Reply – Re: Mindless Decks?
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Re: Mindless Decks?
— by Quintivarium Quintivarium
I would like to return to the question of what can be done to promote richer strategies during play.

First, I want to re-emphasize that, to me at least, a rich strategy generally involves reacting not just to my card draw, but to my opponent's plays.  And that reaction cannot always be rote (e.g. simply playing a stronger minion opposite any minion my opponent plays, or repeatedly playing and recalling a triton wave rider in the presence of triton ritual and fire prism to destroy any force my opponent deploys).  To me, the play of a strategically satisfying deck must depend significantly and creatively upon what and how my opponent plays; a strategically satisfying game has ebb an flow as both players respond strategically to the other.

Recently, I have been collecting statistics on cards I encounter in PVP.  With now over 600 games and nearly 7000 cards, I can confidently state that by far the most popular cards are power generating cards: the most popular card in the game is captured flame, the most popular ocean card is the shimmer pearl, the most popular air card is the storm core (with power surge 4th), and the most popular fire minion is the pyromancer.  And this is not primarily due to fire prism (relatively few of the decks using these cards were prism decks).  It is evidence of a strong trend to sacrifice future value (a non-depleted hand) for a temporary boost in speed (more power immediately).  That so many players use these cards is evidence that speed overrides long-term stability.  I postulate that at least some of this drive toward speed at all cost is the general ineffectiveness of reactive play.  If you can't counter what your opponent is doing, the only alternative is to do something of your own sooner.  These, long-term unsustainable plays would not be popular if there were reasonable counters that make games last to the long term.

So what can I do, right now, as a player?  First, I have to accept that my favorite (strategic) decks will probably lose to a well-designed, well-played deck that revolves around cards that cannot be reactively countered.  (Fortunately, this is probably less than 10% of the decks I have been encountering.)  Second, I can be aware of how the decks I choose limit my opponent's options, i.e. I can try to avoid decks that leave my opponent without interesting strategic options even if they feel strategic from my end.  Third, I can share with other players ideas in creating good reactive decks.  (I have already done so in previous posts to this thread.)  And finally, I can encourage other players to do the same.

But I think the best way to encourage strategic play has to stem from game design.  We desperately need more, defensive oriented factions; we need richer play and more options regarding back-row cards (items, auras and traps).  The goblins have really done a remarkable job keeping the game balanced and rich; there are significant challenges in designing cards that facilitate good, reactive play.  The first is that, unlike offensive cards, defensive cards cannot be highly specialized.  If a card is effectively wasted unless my opponent plays in a certain way (examples include natural order, forest canopy, essence exchange, melt, doomsong, etc.), I cannot afford the deck space -- there are too many potential threats to have specialized defenses against each.  Offensive cards can be specialized because I can control how I play, but defensive cards depend upon how my opponents play.  The second problem is that many of the problematic or potentially cards (for example, blood orb, fire prism, pack attack, triton aquamancer, chronomancer, etc.) are either all or nothing.  They can only really be stopped by destruction: they can't be shut down, they can't be partially removed (injured).

So what do I suggest?

I would love to see more defensive cards effective against a gauntlet of potential threats.  For example: a barrier that blocks special abilities of all cards in its lane for as long as it is in play and a minion that destroys objects in its path when first played (unlike nobbling elders which must first survive long enough to act).  For that matter, a minion that strips special abilities from an opposing force when it is played (as opposed to primal ooze which must survive to have this effect) would be nice.  

I would like to see additional immunities such as immunity to auras and items.  I understand that this would probably require some retrofitting to give the immunity to select cards in existing factions, and extreme care would be needed with cards like burning world and gravity well that are balanced based upon their harming both friendly and enemy creatures.

And I would like to see more ways cards could be effectively used even if their primary target is unavailable.  For instance, I don't feel horrible having darkling snatchers in my deck -- even if my opponent has no items.  The snatcher always doubles as a cheap blocker should I need one.  And, interestingly, while essence exchange was never used in my recorded card use tally, the seemingly less effective essence drift was used 11 times (not frequently, but significantly more).  Why?  Because essence drift could be effectively used on friendly cards, and, with the free card draw as well as the ability to trigger an archmage special, it can be effectively used even if not for its primary purpose.  Essence exchange cannot be used in this way.  And traps like smash or essence jar that may never be triggered still have value as a trigger for savage trappers or as way to channel stranglevines into a more desirable lane.  Special purpose, reactive cards suddenly become viable if they have a meaningful alternative use.  For instance, a minion with a special power, "double click and drag over a card in your hand to destroy that card and give this minion +1 strength" would give any otherwise unplayable card some value.

I'm sure there are other ideas along these lines; I strongly suspect the goblins already have several in the already planned future factions.  But these are suggestions I have.