, augmentation, and hexing.
Of all its strength, though, Shadow most focuses on inhibiting and taking down tough elite units, like Monsters and Heavy Cavalry. It does not particularly excel against hordes, although these days even horde armies tend to bring Monsters to the party, and it’s reasonably versatile.
Shadow is a popular Lore, and it holds up well in a competitive setting, due to a combination of power and versatility. Whilst an experienced player will get much more out of the subtleties of Shadow, it will still perform quite admirably in the hands of a newer player.
Since the best spells in Shadow are definitely the more difficult ones to cast, Shadow is a Lore that will perform best when in the hands of a Level 3-4 Wizard.
Hits: The Withering, Penumbral Pendulum, Pit of Shades, Okkam’s Mindrazor
Misses: The Enfeebling Foe