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Nudging the tiller - balance


#1

Codex is astonishingly well balanced, as you would expect for a game 10 years in development. Given the wealth of options offered by each individual spec, and the vast playing field of possible combinations when played together with other specs, the balance in this game really is simply extraordinary.

We are not yet a year into the public life of the game, and clearly the metagame is still developing, however already it has become clear that some cards are getting very little love (e.g. Arresting Constable), whereas other cards are played practically every time a player chooses a particular spec (e.g. MoLaC for Growth, Drill Sergeant for Peace etc).

So for kicks and giggles, here are some suggested changes to buff some under-played cards, and nerf some overplayed ones, in order to broaden the options available to players. Let me emphasise again - these are merely ‘nudges to the tiller’, rather than a huge change in direction. I don’t want to ruin such a finely tuned game!

[details=Neutral]Troq - amend level abilities to topband: upon attack 1 damage to base, midband: upon attack: 2 damage to base, maxband: readiness
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[details=Red]Jaina - lower level bands 1-2, 3-5, 6

Scorch - lower cost to 2

Careless Musketeer - amend ability to increase damage and risk: deal 2 damage to unit, 2 to your base

Rickety Mine - amend ability to draw a card upon arrival, heads: 3 money, tails: 3 money, destroy mine and 5 damage to your base

Detonate - add: draw a card

Calypso Vystari - for fluff this seems like it should be legendary since it is a named unit?

Double-shot Archer - amend ability: when attacking deal 4 damage to base [/details]

[details=Green]Might of Leaf and Claw - increase cost to 4
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[details=Blue]Bluecoat Musketeer- amend ability to remove damage caveat on long range

Jurisdiction - add draw a card or lower cost to 1

Guardian of the Gates - amend stats to 2/6, amend disable ability to affect heroes as well as units

Arresting Constable - amend stats to 2/4, amend ability so that it can disable 2 units

Debilitator Alpha - amend ability to affect heroes as well as units

Drill Sergeant - lower stats to 2/3, increase cost to 4[/details]

[details=Black]Vandy - remove resist 1 on midband

Garth - lower stats to 1/3, 2/3, 3/4

Sacrifice the Weak - amend wording to sacrifice one of your unit, and target an opponents weakest unit

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[details=White]Birds Nest - increase cost to 3

Earthquake - increase cost to 6[/details]

[details=Purple]Vir - increase maxband stats to 4/5

Tinkerer - lower cost to 1 and stats to 1/1

Forgotten Fighter - remove damage caveat on bounce ability

Sentry - increase stats to 3/3

Knight of the Conclave - this needs to be better somehow, but increasing any stats would make it broken. Perhaps add readiness?

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Thoughts welcome!


#2

I have a much more restrained list of tweaks:

Troq - change mid-band to "Attacks: deal 1 damage to a building"
This gives him a niche as a neutral hero who can do the Onimaru thing of destroying a building in one hit (once he gets to max band), or combo with Wrecking Ball x2 to destroy a tech building even through a patrol zone.

Midori - change mid-band to "Your units with no printed abilities gain +1/+1"
Cleans up a ton of rules headaches, buffs mono-green (ie Midori/Cal interaction) without buffing his other interactions

Vandy - remove resist 1
She doesn’t need it, and this weakens early Vandy/Metamorph play by making specific answers better, without affecting the potency of the build if not countered.

Rickety Mine - gains Haste
Spend a card to gain a gold is almost worth it, and the potential upside of getting 3 more next turn etc. makes up for the tech slot.

Guardian of the Gates - increase HP to 8, leave ability as is
Debilitator Alpha - ability affects all attackers while patrolling as squad leader, even if they bypass him
This gives mono-blue a couple of options for defensive units that have a unique effect on the game, rather than just being over-costed raw stats.

Masked Raccoon - reduce cost to 3
This makes it an Iron Man with upside, befitting it’s Tech II status, and encouraging the fun “get cute animals & ninjas into play” gameplay.

Sentry - ability changed to "Prevent the first damage per turn that would be dealt to one of your patrollers"
This give it general utility as a defensive / answer unit, but the 2 hp remains weak on attack.


#3

I’ve always wondered what the logic was behind making sentry’s wording so much more complicated. That fix would be my number one just based on being so much more intuitive. It has a kinda interesting interaction with tiny basilisk, in that it could potentially negate the deathtouch, in a way that could still be played around.


#4

I’d like to see Masked Raccoon changed


#5

I think less is more when it comes to changes and I heartily agree that the game is mostly great. It would be interesting to see what other ways to win would become popular if you nerf the current ones, and I agree that either Drill Sergeant or Flagstone Garrison is a little too strong. Might of Leaf and Claw is a bit too strong, but maybe that is because there are so few ways to interact with upgrades? It’s funny to me that some cards are really strong and tech II and that’s OK because tech II should be very strong…then other tech II’s are really weak and that’s OK because the whole spec needs to be balanced against the hero/spells/tech I/II/III options. At the end of the day, the balance is quite good but there are cards that are beyond niche - they just aren’t worth it.

A large-scale move to improve the clarity of the cards would have the biggest benefit. It’s really weird when 2 cards do almost the same thing, but not quite (Drill Sergeant and Moss Ancient trigger differently; Porkhand Magistrate, Arrest, Arresting Constable all have different arresting conditions [unit/hero, units, units tech II and below]). I think a clarity pass could upset balance, but would have long-term benefits for existing players as well as newer players (consistency, easier to learn). The game is quite complicated on a system-level and having a greater cohesion among the cards would be a huge boon.


#6

I particularly like this change. I think that if some of the power of the card is concentrated in the ability to net gold the turn you play it, you would also maybe reduce the cost and gold output to 1 and 2, respectively, so it isn’t as swingy for future turns.


#7

Youd have to reduce the base damage if you nrfed it that far. Personally blood feels like it should be a gamble, so it works as 3 gold for 2, imo.


#8

I am staunchly against any balance changes at the moment. Maybe in the future, but we just kinda got past a vandy everywhere meta and past/peace/anarchy is only now beginning to see it’s dominance slip. In our extremely small echo chamber of a community, meta will be slower to evolve then for a much bigger game. 1 year here is like babys first step.

I like to refer to ssbm’s tier rankings over time. Note that the first data point on the chart is actually 1 year into the games lifespan which I think is kinda fitting. Also note that tournament staples like captain falcon, ice climbers, peach & jigglypuff took literally years to climb the rankings.


#9

Oh, I am inclined to agree on changes not being done anytime soon, but I think it is useful to have the discussion anyway.


#10

I think you meant Blooming Ancient.

But I’m totally in agreement that some things should be worded better. I remember saying in the rules thread a few weeks ago that exactly what each card with the “target” symbol can actually target should be made explicit. As for consistency - I’m inclined to agree, but there’s the potential that it could lead to unwanted balance changes. I mean, Blooming Ancient is obviously strictly better than Drill Sergeant, but no-one would argue that DS is underpowered, while BA is not the Growth Tech 2 that gets complains of OP-ness. In part it’s because of how cards fit into their overall spec (DS is really good because it combos really well with Garrison and Cadet, for example).


#11

Yes, I did meaning Blooming Ancient. Perhaps they are worded differently to give them texture; Blooming Ancient is in Growth after all, anything that comes into play (no matter how it got there) helps it grow. Drill Sergeant is all about units, but that’s where the flavor isn’t as good. Drill Sergeant can grow as a result of units coming into play, but maybe he would be more flavorful if he HAD to give his counters away (which might also be a slight nerf). That would fit the flavor of a real drill sergeant - improving the troops as they come into play, not growing arbitrarily large then attacking then moving some of its power to his troops.

When you play a unit from your hand, put a +1/+1 rune on it

…would be a much more Drill Sergeant-y flavor than the current almost identical version of another powerful Tech II (with better flavor). In fact, you might be able to remove the “from your hand” rider since this would be substantially weaker. Then you could combo with Murkwood Allies or Bird’s Nest.


#12

I’d think Troq needs a complete reboot to be more competitive as well as fitting more to his theme (growing, being brutal, being beefy…).
Bashing spec really suffers of unfun and lacks flavourful things. All Tech II stuff in Codex seem OP, except in Bashing…

Some ultimates are disappointingly weak : Final Smash, Mind Control and Final Showdown are the worse, but Appel Stomp, TPoS and Fox Den’s Students might need a little (not too big) buff too.

I agree with all the unbalanced things you and EricF are quoting, but I’d add Pirate Gunship which is really incredibly more powerful than other Tech III units. What about increasing its cost to 11 ? I’d also up the cost of Ebbflow Archon to 12.

[details=Some little changes I’d like to see : ]1. Adding Draw 1 or some cool effect to Hallucination (and maybe Dreamscape ?) Having 2 times the same spell makes Quince not that fun to play with.
2. What about adding some card management to Red and Neutral specs ? They are awesome with a Graveyard or tokens to feed the Techn slot, but very weak on their owns.
3. Bone Collector nerfed (2hp ? or can’t patrol ?)
4. I’d love the Fire non-ultimate spells to have the same cost but different effects, so Cinderblast Dragon would let a real choice.
5. Crashbarrow is really powerful and uncounterable… What about changing it completely ?
6. Mono-Blue really needs some tricks against Tech III and heroes. What about deleting a spell (General’s Hammer ? Hallucination ?) to get something able to prevent such things to get out ? for example by decreasing the next gold pool of the opponent and making him draw more cards ?
7. Flagstone Garrison should probably be a legendary building.
8. Black starter is really OP. How can StW kill Tech III units ? Deteriorate is incredibly versatile, Thieving Imp causes big problems to specs without card management options and Skeleton Javelineer is also a very good 1 cost unit. The only drawback I see is that Pestering Haunt (awesome unit) is dangerous against an opponent Vandy because it can be doomed without be buffed.
9. Fruit Ninja needs some serious buff. What about Deathtouch ?
10. I’d like to see some extra buff to Promise of Payment, such as “give 2 levels to an hero”, draw 1 or something like that.
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As it is, I find Codex very frustrating. I’d love to try every card combinations but yeah some mono-specs gameplans are working so well (Demonology hero-based, Peace Flagstone Garrison, Blood + Crashbarrows, Law in FFA) that most cards never leave my Codex. How many Arresting Constables and Sneaky Pigs did you see in game ? Even if their arts are awesome !
But yeah Codex is still great, mostly as casual player.


#13

Small comment on Promise of Payment, that card is deceptively powerful, since the cost resolution happens after worker money arrives, so as long as you have enough workers to pay for a thing, you’re fine. For instance, Octavian has an ability costing 8, but with Promise of Payment & Now! you can spend 11 to get Octavian, give it haste, use its ability and attack all in one turn. Since it’s a disabling ability you get nearly a free turn without getting attacked (exception being haste), so the lack of money the following turn isn’t a huge problem compared to the board position you gain, though if you have an anyway decent board position by then you’ve already won.


#14

It’s a 3 card combo, with a Tech III…
And that means empty next turn :o
And that’s only in theory, because you won’t always get it the turn you need it and it still costs a card !
It’s not the weakest spell of the set, but yeah that’s something very risky for its benefits, especially compared other spells :confused:


#15

Out of all the things you mentioned, it DOES bug me how powerful Pirate Gunship is. Haste, really? And it’s not in a weak spec or anything to balance things out, it’s in a spec with a unique/powerful hero with an awesome spell and decent tech Is. I really hate losing to that card because unlike most of the game where you have a turn to respond, it’s usually just GG. Oh and it’s not legendary, so you can get 2 played against you just for fun.


#16

Hells, yes.

I think the general Sirlin rule of thumb for balance is: if anything is clearly God tier, maybe nudge it down a bit; everything else: try to bring up to A-tier. That way you’re making things more fun rather than taking away what was fun about the other things.

I think in this context the focus has to be on getting cards that never see play to see play, so that more of the choices folks make in the game are meaningful. The Masked Racoon, Rickety Mine, Careless Musketeer, (maybe Scorch), Detonate, BC Musketeer, Jurisdiction, GotG, AConstable, DAlpha, Tinkerer, and Sentry suggestions all fit this bill. I would suggest that the others that need tweaks are the ones in the Red Herring thread.

Personally, the one I haven’t seen yet in this thread is Warp Gate Disciple. Has anyone gotten it to work? Can’t it be a 1/3 or at least a 1/2? You’re effectively delaying your “real” tech coming into play by a full turn to make sure that when it does come, it’s the answer you want. That downside seems enough that there should be some chance of keeping it alive for that extra turn.

As for Knight of the Conclave, the real problem seems to be that you wait forever to get it (or work really hard to get it early) and it doesn’t do anything but block when it gets there. All that money you spent removing time runes could have been spent just as well just plopping an Iron Man into Elite, with a much more immediate effect.
I think KotC needs to have an Arrive ability. My first suggestion would be “Arrives: Disable a patroller,” which would make the opponent think really carefully about how they patrol, and might open them up to some haste plays if they patrol lightly, and would make a surprise early arrival via Time Spiral much more meaningful.
Alternatively, it could be more “Conclavey” and make other stuff work: “Arrives: Add or remove 2 Time runes from a unit (or forecasted unit) with at least one time rune.” That way it would have more impact, because it wouldn’t just be showing up. It would be showing up with another Knight or with a Mech Token or with an Omegacron or with a Reaver or and making Tricycloid nuts. Forecast’s whole deal is delayed gratification. Make it delayed orgasm. You’d still have to time it right with your card draws to make it all work (which is Purple’s shtick, right?), and that might be harder than it sounds when you’ve got no defense because your Tech I play is still in the future.

Oh yeah, let’s talk about him! I love the theme with all the 8’s, but is there a worse Tech III?
How about:
Haste
Exhaust, Trash 8 of your workers -> Ready Octavian and disable up to 8 of your opponent’s units and/or heroes.
It would make it clear that he’s just a big, modified Land Octopus, it would have immediate effect, and if it doesn’t win you the game the turn you play him, you’re screwed (and therefore might not want to play the ability yet).

I like the suggestions (Midori, Sentry) for clarity a lot, and I see Niko’s argument for consistency as well.

I think making cards more flavorful also helps, which is why I love @APALM’s suggestion that Vystari be Legendary (even if it means she needs a buff of some sort to compensate). It would also give red some much-needed Mythmaking synergy. Also, it seems weird that she looks like she was influenced by the Tia Dalma/Calypso character. So why doesn’t she turn into a water elemental? (Which would be almost identical to taxman?) For that matter, why isn’t she blue?

Likewise, @NikoBolas’s suggestion that Drill Sergeant automatically gives runes to each new unit, rather than hoarding them and distributing them as he pleases is way more flavorful, and differentiates DS from Blooming Ancient. It would make more of a reason to combo Peace/Growth if you want the combo to go as smoothly as it does now. With that change, Garrison might not need any.

I really like @APALM’s and @EricF’s suggestions for Troq, but I also think Casta has a point here. I would argue that his stats or levels need a change as well, ideally to make him simple but beefier than others. I mean, Vandy has his same stat progression, but with only 5 levels! And all of her abilities are more useful! I’d consider making him 2/3, 4/3, 6/4, and maybe +1 armor when patrolling (though that’s thematically better for Oni), or keeping his stats, but making him midband at Lv. 2.

I see game after game where even when the player’s thoughts talk about trying to experiment with some under-used cards, they end up going with a standard line because it’s the only real answer to what the opponent has done (which is often just play/kill some units/heroes).

I think ultimately (and I know this is crazy), this is a function of how fast the game is. Yes, it takes a long time to play, but you usually only get to tech in 2x Tech I/Spell cards, 2x Tech II/Spell cards, and either 2 more Tech II or 1 or 2 Tech III. And then feces hits the fan. So while a ton of things are cool and combo well in theory, there just isn’t the time/space in a game to get them together to synergize. Anything that doesn’t synergize right away, and often anything that is purely defensive, gets left by the wayside.

Now it’s possible that those Blue defensive cards might be pretty good if you go all in and push for Gryphons? I think @Shax talked about trying them out at some point? But even if it turns out they make for a viable strategy, isn’t there a problem if they’re so not fun to play that no one ever wants to?


#17

This. My suggestions are 90% about buffing cards which are never seen played, and only 10% nerfing overplayed cards.

I hadn’t spotted that Masked Racoon was so weak, largely because I never play White! When I play against Strength though all I see is the birds and earthquake combo…

What were some of the suggestions from the Red Herring thread we’ve missed?


#18

This is the best suggestion for KotC I’ve seen - really flavourful and great synergy with past and future specs. It wouldn’t be teched outside of monopurple but then it isn’t teched at all at the moment.


#19

I’m mostly against buffing cards in the starter decks. The problem with weak cards in a spec is that since they never get teched, it’s as if they don’t exist in the game. Conversely, even if starter deck cards are narrow or bad most of the time, in the few situations when they are decent they can actually get played because they are already in the deck. I’d only be in favor of buffing starter deck cards if the starter as a whole is weak, like maybe blue. For example, Red starter is good enough already without buffing Musketeer/Scorch.


#20

Fiddling with starter decks does indeed hold a greater risk of upsetting game balance, which is why I only suggested amending four of them:

Scorch and both musketeers - currently these are instant workers for me. My suggested buffs bring them up to par. Making scorch 2 cost would also give Jainas spell strategies more legs.

Sac the weak - seems strangely overpowered that it can legitimately destroy untargetabke units and get out of paying for the lookout spot tax. My nerf is fairly minor and the spell would still get a lot of use.

Tinkerer - lowering the stats and cost gives purple a useful 1 drop, which means it would be played and kept in the deck for a multitude of strategies, whether past, present, or future. At the moment I only see people play it to get out KotC quicker, or to debuff opponents time runes units, which isn’t very often.