The Pathetic Cards of Duelyst-- Part 1
MYW / February 23, 2017
In this segment, we'll go over cards that can be buffed, and review some ideas on how that should be done. Before we get into it, let's talk a bit about buffing.
BUFFS: Why Not?
It may seem reasonable to just buff weak cards whenever, and then fix them if they are too strong, but in a game where less rich players need to carefully pick their crafting priorities, changing the game over and over isn't the best of ideas- especially when just ONE card being on the strong can end up warp the entire game. In fact, the devs talked about this in their recent devtalk. The easiest example is the case of Dioltas. If you were around for the time period, Dioltas' buff was one of the main culprits of the "Zen'rui" meta, which was generally considered unfun. Anyway, those days are behind us now, and while the problems were mostly Zen'rui's fault, it doesn't change the fact that it was Dioltas who opened the gates for Zen'rui to dominate and stale the game. Because of happenings like this, buffs are incredibly dangerous for a metagame. CPG says they aren't particularly interested in buffing, and it is a reasonable opinion- especially in a volatile game like Duelyst.
I mostly agree with that. So why does this article exist? Because while I agree it is dangerous to buff, there is a clear distinction between buffing something, and buffing it into a metagame staple. There is a "safe" bound for buffing, where cards see play in silver and gold on the fringe, which broadly affects what is playable, but does not have a great influence on the "meta." For example, more decks in Bagoum's C and lower B tier would likely not cause great upheaval. While this bound is not always easy to stay within, it is worth the risk for the sake of a larger functional cardpool, and more and better options for people with incomplete collections who make up the vast majority of the game's players. More bang for their buck makes for happier customers, which likely leads to better retention. Think about it CPG!
To attempt to stay within that bound, my buffs will be tamer than most, and if they are a bit wild, they are in design space that is generally weak with hopefully not too much degenerate potential (degenerate referring to things like the Triple Elucidator combo).
Now, onto cards that chould be buffed. The list of weak cards is surprisingly low, because even some cards that don't see a lot of play have fairly high potential in this game. For example, I wouldn't buff White Widow, despite it being rare to see, because it has a powerful effect on the gamestate that most cards in the same slot cannot replicate. It may be a bit luck based, but it has the potential to be strong. I primarily intend to touch cards that I believe would never be strong. I will take card theme into account, because I think flavor is important. I also won't try to give something a completely new effect, as a rework is basically a new card, and the goal isn't to make new cards: it's to fix old ones. Cards like Lysian Brawler, Deepfire Devourer and Black Locust-- high risk, high reward cards-- probably won't show up on my list either. Lastly, I won't touch most of the "for fun" cards, like Mind Steal and Ghost Lynx. With those conditions, the list of potential-less cards is...
- -Sky Burial
- -Honorable Mention: Auryn Nexus, Silverguard Squire, Sunstone Templar, True Strike, Excelsious
- -Mana Vortex
- -Mist Walking
- -Honorable Mentions: Artifact Deflier, Mask of Shadows
- -Orb Weaver
- -Fountain of Youth
- -Stone to Spears
- -Honorable Mentions: Siphon Energy, Astral Phasing, Rae, Portal Guardian, Blind Scorch, Pantheran
- -Echoing Shriek
- -Aphotic Drain
- -Honorable Mentions: Horn of the Forsaken, Dark Seed, Consuming Rebirth
- -Veteran Silithar
- -Honorable Mentions: Dreadnaught, Dance of Dreams, Unstable Leviathan, Dampening wave, Tremor
- -Honorable Mentions: Frostiva, Altered Beast
- -Komodo Charger
- -Planar Scout
- -Piercing Mantis
- -Fire Spitter
- -Rogue Warden
- -Storm Aratha
- -Whistling Blade
- -Astral Crusader
- -Honorable Mentions: Putrid Dreadflayer, Mindwarper, The High Hand, Saphire Seer, E'xun, Alter Rexx, Envybaer, Calculator, Silverbeak, Ironclad, Rook
So. 25 Bad cards, and 34 Honorable Mentions. With a card pool of what, over 400 now? That's not too bad at all. I might have missed a few, but still. Not bad.
Sky Burial is garbage. The reasons for this is that it has the exact same conditions as the far superior and already fringe card Decimate, meaning people will play around it while trying to play around something else-- on top of that, it only costs one less, making it even more rarely worthwhile, especially compared to the other 3 cost, targeted removal.
The thematically correct change, considering that a sky burial is a funeral where you feed the entire corpse to birds, is to change Sky Burial to dispel its target as well. This is a minimalistic change that allows it to compete better with Martyrdom and Decimate. Alternatively, the cost could be lowered to 2, which would ultimately be a stronger change but may be too strong for class identity. (I'm assuming Lyonar isn't supposed to efficiently remove things at a distance.)
Lyonar- Honorable Mentions
Auryn Nexus is truly weak, giving only 3 stat points, which is fairly shabby compared to Magmar's Greater Fortitude and Amplification. However, this card has the barest of value in that it can be used to make Divine Bonds even stronger, and it's theoretically an OK guantlet pick. A possible change would be +4 health, but that change is likely too influential.
Silverguard Squire isn't much to write home about, but it did see a little play in Zoo Argeon decks due to it's tempo. Plus, roaring it makes it suddenly a respectable minion for technically 2 mana.
Sunstone Templar is incredibly slow, somehow needing to be proactive and reactive at once, but no other card in the game can dispel twice. It also seems better in light of the recent-ish Shroud nerf. It may someday see play if the future metas are filled to the brim with snowchasers. The only buff that doesn't seem oppressive is adjusting the stats to 2/3, but dispel that is too abundant is bad for the game.
True Strike is hot garbage, but I can't say it's 100% bad because Lyonar's Sister Sterope draws these for free. Still, it's incredibly low impact even with the dream combos. Sterope may someday see more play, and with her, so will this thing. The most obvious buff is allowing it to hit face, but that has obvious degenerate potential with Sterope.
Mana Vortex is a hot topic, and the jury was probably right: this card is currently dead. Just gaining 1 mana for spells is too little to bother with, especially in Duelyst where handsize is only 6 and combos are difficult to put together already. The best option would be to make this give spells a 2 mana discount. What that would do is promote its usage in slower Songhai decks looking to prioritize the larger spells, instead of the 0 and 1 drop spell fiesta that Songhai usually is. If that would be too strong, considering Flash Reincarnation is one of the stronger cards in the game, making it also deal one or two damage to the general would likely be acceptable, which would weaken the card's artifact synergy. However, iIt's possible that this buff would be too strong with Killing Edge. It is difficult to judge the power of "mana cheating". Other changes might be safer, but would end up being reworks.
Mist Walking is... barely a spell. It often can't even move you out of provoke range. Increasing the distance to 3 would greatly increase the viability of this card, as well as give Mask of Shadows possibly playability. However, if that mobility would be too annoying to the playerbase with Bloodrage Mask and Cyclone Mask, another possible solution is for it to have the "end of turn draw a card" effect, and increase the spell cost to 1, allowing the card to be a tempo-y utility card, which suits the idea of a "Ninja" disappearing to regroup.
Ace is bad, but that's the pet mechanic's fault. If that mechanic stays the same, the best hope is that it gains an extra attack point so it feels remotely useful for it's brief lifespan, and not completely outclassed by heartseekers.
Songhai- Honorable Mentions
Artifact Defiler is terribly specific, but in the extreme case that it would put in work, it will put in work. In my opinion it would be best to change this card completely somehow, but if it had to do what it does, perhaps it could be allowed to cantrip. A two mana cantrip is bad, but it would be less overly specific.
Mask of Shadows is not completely bad- it basically doesn't see play because its best usage is almost always in combination with Juxtaposition. Otherwise, it does almost nothing without extreme patience and a careless enemy. If at least one other good card could give this card some utility, say for example a buffed M ist Walking, this card could combo semi-consistently and pontentially see fringe play. Twilight Fox exists, but it is weak and can't function independently, which makes it difficult to play regardless. There aren't a lot of possible buffs that make much sense, but seeing as Obscuring Blow exists and essentially outclasses this card, perhaps a blanket +1 attack and -1 backstab damage would allow this card into playable space.
Orb Weaver is a mostly outclassed card whose main selling point is being a Dervish. The main issues with it are that it has no survivability, and very little threatening potential. It especially looks bad next to Pax and Zyx. However, despite the flaws, it has some potential simply by being a dervish. 2 2/2s isn't much but 2 3/2's is somewhat respectable. Of all cards I consider "bad," this is probably the strongest one. A fair change in my opinion would be to adjust it's stats to 2/3 or 3/2. There is already precedent for dervishes without exactly 2/2 stats, so continuing to diversify would not be awful. Either stat change would allow it to become useful defensively or offensively, hopefully without making it overbearing.There was a suggestion in the "buff this stuff" threads on reddit, which was "OG: at the end of turn, create a copy of this card" which allows it to double buff, which is also a good option.
Fountain of Youth just sucks-- I don't think it was ever good. This is a card I would prefer to see reworked than anything else, but if this was to simply change, I'd like to see it reduced in cost to 1 so that it could theoretically compete with Sundrop Elixir.
Stone to Spears is extremely situational 3 damage for 1 mana. It is almost never rewarding, especially when using it effectively involves damaging your Obelysks, which gain value from being alive (even if dispelled). If it is to remain as situational as it is, it should be more rewarding, the same way Amplification is. Possible options: The obelysk does not take damage for the turn, or have greater attack power.
Vetruvian- Honorable Mentions
Siphon Energy is mediocre more than anything else, but it will probably never see play because it has the same threat area as Falcius, Entropic Decay, and Dominate Will- all better cards that opponents try to play around anyway. However, I have a feeling there will be a Vetruvian card that extends the range of Siphon, Decay, and Dominate will coming soon, so there is some hope. (Fun fact: I wrote this before Rise of the Bloodborn came out. Incinera happened. Unfortunately, Incinera isn't inherently good enough to also improve other cards. I have hope for future cards too.)
Astral Phasing is low impact, yet the raw stats added aren't bad at all. The issue is that Flying and Health are both primarily defensive buffs that don't do much synergy wise, and that Vetruvian has basically no cards that really want to take advantage of this heightened defense and chase down ability outside of maybe Pyromancer and Portal Guardian. If we see more cards that can take advantage of this card's unique advantages, or if displacement becomes extremely popular in the metagame, it may see play in the future.
Rae doesn't do much and is very easy to play around. It's primary value comes from the 0 cost like the much more successful Slo. It's hard to say exactly what type of cards could bring out the most of it's potential, but buffing it is difficult when the theoretical potential of 0 cost is as high as it is.
Portal Guardian is slow and cumbersome. It wants to be up in the opponent's face, but it also doesn't want to take much damage as it is rather slow to get started. Giving it one extra health to better play ahead makes it far, far stronger as a looming threat as odd numbers of health are generally large breakpoints. Giving it the dervish text makes for utterly disgusting 3rd wish plays. I am unsure if either of those changes would be fair at all. Perhaps the safest option would be giving it one attack by default, but that too would be a massive improvement.
Blindscorch is a card that saw play when Zen'rui was stronger, and sees a lot less play now. THe reason is that it  isn't worth playing without Zen'rui's absurdity. It has almost no synergy with any other Vetruvian card, and more or less acts as single target stall. While the ability to neutralize a minion's damage is good, it also falls into the same category of "cards in vet that are best against units within hitting distance", like Siphon energy. Still, compared to Dampening Wave (another weak card) it's about just as fairly costed. It is weak, but in a way that is difficult to improve upon. Perhaps changing it to cost 0 could be fair.
In theory this card is fine, but the way the wishes are designed, this will never have purpose. Second wish and Third wish are both face damage cards. It's illogical to play a minion dependent on other cards being played in an aggressively focused deck, because dependent cards are slow.
That's all for this article. Next time, we'll cover the rest of the cards. Bye!