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Inconsistent Design Issue w/ +1/+1 Runes

Ok, for reference here are the most common Codex cards that deal with +1/+1 counters:

Bashing/Finesse: Bloom
Moss Sentinels: Forest’s Favor, Blooming Ancient, Blooming Elm
Flagstone Dominion: Boot Camp, Drill Sergeant
Whitestar Order: Sparring Partner

Bloom and Forest’s Favor are functionally the same card and they both carry the condition ‘that doesn’t already have a +1/+1 rune’. Both of these cards can put +1/+1 counters on units and/or heroes and generally speaking +1/+1 counters are much stronger on Heroes since you can heal them potentially twice without much effort. These spells are in Starter decks and therefore you will see them fairly often, but I would consider them to be an average starter spell.

Sparring Partner is a Tech I unit that can affect heroes or units, but it also carries the conditional ‘that doesn’t have a +1/+1 rune’. It’s quite good despite this restriction because it encourages you to spread runes around and not pile them onto one unit/hero. The ability to do it more than once per turn is also quite strong and I’ve seen it played quite a bit as well as used it myself often.

Blooming Ancient and Drill Sergeant are functionally very similar, but Blooming Ancient is a bit stronger. Blooming Ancient triggers when ‘a unit or hero arrives’ while Drill Sergeant triggers when ‘you play a unit from your hand’. They both have the exact same ability to ‘remove a +1/+1 rune -> put a +1/+1 rune on another unit’. Both cards cannot give runes to heroes, but Blooming Ancient is easier to trigger. Both are also Tech II units, so these engines are designed to end games or at least set up very strong boards.

Blooming Elm is unusual for several reasons. First it is a building rather than a one-shot spell or an engine creature, second despite being a Tech II card it carries the conditional ‘if that unit or hero doesn’t have any +1/+1 runes’. This is inconsistent with the other 2 cards that are similarly difficult to get online Tech II cards. It also makes this card rather weak (I’ve never read about it being played in a match or played with it or against it). It has some synergy with Blooming Ancient (since you can move runes off of Ancient, then re-up 3 more runes), but this restriction hamstrings it from being truly powerful.

Finally we have the best for last - Boot Camp. Boot Camp is a really OP spell that you see all the time. There are several reasons for this, but lets look at it compared to other effects of this type:

  1. It’s easier/faster to get online than the Tech II options
  2. It’s cheaper than the starter spell options
  3. It can be used multiple times on the same unit/hero, unlike all other non-Tech II options
  4. It cantrips (You draw a card after playing it)! That’s really awesome especially on an already-cheaper-than-it-should-be card.
  5. It can be used offensively as a mini-Arrest, though this is obviously a tempo play

Now Boot Camp is not all upside. Since it exhausts the unit/hero it targets, you can’t give a unit or hero a +1/+1 rune and then attack with it. You can attack then use it on an exhausted unit/hero (which seems like a flavor fail). Oni also can’t use it on himself. Boot Camp is inconsistent with how the rest of the game handles +1/+1 runes for non-Tech II engines. I don’t think it’s an accident that the purple starter gets paired with the Peace spec for precisely this interaction which works well on Hardened Mox.

Ideally Boot Camp should require a non-exhausted hero or unit and would be restricted to units/heroes that don’t already have a +1/+1 rune. This would make it more consistent with the rest of the game and help balance some of its incredible utility with being more conditional. Blooming Elm should lose its restriction to target units/heroes without +1/+1 runes because it is a weak card in a very strong spec and it may become a more viable card.

Edit: I removed the Nullcraft aside.
Edit2: Changed Title from ‘Balance’ to ‘Design’

Does Boot Camp see a lot of play on the forums?

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first, i really do not get your point. As i see it, the game is perfect as it is.
Also BC cannot combo with nullc. Is a buff/debuff that targets, while nullc cannot be targeted by debuff spells. Taken alone, almost all cards seems op. But being every card op just means the game balance is A okay

yes, if you play PPA. Boot camp is a better version of appel stomp, but is a double edged sword.
Far from being op

Ah, gotcha. I wasn’t thinking of multi-colours at all. Good point.

It seems like it could be okay if you’re P1 as blue, but as P2 I think the last thing you’d want is a spell that reduced the amount of patrollers. The fact that you can’t use it on Onimaru basically means that you have to use it on your units, which are generally pretty bad statwise, or you have to go for a really fast heroes hall to make buff heroes, and even then it seems meh?

Sorry, NikoBolas, I’m not really seeing it. Can you better explain what the issue is with Boot Camp? Is it specifically an issue in a multi-colour build you’re seeing a lot of, or something?

For reference the best application of Boot Camp I could think of is as an activator for Hallucination or Dreamscape, where it becomes a 1-gold removal spell that also draws you a card. I should definitely explore it as an early tech as P1 Blue though - I’ve def felt like I struggled to play a pressure/tempo game from that position, and +1/+1 runes might be enough to help that happen, in addition to the better cycling.

if it worked on oni, would be dreamy. But as it is, unless u have something idestructible is just meh-ish. If used on your unit, u lose a ptroller, and if it already attacked, then u are pumping a weakened unit, mre likely to die since ur without patrollers. on the oppent, yes sideline (not exhaust) patroller but give him a boost, that means that next turn he will hit harder.
Sure, u could combo BC with a healing unit.but that is wishful thinking.
I could name endless dreamy combos that actually never happen!

Boot Camp sees a lot of play in the decks that utilize it, which is true for many, many other cards. A lot of effects in Codex can be considered overpowered if combined effectively, but it often takes finesse to actually pull these plans off (and in the case of the river-smoker-sergeant/ancient combo, it’s extremely true in both ways :stuck_out_tongue: ). Something else to consider for Boot Camp (aside from it’s exhaust partial-downside) is that it takes up an entire tech slot, which you may want to use for cards more effective to your game plan. One gold is also often surprisingly crucial enough that you’d want to use it for something else more impactful than a +1/+1 rune you can’t utilize the turn you put it down.

There was a very informative thread on the old forums now sadly lost to time, but the gist was that Ancient and Sergeant differ in that the former is card-hungry, while the latter is gold-hungry. Drill Sergeant is weaker in a vacuum, but is cheaper so it’s easier to play a pair of them, and has the Garrison in the same spec to pair up with.

I don’t see Blooming Elm being used much either, but keep in mind that it also grants overpower to units with +1/+1 runes, which is an immediate benefit. It is a very powerful effect in a spec with monstrous units like Ancient and Rhino just begging to put their extra damage to good use.

What do you mean by Nullcraft being “inconsistent”? If you mean in terms of power level: Nullcraft costs one more gold (lack of 1-drops is a weakness of the Purple starter in general) and cannot block to get early game patrol bonuses.

The game is still relatively new and being explored. I wouldn’t go so far as to call any card unbalanced just yet, and would caution against valuing them and comparing them to other cards in a vacuum.

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I’ve seen BC used most effectively in PPA to pump Mox and get good early game advantage.

never said it is bad. also imho that is the best game BC interaction.

Can you better explain what the issue is with Boot Camp?

Yes, I think my issue is with overall consistency within the Codex system. Boot Camp is lacking a fundamental restriction that most of the cards that make use of +1/+1 runes have - namely that you cannot double or triple dip.

Well it is most often paired with something indestructible!

I think the issue of it taking up a tech slot is negated by the fact that it replaces itself!

Nullcraft is inconsistent because it specifically says it cannot be the target of buff/debuffs, but this is hiding the fact that it can be the target of +1/+1 runes or spells like Chaos Mirror (which again is incredibly inconsistent with the targetting rules!). This is the type of thing that beats a new player or confuses a mid-level player - it isn’t intuitive at all!

Overall, I don’t mean to say “Boot Camp is unbalanced and causing problems”, but rather “Boot Camp is fundamentally inconsistent with the design of other +1/+1 runes and effects” and that is a detriment to a difficult-to-learn system.

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this is false. You can give runes to nullc only through abilities like drill sarge or blooming A.

false again. Abilities can give multiple runes.

Exactly my point! You can give it +1/+1 counters, but only through specific interactions. That means its text is extremely misleading.

Boot Camp is a spell and I think it is most easily compared to Bloom or Forest’s Favor. It should be better because it is a hero spell not a starter spell - that is fine, but it works inconsistently with the rest of the spells! I already pointed out that Tech II engine cards like Drill Sergeant and Blooming Ancient can give multiple +1/+1 runes, but spells and even Sparring Partner cannot.

well, imo you are just making a mountain out of a molehole.
It creates no problems in game, is just a matter of perception.

The consistent logic for the runes is this: If it can target a Hero, you can only target things that don’t have runes already. This constraint seems designed to prevent you from creating an unkillable hero.

Boot Camp is the only card that gets around this requirement, but its limitations bring it in line. For one, you can’t target the hero that casts it. It also doesn’t allow you to attack with the rune on the turn you create it. Forest’s Favor/Bloom have the advantage of psuedo-haste when casted on something in play.

So yes, Boot Camp is good, and it ‘breaks’ the convention allowing you to stack runes on a hero. But it doesn’t do that without a cost. It’s fine for a spec spell to be better than starter spells.

You’ve made the case that it’s different, but not so sure about the case that it’s a problem.


I’m just making conversation and I’m curious what other people think. To me it really bugs me because Codex has so many great systems that are intuitive and do make sense. The ones that are inconsistent or misleading seem very out of place to me and have been difficult to teach to my wife. I also think that there is an elegance to a game that has a consistent design across its mechanics which is probably the biggest thing that bugs me about Codex at all. I wasn’t a playtester for the game, but I am a big fan and supporter of Sirlin and his games. If there ever is a Codex 2.0 then I would hope the design could be even tighter and somehow sleeker.

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But Blooming Elm is not consistent with that logic either. You can stack multiple runes onto a hero, though it does have the restriction so you can only do that once. Also why shouldn’t you be able to create an unkillable hero? You can create ‘unkillable’ units, and there are spells that ‘destroy’ heroes or bounce them, so even an arbitrarily large hero has some counterplay depending on your specs. It just seems weird to me to prevent certain interactions except for on certain cards.

This is a balance between short-term and long-term benefit. Short-term BC replenishes your hand, but when you often want to stop teching after 10 cards, a card that loses some of its value late game serves to bloat your deck if you need to tech in more cards.

I honestly don’t see a issue with cards being “inconsistent” in Codex. They’re just part of the game design and I think you’re finding patterns where there was never intended to be any. Several other examples of inconsistency in Codex: None of Blue can deal with Tech III units… except Porkhand Magistrate in its starter deck. Spells like Assimilate and Nature Reclaims all deal with building and upgrade removal… but another similar spell, Detonate - seemingly designed in the same vein - does not target upgrades. None of the Tech IIIs have haste, especially when so many of them has Obliterate… and then there’s Pirate Gunship. Disease’s staple is forcing discards… but Shadow Blade somehow gets a cut of the pie when it’s spec theme is hurting self to get powerful. Forecast units are meant to make you wait, unless you use well-timed tricks with time rune manipulation… then there’s the brute force sacrifice of Omegacron. I really don’t think consistency or the lack of it constitutes a problem, and the fact that the use of some cards and the ways to exploit them is not obvious at first makes discovering and utilizing potential combos all the more fun.


No, Blooming Elm lets you put 3 on a unit, but only 1 on a hero.

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Ah, you are correct. I read that too fast. So arbitrarily-large heroes are something that the design of the game actively discourages.