You can find Part 1 of this article here: Shadow Era 2.89 balance changes PART 1: Hello Hero!
Gondorian, one of Shadow Era’s developers just released a preview of the upcoming balance changes for Shattered Fates (version 2.89). In an earlier post, “Hello Hero!” I described how many of the upcoming changes are intended to improve certain underused heroes. In this post, I review the several changes that will likely shift the meta as a whole, I call it “Goodbye Rush!”
Goodbye Dagger of Fate
Dagger of Fate: Ability changed to “0SE: If a card was discarded from anywhere this turn, Dagger of Fate has +2 attack while in combat with allies until the end of your turn.” (from “0SE: If a card was discarded from anywhere this turn, Dagger of Fate has +2 attack until the end of your turn.”)
Dagger of Fate has been central to recent rush Aramia and discard Zaladar builds for the last few months. In rush Aramia, the player combines Dagger of Fate with Crystal Shards by summoning one of the two cards on turn 3 or 4 and using the hero ability to pull the other from the deck. This then allows them to use the dagger in combination with other cheap allies to establish early board control and start beating on the opposing hero. In such games, the Dagger/Shards combo is nearly constant. The best counter is allies and weapons that can wear down the dagger and ensure that it only deals 5 damage for 3cc (3 when it is summoned, and 1 to each ally that attacks it), rather than the full 9. While this is happening, Aramia uses Crystal Shards to draw cards and play burn abilities as she gets them, including supernovas which clear the board, allowing more space for dagger to work, while maintaining a hit-point advantage over the opponent. It is a very quick death race that is countered best by other fast decks, particularly those with hasted allies and their own burn cards.
Discard Zaladar uses Dagger of Fate as just another card that is able to deal 3 damage when summoned like many cards in that deck. Essentially it serves as versatile control or direct damage depending on the need.
The nerf to Dagger of Fate essentially changes it from a rush card to an early control card. It may still be useful in a Zaladar deck, in the same way that Brimstone Devourer is still useful, but it will no longer help to accelerate Zaladar’s game. Within an Aramia deck it is potentially still useful for early control, however it is unlikely to remain a central part of the strategy of these decks, particularly as it requires bilateral draw with Crystal Shards to achieve the combo. A control oriented combo that gives the opponents cards is essentially just serving as a stall, which has limited uses in a rush deck. This nerf may eliminate Aramia’s dagger rush altogether, and the combination may persist as an option in Aramia Homunculus decks. Aramia can still play a rush game without Dagger of fate by using Flameforged Gauntlets as supplemental draw and focusing on burn. Such decks are fairly strong but slightly slower than the decks that are seeing nerfs.
Goodbye Amulet of Conjuring
Amulet of Conjuring: Ability changed to “Sustain: 1SE. 0SE: Draw 3 cards and remove 1 of your resources from play, and your hero takes 1 damage.” (from “1SE: Draw 3 cards and remove 1 of your resources from play.”)
Amulet of Conjuring got a strong buff when it’s draw was increased to 3 in a recent update. Soon after that buff, Loest rush decks became very popular. Mage rush has traditionally been a strong, but all-or-nothing style archetype. If the mage gets a lucky opening (going first, Kristoffer, Puwen, Aldon, Lightning Strike, etc), and if the opponent does not have a good answer to it, then the mage wins. If things don’t go the mage’s way, the mage has a very good chance of losing. Amulet of conjuring gave mages a contingency plan. The initial rush helps, but if it is not perfect, the mage can still win, but may be slightly slower. This shift made many mage rush decks much more consistent.
The nerf to Amulet of Conjuring makes it still a strong draw engine that is geared toward rush decks, but it gives it meaningful drawbacks in exchange for this strength. First, that loss of health, while minimal, may be the difference between a victory and a defeat in many games. Second, the sustain cost means that rush Loest decks will have to be much more careful about whether they use their ability and what turn they cast Amulet of Conjuring. If they cast it on turn 4, Loest may never get to use his ability. This creates an important and interesting distinction between Loest and Eladwen rush. Loest will now have to last a little longer before playing Amulet, if he wants to use his ability, while Eladwen will be able to start drawing sooner. By creating tough decisions for rush mages to make around the playing of Amulet, this nerf has added a new element of skill into the archetype that I can appreciate. It also makes it one or two turns slower, while slightly speeding up the opponent (by hurting the mage with each use), which will allow for a slower meta in general. It is still a strong card and should still see play in similar decks.
Harbinger of a Nerf
Harbinger of the Lost: Attack increased to 2 (from 1). Ability changed to: “When Harbinger of the Lost enters play, each player discards a card from their deck.” (from “When Harbinger of the Lost enters play, each player discards a card from their deck. If at least one ally was discarded this way, Harbinger of the Lost gains +1 base attack and +1 health.”)
This is a minor nerf to Zaladar, but also serves as a nerf to many mid-range decks, such as Banebow. Harbinger of the Lost having a very good chance to be a 2/4 was excessive, essentially allowing it to have the stats of an ally that costs 3cc for 2cc without any combo necessary. This nerf gives it reasonable stats for its cost, and leaves it with an ability that is suited for discard themed decks, while making other allies like ironhide karash, better choices for other decks.
By reducing the survivability of cheap allies, in mid-range decks, this likely reduces the need for slower decks to waste removal cards on such allies (and use hero abilities or allies to kill it instead). Saving such cards for the bigger allies gives slower decks a better edge over mid-range decks, cementing their supremacy.
Let Krygons be Krygons
Rampant Krygon: Health reduced to 1 (from 2). Ability changed to: “Haste. 1: Target other ally gains +1 base attackand takes 1 damage.” (from “Haste. 1: Target other ally gains +1 base attack and is reduced by 1 health.”)
The health reduction nerf does a similar thing as the Harbinger nerf. By reducing Krygon’s staying power (although it was not high before), this nerf cements Krygon’s role as an ally that helps to claim the early board but does not hold the board. Putting Krygon in kill range of cards like Fleet-footed Messenger, Spirit Shuriken and Wizent’s Staff allows control decks to exert their suppremacy over mid-range and rush decks that abuse Rampant Krygon to rule the early board. It will help them clear the board now, but it will not be enough to hold it.
The chang of Krygon’s ability from health reduction to damage is more subtle. In some ways it limits Krygon. Most notably, Krygon will not help to kill armored allies anymore, since Krygon has been such a mainstay of shadow decks, this is essentially a buff to cards like Infernal Gargoyle, Fortified Wisp, Dakrath and Armored Sandworm. These cards were designed to be hard to kill – with high cost and low attack balancing that ability. Krygon and heroes like Banebow made killing these allies trivial, which resulted in them being underused – despite their strengths against burn decks. By nerfing Krygon’s ability to eat through armor, we will likely be seeing a return of armored allies, which will offer slower control decks a weak counter to burn decks and a stronger counter to mid-range decks.
The shift to damage for Krygon is not only a nerf. It also creates potential synergies for Krygon. It can synergize with armor on friendly allies to buff attack, without harming those allies. Likewise, it can synergize with allies like grimjaw hydra and Bloodstained Marauder, who benefit from receiving small amounts of damage. This creates some new potential play-styles for shadow that may be interesting to explore.
These changes cement Krygon as a limited tool for early and mid-game board control or added damage through haste and buffing friendly allies. It is no longer an ally that Zaladar or Banebow can use on turn 3 to clear the board and expect to hold it for a turn or two. Humans will now be able to hit back with their own Fleet-footed messenger or weapon, and Shadow will easily be able to hit back with Death Mage Thadeus, Dreadwolf or their own Krygon. If players want to dominate the early board, they will likely need to invest in other cards that have slightly more staying power, and use them in combination, which will likely make the meta-game more diverse.
Bigger, Better and Deader
Growing Bog-dweller: Ability cost reduced to 0 (from 2).
Grimjaw Hydra: Now Ravager.
Flameborn Defiler: Now Homunculus.
Infernus, Tyrant of the Damned: Ability changed to: “Steadfast. Infernus has immunity to fire damage. Fire damage to opposing allies is increased by 1.” (from “Steadfast. Fire damage to opposing allies is increased by 1.”).
These changes all amount to buffing fatties, especially shadow fatties. This type of change incentivizes making slower decks with higher resource curves. If such decks are strong enough and rush decks are simultaneously weakened, we can expect to see slower decks beginning to dominate the meta. This opens up many cards that have recently been unplayable because they focus excessively on the late game.
In my article about Zhanna, I discussed the dominance of Rush in the recent meta game. Tempo is very important in this game. Beings able to affect the board and achieve a win condition faster than your opponent can be very powerful, especially when you can do this much faster than the opponent. Rush decks capitalize on this fact by focusing exclusively on tempo. Card value is also important. Having a deck in which each card has more value than opponents cards can win a game. Control decks tend to focus on this strategy, at the expense of tempo. Midrange decks occupy a middle position where they have more card value than rush decks, and almost as much tempo: giving them an advantage over rush decks, but a disadvantage against control decks. Ideally, this creates a balance where Rush beats Control, which beats Midrange, which beats Rush.
Between Dagger of Fate and Amulet of Conjuring, Rush has crept in on Control making an already strong matchup near certain victory. Meanwhile, the strength of Rampant Krygon has contributing to Midrange being slightly stronger against Control, still weak, but not as weak as it usually is. The combination means that Control strategies just don’t win as often as Rush or Mid-range. The result is that slower decks have nearly disappeared from the meta-game.
These changes will put Rush back into a reasonable place, which should allow Control to bounce back and keep Midrange in its place. Hopefully with a better balance between the three, we should have a much wider meta-game in the upcoming seasons. So goodbye rush, and hello control!