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Cardiology: Healing Potion

Decision: Should You Play Healing Potion?


TL;DR: 

If you're playing Ylthari's Guardians, you should probably play Healing Potion.  If you're trying to keep a particular model alive through wound-stacking, or if you often find your models trucking around with a couple wounds on them, you might also consider Healing Potion.  Otherwise, leave it in the medicine cabinet.

Factor: Ylthari's Guardians 

The warband that stands to benefit the most from Healing Potion is obviously Ylthari's Guardians.  The arborial aelves inspire whenever they would have a wound removed from their fighter card, so Healing Potion does double duty: aiding ailing aelves and/or augmenting attacks.  However, in order to see if Healing Potion is worth playing, we need to look at two other factors: what do the Guardians gain from inspiring, and what other options do they have to inspire with.

First, let's look at the Guardians themselves.  Ylthari herself gains a movement and an extra damage to her range 3 attack on her inspired side, as well as being the only aelf who can inspire herself without power cards.  If you're playing a lot of inspiration cards, she's probably your top choice to inspire, but if you are only playing one or two, you might choose to skip her since she might get the job done herself.  As for the others, they gain:
  • Skhathael - +1-hammer accuracy on his main attack, Cleave
  • Gallanghan - Knockback on his main attack and a 2-sword/1-damage AOE
  • Ahnslaine - +1 range to ranged attack, +1 dodge die.
Unless you're fighting hordes of low-wound fighters, Gallanghan is probably the worst choice to inspire, as he gains very little.  Ahnslaine becomes more survivable, but do we really care?  For our money, Skhathael's significant improvement to accuracy and its natural synergy with his innate Reaction make him the top non-Ylthari model to inspire.

If we compare the Guardians to Magore's Fiends (another 4-model warband), we can see that on inspiration Magore's gains 3 more movement, 2 more +1-hammer increases, the same number of dodge dice, and 1 more damage as a warband than Ylthari does when they inspire.  This doesn't even factor in the +2 sword dice on the counterattacks in Magore's.  While the Guardians gain knockback and cleave on inspiration, Magore's already has those before they inspire.  Therefore, the only places that Ylthari's guardians inspiration outshines Magore's is in a single increased range and an 1-damage AOE attack.  Statistically, we are confident saying that the Guardians' inspiration is relatively weak compared to Magore's.

So is it worth inspiring at all?  It seems to depend on who you ask.  The UKGE winner didn't play any cards that inspire his fighters, while second place ran three.  While anywhere in that range is viable, we tend to lean toward fewer inspiration cards in Guardians, as their inspiration bonuses are less than stellar.

If you are going to play inspiration cards in Guardians, you have several options.  Inspiration Strikes and Regal Vision are, of course, available, but they only perform a single effect.  There are also a few healing ploys and spells we can consider.  When compared directly with Healing Potion:
  • Healing Amphora: is restricted to Gallangan and those next to him
  • Leech Power: is restricted to Ylthari, but also destroys an objective
  • Tainted Vitality/Lifesurge: heals everyone, but requires that they be hurt
  • Hidden Reserves: is restricted to Ylthari, and only ever heals 1
  • Emboldened: requires that you get missed by an attack, and only ever heals 1
  • Healing Pulse: has a regen effect, but requires spell roll, is restricted by range, and doesn't heal immediately.  Same maximum healing as Potion.
  • Soul Drain: Requires a kill, requires spell roll, only heals 1
  • Sphere of Ghyan: Requires a spell roll, range restricted, only heals 1
  • Vital Surge: Requires a hard spell roll (44% on 2 dice), but always heals 2
Of these, most are simply worse than Healing Potion.  Vital Surge can have a better chance of healing 2 wounds than Healing Potion (when used with other power cards), but it has a chance of doing nothing and is less reliable on its own.  Leech Power is perhaps the only card worth occasionally choosing over Healing Potion for inspiring the Guardians, if you are also seeking to manipulate objective tiles.  Otherwise, keep to the Potion.

Factor: Other Warbands

The other warbands in Shadespire don't gain as much from Healing Potion as the Guardians do (Skaven do inspire, but they have a much bigger pool of double duty cards to choose from than Guardians).  Yet, there may still be reason to pick up Healing Potion.

Reading through decklists and discussion boards, reddits and discords, one could definitely come to the conclusion that Potion of Constitution is the new popular kid in school, picked first for dodgeball and never eating lunch alone.  While we aren't particularly impressed with Potion of Constitution, a lot of people are.  If we move from that assumption, we should also seriously consider Healing Potion as an option.  In comparison to PoC, Healing Potion doesn't cost a glory, can provide twice the additional wounds, and works against 1-wound attacks (as long as they don't kill your fighter).  On the downside, Healing Potion does have a limitation placed on it's time of use - you have to use it after your model is hurt, but before it dies.  Additionally, gambit slots are often valued higher than upgrade slots.  There are definitely pros and cons to playing either Potion, but their similarities extend sufficiently to justify consideration of Healing Potion in your decks.

The real crux of whether or not you should play Healing Potion is whether you get sufficient opportunities to play it, and how optimally it will perform in those situations.  Let's take a look at the likelihood of that.  For optimal use, you want to play Healing Potion when your model has 2 or more wounds, but not enough wounds to kill it.  For simplicity's sake, we'll call this range the Effective Healing Potion Range (EHPR).  Some models don't have an EHPR - a 2-damage attack may not bother full-grown adults like Stormsire or Gurzag much, but it can be lethal to pets (Grawl/Bonekrakka) and toddlers (Dibbz/Turosh).  However, for other models, the EHPR determines how relatively likely you are to be able to reap the full benefits of Healing Potion.  As of the time of publication, the EHPR of the various warbands breaks down like this (note that there are currently no 6-wound models, meaning that there are no EHPR-4 models):

WarbandEHPR 0EHPR 1EHPR 2EHPR 3EHPR 5Average
Garrek's Reavers442000.80
Steelheart's Champions006002.00
Sepulchral Guard662000.71
Ironskull's Boyz006202.25
Chosen Axes034101.75
Spiteclaw's Swarm622000.60
Farstriders006002.00
Magore's Fiends008002.00
Stormsire's Cursebreakers006002.00
Thorns of the Briar Queen624000.83
Eyes of the Nine622000.60
Zarbag's Gitz1260000.33
Mollog's Mob600021.25
Godsworn Hunt660000.50
Ylthari's Guardians062001.25
Thundrik's Profiteers243101.30

While these numbers have only arbitrary significance, they do give us an idea of how likely the average model from a given warband is to survive an attack that will put them in the EHPR.

Now, how likely is a model to do an amount of damage that will throw your fighter into the EHPR?  That's a bit harder to calculate, a defense and attack characteristics drastically change the average damage of attacks.  However, we might be able to learn something useful by looking just at the average damage of base attacks in the game.  Without going too deep down the math hole, we can see that a randomly chosen unblocked attack will do about 1.755 damage.  This actually doesn't tell us a whole lot about in-game function of attacks, as it doesn't account for misses, blocked attacks, upgrades, or other sources of damage.  But it does give us a decent arbitrary comparison point for who benefits the most from playing Healing Potion.

Ironskulls, Steelhearts, Farstriders, Magores, and Cursebreakers all have a good chance of not only surviving one average hit (and therefore being able to use Healing Potion effectively), but also their EHPR is greater than the average damage done by base attacks, so they're likely to survive a second hit as well - greatly upping their chances of being able to use Healing Potion.  Fireslayers fell just below the cutoff, so they may be worth considering as well.  Finally, though Mollog's averages don't meet our cutoff, it's worth noting that averages don't tell the whole story.  Mollog is an outlier in both his warband and Shadespire in general, and will almost always be able to benefit from Healing Potion should you have it in hand.  The other warbands should likely take a pass.

Factor: Going Big

A commenter on one of our recent posts suggested that the meta is "going big" again.  In context, we're pretty sure this means that people are going to be stacking +wound buffs again, as they did before the restriction of Sudden Growth and Deathly Fortitude.  While we aren't sure we agree, it is a factor that is worth looking at when we consider Healing Potion.

Healing Potion essentially serves the same purpose, given that you can use it within the EHPR window, as giving your model an extra wound or two (averaging 1.5 wounds/use).  So if people are looking to dramatically toughen their models, Healing Potion actually does the job better than a lot of other options *cough*Potion of Constitution*cough*.  

Additionally, the more "wound stacking" you do, the better Healing Potion gets; as the EHPR of a model increases, the likelihood that you'll be able to get optimal use out of Potion also increases.  In fact, the reverse is also true.  Playing Healing Potion makes your wound stacking more effective, because it improves the chances of the model(s) that you stack upgrades on will survive (and theoretically, do whatever you are hoping they will do if they survive - score Tomes, hold objectives, etc).  If you're planning on doing heavy wound stacking, Healing Potion should also likely make its way into your deck.

Summary:

Healing Potion is an obvious pickup for Ylthari's Guardians, and should likely be their first choice if they decide to run any healing at all.  For other warbands, those with high wound counts benefit more than those without.  If your models are naturally tough, or if you plan to make them tough, there are certainly worse options out there than Healing Potion *cough*Potion of Constitution*cough*. 

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