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Broader Issues Discussion

The game's community balance team discusses card changes here.

Broader Issues Discussion

Postby Zephiria » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:10 pm

Aside from discussing individual cards, I'd also like to discuss some broader issues. I'd like to collect, structure and talk about them, hopefully finding easy to implement solutions in the process. Things that came to my mind:

1) Snowbally boardstates: Are we happy with the current way combat is resolved?
I.e.: Full healing after each turn, the attacker can chose targets freely, only limited by speed and supportline restrictions.
Cards that benefit more from this than others are all the combattricks, like CFC and similar.
Cards that interact with the supportline are only really played, if they bring another strong effect to the table, which is another sign that the frontline/supportline system isn't really doing its job.
On a sidenot there is also no design space for creature healing cards.

2) Multicolour support: What is our goal here? Dual colour decks have existed since the beta, but until Trigon they always used a broken mechanic (e.g.: old hatebears, old herm elves) or blue and NH. I don't think decks like red/corr shamans was really on par with say wis/dom.
How strong should an average dualcolour or even triplecolour deck be in relation to monocolour decks? Do we want competitive 4+ colour decks?
The advantage of monocolour decks is their consistency, offset by their limited options. If we give multicolourcards too much consistency enhancing features, then mono colour loses its only advantage.

3) Ressources: In SW there is 3 ressources: mana, cards and energy. These restrict the number of actions a player can do per turn and thus it is of utmost importance that there are no unrestricted cards or interactions of cards in the game, where a player can do an action without using at least one of either mana, a card or energy. Every effect that gains mana, a card or energy also has to be restricted in some way, otherwise there is a scenario possible, where the cost doesn't matter and a player can do an infinite amount of actions per turn.
Level is also a kind of ressouce, but it is different, because levels aren't used up per turn and the number of cards that benefit from higher levels than 3 of the same colour are very few.
When looking at ridiculour combo decks from the past, we can see they are always enabled by violating this principle.
One idea that came to my mind was to put an universal restriction on all energy cards (can never gain more energy than level + mana cost or something similar), because most of them are violating the principle right now.

Got more on my mind, but I g2g

greetings. :)
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby VitamineC » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:42 pm

1) Snowbally boardstates and line system
I think this can mostly be adressed through card design. There are some very obvious concepts which I expected to already be implemented in the first expansion. For example creatures that have "front" and/or "support" keywords and gain effects or stats while in the corresponding line, or instants that let you pull allied creatures from your support to your front line. Effects like these could make the board state a lot more dynamic and make push and pull effects more relevant while also especially opening up design space for defensive plays that should counteract snowballyness.

2) Multicolor support
While flexibility vs consistency is definitely the main dynamic here, I think that aspect identity is also very important to consider. In fact aspect identity is probably the parameter that (should) determine(s) the point of balance between flexibility and consistency. Ignoring Trigon for now (that's a huge can of worms) the base mechanics of the game - namely shrines and DO - allow you to build decks that are pretty consistent with up to 3 colors; anything more than that and you probably need to put in additional work to make the deck run smoothly. At that point you also have access to close to 50% of all cards, which gives you a huuuuge amount of options without opening up everything.

And now comes the kicker: the overall feasible total number of levels you can have and cards that require more than one level in a specific aspect. These two restrictions are arguably much more important in limiting maximum flexibility ("rainbow" decks) than consistency issues, because they represent tangible costs instead of being governed by rng. Why don't you just run Silencer, Red Dragon, Gomur, and Cataclysm in the same deck? Because you'd have to have a total of 8 levels, which would put you behind on cards and mana.

So what has all that to do with aspect identity? By my definition aspect identity is lost once either another aspect can use almost all mechanics and strategies from another aspect in an almost identical way, or adding an aspect and almost all of its possible mechanics and strategies to a deck by splashing it has virtually no cost. If one of these two is the case, the cards of that aspect might as well be neutral, and if all the cards are neutral you basically have all the options which means you have effectively less options because "tier 0" decks that just use all the strong cards become much more pronounced.

With all that said there are currently 3 cards in the game that bend the rules and circumvent these restrictions to varying degrees:
a) Obelisk of Unity: This card's only purpose is to allow for more flexibility. However it doesn't endanger aspect identity because it only enables you to "gain" a single level in another aspect, which still locks you out of more aspect defining cards without also otherwise investing into that aspect. Furthermore you simultaneosly "lose" a level, which means you cannot ramp with it and its flexibility is a little limited. Including the card also obviously costs 4 card slots and 2 mana worth of tempo as well as requiring you to run wisdom.
b) New Horizons: This card raises the "maximum number of levels you can feasibly have" and increases your effective shrine draw consistency immensely. The cost of running it are 2 mana worth of tempo, (kinda) 0 cards - because, if you wanted to get that level anyway, you would have had to lose a card with the shrine anyway -, requiring you to run wisdom, and decreasing your effective shrine draw consistency when you don't draw it because you have to include at least 1 or 2 shrines of the aspect you want it to help you splash.
Obviously the main appeal of this card is the ramp it offers. If you ignore that part of the effect, the splashability you gain from Horizons is comparable to that of Obelisk of Unity. If you are already at the total number of levels you want for your deck (most of the time 3 or 4), the 0 card cost is effectively negated. For example if you want to play Silencer and Karthas in the same deck (going WWDD) and then want to splash Test of Time, playing Obelisk leaves you with 1 more card than Horizons as long as you don't play Silencer and Test of Time in the same turn. In this example Horizons doesn't even help you to get to your desired level setup faster than Obelisk as long as you only play one.
Overall, only looking at splashability, Horizons allows you to get aspect defining cards that require multiple levels of their aspect easier than Obelisk, but Obelisk is more card efficient in some circumstances and allows you to splash cards of multiple colors with only one copy. In conclusion I would say New Horizons doesn't endager aspect identity too much.
c) Trigon of the Pact: This is the only card that allows you to gain dual levels, meaning you always unlock the capabilities of 2 aspects whenever you play it. It only allows you splashing of good aspects into already good decks. However the cost of running and using it are basically nonexistant. Because it's a shrine you can search for it with DO, which means you can draw it much more consistently than anything else (even if you want multiple copies), and it doesn't cost you any mana to get its additional benefit it has over basic shrines. Furthermore it doesn't cost you any deck slots because you can just swap out 4 shrines for it and the lost consistency in terms of having less shrines that can draw in your deck is mostly made up by the fact that it increases your consistency of getting a shrine of the right color when you need it (since it counts for 3 colors). It also has the added utility of its spell effect, though that is very minor.
In summary Trigon let's you splash even higher level aspect defining cards of up to 2 aspects into your deck at basically no cost whatsoever both in terms of deck building and actual play. As a result there is pretty much no reason to not use trigon and splash an additional color into any good deck (or splash 2 good colors into an evil deck at the cost of normally splashing 1). Even cards that scale with multiple levels in a specific aspect (e.g. "Word of" cards), which were surely designed to benefit mono color decks can be taken full advantage of while getting the added flexibility of splashing.
By my definition Trigon clearly encroaches on the aspect identity of the good aspects, blurring the lines between them.
Lastly if introducing an exactly mirrored evil version of Trigon would so clearly break the game and destroy any semblance of aspect identity, it stands to reason that the original Trigon is already doing the same to some extent.

That said here is my idea for a more reasonable trigon effect:
"Turn one of your good levels into a dual level with another good aspect and draw a card."
So if you have a nature level you could play Trigon to turn it onto either a nature/wisdom or a nature/order level and draw a card.
It would give you the benefit of gaining a level in terms of splashability, while not opening up the way to higher level cards at the same time, effectively allowing you to draw a card when gaining a level as long as you don't need strictly more levels to play the cards you want.
I don't know, if having overall +1 card, if you want to play Namir and adv Neeva in the same deck is worth putting these in, but at least the problems I pointed out above would be gone.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby Maraut » Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:34 pm

I agree with everything VitamineC has written, although I can't see his Trigon being used at all.

@ Zephyria: Line tricks are coming, slowly but surely. We used to have only Wasp Swarm, Felix, Grappling Hook, Arrow Barrage and that elf archer guy. Now we have Tidal Wave and more importantly Master Hunter.
As for healing, I would like to keep the current full healing per turn. If we changed that, we'd basically be creating an entirely new game. Every single card would need to be rebalanced in term of mana cost. Removal would become much, much more expensive, and creatures cheaper or otherwise more readily available.
But I still am waiting for a card that can cure status effects like stun, freeze, stupefy and transform.

Regarding ressources, I wonder: do we accept insta-win combo decks if they're not too overwhelming? Or do we crush them on principle? I thought it was the former, because WoG Heal is around to this day, but then we got the nerf of the Banshee OTH, a mediocre niche deck.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby Carjan » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:21 pm

Just dropping by to give kudos to Zephiria for looking at it from the broadest level and searching for clear goals! A refreshing and sensible approach, in my humble opininon! Kudos too for VitamineC for another thorough analysis. Lengthy as often but never boring. Both posts are testimony of "Deutsche Gründlichkheit"! ;)

One note, on Trigon, Vitamine. I think you aptly describe how Trigon's dual levels undermine some of the core aspects of Spellweaver (up to a point that we see it being run in decks that don't even go further than a mere two levels). Don't get me wrong but your suggestion feels a bit underwhelming and, eventhough I like complexity too, far fetched to me.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby VitamineC » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:36 pm

*Deutsche Gründlichkeit (you got an extra h in there :P )

I totally agree that my suggestion is very lackluster. But I also think that the common suggestion of just making it "+O or +W or +N" is neither more interesting nor more playable. In my opinion the existence of DO and the fact that basic shrines can draw a card make resource cards that simply generate either color A or B like in magic pretty obsolete.
Independant of Trigon and Pandemonium I would like to have a multi color shrine template you could apply to any color combination without destroying aspect identity, if all of them were in the game at the same time. Having a wisdom/dominion shrine that just reads "+W or +D" certainly wouldn't break anything, but I doubt it would add anything either. I don't have a better idea, but having a plan for the future certainly wouldn't hurt.

That said Trigon and Pandemonium wouldn't necessarily have to follow that template. They are special and should represent all aspects of their side. There is definitely room for more out of the box effects here.
What about "All your levels in aspects of good count as a level in each aspect of good until end of turn and +1 card" or "All your levels additionally count as a level in an aspect of evil of your choice until end of turn and +1 card". These would temporarily break the rules I described in my previous post, but they would cost you not playing a shrine for a turn and actually having to fit them into your deck. Or go bonkers and remove the card draw and make these effects permanent.
Other ideas are:
"If you have ONW: Gain a triple good level (counts as a level in all good aspects)".
This would break restrictions but only, if you are alread invested in all good levels and you gimp your curve a little bit.
"+1 card and both heroes gain +O or +N or +W."
Level gain with card draw that could potentially also ramp your opponent.
"+1 card and both heroes sacrifice a level."
For the evil counterpart, though it would probably be broken in aggro decks.
"+2 levels in an aspect of evil. At the start of your next turn sacrifice 2 levels."

All of these are probably horrible ideas but my point is that there's probably some interesting design space to be had here.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby Ravignir » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:20 pm

I considered offering my help, but on the other hand I think my help would not be appreciated due to my weakness i.e. Combo/OTK decks.

And players hate these decks (I hate them too if they are too fast and too easy to play). Personally I would like to see more cards that interact with graveyards, hands, board size, decks, energy. Not another boring cards like "deal 4 damage", "soldiers gain +1/+1" and etc. BUT "Target Zombie gains +1 ATK until end of turn for each non-spirit creature card in either graveyard", "Deal X damage, where X is equal to number of Rage cards you played this turn ".

There is nothing wrong if a card is broken in some situations, It's just all about proper use.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby Zephiria » Wed Feb 07, 2018 12:39 am

@Vitamine: Thank you for your analysis. I very much agree with the conclusions you drew. I think, we should all have this in mind clearly, when looking for an adjustment to Trigon and Pandemonium. I also agree that it would be best to work on a template. The way we support multicolour decks is just too basic to decide individually on each card that was introduced or will be released in the future.

@Combo-decks. I have a long history of playing combo decks myself (not so much in SW but in other TCGs I played before). Ivko wrote in the other thread that they want to get away from combo decks.
I think, we need to discuss, if this means any kind of stalling control type deck that executes a strong combo to win the game or just the "ridicolous" decks.

To demonstrate the difference:
What I'm calling ridicolous is any kind of deck that violates the afformentioned principle to do an infinite amount of actions per turn. Thus winning the game in a single turn out of nowhere, while the other player can only watch or press the resign button. The latest example would be the mourning feary - enchained souls interaction (or possible a deck around merchant of souls, that I missed). These decks use oversights in design to pull of a combo that was never intended.
We currently don't really have any combo-control decks, that I know of, so I will pick the old one turn heal around reflector and word of grace as an example. It is a good and a bad example.
Good, because the deck can't win out of nowhere. It has to put up its reflectors, it has to deal with the board and eventually a state is reached, where it wins. It is possible to mill its wincondition, to destroy its reflectors, to outheal it, to silence it and it also should have been possible to outdamage it.
Unfortunately (that's why it is a bad example) word of grace was just too strong (not only here, but also in angels), so that players lost too often and possibly too fast against it. And while I understand players feeling helpless, when OTH finally pops off, it takes a pretty long time to get there, where there is plenty of interaction.

Now, It's fine with me, if we don't want decks like these, because they frustrate too many players too much.
However, if we don't want those, then we have to keep in mind the effect it has on removal spells. If there is only playable decks that use a minimum of say 12 creatures, then creature removals are never dead cards, making them so much better than artifact and spellremovals. And since they are never dead cards, every deck is packed with the very best of them, weakening creatures without strong come-into-play or leave-the-field effects.

@Maraut: I'm aware that we are getting more and more cards that interact with the lines. What I was saying is: These cards are underplayed, which is a sign that they don't have enough of an impact to find a place. While we definately need to look at this closer, my feeling is: The supportline/frontline mechanic doesn't help mitigate snowbally boardstates. For example it's almost never good to put something into your supportline and if you do, it's either a creature you want to protect, one that can get swift or out of desperation, because you are so much behind on the board and don't want your tempo to be killed for free.
Grappling hook for example enjoyed a very short period of playability. We needed to have both a strong implant heavy deck and a strong flyer heavy deck in the meta for this card to see any play. And even then it was only played as a one of anti-angel techcard from certain players.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby JohnnyV » Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:23 am

In the spirit of 'broader issues', I'd like to draw attention to what I think is one of Spellweaver's major problems and may be the crux of why this whole 'balance project' exists.

The single game match system, while something I am generally in favor of for playability purposes, creates a necessity to have a number of fairly evenly matched archetypes in the top tiers at any given time.

The reason? Nobody likes to get stomped, and doing the stomping isn't really that fun either. When you play a bunch of matches that are all auto-wins or auto-losses, you don't actually feel like you're playing. If rock beats scissors more than say 65% of the time, the game becomes unfun. Having a sideboard mitigates this a lot in M:tG, as you play 2 of the 3 games after being given a chance to adjust to what your opponent is doing, so you take those >65% matchups back down into the fun range.

So in Spellweaver, what this then leads to, is a lot of these 'combo' decks that operate on a different axis create a super unfun feeling metagame if they become top tier, because you need specialized cards to deal with them, but you don't want to play those cards because they hurt you in so many other matchups. So you get very polarized matchups because of them, where either your deck plays the cards that beat the 'combo', and you win vs it and lose vs other stuff, or it can't and you lose vs it and win vs other stuff.

So I see two solutions. I think the only option to keep a balance with 'combo' in the game, is to start creating more venerated unicorns, maybe even more powerful ones that are fully playable without the extra line of text that blows up a spell.

If you do decide to design 'combo' right out, I think it will naturally lend itself to a more balanced game, as the creature centric game has less variables and is much more obvious when it comes to what is too good.

I also fully agree with you guys on the Color identity stuff.
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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby The Fuzz » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:07 am

Well, time to unleash a wall of text.

I have always been wary of any effect that offers a permanent health boost (valor), due to the way combat works. These effects can result in free kills, and a well placed Timea (a good example of the power of Valor) can completely sweep the game, especially early on. I would suggest that we consider making these kinds of buffs only affect attack, and not health (CFC is a perfect candidate for this). This will results in more trading-up, and less free-killing.

New Horizons - Do I even need to start? Immensely powerful ramp, that also fixes your colors. A lot of powerful cards start to look fair when you cannot ramp into them.

Double Colors - I want to seem more cards that cost two of the same color (the way Spell Warden works), so that there is more reason to go into a color. Trigon, therefore, cannot be allowed to grand dual levels, since it becomes pretty much undisputed champion in any deck that can use it.

Divine Offering - Eh, I'm too tired to bring up details again, but if we are being thorough, might as well. Divine Offering, while a necessary tool, has been the cause of much despair from players who were basically robbed of their games.

Alternative Win Conditions - Like johhny said, it is not possible to be ready to counter Mill and OTH, while having a reasonable deck. Any condition that is not the usual "kill they ass", needs to still somehow relate to the board. So, for mill, players should not immediately lose just because MTG did it. A rude news flash might come to some folk, but MTG is not mechanically perfect. Instead, a Fatigue-like system could be used, where milling your opponent is just part of your plan, after which they stop drawing cards, you can basically win by attrition. This will prevent games from ending anticlimactically. For OTH, do not make the 40-life an instant win, give the other player a turn to respond (i.e., you win if you START your turn with 40hp).

Lane interaction - The board is the most interesting part of the game, we want to put more action there. We have two lanes, but other than just putting creatures there, not much interaction happens. Ranged was added, but that has a tendency to bring salt, when even the back row is not safe for your creatures anymore. We could use more effects that depend on positioning (i.e. a creature that acts differently depending on the row).

Specific Cards:

Skatador's Bidding - A joke/meme card. Needs to be a lot better. Could be an interesting value engine that relates to your mana crystals somehow.
Horizons - Complete rework. OR, something like 1 mana search for a shrine, and add to your hand.
Parallel Evolution - Remove the card draw. The effect is already quite good, you don't need extra card advantage. A special mention goes to card that have mandatory "bad" effects, like Voidtouched, which can lead to very obnoxious deck types (the infamous Parallel Snakes).
Trigon/Pandemonium - Make the effect choose one of the three colors, not give double. For Pandemonium, reduce the cost of the spell to 4. OR, make pandemonium give two levels (same kind), but REMOVE 1 mana. If that proves too good, then just default to the first suggestion.
Harbinger of Sorrow - Remove the Demon tag. This should eliminate the Train of Souls that leads to silly OTH wins.
Prosperous Ruling - Needs a bit of a buff. Could just add a "summon a militia at the end of your turn" to it.
Enchained Soul - This card has caused a lot of trouble. Probably needs a look, I just don't know what to do with it.
Merchant of Souls - A bit borked with 0 cost cards.
Haldiri Rider - I would like to see this back to 3/3. It used to be a really nice heavy card for order, that applied pressure. IF need be, make it 3 aspects and 4 attack? Need more input here.
Drone - When it returns an artifact to your hand, it needs to banish itself, otherwise you can just do this over and over again. In drafts, it gives you a really powerful recurring engine, especially with something like Sentient.

Ok, I'm done for now. Need to catch my breath.



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Re: The Balance Project - Startup Discussion

Postby VitamineC » Wed Feb 07, 2018 9:08 am

I think the main focus right now should be to fix any very strong or very weak outliers among the new cards.

We could make huge changes like Trigon, Horizons, the line system, health buffs etc., but would these increase deck diversity and lead to a more enjoyable meta right now?
If the answer is no, then I think delaying those changes and working on them in tandem with a new expansion might be the way to go. If we for example just deleted New Horizons, we would have to make a very large amount of changes in order to not just kill a bunch of decks. In my opinion deciding on any major broad issues (similar to what Zephiria did in her post), finding similarly broad answers to those issues and then fixing the problem cards while offering compensation in the form of new cards at the same time to prevent total breakdown of some deck types would be easier than redesigning a quarter of the current card base to accomodate for just 1 or 2 changes. We're not trying to make a new game here after all.
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