The Elder Scrolls

Why weren’t Oblivion Gates supports? A layman’s analysis of the binary nature of supports and how it (may) hurt design.

TheElderScrolls10 - Why weren’t Oblivion Gates supports? A layman’s analysis of the binary nature of supports and how it (may) hurt design.
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To preface this a bit of background. TESL is the first card game I have put significant investment into, so take these comments with the intent to start a discussion. I am well aware there are people with far more expertise out there that can provide more insight. This is less “What is wrong with invade” and more “how did we get here”. In the context of the Invade combo going around in Mage, Battlemage, and Guildsworn there have been several proposals going around on how to change Oblivion Gates to be a little more fair. Most propose some sort of change to cost, the way they rank up, or specifically preventing gates from being unsummoned. It’s this last one I want to focus on which has really stuck in my head.

The Invade combo is completely dependent on being able to copy and unsummon Oblivion Gates. If we are going to go with the idea that Oblivion Gates should specifically have a “Permanent” (i.e. can’t be unsummoned, can’t be copied) effect, to be it directly leads to the question: Why aren’t Oblivion Gates supports?

When we look at the Oblivion Gate itself it is in effect a support. It can’t attack (barring “unshackle” synergies), it’s immune to silence, it provides an ongoing beneficial effect to the player who has one in play. Currently in TESL there are very few ways to manipulate supports with only Excavate and Euraxia Tharn coming to mind in regards to their effect on Oblivion Gates as well as the typical destroy support cards. The Invade “combo” would be significantly harder to pull off if Oblivion Gates were supports and not creatures. So why aren’t they?

I have a few thoughts, slightly incoherent and incomplete, regarding why the design team went in the direction for a creature instead of a support.

. They aren’t supports because the nature of supports is too binary. This has been the most stuck in my head, which is why I have listed it first.

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  1. The ability to invade multiple times on early turns would snowball too fast and be too difficult to counter. The first support removal to come online is Dismantle at turn 3 which only directly answers the gate without answering the creatures (potentially) that summoned it. By turn 3 gates can easily be level 3 or 4 with creature discounts and random keywords.

  2. The opponent can simply resummon the gate next turn (with our current Invade cards this is easy) and start the train going again. They could not make enough cards to make the mechanic consistently viable for 50 and 75 card decks without it snowballing too fast as a support.

  3. The options to deal with supports are too limited (silver bullets). They can lead to games where you lose because you simply didn’t draw the right cards.

They aren’t supports because the developers wanted them to have interaction with unsummon and copy.

  1. It is, subjectively, fun to get multiple Oblivion Gates out on board and watch Daedra swarm the board.

  2. It’s balanced (maybe even weak) when the combo is not out of hand on turn 5-9, when it requires setup with creatures like Wispmother or playing suboptimal cards like forsworn guide, cast out, etc. in a traditional aggro or midrange shell

Conclusion

While it does seem correct that Oblivion Gates are not supports with the current cards, the mechanic could have been released and adjusted to accommodate a support Oblivion gate (with fewer overall Invade cards and stat adjustments). The fact that they are not supports, but function as supports to me highlights a core problem with the binary nature of supports and support removal. It is possible the design space would be more open if supports had health and could be destroyed through direct combat.

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