Is Excelsious Indicative of a Larger Design Problem?


Is Excelsious Indicative of a Larger Design Problem?

I’ll be arguing the affirmative to the title proposition. I’ve come to believe that this newly revealed Lyonar Legendary for Rise of the Bloodborn highlights the ways in which CPG has (so far) failed to create a gaming environment where big cards like Excelsious can effectively be used.

Look at this thing:

It’s absolutely gigantic; it’s a big beatstick that will win a match almost guaranteed the turn after it’s played. Players should be recoiling in horror and shock at the prospect of this reveal, cowering at the prospect of Healyonar decks with such an imposing win condition. Yet the reveal thread is overwhelmingly populated by calm and even relaxed attitudes towards Excelsious. The consensus is very clear: this card isn’t good enough to see serious play, especially at higher ranks.

Isn’t that weird? Such a huge, imposing, powerful Minion getting greeted like a non-issue?

Critical Reception

Reading the comments things become clear very quickly: there are tons of hard answers to a card like Excelsious, many of which are already exceedingly common in the current meta. To boot, an 8 Mana card like this is very likely to come into play well after it’s able to do any good because the game currently plays so fast. Control decks better have a win condition that’s só strong that you’re almost guaranteed the win if you can stay alive long enough. Excelsious, sadly, doesn’t seem to be that.

The issue isn’t one of stats or Keywords either; it could be a 100/100 with Airdrop and Berserk that destroys all minions on the board and it still wouldn’t be good enough. The card just lacks an immediate impact, it needs a turn to recover from Exhaustion, and in this game that’s just not good enough. Duelyst has so many counters to cards like these that are commonly played that you’re wasting your turn playing a card like this: it takes up áll your Mana for the turn and is unlikely to pay that investment back. And even when it doesn’t get countered most opponents are just going to concede because there’s no way they’re surviving their next turn anyway (in most cases) so it’s not even a fun card to play most of the time: it either gets countered or the opponent concedes, I don’t think you’re likely to see a lot of matches where the opponent tries to stick things out or at least let you make the big victory swing.

A list of things that hard counter Excelsious


  • Punish (2M) (most of the time) <-- just revealed for RotB
  • Ritual Banishing (3M)
  • Dark Transformation (5M)
  • Sun Bloom (2M)
  • Martyrdom (3M)
  • Sky Burial (3M)
  • Decimate (4M)
  • Natural Selection (2M)
  • Thumping Wave (3M)
  • Egg Morph (4M) + any damage
  • Metamorphosis (6M)
  • Deathstrike Seal (2M)
  • Onyx Bear Seal (3M)
  • Pandamonium (4M) + source of 2 out-of-hand damage
  • Aspect of the Fox (1M)
  • Altered Beast (2M)
  • Chromatic Cold (2M)
  • Hailstone Prision (2M)
  • Aspect of the Drake (4M) (not ideal, but still)
  • Aspect of the Mountains (6M)
  • Siphon Energy (0M)
  • Sand Trap (2M)
  • Entropic Decay (4M)
  • Dominate Will (7M) (Can you even imagine…)
  • Circle of Dessication (8M) (Not currently played, just being completionist)
  • Zen’Rui, The Blightspawned (6M) + Blindscorch (1M)
  • Ephemeral Shroud (2M)
  • Lightbender (4M)
  • Ironclad (5M)
  • Hollow Grovekeeper (5M)
  • Sunset Paragon (5M)

And these hard counters (we’re not even counting soft counters like Repulsor Beast) have the same effect on a ton of the big cards that are similar to Excelsious, or that might be released in the future. All these cards punish the use of expensive single threats, and punish them more the more expensive they are! Getting a Silverguard Knight Natural Selected is fine, the same to an Ironcliffe stings, the same to Excelsious and his ilk loses you the game for 2 Mana. These spells and effects have been designed in such a way to expensive cards that dón’t have an immediate or guaranteed impact are effectively unplayable. You need cards with for example Opening Gambits or cards that spawn multiple threats instead. Even when comparing Excelsious to another Lyonar 8 Mana card–Sky Phalanx–it comes out the worse card because 3 minions are more likely to get something done than one giant one in this game. And Sky Phalanx hasn’t exactly been breaking the game.

All this means that Excelsious pretty much nééds to be played with an Aegis Barrier to circumvent a huge portion of the counters this game packs. But that further delays the summoning by a turn (which is horrible for a card that already comes in very late) and is unlikely to be sufficient protection regardless. If Excelsious sees play players will know to reserve one of the Neutral hard counters (some of which–coughEphemeralShroudcough–are very commonly played already) when they’re facing a (Heal)Lyonar deck. Dispelling Excelsious leaves a 6/6 body, but that’s very unlikely to win you the match after you gave the opponent an unopposed turn while you were busy summoning it.


Should Excelsious be redesigned? Well, Rise of the Bloodborn may change things around, and maybe Lyonar gets additional tools that somehow circumvent these issues (although they wouldn’t help other big cards), but yes, I think that–if all other things remain equal–Excelsious should be redesigned from the ground up to see serious play even in dedicated Healyonar decks. It needs an immediate effect if it’s going to see play.

But honestly, I think CPG should take the grander approach and overhaul the way they design their hard counters. What these cards lack in general is “conditionality.” They’re way too easy to use and can’t be effectively played around! I’ll be taking a look at ‘destroy’ effects and dispel in particular here, because they’re the big offenders.

“Conditionality” & Dispel

Everyone should know that Vanar has the largest and strongest array of spells that punish big enemy threats. Aspect of the Fox is a 1 Mana spell that lets Vanar players neutralize ANYTHING on the board; other examples include Onyx Bear Seal and Sun Bloom. The ubiquitous Ephemeral Shroud turns big things into just a pile of stats at a meager cost at very low effort (positioning does matter). These cards don’t distinguish between small and large targets, and they require very little (positional) investment to use. I think you’re all getting what I’m trying to say: as long as these kinds of cards exist it’s very unlikely we’ll see big minions stomping around unless they have access to Shroud (why isn’t there a keyword for the effect?). But what to do?

The answer lies in conditionality: these hard counters should have more specific conditions that need to fulfilled for them to be effective. Some of the removal cards I already listed are actually excellent examples of this principle: Martyrdom punishes the player for removal by healing the opponent, Egg Morph can be played around using effective positioning (although Rush mostly ruins this) and Entropic Decay is also dependent on smart positioning! Good removal cards have these kinds of conditions that clever players should be able manage through clever counter-counter play. There are a great number of ways to implement these kinds of conditions for existing removal cards to boot: Add a range limit, add a Mana limit, increase the cost depending on the cost of the target, base the effect on card properties (like Natural Selection does) etc. Whatever you say about Natural Selection’s power level I do think the card is well designed in principle, whereas Aspect of the Fox is a poorly designed (or costed) card that should be limited in terms of how big its target can be.

But these kinds of changes mostly apply to the non-dispel side of things. For dispel I think CPG should go even further by changing the way dispel works overall. Instead, I believe a single burst of dispel should only be able to get rid of a single effect on a target i.e. dispelling Excelsious once lets the player choose to dispel EITHER Provoke, Celerity, or the Purity buff: not all three. The dispel could be random as well, but that wouldn’t have my preference. I believe this would be the simplest way of changing dispel to allow for big minions in Duelyst without redesigning the effect from the ground up.


Part of me wants to talk about how Rush ruins the game’s potential for backfield support minions but then I’d have to talk about Mechaz0r! and I should restrict this particular thread to big minions anyway. So let’s leave that aspect out of this please.

That’s me done for now, what do you think? Am I on to something? Am I completely off base? Is there a problem at all?


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It is true that card is realy weak to removal and dispell, but what card is not? When we take every card like auto-dispell, we couldnt play anything else than stats powerful minions… :neutral_face:
Sry for my English… :smiley:


I’ve been saying that the abundance of counters/removal/dispel in this game represent a copout that allows the creation of impressive-looking minions that will never actually matter. Usually I get shouted down for this opinion, but the more they put out these ludicrous “answer or die” cards, the more obvious it is that this is where we are now.

Removal/dispel should be conditional, limited, and lean towards specific factions in special ways (such as Vetruvian’s proximity requirement). Right now it is cheap and everywhere, and the entire game turns around it.

It’s not going to change, though, because “wow neato” sells cards, so you may as well get used to it.


Name some.


I’m thinking he means stuff like Nimbus, Klaxon, Moloki Huntress, Dreadnaught, Frostiva, Calculator, High Hand, Vorpal Reaver, Kolossus, Unstable Leviathan, etc…

Stuff that should be incredibly scary but usually aren’t.


Some of these cards are incredibly scary. The ones that aren’t scary are such not because they are vulnerable to dispel but because they’re just bad cards. The amount of dispel and removal in your average deck simply isn’t that high where every good card that doesn’t have an instant effect is considered bad.

Thanks for answering, but I’m specifically wondering what @qeltar is thinking this time.


Welcome to the wonderful world of card games!

I have a background of mostly Magic: The Gathering and the same thing is true even there. Except, removal spells are so effective there that creatures have to jump through large hurdles to see any kind of serious play at all. Especially in older formats.

About dispels: I think that dispel effects are maybe a bit overrated with Duelyst crowd. Multiple times when I have had my Klaxxon dispelled and my opponent sending laugh emotes at my way. Well, they still have to deal with 6/6 minion on board, and that’s no laughing matter. I think the same is true for Excelsious, which I think is a fun looking, splashy minion.

Also, in Duelyst, using removal can be a huge tempo loss (Dark Transformation, Entropic Decay, Egg Morph) and some removal spells come with a condition (Natural Selection, Zen’rui). In this game it is much more effective to play more threats than answers. Eventually your opponent just can’t answer everything.


Excelsious is indicative of a larger design problem, but I think its the other way around. There are too many answer-or-lose minions in this game. The worst offenders are minions that can generate value from far away, like 4 winds magi or kelaino or mechaz0r, which are some of the least fun cards to play against. The worst meta of all time was right after the 0.61 patch when sunsteel defender was a 5/1 forcefield celerity, and if you couldn’t kill it, you usually died next turn to any buff + songweaver which also gave flying.

If you do not have an answer to excelsious the turn he’s played, there is basically no way to win


This. This is what should be discussed when it comes to Excelsious.

Is a minion that if unanswered the turn it’s played wins you the game on spot allowed to exist and does Excelsious even fall under that category considering it’s requirements?


Yes of every faction has an I-Win button then sure why not. Like abyssian has in the form of obliberate, and that’s not even counterable in most cases. This card can still be potentionally be removed.


Simply this! It is true…


You could be onto something. I personally think that while you need a way to deal with ranged threats, removal should be more cobditional. I personally think Magmar nailed it when it comes to removal. There are tons of conditions to it, but it still works wonderfully. But as others already said, is it actually healthy to have such big threats that scream at you “Answer or die”?
Excelsious does point out some design flaws. But which one of them is worse? Unconditional hard removal? Or answer or die cards? I could start to go off topic but, at this point, why not ask “How to make Duelyst flawless?”. Once again, Excelsious does make some of Duelyst’s flaws more visible, but what I mean is, are they actually an issue?


One thing that is common to these minions, is that thay all cost 5 or more mana, which is a big deal. You can only play one of these things per turn. These high cost minions need to justify their cost with powerful abilities, otherwise people would only play minion rush decks, and that’s already a very effective strategy in this game. Problem for many seem to be when aggressive decks are backed by few of these powerful minions (usually Makantor or Aymara) and that’s what makes games feel snowbally.

I’m not aiming this to you specifically, just wanted say this what people usually fail to mention.


this is gonna be pretty long

First off, is the card that is introduced what determines the environment, or is the environment what determines the usefulness of the card? Obviously it’s both, but the more “ifs” that are required for a card to function, the more it leans towards the latter. In this case, it is the latter, and certainly not an overarching design problem.

Why? Most games are decided before 8 mana becomes feasible. That’s the whole point of the game, it’s even in the tagline. Infinite Depth, Lightning-Fast Matches. Even then, playing a big minion and passing, in ANY card game, is usually a horrible turn, unless it’s under some circumstances that are abnormal like ramp.

The people who won’t play it will remove it; the people who will play it will have fun with their new toy. I don’t see the issue here at all. This is obviously made for Timmies who will sacrifice a few games just to see their big minion annihilate someone.

A good amount of those are just there to make the list look larger and you know it. You’re intentionally making a mountain out of a molehill. On top of that, dispels still leave behind a relatively large body. And on top of that, [quote=“thematsjo, post:1, topic:6661”]
(we’re not even counting soft counters like Repulsor Beast)
don’t even count because it has celerity; moving it away is not an option.

circle of desiccation is a sleeper hit ok

This is true of pretty much any card game. Removal exists, and yeah, it sucks when you get hit by it. Playing a minion isn’t just playing a minion; playing a minion is gambling on whether or not it will be valuable enough to use removal on. Larger cards are removed more often because they make more valuable removal targets. That’s why cards like Sky Phalanx work, it’s harder to remove them cleanly.

Why? For what cause should this card be something else? What harm does it do the game by not being what you want it to be?

There is a lot of conditionality in most removals in Duelyst, and the ones that aren’t are very, very expensive, or have a game-relevant drawback. Aspect of the Fox? 3/3 is not a body that can inflict a negligible amount of damage, nor is cleanly removed. Thumping Wave? Same thing, and they’ve also expended a win condition to remove your card, AND can’t do anything till the end of the turn. Dark Transformation? They’ve spent a TON of mana to deal with your card.

Duelyst follows the design philosophy of Dota: EVERYTHING is overpowered on paper. Everything. This has two ways to resolve itself: either make answers as good as threats (or as good as they can be, threats are inherently better), or make threats worse. Otherwise, your game devolves into “who can play the hardest to remove thing first.” Changing neutral dispels/removal is a terrible choice; they are a safety valve to allow cpg to put in cards like this. If they weren’t there, then cards like this would actually break the game.

I think you want to play really big minions and don’t like the fact that it is a bad idea in most card games. I can’t blame you, I’m the same exact way.

If I’m off the mark on anything please bring it up, I’m a bit addled after exercise so I can certainly make more sense in a few minutes.

This article might interest you:


You are correct in that solo minions that are very powerful but often aren’t are usually 5 mana or more.

There are some minions that DO need answers at a lower cost, provided other minions are on the board.
Examples are: Kelaino, Moloki, Bloodmoon Priestess,…

Then there’s the stuff that’s dangerous at a lower manacost with enough set-up: Mandrake and Abyssian Juggernaut, for example.

Or those that need answers without anything being on the board at lower costs: Four Winds Magi.

Though most in these categories are already viable and thus fall outside of the scope of this argument.


Exactly, minions with relevant abilities are the more threatening bunch, not the big dumb beatsticks with piles of stats. :slight_smile:

I didn’t claim that the game doesn’t have these must-answer minions, but I find it a bit funny seeing some people complaining about something like Aymara when there’s much more unfair things around.


I think that the minion that is closest to Excelsious in purpose and playstyle is Vorpeal Reaver. Vorpeal Reaver is also a high mana, answer or die minion that is hard to remove yet vulnerable to dispel. It is arguably harder to remove than Excelsious, since it has less health but spawns more bodies. This makes Reaver even harder to remove, since it needs to, essentially, be killed twice, and it can threaten tons of damage either as a large celerity unit, or a bunch of wraiths.

Right now, Reaver is rarely played due to how weak it is to dispel. Excelsious costs two more, and gains an additional vulerability to non-dispel removal over Reaver, making hair very risky to play. Perhaps the meta shifts to a point where it can see play. Perhaps Lyonar would benefit greatly from an answer or die minion. Perhaps A card like Vorpeal Reaver will do better in Lyonar than in Abyssian, who knows. From what I can see, this is an excellent dispel target in a faction lacking in good dispel targets.


Wow that’s an impressive wall of text.

Thing is, I play quite a bit and I know for a fact that a lot of my lategame summons (Eclipse, Klaxon, Elyx, Silithar Elder etc etc are NOT answered in fact).

The good news for people is that, yes, they CAN be answered, which is what people need reassurance about right now so they say that.

But it WON’T get countered enough of the time. Consider this, at 7 mana the Lyonar player plays Sunriser and a Martyrdom removing your threat, dealing 2 dmg to you.

Do you
a) use your last Ephemeral Shroud, hoping they don’t have Exelsious and dealing with a highly potential lethal next turn.
b) keep that Ephemeral Shroud in the case they DO have Exelsious, and prey they don’t have more than 2 ways to heal during their turn so that you’ll live, albeit with few hp?

Etc. etc.

So, again, in short: it can be answered, but it’s nowhere near guaranteed! I have had many great lategame cards go unanswered.


I don’t know that it’s a problem. I don’t want games against Lyonar to be “kill them before excelsious hits the board or lose.” I think the overall negative reaction to the card is that it won’t have a huge impact on the meta, not that it will never turn games. And that’s fine. Not every card needs to do that. If anything, CPG shouldn’t have announced it before the set comes out.


I think I’m missing the topic of this thread :open_mouth: Excelsious is an extremely good yet slow card. I’m not sure he can’t find competitive play: it has a good body, provoke and most importantly celerity. Sure, you can remove it, but that’s also true for any minion and the answers to this one are not obvious. Dispell leaves a decent body, positioning effects do not matter much, due to celerity. What are you implying? That any minion without opening gambit sucks due to hard removals?