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Blue vs. Black nerf test session report

I’ve composed this report back in February, before quarantines, but never got around to publish it (wanted to test more before posting, but never got the opportunity)

We’ve spent an evening with @bolyarich in a coffeeshop testing Blue vs Black nerfs.

Changes we managed to check out this time, for reference

Blue changes

Blue starter:
Lawful Search is now Search Warrant, 1g Upgrade “Sacrifice: Look at opponents hand or discard. Draw a card.”
Building Inspector discounts your first building by 1g instead of taxing opponent’s buildings.
Porky’s activated ability costs 1g less

Blue Tech I:
Tax Collector is now 3/3

Blue Tech II:
Spectral Tiger has Resist 1
Drill Sergeant can’t move more than 2 runes per turn.

Black changes

Black heroes:
Vandy’s midband is now 4-5 instead of 3-4; Maxband at 6.
Garth’s midband ability to draw cards is now limited to once per turn;

Black starter:
Deteriorate costs 1g
Thieving Imp is now 2/1

Black Tech I:
Bone Collector is now 3/2

Black spells:
Dark Pact now also deals 1 damage to Vandy herself

We played only two games, but those were not normal “games” per se, we were analyzing every turn and every play, considering options, odds and outs together, so we got a decent insight into what’s going on in the matchup with the changes.

Recap of the first game P1 Black vs P2 Blue

P1 Black vs P2 Blue
P1T1 Vandy + Haunt + Javelineer. P2T1 Porky + Traffic
P1T2 Imp, trade board with SQL Porky. P2T2 Inspector + throwaway Bigby + float
P1T3 Graveyard + Dark Pact + Bone Collector, kill Bigby, max Vandy. P2T3 Tech II + throwaway hero again
P1T4 Heroes Hall + units, some trading. P2T4 Eyes of the Chancellor + Brave Knight + some 1/1s
P1T5 Garth + Metamorph, kill Tech II. P2T5 max Oni
P1T6 Kill Tech II again… [Blue builds Surplus sometime around this turn]
P1T7 And again…
P1T8 And again, but also Tech I this time…
P1T9 Get rekt by Judgement Day when Blue was almost dead to pressure.

First techs for Black were Dark Pact and Bone Collector; Blue teched Tax Collector + Brave Knight

Second techs were Shadowblade and Metamorph vs Blue’s Eyes of the Chancellor + Spectral Tiger

Later Black added Hoodies, Sickness and Twilight Baron (never actually played it tho), while Blue added Retellers, Scribe, Free Speech.

Blue was able to build and protect Truth Tech II on T3, played Eyes of the Chancellor on T4, protecting self from Metamorph’s invisibility.

Starting from Turn 5, Black was able to repeatedly clear entire Blue’s patrol zone and destroy Tech II FOUR TURNS IN A ROW (!!!). Black never built Tech II and never really fell behind on board. Between Haunt, Sickness, Deteriorate and Orpal’s midband efficient clearing of small Blue units and tokens, Black was mostly able to efficiently land his Sacrifice effects to kill bigger Blue 3/3s.

Eventually Black built an enormous board (2 Bone Collectors, Hoody, Imp, some skeletons, two max level heroes), killed both Blue’s tech buildings, to which Blue responded with Judgement Day, and was finally able to stabilize. However, Blue Base HP were at 4 at this point, so Blue was dead to Gargoyle untapping (and being buffed by maxVandy) with the only out being a lucky Injunction topdeck (2 out of 6), which did happen so Blue actually managed to steal a win in the end.

The takeaway from this game is that Black earlygame nerfs were enough to let Blue start playing normal Player 2 game (which is to hide behind patrol and build up to Tech II), but Black is still so incredibly resource efficient that it was able to maintain the ridiculous pressure of clearing patrol zone again and again and sinking 5 damage into Tech II building again and again basically indefinitely while also having spare resources to continue developing the board and eventually even killing both tech buildings, up until Blue managed to cycle the deck to that Judgement Day. Blue, EVEN WITH SURPLUS ALIVE FOR FOUR TURNS, with constant stream of Patrol bonuses and Black payng the 5 damage tax every turn, was STILL slowly losing the value game.

Bone Collector and Thieving Imp -1 HP nerfs were unnoticable — Black mostly used them to kill Tech II or trade with something big. Did not feel like Black lost much options and flexibility without extra 1 HP on these. Probably safe nerfs.

1g Deteriorate, Vandy midband nerf to levels 4-5 and Dark Pact dealing 1 damage to Vandy were cornerstone to preventing the usual complete blowout of Blue in the first few turns. These nerfs felt good. Meaningful, yet keeping the cards strong, just not as OP as before. Vandy HP management suddenly became important. Very pleased with these.

Second game, P1 Blue vs P2 Black

P1T1 Onimaru + Search Warrant (the Upgrade version of Lawful Search) P2T1 Haunt + Orpal + Graveyard
P1T2 Kill Elite Orpal, Midband Oni, Inspector, Director. P2T2 Jandra + Vandy, trade with Haunt and replay it, no Tech I
P1T3 Overeager Cadet, Arrest Jandra, Manufactured Truth a 1/1 into Jandra, kill Vandy with fake Jandra, max Oni (still has two -1/-1 runes from Orpal, so not as scary as usual), kill Graveyard. P2T3 Garth + Skeleton, Javelineer, Tech I
P1T4 Sacrifice Search Warrant, Elite Training, clear patrol, run sickened Oni into Jandra while Black has no heroes, develop Quince. P2T4 Plague Spitter and Disease Tech II
P1T5 Peace Tech II, Manufactured Truth’d Mirror and Soldier kill Spitter, Quince and Cadet deal 3 dmg to Tech II. P2T5 Orpal, Carrion Curse discarding both FSGs, spend 4 gold playing units

(At this point Blue pretty much lost the game. Blue drew 4 card hand from a 13-card deck, managed to get both FSGs, and they both got sniped by Carrion Curse, so Blue was left with 2 cards and very limited cycling (1 Scribe and 1 Search Warrant) in a deck full of cheap units to cycle with Garrisons. We still played it out, but, as expected, in a few turns Blue, despite being in a relatively secure position up until this point, hopelessly folded to Gorgons, Abominations and Soulstones.)

P1T6 Max Oni, try to turtle. P2T6 Abomination + Gorgon
P1T7 Tech III + Tech Lab. P2T7 Vandy + Soulstone + second Abomination + clear Blue’s patrol zone
P1T8 Cycle a bit, draw and play Judgement Day (Soulstoned Abom survives), stash Liberty Gryphon, end turn with Bigby and L1 Quince. P2T8 Clear patrol zone with Abom and heroes, play Gorgon and Plague Spitter, maxband Orpal and Vandy
P1T9 Finally draw and play FSG, Arrest Spitter with Oni, Liberty Gryphon finishes off last Abomination. P2T9 Death and Decay clearing Blue’s board, break FSG, Tech III and Tech II, Blue concedes.

Without handsize it was impossible for Blue to assemble key combos like Hallucinate + Sergeant, and FSGs being delayed by 3 turns was more than enough to secure the board and eventual victory for Black.

Takeaways — Blue was in pretty much the same position Black was in previous game on Turn 5. Except that at this point Black’s offensively statted units were able to clear Tech II, while Blue’s weak units were unable to. Unlike Black, Blue was could not continuously match the racking up value of Patrol Bonuses by Player 2, eventually had to give up initiative, and resorted to teching up and playing defensive game. However, a single unlucky event of drawing both FSGs into Black’s Carrion Curse was enough to completely dismantle Blue’s strategy and the game ended up in a relative blowout after that.

This whole game reinforces my current perception of the matchup as “Ten thousand things have to go Blue’s way for Blue to have a shot at winning, while Black needs but a single advantageous event to seize the victory”. With nerfs it’s not as bad as it was, but still pretty bad.

Also takeaways — Building Inspector making your buildings cheaper instead of opponent’s more expensive felt powerful. It’s a conditional 0g 1/1, which is very interesting and makes playing around Sacrifice effects that much easier. Also makes Jail’s enormous 3g cost easier to swallow, which I think is good. Liking this buff a lot.
“Banking” a card in Search Warrant when failing to hit either 1drop on P1T1 felt good. Sacrifice timing turned out to be a minor, but interesting strategic decision.
Abomination is a very powerful unit in this matchup because it denies Quince Mirrors. Blue has had a glimpse of a comeback opportunity with surviving Tech III and plenty of gold for Mirrored Liberty Gryphon combos, but Abomination completely shuts these off.

Overall, tested buffs and nerfs felt like steps in a right direction.

Early game felt… Fair, I guess.

Surprisingly, however, it’s still does not look to be enough to fix the matchup.

I think now it’s time to look at how Blue and Black’s midgame (turns 3-6) match against each other. At this point it feels like Black is way too resource efficient in comparison. Playing any expensive units (which are usually necessary to secure SQL and force bad trades as a comeback measure) for Blue is practical suicide because of extreme efficiency of Hoody and Sacrifice the Weak. Maneuvering around Black’s one million ways to kill 1/1s is very hard, so protecting big 4g+ boys with small fodder is impossible, even with 1g Deteriorate. 3g units is about as expensive as Blue can afford to inevitably lose to Sacrifice effect.

It’s hard to suggest any fix in particular, because many moving parts.

I don’t think any more nerfs/buffs to starters are warranted. Except for maybe Graveyard, but I don’t know how to nerf it (maybe make it blow up with 3 units instead of 4? idk).

Graveyard is subtly super powerful because it prevents Black’s deck from being flooded with junk minions, making Black super consistent at hitting those Sickness/Deteriorate + StW combos. It basically filters 3-4 Tech 0 cards out of Black’s deck (itself, Imp, Haunt, Javelineer) as early as turn 2, while also providing a Surplus-like bonus of an extra playable card every turn — unmatched utility, all at tech 0 for a humble 2g! Of course, Black has to protect it, but that’s usually no problem, given how superb is it’s early game and how good is Sacrifice the Weak when you play it almost every turn thanks to slim deck + Dark Pact.

Out of Hero cards, I would consider making max Onimaru 1g cheaper, letting Quince have 2 ATK at mid or maxband, making Quince’s midband ability 1g cheaper, and/or bumping Orpal’s midband to 4-6. A more radical change in Zvi style would be buffing Mirrors to 0/2s. This is to “fix” Mirrors being easily dismantled with Haunt and completely shut down by a single Abomination.

Out of Tech I and spells, Hoody seems to be one of the key culprits in value game. Shadowblades, Dark Pact and Sickness feel as oppressive as usual. Carpet nerfing all of these would probably be too much, though.

Cutting Readiness from Metamorphosis might be meaningful — having those 5/6 heroes not only hit your Tech II building, but then ALSO protect Graveyard and Bone Collectors from whatever retaliation is adding insult to an injury.

Tech IIs no opinion. We have to fix midgame before we can properly address the lategame.

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$1 Pestering Haunt…

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Yeah, haven’t tested this one this time.

Looks like an interesting change. Weakens Graveyard and Sacrifice as collateral. Helps protecting Mirrors. Reduces overall efficiency. Addresses many of the issues we’ve encountered during test games with one small cost adjustment. Like it.

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haunt doesnt effect sacrifice effects, so not sure what you mean there.

Because you now have to pay to take the Haunt out of the Graveyard, so the sacrificed unit doesn’t make it collapse. Not a major change, but it slows down two of the nastier early game cards.

Expensive Haunt makes it harder for Black to keep clearing opposing fodder 1/1s that would soak Sacrifice.

Currently Black Starter can remove one such 1/1 with Haunt and replay it for 0g every turn at no loss with Graveyard on board. Essentially, using Graveyard as delayed ping effect.

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