Before someone busts a nerve, no this isn’t another nerf thread, though this is inspired by the many that have cropped up recently. I’d like to open up discussion on the existence of burst, incredible utility cards, and frustrating answer or die threats and why these elements are ACTUALLY HEALTHY for the game.
I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t nerf/rework obviously broken cards, but we’ve more than enough discourse echoing across this vacuum of virtual reality that focus on perceived imbalances, so starting off a topic with a different mindset might be a good change of pace. This will be a looooong post though, so please bear with me.
Of course, this will be a personal opinion and some/all of it may be factually questionable, so feel free to correct me if I do swerve off into stupidity.
Now, let’s talk Magic: the Gathering, a fantastic game with a constantly evolving meta (that nevertheless does get skewed horribly and balancing is still an issue over 2 decades on… but I digress).
Modern Red Deck Wins decks in that game are optimised to win on turn 3 on the back of a goblin avalanche and face melting Lightning Bolts and Lava Spikes. Some Turbo Aggro variants even ran out-of-colour cards like Gitaxian Probe to hurt themselves and draw a card to keep momentum for longer games.
Two Standard metas ago, G/R Devotion had ridiculous ramp to drop overwhelming big beasties with built-in removal by turn four. Months later, Abzan Midrange rose to dominance by focusing on playing the best value on-curve drops, and those decks too had great all-around removal. The countless variations of Blue-centric control decks throughout the entire history of Magic are premised entirely on disallowing you from playing the game, countering everything you throw at them before either milling you to death or dropping something like an Ulamog or Emrakul.
During the original Zendikar release about 4 years ago, I piloted a non-meta mono-green Tribal Elves deck that played synergistic low-cost drops that together could potentially output damage five times greater than the opponent’s life total of 20. And every now and then a combo deck crops up where you sit there for 5 minutes engaging in an infinite combo and the opponent just stares at you dumbfounded while you play solitaire.
Several archetypes can do absolutely ridiculous things, but they tend to be unable to do the things that similar archetypes in Duelyst CAN. MTG’s aggro decks consistently run out of steam and have pathetic midgame, whereas Duelyst’s aggro variants have card engines and powerful midgame cards like Makantor.
MTG’s control decks are never fast and take time to set up their inevitable win con, while Duelyst control-skewed decks, like Fast Cass, can have a potent early game and even threaten at least some damage early, while having multiple alternate win cons and great sustain.
With MTG, you generally can either “go wide” (swarm) or “go tall” (big beasties) but competitive formats rarely have decks where you can do BOTH. On the other hand, the silent uptrend of Big Lilithe decks that are seeping into the S-rank meta prove that you CAN do both in Duelyst. These elements prompt some players to go as far as to say that Duelyst archetypes are no more than arbitrary namesakes and therefore meaningless.
On the surface, Duelyst’s balance is completely out of whack. But here’s why - in this game - I think aggro archetypes need a midgame comeback, why control-skewed decks need faster plays, and basically why Duelyst decks in general need cards that allow for such things:
Duelyst doesn’t have a sideboard.
For those who don’t know what a sideboard is, in MTG its a reserve of 15 cards than you can substitute with components in your main 60-card deck to mitigate bad match ups, to make it faster or more removal heavy and such and such (and you can only utilise the sideboard after concluding the first match with an opponent). The sideboard can exist in a game where the victor is decided over the multiple games, not in all-in-or-nothing one off matches such as Duelyst. Artefact Defiler, for instance, is worthless because its far too specific a tech card in a sideboard-less game.
If Duelyst went the MTG route of balancing powerful cards, with no sideboard, a few things could happen. Control-esque decks might cease to exist because you remove the massive tempo swing cards it utterly needs to sustain against turbo aggression. Dull the available card engines too much, and aggro decks become one trick ponies that completely stagnate past turn 4, regardless of the matchup. And on and on it goes.
Games like MTG can afford to run very archetype focused decks (aggro with no midgame potential, for instance) because the sideboard exists and the fact that the winner is decided in a best of three.
In Duelyst, the game needs to balanced in such a way that it accommodates various archetypes that feel very different to play from one another, while at the same time making sure these multiple archetypes can generally compete in all-or-nothing singleton games.
I’m not denying that this game has some balancing issues, though remember that games like this one are monumentally difficult to balance and probably impossible to approach a state of equilibrium where all decks are good and viable.
But powerful tools like Holy Immolation, Aymara Healer, Mandrake, Makantor, Dioltas, Grandmaster Zendo and even incredible utility cards that can be used in multiple ways need to exist precisely because Duelyst can’t afford to NOT include cards that disallow decks to comeback or make plays at any stage in a match, given that it is a sideboard-less game.
Apologies for the long post. Please do post your counterpoints, expand on the discussion or even just vehemently insult my stupidity or potentially misguided thoughts. I would love opinions from all corners of the thought spectrum. Thanks for taking the time if you did read! XD
TL;DR: I believe Duelyst needs these perceived “ridiculous cards” and powerful multi-purpose tools as it allows multiple archetypes to have in-built solutions to deal with a wide pool of decks in this all-in-or-nothing, sideboard-less game.