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Gut Magic

by Avian

Gut Magic is quite different from other magic and I personally feel that often it is just wierd for the sake of being wierd, instead of for any good reason. Thankfully, the 7th edition magic rules make it a lot clearer how Gut Magic is supposed to work (i.e. not like remains in play spells) and we finally have the answer on whether or not reading a Dispel Scroll cancels the spells a Butcher has a in play (it does not).



How Gut Magic works

Using Gut Magic

The different Gut Magic spells

Equipping your Butchers


How Gut Magic works

Gut Magic is probably the aspect about ogres that is most different from a normal army, ruleswises at least, and can take a bit of getting used to. Here is a short bit on how it works and the consequences this has on a battle.


Misconceptions about Gut Magic

One reason I dislike Gut Magic being different from other magic is having to explain to new opponents how it works and frequently having to correct people (ogre players and others) who get it wrong. Here is a list of things people are often confused about with Gut Magic.

  1. The bad effects only apply if the spell is not dispelled. Thus you don't suffer a Wound from Trollguts, for example, if the enemy dispells it before it takes effect.
  2. The augmentation spells (Bullgorger, Toothcracker and Trollguts) do not stop working if the caster attempts to cast another spell, flees or is slain. The augmentation spells only stop working if they are dispelled in a later magic phase or if another augmentation spell is cast on the unit.
  3. Each Butcher can only try to cast each of the Gut Magic spells once per magic phase, just like any other Wizard. He can attempt the same spell in later magic phases, if you wish.
  4. The spells do not increase in casting value if the first attempt does not reach the casting value or if it is dispelled. Only if the spell goes through does a second Butcher have to roll a 6+ to cast it.
  5. The rule about Gut Magic spells requiring a dispel roll 7+ to dispel them does not apply when the spell is first cast, only in later turns.


The Ogre Miscast table

Okay, so the Ogre miscast table is somewhat nastier than the normal miscast table, even in 7th edition, but having played with Orcs & Goblins (about 50% chance of dying if you miscast) for many years, it's not that scary. Added to that is the limit on using 2 dice for a Butcher, which means that you will miscast more rarely than other armies. And if you are really worried about miscasting, you can always limit yourself to using only 1 dice when casting. See the Casting Spells in 7th edition article for odds on miscasting.


Getting rid of Gut Magic augmentation spells

It is a sad fact that if your opponent wants to get rid of one of the augmentation spells (Bullgorger, Toothcracker and Trollguts) he usually can. It is even more sad when you cast Trollguts to protect your unit from missile fire and the opponent dispells it immediately before his own Shooting phase, leaving you with the net effect of having caused a Wound on your own Butcher. In these cases I often wish that the augmentation spells would last one turn with no chance of canceling them before that time.

However, on a more positive note, if the opponent wants to get rid of the augmentation spells he'll have to forgo some of his own spell casting to do it, which is not too bad. With two dice the chance of dispelling is slightly better than even (58% chance) and with a little bit of luck he'll spend two dice and fail. This is often the result for armies with no wizards. With three dice the chance of the dispell attempt succeeding is very high (88%), but that will reduce your opponent's spell slinging considerably.

All of this combines to make the other Ogre spells - those that are resolved right away - more attractive for me and the augmentation spells become something that is cast because I expect them to have an effect before the end of my opponent's next magic phase (even if the opponent can dispel Toothcracker and Trollguts before they can protect you from missile fire, they cannot do so before they protect you from magic, unless they dispel them when cast).

One way of dealing with this is of course to cast a lot of augmentation spells. Cast two or three of them and there is a good chance of at least one lasting beyond the opponent's magic phase, unless they want to give up most of or their entire own magic phase.

And of course, your opponent might forget about your augmentation spells entirely, or save too few dice (my brother is notorious for saving one dice for this, thinking that they can be dispelled on a 3+).


Using Gut Magic

So how does the unique nature of Gut Magic influence what you do with your spellcasting. The following is only my opinion and I have no doubt that others will disagree with me.


One dice or two?

Ogre magic is rather unique in that you can use a single Power dice and have a reasonable chance of getting a spell cast. Still, I prefer to use two dice most of the time. Not because it gives me a greater chance of getting more spells through, but because it gives me more control in what I get cast. With only a single dice it's a matter of luck which spells reach the required casting value and the opponent can generally dispel the ones he doesn't want to let through. With two dice, the spell will be cast pretty much all the time (unless you miscast) and my opponent will have a much more difficult choice in what to dispell. Overall the two approaches probably will give the same number of spells successfully cast, but two dice per spell gives you more control.

Sometimes I go for one dice, though, especially when there is not any one spell I particularly need to get through. Another reason for using one dice, is that it makes enemy Dispel Scrolls less effective, since they are effectively "worth" fewer Dispel dice each - but then my opponents don't take a heap of Scrolls, so it doesn't matter as much for me.


Th rather miserable range

The augmentation spells have a range of 6" (12" for a Slaughtermaster), the offensive spells 18". This means that you cannot hang back with your Butchers, they have to tag along with the combat units. Personally, I tend to stick my Butchers in units, unless the units are in imminent danger of being shot to pieces or charged by something very nasty. With two Butchers I try to spread them out a bit , so that as many units as possible are within range, 15 to 18" apart is often a good distance and should cover most of your units and bring most enemy units within range of the offensive spells as well. If I really want a spell to get through, both Butchers will cast it and it is not uncommon for the same Ogre unit to be targeted by three augmentation spells during a single magic phase.


In a unit or on their own?

Another question that crops up a lot - should you keep your Butchers inside units where they are mostly safe from missile fire, but can get involved in combat, or on their own, where they are prone to getting shot but are mostly safe from close combat attacks?
Ogres are a bit different in this regard, since our Wizards are very resilient, having two points more of Toughness and two more Wounds than the average Wizard in the game and thus they can be exposed to a bit more danger than other spellcasters.

Personally I like to be flexible. My Butchers will often join Bull units, unless they face something too nasty. If they get into combat then the Butcher will usually be able to manage and can even deal out some damage in return and he also boosts the unit strength of the Bull unit by 3 points, which can be quite useful. Some people will buy Crushers to make sure their Butchers can be protected from enemy characters and champions, but I do not. In fact, I often deliberately have my Butchers issue challenges against whimpy (S3 T3) enemy champions, which they can handle without too much worry. This also stops the other rank and file troopers from attacking the Butcher. A Butcher should not be placed in a unit of Ironguts or Maneaters, if that means that one of the fighter ogres will be unable to attack the enemy, fighting ogres are too expensive for that.
In a unit the Butcher also makes the unit more resilient to ranged attacks, since they will absorb some of the damage on their higher Toughness and the extra model can make the unit less likely to have to take a Panic test (a Butcher in a unit of 4 Bulls means that two Ogres have to die before they have to test). Of course, if the unit is likely to be shot to pieces you should vacate the premises immediately.
Another bonus is that Butchers can get several items that enhance the unit they are in, such as the Skullmantle, the Fistful of Laurels or Gnoblar Thiefstones (and a single Butcher can carry all three if you wish). Alternatively he can carry the Siegebreaker to provide some kills.

On his own, a Butcher is much more vulnerable to missile fire and the only real solution to this is to hide him behind friendly units or buy him the Wyrdstone Necklace. Quite a few armies out there have rather limited capacity for ranged attacks, though, and against those a Butcher can move around on his own with little risk.

See the Tactics for Dummies article for more tips on character tactics.


Casting order

I often say that it is better to cast those spells that are the easiest to cast or those your opponent will be less eager to dispel first, saving the more risky and nasty ones until later. To take a simplified exmple:You have the Bangstick and a single Power dice at your disposal, while your opponent has one remaining Dispel dice. If you use the Power dice first to cast a spell, it will either suceed or fail. If it suceeds, the opponent has the option of using his Dispel dice on either that spell or the Bangstick, he knows the odds and he can make the best choice for him. If you fail it is even easier, as he doesn't even have to do that. If you start with the Bangstick, your opponent will have to gamle. If he doesn't want to make a dispell attempt and instead saves his Dispel dice, he may end up wasting it if your spell fails, or you may roll so high that it is very difficult to make the dispell roll. Either way it would have been better to try to dispell the Bangstick, but that is now too late. He may opt to go save and try for the Bangstick, which might let you get a much more useful spell through.

The reasoning is much the same for nastier spells. You might roll very highly when casting them, therefore the opponent may want to hang onto an extra Dispel dice, just in case, making it easier to get less nasty spells through. He will probably not do the same if he knows you are only casting less nasty spells later. The trick in either case is to make the opponent save more dice than he has to, effectively reducing the number of Dispel dice at his disposal.

The Bangstick is quite good in this regard. It is automatically cast and thus it can be used at the start of your magic phase. It will usually be less nasty than a lot of the other Gut Magic spells and thus the opponent has the choice of whether to spend a dice on dispelling it (which still fails a third of the time) or let it go and risk danger to his support units. Naturally, you should always make the choice more difficult for your opponent by targeting the Bangstick at something vulnerable, such as a unit of fragile skirmishers, fast cavalry or a lone Wizard.
Of course, the Bangstick is extra good when the opponent is not expecting it and has used up all his Dispel dice, but then most people who have fought ogres a few times will be expecting this.


Using up your Butchers

Excessive casting of Gut Magic will often cause quite a bit of damage to your casters, unless you take one or more of the items that can heal or avoid damage (Bloodcleaver, Wyrdstone Necklace or the Halfling Cookbook). If you don't take any of these items, make sure you cast Bloodgruel every now and then - a Butcher that has lost half his Wounds gives a number of Victory points to the enemy at the end of the battle equal to half his cost, easy VPs for the enemy if you inflicted all of those yourself. Damaged Butchers are also more vulnerable to other Butchers miscasting and rolling a 1. As Bloodgruel is not a spell that is directly harmful to your opponent, it is in my experience one that they will often let through, saving up their Dispel dice for the augmentation spells . For that reason, it is often the first spell I cast in a turn (see above).


The different Gut Magic spells

Since the Gut Magic spells all have the same casting value, you can instead compare how good they are (or at least, how good the designers think they are) by comparing their downsides. Thus Trollguts is often the best, with the downside of automatically causing a Wound on your Butcher, while Bullgorger is the worst with no downside at all and only working two thirds of the time, even if successfully cast. Here is a run down of the different Gut Magic spells.

Possibly the best thing about Gut Magic is that each of your spellcasters knows all the spells in the lore, which makes it a lot easier to plan for what role you want your Butcher to perform and equip him with items to match.



Preserves your Butchers if you are casting too much Gut Magic or if they have had a run in with something nasty. Bloodgruel has an 83% chance of healing a lost Wound, and roughly a 6% chance of causing one (less if you have any of the protective items listed above). As such, it can be a bit risky to cast on a Butcher that has been reduced to 1 Wound and I have had Butchers die to a healing spell before. On the other hand, this has more often made the opponent more willing to let the spell go through without a dispel attempt, saving my bacon.
In my experience, opponents will often not make too much of an effort to dispel this spell when your Butcher has only taken one Wound, while at two Wounds he is losing Victory points if you can heal the Butcher, so it can be vital to start the healing process as soon as possible. Bloodgruel is often the first spell I cast in a turn.



Very useful for taking out those low-Ld support units outside the Leadership range of the enemy General and, needless to say, extra good on a Butcher with the Skullmantle. Braingobbler has on occasion won battles for me, with opponents failing vital Panic tests. That being said, it is not an amazing spell most of the time, since most Panic tests are passed, but deciding whether to take the chance on the test can be quite agonising for your opponent.
Quite often, when one of my Butchers are reduced to 1 Wound, they will stick with Braingobbler for the rest of the game, since it is risk free.



Good against knights, especially those with Toughness 3, and not much else, I'm afraid. Well, it can also mess up Lizardmen Skink units, and those are very nasty against ogres. Not one of my favourite spells, though. Of course, you might get lucky and get 10+ hits, but even so you are not usually going to do all that much damage. Can be worth casting on enemy units in order to reduce their rank bonus slightly.



Good on Bulls (the name should give a clue to that), since it boosts their close combat capabilities to approximately Irongut levels. I often don't cast it, though, since it will only work two thirds of the time, unless the Butcher has the Bullgorger spell cast on himself already, which can be a useful trick. I often find it hard to justify on more competent combat units, such as Ironguts or Maneaters, as their Strength is alreay quite high and most of the time you only get an extra -1 to enemy armour saves, if that.



I feel that the Stubborn ability granted by this spell is a bit dubious, since you generally either have to assume that you will lose combat this turn (charging when you expect to lose?) or that the opponent will not dispell it next turn for it to be useful to have. After all, Stubborn is most useful when you are charged, so that you can hang in there in time for a counter charge with another unit, and that can be a bit difficult when you are (mostly) charged in the opponent's turn and you (generally) don't cast spells that turn.
The +1 Toughness can be rather good to have in combat, but with ogres you are hoping to wipe out the front rank anyway, so you are not going to take many return attacks. Protecting your units from enemy spells can quite often be the best thing about this spell, but then Trollguts is better at that.
For me, Toothcracker only really becomes useful when it lasts beyond the opponent's magic phase, which can often require quite a bit of luck or the successful casting of several augmentation spells.



Get this one off and the unit should be pretty safe from hostile magic for at least a turn, getting two extra Dispel dice against each and every spell that affects them and regenerating any damage, which makes this the best spell for me. As with Toothcracker it's great if it can last beyond the enemy magic phase, granting good protection from war machines, but as mentioned above is dependant on a fair bit of luck.
Against Strength 3 attacks, both Toothcracker and Trollguts gives the same protection from damage for Toughness 4 ogres, in both cases halving it and if that's what you are worried about it's a toss up which of the two you want to cast on a unit. Not that this matters all that much, as there is a good chance that your opponent will dispell the first one cast anyway.


Equipping your Butchers

Following are some suggestions for how to kit up your Butchers for battle. See also my article on Ogre Magic Items.


All-round Butchers

The all-round Butcher is intended to be rather balanced and flexible, carrying a mixture of offensive and defensive items. Tooth Gnoblars should feature on most of these Butchers.

All-round Butcher #1 @ 190 pts
- Bangstick
- Dispel Scroll
- 2 Tooth Gnoblars

All-round Butcher #2 @ 185 pts
- Skullmantle
- Power Stone
- 2 Tooth Gnoblars
For that extra amusing "surprise Panic test with -1 Leadership modifier"!

All-round Butcher #3 @ 190 pts
- Grut's Sickle
- Gnoblar Thiefstone
- 2 Tooth Gnoblars
Variant of the above, though probably somewhat less useful.


Resilient Butchers

The resilient Butcher is out to survive, pure and simple. He will cast a fair bit and aims to do so without taking much damage in return. Resilient Butchers can take Tooth Gnoblars if you want to, but they are not essenital. To make a Butcher extra resilient, cast Toothcracker or Trollguts on the unit he is with.

Resilient Butcher #1 @ 180 pts
- Wyrdstone Necklace
- Halfling Cookbook
- Luck Gnoblar
Chance of getting wounded by Toothcracker down from 67% to 30% and that's before you use a Luck Gnoblar.

Resilient Butcher #2 @ 180 pts
- Bloodcleaver
- Wyrdstone Necklace
- Luck Gnoblar
Not surprisingly a version you are meant to stick in a unit that you intend to see combat.

Resilient Butcher #3 @ 180 pts
- Bloodcleaver
- Halfling Cookbook
Slight variation on the above. Okay, so there are only three items that makes the Butcher more resilient and the three combos above are all the variations you can make on that. Not very inventive, I know...


Unit-support Butchers

Geared to boost the unit they are with (typically a unit of Bulls), the unit-support Butcher can either be aimed towards defence or offence. Unit-support Butchers are commonly identified by their skull-encrusted face masks. As with resilient Butchers, a unit-support Butcher can take Tooth Gnoblars if you want to.

Unit-support Butcher #1 @ 180 pts
- Siegebreaker
- Skullmantle

Unit-support Butcher #2 @ 175 pts
- Gnoblar Thiefstone
- Skullmantle
- Fistful of Laurels
Optionally, you can swap the Laurels for another Thiefstone

Unit-support Butcher #3 @ 180 pts
- Brahmir Statue
- Gnoblar Thiefstone
Stick him in a unit also containing a Tyrant with the Daemon-killer Scars for some cheap laughs against Chaos or Skaven. You can also swap the Thiefstone for a Fistful of Laurels.


Defensive Butchers

These Butchers have the task of hanging back and stop enemy magic, pure and simple. As such they only have items that counter enemy spell casting. You do not want Tooth Gnoblars with these, as you are expecting so much enemy magic that you are not likely to get anything through yourself. As an aside, defensive Butchers are dull, dull, dull and for the cost, not terribly effective, considering the high base cost of Butchers.

Defensive Butcher #1 @ 180 pts
- 2 Dispel Scrolls

Defensive Butcher #2 @ 180 pts
- Hellheart

Defensive Butcher #3 @ 180 pts
- Staff of Sorcery


Other related articles

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