Top 5 Changes I Want To See In The June Balance Patch
With balance changes expected to be announced for June in the next week or so, I wanted to discuss some of the changes I'd like to see announced. I’ve tried to avoid the words in this article, but enough time has passed that I feel I should speak my mind.
I am sort of cheating with the first one, because no cards are changed. However, I feel it is the most important balance change that could happen right now. I also believe that the Smugglers or the Merchants should be introduced to Expedition. Fire and Time are overrepresented in Expedition, mainly due the fact that Blazing Salvo and Crack the Earth are significantly more powerful than other market spells. Put bluntly, the other three are borderline unplayable - Fearless Crescendo is passable in aggressive decks but the other two are embarrassing to play.
So why not nerf or buff the market spells? I thought about that. Fearless Crescendo granting endurance and quickdraw in addition to flying is a start. But what about the other two? Transpose was buffed already. What if it did 2 damage? I still don’t think this would make it playable. What about Condemn? If it dealt 2 damage it would be too similar to Blazing Salvo.
The unplayability of the market spells in Expedition comes down to card disadvantage. The spell effect for three out of the five spells often puts you down a card. Which is not a cost worth paying, especially if you are just marketing from a narrow subset of cards in a format with an already limited card pool. In Throne you have Jotun Hurler and Xo to compensate for the card disadvantage of market spells, but Expedition doesn’t have those options.
Merchants allow you to customize your market to work in different ways. When you’re selecting from cards of only one given cost, you have few options. You can’t include both good early and good late game cards at most costs. The range of counterplay is reduced, which makes the gameplay with market spells unable to hold a candle to the gameplay with Merchants.
Avigraft was a polarizing card when first released, but I feel as though this kind of effect tends to be overrated. Avigraft is removal with added variance which was often worse than Slay and when it was better than Slay players were stuck with unplayable cards in hand. Avigraft never needed to be nerfed but the change made ladder more enjoyable. For these reasons, Turn to Seed should cost 4. I don’t think it is too powerful, but it does lead to bad gameplay. Why should Avigraft cost 4 but Turn to Seed cost 3? There’s a reason this kind of effect is not common: It is either negligible or leads to bad gameplay.
Jekk, Mercenary Hunter is no doubt the current boogeyman. Jekk should deal 1 damage instead of 2, which will allow Jekk to be playable without warping the meta in the way it currently is. Dealing 4 damage when discarding a Sigil is too much. Jekk guns down Crimson Firemaw! Basically, he makes any unit with less than 4 health a liability. Collector recently won an ECQ with Skycrag Chonkers, which is a deck that LightsOutAce built with zero units that have less than 5 health! People should not be punished for playing units with less than 5 health, and halving the damage makes Jekk still pick off small units like Carver and Vox but leaves most units that cost more than 3 alone.
If this is too much of a nerf, another possible change is to halve the damage and make him gain double damage upon discarding any power, not just a Sigil. Because the payoff is smaller it can be argued that the cost should be lower. I don’t know which of these two options would be better, but frankly, as long as he doesn’t deal 4 damage I’d be happy.
Silverblade Menace is second only to Jekk when it comes to format warping cards, leading to control decks that cannot gain face aegis being pushed out of the meta. Menace was designed as a hate card for decks like Spellcrag and Temporal, but too harshly punishes every slow deck other than Vox. This has led to Hooru having gained a monopoly on the control archetype because of face aegis granting cards available to it.
I believe that Menace should be changed to have a threshold system like Savage Incursion. If the enemy player has 5 spells in their void drain for 5. If they have 10 spells in their void drain for 10. This would make for more interesting decisions like holding cards in hand to avoid the threshold.
This change would also force players to have a more holistic game plan to beat control decks. Relying on Menace to single-handedly win the game is boring. Some matchups revolve entirely around whether the Menace player draws the Menace and has a way to pop face aegis.
Face aegis is only becoming more powerful as new cards are released, and Cobalt Waystone gives you face aegis for close to nothing. Cobalt Waystone should be changed to give face aegis until your next turn which would create more interesting sequencing decisions by making people think about what turn their face aegis would have the most impact.
Additionally, this would free up design space for relics in the future since Cobalt Waystone makes relics harder to interact with. It can be argued that without Cobalt Waystone, Svetya’s Sanctum did not need to be nerfed as face aegis allows the control player time to fill the board while the other player is scrambling to pop the face aegis and remove the sanctum.
We are in unprecedented times right now and I do not believe in faulting anyone for having a less balanced than usual meta right now and the fact that DWD is still putting out new content and enacting balanced changes during a pandemic is admirable. That said, I believe that Shadows of the Spire has had the largest meta shakeup we’ve even seen since markets were introduced and would welcome the changes I mentioned above.
Powerful threats and powerful hate cards are not bad in a vacuum. However, when single cards are determining game outcomes out of the blue like Jekk and Silverblade Menace, I believe that is unhealthy. Gameplay should be incremental and victory should come from good decisions throughout the game while outwitting your opponent, not from drawing Menace when they lack an aegis.