The 2016 Update Breakdown

Hey, Duelyrs! Arananthi here with not the promised post about tempo in Duelyst. It’s coming, but this just seemed more important: the big end-of-2015 balance patch is out, and boy is it a doozy! There’s plenty of discussion on the forums about specific card changes, so I’m going to just list the changes and then talk a little bit about how each faction as a whole is different now than it was before, and why.

Card Changes

  • Tempest: 2 cc: Deal 2 damage to all Generals and Minions.
  • Cosmic Flesh: 2cc: A friendly minion gains +1/+3 and Provoke.
  • Portal Guardian: 3cc: 0/6. Frenzy. Gains +1 Atk each time you summon a minion.
  • Star’s Fury: 5cc. Summon a Dervish in front of every enemy.
  • Scion’s Third Wish: 3cc. Friendly creature gains +3/+3 and blast.
  • Mana Burn: 2cc. Deal 2 damage to each minion on or nearby a mana tile.
  • Plasma Storm: 5cc. Destroy all creatures of 3 attack or less.
  • Chromatic Cold: Dispel a space and deal 2 damage to anything in that space.

Faction Shifts

Lyonar

The only real change to Lyonar is that Tempest was dropped from 3 damage to 2 (and 3 mana to 2). That’s a bummer in most circumstances, as 3 toughness is the benchmark for effective early game creatures — if it can’t survive a General’s counterattack, it’s often not worth attacking with. Tempest no longer wipes out those creatures, which FeelsBadMan. BUT! Tempest also no longer kills off your own Windblade Adepts, Healing Mystics, and no longer puts your Silverguard Knights in General-kills-it range. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t break Arclyte Regalia. As if that card needed more reason to get played.

The real bummer for Lyonar is going to be the change to Mana Burn — due to Lyonar’s tendency to cluster together and push forward, a 2nd-turn Mana Burn will allow the other player to do quite a bit of damage in most games. If Mana Burn is even still a thing when the meta settles — we’ll see.

 

Songhai

No real changes to Songhai itself, but the faction is dramatically affected by the changes to Mana Burn and Chromatic Cold. No Mana Burn means that Magmar matches just got meaningfully easier (which means they went from “infinitely improbable” to “only mostly improbable”). But Chromatic Cold means that Vanar matches just went from “middling” to “highly improbable.” Coupled with clever wall use, Cyrogenesis, Aspect of the Fox, Mark of Solitude, and so on, Vanar has more than enough ways to make sure that nothing you play gets a hit off unless you can pull off two successful Inner Focus combos in one game and they don’t get to out-heal you in between.

The Tempest change means that Lyonar can take out your Kaido Assassins for free, and your Gore Horns with one General attack assuming they’ve only buffed themselves for +1/+1. But that’s not that big of a deal.

 

Vetruvian

Ahh, Vetruvian — HUGE changes to Vet. Portal Guardian is no longer all-but-invincible, but is now basically another Obelisk that must be killed before it does anything scary. Which means that unless you combo it with Star’s Fury (or at minimum Orb Weaver), it’s probably not doing a heck of a lot except making your opponent waste a turn killing it with minion attacks.

Cosmic Flesh is no longer a joke, either — +1/+3 is a meaningful boost, and the ability to slap Provoke on something like a Bluetip Scorpion, Jaxi, or Azure Horn Shaman is nothing to be laughed at.

Between the cost increase, the relative weakness of Portal Guardian, and the lack of +9 damage from the old version of Third Wish, I don’t really expect Star’s Fury to be nearly as mission-critical going forward.

The big change, though, comes to Scion’s Third Wish. With this significant change, Vetruvian just went from “another burstdown faction” like Abyssian and Songhai to “the ultimate midrange  faction,” able to punish the everliving hell out of anyone who lets a mid-sized or fat Vetruvian minion live at any point in the game — or just slap it on a Saberspine Tiger for a 6-damage line AoE without warning.  (Also, God forbid, that Bluetip Scorpion I mentioned…if the damage multiplies for all targets, that becomes a 12-damage beam to all minions in a line. /shudder)

In the end, Vetruvian is still probably the most expensive faction to play on the high end, because you still absolutely must have 6 legendaries — without Aymara Healer and Scion’s Third Wish, Vetruvian is even weaker now than ever. But once you have them…look out!

 

Abyssian

Abyssian, like Songhai, didn’t get any changes to its own cards — but it does suffer meaningfully from almost every change made. The new Mana Burn and the new Third Wish are both solid anti-swarm cards. The new Tempest is even nastier against Swarm than it used to be. The new Third Wish+Saberspine Tiger combo will take out a Vorpal Reaver or a Spectral Revenant in one hit from an empty board. And while Magmar lost the ability to dispel a tile at will, Vanar gained the same ability, and many Magmar theorists are talking about adding Kinetic Equlibrium in the new meta, which again, makes swarm very unhappy.

Abyssian will probably have to focus more on burstdown using Deathfire Crescendo/Soul Grimwar with Saberspines and Nightsorrow Assassins for more free damage, on Big Abyssian tactics (and just toss the Vetruvian matchup), and on Shadow Creep control, which is as strong as ever.

 

Magmar

Without its cheap dispel, Magmar is meaningfully hurt. The new AoE is interesting, giving Magmar a geographic ‘focus’ it didn’t have before and a passable early-game option for a faction that didn’t have one for a long time, but it’s no replacement for what is now Chromatic Cold. On top of that, the 1cc increase to Plasma Storm completely killed the Metamorphosis-Plasma Storm combo (which is why Metamorphosis didn’t get nerfed). It is going to make a lot of Magmar players reconsider its purpose — that extra turn to get it out is actually pretty important, and is it really worth using a Mana Spring to open up a turn early when you could be pushing forward and laying down a Veteran Silithar or using that mana spring to plop out a Spirit Harvester that will probably have a similar effect? Many are thinking that pushing tempo is a better play than wiping the opponent’s tempo, especially if you don’t have anything on your own board.

Magmar’s control game is taking a bit of a drubbing, but it’s still really insanely strong compared to, say, Control Songhai, so it’s probably not going anywhere. What you can expect to see is a push toward Tempo Magmar — we’ll talk about what exactly that means next time, promise — so less Earth Spheres and passed turns, more in-your-face with the Elder Silithars and Makantor Warbeasts. It probably won’t be much easier to play against, but at least games will end more quickly most of the time.

 

Vanar

Considering that all that changed for Vanar was a single card, the change to the faction has been enormous. Vanar’s one big problem was sticky creatures — Hailstone Prison didn’t do a lot to them, and Cyrogenesis was often only half-effective. But the new Chromatic Cold has allowed Vanar to fully play the ‘aggtrol’ game of pushing lots of early board presence knowing that they can take out easy targets with their creatures, hard targets with their now-excellent targeted removal, and eliminate formerly-aggravating buffed-to-hell creatures (hello, Vetruvian!) with their non-targeted dispel effect.

That said — the new Tempest kind of sucks for them, as walls are now even more pointless than they were before, and the new Third Wish kind of sucks for them because there’s even less way to force a stubborn Vetruvian to come back to their own side of the board, and the new Mana Burn kind of sucks for them because 90% of Vanar games against smart players end up tightly focused around the middle column, where Magmar can easily move everything away, Mana Burn whatever you’ve got developed in the area, and be ready to come back next turn with a vengeance. But all things considered, I think this patch is more good for Vanar than bad — yeah, Chromatic Cold is that good.

 

New Cards

January New Cards

There’s the four new January cards for you. Let’s talk about each a little.

Sun Elemental is potential 10 stats for 4 — so it’s on par with a Hailstone Golem — except that 4 of those stat points are dependent on you having other minions in play. If you don’t, you have a very weak card in you hand. If you do, then this allows them to facepunch an unarmed General one more time without kicking it, which can be huge — but only if the minion(s) in question are already on the board and/or have Rush. So in general, Sun Elemental is probably going to be less awesome than a Hailstone Golem — but in specific decks (Rush Abyssian, Combo Songhai, a few Magmar decks, and almost anything running Golems or other tough-to-remove creatures) it’ll be at least as awesome most of the time, and truly stunning a small percentage. (Nightsorrow Assassin into Sun Elemental for some serious shenanigans.) Also, it’s a perfect anti-Tempest for Lyonar to pack if it plans on Tempesting a lot.

Overall: B-. There should usually be better stuff to run except in very niche circumstances.

 

Prophet of the White Palm is Dueylst’s Loatheb, right? Right? Well, no — not really. PotWP is far more narrow and far more annoying. If it only prevented spell damage to your stuff, it would be broke as hell alongside spells like Tempest and Mana Burn. As it is, however, basically what you have is a one-drop that isn’t going to meaningfully affect the board after it’s played and must be played with even more precision than the already-narrow Loatheb, at which point it delays whatever card you were afraid of by one turn if that was your enemy’s plan in the first place. Unfortunately, as much as people gripe a lot about AoEs, the most significant of them don’t actually deal damage. Plasma Storm and Metamorphosis both still violently molest your board without your say in the matter. Avalanche won’t hurt you, but will still stun you, which is huge all by itself. Really, the only oft-played AoEs that PotWP will shut down are Holy Immolation, Grasp of Agony, and Bone Swarm. Shutting down a single-target nuke might be important now and again, but only if you have a clutch minion that will actually win the game if it survives…and your opponent has no hard removal or other minions that can kill it. That’s going to be pretty rare.

Overall: C-. There will almost never come  a time when you look at a deck and think, “I should remove (this thing) for a Prophet of the White Palm. That’s a great idea!”

 

Araki Headhunter is bad for the game. Let me explain: Duelyst is already so insanely tempo-driven that playing a creature above 4 cc that doesn’t immediately affect the board is a bad idea really often. Stop and consider: unless you’re playing Abyssian or Magmar (both of whom have mana-cost-reduction mechanics) or rarely Vanar (Crystal Wisp) or Golems (Golem Metallurgist) — how often do you see anyone play a 5-drop that doesn’t do anything immediately? Archon Spellbinder screws up your opponent’s next turn casting. Elder Silithar creates an egg that has to be dealt with at the end of the turn. The only one that really sees a lot of play is Spectral Revenant, and that’s annoying as hell to kill in the first place.

Araki Headhunter just takes the already-present tendency to avoid big, text-free creatures and red0ubles it my making it even more valuable to have Opening Gambit. Mechaz0r loves this dude. Emerald Rejuvenator. Healing Mystic. Primus Fist. Alcuin Loremaster. Twilight Sorcerer. Lady Locke.  The vast majority of the must-run and a simple majority of the often-run Neutrals have Opening Gambit already, so Araki Headhunter is basically just nudging everyone toward doing even more of what they’re already doing. Which is totally not the point of releasing new cards.

Regardless, this guy is bloody amazing provided you drop him with at least a single Opening Gambit creature so he starts life at 3/3 for 2.

1-drops with Opening Gambit: Prophet of the White Palm, Helm of Mechaz0r.

2-drops: Darkspine Elemental, Blood Siren, Wings of Mechaz0r, Bloodtear Alchemist, Dunecaster, Ghost Lynx, Ephemeral Shroud, Gloomchaser, Rust Crawler, Healing Mystic, Primus Fist, Flameblood Warlock, Hearth Sister.

Overall: A-. It’s not right in every deck by far, but where it shines, it has the potential to be blinding. This is the kind of card that makes removal such an enormous requirement in high-level Duelyst decks.

 

Keeper of the Value

*Ahem* — I mean Keeper of the Vale. Yeah, this card is that good. If you bring back a 2/3, you’re getting 14 points of stats for 5 mana — one more than a Brightmoss Golem. That’s not a difficult thing to do, either, especially if you plan your deck around this guy. He has negative synergy with Akari Headhunter, which is good — you want to run either passive abilities or Dying Wishes with KotV, not Opening Gambits. But at least a few of the best 2-drop opening gambits are ALSO 2/3s (Primus Fist and Healing Mystic), so the anti-synergy is not THAT strong.

Naturally, if you want to maximize the Value, you want to play KotV in a deck that curves up fairly strongly compared to most Duelyst decks. Many decks tend to have huge amounts of 2- and 3-drops because it’s so punishing to have to come from behind after playing nothing on turn 1 — but that means they often stop curving out at 4cc and start relying on dropping 2 cards per turn to use up all their cores. KotV, however, loves it when you drop a minion worth your entire available core pool every turn, because it means when it finally hits, there’s a great chance it’ll bring back something amazing rather than something poor. It also doesn’t like very much the multi-summons like Gloomchaser and Lantern Fox — stick with single-body high-value drops, sans-Opening Gambit, and this little dude will do amazing things for you.

Just note that he can’t resummon tokens (neither can Nether Summoning or Zu’rael the Lifegiver), so no Mechaz0rs, but also no Wraithlings — making it possible to build a quite interesting Abyssian deck designed to curve from lots of Wraithlings straight into HUGE DROPS with little or no interruption and thus make KotV enormously valuable.

Overall: A. There aren’t many decks that can’t run Keeper of the Value, and most of the ones who can probably should. In the right deck, KotV might even achieve S-rank kind of value — the grade reserved for obvious superstars like Elder Silithar and Vorpal Reaver.

 

Whew! Lots of words — that’s enough from me. See you soon, and until then, keep on Duelying!

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