Monday, May 01, 2017

Blood Bowl: How Bad is Stab?

A couple weeks ago I played against a Dark Elf opponent that was running two assassins on a relatively unleveled team. This means they chose to take the assassin over other positionals, which means they must have valued them pretty highly. Twitch chat was not very charitable to the skill level of my opponent, and the assassins actually accomplished basically nothing. They spent a lot of time intentionally standing beside my guys and then getting hit for it with their 7 armour, but that held up just fine.

It got me wondering... Should I have been able to just get free SPP for killing them? Should he have been able to hurt any of my guys first? Is conventional wisdom about how bad they are correct or should I be trying them out? Setting up with 2 of them on the line, making stabs, and then blocking away anyone who didn't get stabbed feels at least worth investigating. (My opponent tried this, but I was playing necro and the players he was stabbing had 9 armour and stand firm so blocking them away couldn't happen.) What are the odds here?

Nothing Stun KO Cas
7 AV 58% 24% 10% 7%
8 AV 72% 16% 7% 5%
9 AV 83% 10% 4% 3%

TO Push Down Stun KO Cas
7 AV 3% 22% 44% 18% 8% 5%
8 AV 3% 22% 54% 12% 5% 3%
9 AV 3% 22% 63% 7% 3% 2%

TO Push Down Stun KO Cas
7 AV 11% 33% 32% 14% 6% 4%
8 AV 11% 33% 40% 9% 4% 3%
9 AV 11% 33% 46% 5% 2% 2%

TO Push Down Stun KO Cas
7 AV 11% 58% 18% 7% 3% 2%
8 AV 11% 58% 22% 5% 2% 1%
9 AV 11% 58% 25% 3% 1% 1%

The first table is for stab against the 3 likely armour values the target is apt to have. The next one is the odds for a 2 die block with block against someone without block. The next one is the odds for a 2 die block without block against someone with block. The last one is the odds for a 2 die block without block against someone with both block and dodge.

The first thing to point out is that there is no downside to the stab. Throwing a block without block has an 11 percent chance of knocking yourself down. You can reroll it, of course, but burning up rerolls on opening line blocks feels really bad. Especially when the upside of throwing the block is only a 4% chance of removal!

Then there's the fact that even if you give up a 2 die block back after failing a stab they are only 13% to remove you back. If you're stabbing a 7 AV person that means the stabber has the advantage. Otherwise you're less likely to hurt them as you are to be hurt back, so you really need the followup block from a friend trying for a push to free you up. Hitting a flesh golem with an assassin is not a good play.

That all said... A 13% chance to be removed back is actually a really big deal. And that's assuming they don't have mighty blow, which, now that we mention it...

TO Push Down Stun KO Cas
7 AV 3% 22% 31% 20% 13% 11%
8 AV 3% 22% 44% 15% 9% 8%
9 AV 3% 22% 54% 10% 6% 5%

Now we're up to a 23% chance of being removed! Those are the sorts of numbers I'm talking about. Mighty blow really lets you murder the 7 AV dudes with no skills. No wonder my rats keep dying...

The next thing I notice is just how hard it is to hurt someone with block and dodge with a regular hit. Even with 7 armour you're only getting removed on 5% of hits. 5% of regular hits, anyway. Throw on tackle and mighty blow and things get a lot scarier. But it's not like a Dark Elf team is going to have many (or any) players with those skills. If we're trying to kill a gutter runner or a skink or something then maybe the assassin is the way to go. 17% instead of 5% is a pretty big change!

My feeling now after looking at things a little is that blitzing anyone except for a low armour dodgy dude is a mistake with an assassin. This means they have to start in contact on the start of your turn to get a hit off, which is very dangerous for a 7 armour dude with no defensive skills. Using them against enemies on the line feels pretty good though. Take a free armour roll, then hit them with a regular block to push them away (or knock them down) afterwards. If you knock them down beside the assassin then next turn they have to dodge away or give you another stab...

It also feels like they just aren't likely enough to knock anyone down to justify using them on the ball carrier if you have an actual ball removal player. Tackle, wrestle, strip ball... These are all better tools than the assassin. But those all require a lot of levels; the assassin comes straight out of the box with stab.

Another downside is the stab doesn't earn any experience, so the assassin is a removal tool that doesn't level through removals! Can you feed them touchdowns to level them up? All the players on a Dark Elf team want to level up through touchdowns, can you justify feeding the spp onto the assassin?

And really, that's what it comes down to... Assassins are expensive players on a team full of expensive players. They're pretty much the squishiest player in the game, too, since they have only 7 AV and no defensive skills. Even goblins, which have stunty, start with dodge, so they're harder to hurt. Harder to hurt for everyone but an assassin, anyway!

So I feel like I'd maybe want an assassin (or two!) against some specific teams but very much not against others.

Good: Skaven, High Elf, Brettonian, Wood Elf, Lizardman, Norse, Khemri
Ok: Human, Dark Elf, Undead, Chaos Dwarves
Bad: Orc, Dwarf, Chaos, Necromantic, Nurgle

Hmm... Looking at it there are actually 7 of 16 teams where I'd probably want an assassin and only really 5 where they'd be a real detriment. Of course on the champion ladder it turns out that the bottom group there contains a lot of the most played teams. Orcs are #1 by a large margin, with Chaos and Chaos Dwarves as the next two. Those 5 bad teams represent 40% of all games played and that really makes me question wanting to play assassins on the ladder.

But in a league? That's more tempting. Especially if the league enforces some kind of race parity like the NWFL league I played on FumBBL did.

Of course you could just be looking at having your expensive defenseless 7 AV player die in the first game...

No comments: