Dark Frontier introduced a new cycle of spells to the game. These spells are mono faction and all have some effect that is thematic to their faction and then they add a new card to your hand that is also thematic to that faction. The five spells in question are Furious Compulsion, Perilous Research, Righteous Intent, Innate Conviction, and Sinister Design. We will talk about the whole cycle at some point, but we will be focusing on Furious Compulsion in this article.
Recently the Eternal devs did a balance pass that reduced the cost of Perilous Research from 4 to 3 and it put that card on peoples’ radar and brought a few fun decks in both the competitive and the expedition queues. Being one of the people who brewed up some janky little concoctions with Perilous research I started thinking about the rest of the cycle and I realized that I didn’t even know what the red one was. I wasn’t the only person who had completely forgotten that Furious Compulsion existed. When I brought the card up on stream most of the viewers had no idea the spell existed either. Looking it over and doing a little theory crafting it is easy to see why the spell is so forgettable.
The first big problem with Furious Compulsion is that the initial spell is overpriced for its effect. This is a spell that gives your current units a permanent plus 1 to attack for 4 power. Basically, this is a Barbarian Camp that requires you to have units on board to gain the effect. Unfortunately, that makes it less useful as the power of the spell then directly corresponds to the size of your board when you play it rather than having a more general effect on future plays as well as the current board state. Because it is a spell; we could also compare it to effects like Light ‘Em Up or Rally. In both cases, Furious Compulsion comes out very far behind. Both Light ‘Em Up and Rally are fast and cheaper than Furious Compulsion all in exchange for the benefit of Furious Compulsion being a permanent effect, but if your goal is to push damage or trade units up the permanent effect of Furious Compulsion has little value, especially because it requires you to give information to your opponent and commit a significant amount of power pre-combat. So while Furious Compulsion is not useless it is certainly not as useful as other options in the faction.
If you step outside of a mono fire deck you see that Furious compulsion comparisons get even worse. In the 4 drop slot, you have Clock of Stolen Hours or Xenan Obelisk. In both cases, not only will the effect last past your current board, but it will also provide a buff to the units back end. Looking only at spells we see that Unlock Potential, Synchronized Strike, Stand Together, Borrowed Violence, and Unchecked aggression are either cheaper, more effective, or both. Basically, Furious compulsion just does not stack up well against any similar effect.
So if Furious Compulsion isn’t quite up to the level what about Headshot, the spell that Furious Compulsion creates? Headshot is a 7 cost spell that deals 7 damage to a target and then gives all of your units double damage and overwhelm this turn. The Dream play is to have a reasonably wide board, say 4 or 5 units, cast Furious Compulsion on turn 6, then Headshot on turn 7, and swing in for the win. The 7 damage can be directed at any enemy so you can kill a site then hit face, clear a problematic blocker and force bad trades, or even just blast face then swing through with one or two attackers and use that 7 power to deal a decent bit of damage. Quite frankly casting Headshot on even a slightly disadvantaged board state can win you games.
Further good news is that you don’t really have to live in Magical Christmas Land in order to get a benefit out of Headshot. It is a pretty reasonable play to go wide on a board, Furious Compulsion for a little pressure and try to force a board wipe or removal so that you can rebuild in the three intervening turns it will take to cast Headshot and try to get the win. The question is not is Headshot good, but rather, is Headshot good enough?
It is hard to find things to compare headshot to. The closest two comparisons we have are Obliterate and Sack the City. In fact you could argue that Headshot is like what you would get if you put the two cards in a blender and added a little miracle grow. Double Damage and Berserk are hard to make comparisons between because while the two abilities can have such a similar effect they are advantaged in different situations. The addition of Overwhelm to the mix, though, puts Double Damage in a clear lead because it allows your units to trade up while still pushing damage through to face.
In comparing the efficiency of damage between Headshot and Obliterate it also seems pretty clear, at first, that Obliterate is far more efficient since you get 6 damage for a mere 5 power investment. When you look through damage effects you can see that Obliterate is a pretty big outlier. Most spells at this high of a damage amount are break even in terms of damage to cost ratio and those that are more efficient are generally limited in some way, such as only hitting Units or players. For that extra bit of power you get the ability to hit any enemy target. When you look at Headshot in this way it is a very powerful effect that you get at a good price.
So if Headshot is so powerful why do we not see this spell played? To answer this question you have to remember that headshot is not a stand alone spell. It is hindered by the fact that Furious Compulsion has such a high opportunity cost to play. In order to get the effect of Headshot you end up spending 11 power and giving away the information that you have Headshot in your hand.
This loss of tempo is pretty damning for the spell and essentially turns it into a win more because in order to get a full effect you have to have board position against an opponent who has no ability to deal with what you are doing in the 3 turns between when you cast Furious Compulsion and Headshot. In that same time you could probably have won with any of the other, cheaper, unit pump spells. So if we want to see this spell played we need to up the playability of Furious Compulsion a bit.
The easiest way to make Furious Compulsion playable is to lower the cost a bit, but I feel that doesn’t actually fix the issue or make it really stand out against the competing effects in Fire. Alternatively, the devs could make Furious Compulsion a Fast spell. This would allow you to use Furious compulsion as a bad combat trick with a big late game pay off, or let you make a turn 6 into turn 7 surprise headshot play.
This would drastically reduce the opportunity cost of the spell because you would not be giving away so much information to your opponent in order to get the pay off. My favorite change though, would be to make Furious compulsion a global warcry style effect and have it give it’s benefit to all the creatures in your deck. This would be similar to things that Fire does but in a unique way, kind of like how Perilous Research is for Time. This would also push players to playing more creatures rather than just the same go wide token strategy we see from the Praxis tokens decks. Regardless of how Furious Compulsion is changed I do think that it needs a little bit of a tweak to bring it from near utter obscurity to at least some level of play.