1/17/19 Balance Changes
Settle in, this is gonna be a long one!
As always, we’ve been keeping an eye on the data coming out of the release of Defiance and its impact on Etenal’s metagame. Format balance and diversity are important goals for the game’s play environments, and in the past couple of weeks, the ranked meta has shifted enough that we felt strong action was needed. While Ambition () strategies are definitely the biggest theme in this patch's changes, we also identified a few other underlying issues that we wanted to focus on as part of these live balance changes.
The Market mechanic is an ambitious one, and three of the original Merchants have seen tweaks. Red Canyon Smuggler and Hidden Road Smuggler are two of the biggest factors for Ambition's overrepresentation in the metagame, and while we're very happy with the Black Market mechanic and the play of these two specifically, we wanted to bring these two back a little more into line with the rest of the Merchants.
- Rizahn, Greatbow Master - Now needs six spells to have Lifesteal (was three)
- Ankle Cutter - Now hits Endurance or Lifesteal units (was just Endurance units)
- Factory Quota - Now 2F (was 3F)
While the two Smuggler changes will be impactful, two other sources of frustration in these decks have emerged that we wanted to take some steps to improve. The supersaturation of powerful Lifesteal threats has led to repetitive gameplay, while severely limiting the viability of aggressive strategies. Along with the change to Hidden Road Smuggler, we are also pulling back a little on the Lifesteal component of Rizahn's kit. The card is quite powerful and offers a lot of great gameplay, but we felt he was gaining Lifesteal too reliably too early. This change preserves Rizahn's primary play pattern, while increasing the window that aggressive strategies have for making progress before needing to face another major Lifesteal threat.
Ankle Cutter's ability is being expanded to include killing units with Lifesteal, giving fire decks another option for combating giant Lifesteal threats and turning the tide against snowballing advantages. Factory Quota was already specifically aimed at health gain and Lifesteal, and going from 3-cost to 2-cost should help make the card a little more viable and efficient an option for these tasks.
Sites and Removal
- Howling Peak - Now 4 durability and gives +2 health (was 5 durability and gave +3 health)
- Avigraft - Now 4JJ (was 3JJ)
- Levitate - Now 1P and can only be played on your units (was 2P and able to be played on any unit)
- Zal Chi, Herald of War - Now has Overwhelm (was just Charge)
- Serasaur Bull - Now 6TT (was 7TT)
- Amaran Stinger - Now puts five Scorpion Traps into the enemy deck (was three)
- Derry Cathain, Ripclaw Rider - Now increases cost of an enemy spell or site (was just a spell)
One of the primary experiences we examined was the range of satisfying ways of interacting with sites used by players with lots of removal. Reducing Howling Peak's durability to 4 and reducing the bonus health to +2 opens up the range of satisfying options for counterplay, making the card a little less unassailable.
While we are generally happy with the range of diverse and powerful removal options, Avigraft has come in just a little higher than we'd like, particularly for how frustrating of a lock-out it can be. It does provide some nice counterplay to recursion, go-wide strategies, and Merchants, but with its cost moving to 4, it's now more in line with other similar options. Additionally, we believe changing Levitate to 1-cost adds a nice option for potential counterplay. While Levitate can no longer be used to pop an Aegis on an enemy unit, this change represents a major power boost to the card and refocuses it on its intended primary use, with the new additional application as an anti-Site tool.
One of the biggest areas we wanted to improve was Time's ability to interact with sites. Zal Chi, Herald of War, Serasaur Bull, and Amaran Stinger are all attractive Charge threats that can be used tactically against sites, and we believe a little more rate can help get them over the finish line. Derry Cathain's change is a minor one, but opens up an alternative angle of disruption and helps make the card a little more versatile. We explored related options in Shadow, but felt making any changes there had too much risk of unintended consequences at this time.
- Vara, Fate-Touched - When you play a Shadow unit (including Vara), play an additional Shadow unit from your void and give it Voidbound.
- Aniyah, Arctic Sheriff - Now 4/4 (was 4/3)
- Calderan Cradle - Now 3FP (was 4FP)
- Shard of the Spire - Now 3J (was 4J)
While the previous changes represent our primary focus, we wanted to open (and re-open) up some enjoyable alternative styles of play. The original Vara, Fate-Touched was beloved, if challenging to balance; but when she lost her ability to bring that first unit back when played, she fell out of Ranked play almost entirely. Restoring her ability when summoned is a powerful buff, but we believe that granting Voidbound to the Shadow units she plays will address the previously seen problems with repetition and loops.
Aniyah, Arctic Sheriff, Calderan Cradle, and Shard of the Spire are all fan favorites that we wanted to give a boost to, increasing viability.
- Mighty Strikes - Now 3FP (was 2FP)
- Broken Wing Brawler - Now 3/3 (was 3/4)
- Blaze - Now 4FJS (was 5FJS)
- Lethrai Intimidator - Now 4S 2/4 (was 4SS 2/3)
- Resilient Wagoneer - Now Empower: +2/+2 for each of your other units (was +1/+1 for each of your units)
- Scavenge - Now 3S and play three rats (was 2S and play two rats)
- Lazy Firemane - Now 3/2 with Renown: Play two 1/1 Wildcats (was 3/3 that played one Wildcat)
- Consuming Greed - Now 4S 2/1 (was 5SS 3/1)
These changes seek to improve balance between the various draft archetypes.