Direct damage is a term used to refer to effects which deal damage directly to enemy characters. Direct damage mainly comes from spells (Pyroblast), Hero Powers (Steady Shot) and some triggered effects, Battlecries and Deathrattles (Axe Flinger, Fire Elemental, Leper Gnome).
Most direct damage can be dealt to either minions or heroes, although some can only target one or the other (Flame Lance, Sinister Strike). Direct damage may refer to either type, although some players use it exclusively to refer to effects able to target heroes. Area of effect and random target effects (Flamestrike, Bomb Lobber) can produce equivalent results, but are not usually considered to be direct damage. Direct damage is usually used to contrast with damage dealt through by attacking with minions or heroes, which can be prevented through Taunts or Freeze effects.
The term reach is often used to refer to hero direct damage, measuring the player's ability to deal direct damage from the hand, usually in order to defeat the opponent that turn. The concept of direct damage is strongly related to that of burst.
Direct damage is inherently unavoidable, since it is dealt directly to the character. As a result, hero direct damage is a key part of many aggro deck strategies, usually as a prime source of burst damage alongside Charge minions. Control decks such as Freeze Mage use direct damage to create one turn kills, such as by using Frostbolt x2, Ice Lance x2, and Fireball in a single turn for 20 damage. Hunter decks often rely on Steady Shot to deal a small but consistent amount of unavoidable damage over the early rounds of a match, allowing them to easily burst the opponent's remaining Health down in later rounds.
Because direct damage cannot generally be prevented, its use often results in frustration for players, due to non-interactive gameplay and a sense of helplessness in avoiding defeat. Because of its impact on interactivity in particular, developers are keen to restrict access to direct damage effects. A few counters do exist, such as Loatheb for spells, and Saboteur for Hero Powers. Immune effects like Ice Block and Mal'Ganis can also prevent or at least delay successful direct damage. Strategically, healing and Armor can help to recover from direct damage and prevent opportunities for fatal burst damage.
The term direct damage likely came to Hearthstone via World of Warcraft, where it is used to contrast with damage over time, used to describe effects which deal small amounts of damage at regular intervals, usually as debuffs. Damage over time only marginally exists in Hearthstone, through a few cards like Cursed!. However, the sense of immediate and unpreventable damage remains.
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