tl/dr : problem with some greed/combo deck would be the same with aggro decks : they give the impression to remove any impact of players' decisions on the game and its outcomes results only on 'who drew the key cards'; worse, sometime only one player's cards matter, and the other cannot even topdeck a victory.
This impression may be false and inexistent to elite players, it doesn't make it less true for the majority of us.
Design's Job is to swallow their pride when needed, to make a 'dumber'**, but funnier game for the majority of the player base.
Everything below is only my opinion, I just cut the 'I think that' for brevity.
the fun is when
- you start the game with no certainty on how it can go or end and under the impression that it relies mainly on your and your opponent's decisions.
- the uncertainty lasts!
the frustration is when
- every possible outcome is obvious from start
- you're pigeonholed into a very narrow position and if you suck it up and follow that imposed line, your best hope is to flip a coin in the end.
The fun is epitomized by the midrange match-up : both players want to take the board, but not go face too early. Bait the opponent to drop his best cards so that they can mitigated, while keeping one's own protected. Build an advantage via efficient tradings, etc… And in the end, set-up a two turns lethal.
As the game goes, one will reveal as the beatdown (I have a better chance of winning if If rush it down) while the other will be put in the control position (stronger chances of winning eventually if opponent exhausts his ressources)
But this is absolutely not known from the get go. Sometime it can last more than 10 turns until this is obvious, sometime this situation completely flips over a few turns and players swap their positions.
When such games move into a race and the game ends with topdecking some reach or disruption, or hitting a prophecy on the last rune… this usually is where we tend to say this ended by luck, not skill, and you don't want to see it too often.But most times this situation resulted from skill, not luck, and player made decisions, and it is acceptable.
The problem with ebonheart/tribunal/telvanni/assassin/empire, grind/greed/controls/market/abominations, etc.. etc… etc… is that most of the games involving these decks start in that shitty situation, the one that is uninteresting and smells like 'luck, not skill'.The opponent could not even choose not to go there.There is no way to avoid it.It always is that.One player has to run run run. The other has to stall stall stall, and it comes down to 'who drew the best cards to achieve his goal'.
In case any of you missed it, it is exactly the same with braindead aggro decks. There just aren't any so oppressive atm (remember red aggro with 2cost outpost?), and they are less extreme.
These decklists kill the fun because they remove from the players any ability to make the game their own, by killing the uncertainty. That comes from these decks being immensely polarized toward endgame, earlygame, decklists, draws, hand, any place where the players can't interact or chose anything.
The choice to drop offensive or defensive cards, to go for the face or not, to oppose or go in the shadow lane, to trade minions or to trade runes, … is pretty much irrelevant. Everyone knows from the get go who's the beatdown, everyone knows from the get go how the game can end, and nothing matters beside 'did I draw withered hand cultist?' or similar dumb questions.
The design mistake when making such decks very strong (hence popular) is that it is elistist : a minority of expert players will play versus market, versus greed, and have very interesting games*. I had fun playing midranges decks versus tribunal 'fun police' when I felt for the most part, that the game was open. I could try to play around prophecies, hard removals, ice storms, etc…
But most guys will know they face a deck they just have to, HAVE TO, try to rush down as fast as possible, or stall as much as possible because there is no way on earth they can survive if the opponent gets his way. They cannot make positive choices.
By the way, beside aggros/greed etc, there is another part of the metagame where design can succeed or fail, that is diversity. Whatever the reasons, if I queue into a same deck >60% of the time, that's design fault (it's possible to modify matchmaking to play around that, but it's a bit mean). On that matter, I cannot blame Sparky : that could always be better, but to me deck diversity is clearly way better that what it could be, or have been. You guys rock!
Last, to be clear, I think TESL is a fantastic game, in a fantastic shape. This is why I play it, this is why I spent >60 minutes writing this down. I think it outclasses any of its competitors by a freaking magnitude and a shitload of people should discover it, play it, and enjoy it.I think Sparkypants guys do a hell of a job (that plus non-designers also. I've also said that regarding patches and bugs. For all i know whoever does the accounting at Sparky's is also a class act).That doesn't mean there aren't problems, mistakes to correct. And clearly, over the last 18 months (from forgotten hero, with namira's shrine and doppleganger), I have seen the game design slide slowly in a direction I have seen plenty times before in similar games, which does not bode well.
*I had a fantastic game in MSQ4 versus traitor-joe, with ramp warrior facing burn assassin. Some tournament market versus market decks were really interesting. this never happens at rank 2 or under
** edited thanks to /u/floW–/, below. dumb is ironic here.
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© Post "personal take on why so much rage against extreme decks" for game The Elder Scrolls.
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