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Black Channels

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Advisor Sorcery Buggy Feature
As of Master of Magic v1.31, Black Channels is known to be malfunctioning in at least one way. Please read the Known Bugs section below.

Black Channels
UnitEnchantment BlackChannels
Realm Icon Death.pngDeath
Spell Rarity Uncommon
Spell Type Unit Enchantment
Casting Cost Icon Mana.png 100
Upkeep Cost Icon Mana.png 1
Research Cost Icon Research.png 500
Effects

Target Normal Unit, Hero or Undead receives the following bonuses:

If a Normal Unit or Hero is targeted by this spell, it becomes an Undead unit permanently.

Black Channels is an Uncommon Unit Enchantment belonging to the Icon Death.pngDeath Magic realm. For Icon Mana.png 100 it may be cast on a friendly unit on the overland map to bestow a wide range of bonuses on that unit, including +2 to Melee Attack and +1 to Ranged Attack strength, +1 to some Special Attacks if the unit already has them, +1 to Defense, +1 to Resistance, and +1 Hit Points per figure.

Only Normal Units, Heroes and the Undead may be targeted by this spell (this includes Fantastic Units turned into Undead by Life Stealing Damage). However, any Normal Unit or Hero target will be permanently transformed into an Undead unit, gaining several additional bonuses but also several vulnerabilities common to all Undead creatures. Although Black Channels itself can be dispelled like any other Unit Enchantment, the "Undead" property can never be removed from a unit once it has been applied.

Effects Edit

Black Channels turns a regular, living Normal Unit or Hero into a vile Undead creature, but also bestows several powerful bonuses on that unit. The transformation into an Undead creature is dramatic in itself, carrying plenty of added bonuses and penalties, and is entirely permanent.

Creating Undead Edit

Main article: Undead

Before Black Channels' temporary bonuses are explained, it is important to talk about its permanent effects - turning a Normal Unit or Hero into an Undead unit.

The transformation only occurs when Black Channels is cast for the first time on such a unit. From the that moment on, any subsequent castings of Black Channels on this or any other Undead units will only re-apply its temporary effects.

The unit gets to keep most (if not all) of its original combat properties and abilities, including any Experience it has gathered to this point (and any bonuses from its current Experience level).

However, the following benefits and penalties will hitherto affect the unit until the end of the game, or until it is completely destroyed:

  • The unit ceases to accumulate any further Experience points, and will no longer rise in levels (exception: a hero with Armsmaster can still grant them Experience, resulting in level gains as normal).
  • The unit receives all four immunities common to all Icon Death.pngDeath creatures: Poison Immunity, Cold Immunity, Death Immunity and Illusions Immunity.
  • The unit no longer has any Icon Gold.png Gold or Icon Food.png Food upkeep at all. It may still require an upkeep in Icon Mana.png Mana to retain any Unit Enchantments affecting it (including the temporary bonuses from Black Channels itself, as explained below).
  • The unit no longer heals naturally every overland turn, nor can it be healed by any spells or abilities except Regeneration.
  • The unit is no longer considered a Normal Unit or Hero, but rather an Undead creature belonging to the Icon Death.pngDeath Realm. It may no longer be targeted by spells that can only affect Normal Units or Heroes, but can be targeted by spells that only affect Undead or Fantastic Units. It is also more vulnerable to certain Icon Life.pngLife spells that specifically cause problems for the Undead.

To indicate that it is undead, the unit will gain the Undead ability, shown in its details panel as a skull on a purple background. Furthermore, the unit's name as displayed in various windows and messages is always prefixed with the word "Death". For example, High Elf Spearmen become "Death Spearmen".

Again, the unit will remain Undead for the rest of its existence. Removal of Black Channels will not return the unit to life nor undo any of the above changes. It is not possible to revert the unit from Undeath in any way.

Melee Attack Bonus Edit

While Black Channels is affecting a unit, the unit's Melee Attack strength is increased by Icon Melee Normal.png +2. This only occurs if the unit already had a Melee Attack before the spell was cast on it.

An increase in Melee Attack strength allows the unit to inflict more Melee Damage during combat. Both the unit's maximum potential damage as well as its average damage per attack are increased.

Icon MultiFigureUnit.png Multi-Figure units benefit much more from this effect, because each individual figure's attack strength is increased. When all figures are alive, the unit inflicts significantly more damage on average, assuming it can defeat the target's Defense score.

Ranged Attack Bonus Edit

While Black Channels is affecting a unit, the unit's Ranged Attack strength is increased by Icon Ranged Bow.png +1 (or Icon Ranged Boulder.png +1 or Icon Ranged Magic.png +1, as appropriate). This only occurs if the unit already had a Ranged Attack before the spell was cast on it.

An increase in Ranged Attack strength allows the unit to inflict more Ranged Damage. Both the unit's maximum potential damage as well as its average damage per attack are increased.

Icon MultiFigureUnit.png Multi-Figure units benefit much more from this effect, because each individual figure's attack strength is increased. When all figures are alive, the unit inflicts significantly more damage on average, assuming it can defeat the target's Defense score.

Special Attack Bonus Edit

While Black Channels is affecting a unit, the unit's Fire Breath, Lightning Breath and Thrown Attack strengths are increased by +1. This only occurs if the unit already possesses such attacks.

An increase in Special Attack strength allows the unit to inflict more damage when using them. Both the unit's maximum potential damage as well as its average damage per attack are increased.

Icon MultiFigureUnit.png Multi-Figure units benefit much more from this effect, because each individual figure's attack strength is increased. When all figures are alive, the unit inflicts significantly more damage on average, assuming it can defeat the target's Defense score.

Defense Bonus Edit

While Black Channels is affecting a unit, the unit's Defense score is increased by Icon Defense.png +1.

This allows the unit to potentially block more Icon Damage.png Damage from any incoming attack or spell. It will also block more damage on average as a result.

Increases to Defense can translate into making the unit less vulnerable to low-strength attacks, as these will struggle to get any unblocked hits through the unit's armor.

Resistance Bonus Edit

While Black Channels is affecting a unit, the unit's Resistance score is increased by Icon Resist.png +1.

This makes it harder to inflict any Curses or other ill effects on the unit - including damage from such Special Attacks that would require to it make Resistance rolls.

Any unit reaching a Resistance score of Icon Resist.png 10 will be rendered invulnerable to any curses or effects that do not inflict a temporary Resistance penalty. The higher above Icon Resist.png 10, the more spells will fail to affect this unit.

Hit Points Bonus Edit

While Black Channels is affecting a unit, the unit's Hit Points are increased by Icon Hits.png +1 per figure. The extra Hit Points are added to each figure immediately.

This allows each figure to sustain more Icon Damage.png Damage before being killed off, and thus raises the survivability of the unit as a whole.

Note that if Black Channels is dispelled, the reduction in hit points can cause a bizarre bug to occur, as explained in the "Known Bugs" section below.

Usage Edit

Black Channels may only be cast on the overland map. It has a base Casting Cost of Icon Mana.png 100, and requires an Upkeep Cost of Icon Mana.png 1 per turn to maintain. Failure to pay this Upkeep Cost due to lack of Mana will cause the spell to dissipate. However, as long as the spell is paid for (and not dispelled by any rival Wizard), the unit continues to enjoy its bonus.

Black Channels may only be cast on friendly Normal Units, Heroes, or the Undead. In the case of Normal Units and Heroes, the spell will turn the targeted unit into an Undead unit as explained above.

If the desired target is in an overland army stack, click on that stack to get a list of units inside it, and then select your desired unit.

Once the spell is in effect, the unit will glow with a Icon Death.pngpurple aura, unless there is a more powerful spell also affecting it.

If you've placed Black Channels on a unit, you may remove it by examining the unit's details and clicking the Enchantment's icon. The primary reason to do this would be in order to remove the spell's Upkeep Cost, thus conserving Icon Mana.png Mana for other spells.

Note: If Black Channels is removed or dispelled in any way, the only things that disappear are the temporary bonuses it bestowed on the unit. The unit is still an Undead unit, and will remain so for the rest of the game! If Black Channels is then cast on the unit a second time, it will restore those temporary bonuses. Since the unit is already Undead, that effect does not need to be applied again - it never goes away.

Acquisition Edit

As an Uncommon Icon Death.pngDeath spell, Black Channels may become available to any Wizard who possesses at least one Icon Death.pngDeath Spellbook. However, its availability during the game is almost never guaranteed.

Customized Wizards possessing Icon Death.png11 Spellbooks at creation time may choose this spell as one of their default spells before starting the game, in which case the spell will already be researched and available for casting immediately on the first turn.

Wizards who possess at least Icon Death.png8 Spellbooks, or Wizards with Icon Death.png11 Spellbooks who did not select Black Channels as a guaranteed spell, will be able to Research this spell at some point during their campaign. Wizards with fewer than Icon Death.png8 Spellbooks have a random chance of being able to Research it. The chance for this spell to appear increases with the number of Icon Death.pngDeath Spellbooks the Wizard possesses or obtains during gameplay.

Black Channels has a base Research Cost of Icon Research.png 500.

With at least Icon Death.png1 Spellbook, the Black Channels spell may be acquired as a reward for winning encounters in creature Lairs, Towers, et cetera, or when conquering the Fortress of a rival wizard who has already researched this spell.

Strategy Edit

Black Channels offers an interesting trade-off, and should not just be cast randomly. Units turning Undead receive several negative properties that they didn't have previously, such as the inability to heal, susceptibility to some spells, and inability to take Normal Unit Enchantments. Therefore, casting Black Channels on a unit that would otherwise be powerful could turn it into a liability.

On the other hand, the powerful bonuses bestowed both by Undeath and by Black Channels itself may be worth this. The unit becomes stronger and more durable, and gains all of those fantastic immunities that can make it very powerful against Icon Nature.pngNature, Icon Sorcery.pngSorcery and even Icon Death.pngDeath armies and opponents.

One approach would therefore be to make a large army of low-tier or mid-tier Normal Units and use Black Channels on all of them. After all, they are cheap, and so it wouldn't be too much of a shame to lose them to an anti-undead force - and they get stronger bonuses in the meanwhile. Unfortunately, Black Channels' relatively-high Casting Cost may make this strategy less useful than it sounds.

Therefore, Black Channels is often used to turn high-tier units into Undead, and boost their power even further. This is especially useful when you're also in possession of the Icon Nature.pngNature spell Regeneration, possibly the only method to heal Undead units. If this spell is used, the Black Channeled becomes stronger and will not be lost when its Icon Hits.png Hit Points run out. This is especially true when creating powerful Undead Heroes, who can become quite deadly with all of the bonuses Black Channels would give them.

Remember that Black Channels can affect the Undead. If it gets dispelled from a unit, you may still cast it on that unit to restore the bonuses. An undead unit that has lost the bonuses from Black Channels may be a liability.

Known Bugs Edit

If the enchanted unit sustains a lot of damage while Black Channels is in effect, and then the spell is removed from the unit for any reason, it may end up with Icon Figure.png 0 figures despite remaining alive conceptually.

This results in a "phantom" unit. The unit remains visible on the overland map, and can even be commanded during combat despite being completely invisible (there are no figures in the unit, so nothing is drawn on-screen). If such a unit ever receives any damage, it will be destroyed immediately. Phantom units do not heal naturally - but then again the unit is already Undead.

This happens because of a fairly obvious bug in the way the game recalculates a unit's health when Black Channels is removed. This is the algorithm the program uses:

  1. Reduce the unit's total Icon Hits.png Hit Points by the same amount that it gained from Black Channels.
  2. Recalculate the number of figures the unit has left, given how many Icon Hits.png Hit Points it has left, and given the original maximum Icon Hits.png Hit Points of each figure.

This is a very messy way of doing things. The examples below illustrate why.

Example #1 Edit

Lets take a unit of Slingers again. This unit has Icon Figure.png 8 figures, with each Slinger having Icon Hits.png 1, for a total of Icon Hits.png 8.
Under the effect of Black Channels, each Slinger has Icon Hits.png 2 Hit Points - double the amount they originally had. The unit's total number of hit points is Icon Hits.png 16, so we can say that Black Channels increased the unit's hit points by Icon Hits.png 8 - this will be important later.
Now lets assume this unit is damaged: Icon Figure.png 3 figures are lost. The unit has Icon Figure.png 5 figures remaining, each with Icon Hits.png 2.
The unit survives the battle, but after it's done we remove Black Channels from the unit. Here's what happens:
  1. The unit's total Hit Points count is Icon Hits.png 2 * Icon Figure.png 5 = Icon Hits.png 10.
  2. We reduce this by the same amount that the unit received from Black Channels, which was Icon Hits.png 8. Therefore, the unit now has a total of Icon Hits.png 10 - Icon Hits.png 8 = Icon Hits.png 2 Hit Points.
  3. Finally, we recalculate how many Icon Figure.png figures the unit would now have, given that it only has a total of Icon Hits.png 2 left: Without Black Channels, each slinger has only Icon Hits.png 1, so the unit now has Icon Figure.png 2 figures with Icon Hits.png 1 each.
Due to this recalculation, we started with a Icon Figure.png 5-figure unit with Icon Hits.png 2 each, but have ended up with a Icon Figure.png 2-figure unit having Icon Hits.png 1 each.

Example #2 Edit

Now lets assume that the same unit suffered 4 casualties during combat while Black Channels was still in effect. So, the unit has Icon Figure.png 4 figures left, with Icon Hits.png 2 each, for a total of Icon Hits.png 8 in the entire unit.
Now lets figure out what happens when Black Channels is removed:
  1. The unit's total Hit Points count is Icon Hits.png 2 * Icon Figure.png 4 = Icon Hits.png 8.
  2. We reduce this by the same amount that the unit received from Black Channels, which was Icon Hits.png 8. Therefore, the unit now has a total of Icon Hits.png 8 - Icon Hits.png 8 = Icon Hits.png 0 Hit Points! You can already see the problem right there.
  3. Finally we recalculate how many Icon Figure.png figures the unit would now have. Obviously, with Icon Hits.png 0 Hit Points, the unit has Icon Figure.png 0 figures left.
This confuses the heck out of the game, because as far as it concerns the unit should still be alive. Logically it should be - it had 4 living figures just a second ago. The game simply doesn't bother to check whether the unit should still be allowed to exist.
This results in a phantom unit, which, as explained above, continues to exist until anything so much as sneezes at it - at which point it'll be destroyed.

So what does this mean? Edit

A phantom unit is inherently unstable; the game was not designed to handle the existence of units with Icon Figure.png 0 figures, and may end up crashing for all sorts of subsidiary reasons (especially divide by 0). This is more likely to happen if the unit goes into combat and ends up being targeted by enemy spells.

Since the unit does not get natural healing, it will likely be stuck in this condition permanently - or until destroyed. Fortunately, being Undead, it also has no Upkeep Costs (except any enchantments still affecting it, which you can cancel. If you do not possess a way of healing the unit in an artificial manner, it may be better to disband it immediately to avoid crashes, though the unit may also just be sent off as a scout or to harass enemy armies. It has no other use.

Of course, the best way to handle this is to never cancel Black Channels while a unit is severely injured, but sometimes this is not in your hands. If at all possible, try to recast Black Channels on it as soon as you can, as it will immediately fix any of the problems caused by its previous removal.

Note: another good way to recreate this unit is to cast Regeneration on it and then send the unit into battle (not alone!). This may be your best bet if the unit is expensive/powerful/irreplaceable, and assumes of course that you actually have access to Regeneration - a Icon Nature.pngNature spell. Once in battle, the unit does heal each turn, and will also be completely restored to full health and with figures if you actually manage to win the battle - even if you lose the unit itself while fighting!

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