Monday, 11 November 2013

An evaluation of the Norse thrower in bloodbowl

Player Type:       Fumbler              
Position:              Thrower              
Starting Line Up:               Depends on your tactics
Strengths:           Access to passing skills, block     
Weaknesses:     Average agility, no sure hands to start   
The Norse Thrower is perhaps the most debated player on the roster, particularly in terms of whether you need to take one or not. He has access to skills that make a certain playstyle possible that no other player can really give you, but his unreliability at the start of a league means he’s not an essential in your lineup.
How to manage the downsides
Well their biggest weakness is that early on in a league, they’re not particularly good at doing what they’re there for, ie picking up and throwing the ball! And I mean really not good – even an orc thrower stands more chance of getting hold of the ball than the Norseman, and that’s never a stat you really want to think about. So how do you mitigate this?
Well there are two methods really, the first is my preferred solution and that’s not to use the Thrower as such for the first few games until he gets an increase – I don’t mean put him on the line of scrimmage, but he’s going to find it fairly difficult to complete passes early in a league (1/3 chance of failing to pick up, 1/3 chance with a re-roll of failing to throw an accurate pass and 1/3 or worse chance of the receiver not catching it, statistically speaking you’re going to have to use a re-roll there somewhere and that’s not really a situation you want to be in). Consequently, use him as a slightly slower runner, or a backfield defender for the first few games. You’re really looking to get him to 6 SPP’s as quickly as possible so that you can give him either accurate or sure hands (or even more, hope he gets an AG increase) to make him more reliable in the throwing role. That’s not to say don’t throw the ball at all in the first few games, or if you need to to avoid getting scragged, but don’t throw unnecessary passes, and if you can get him to the endzone once or twice, that’s really going to help you a lot.
The second method is to save your re-rolls for the passes. The Thrower gets an inbuilt one for the pass itself from his skill set, but that still leaves picking up and catching as two real issues for him. Ideally you can throw a quick pass if no-one else is around, but I recently tried this whilst playing Skaven and watched in horror as what I thought was a safe option resulted in a Gutter Runner stealing in and grabbing an opportunistic touchdown. You can get away with saving re-rolls like this a bit with Norse since so many of your blocks in early games are fairly safe due to the presence of the block skill on most of your players. Be aware though, that your Ulfs might need it as well, so pick which is more important and do that action first.
The two weaknesses I identified above therefore both have the same long term solution – skills and/or an agility increase. Take sure hands first to give you another re-roll chance, then Accurate, Strong Arm if you get a double and if you can take an Agility increase then do it whatever else you might have access to!
How to maximise the strengths
No-one else in your team can take passing skills without rolling a double, and they’ve all got their own specialisms to concentrate on if they do, so if you fancy ever having to pass the ball with a norse team, you’re going to want the Thrower to do it. The Thrower actually becomes an extremely important and useful part of your team once he’s got those early increases though, completions come easier and the SPP’s start to flow more regularly and you can threaten the opposition much more with your runners, who equally can become more deadly as receivers.
The skill build of your Thrower therefore is the key to maximising his strength, and by taking the right skills you can really make an efficient player.  Interestingly, the Norse team Throwers actually make probably the fullest use of the Passing skills available to all teams – most others really don’t like their Thrower to get in the mix, but with the Norse, you can quite easily take Nerves of Steel, Dump Off, Hail Mary and Safe Throw to build a Thrower who’s not afraid to go where the wild things are and get the ball out of there.
Do you start a league with one?
Depends on your tactics, I started my most recent league with two, though one died in the first game, and personally I think they take so long to build to a good level that you want to maximise their chances of getting SPP’s early on. I wouldn’t criticise anyone however for playing a Norse team without a Thrower, and actually the Norse are perfectly capable of managing without a Thrower at all if you choose to play that way.
What skills can they take?
Dauntless
Meant for hitting stronger players, and whilst there is some merit in giving it to the Thrower who’s going to get the ball out of the dirty places, it’s not essential, particularly since you can’t blitz and pass the ball in the same turn.
Dirty Player
You’ve got this by now haven’t you, Dirty Player goes on a lineman, not a specialist.
Fend
Fend is an interesting skill to consider. Most would take it as a defensive move to prevent an opponent from following up a pushed or downed player on the line of scrimmage, but actually if you think about it, Fend is ideal for a Thrower who’s in the line of fire – if your opponent manages to get the block on him but fails to knock him over, then fend means you’re in the clear next turn to move and pass without a tackle zone hampering him. As such, I would certainly think about taking this skill a bit later in development.
Frenzy
No. For similar reasons to the above, if you do have to block/blitz with your Thrower, you don’t want him to then have to follow up and block again if you’ve managed to get clear of tackle zones.
Kick
Definitely worthwhile on a Thrower, though probably around skill number 3 (unless you’ve got two, in which case give this to one of them first and only use him on your opponent’s drives). It makes it much easier to control your opponent’s position and drive if you can more reliably put your kick deep into their half.
Kick-off Return
This would be worth considering once you’ve got a Thrower who will pass the ball on your drives, he’ll get to the kick off quicker, possibly even giving you a free attempt at catching it to save that tricky pickup, but his basic movement of 6 means if the kick-off lands deep in your half, retrieving it otherwise can take up most or all of your movement.
Pass Block
You’re unlikely to be using a Thrower to intercept a pass at the throwing end, and although you should be trying to get into such a position at the receiving end, more than likely you’ll normally have your Thrower between the receiver and the endzone. Norse also don’t have the agility or skill access to make interceptions worthwhile in my opinion so taking this skill is a waste.
Pro
Not sure why you’d take Pro on a Thrower since they have access to Leader as well, which allows you that re-roll automatically. You’ll see later that the skill builds for the Thrower don’t have enough gaps to justify taking Pro.
Shadowing
Nope, as with most Norse, he’s not quick enough for it to count.
Strip Ball
Now for the ‘defensive’ Thrower who’s got Kick and will be your last line of defence, Strip Ball could be magical. Further on in the league though, a lot of receivers will have taken Sure Hands by then and its usefulness is negated.
Sure Hands
One of the first skills I would take on a Thrower, giving you an automatic re-roll to pickup. It doesn’t make it a certainty, but 89% is a damn sight better than 66% when it comes to success at picking the ball up.
Tackle
Defensively speaking, tackle is gold. Most receivers will have the dodge skill, and a lot of them have block after a few games, so Tackle on those players who are going to have to make that last chance hit is crucial, it means an additional 17% on your chances of knocking them down, and thus freeing the ball.
Wrestle
Similar to tackle really, wrestle is to my mind very important to have available to the last line of defence, since it again negates one of the block dice results that a skilled receiver isn’t afraid of. Of course it’s benefit is negated if that receiver has taken jump up, but for anyone carrying the ball that means they’ve then got to pick it up again, which means potential for failure.
Accurate
Up there with Sure Hands as my first two picks on a Thrower (at least one who’ll actually be handling the ball and passing it). Accurate makes it so much easier to get an accurate pass, which in turn makes it easier for the receiver to catch it, which is kind of what you want from someone throwing the ball!
Dump Off
This would be a skill I’d definitely consider taking on a defensive thrower, if he gets in and either blitzes a ball carrier or picks it up from a melee then having dump off so he can get it out of there if anyone blocks him next turn is a serious advantage.
Hail Mary Pass
Similar to dump off really, the Hail Mary Pass is demoralising for your opponent, all they need to do is get the ball to score, but your Thrower nips in and flings it to the other end of the pitch for your runners to fight for – it’s a last-ditch tactic but one that can pay dividends if used correctly.
Leader
Who would like a re-roll for 20k? Yes please, the only problem is there are so many skills I’d like to give a Thrower before this, that I’ve never got round to using it.
Nerves of Steel
Defensive Thrower who discounts tackle zones when Throwing or Dumping Off? Sold to the man in the furry boots with horns on his helmet!
Safe Throw
Interceptions are rare. Very rare. Really annoying though when they occur, and even though it’ll probably fail when you really need it (it’s only a 50% chance after all) Safe Throw is always worth thinking about. As with some of the other skills above though, I’d take others in preference leaving this one till late in development.
What are good options for doubles skill rolls?
Jump Up
Jump up is always good for anyone who’s going to be playing near your endzone, and almost(!) negates the point in your opponent knocking them over in the first place and risking an attacker down result.
Strong Arm
Excellent skill, and really boosts your Thrower’s range. Becomes magical if you also have either accurate or AG4 by this point. Definitely my first pick for a double.
What are the best stat increases to take?
Agility, all the way. Ignore everything else in favour of skills.
What are the best skill combinations?
Distributor
1.       Accurate
2.       Sure Hands
3.       Strong Arm
4.       Kick Off Return
5.       Hail Mary Pass
6.       Leader
Sweeper
1.       Kick
2.       Nerves of Steel
3.       Strip Ball
4.       Dump Off
5.       Accurate
6.       Tackle
Final thoughts
The Thrower isn’t a necessity in a Norse team, as really they’re most suited to the running game anyway, but with a couple of skills they become good enough to be worthwhile, and if you’ve got options, you’ve got a Plan B, and if you’ve got a Plan B then your opponent had better have a Plan C, which a lot of coaches don’t since their teams are designed to do one thing and one thing only.