It’s time for some more balance tweaks. In the mad laboratories of Abrakam HQ, high atop our mountain fortress, another balance patch has come alive.
Our main goal with these changes was to increase rush deck diversity. Over the last few months there have been a variety of interesting control and midrange decks across the colors. However, rush has normally been synonymous with yellow. While other styles of rush have been powerful in the short term (several top players called green rush the best deck during the faeria clash tournament), rush players haven’t had anything close to the variety their friends have enjoyed.
Meanwhile, our favorite matchup in Faeria is when a rush deck fights a defensive deck. It’s not just a battle for resource advantage (defensive mirrors) or a race for life totals (rush mirrors), it’s both at once. If there’s only one major style of rush deck this clearly gets repetitive fast. We clearly want more variety here.
We’ve made the following changes to push both red-based and green-based rushes. We’re interested in blue as well, as Sunken Tower and other land moving tricks offer a unique style of aggression, but we’ve decided blue is getting enough attention for now already.
Let’s get started.
Now takes damage when your opponent summons a creature (instead of when they play any card).
Crumbling Golem has previously been easily punished by chaining a large number of events. It has also made every damage-based event even better at dealing with it. Now the Golem cares about creatures alone, meaning that it’ll be a more resilient threat.
Now a 4/3 that gets +1/+1 (instead of a 3/4 that gets +2/+0).
A lot of players suggested this change to improve Axe Grinder’s synergy with the “angry” archetype (based around cards like Hate Seed). Emphasizing the angry archetype also helps red rushes feel a bit different than similar decks, while the Axe Grinder’s focus on enemy wells creates some more varied land builds. It also arguably weakens the card outside this archetype, as many feel that a 3/4 is a more useful body than a 4/3. This should push some more power into angry red without raising the power level of the Grinder on its own.
##Lord of Terror
-1 attack, -1 life.
Lord of Terror is in a strange place in the color pie. Red is usually supposed to have a weakness to high life creatures. Every color needs a weakness, it’s a major reason to branch out to multiple colors in the first place. However, Lord of Terror was so efficient that it actively punished players for trying to exploit red’s weakness. Lord of Terror is supposed to be red’s inefficient option to deal with high life threats without going into a different color. As a 2/6, Lord of Terror was instead eating 5/10 Thyrian Golems for breakfast.
As a 5 faeria deathtouch creature with 5 life, Lord of Terror is still going to be effective at punishing green aggression. However, it will no longer survive after trading with a 5 attack creature. It also won’t take out a Vine Wall or Shimmering Statue that is locking it down in just 2 turns. Reducing the power of this anti-green tool also indirectly boosts green rush’s power level.
Costs 1 Forest less.
Sagami Elder has long been in an awkward place. As a low power, high life combat creature it mostly wants to fight your opponent’s earthy gatherers. Unfortunately, costing 3 forests makes the card very difficult to race across the board with in the early game. As the elder was seeing basically zero play, we shaved a forest off the cost to make the card a bit more usable.
Changed to the following design.
Flame Burst - 3 Faeria, 2 Mountains
Deal 3 damage.
Flame Burst used to be able to hit anything, giving red an answer to structures and a way to finish off wounded opponents. This made the card a skill-tester, as it had a great many options for how it could be used. Red rush decks also benefited significantly from having a way to finish off an opponent who stabalized at a low life total, while control decks employing the card could also use it to end a game just a bit faster (and control deck games classically go long, a slightly faster kill is a mercy).
The possibility of your opponent holding Flame Bursts that can hit your face also increases tension at low life totals. It also puts a “clock” on the end game, because a defensive player can’t be assured of their safety by building a meat wall of creatures around their orb. This pressures a control player to counter-attack instead of just stalling forever.
While it often feels bad to die to direct damage, we feel the fact that your opponent had to get you low in the first place to finish you off makes it fair. Knowing you aren’t entirely safe in your defensive fortress naturally creates discomfort, but we absolutely believe it’s a net win.
In the process, Flame Burst lost its option to pay more faeria to hit things adjacent to the target. This change massively reduced the text length of the card which is important (as we’ve been adding a lot of words to other cards in recent changes). The loss of the option to hit multiple creatures was also replaced with the option to hit structures or gods, so while the card appears to be simpler it still has a wealth of options available to it. We did like how the previous flame burst affected positioning at high skill levels, and we’d like to revisit the previous AOE design in the future. For now it makes a lot of sense to have an event that deals efficient damage to any target.
##Breath of Life
Replaced with the following design:
Earthcraft - 2 Faeria, 1 Forest
Draw a card and choose one:
-Create a forest
-Create a lake
-Create a mountain
-Create a desert
Green has been underrepresented compared to its friends in the top tier constructed environment. While it’s often had a powerful strategy or two, such as the mono green decks seen in the Faeria Clash tournament, it doesn’t have the same diversity of tools that other colors do. Making it easier for green to rapidly build special lands of various colors has two major effects: it boosts green-based rush strategies and increases the viability of multicolor decks.
Rush decks want one big thing: Lands of their color deep in enemy territory. Green rush decks also tend to be more land hungry than most. Earthcraft gives these decks exactly what they want.
Earthcraft is what we call as “quantum leap” in constructed. This means that it radically changes what decks are capable of doing. We’ve tested the card extensively of course, but we’re still in awe of some of the turns this thing powers out. Turn 3 Thyrian Golems right in the enemy’s face? Earthcraft makes that possible.
Of course, Earthcraft does take a substantial resource investment and its value decreases for rush decks as the game goes on. Opening hands with multiple copies of Earthcraft are also less predictable, as you can’t be sure what you’ll draw to replace them. If you can weather the initial storm, Earthcraft’s disadvantages start becoming clear. It’s still a dangerous card though. We’re excited to see what happens with it.
Why did we choose to cut Breath of Life for this card? We felt that BoL was decreasing the diversity of deckbuilding more than adding to it, and that little skill was involved in playing the card. If you were planning on making 4 forests, the card basically allowed you to run a 27 card deck with occasional bursts of lifegain. Many people played the card while still at 20 life just to cycle through their deck.
Now drains 2 life instead of 3
This was a natural byproduct of increasing Flame Burst’s utility to burn the face. We like it when direct damage finishes off a game, but non-interactive burn decks (which seek to win almost exclusively through dealing direct damage to the opponent’s face) are a slightly different story. We like how they encourage their opponents to race them, even control-based opponents. Many powerful control threats, such as Groundshaker, can do a fine job smashing in an opponent’s face.
However, gaining Flame Burst as a burn tool is a huge deal for these strategies. We’ve cut back the power of their Malevolent Spirit to help compensate. We hope this, along with Green Rush’s increase in power (and its use of Ruunin’s Command) will keep the burn deck in check. We’ll be watching this deck closely after the patch.
Replaced with the following design
Outcast Tower - 0f
Empty all faeria wells (faeria wells won’t have faeria in them while this card is in play).
Production - Deal 1 damage to this structure.
Welcome to the design team’s Friday, which largely revolved around testing this card over and over again. At first we largely expected this design to be just another crazy idea that would never make it into the live version. There are so many reasons on paper why this card should be a bad design. We were obviously concerned about the weirdness of a 0 cost structure. Denying resources to your opponent is also a classic “bad designer” moment. 0 cost cards are also usually perceived as overpowered, even if they’re actually fair.
Then we played with the card. The more we played with it the more we liked it.
One of Faeria’s core design challenges is that rush decks give up a lot by building towards their opponent’s face instead of gathering from a faeria well. Your opponent gets to gather faeria while you try to rush them down. If your attack falters, your opponent often gets several turns of extra resources to punish you with. This means rush decks need to have unstoppable early or late games, due to how punishing it is to have your attack stunted for a few turns.
Outcast Tower changes the equation. Rush suddenly has a tool to shut down their opponent’s faeria advantage for 2 turns. The greedier their opponent’s position, such as harvesting from 2 or even 3 wells, the bigger the Tower’s impact becomes. But if the attacker had a great position, with advanced lands deep in enemy territory next to their enemy’s wells against an opponent that had to spend all their time defending instead of gathering, the Outcast Tower was a much smaller concern.
This 2 turn window gave rush the time it needed to mount another attack after being repelled. Normally an aggressive deck takes about 2 turns to rebuild after being repelled, during which time the defensive deck gets to stockpile a huge faeria lead. Suddenly Outcast Tower was allowing rush decks to turn a guarunteed loss into a fighting chance, no longer as vulnerable to a single loss in momentum. Meanwhile, the tower meaningfully changed the pace of the game. Resources weren’t as guaranteed, greedy harvests were less rewarded. The tower added a jolt in the game’s rhythm which we seriously enjoyed.
But what about the net fun? Denying a player resources is always a risk. Playing your cards is what players enjoy. However, even the most concerned playtesters reported that it wasn’t too painful to play against the tower. The tower wasn’t locking out all faeria gain, just the excess produced by the wells. You could still play your cards, and since each tower only lasted for two turns meant there was always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Ultimately, to our great surprise, we found ourselves becoming huge fans of the Outcast Tower. We look forward to seeing it in the game.
Like all design, Pandora is full of experiments. Our philosophy regarding content during early access is not, “take no risks with anything you’re not 101% sure is the best thing ever”. We want to make Faeria a world-class game, and we aren’t interested in pretending we know everything right away. Even if we think a certain design is probably not going to work, we gain a lot more information by releasing a lot of different ideas and seeing what actually works best for our goals in practice.
It’s time to address some of the results. While we enjoy the uncertainty and diversity of the pandora format, the sheer impact of some of these artifacts proved to be way too huge. We focused largely on constructed in these recent design changes, due to the upcoming tournament season, but we still made time for some quick pandora changes.
##Removed: Orosei’s Mustache (the artifact that transformed creatures on the board into random creatures) and Noodle Bowl (the artifact that summoned a 4/4 triton warrior on a random space for each player).
From the moment we implemented it, we were pretty sure we’d end up removing the Mustache. While it can create some awesome moments, it has a serious issue: there’s no reasonable way to play around it. Sometimes the person playing lots of creatures out gets a benefit, sometimes they get penalized. The best you can do is to play as many cheap creatures out as possible, which walks right into another artifact of the same rarity (Garudan’s Scale). Playing around uncertainties only works when you can reasonably make a correct decision. In a hand of poker, you can play the odds. With a slot machine like Orosei’s Mustache you really can’t.
Playing the odds is difficult if two artifacts at the same rarirty encourage the exact opposite gameplay. The Mustache was even more severe, it was a single artifact that sometimes rewarded playing a certain way and sometimes punished the exact same thing. It also drastically increased the short term board complexity (slowing everything down as players adjust to all the new creatures). It had to go.
Noodle Bowl was a card that looked innocent at first, but proved to produce way more negative moments than positive ones. Not only was it very possible to have the artifact come up when you had no empty lands (meaning only your opponent would get a free 4/4 jump), but the random positioning often meant a spike in short term board complexity as well as being swingy in how it affected the game. The card also didn’t have any compelling effect on variety in the gameplay, it was usually just one more thing to keep track of. It’s outta here.
##Added: Necklace of the Damned: Add a 1f Plague Bearer to each player’s hand.
Necklace of the Damned is an experiment in contrast to Garudan’s Scale. We like the possibility of artifacts clearing the board, as board clears can clean up cuttered games and allow a player to come from behind (also encouraging players with a board advantage to try and push the game to a conclusion before something bad happens). We’ve decided to try an artifact at the same rarity which works in a very different way, with a lot more ‘warning’. The contrast between the Necklace and the Scale in the game should give us a better idea of the best use of this design space.
Now deals 2 damage instead of 3.
We’ve decided to reduce the impact of Garudan’s scale from 3 damage to 2. This should substantially increase the “safety” threshold of the card, making it more possible to play and draft around it. It also makes it easier to compare to the Necklace of the Damned for the sake of the experiment.
Many people have noted that Garudan’s Scale disproportionately affects board-control strategies in pandora. This is intentional. Pandora makes it a lot easier to draft slower two-color decks than lean and mean aggressive one (the best of which are normally just one color). This can seriously hurt the format’s diversity. When possible, we like to design artifacts that threaten to tilt things back to balance. While Garudan’s Scale appears infrequently, the threat of it alone helps push things back toward equality.
##Echo (Created by the Conch Horn artifact) and Charge (Created by the Jeweled Boots artifact)
Costs 1f more
We’re not huge fans of artifacts that give 0 cost events. There’s always an impulse to use them right away that seems to constantly nettle at our brains. They also feel too “free”, like it’s not even a decision to play them or not. While both designs were made to be ones you’d want to think about saving based on the situation, we’ve decided to add a 1 faeria cost to each of them in order to make them feel more like tools you should try to get maximum value out of rather than fire-and-forget effects.
##That’s All Folks!
Whew, congratulations for making it to the end of another wall of dev commentary.
See you in the game.