Friday, May 18, 2012

Spell-caster Evaluation: Radagast the Brown

One of my newest acquisitions is Radagast the Brown. Of the wizards on the White Council, Radagast is the most tactical and least dangerous of the bunch, but the tactical advantage he provides benefits small armies greatly (especially those that rely on archery). In my armies, Radagast is the dedicated spell-caster of the Dwarves, for reasons you will see below.

Radagast the Brown: Quick Review of Rules

Radagast has a few standard features of a wizard: Fight 5, Strength 4, Defense 5, Attacks 1, Wounds 3, Courage 7, 3 Might, 6 Will, and 3 Fate. Like his fellow wizards Saruman and Gandalf, Radagast has a free Will point each turn and a two-handed weapon with his staff of power. Some rules indicate that Radagast has a hand weapon besides his two-handed weapon, but this appears unclear from the newest book. All told, Radagast is fairly resilient against Strength 2 bows and is great for passing courage tests when your army needs it.
Radagast also has two great special rules: Master of Birds and One with Nature. The Master of Birds special rule allows him to "see" any unit on the board thanks to his avian friends. This means that hiding behind units, terrain, etc. is impossible against Radagast, making him a keen spell-caster (and a real pain for Trolls, banner-bearers, and heroes with a 1 Will point or less). The One with Nature special rule allows him to move over all difficult terrain as open ground and have the rules for an Elven cloak (if obscured by anything and the viewer is beyond 6", Radagast can't be charged, shot at, or be targeted by magic spells). These rules make Radagast an amazing spell-caster and hard to hit by spell-casters.
Radagast also has 5 spells he can cast, most of which he can cast very easily. Like Gandalf and Saruman, he can cast Terrifying Aura (causes "terror") on a 2+ and Immobilize on a 3+. Radagast has 3 spells that the other wizards lack and this gives him a great place in an army that relies on other units taking the lead in the battle. Radagast casts Renew on a 3+, which gives a hero back a wound lost earlier in the fight. If you have a hero like Dain who is difficult to wound, the benefit of having Radagast in your force is obvious, but it should be equally obvious that having a hero who is easier to wound will also benefit from Radagast's spell (like Boromir of Gondor, since he has no Fate points). The best part about this spell is that it cannot be resisted by your opponent because it is used against your own unit. On a 3+, your free Will point should do it for you.
Radagast also casts Panic Steed on a 2+ and is the only unit in the game with the spell. He can target a unit with a steed and if the spell is successful, the steed is removed from the game. The rider then takes falling damage if the steed is large or takes a thrown rider test if the steed is a horse or warg. Forums disagree on whether this applies to Mumakil under the new rules, but all forums agree that this spell works against horses, wargs, and fell beasts. Again, with a free Will point, you can seriously hurt an enemy's battle plan by taking out valuable cavalry units (especially if your army lacks cavalry). Couple this with a nice piece of difficult terrain, and cavalry will need to think twice before coming near the spell-caster.
Finally, Radagast the Brown can cast Terrifying Aura on a 5+ and this spell allows all units within 6" of Radagast at the end of his move to cause terror until the next Move phase. This spell doesn't do damage against the enemy, but armies that have low Courage values (especially Orc, Goblin, and Uruk-Hai armies) will have problems charging your battle lines. This means that fights may be less evenly matched, holes may form against your battle lines, and the brute force of the enemy may not be able to hit your lines. If you employ skirmishers in your army, there is the ability to harass (and even kill) units that failed their courage tests because they are outside of combat. Perhaps the best aspect of this spell, is it is cast on the caster himself, so like Renew, it cannot be resisted by your foe.
Radagast the Brown: Strengths in Use

Radagast provides a benefit to an army during each phase of the game. To illustrate this, we'll look at each phase and see what benefits Radagast gives and assume he is working with the following army:

Dwarf Captain - 60 points
2 Dwarf Shield-bearers - 120 points
Radagast the Brown - 150 points
6 Dwarf Warriors (shields) - 54 points
7 Dwarf Rangers (throwing axes) - 70 points
10 Dwarf Warriors (Dwarf bows) - 90 points
7 Dwarf Rangers (two-handed axes) - 56 points

600 points, 34 units, 10 Dwarf bows + 7 throwing axes, 4 heroes

This army follows the rules for warbands identified in the new army books, though I would prefer to have more Dwarves and don't really like the warband set up. Still, we'll explore this not-great-case scenario for some insights into the benefits of this particular hero.

Move Phase: Your Move
Moving skirmish troops takes tact, but Radagast is a perfect hero for this army. He is one of a handful of heroes who can move over rocky difficult terrain without penalty and so can keep up with the handful of Dwarf Rangers in your army. The One with Nature special rule allows Radagast to move over all kinds of difficult terrain without penalty, letting him and the Rangers around him able to move over defensive terrain quickly and leave their enemies behind if they need to retreat. Finding rocky difficult terrain can be difficult, but this can buy you some time while your archers Rangers whittle the enemy down to size. In this army, there are 7 Dwarf Rangers who can pummel the enemy to pieces with Radagast.
Move Phase: Casting Magic
Radagast's five spells identified above are great for different points in the game. If you take archery wounds early on your heroes (not likely with the D7 and D8 of your Dwarf heroes, but still), you can cast Renew on them to ensure that their health stays up. With 2 Wounds, these heroes will be at their optimal use if they remain uninjured for as long as possible (both at the start of the game and once the melee begins). On the first turn, you should cast Terrifying Aura on Radagast to ensure that he always causes terror (so long as he had a Will point left in his store, that is).
Once the enemy draws near, though, unleash magic spells based on the danger of your enemy army. Cavalry within 12" of Radagast? Panic Steed. Enemy hero or monster approaching? Immobilize. Lots and lots and LOTS of mindless Orcs or Goblins? Aura of Dismay if they're going to charge, otherwise you can attempt to immobilize someone for practice. Remember also that the Master of Birds special rule allows Radagast to see any unit on the board, which means that hiding behind a unit or a piece of terrain will not protect foes from your spells, so be willing to immobilize tactical units in the back ranks and keep them far from your forces (shamans as the key targets while they are far from your lines, though banners are good targets too).
Move Phase: When Your Foe Moves
Casting Aura of Dismay is great before the enemy charges. Since the vast majority of evil armies can't get higher than a 3 Courage on their warriors (especially Orc and Goblin-dependent armies), failing courage tests is more than possible. If a shaman isn't nearby, 2-3 units out of every five should statistically fail their courage tests. This is really good for your units, especially this army which has a limited number of units.
Shoot Phase: Volleying
The best way to avoid suffering damage from a volley team is to hide behind something. Terrain that a unit is in base contact with will always provide an in-the-way roll against the archery hits, but the Master of Birds special rule allows Radagast to see any unit on the board. This means that Radagast could be lying down on a green tuft of grass behind a huge mountain, cry out to your volley team "they're over there" and if the target is in range, you can hit them without any unit actually being able to see them. The Elven cloak rule, commonly cited to protect units from enemy fire, requires that a unit be obscured from view. My interpretation of Radagast's rule is that he can see units with Elven cloaks, as he has a vantage point that provides line of sight to anywhere on the board - but most armies won't be using these units.
If your foe attempts to shoot you, be aware that the One with Nature special rule gives Radagast the benefit of an Elven cloak, which means that units who are more than 6" away from Radagast cannot shoot at him, cast magic against him, or charge him. This is great for keeping him alive and he is the only wizard under 200 points who comes with an Elven cloak. If your foe attempts to cast spells against you, be sure to point out this rule and if you're holding a defensive position and seek to draw flack from enemy spell-casters, you can always have Radagast lie down (half of his movement) and have him stand, cast magic, and lie back down over and over again. Try spotting him when the capes or shields of the Dwarves obscure your view of this spell-caster.

Fight Phase: Mass Killing

Aura of Dismay, as has been discussed above, is a great spell for making sure that not all of your units are engaged in combat. If any of the enemy units fail their courage rolls, there could be holes in the enemy line with routes to reach these units. This gives the benefit of the fight to your Dwarf heroes, who are capable of crashing through the enemy lines. Your Shield-bearers especially can call free heroic combats to reach the battle of their leader (the Captain), allowing you to cut through units who have engaged your lines and get as close to their leader's fight as possible (helping in other ones). If you place your Captain in the center of your line, flanked by Dwarf Warriors with shields, and then flanked by your Shield-bearers, you've got a strong core for your army.

Radagast himself is Strength 4, Fight 5, and has a two-handed weapon. This means that you can have him fight alongside some of your warriors to give them a leg-up against their foes. It remains unclear from the new book as to whether Radagast has a hand weapon or not, but if he only has his staff, it would be good to have his assisting warriors using their hand weapons.

For most heroes, it's good if they can pay for themselves with the points-worth of kills they get during a game. Though some heroes don't usually have problems reaching these goals (Gimli and Balin being two excellent killers), spell-casters do have this problem. To assess Radagast's worth, then, you should look into how he helps your other units. If a Cave Troll is immobilized and later wounded (or killed), part of that is going to be due to Radagast's work in immobilizing him (especially since your heroes are only Fight 5). If the enemy is not able to charge your units because he fails courage tests, the fights you win (and the kills you score) should also give some credit to Radagast. If you take an objective because your foe was rooted on the spot? This should score in Radagast's favor too. You get the picture I think...

Radagast the Brown: Weaknesses in Use

Radagast is a great wizard and plays a very tactical role in this army. It is worth noting though, that he is far from invincible. Here's a few ways to deal with this hero.

Move Phase: Move Move Move!
Charging a wizard who causes terror both for himself and the units around him can be really, really tough. But these courage tests can be overcome fairly easily with a shaman or war priest - someone to ensure that you pass any courage tests you need to take. Any Goblin can, of course, pass a courage test, but getting that courage test when you want it cannot be guaranteed. If, of course, you can charge him before he can cast a spell, you gain a real advantage against him. This should be a primary goal and can be reached with cavalry units that have good Courage ratings or are near a Shaman who helps them pass their tests.
Shoot Phase: Just Shoot Him!
Defense 5 wizards are generally resilient against arrows, but you can kill Boromir of Gondor with enough bows, right? Radagast, of course, has 3 Wounds and 3 Fate points, so shooting him to pieces can be really challenging, but since all of the Dwarves in this army are at least D5, you would do well to assign volley hits or direct fire to this wizard instead of the burly Dwarves in front of him. Be sure to consider that he has the rules for an Elven cloak, so shooting him may be the least effective way of dealing with Radagast.
Fight Phase: Everyone Jump On Him!
Radagast chants softly and carries a big stick, so be prepared before you jump on him. Still, with only 1 Attack dice, even two Goblins have an even chance of winning the fight against him. In close combat, Strength 3 forces will wound the great wizard on a 5+, which gives the two Goblins above a pretty good chance of wounding their target. Do that a few times, and you're in good shape against the wizard. Be sure to have a shaman (or war priest) nearby to make sure that you can pile on the units (if he causes terror, you'll be wishing you had a shaman of sorts).
So there are some thoughts on this spell-caster, and I'm planning on writing a few more posts on other spell-casters, since I like them so much.


  1. Excellent write up on a fairly under used wizard. I really wish GW would FAQ the mumak panic steed debate. I'll be wanting to play with Radagast next chance I get to try out some tactics you've posted.

  2. Thanks, Purplesounds. Let me know how these work for you. Yesterday, I played a game against one of my local gaming friends and tested these strategies and on the whole, they worked pretty well. Unfortunately, Radagast got paralyzed by a Barrow Wight and died a few turns later, but oh well. As far as the Mumak rule goes, I'm of the opinion that if a mumak commander can't get more than 2 Will, it's kinda cheat to be able to dismount him with a spell that's cast on a 2+ (but an FAQ would be good).

  3. Impressive. I think of all the casters I've seen to date, Radagast might be the one that unnerves me the most. The whole elven cloak/all-seeing/mass terror combo makes him a potent asset.