8/07/2015

The Challenge of Balance and a look at an upcoming Hero

Two weeks ago we made some significant balance changes to Kingdoms, with three nerfs and whopping 11 card buffs. The changes seem to have had a positive effect - Raise the Guard is still played a high amount, but has dropped as a "must play". Both Holy Charm and Iron Dragon are still seeing significant play in Limited. Eternal Dragon and Sanity Tapper are now appearing in some decks. All in all, not bad.

I wanted to talk about two of the changes here to go over our new thinking towards post-release card balancing.

First off, Raise the Guard. When Raise the Guard was originally designed, it put three Holy creatures of cost 3 or less from your deck into play. Basically it was envisioned as an Epic level Exalted Enforcements that you had to build your deck around. At some point in development it was changed to "Light Alliance" in an effort to make it more "flexible." This, in hindsight, was a mistake.

At first the card wasn't too much of an issue, but the combination of Thania's release and the re-buff to Dravkas making the Firestorm Shaman deck viable again pushed Raise the Guard over the top.

There was a huge amount of discussion about what should be done about the card. Many people discussed complete redesigns for the card, mostly around making the card more situational. I myself designed a nerf where you'd only get creatures equal to the turn number - making it useless for the first couple of turns. Dr. Bojangles suggested making it only give three if the opponent had a large creature in play - something that I actually coded into the card then removed. And I was still considering putting it back to Holy only.

So why, in the end, did it just get raised to 7 mana?

Because of Quickdraw Cannon.

Quickdraw Cannon had been the bane of Kingdoms since it was printed. It was a simple, powerful and cheap combo deck that worked really, really well and was hard to interact with. When we took over the game, I knew that QDC was on my hit list, but how to fix it wasn't clear.

My first "fix" was to force the card to target creatures first, thinking that players could mount a defence to the card by playing the creatures that they had been using anyway. It turned out that many players felt this was a buff in disguise as it meant that QDC became the ultimate creature killer, and with Corrode in the game, Armor was merely a speed bump.

So Quickdraw Cannon was redesigned again to blow up if it ever triggered five times. It worked - the card was knocked off its mantle, but the resultant card, even if balanced, was a mess. I mean look at it:


What has been two elegant lines of rule text had become a 5 line monstrosity that needed multiple reads to even understand what was going on. Even if it had achieved some mystical level of "balance" it had become a terrible "design".

So we've made the decision to not "redesign" cards once released, and always ensure that our designs our elegant and easy to understand.

So the only solution to Raise the Guard was to look at the one value that was an available lever: its cost. And as the nerf to Essence of Life showed, one mana is often a lot.

And Quickdraw Cannon itself? With this new direction, we put the card back to its original text, with a very simple balancing lever - the number of triggers per turn.


Much cleaner, easier to understand, and if we want to rebuff it in the future we can bump up the number of triggers.

So for both buffing and nerfing, we will put limits, adjust costs, tweak values on the card, add or remove abilities, or adjust the timing of the card (like adding or removing "on enter"), but the card you know will remain the card you know.

NEW HERO!

And now for what you really came for... new hero! This hero is currently in testing, but is in a state that I'm happy enough with to show everyone. Introducing MEK.

(click to view full size)
MEK is the leader of the Mechana construct army. They have broken off from the Gnomes and Dwarves and are forging their own destiny in the battle for Euna. MEK reflects this with THREE token generating abilities. While you know the Construct token (it's from Rapid Prototype), here are the two new tokens that MEK can create (art still pending):


So MEK can absorb damage (take that Goblin Scavenger), create creatures and then can buff them and himself (drawing cards is good). He is definitely a self contained, synergistic hero that could have a strong impact on the meta, and we look forward to having you try out.

While testing might adjust a value here or there, this is the hero you will soon see battling for dominance in the arenas and battlefields of Euna.





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