Disclaimer: This is not a rant. I've been very vocal about cards I think are imbalanced, and have admittedly been angry or "tilted" most of the time. However, that is not what this post is. I feel I have legitimate reasons for my opinions, emotions aside, and am inviting thoughtful and concise criticisms and counterarguments. I actually am hoping someone might be able to change my mind.
After thinking of all the cards that I found to be "broken", I found that they all seemed to fall within 3 basic categories.
Any card that:
- Frequently results in a card value loss for the opponent, with virtually no drawbacks for the user. (Penalties and prerequisites for these cards are either easily ignored/fulfilled or nonexistent.)
- Has constant impact that can drastically alter or win the game with virtually no effort, planning, or special interaction (outside of normal play) required by the user. (a.k.a. "remove this next turn or die" cards)
- Has instant impact that can drastically alter or win the game with no virtually counters or ways to prevent it.
Now, with that said, these are the cards I feel are the most prominent offenders when it comes to my definition of what constitutes a broken card. I'll list numbers next to their names indicating the definition(s) that I feel apply to them. Note that a card being on this list doesn't mean it is an "instant win button." Inclusion on this list simply means a card falls into one of the categories I mentioned. Some cards barely made the list, while others could warrant a whole post on their own. They are in no particular order.
- Blood Dragon (1, 2)
- Mournhold Traitor (1)
- Hallowed Deathpriest/Grummite Magus (1, 3)
- Luzrah gro-Shar (2, 3)
- Thieves Guild Shadowfoot (3)
- Unstoppable Rage (3)
- Miraak, Chodala's Treachery (1, 3)
- Penitus Oculatus Agent (1, 3)
- Haunting Spirit (1)
- Spoils of War (1)
- Young Mammoth (1)
- Mundus Stone (2)
- Gortwog gro-Nagorm (2)
- Alfiq Conjurer (1, 3)
- Sower of Revenge (1)
- Paarthurnax (1, 3)
That's my list right now. There are other cards, such as Wilds Incarnate, Corner Club Gambler, and Piercing Twilight that are certainly annoying, but not quite over the edge into what I would call broken territory. All of the cards on this list basically give you the same feelings when they are played.
- "wow, I don't have an immediate answer for that so I guess I just lost."
- "wow, that just happened and there was absolutely nothing I could have done to stop it."
- "wow, I can either choose to ignore that creature or just bite the bullet and blow 2 or 3 cards getting rid of it."
Now, I like to have fun, but I primarily like card games for the strategic aspect. Sure, the flashy moments are great and all, but the main reason I'm drawn (pun intended) to them is that I see it as a mental clash between my opponent and me. And I just don't feel that these cards promote that. They're, frankly, brainless "play this and profit" cards that honestly feel cheap on both sides. Case in point, I won a game today because Mundus Stone gave my Shadowfen Priest charge, and my opponent had 4 health left. I won another game in which my opponent played Alfiq Conjurer into Storm Atro, and I had to play 3 cards to remove it. Lightning Bolt on the Alfiq, Sorcerer's Negation on the Storm, and then finished the Storm with a creature I already had on board. So in total, I had to spend 3 cards and 8+ magicka to get rid of a single 6-cost card. Is that supposed to be fun for me? Am I supposed to celebrate these wins? Did I learn anything from them? Or am I simply supposed to just shrug my shoulders because "it's just a game" and move on?
Which brings me to my next point. Yes, ESL is "just a game. However, I do not like the outcomes of my games being decided by inserted dice rolls and unjustified mechanical outliers. Yes, of course, every single card game will have elements of chance because randomness is at the very root of all card games from World Series Poker to Go Fish. However, I don't feel like the inherent, unavoidable randomness of card games is a license to insert designed, random wackiness for the sake of "fun" and "interactiveness." In fact, I think it's anything but interactive.
- spend 10 turns fighting for board control and setting up your endgame, only to have it all erased by Miraak stealing your finishing creature.
- blow all of your resources on removing Paarthurnax, only to have him get brought back for the third time by a Soul Tear that HE generated.
- watch as Mundus stone gives your opponent every keyword they need to perfectly counter all of your creatures.
- watch as your opponent starts the game with the ring, 2 copies of Mournhold Traitor, and a Young Mammoth.
- Realize your Journey to Sovngarde/Flesh Atronach got stolen by a Thieves Guild Shadowfoot 10 turns ago, and you just wasted all of your turns dumping cards for no reason.
- watch helplessly as your opponent ignores your efforts to "play around it" and not stack lanes, and just slays their own creatures anyways with Unstoppable rage, instantly gains 30 health, 10 magicka, and draws 6 cards.
- watch as the dead-in-your-hand +7-cost creature/action that you were unlucky enough to start the game with gets mummified/destroyed anyways before you even got to play it.
- watch as Gortwog gro-Nagorm randomly gives your opponent a 12-cost creature on turn 7 because you didn't have an immediate answer for him on turn 6.
When you witness these things…someone please tell me, just how exactly are you supposed to respond? All of these cards enable environments where it really just doesn't matter what you play. Your agency as a player is removed, and you are completely at the mercy of the game. And that's my real issue here. I'm often left feeling like, why did I even bother playing that match if it all came down to one card deciding the winner? I don't think so many cards should exist that can impact the game to this degree. The cards that are powerful enough to single-handedly "turn the tide" should at least be unique legendaries. But over half the cards on this list are epics or lower. I've yet to see someone give any legitimate justifications in their defense. On the contrary, I've seen hardly any resistance at all to these cards. When I've previously spoken out, I've mostly been met with "you're just salty." Or even most recently, "This clearly unbalanced card is okay because x desparately needed the help."
So is that it? Are all of these cards perfectly fine and I'm just mad? Or can someone give me real reasons why these cards and mechanics are acceptable? I'd love to hear some thoughtful answers.
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© Post "These Cards are Broken: Change My Mind" for game The Elder Scrolls.
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