greetings, i'm bones, the aggro/midrange player of TESL and i have a few things i wanna talk about. They directly correspond to, like, practically every complaint i hear recently, especially in relation to gameplay. It's worth noting that some of these can't be blamed on our current developers, Sparkypants, because they come from darker times of neglected client, so don't go shopping for pitchforks for the amount of stuff that'll be covered in this post, but with that said, let's go through this stuff, one by one.
I want to divide this post into 3 sections:
- Client design (where i'll also put UI related nitpicks because there's a few of them)
- Core mechanics design
- Card design
i'll make the subsection names pretty bold so if you're interested in only one specific part feel free to scroll down to the section of your choice
1. CLIENT DESIGN
I can't say anything objective about aesthetics – to each their own. Personally, the game looks much better now than it did in the old client. Loading times have been overall much shorter and that applies both to transitions between menus and switching pages in collection. Clickables on the board, while completely unnecesary, are a nice addition to the overall "feel" the game gives. The way cards look now in comparison to the old client are, again, a subjective matter, but I've grown to like them quite much, especially things like Premium Legendary Guards, they look stunning on the board. Long story short, the game LOOKS damn fine, at the very least for me. That includes the animations that cards have.
However, the speed of these animations, not all of them – mostly ones that occur multiple times per turn, depending on the deck, like Fifth Legion Trainer/Bruma Armorer buffs on creatures played in quick succession, Bruma Profiteer/Necromancer's Amulet in similar instances, Galyn/Ungolim/Therana shuffling cards to the deck, Relentless Raider dagger (in Wispraider), cost reduction animation (for abomination scout and leafwater OTKs), Piercing Twilight banish (control decks), even something as recent as multiple instances of Training Grounds – is abysmally slow, they make the whole game feel like it's covered in some gluey substance or, in case of the new playmat, that the action takes place underwater. I know that devs are aware of it, because it's been pointed at several (dozen) times already and in Patch 2.7 they have taken a step towards fixing it – namely buffs/heals happening for cards that summon multiple creatures occur at the same time. Baby step in what to us feels like an easy solution (just replicate what was happening on direwolf's client), however i can't discredit a step being taken. Some of the decks are practically unplayable on the ranked ladder because of the animation speed, like the old terror called Nix-ox Telvanni. Figured I'd put it here mostly to keep everything I hold against the game altogether contained in one spot.
Then there comes the issue of when a card becomes interactible (for a lack of better word). By which I don't mean how good the card is, but rather the timing in between what occurs in the game. Here are two examples that I know of to illustrate the issue better:
affects my stupid deck but bear with me – if you have an Orc on board and at least one Fifth Legion Trainer, play Wood Orc. Only when he gets Charge he's able to be selected.
in Leafwater OTK, you cannot play the Leafwater until it ends showing you the discounts from either Thieves Guild Fence or Gates of Madness.
In first case the problem is minimal, but there is a tiny chance to screw you over. In second case, it's actually pretty big, because that and animation speed makes this OTK (and many others) much slower.
Amongst other things that devs know is the issue of not being able to check your discard with a selection box present (like the one Mudcrab Merchant, Merchant's Camel, Indoril Mastermind, etc. give) which is pretty important for control decks, especially considering deck tracker is still absent. But while we're at clicking discard pile icons… How about being able to click the Deck icon to see what's in your deck? An option to view your deck is already there in Laaneth, so I can't imagine there's too much coding that needs to be done to actually implement being able to view your deck's contents.
Halfway through Heroes of Skyrim, for some reason we got buttons to remove and copy a deck in the collection menu… while simuntaneously the same options were taken away from the specific deck's menu. It's a very tiny thing, but I reckon it'd be nifty to have deck code, copying and removing deck button somewhere on the deck screen as well. By no means a high priority thing, but i thought i'd mention it nevertheless.
There have been personal issues with TESL i've been facing on both Steam and Mobile clients. On steam the game slows down a LOT just before the game starts, while server registers i'm in a game. This causes me to, often, miss mulligans. It's more likely to be on my end, but no clue what causes it. On mobile, when building a deck, clicking on an attribute once only highlights said attribute for some reason. Again, nitpicks, but I want everything gathered in one spot.
This is something that I'd call more of a wishful thinking than an actual complaint – Something as simple as being able to highlight (just to keep tabs on it) a card in opponent's hand, without revealing it obviously. This would be helpful with things like remembering Galyn target, a card that Thieves Guild Shadowfoot stole or just keeping a tabs on Tome from Daggerfall Mage or Dagger from Crown Quartermaster. With this inclusion, an option to sort cards in your hand would become available. Necessary? Nah. Priority? Fuck no. Would it be welcome? Maybe? Idk, that's more like a personal suggestion.
I feel like there should be more options for friendly matches. Since there's no reward for winning or losing them (at least not in any internal way), these would be very welcome for customization – Picking lane effects, who gets the ring when challenging, some sort of toggle for an option that allows you to draw specific cards to make testing interactions or bugs far easier, something that lets a player (or both players) see both hands to make coaching/explaining much less of a hassle in a stress-free environment – just to name a few things that come to mind.
Last, but not least, very undertalked issue. Logs. They are very uninformative. I don't think I've ever seen worse logs, sorry guys. Being limited to only 8 last events, which includes minor things like a buff happening is seriously terrible. Not only does it keep information away from each player, it comes with incredibly small amount of information. For example, when your opponent plays an item, you don't get the information whether it's from their deck or was it an item obtained via Gardener's Harvest. Another example is the card Shadowfoot stole – because it's not a copy generated by anything, logs leave no indication about the card's origin. But that's not all the issues this uninformative log causes – bug reports are much harder to actually verify! We're not ideal, we sometimes misremember things. Or sometimes things can't be logically explained. Take
Keep in mind, I don't even wanna mention things like Decktracker and such. They'll be there when they'll be there. However, there's something that rubs me the wrong way about… Tournament Mode. You know,
thing. It's been 9 months since we've seen these two teasers, but ever since that it's been radio silence about Tournament Mode. I can understand priorities like honing the client and stabilizing expansion releases, but to tease something that community has anticipated for a good while and not have anything to show to us other than "we're working on it" is really a big let down that is worth pointing out. On a similar note, we really could use Gauntlets and Chaos Arena. Not only because they add tons of variety to the gameplay, but… um, i'll mention why a bit later.
I know I pointed fingers at plenty of issues, but this is still tons better than what direwolf offered, because we see improvements to the client done at a much faster rate, so kudos to the team and here's to hoping that whatever problems we have with the game right now are going to get solved relatively fast. So far I can't say the quality of the client has disappointed me. In contrary to…
2. CORE MECHANICS DESIGN
TESL's main stand-out mechanics are rather easy to spot. Let's go over them one by one:
- Two lanes
One a field line, the other's covered in shadows. At the point of me writing this, there are only three (soon to be four HOPEFULLY) means for someone to actually play around with more lane conditions than the default two. These being Solo Arena, Story Mode and recently added Syl, Duchess of Dementia and Thadon, Duke of Mania. With how fresh in our collection these two cards are, I'm fairly certain Sparkypants will start slowly introducing more intricate lane conditions or maybe possibly using some of the existing ones. Here you can find all the conditions available in game, in case you're curious.
With two lanes come options to move between them. This, I'd say, is one thing that TESL nails. Moving is a strong mechanic and cards that enable the move are similarly potent. If a moving card isn't utilized, it's most likely due to the card itself, not because of it having means to move – Riverhold Escort, for example, isn't played because you want your guards, for the most part, to protect the lane they're in. Cliff Strider's problem is its text that prevents it from ever going face, etc. If there was one problem someone could point out with moving mechanic, it'd probably be a very small pool of cards (a total of 1!) that lets you move opponent's cards. That, however, is probably even stronger in a vacuum and should be made extremely carefully. So yeah, overall, kudos to design team, past and current (Mad Dash is very, very good as a 1-of surprise card).
Strictly attacking between lanes seems to be kept to minimum, which is fine – the lanes are there for a reason, elevating in-between lane combat to a much higher power level is a cool idea. However, there's also… idk how do I put it better, attacking creatures not strictly? This exists in two forms. Since this part is about mechanics, i'm going to focus on only one of these here – Battle. Battle allows the creature with it to trade blows with any single one of the enemy creatures on the board. Until very recently, Battle was… actually kept in a rather nice state – cards with it saw either very limited play in some decks (Ashlander Zealot in Doomcrag, Fighters Guild Steward in Rage Warrior shortly before Isle of Madness) or were solid arena picks (Cliff Hunter, Skyborn Dragon). Some were incredibly unique, like Dragon Aspect, where you battle with your face! Had we kept it that way, no one would probably notice an issue with this mechanic – it allows a creature that has just been placed on the board to instantly attack. This includes the health it gains from its Drain, any Slay effects, Breakthrough damage, and so forth. Until Isle Battle was strong, but its strength was kept on cards that required plenty of work put in to dish out results or weren't strong in a vacuum.
Then Squish the Wimpy happened.
That card is what happens when you don't realize how powerful giving any card Charge and Bushwhack effect is. And, let's be honest, it's not exactly it – you can't battle your opponent's face – but even that has workarounds nowadays, like Flesh Atronach OTK. Between Flesh Atronach OTK (cards needed in it aren't necessarily always useful, but Squish is never really bad and Flesh Atronach can be brought back from Discard Pile with Odirniran Necromancer if need be) and the amount of ways you can use Squish in Rage/Ramp Warrior (from just removing creatures, to ramping while removing creatures, to healing and stealing creatures, just healing, dishing out insane damage with breakthrough, etc.) this card elevated Battle onto godlike status. However, if you take a gander at how good Battle was prior to Isle and how good it is now, it's easy to figure out that the culprit is one very strong and flexible card that gives interaction to a class with no interaction prior to this. Because of how much power this action carries, I don't think keeping its text the way it is and just fiddling with cost is going to make it any less powerful – even Duel Atop the World, which costs 5 magicka more and its only difference is +3/+3 to the target of the action, has seen some fringe play, mostly in decks that also ran Morag Tong Nightblade.
There's one more big thing that happens between lanes that, at least I, didn't put too much attention in when looking at mechanics. Summon effects. We don't have too many cards whose summon effects affecting opponent's cards are limited to the lane they're played in (Skaven, Tiny Dragon, Cradlecrush Giant, Knight of Order, Giant Snake, Sanctuary Pet, Belligerent Giant, Mantikora… total comes to maybe 20 cards at best) and… I'd say that's not really a good thing. I think more creatures should have its summon effects limited to the lane they're played in, both positively and negatively, however, quite frankly, I have no idea how to approach that kind of balance change for all of the cards in the game, so I'm going to refrain from in depth means of changing this. My only idea was changing Camonna Tong Heavy's Plot effect to affect the whole board, given how little play he sees. But yeah, Summon effects have gotten sort of problematic, with their instant value that's only stoppable by "silver bullet" cards. More on these later.
- Prophecies and Runes
If utilizing two lanes in card design would get a B- from me, then utilizing Runes would get an E-. Sure, there are some interesting cards that even to this day some of the best players can't quite agree on (Wilds Incarnate being the best one), for the most part anything that isn't a Prophecy and does something with Runes themselves was very mediocre. Morokei in Singleton decks is a great card, but… it's also a Singleton card. That's not gonna bring you tons of playability. He's gonna be an auto-include in Singleton decks, but Singleton decks aren't going to top the tierlist because of built in increased variance and an unsufficient reward for gimping your deck (only three singleton cards). Mechanical Heart is the other card that brings back a rune, but it's also relatively easy to deal with, a huge tempo loss on play and unique legendary, meaning only a singular card in 50 or 75 of them in your deck. The fact that Runes have been this unexplored for the longest time is a sin, especially because coming up with things to do with them is actually very simple and straightforward.
- Replacing runes with other effects upon reaching health threshold.
- Using up a rune to pay for an additional effect (ala' Exalt)
- Forcing a rune break of your own.
- Cards that punish opponent for breaking runes for a turn
- Changing conditions for rune breaks (amount of creatures removed, amount of extra cards drawn, etc)
- Cards that let you select a card from your deck to be a guaranteed draw when the rune is broken (possibly more late-game).
The list really does go on. Even on this list alone you could probably make a split for offensive and defensive options.
The reason I gave Rune-related mechanics E- and not F is completely on the cards that reward you for breaking a rune – These I find for the most part very well done. Simply put, high risk, high reward cards that present a fair deckbuilding challenge to the ones willing to take it. Playing with these cards is also handled really well – they are prime targets for removal with their low health or other vulnerabilities, so it's quite easy to punish playing, for example Haafingar Marauder or Relentless Raider at a wrong moment.
This sentiment doesn't quite extend to Beast Form. By themselves, most of these cards are alright, similarly to how "rune break" cards perform. However, with Companion Harbringer and Skyforge, there was a clear attempt at introducing something ala' a Werewolf deck or a Beast Form deck. Without alternative means of destroying opponent's runes, there's not much reason to go full werewolf, sadly, and without Beast Form these cards are nothing more than understatted creatures with no weight on them. Similarly to other very fringe and not played mechanics, only the most swingy of representants see play, like Circle Initiate (for very average statline at its cost and Prophecy tag), Aela's Huntmate (draw) and Whiterun Protector (just a solid body in a midrange deck post-Beast Form). Still, probably more blame lies on underutilizing means of breaking runes rather than Companions themselves.
So let's talk Prophecies… However, not in the way people would probably think about them. Instead of trying to describe in my own words how do they feel, I'll try and draw links between them and mechanics in two other, seemingly completely different games – Team Fortress 2 and Wargroove, starting with the former Between Prophecies and Critical Hits, there's plenty of similarities.
So in TF2 Critical Hits are Random. Matter of fact, they are very similar in its randomness to Prophecies in TESL in that you can technically influence the percentage (in TF2 by dishing out damage, in TESL by… adding more Prophecy cards to your deck), but regardless of percentage, you can go several seconds with nothing but crits or you can never see a critical hit in the round. Random critical hits remove a lot of decision making from the player, as this little tidbit styled after Pokemon battle explains really well, lasts about 3 minutes tops. Now, TESL doesn't have it quite as terrible, because the "critical hit" that happens does actually end up teaching you the essentials of when to play your cards, the ordering of your actions and whatnot, however what holds true in both cases is that it feels just as bad to die to a random critical hit as it is to losing to a random Prophecy that stops your lethal. I think these Prophecies in particular are the biggest offenders – things that create insane swings capable of changing not only the way you play out the remainder of your turn, but flip the entire game upside down essentially. Your Cloudrest Illusionists, Mystic Dragons (at least early game), Lightning Bolts, Piercing Javelins, Shrieking Harpies, Golden Initiates (to an extent) and many others all affect the game state significantly the moment they are played. Again, you can (and you should) play with a possibility of these cards popping in on your turn in the back of your head, and admittedly aren't executed in the worst way because you are capable of playing around them, however losing to one of the big prophecies from first rune or dying to a prophecy lightning bolt don't feel fun, matter of fact they're pretty frustrating to lose to.
Then there's Wargroove, one of the recent games, turn based strategy (if you liked Advance Wars I highly recommend you pick Wargroove up!). The reason I'm mentioning this game is its way of handling critical hits. Instead of bigger and smaller random percentages, which no doubt would end up being frustrating to deal with, the game has conditional critical hits. For example, your cheapest infantry unit only does critical hit when the army's general is standing on a tile next to that unit. This adds a lot of depth to the gameplay and feels very rewarding to pull off successfully. As for TESL, I don't know how could you introduce something that gives you similar feeling – whether introducing conditions that one must meet in order to be able to play the card for free or just making it so that when the conditions are met that one card is guaranteed to appear during the breaking of your next rune. Maybe there's a way to somehow utilize leftover magicka from your last turn during opponent's turn. I want to just present how other games handled something that's widely considered frustrating. The details of execution I'd rather leave to card designers.
I'll explain my last pet peeve with rune-related mechanics in next sub-chapter. Conveniently, we're done with what TESL does differently to other card games, so let's move on to:
- Other mechanics
First of all, I have nothing against your Treasure Hunts, Exalts, Betrays, Assembles and the like, however I can't help but feel that all of the "new mechanics" are only here to make expansions sound better. Whenever a big release was coming to TESL, be it a story or a new set, one of the main advertising points were new mechanics. They were one of the first things we heard about the set as well, for example in case of Houses of Morrowind, for which the very first announcement covered Rally, Plot, Exalt, Betray and "5 power or more" condition. Then there was nothing new that came for these mechanics. The reason this makes me miffed a bit is twofold:
- We could've gotten mechanics that no other game but TESL can pull, especially anything involving Runes.
- If the mechanics I mentioned in the first point are too complicated to just introduce, then at least take proper care of the things you do introduce.
Things like Factotums, Beast Form, Shouts, Exalt all are probably around a card or two away from being very much viable. I don't see much reason to keep them hanging. Treasure Hunts and Rally desperately crave for more, at least from Constructed point of view. Ironically, I think the most recent monthly card, Training Grounds, together with Ring of Lordship, are… perhaps not viable, but definitely a step in the right direction, especially compared to Singleton. These two present specific deckbuilding challenges that grant you plenty of cool perks and flashy plays should you overcome them. Not only that, playing against decks built with these two cards doesn't feel unfair, because you can see the synergy coming if you're observant enough.
I'm not sure, however, what to think about Supports and Support Removal. This interaction feels very binary and, similarly to prophecies, not really fun for either side of the interaction. You're going to feel just as bad when your opponent has a few supports on their side of the board that you can't deal with as you'd feel when your freshly played support you didn't quite reap benefits from gets instantly removed by Dushnikh Yal Archer, Shadowfen Priest or Edict of Azura. I'm not sure how can this be designed in a better, more fair for both sides, way – perhaps make it so that supports have health, but can be targetted with creatures to deal 1 damage to them if guards aren't on the way, while reducing the support's cost all around, dunno really.
Other mechanics that we had since the dawn of TESL time, namely Pilfer, Slay and Last Gasp, have been for the most part kept safely tame. Last Gasp has maybe two problematic cards at best (Haunting Spirit and Balmora Spymaster, for different reasons), but at the same time I can't help but feel that the whole Last Gasp bundle is being really overlooked by all of us. Pilfer is kept at VERY safe levels, probably because of how dedicated Tier 1 Pilfer deck would negatively affect newer players – they'd feel cheated by the Master of Thieves combo, which to them would have no counterplay what so ever, especially if another card that gives any creature pilfer gets printed for Monk. Finally, Slay in a vacuum is also more or less fine, but in tandem with Squish the Wimpy and battle tricks like Sword of the Inferno, Archer's Gambit and Crusader's Crossbow starts raising a few issues, the last three specifically with creatures that have both a Slay effect and Lethal. I also think that Slay and Drain shouldn't affect your own creatures if you end up killing them with Unstoppable Rage or any of the pings mentioned above. The possibility to turn one lane with one big creature in it into almost 30 health or an OTK in one turn is rather disgusting, especially the latter, since you can just place Child of Hircine in shadow lane against an empty board and use your next turn to add a Brotherhood Sanctuary and a bunch of Firebrands, Rage and attack a total of 7 times.
There's also this elephant in the room… you know, Tricolors. What initially was perceived as a fun little gimmick (after all, why give up consistency for increased variance?) turned out to be the most viable way of building your decks. The results speak for themselves. Turns out that increased variance isn't really an issue for the tricolor player, because of several things:
Deck that they play can't really be shut down by anything – your class lacks support removal? Third color has you covered. Short on pings? Good thing extra 25 cards can fix that. What in 50 card decks could be called "identity", a set of strengths and weaknesses, is gone with transition to 75 cards. Every tricolor deck has access to everything, in smaller or bigger amounts.
The only conditions one needs to meet to play a tricolor deck are the deck size and having at least one tricolor card in its deck – That's… not really a setback. Sure, you increase the variance, but that variance often gets lost with how the deck gets built. Tempo Scout has proportionally less reach in its deck than Tempo Telvanni, for instance. As for the second condition… name a single deck in which tricolor card is a detriment to that deck.
With increased variance comes increased unpredictability. As someone facing a tricolor deck, I can't reliably play around its weaknesses, because they can have a multitude of different things. The only safe 2 magicka cards that one can play against Tribunal are Siege Catapult, Mournhold Traitor, Snow Wolf and Steam Constructor. Everything else dies to Negation, Execute or Firebolt.
Because of Tricolors, previously balanced cards start becoming a problem – the nerf of Goblin Skulk could be mostly attributed to Hlaalu and Telvanni with their Firebrands and Fireblooms respectively. If we were to favor classes over houses, Hlaalu Oathman and Cruel Firebloom would become more likely nerf targets than the Skulk itself. Similar things could be said about Tullius' Conscription.
Even with increased variance, tricolor decks can contain a bigger amount of more powerful cards. Telvanni is probably the biggest offender, with Negation, Black Hand Messenger, Emeric, Queen Barenziah, Thorn Histmage, Scout's Report, Telvanni Catspaw and Sun-in-Shadows all being a part of their control lineup. 18/75 is more than class' highest ratio of 1/5th.
Practically every possible group of people, Timmys, Johnnys, Spikes and everyone in between, have at least a few people admitting that the introduction of tricolor decks changed the game for worse for various reasons. The stats we have are definitely in favor of their strength. But at the same time there's a group of people who consider tricolor fun and different enough, which is perfectly fair. There isn't a lot i can think of in terms of solutions – rotating tricolors out first would need to happen, because honestly the design itself requires plenty of tweaking to make the games with it fun and that's not really something i know how to achieve. All of different solutions i've heard haven't really been elegant. But yeah, following rotating out the tricolor I'd either make an expanded queue for ranked/casual or run some tricolor gauntlets, should they make a comeback.
don't think there's tons of things to say about specific cards that I feel like should be adjusted or cards whose design philosophy ought to be changed, but i still feel like giving 'em a section of their own.
3. CARD DESIGN
Starting off with something that was already talked to death by other people, most notably mr Ian Bits in his video
, namely heavy RNG cards. Now, it's understandable why are they made – giving fun to Timmys and some Johnnys, but i don't think power level of some of them is in the right spot. Biggest offenders of course being Suran Pawnbroker, Mudcrab Merchant and Manic Jack/Mutation (although i feel like Barilzar's Tinkering and Desperate Conjuring are also worth looking at). Still, this issue is explained in the video I linked far better than I would be ever able to explain it. There is, however, other type of rng cards that i feel like wasn't mentioned and is arguably a problem of similar size – Ring cards. By that I mean cards that are extraordinarily good on curve, but only with ring. When played without ring on curve, these cards have a lot more answers than with ring. Pre-nerf Goblin Skulk was very much a ring card, but even currently we have Cornerclub Gambler, Fifth Legion Trainer, Mournhold Traitor, Withered Hand Cultist to an extend belongs there too, East Empire Crafter has potential to land in this spot soon, although on a much smaller scale. Granted, when playing against control decks a lot of these become non-issues, as they have sufficient amount of early game removal to be able to deal with them swiftly, but for aggro mirrors these may as well be winrate swings.
For all the things bad about Mudcrab Merchant there's one positive – Crabo has let us play more than one 1 drop that still holds its value during mid-game. I'd say this is worth looking at closer, because if there's something to fix the issue of Ring of Magicka in Aggro mirrors, it's decently powered 1 magicka creatures. Currently 1 drops fall into one of these categories:
Insane on turn 1, quickly lose value – Sarethi Scion, Palace Prowler, Ungolim, Deathless Draugr
Offer an unsufficient value across the entire game – Aldmeri Patriot, Blood Sorceress, Descendant of Alkosh, Blackreach Rebuilder, Covenant Marauder and many others
why are they still here? just to suffer? – Enraged Mudcrab, Niben Bay Cutthroat, Prophet of Bones (sorry my prophet), Voracious Spriggan
actually viable, as they are alright on turn 1 and their value is still solid mid-game – other than Mudcrab Merchant and Crown Quartermaster there's Deepwood Trapper, Gearwork Spider, Shadowmere, Marked Man, Karthspire Scout and, arguably, Scroll Seeker.
Even in the last category, only some decks really want these cards over others at a different point of the curve. Giving people a tad more incentive to go for Scroll Seeker or Karthspire Scout could potentially improve the means of fighting in Aggro mirrors or maybe bring back Midrange out of the sorry state it's been in.
Endurance in its current state from aggressive point of view is an ideal color – comes with a lot of overstatted creatures, perfectly pairing up with other colors, either with enabling plenty of trades or supplementing big bodies with smaller, but Warded bodies (Willpower and Intelligence) or with buffing these creatures even further and abusing movement (Strength and Agility). At this point of time we're like 99% sure that Catapult will receive a nerf, if anything then because of community issues with the big body, now made much harder to punish with Skinned Hound, but to ignore Haunting Spirit, Young Mammoth, Dragontail Savior, Corrupted Shade and Bleakcoast Troll would be similarly unwise. The problem is, I suppose, in the fact that it's really hard to balance something out regarding these 5 cards without wrecking Endurance. I have faith that our card designers will be able to overcome the difficulties currently caused by this attribute.
On the other side of the board we have cyclers and recyclers. Granted, it's safe to say that in a vacuum cards like Merchant's Camel or Indoril Mastermind are, for the most part, fine as is. Enter houses and Odirniran Necromancer, however, and we end up with cards that absolutely neglect the negatives of tricolors (reducing the increased variance) and, because of constant milling, allow these decks to find an answer to opponent's gameplan much more reliably while simuntaneously progressing forward with the board state. Don't get me wrong, it's not a problem that's only restricted to control – cards like pre-nerf Ash Berserker and Cornerclub Gambler should land here just as well. The amount of milling we have is one of the likely reasons the meta is in its extremes – it's either extreme aggro, extreme control or extreme swings/cycle. The solution sort of comes naturally – slow down! Less mill makes for a smarter game to play for both players.
The second part of "Indirect card combat" that we call pings, also belongs here. However, by that I don't necessarily mean actions that just deal damage, like Firebolt, Rapid Shot, etc. These are necessary, fair and harmless. The only problematic cards are Archer's Gambit, Sword of the Inferno, Crusader's Crossbow and Unstoppable Rage. The first two, even at their low cost of 2 magicka, are almost always used on lethal creatures to act as a hard removal with benefits – in case of Archer's Gambit it's the ability to trade the lethal creature into an enemy creature on the same lane and potentially reap benefits from Astrid's effect, for Sword it's proccing Slay twice (on enemy creature and on itself), especially on lethal creatures, on top of just being able to remove two creatures with one so long as the wielder has 3 or more health. Crossbow feels the least problematic of all of these, mostly due to its cost, but also due to lane limitations – in Shadow Lane you can't quite always deal with two creatures at the same time, due to cover. It also doesn't give Guard to the wielder, so it doesn't force 2 for 1s with benefits. Unstoppable Rage is a whole different story. It's perfectly fine as a lane clear, but becomes unfun to play against when paired with a Drain creature or a creature with Slay effect, mostly due to these two things proccing off your own creatures too. This results in even 50+ health swings on top of the lane clear. Of course, there's a difference between feeling bad and being badly designed – I don't think the card itself is problematic, you can play smart to deal with Rage for the most part, but I can't deny its demotivating effect.
Finally, there's silver bullet cards. You know, ones that are useless for all but one matchups – Grummite Magus, Memory Wraith, Piercing Twilight and Cast into Time (sort of, they're helpful everywhere to an extent), Garnag, Bedeviling Scamp and Withered Hand Cultist. These ones are probably the things I hate the most about card design. We're playing a Card Game. You can eliminate the problems by tweaking cards or card interactions in order to help players make punishing certain plays easier. Printing a card that answers the problem for you is an insult to card player's intelligence. It's the equivalent of giving a worse of two chess players an extra handicap piece that can move on any tile of the chessboard – why improve your play, when you can just play an easier game? If your goal is to welcome more casual players easily with these cards, then consider making something along the lines of an advanced tutorial. These could be a series of puzzles for free that any player can partake that would teach you the most important essentials of playing smart and playing to win. Not only that, these would play well into a marketing strategy – you can then direct someone done with advanced tutorial to the store, where he can find more puzzle bundles. It's really worth putting more effort into the game than just creating an easy answer for a card – it makes for a more compelling card game, a more satisfying esperience when you do overcome this one strategy you had troubles with in the past. Don't take this joy away from new players by giving them the middle finger card. Please. And if you're truly set on introducing hate cards to the game, at least split them into several smaller cards that affect different aspects of an archetype. Cultist, for example, should probably receive a big nerf in tandem with introducing cards that affect Summon effects, ability to be shackled, damaged by lethal creatures, affected by actions, etc.
The very last thing I wanted to mention, more as a closing note, is the speed of making changes. Hearthstone recently went on to create drastic changes to the card game, mostly in the amount of nerfs/buffs but also in changing the base set. I mentioned a lot of things in this word wall of mine and I believe introducing even half of them from section 2 and 3 would greatly increase the quality of gameplay TESL definitely deserves. But in order to get there, serious changes need to be made, for we've kinda dwelled a bit too far into some of these problems. For an example of a game that undergoes gigantic changes with every patch to keep the experience fresh and enjoyable, look no further than Dota 2. The game has balance patches which are about as long as half of this article of mine, affecting various little tidbits of gameplay. While TESL by no means has as many gameplay intricacies, it still has cost, attack, health, card text, starting hand, interactions, etc. This game has tons of potential for really compelling games across all kinds of players and between all kinds of players, but a serious amount of effort and dedication needs to be put in in order for us to get there. Passion is what got us some of the all-time great games in the past, like Chrono Trigger, for example.
But I direct this not only to design team and developers at Sparkypants, but to each of you reading this. First of all, thanks for making it to the end. I hope I didn't cause ya to fall asleep. I also hope that what you read helped you understand that not all of the enjoyable things are really good for the game and that, vice versa, there are still tons more enjoyable things to TESL that we haven't gotten yet. I don't expect for you to agree with all that I have written here – we're all humans (hopefully) and we're going to have our different points of view and different preferences. I encourage you to discuss things in the comments, for fruitful conversations help immensely in more means than one. If you come up with an idea to fix things better – post it! Sparkypants devs have been reading our feedback much more often than Direwolf devs and we should seize the opportunity to hopefully change the game for the better. In the end, if you've made it to the end, I'm rather certain that you do love this game. If a piece that takes almost the entirety of symbols on reddit is any indication, so do I. Regardless of how cheesy it sounds, this love for the game and this passion is what will make the game a better experience, and, eventually, us – better players. Whether you're a fun-loving person who cherishes all of the huge flashy plays above everything else (Timmy), a guy/gal whose primary interests lie in deconstructing the game's interactions and trying to discover more of the interesting combinations, treating the game like a box of Legos (Johnny) or you want to be the very best at everything the game offers and for your game sense and game knowledge to thrive (Spike), in the end we're all a part of this big family.
thanks and goodbye
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© Post "bones’ word wall – “it’s called word wall for a reason” edition" for game The Elder Scrolls.
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