You certainly could make a case for reworking Jaina pretty comprehensively - her design isn’t particularly elegant or cohesive. But I’m a bit resistant to the idea, because although she’s not a great character, she’s not really dysfunctional either - just a little weak. I feel this is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
So what do players find fun about Jaina? I guess this could help.
-I love her combo routes. Her throws are beautiful late game. Its why I played her for so long.
-Her Aces are fun to use.
-Her danger mode is really fun to play with. (From her side at least.)
-Her 10 ability.
-Chip damage checkmates. (From her side.)
I agree with a lot of this.
Jaina’s combos - straights, throw payoffs, giant bodies and even spaghetti are all really satisfying. Getting the key cards back to threaten the same thing next turn makes it even better (and see below).
Jaina is unusual in that she’s a rushdown character (at least ostensibly) who needs to pay very careful attention to her hand and resource management: Keeping precious blocks and throws in hand (and when to use them, since she has few of them and needs a big hand), which cards to buy back, when to spend resources she can’t buy back like Qs and 7s. Compared to Shadow Plague, Shenanigans and Speed of the Fox, Burning Vigor leaves a lot to be desired as a card flow engine, making for an interesting challenge - similar to Valerie, but more slanted towards offense.
The flip side of how Burning Vigor often leaves Jaina hurting even when she wins combat is her ample chip damage and 10* (and resulting checkmates), which give you something of a consolation prize when she hits blocks or reasonable clashes. You can play in a very aggressive style and gradually force your opponent towards the endgame, but still have to respect others’ 0.0 options, especially since she lacks a go-to dodge payoff (while still able to deliver humongous damage off a dodge if she has the right cards, again similarly to Valerie.) Her gameplay feels very strategic, unusual for a rushdown character.
The problem I have is that it really looks to me like Jaina’s design is broken, both in terms of flavor and gameplay. What I was trying to say in my earlier post when I said that she took Ken’s slot is that most of her deck feels the same as Grave’s deck but tweaked to be more aggressive (much like how Ken started out as a “more aggressive” Ryu). Because of both that origin as a stand-in for Ken and her lore/flavor, she’s trying to be both a zoner and a rushdown character at the same time… But she isn’t really succeeding at either.
As MJ pointed out above, her innate hurts her not just in the literal sense, but also because it makes her attack option so card efficient that opponents try to throw her too rarely. They’ll mostly blodge and use fast attacks instead. In theory she should be fine with them playing Block because of high chip damage and Dodge because of Smoldering Embers, but if she wants to keep pressuring with her attacks she needs to hurt herself enough that the chip damage doesn’t keep up with the self-damage on Block unless she plays either a really slow normal or either side of her Jack (and they’re still building a hand faster than her if she plays the Jack, which is meant to be her signature card). Meanwhile the damage dealt by Smoldering Embers doesn’t really make up for getting hit with their follow-up, especially since she probably wants to buy back her attack here too.
Her Jack probably needs an overhaul more than any other part of her character, though, since it’s supposed to be her signature move (remember that her bow is featured prominently in her Yomi art and she uses arrow-based attacks as the core of her gameplay in both Codex and Fantasy Strike, the two most recent takes on her character). Let’s compare how all the characters categorized as Zoners in Fantasy Strike work in Yomi:
Lightning Cloud (J) is his main zoning tool. 2.4 speed beats or trades with most characters’ fastest normals, and if it’s blocked and does block damage it returns to hand and they don’t draw from blocking. This means that they have to either dodge or play an attack with 2.2 speed or faster if they want to beat it outright, and if they keep blocking Grave gets to prevent the opponent from building a hand any faster than him while also chipping away at their health. Also, if the opponent plays a fast attacks and Grave blocks, he gets to activate Knowing the Opponent for a chance to either accelerate his drawing or get a free Q, neither of which the opponent wants.
Time Spiral comes in two flavors. Fast Time Spiral (J) is much like Grave’s Lightning Cloud, down to having the same speed and damage (but not block damage), whereas Slow Time Spiral (Q) is 1.0 speed slower and does 2 less damage on hit in exchange for being a Linker instead of an Ender. Importantly, where Lightning Cloud returns to Grave’s hand if it deals block damage, Time Spirals instead activate Geiger’s Time Stop innate. This shuts down any block-based innates and lets Geiger throw the opponent (still dealing block damage, which is why Time Spiral does 2 block damage instead of Lightning Cloud’s 3). Thus, Geiger doesn’t build his hand at the same speed as the opponent if his projectile meets their block, since he spends two cards minimum when he uses Time Stop, but he does more damage, removes their block card from their hand, and still prevents them from drawing from blocking. Geiger also has two ranks of projectiles instead of one and can retrieve a J or Q each time he activates Temporal Distortion, meaning that he gets up to 12 uses of his zoning tools per game. If opponents try to out-speed them and he blocks, then he gets more fuel for a huge Temporal Distortion combo later.
Hex of Murkwood and Bubble Shield are so important to how Arg and his opponents play that they have to come first. Because Hex keeps doing damage to the opponent every turn that Arg isn’t knocked down, Bubble Shield accelerates that damage and protects Arg if he can win combat with it, and most characters can knock down with their throws, the opponent will want to throw a lot. Because of that any reasonably fast attack is hugely valuable for Arg, since the opponent can then only KD by dodging into a KD move or playing a faster attack that combos into a KD move (and many characters don’t have the second option). I would argue that Arg’s zoning tools are primarily Flying Fish (J, which fits the standard projectile mold set by Lightning Cloud and Fast Time Spiral), Water Spirit (Q, a slightly faster and stronger Flying Fish when combat-revealed), and 2-attack (has normal draw and the same speed as Flying Fish, but the lowest damage of the three on hit). If the opponent blocks or dodges the best of these to play is probably 2-attack because of how little damage it would have done if it hit and because you still draw if they blocked. That said, Arg doesn’t like running any of them into a block or dodge, but that’s fine because of how good Hex and Bubble Shield are. If you go Bubble Shield against their block, Arg gets free damage. Bubble Shield against dodge is even better, since they lose the dodge that could have let them knock Arg down. They can’t just throw all the time, since you’ve got all those zoning options, but Arg likes going block/blodge, and if he mixes in a few throws he can make them more likely to play the fast attacks that his Bubble Shield beats. He’s the only one who can’t keep or recur his zoning tools when he plays them, but he can still use more than just those 12 cards over the course of the game (again, any attack is useful to keep them from throwing Bubble Shield).
With all of the above in mind, Jaina’s J has problems. Flame Arrow is the side that’s most similar to the other three characters’ Js, but it’s at 2.6 speed instead of the other three’s 2.4 speed… Already bad, since that means every attack at 2.4 speed beats her J cleanly instead of trading with it, meaning that she needs to use other cards more to compensate. Grave and Geiger both deny their opponents the chance to draw from blocking whenever they use their Js, but Jaina doesn’t—she just deals 5 block damage (which is more than Grave, further confirming my “Jaina is Grave but more aggressive” theory, but less than Geiger because of Time Stop). Grave and Geiger both can get their Js back at little to no cost (Lightning Cloud is automatic if it does block damage and Time Spirals return as part of activating Temporal Distortion, which is such a strong ability that the recur is essentially a free bonus). Jaina can get back her Flame Arrows too… At the cost of 3 life, which is 60% of the block damage she just dealt. So she’s slowly killing herself, effectively only changing the difference in life between herself and her opponent by 2 (worse than all three of the others, thanks to Geiger’s and Arg’s innates adding extra damage on), and not denying her opponent any cards to make up for it.
Charged Shot doesn’t feel like a good combat reveal option either because of how slow it is, though it does have a better block damage to self-damage ratio (7:3 instead of 5:3) and it leads into more damage on hit because it’s a starter instead of an ender, but it seems like a normal would be better to combat-reveal early game than either side of J because of normal draw and K is better to reveal late than either side of J because it’s faster (seriously, why is Crossfire Kick 2.4 speed when Flame Arrow isn’t?) and leads into bigger combos.
Meanwhile, if she successfully predicts that the opponent will play a fast attack and goes for a block or dodge… She doesn’t get any special payoff like Grave or Arg does from blocking, just building toward a big hand like Geiger (except without Temporal Distortion to make it truly ridiculous), and she doesn’t have a good dodge follow-up without Aces.
I’ll admit I don’t really play any of these characters as well as I probably should, so anything I say about how they work or their balance has a good chance of being at least partially mistaken, but it feels to me like Jaina just doesn’t have anywhere near enough reason to combat reveal Flame Arrow (or Charged Shot, but I like the idea from earlier to make it a good dodge follow-up instead). Surely there’s some way to make shooting arrows at people the thing you want to do at least early-game as the archer character?
(Also I wrote most of this before JonnyD and ArthurWynne’s most recent posts, so it kind of ignores them. Sorry about that!)
A good breakdown, but I feel like the only real takeaway is “Jaina’s tools are too weak for her intended gameplan” which is already the premise of this discussion.
I will say that “Like Grave, but more aggressive” is how I’ve always conceptualized Jaina: A zoner/rushdown hybrid character rather than pure rushdown. In my opinion, changes made to her should have that playstyle as their aim (which is why I’m becoming more and more partial to giving her 90 HP).
Part of the trouble with her (which was even more the case in 1E) is that this is a hard playstyle to create the right incentives and flavor “feel” for, so she ends up in practice being more like a zoning character using a rushdown toolkit… with predictably dubious results.
I suppose I ought to clarify my position, then. I believe that Jaina should have a similar amount of incentive to combat-reveal her Flame Arrows as the other zoners I mentioned do for their Jacks, especially as she is supposed to be the Phoenix Archer, and currently she does not. If I’m understanding the situation correctly, the problem is not just that Flame Arrow is too weak (though that doesn’t help). At least part of the problem is that unlike Grave and Geiger, whenever her Flame Arrow gets blocked the opponent still gets to draw a card and return the block to their hand in addition to only taking 2 more damage than she deals to herself to get the Arrow back. Both Grave and Geiger do more effective damage than Jaina when their Js get blocked while also denying the draw from blocking. I also don’t think that making Flame Arrow a Linker (as suggested earlier) would help this problem since that does nothing to make it better on block. Rather, my idea would be to have an ability on her J that worked something like this:
Flame Trap [End of Combat]
If either side of this card wins combat or deals block damage, the opponent doesn’t draw a card from blocking and you may search your deck for a Jack. (Shuffle your deck if you searched it.)
This would be in addition to changing Flame Arrow to 2.4 speed and/or increasing its damage and block damage by 1. Credit to @thehug0naut for the idea of fetching a Jack, which I like because it changes the tradeoff the first three times you either win combat with an arrow or get blocked from “do I just give up having this arrow or pay 3 life to keep it” to “do I replace this arrow with one from my deck for free or pay 3 life to build my hand.” Combined with making it so the opponent doesn’t draw from blocking them (which was taken from Grave’s Lightning Trap), the hand size change goes from +0/+1 for Jaina (depending on whether she buys back) and +2 for the opponent to +1/+2 and +1.
I don’t know whether this ability and some tweaks to Flame Arrow would be enough to make J good, though I suspect making Charge Shot a better dodge followup would do the rest of the work. If we take the Charge Shot change that @FenixOfTheAshes suggested (not saying the other versions were bad, just that I like this one—substitute your own preferred version as needed), you get this as her Jack:
Flame Arrow: 7 damage (6 block damage), 2.4 speed, 1 cp Ender
Charged Shot: 10 damage (9 block damage), 5.0 speed, 2 cp Starter
Ability as shown above
Like I’ve said in my previous posts on this topic, I’m not a Jaina player so I can’t speak from knowing her well, and I’m not an expert player with any other characters so I don’t have that going for me either. I don’t mind if any of my specific ideas get shot down as long as they can inspire someone to come up with even better ideas. That said, I’d like to think this is a good idea…!
What is this?
From the Street Fighter wiki (I went with this definition because of Yomi’s connection to SF):
The wake-up game is a term used to refer to tactics centered around attacking downed opponents in fighting games. The equivalent term in Japan is Okizeme (起き攻め? “Rousing Attack” or “Wakeup Offense”)
In most of the Street Fighter series and many other ‘2D’ fighting games…the opponent cannot be attacked until they are considered standing up, giving them time to generate defense; as such, the wake-up game is more psychological, and relies on determining players’ actions upon recovering from knockdown.
FWIW, most of the conversations I’ve heard on this topic use the Japanese term okizeme, or oki for short.
Alternatively, you can be like Aris and call it “okizoomi”, “okazima”, or just ask “what’s for breakfast”.
Jaina in particular has a pretty fun one when the opponent is knocked down. Solid dodges late game. Dps that undercut knockdown defense / chip out and high reward normals that can cross up. (With her innate she usually has both even/odd mixup)
I really like the way you’ve turned my suggestion into a Grave-style suppression tool with hand building potential. If I could like it twice I would!
Though I feel compelled to point out that fenix had suggested a 10(9) slow J at 5.0 speed, at least the last time they mentioned it. Personally I don’t really like slow J only being 1 damage more than fast J, and 10(9) just feels right for some unknown reason.
Oh, I hadn’t noticed the damage increase when I looked at it. I agree wholeheartedly, it does feel better that way, so I’ll change it ASAP!
While I’m thinking of it, if the new version of her Jack isn’t good enough as-is, there’s also the option to increase the damage of Flame Arrow to 8(7) and/or adjust the new ability to allow drawing a card either as a replacement for the J search or an alternative option alongside it. I suspect that may not be necessary, but I’d rather get the idea out there while it’s on my mind.
I’ve been absorbing ideas from Hobusu and others and trying to concoct a version of Jaina that feels more elegant as a zoner/rushdown hybrid. Here’s my idea:
x.4 normal attacks
-When you deal 3 or more block damage, draw a card. You may followup with Flame Arrow. If you do, the opponent doesn’t draw a card from blocking.
-If you have 40 life or less, your attacks deal double block damage.
-Smoldering Embers moved to J*, returns to hand from discard when triggered, and you can power up with it
-Charged Shot: 5.0 speed 8(7) dmg KD Can’t Combo
-Flame Arrow: 2.4 speed 6(2) dmg 1cp Linker
-Everything the same except it deals 2 block damage
Unstable Power moved to 2* - “While Burning Desperation is active, you may take 10 damage to rotate this 180 degrees.”
Possible changes not crucial to the design:
-Buff Knee Bash: there are lots of good ways to go about this
-inevitable number tweaks: maybe 2.2 K, maybe reduce Charged Shot block dmg, etc.
Oh man I’m getting giddy reading through these sweet Jaina ideas
On related note, @jonnyD and I played a really silly Jaina mirror QM earlier tonight. Afterwards my brain fanboyed its way into the idea of a box release with two Jainas, similar to the Panda Vs G.Panda set. Jonny suggested the second Jaina could be the version of Jaina that joins the Blood Anarchs. That got me thinking, perhaps it would be called Fire and Fury in the alt universe where it exists.
My point here is that building two versions of Jaina is a perfectly reasonable undertaking since there’s precedent for a character vs alt. character release. I for one would definitely buy a set.
A version of Jaina like this that draws cards instead of rebuying them could actually have a 2.2 speed tatsu!
I intentionally left K at 2.4 because I think it makes for some really interesting decision making on Jaina’s part between her 2.4 speed starters.
2: normal draw, 1cp (using it early means you can’t threaten Unstable Power in Desperation)
K: triggers Burning Vigor, 2cp
J: only triggers Burning Vigor in Desperation, 1cp (could recur later)
That makes sense why you’d keep it at 2.4 then. We can keep the idea of a non-recurring 2.2 speed move in mind in case it becomes needed during testing.
I’m planning on putting the wiki thread of changes up later today and I’ll probably include this option as A. Jaina to match SF naming convention. Canoncially it’s probably Anarchist Jaina but conveniently also could be Alternative Jaina or even Angry Jaina. Now what we need is some character text…
“No more holding back, this arrow’s got your name on it”
I’ve made he wiki thread and made all character posts into wikis so anyone can edit them (as you’ll probably have seen by now).
Feel free to jump in and add to other character posts if you so wish - that’s after all the point of a wiki. I have to go out soon and can’t do any more till later, but I will be adding more when I get the time.
I started with a format I thought works ok, but obviously those who suggested it (@Hobusu @vengefulpickle) might have better ideas of how to lay it out. My main problem is what to do when there are competing suggestions, but I’ll figure that out for Jaina and Zane specifically as they’ll have the most stuff to collate.
The Bureau of Balance (collating and testing fan-made changes)
And now I’ve reached my site wide edit limit and can’t make any more progress anyway
I went ahead and put up DeGrey, since despite being fairly strong he never really got any suggestions for changes other than the one in the first post of the wishlist topic (and thus he was simple enough to write up that I didn’t have to feel too nervous about getting something wrong). As a DeGrey player myself I felt like that one suggestion made sense—he doesn’t really need MHG damage on Final Arbiter—so I decided to include it.
I also adjusted the links in the first post of the Bureau of Balance topic so that they would link to the post here where you said the topic was finished being made instead of the one where you said it was going to be made.