There has been many discussions and arguments about Trials and their power level. This time I want to talk about possible changes that would remove the unfun part.
To me, the unfun part lies in the following:
- Trials are inevitable. You cannot do anything about opponent progressing their Trial*. You cannot do anything about them completing their Trial.
- Consequently, when playing against Trials you are racing against the clock. If you don’t kill them before Trial is complete you most likely lose.
- Consequently again, Trials promote uninteractive playstyle. Your opponent chases their win condition and often ignores your plays just to progress the Trial. Your board and whatever damage you have dealt may become irrelevant in a turn.
* Nemeton is a notable exception. That exception is what makes it notably bad. Anyway, it’s not really relevant as Nemeton is still capable of highrolling, it just happens less often.
But, despite all those downsides, deep under the thick layer of toxicity, lies an interesting, even good design idea. Trials promote unconventional deck building. Ironically, this is best illustrated with the worst offender - Wanderer. To play it, you make a highlander deck and sacrifice your ability to play multiple copies of cards you want to play.
Unfortunately, instead of being “flavors” to deckbuilding devs degraded Trials to “you play a terrible deck and if you survive for X turns you get an OP deck instead”. So, how can you make them not so polar? The easiest way to illustrate it comes with what has to be the first Trial in Duelyst - Titan. You don’t need all you minions to have 1 attack, you don’t have to fill your deck with all sacrificial spells you can find. You just have to put aside a part of your deck. It makes you think what you replace that part with, it makes you think how you’re going to do what that removed part was supposed to do, it makes you think how you play your deck now. Titan makes you actually fight to accomplish the “Trial”, makes you respect your opponent’s plays and makes you respect the fact that your opponent can still “undo” the “Trial”. That is what makes Titan fair**.
Achieving the same with Trials would require significant rework of course. One of the changes I was thinking about is that Trials are no longer activated by minions but instead are chosen in the deck building process. Mythrons no longer exist or fulfill another purpose.
Easiest (not necessary good) example of such rework again comes with Wanderer. Destiny is now active from the first turn and allows you to replace one additional card each turn. That’s it. The point is that your deck now has an answer to basically any situation in the game and you get an ability to look for those answers.
Another example. Ox: “Have at least 5 minions of 6 different mana costs. If you replace a card before summoning minions, you draw a minion with the cost equal to your mana.” (5 minions of 6 costs means 30 minions total. Some fallback assumed in the case you don’t have a minion of required cost when replacing. This is an example so please don’t start a fight over it.)
** Of course, Titan is not the exact definition of fun and sometimes feels as toxic as any other Trial. But in my opinion a lot of that comes from the fact that you don’t know what you’re up against and when you realize it’s already too late. And because of this I believe some other decks should become Trials too, with corresponding ingame indication. Some of those decks are: Titan, Fault, Mantra, Dying Wish, Mechazor, Ice Age/Winter’s Wake, Apex. Creep already has some indication but that could be improved.
Example rework for Dying Wish. Carrion & Lurking removed/reworked. Trial is: “Whenever you trigger a Dying Wish, lower the cost of Dying Wish minions in your hand by 1.” You no longer depend on drawing discounts early but also have to put some thought into hand management and positioning. Your opponent can deny your Trial by procing DWs on their turn or by preparing removal for the turn you drop your entire hand in.