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Cardiology: Fated Blade

Decision: Should You Play Fated Blade?

TL;DR: 

If you'd like to rely on luck rather than proven statistical advantages to win (and lose!) games, you should run this.  If not, run one of the 3-hammer/2-damage attack-upgrades instead - or a 2-hammer/3-damage attack if your warband gets one. 

Factor: The Rules Quandary

There have certainly been some interesting takes on this card and the way it interacts with other cards.  If you'll excuse our bluntness, many of them are patently ridiculous.  No one knows how the card was "intended" to work except the GW people themselves, and the devs have been mum on its trickier interactions.  While there's certainly a chance that Fated Blade's poorly worded timing could convey additional benefits (some seem to think it should avoid Rebound, we disagree) or saddle it's user with additional burdens (can you use Twist the Knife? We don't know), we think the most reasonable course at this point in the development cycle is to treat the card as if it works like a normal attack until proven otherwise.  For the purposes of this article, we'll be treating Fated Blade as if it works like any other attack.

Factor: Damage

Beyond the (dubious, at best) advantages granted by Fated Blade's odd timing, the main reason to play it is for its damage output.  After all, other than the potential to do a lot of damage, the card doesn't really do anything.

So, how much damage will this bad boy actually do?  The most obvious and simplest conclusion is that  when it hits, it will do 2.5 points of damage on average.  Looking at the individual possibilities, we find that 50% of the time, you'll hit for at least 3 damage.  18.75% of the time, you'll hit for 4 or more damage, and 3.13% of the time you'll hit for 5 damage.  However, since the probabilities for damage on this type of roll are symmetrical, you're just as likely to roll 1 damage as 4, and 0 damage as 5.  While the chance to do 4 or 5 damage is definitely exciting, the best measure of Fated Blade's efficacy is its average damage output.

In terms of universal upgrades at this time, a 2-hammer attack for 2.5-damage is definitely worth considering.  Without dipping into warband-specific upgrades, your other comparable options are either 2-hammer/2-damage with a bonus, or 2-hammer/3-damage with a drawback (there are also several 3-hammer/2-damage upgrades).  Let's take a look at how each of these stacks up, once again using a random-average defender, which we've discussed at length in other articles.


Average Dmg
Fated1.33
2h/2d1.06
2h/3d1.59
3h/2d1.36


As was expected, against a random-average defender, Fated Blade will do more damage on average than a 2-hammer/2-damage attack and less than a 2-hammer/3-damage attack, because that's how numbers work.  However, there is something of interest that can be taken from this table: on average, Fated Blade will do less damage than a 3-hammer/2-damage attack like the one provided by Swordbreaker.  Additionally, several of the 3-hammer/2-damage attack-upgrades provide additional bonuses (such as Swordbreaker's ability to smash other attack-upgrades).  You definitely can't accidentally one-shot a Gurzag with Swordbreaker, but over the course of several attacks, Swordbreaker will net you more total damage than Fated Blade.

In terms of the other two comparable options: you will need to weigh whether the additional bonuses provided by a 2h/2d attack upgrade are worth more than the extra damage provided by Fated, or whether the penalty tacked on to a 2h/3d attack upgrade is significant enough to justify dropping down to Fated.  In most cases, this will be a judgment call, as the bonuses provided by these weapons are often not easy to quantify.  For two cases that are easy to quantify, see the Alternate Paths section below.

Factor: Just One More Thing

Fated Blade is currently the only attack in the game capable of doing 5 damage before modifications.  However, it's also the only attack in the game that can accidentally turn your successful attack into a failed attack (by turning up no hammers or crits in the damage roll).  While this is a relatively rare occurrence (3.13%), you should be aware of how it can affect your game.  First, failed attacks usually can't trigger additional effects like Knockback.  Failed attacks also don't allow you to score a number of Objectives -  including Unstoppable, Drag them Down, and Let the Blood Flow; as well as any Objective that requires you to take a model out of action with a successful attack.

Author's Note: I originally had another paragraph of content here, regarding a different way to calculate average damage for Fated Blade.  However, I realized in my sleep that I had forgotten a crucial step.  After correcting the issue, it turns out that the difference in average damage between the two calculation methods is statistically insignificant.  Whoops!

Alternative Paths:Mutating Maul/Nullstone Weapons/Heroslayer

We mentioned above that certain cards were simple enough to compare to Fated Blade, because the "additional bonuses" they provide were relatively easy to measure.  The three options below are examples of just such cards.

Mutating Maul provides Knockback 1 or Cleave on command.  Knockback is difficult to evaluate against arguments of damage or accuracy, but Cleave is essentially a measurable accuracy buff against certain models.  If we assume that you use Cleave when it's advantageous and Knockback when Cleave isn't going to help you hit, the average damage of Mutating Maul compares to Fated Blade like this:


Average Dmg
Fated1.33
Mutating1.16

It's worth noting (and not shown on this table) that Mutating Maul does outperform Fated Blade in terms of pure damage against 2-shield defenses.  If you feel like you'll see a lot of 2-shield models, or if you really value Knockback, Mutating Maul is probably a better choice than Fated Blade.  Mutating can also score both Get the Hence and What Armour, so that's worth considering as well.

There are currently 3 Nullstone weapons that do 2 damage on a 2-hammer attack while providing a single die reroll against wizards.  Against wizards, these weapons are essentially 3h/2d.   If we use the same random-average defense analysis we did above, but factor in wizards, these 3 Nullstone weapons compare to Fated Blade like this:


Average Dmg
Fated1.33
Nullstone1.08


If you're facing a lot of Cursebreakers, these weapons may be a better choice than Fated Blade for pure damage output, but against the 95% of models in Shadespire who aren't wizards, the Fated Blade will put out more damage.  However, it should be noted that the Nullstone weapons also come with additional abilities, and that should be factored into your decision as suggested above.

Finally, the former king of randomly doing a lot of damage, Heroslayer, would like to step up to the plate.  This comparison is actually really easy, as there aren't any other things to factor into the calculations.


Average Dmg
Fated1.33
Heroslayer1.23


Looks like there's a new King in town.  (However, it should be noted that Heroslayer does outperform Fated against 1-dodge defenses, so if you see a lot of 1-dodge 4-health models, stick to Heroslayer).

Summary:


In terms of pure damage output, Fated will outperform 2-hammer/2-damage attack in most circumstances, though it offers nothing in addition to that damage.  Similarly, Fated will not usually provide more damage (over the course of several attacks) than a 2-hammer/3-damage attack.  However, if you're looking for a 2h/3d attack-upgrade and don't have a warband-specific option, you're going to be dealing with a drawback of some kind as well.  Finally, over long game, a 3-hammer/2-damage attack will outperform Fated Blade, and these are widely available in universal upgrade form.

Play smart, play the numbers.

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