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Cardiology: Unfocused Blast

Decision: Should you play Unfocused Blast?

Hat Tip to Katophrane Relic for the image!

TL;DR:

If you are playing a deck (probably Cursebreakers or Eyes of the Nine) that focuses strongly on dealing damage in ways that don't allow for enemy defense rolls, Unfocused Blast provides an additional method bringing down enemy models and is probably worth considering.  If you're looking to splash a spell or two into an otherwise non-magical deck, this probably isn't the one for you.

Prelude: Disclaimer

This card isn't released yet.  You probably shouldn't play it until it is.  Additionally, none of the other cards from this expansion are released, nor are the fighters.  The release of new cards and fighters may alter the usefulness of this card significantly.  This is simply a first look at the card on its own.

Factor: Spellcasting

Obviously, you need a Wizard to use Spells.  At the time of this article, three of the four Nightvault warbands have only a single level 2 Wizard.  The Cursebreakers have a level 2 Wizard in StormDaddy, and two level 1 Wizards.  Obviously, the Cursebreakers have the best chance of getting late game usefulness out of this card, as they have backup Wizards if their leader dies.  However, any of the Nightvault warbands could reasonably play Unfocused Blast.

One channel as a casting goal for a gambit spell is about as easy as spells get.  A level 1 Wizard will have a 67% chance of successfully casting it, and a level 2 Wizard has an 88% chance.  Additionally, there are 2 universal upgrades that allow a Wizard to change a rolled magic die to a channel, making casting 100% successful.  Beyond those upgrades there are also 4 warband-locked cards that can provide innate channel symbols; 2 for the Cursebreakers, 1 for the Eyes of the Nine, and one for the Gitz.  The utility of this card increases significantly if you don't have to worry about the "spellcasting roll" and its chance to outright fail.

Factor: Basic Numbers

The first thing that we need to figure out when we are trying to evaluate Unfocused Blast is the rate at which the spell will hit enemy models.  Since the spell hits based on scatter dice, we will assume that you will place the scatter tile in an ideal configuration to hit as many enemy models as possible: ie. with the hammer symbol facing your primary target and the blank symbol facing an empty hex or ally.

The chances of hitting the primary target - the one with the hammer pointed at it - are the best, double those of hitting any other single target.  However, for these initial calculations, we're just going to be looking at how many times the spell is likely to hit any target.  Those numbers look like this:

Number of HitsNumber of Targets

12345
030%12%3%1%0%
145%38%22%7%0%
222%38%45%35%0%
33%12%30%57%100%

It should be immediately apparent that against a single target, this isn't a great card.  In that situation, 30% of the time, it will do absolutely nothing, even if you cast it successfully.  However, if your Wizard is surrounded by 5 or 6 enemy models, the spell will hit three times nearly every time it is successfully cast (the exception being if one or more enemy models die mid-cast).

Factor: The Spellcasting Roll

Unfortunately for anyone wanting to use Unfocused Blast, there will be situations in which you'll end up attempting to cast it and failing.  Even if you are playing Cursebreakers or Eyes, and you are playing all 4 cards that can cause Unfocused to "autocast," you're still not guaranteed to have any of them in hand/on the board when you need them.  In this case, your initial 5 card hand has a 28.2% chance of containing none of the 4 cards that would prevent Unfocused from failing (even with a do-over, you have a 4% chance of coming up empty-handed).  These numbers get worse for Goblins (39.9%) and even worse for Thorns (55.2%).  So, it's worth considering situations where spellcasting rolls may fail in our evaluation. All of these numbers, of course, are based around the assumption of a 20 card power deck, because you're not playing more than 20 cards in your power deck, are you Karen?!

Most commonly, you'll be casting Unfocused from a Level 2 Wizard.  Assuming no other tricks, your chances of success in that case look like this: 
Number of HitsNumber of Targets

12345
038%23%15%13%12%
140%33%19%6%0%
219%33%40%31%0%
33%11%26%50%88%
  
In the rare case where you do end up casting Unfocused with a unmodified Level 1 wizard, your success chances decrease even more:

Number of HitsNumber of Targets

12345
053%41%35%34%33%
130%25%15%5%0%
215%25%30%23%0%
32%8%20%38%67%

When the chance of spellcasting failure is factored in, the picture for Unfocused Blast looks significantly less rosy.  As is the case with all gambit spells, our recommendation hinges almost entirely on how much you can ensure that the spellcasting dice don't matter.  Playing cards that don't do anything is real bad, man.

Factor: Adjuncts 

  
Obviously, the most important adjuncts to play with Unfocused Blast are the cards that make the spellcasting roll impossible to fail.  For those of you curious, the list at the time of this writing looks like this:
  • Arcane Familiar (Universal)
  • Katophrane Tome (Universal) 
  • Gather the Storm (Cursebreakers)
  • Eye of the Storm (Cursebreakers)
  • Blessing of Tzeench (Eyes)
  • Sorcerous Adept (Eyes)
  • Madcap Mushroom (Gitz)
Other than these seven cards, there are a few that bear mentioning.  Potion of Clarity won't make your spellcasting roll a given, but it can increase the chances of you succeeding significantly (to 96% for level 2 Wizards and 88% for level 1 Wizards).  Centre of Attention and Irresistible Prize can both set up chances to do more damage with Unfocused, as can Distraction, to a lesser extent.  

Finally, Damning Pact bears looking at in conjunction with Unfocused.  Initially, it would seem that Damning Pact might double the potential damage from Unfocused - which it can in some cases.  However, the average damage output of Unfocused will not be doubled by Damning Pact because Damning will only increase the damage output on the first hit against each affected model.  In cases where you hit 3 different enemy models, Damning Pact will indeed deal 3 additional damage to them.  However, in cases where you hit the same model 3 times, Damning will only net you one more damage. Thus, the increase to average damage output of Unfocused will fall short of doubling (how short?  I don't know, the math is complicated and it's 0300AM).  Still, Damning Pact is well worth considering if you are playing Unfocused Blast.

Alternate Path: Rend the Earth

Rend the Earth and Unfocused Blast are quite similar in terms of how they deal damage.  Each one has the potential to deal damage to multiple models around a central friendly hero.  However, Rend the Earth is significantly harder to cast, being impossible for an unmodified Level 1 Wizard to cast, and only having a 44% success chance for an unmodified Level 2 Wizard.   Rend is guaranteed to do damage to all models around the caster if its successfully cast.  On the other hand, Unfocused can do multiple points of damage to the same model.  In the end, the relative success chance and average damage done are determined by the number of models around the caster.  The average damage done by each spell (per use) by an unmodified level 2 Wizard looks like this:


Number of Targets

123456
Rend0.440.881.321.762.22.64
Unfocused0.881.321.762.22.642.64

Here, Unfocused Blast outperforms Rend the Earth on all levels.  However, if we include a single autosuccess from the above suggested adjuncts, the average damage per use changes to look like this:


Number of Targets

123456
Rend0.881.762.643.524.45.28
Unfocused0.981.52.022.4833
With properly applied adjuncts, Rend begins to drastically outperform Unfocused against any number of enemies other than one (where Unfocused's double success chance on the scatter die keeps it in the lead slightly).  Since we are strongly suggesting the use of adjuncts if you are going to play Unfocused, we are forced to concede that  Rend the Earth is probably a better card in most situations.

Summary:

Unfocused Blast provides another utility card for decks that are trying to put out most of their damage in ways that avoid enemy defense rolls.  While it is probably overall a worse card than Rend the Earth, it does outshine Rend in several specific situations.  Even if Unfocused Blast underperforms when compared to Rend the Earth, most decks that are playing Rend should also probably play Unfocused.  In most cases that involve magic, more magic is better.

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