Hey everyone, RHacker93 here to give some thoughts on the balance changes Counterplay released yesterday.
To the surprise of few, Entropic Gaze is getting nerfed. I remember my first reaction upon seeing this card was what are they thinking? Entropic Gaze was the most powerful and least restrictive direct damage spell I’ve seen in Duelyst. It could be easily snuck in on curve to deal decent chunks of damage without losing card advantage, or saved and strung together with Tectonic Spikes and/or Decimus to close out a game no matter how far away the enemy general was located.
In its new form, Entropic Gaze is still able to deal damage to your opponent but will probably no longer be an automatic include in every Magmar deck. Aggressive Magmar lists may still run it and Starhorn decks with the Decimus combo will still have it, but they will have a harder time closing out the game.
At first, I was somewhat surprised to see the Grandmaster Variax was next on the list of cards getting nerfed. Although it has shown up here and there on the tournament scene, I wouldn’t say it was a problematic deck. I would also argue that this card was not quite as obviously overpowered as a card like Entropic Gaze or even Spectral Revenant. However, the real problem with Variax is that there is almost no way to beat its inevitability. Basically no matter how many late game cards you shoved in your deck you will almost never be able to outpace the raw amount of stats that a Variax will generate if given time. Combine this with the ability to ramp Variax out AND activate the awesome Bloodborn spell as early as turn 3 and you now have a deck that not only beats every slow deck, but also can compete with the more aggressive decks given the right hand.
The new Variax doesn’t actually change much about the inevitability factor, but that’s probably fine. I think that this problem is mitigated by the fact that, with the cost increase, Variax now must wait an additional turn to come down. This means that aggressive decks will be even more effective against Variax decks as having to take an extra turn to ramp it out is hugely relevant given the speed of those games. This also means that in slower games where Variax may even be played on curve, the slower decks will now have more time to mount an offense before they are overwhelmed by the Bloodborn spell.
What does this mean?
From what I can see, this appears to be a push by Counterplay to diversify and increase the number of midrange and control decks in the meta. My guess for the two decks most likely to benefit most from these changes are Zir’an and Zirix. Both of these decks would struggle against Magmar as they tend to be particularly susceptible to Plasma Storm and Natural Selection. In addition to this, they were also both too slow to deal with a Variax if it came down quickly. While I don’t think that these decks are going to shoot to the top of the tier list, Zir’an has already been steadily climbing the ranks, and this might be enough to jump Zirix up to a more viable position.
I also wanted to take a little bit to talk about a couple of cards that I was surprised made it past this balance change unscathed.
I actually considered this the second most likely card to receive a nerf after Entropic Gaze. In my mind, it actually occupies a position similar to Inquisitor Kron after the Shim’zar release. It’s got solid stats for its cost and a super powerful ability to boot. It might cost slightly more, but given the amount of burst damage it can deal, it’s still viable in almost any faction and can be played anywhere. Many players on the tournament and ladder have lambasted it as provides an out where players can lose the game to a random effect; and in the past, we’ve seen nerfs to cards in similar positions such as Keeper of the Grove and Inquisitor Kron. The other problem I have with this card is that it has homogenized the top end of decks. While in the past people have had a selection of cards to top out their deck, right now there’s just no contest.
Change the ability to only deal damage to minions. This would mean that Meltdown would still be able to act as a powerful end-game minion, but would cut down on the aggressive factor that makes it so universally playable right now.
If Counterplay were really trying to push a more midrange strategy (which only speculate is their goal) I would not have expected Enfeeble to survive the balance changes. Enfeeble is another card that has turned out to be hyper efficient for its cost. It’s not the easiest card to play but it is a very powerful tool that has vaulted Faie decks to the top of the ladder. It gives them a cheap way to not only deal with a big board, but also to counter many effects of spells that increase the stats of minions. In addition to this, the combination with Blistering Skorn to wipe a board for only seven mana means that it’s much more difficult to play any sort of value game against Vanar decks. It doesn’t matter how much you’re able to apply to the board if it’s just going to get cleared, and in my mind this pushes the game to a much more aggressive place. I mean, why play cards that get no value when you could get value out of just going face?
Change the cost to 4 mana. This would make Enfeeble more awkward to combo with and would reduce its viability against aggressive decks.
Thanks for reading everyone!