Some thoughts on Duelyst Design and Balance


Hi guys, here’s a quick little summary of some of the things I’d like to see changed in the near future and why.

Right now, my top3 most requested changes would be:

  1. Variax / Geomancer
  2. Entropic Gaze
  3. Mech decks

Lets talk about each of these things in turn.

1) Variax / Geomancer

So before we start, I want to point out that I am not convinced either of these cards are “overpowered”. Rather, I’d like to see these two cards changed because I feel that they are unhealthy for the game.

In my mind, the problem with Variax is that there is currently no counterplay (which is slightly ironic, given the name of the company!) ; once Variax hit thats it – for the rest of the game Abyssian has a super strong BBS that will, like a boa constrictor, squeeze the life out of you. Right now, the only “counter” to Variax is to smorc them down before they get too many uses out of their BBS.

Basically, the problem we have right now is that JUST ONE CARD is able to trash any player that dares to try to build a non-abyssian control deck. “Out-control abyss?” UNTHINKABLE!!

Just stop and think about that for a second – one card in an Abyssian list is able to ruin ALL other control decks in the game. And, in case you hadn’t noticed a “control decks” are in very short supply as it is.


I think a somewhat simple fix would be to make make it so that you gain X charges for your BBS. Once you have used all of the charges then your BBS reverts back to the normal one.

If we went with this change then we would have to consider a value for X. Make X too high (e.g. 10) and it does not solve the problem. Make X too low (e.g. 1) and Variax becomes trash tier.

At first glance, I think a good number is about 3-4. At 3 the card is still decent, but crucially there is inherent counter-play built into the card because now, unlike before, other control decks have a chance to beat Variax by surviving the 3 turn onslaught.

This also has an interesting knock on effect that your other copies of Variax/geomancer are not merely ‘vanilla’ minions.

If we went with this change, I think it would probably be a good idea to make it a basic rule of the game that cards that change BBS only last for X charges (you know, kinda like how all artefacts have 3 durability). I think I’d also make it so that if you played another copy of Variax the charge counter refreshes.

2) Entropic Gaze

Just as with Variax, counterplay games releases a card with little to no counterplay. My main complaint with this card is, once again, not really to do with power.

Rather, I don’t like this card because I its kinda boring and incredibly frustrating to play against. Have a massive board of big minions? SO WHAT!? Magmar has a 4 mana Spiral Technique aimed at your face.

Basically the crime this card commits is that most of us like the board-game element of Duelyst; this card ignores all that and pummels your face with alarming efficiency. In my mind, this card is the epitome of everything wrong with Duelyst.

I’d like to compare this card with Tetonic Spikes. In the case of Spikes I think counterplay got the design right; since it deals damage to both generals it has to be used with care and its slightly higher cost make it a bit harder to fit into a turn.

In other words spikes is the more interesting card with a significantly higher skill ceilling than its uglier ‘no-brain required’ counter-part.

Changing the dmg/ mana cost changes the power of the card but does little to change how interactive the card is.  Below is a really simple change that fits the themes of magmar (e.g self dmg):

          Deal X dmg to enemy General. Deal Y dmg to your own General.

Where: X >= Y

I dont know what the exact numbers should be but I think we could make a powerful, if situational, card with the right numbers. 

For example if X = 5 and Y = 4  we have a powerful aggro card. But, counter-play is built into this card by the fact that 4 face dmg to yourself is a lot; use this without getting lethal and you might just get yourself killed. 

Other ratios worth considering: (4,2), (3,1), (5,5)



Again, my real concern isn't the power of Mech decks; inspite of what J might say on Reddit I honestly do not think Mech decks are too strong right now.

My problem with Mechs is simply how unfun this archetype is to play against; If they get Mechazor out on Turn 2-3 you often just feel cheated out of a game. Players such as myself do not like losing games to random dicerolls and thats what-- all too often -- mech decks feel like. Meanwhile, does the mech player really have a lot of fun with such a "spray & pray" strategy? I doubt it. 

In summary I think Mechs are boring to play and frustrating to play against. In my mind, I think the real problem is that Mech decks are cheap "spammy" affairs. If Control mech were the strongest way to play and build mechs I think we would all be happier; skill (on the part of the mech player) would be better rewarded and the opponent meanwhile doesn't have to deal with turn 2 mechazor chesse quite as often.

Way back in March 2016 I LOVED mechs; I ran a list that used old-skool vindicator (gave rush, back then) to combo out Mechazor.  This deck, with me at the helm (get it!? Helm? LUL) was an aggro-combo deck, and I think that was waay more fun to play and probably more interesting to lose too.  

You see back then I did something you almost never see these days; Skip Mechazor! (Yes, guys, you can actually do that!). In most of my match-ups I'd choose to delay mechazor with the aim of getting a my rush combo later on. 

I've said this plenty of times on discord and elswhere, but **back in March every other deck ran a one-of crossbones (you could do shit like that in old 2-draw duelyst) and that made me love playing mechs even more.** Why? Because the prevalence of Crossbones in the meta made me feel like I was *rewarded* for taking the "control" line of play; **Crossbones forced me to think** (mindlessly spamming Mechs was just bad back then), and that was really cool. "Combo mech" beat Crossbones players in virtue of the fact that by the time they get use Crossbones I have already-- in most likelihood--- killed a big dude and spiralled their face in.

Nowadays, I hate mechs. I hate mechs because spamming mechazor is basically the only way to win. And unfortunately, I think spamming a turn 2-3 Mechazor is the main source of frustration players have when fighting against mechs.  Its kinda a lose-lose situation.

I myself have been a [long-time advocate of control/combo style mech decks.]( And personally, I think genuinely decent control/combo mech archetypes would be a lot more interesting to play and play against than the current iteration of mindless spamming.

~~~ Proposed FIX?

Do you guys remember the creep rework? The moment the creep mechanic changed counterplay opened up more possibilities for printing creep based cards. I'd like to see a similar "sideways" design change for mechs.

I think the simplest and easiest change would be to make Helm, Wings, Sword . cannon-- all offer 10% Mechazor progress. Chasis can stay at 20%.  Alter Rexx could also be buffed to offer +20% as well.

With this change we have made room to print more mechazor cards at higher mana. 

For example:

     9 mana | 5/ 6 | Mech | Mechazor Progress +50%. 
                            ALL friendly Mechs gain Rush.

If you haven't summoned mechazor already then this monster (on the turn you play it) threatens you opponent with a 5/6 rush AND a rushed out Mechazor. This is clearly powerful shit, but its also 9 mana, which means the non-mech player has a whole game to play with their own cards/strategy. Meanwhile the mech player also has tough choices; do they drop mechazor now or wait for the monster combo?

Notice also that 50% progress is a huge boost; and so, with that in mind, notice that mech decks can *choose* to run less mechs if they want. Right now, most mech decks run 3 of everything (except Zor).

Another option:

     6 mana | 3/3 | Mech | 
     Opening Gambit: Double current Mechazor Progress 

With this card, your going to have a really good change of getting Mechazor out on 6 mana, and once again, deck builders have interesting choice to make regarding how many mechs they should run.  

A card like this would help Mech decks gain consistency, BUT, rather crucially, I think Mechazor coming out on turn 6 is a lot better than the current turn 2 bullshit we currently see. 

Mech players gain consistency, the rest of us don't lose on turn 2. :)

    2 mana | 2/2 | Mech
    If Mechazor died this game, 
    summon "MR REVENGE" nearby the enemy general

    MR REVENGE (Token Minion) | 15/ 1

Once Mechazor dies, you can use this 2-mana dude to spawn a 15/1 minion near the enemy as a last ditch attempt to win the game. Fortunately for the opponent a 1 health minion shouldn't be too hard to dispose of.

Because we plan to make Mechazor slower, you need to give mech players more options (its only fair, lol). Cards like this will help compensate for how bad mech cards are in general. In short, cards like this will help mechs compete with other control decks; a  2 mana for a 2/2 and a 15/1 is a really good value play, afterall.



Overall I think the Duelyst meta is in an okay place right now;  but with that said, I'd certainly like to see more interactive strategies and 'control' decks flourish. 

The cards/mechanics I decided to talk about today where not chosen because they are too strong, rather, I choose them because I feel that these cards push the game in the wrong direction;  As a player I want to see more cards that are counterable and interactive. I want the board state actually fucking matter, I want to see less 'out-of-hand' dmg, and I dont wanna lose cuz dice-rolls (RNG isn't part of today’s discussion, but for what its worth I think CP has struck a good balance with the RNG printed on cards).

The proposed cards/card changes are really intended for illustrative purposes only; I'm not going to claim my suggestions are the best way forward and/or balanced.

But yeah, I think that'll do for now. Later, kids. :slight_smile:

Mechaz0r, assemble! Wait... You're doing it wrong!

I don’t know about the fixes, but I do agree that the things you pointed out are better to be changed for the reasons you mentioned. I’m curious about the next balance patch


i feel like entropic gaze is ok. the draw opponent gets is just one card, so most of the time he will get the card, and its only 4 damage and only to general, so you can’t clear board with it. for those reasons i see it inferior to phenix fire as it is, if it gets nerfed it will likely just not be played at all. to compete with spiral technique you actually need to draw and to keep 2 copies of those in the hand so you have less options to play for your actual turns. many healing options exist, many factions can just heal 4 damage like it’s nothing, so here is some counterplay already. lyonar have lucent beam, if healed current turn, deal 4 damage to anything general or minion that seems quite similar but more flexible and has less counterplay as you don’t get any free cards for it(possible to combo healing mystic + 2 lucent beams to do 8 damage for 6 mana, if you play ziran or have scintilla on field you could use bbs and do 8 damage for 5 mana, again this damage can be used to kill minions as well)

i really would rather see spiral technique buffed to cost 7 mana (it is just 1 card rather than 2, and gives no draw to the opponent). it already feels weaker than meltdown and songhai could use some love i guess…

i agree about variax and geomancer(i guess, never seen the last shine or be of significant problem to deal with, so far) your fix seems reasonable as well, having just 3 procs might be a nice creative way to make such cards counterable, in case of variax i’d really like stronger nerfs, it has already too much synergy as it is and 1-2 casts can already get lethal if you get a lucky draw with it or some board advantage.

i haven’t seen enough mechs to make any conclusions about them. so have no opinion on that one.


– Does gaze have any less counterplay than Phoenix fire? I hate that excuse I can live with it is to efficient at its cost or Gaze is past the exceptable amount damage we are used .The low counterplay thing is hilarious to me seeing that most top players where fine with Songhai or the intent of Spellhai.I played Magmar pre thumping wave era and players weren’t screaming lack of counterplay when Songhai were raining fire on our head. Dont get me wrong both decks (Spellhai and Burnmar ) are silly but half complainants come from the side of Magmar isnt supposed to this type of faction but it is acceptable playstyle for Songhai and is fine in duelyst.

In vacuum Decimus,Tectonic Spikes,Entropic Gaze,Vindictor Starhorn is fine it is access to Magmar other tools that make it wonky,If thumping wave and elucidator aren’t part of the package is those card really bad? You basically punishing Burn archetype because Rush archetype is strong.

– As for Variax,I have actually come around to the it is fine as is camp except that Variax makes everyone aggro.Who is to blame for that I don’t know but I can’t think of one deck that when Variax comes out backs off and goes I am going to beat you with my late game tools maybe the lone exception of Obliterate Cass.

Is the problem Variax or is the problem lack of good lategame from other factions and lack of cheap good aoe removals? Creep in its previous form was kinda the same issue it made other late games deck kinda pointless.


I main Abyssian and yeah, it feels constricting to really only have one clear win con in the late game. I mean, why wouldn’t I try to build a deck around Variax? It provides the best value currently with the bonus of being able to come out early.

I feel like I must be getting cursed at by my opponents every time they see I’m playing Abyss, and I don’t like that. Even I roll my eyes when faced with a mirrormatch.

I do like the idea of limited BBS charges, and I would even be so bold as to propose that there be a per-match limit! I think it severely punishes the control deck archetype (and indeed, that likely is the entire point CP designed it to refresh every turn after reaching 9 cores). I get it, they really don’t want matches to last 30 minutes and go to draw fatigue at a high frequency, if for nothing else, to prevent player fatigue. I believe CP has done enough already to make this game fast, so limiting BBS charges to 6-7 PER GAME would at least make things a little more strategic and open up a bit more breathing room on the control side.

But even after all this, when you get to higher ranks and players have access to most (or all) of the cards and player skill level evens out, it becomes more about card advantage and draw RNG.

Maybe the computer code execution be ever randomly in your favor. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Gaze vs Phoenix Fire is an interesting comparison, but there are a few important points differences.

  1. Fire in Songhai fits the faction, burn is part of its “colour pie/wheel” if you will. Magmar meanwhile, has traditionally not been a faction with out of hand spell damage (they use rush minions). Thus, when comparing gaze with Fire it is worth pointing out that direct dmg is something we expect songhai to be good at.

If CP makes Magmar good at direct burn as wells as rush then you kinda weaken faction identity. Meanwhile, because Spikes does self-dmg I feel that Spikes feels much more like a magmar card, than gaze.

In short, we could print Entropic Gaze in Vetruvian, but to do that would be really odd because Vet is typically a faction that absolutely sucks at spell burst. Gaze in Vet would remove one of the main weakness of the class.

In short, the faction cards get put in matters. And thus, direct comparisons to other factions needs to be done with “faction identity” in mind. P fire is clearly identifiable as a Songhai card. Meanwhile its less clear to me that Gaze is “clearly” Magmar.

  1. Gaze is a card that can only be used in one way, and since it cycles a card it feels like there is almost no reason to not play it at the moment. P fire is flexible and that lack of cycle means you must pick your target wisely. In short, Fire has a higher skill gap than Gaze because it can be used in more ways (e.g face/your minions/enemy minions) and its misuse is more heavily punished (due to lack of built-in draw).

  2. I did mention in the OP that I wasnt really questioning how balanced the card is/is not, I was mainly commentating on what I feel is “unhealthy” design.


Regards Variax.

Below is a stream highlight (unfortunatly about 4-5 mins of me ranting is cut out (cuz copyright on music)). Where you kinda get to see what I’m talking about.

In this game I’m trying to play a Vanar Control deck (list below). Eventually he drops Variax and well I start to lose, slowly but surely.

At the time he plays Variax I’m waay ahead on both cards and board, and the for the next few turns he doesn’t do much other than play BBS. Guess who wins?



Hey :slight_smile:

Here are my thoughts on your thoughts.

Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Variax or Geomancer. Variax is a win condition, that’s what it’s meant to do. Same can be applied to Shadow Creep for Cassyva’s Obliterate or Faie’s BBS. Both put the game on the clock and will eventually win the game if left unchecked. Are these unhealthy as well? In my opinion, no. Just because you can’t play around something when it hits the board doesn’t mean their is not counterplay. If I’m against a Variax deck or a deck I suspect has Variax than I understand that I need to put on early pressure and change my plans accordingly, that is counterplay.

Also, most of the stronger control decks CAN handle Variax in the late game or are going for the kill as Variax hits the field. I’m pretty sure Disruption Faie can stall out the game and burn down the abyssian general. She can continue to stall the game out with removal while putting Abyssian on the clock with Warbird and meltdown. Control Vetruvian is honestly a late game focussed midrange deck and around this time is trying to end the game with Nosh-Rak, Dominate Will or Aymara Healer. Control Magmar is probably going for the kill as well(Just food for thought, but isn’t Facemar just a twisted version of Control Mar? From what I can tell the goal is just remove everything and go face with BBS instead of relying on a lategame win con.), their AOE cards decimate the swarm cards that Variax decks want to run. The only late game deck I believe struggles with Variax would be Lynor I believe.

The only issue I really have with Variax is turboing out early with Darkfire Sacrifice, I see Variax as a late game Win con which you try to hold out for to win the game. Summoning it early for Tempo reasons in my opinion really goes against that idea. But, a lot of the time it’s not even good and if it’s really an issue than they can always make it so Variax’s cost cannot be reduced.

I think we can agree that this card is tad overturned at the moment. My personal opinion is that it could needs to be tuned down not redesigned but wouldn’t mind either to be honest.

I’m fairly certain that these changes would kill off Mechazor as an archetype and the proposed cards that work with it are not enough. Mechazor does not work as a control deck by its nature. In these controlly decks you tend to want to want high value cards to maintain card count. This is the opposite of what Mech does, it fills your deck with very low impact cards which is not what control wants. I tried making a control Mech Sajj deck in the past, the biggest issue was that I kept running out of cards because I was spamming low impact Mech cards on the field. Card draw helps alleviate this but not fix it, you don’t draw enough to keep a reasonable hand. Your proposed cards help potentially cut down on Mech cards but at the same time you want to play every Mech card possible for consistency. Also if we’re playing a deck that can potentially run all these cards in a control fashion wouldn’t it be better to just put a Neutral Win Con minon like Pandora, Dark Nemesis, or Meltdown in your deck instead of slotting a third of your deck with Vanillas and support for them?

If you want Mech to be a control archetype you would need to rebuild them from the ground up which may be an option but for now I think there are more pressing issues to solve than reworking an archetype that pops up every now and then.


you are forgetting to mention that opponent gets draw as well, you basically give him a better chance for a counter play on the next turn. even if you draw a card as well, now your opponent has more options and more possible plays to make. from what i’ve seen most players value board and cards much more than health in early game, for example:
opponent has a 5/2 minion near your general, you have a 2/3 treating a mana tile, but can hit the 5/2 as well.
from what i’ve seen most people would just kill the 5/2 with face and establish board controll while taking 5 face damage, rather than sucrifice the 2/3 to kill it.

that’s exactly the case with entropic gaze, it cannot be used to gain tempo advantage. if you play it early your opponent just gets 4 damage early and plays according while having more divercity on their moves due to the extra card, and likely board controll as you likely play less minions the turn you played entropic gaze.
in late game especially if opponent has just 1-2 cards in hand giving him a 3rd might cost you the game and not be worth the 4 damage unless you have lethal this turn.

if you look at lucent beam for lyonar you see that it’s quite similar in terms of mana cost and damage but it can hit minions and general alike while not giving draw to the opponent (in my opinion less counterplay here than than of entropic gaze) and lyonar seem atleast to me more about tempo wins with strong board, not blowing people up with from hand damage. why is lucent beam ok and fit the faction while gaze does not?
it seems more starhorn oriented card with draw synergy.


Just going to comment on this one part for now; how are these different? If I hit you with Gaze and with Saberspine, are they not both out of hand damage? Do they not both apply their effect and disappear?

What would you have liked to see in the expansion? More rush minions? I think they didn’t do exactly that because having more rush minions allows you more flexibility, as well as enables buff abuse. There’s a critical mass that we are likely near, if not already at, with rush’s ubiquity within Magmar that could be very poor indeed, so I like Entropic in comparison to the functionally identical alternative (and also on its own; entropic is fine).


@maelrawn The difference is that even though both are out of hand damage you can wall off rush minions, play provokes to perfect protect for you, and/or actually move to the other side of the field (well, that was more reliable before tracer nerf). The only way to counter gaze is to heal yourself. Obviously those things can get answered, but that’s still better than gaze. Neither burn nor rush is particularly great but ignoring the board is a powerful thing to be able to do.

@raviel1234 yes, the opponent draws as well, but I think you overstate the disadvantage. If a magmar plays gaze P1T1 then yes, the opponent gets more options while the magmar has failed to contest the board in any way. But if a magmar saves gaze for when he has lethal or is digging for lethal the defender has a lot less time to use that card advantage. It has a downside but I think the downside is pretty much mitigated by smart play on the magmar’s end.

@shatteredskys Re: variax, there are a lot of issues here. Yes, you can just go for the throat in response. That does not mean the card is healthy or has meaningful counterplay or promotes interesting games and decision-making. Winning by spamming 10/10 in stats every turn is terribly boring. It’s the nature of BBSes, the stronger they are the more every turn plays out the same dull way.

I don’t think the Cass/Faie comparisons really work either. In those cases the “inevitability” only becomes inevitable because of an entire deck built specifically around it. There’s more counterplay too: creep cards can get removed before they spread much, the BBS can be played around, and lightbender directly deals with creep and creep generators. The win con is also slow enough that I even made a deck once where even though Cass had 15 creep tiles on the board I had no need to panic and won fairly leisurely.

In Faie’s case, I guess if you did nothing for 13 bbs turns you’d be dead but, uh, that’s a lot slower than variax can kill you. In that way it feels much more fair. Much like Cass it’s the entire deck which makes the bbs threatening.

Contrast that with variax where when it’s played you basically have to go full face mode and it requires no particular kind of setup. Just, boom, variax, hit that on switch, no other cards in particular needed to win after that, ever, except defensive stuff. Maybe if it cost 10 mana that would be cool and appropriate but it’s just another 7 mana minion except its effect is unremovable. Playing it isn’t even that hard.

I think geomancer is kind of stupid but am willing to not care until it actually starts seeing real play.


In response to the @ shatteredskys portion:

“Meaningful counterplay” doesn’t just mean “I can dispel this thing they did so it’s like it never happened”, which is what most posters here seem to think it means, because in the context of the rest of most of the game, a decent part of it does. Counterplay can and should involve positioning and resource management, which is what Awesome BBS does; it just makes that resource unusual to some because the focused resource is health.

Also, about Faie, the decks that ping you out don’t do that all game. Those decks are the ones that play things like warlock, and can -transition- into that style. It’s much more powerful and inevitable than you think it is when the clock is ticking down from 4 or 5 turns.

Variax does require setup in that you have to be safe when you play it or you lose. I don’t know how many times this is going to get ignored, but it’s how the card works.


Rofling hard while reading this “let’s nerf the most weak cards” lol


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