Written by Jesse Bergman
Hey there everyone!
I know its been awhile since we did a state of the game. This is primarily due to a minimal amount of tournament data to analyze and working very hard on the new set. We have wrapped up development and are setting our sites on the competitive meta for the game both before the next Kickstarter and afterwards.
During this analysis it became apparent to both myself and the team here that there was some competitive advantages becoming very prominent, regardless of which faction you were running. However, through multiple tournaments and play tests sessions we saw a deck clearly rising to the top of the meta. We call this deck Hekaburn, or even Neil's variant Synthien Experiment.
As a team we always hoped that we would never need to errata, restrict, or ban cards. Up to this point we have only made one errata since the release of the game last year. We had to errata interference to allow it to play as we had tested prior to our first kickstarter. Functionally the card performed incorrectly based on our final rules, and this was due to wording on interference that slipped through final quality on the print product. Today we are taking the plunge into how to correct some other issues that were coming up.
What were these issues and offenders?
Note: This post could be a bit lengthy and I would suggest grabbing a cup of your favorite drink and follow along with us as we discuss some changes to existing cards in preparation for our upcoming National Tournament and the new set. If you are looking for the TLDR version, just scroll down to the items that are Bold and Italic to see the final changes. If you wish to understand our changes then please read on.
Rise of the Machines?
Over the last few tournaments we have seen a dramatic shift of players push towards running the Sythien. We knew the machines were strong, but back in our Battle Begins testing we were seeing a very close match up between the factions. There was a slight edge to the robots with a 52% win/loss ratio against the space vikings. In a tournament play Synthien players would face off against both Jotune and Synthien lists. This allowed the Jotune to have less mirror matches that resulted in upper level finishes. Even winning the first tournament at Great Plains Game Festival in 2016.
As the meta evolved and players continued to tweak and refine the Synthien deck lists the direct damage list evolved into a Hybrid called Hekaburn. Hekaburn was all about ramping resources, playing Hekaton Warhulk, and profiting with the extra control from cards like Centropolis, Sularium Tactical Assault Beam, and Feedback. Those three cards were significant to Synthien wins even when they were not running the Warhulk's, but it came at significant cost in the form of Novum Spero.
When Blood, Profit, and Glory was released we knew that Projectus Immunis would enable faster sularium production, and we saw something like a Warhulk appearing as soon as turn 3 with consistency thanks to K.Y.Z.R. "The Omega Experiment." Thus Synthien, experiment was born, where Sularium Tactical Assault beams were sacrificed to the deck boxes, to play sets of KYZR's. Freeing up these points in deck construction opened the meta to a card that in our testing was very powerful, but not as game breaking as it has become in even more refined lists.
We felt that this was okay, because our fastest lethal game win had come on turn 4 using a Jotune Warrior list. This list, while undiscovered by our community, is still out there and working; However, the Jotune list wasn't consistent in its threat generation as Hekaburn. The Synthien have always had access to a type 1 combatant with a sularium cost of three, while the Jotune have only had type 1's at sularium cost four. This whole sularium point sooner meant that the Synthien could miss either their Perimeter Alert System, or Sularium Mining station and combined with a single Master Mining program get a type 1 combatant on the field. Blood, Profit, and Glory introduced Projectus Immunis, who is basically immortal, but sacrifices the base sularium point, and a defense value point over Novum. Projectus's real value came at the two construction cost over the three construction cost value of Novum. Both are excellent choices in enabling early Hero's Boon for big sularium. The Warhulk started hammering battlefields left and right.
This pushed us to design the card From Whence Thou Came to give the Jotune player some interaction with an early Hekaton, under the assumption that in most cases if the Synthien player had all the pieces to play Hekaton turn 3 or 4, you could most likely push it back and delay the game enough to potentially win. This was even if the Synthien player loaded up on evasions for the counter play.
What happened is instead of the above scenario is more Furtim Braccae's were inserted into the deck and the direct damage suite was abandoned for the sake locking down a Jotune board state entirely.
The answers player's have for the Hekaton, cards such as, It's a Trap, Vassad Saboteur, From Whence, Feedback, and Sularium Tactical Assault Beam, as well as solid defenders like Shields of Hrothgar were all locked out by one card. All it took was to manage one piece of the necessary puzzle to allow the Hekaton to stomp away free and clear and swing tempo in such a way that the opposing player really couldn't respond.
After much deliberation, we have decided as a team that Furtim Braccae could not continue to function as he is in multiples in the deck. When there are less copies in the deck it performs well, but is not unbeatable. The worst part is successfully setting up a kill on Furtim with a well timed Johnny'Cache, or Vassad Saboteur, to only have another copy played right afterwards. Or you opponent looping Furtims for additional draw and the counter for moving effects.
Due to this Furtim Braccae will be RESTRICTED to only one copy allowed in a deck during competitive play.
Furtim is not solely responsible for the rise of the machines and another card has been on the watch list for a good long time. It is a card that has been included in everything Synthien list since the inception of the game last year. Centropolis is a key component for the Synthien managing a Jotune Onslaught. Without it, the win rate for the Synthien spirals so far down that they cannot function competitively.
Back in our early testing days, before the launch of the first Kickstarter campaign, we felt that Centropolis needed some adjustments and we weakened its defense value from 9 to 7 to make it easier for the Jotune to get in and actually remove it from the Battlefield.
Unfortunately, today we feel that this card was not modified enough and it is still providing a significant edge in the competitive space. Moving forward Centropolis will have its construction cost modified and will now cost two construction points instead of one.
Mercenary on the loose?
Since release Verker "The Beserker" has received a lot of attention from both player's and critics, and rightfully so. Verker is an absolute beast on the Battlefield. In development we refer to the four cost combatants across the the factions as the power "four". There are many examples of the power "four" across all the factions of Sularia. While you haven't seen the Exsularian or Protoan power "four's" you can rest assured they are there and you will not be disappointed in them.
However, in the mean time we are seeing Verker make his way into many of the top lists. At GPGF 2017, Verker was ran in 80% of the lists that were brought to the tournament. At Pretzcon, Verker was ran in 60% of the lists that were brought to the tournament. We were also finding in our meta testing internally that Verker was just too enticing for all the factions to run regardless of what the in faction choice may be. The only exception to this was Lord Oathki of the Jotune who still reigns supreme as the most powerful of the power "four's".
It was never our intention in Mercenary design to eliminate good faction choices for better mercenary choices. The mercenaries were always supposed to compliment you in faction strengths by adding more consistency with a similar strength card, or shore up a weakness by enabling your faction to get abilities they otherwise couldn't have. The trade off was always supposed to come at a greater price than an in faction choice. Verker at two construction points was almost as strong as Oathki, and freed up valuable points for additional cards, and this enabled many decks, including the Jotune to want Verker as fast as possible to swing tempo. Ultimately, this lead to games where whomever played Verker first was at a very distinct advantage.
In testing with the new factions, Verker only further exasperated the problem we were experiencing in the current meta. Due to this, we felt that we ultimately missed the balancing mark on the BESERKER mechanic and as such we needed to stifle Verker slightly. Verker will now cost three construction points instead of the two he currently cost.
As you can see these are all significant changes that may shake the meta up drastically. We believe here at Punch-It Entertainment that these changes will put the two factions on a much more even playing field and give some space for both of the new factions to enter and be competitive, without creating further design changes that would push back our development on Reign of Terror.
We had hoped to release RoT by Spring of this year, but this issue caused us to pause and spend significant time testing and discovering whether or not changes were needed.
We hope you agree, and would love to hear your thoughts on these changes either here or on our community Facebook group.
Thank you so much for being loyal supporters and we will continue our best efforts to insure you are getting a super high quality product that is well designed and balanced.
-Jesse Bergman, John Kimmel, Matthew Greenleaf, and Frank Hruby