Shock and Awe
You are standing in the Arena on your Diviner, clinging to life by only about 200 health. Burn scars and singe marks cover your body as a ring of fire, in the form of a “Link”, covers you further. As much as you would love to be engulfed by the waters of a Healing Current, the Infections around you say this would not really help that much. On the other side of the arena, the Pyromancer is in pretty bad shape himself. With lightning scars and shark bites covering his body, he is down to about 1250 health. However, he is protected with a few Storm Shields around him. With the ring of fire around you, you know you will only have the chance to do ONE more thing before the fire completely consumes your body. However, you are not in a state of panic. Your friend, looking on at the battle, calls out “Who’s winning?” Your confident response:¬† “It could go either way, but I think I’ve got this.” Smirking, you call out a special type of lightning designed to bypass Storm Shields. You wave your wand and the sky goes dark in preparation for some lethal lightning. But where will it land? You hold your breath for a few seconds, and… the lightning zaps the Pyromancer senseless, completely ignoring his shields. A red 1325 appears above him as his head starts spinning.
The Basics of Insane Bolt
By Archmage Diviner standards, the 1000 base damage that Insane Bolt deals to one’s opponent is actually not all that much – even for the 2 pip price. A Colossal Lightning Bats, for example, does more than that when it goes Critical. Even Balance has a two pip spell which can do nearly 1000 damage with an enchantment, and it does not even need to go Critical for it! But the “1000 damage” is not the defining feature of Insane Bolt, especially when the cost of backfiring is so great.
It’s that little “moon” symbol next to the “1000”, telling your opponent, “YOUR STORM SHIELDS ARE NOT GOING TO WORK HERE!”. In other words, the damage dealt is not Storm damage, but Moon damage. Since there are no Moon shields, the only way to block Insane Bolt damage is via general wards and debuffs (Weakness, Tower Shield, Spirit Armor, and other non-school specific tools; think about how you would stop a Judgement and the same rules apply) along with general resist (in other words, even if you have Icezilla-esque resist against Storm, this won’t help you against the Bolt).
However, because Insane Bolt is a Storm spell, there is one other way to boost it in addition to the general boosts and wards: your Storm boost from gear (which is probably in the 80 to 100 percent range and almost definitely well above 50 percent) still applies!
Ironically, my favorite part of the spell is not in its casting – but rather, in its metagame. Compare Insane Bolt to Wild Bolt, another 2 pip Storm spell that has the potential to deal 1000 damage. Wild Bolt actually hurts Storm players significantly because many opponents would defend against it by stocking up on Storm shields and using them to the point of spamming. As Storm has very limited shield breakers (none trainable, and Storm Elf mutates are too rare in the bazaar to be an answer for most circumstances), the metagame under Wild Bolt essentially forced many Diviners to spam attacks to have a SHOT at getting a hit in, which – of course – left them vulnerable to their opponents’ offense.
By contrast, Insane Bolt’s Moon damage makes it much harder to block. Opponents who wish to prevent this Bolt from doing maximum damage (think 3600+ with Colossal/Extraordinary/Infallible when it Criticals) are forced to spam Tower Shields and the special 90% Weaknesses. Of course, Tower Shields are much easier to break than Storm Shields – you can use off-school wands which have better stats than Storm wands and even Fire Elves out of your main deck as if you were a Sorceror.
Even if you’re forced to hit into a Tower Shield, Storm hits can still do significant amounts of damage anyway: enough to make the shielded opponent panic. (PS:¬† This is one reason why I am frustrated when tournaments only allow one Insane Bolt; by the time you’ve convinced your opponent that you CAN Bolt, your opponent knows that every hit you will cast for the rest of the match will do Storm damage and can shield appropriately).
On the other hand, you probably do not want to Insane Bolt too many times in a match: because there is an 80% chance of Insane Bolt hitting your opponent each time you cast it, there is a 64% chance of going two casts without being hit yourself by the bolt, a 51% chance (just over half) of making it through three casts unharmed, a 41% chance of lasting through four casts without being blasted, a 33% chance (just under a third) of casting the spell five times without being electrified… and so on down the line.
One last general piece of advice: DO NOT try to plan around surviving a 10000 Moon hit from Insane Bolt self-destructing!¬† There are only three ways to survive a hit of this scope:¬† stacking Tower Shields (good luck keeping stacked Tower Shields on yourself for long enough for this to work), having an Efreet weakness, Bad Juju weakness, or other wildly stacked Weaknesses on you (of course, this reduces the damage from a successful hit to 100)… or Guardian Spirit (even if you have a Life amulet, you just spent five pips to cast a TWO pip spell safely… at that rate, Triton is a much better deal).
On the other hand, the idea of a Storm/Life team in 2v2 where the Life casts Guardian Spirit so the Storm can Insane Bolt seems intriguing, even if the idea *is* fundamentally flawed (and unworkable in any tournament setting under Central rules).
What NOT to Do
To finish this off, here are a few tips on how to use Insane Bolt effectively in PvP in “Good Idea/Bad Idea” format.
- GOOD IDEA:¬†Using Insane Bolt to finish off your opponent.
- BAD IDEA:¬†Using Insane Bolt as your main attack.
- WHY?¬†If you plan to use, say, five Insane Bolts in a fight, then you have more than a 2 out of 3 chance of killing yourself from Insane Bolts alone.¬† Do you want to START OUT with a 2/3 chance of self-destruction? In fact, it’s probably a bad idea to use the Insane Bolt if you’re clearly winning – because you’ve just increased your chance of losing to AT LEAST 20 percent with that one click.
- For the record, I usually pack two Insane Bolts in my deck (and two enchanted ones in side); Sloan Shard’s guide on Central suggests using one (which was a fundamental part of his strategy in winning a Head of Class tournament).
- GOOD IDEA: Using Insane Bolt to go around shields.
- BAD IDEA: Using Insane Bolt to break shields.
- WHY? While there are circumstances when an Insane Bolt through a Tower Shield will do enough damage to finish off your opponent, you should not even THINK about using it as a shieldbreaker. Because it does Moon damage, it will not break any Storm-specific shields… and while it breaks universal shields and debuffs like Tower Shield, Bad Juju/Efreet, or Legion Shield, literally every other attack spell in your deck will break those shields – WITHOUT the risk of killing you.
- GOOD IDEA:¬†Boosting your Insane Bolt attacks with various enchantments and buffs.
- BAD IDEA:¬†Expecting Storm-specific boosts like Stormblade, Darkwind, and so forth to boost your Insane Bolt.
- WHY?¬†Because Insane Bolt does Moon damage, the only Storm boosts that affect it are the ones that come from gear.¬† My personal favorite boosts to use on Insane Bolt are Colossal(base damage goes 1000 –> 1275), Vengeance(increasing the chance to DOUBLE your damage – but be warned:¬† this is blocked like a STORM spell even if it is resisted like a MOON spell), Infallible (going from 40% resist to 25% resist, for example, works the same as a 25% blade), Unstoppable or Extraordinary (ESPECIALLY as TC version:¬† the 20% Armor Piercing can take 40% resist down to 20%, which works as a 33% blade), and Feint (70% damage boost – and can nearly nullify a Tower Shield).¬† With one or two well-placed buffs like this, an opponent with Storm Shields and 2000+ or even 3000+ health can be knocked out!
- GOOD IDEA:¬†Using Insane Bolt to get around Icezilla resist (80 percent or more, up to and including immunity) to Storm.
- BAD IDEA: Using Insane Bolt when your opponent has obviously gone AFK.
- WHY? If your opponent is no longer at the computer, he cannot kill you (his minions can, but these are easy to take out against a non-responding opponent) and the arena will register you as winning as soon as the game disconnects him.¬† The only real way you can lose before that is if you actually kill yourself with an Insane Bolt, so why turn guaranteed victory into your doom?
(PS:¬† This actually happened to me.)