Making Eternal more challenging

So the first challenge is to get into Master.  That depends mostly on reading the meta and playing a Tier 1 or 2 deck that is good against the meta.  Piloting skill isn’t that important.

Then the second challenge is to reach #1 on ladder.

Next, you realize that ladder is not a great test of what’s actually the best deck.  So my current challenge is to figure out how good decks actually are and what the actual matchups are like.  That involves collecting data in a spreadsheet, which you saw with my post on how dominating Burn Queen was pre-wipe.

And then the other challenge is to come up with other Tier 1 decks and have data to back it up.

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Whispering Echosauruses (competitive jank with Funstable Form)

The core of this janky deck is the synergy between Twinbrood Sauropod (echosaurus) and Dawnwalker.  If you have both, Twinbrood can bring back Dawnwalker twice.  The value!  Some decks like Armory have an extremely difficult time beating this combo.

twinbroodsauropoddawnwalker

For added jank level, we use Whispering Wind to help find our good units: Twinbrood, Dawnwalker, and Boardstall Titan.  Whispering Wind can also discard Dawnwalker for unnecessary win-more value.

whisperingwind

Because Elysian does not have great removal, we throw in (F)Unstable Form to deal with problematic units.  Unstable Form is another card that can be discarded to Whispering Wind.

unstableform

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Stonescar Budget Burn for new players- work in progress

Basically, we throw the best burn spells plus efficient Stonescar creatures into a deck.  Because the current meta is aggro-heavy, we run 4X Vara’s Favor.

In the pre-wipe season, Weiseguy piloted a midrange Stonescar Burn to #1 on ladder.  It should be similar to this list plus Bandit Queens (unfortunately Bandit Queen is a legendary now).  Post-wipe, it looks like the meta will be aggro-heavy.  What Weiseguy piloted to #1 last season with a few changes (like Vara’s Favor and Cabal Countess) will likely become the dominant deck and the metagame will warp around it.  Vara’s Favor will be very strong to ok in almost all matchups- aggro decks have lots of 1-drops worth killing.  Rakano has Silverwing Familiar, which is definitely worth killing before the opponent can drop equipment on it.

This blog post will cover a sample deck list + substitutions.

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My criticism of Eternal’s balance and card design

First off, let me say that the metagame just before the wipe was insanely good.  It was extremely diverse and many decks were viable. The really interesting thing is that many Masters players would intentionally play underpowered jank (e.g. dark Clockroaches) on ladder.  Everybody knows that Clockroaches isn’t tier 1 (probably tier 3 or 4).  But Clockroaches made up several percent of the metagame that I faced because it was fun.  It is wonderful that people are having fun in this game.

What that being said, let me get into why some of the post-wipe changes strike me as mistakes.  Cabal Countess is the most questionable decision:

  1. She moves the metagame into the wrong direction.  Ideally, jank like Clockroaches should be semi-competitive- not too good but not too awful.  Cabal Countess widens the power gap between tier 1 and fun jank. She will likely harm metagame diversity.
  2. She has less strategic depth and interesting gameplay than Shadowlands Guide.
  3. From a card design perspective, she has unnecessary complexity.  This makes the card more difficult for new players to grok.

cabal-countess

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Say hello to our new Queen overlords

Well… the wipe changes were a little unexpected.  Cabal Countess strikes me as needlessly strong.  She is good against enemy sweepers- she can be played after the sweeper and get in 4 or 6 damage while leaving a very strong body behind.  Any card that can reliably deal 6 face damage is very good in Burn Queen.  She looks like a very good addition.

cabal-countess.png

Control decks that relied on Secret Pages for influence fixing and getting to double justice for Harsh Rule (or a single Primal for Lightning Storm with only 2 power) have basically been nerfed.  I don’t think that these control decks will fare well against the new annoyingly-fast queen decks.

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Burn Queen is a dominating tier 1 deck

Burn Queen is basically a Bandit Queen deck with a burn package of Kaleb’s Favor, Flame Blast, and Obliterate.  I originally didn’t realize that this deck gets more powerful at the highest levels of ladder, where there is more Combrei and control.  Having played a reasonable amount of this deck, here’s some data:

  1. Highly favorable matchup against non-aggro Combrei (79% winrate).  This deck absolutely preys on Combrei durdle decks tuned for the Boardstall Titan mirrors.
  2. 70% overall winrate (126W-55L).
  3. Early on in the season, I piloted this deck to #1 on ladder.  Currently my rank happens to be #2.

kalebs20favorbandit20queen

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Overwhelming the Bandit Queen mirror

The Bandit Queen mirror is one of the more intricate matchups in Eternal.  These matchups work quite differently since the games go much longer than typical Jito Queen games.  Whereas normal Jito Queen typically calls for aggressive play (“A + space + burn to the face”), the key skill in the mirror is choosing when to attack and when NOT to attack.  As well, it sometimes makes sense to hold removal for the units that actually matter in the matchup.

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Tells from opponents mousing over their cards

When an opponent moves their mouse cursor over a card, you will be able to see a card sticking out with a teal halo.

mouse-over-cards-02

Many players have a habit of mousing over their combat tricks as soon as their opponent clicks on their blockers.  (This helps them play faster and therefore grind gold/rank faster.)

To bait out information, simply click on your blockers as if you were going to block.  Your opponent may instinctively mouse over their combat trick (e.g. Rapid Shot) as you do so.  To make it less obvious that you are trying to bait out information, un-assign and re-assign blockers as if you were “thinking” about various blocking permutations.

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Game design and skill ceilings

(This is a follow-up post to Eternal’s skill ceiling.)

I don’t think that a high skill ceiling is necessarily a feature of a great game.  Many strategy games have a high skill ceiling without being popular, such as obscure Chess variants (e.g. bughouse) and games like Go.

In terms of commercial success, I think that the most important thing is for players to love a game.  Players love Magic The Gathering for different reasons.  The game’s lead designer Mark Rosewater has labeled the main demographics as Spikes, Timmies, and Johnnies.  Spikes are interested in winning.  Timmies are interested in throwing down big creatures and winning in a splashy way.  Johnnies are interested in being creative and winning in a creative way, e.g. winning with jank.  It’s only the Spike demographic that cares about skill ceilings.

As far as skill ceilings go, there are different aspects to it:

  1. Building out an eSport around a game to drive interest in the game (so that it will make more money).  The most skilled players in a game may avoid becoming a tournament pro if their skill doesn’t necessarily translate to tournament success (and therefore being able to make a living as a pro).  I’m not sure if a tournament scene is necessary from a financial standpoint.  Some companies like Nintendo don’t even care- Nintendo actively antagonizes the grassroots Smash Brothers Melee competitive scene and seems disinterested in re-releasing the game.
  2. A player may leave a game once they hit the skill ceiling; a game may become boring after you have mastered it.  Personally, I stopped playing Arena Hearthstone once I largely figured it out and got bored of it.

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