Are Constant Calls for Nerfs Warranted? (Opinion and Discussion)
Over the past several weeks, Marvel Snap has issued several nerfs that changed the meta dramatically. Before the nerfs to Leader, Zabu, and Silver Surfer, players constantly displayed their grievances with the cards and why they needed nerfs. On the flip side, other players felt there was no issues, claiming cards like Leader were perfectly balanced and people were overreacting. Second Dinner clearly felt these cards needed nerfs or reworks since they were all changed. Now that the controversial cards have been dealt with, there is total peace on the Marvel Snap community and everyone believes the game is perfectly balanced!… Except we all know that’s not how it works.
Not long after the nerfs took place, players have already begun to call out which cards they think should also be nerfed. Several cards like Aero, Shuri + Red Skull combo, and even Dracula are being called for nerfs, despite not much widespread call for nerfs before the latest changes. Many players feel their points are valid, but other players find it to just be complaining. Furthermore, the recent buff to Thanos after it became a top tier deck suggests the timeline on these balance changes does not line up perfectly with the meta trend. Are constant calls for change like this founded on data and experience, or are they just complaints from upset players who see the same deck constantly or can’t compete with their favorite deck?
In this article, we will break this idea down and see if these calls for change are warranted or simply complaining.
Table of Contents
The Newest Calls for Nerfs
Let’s start with the most recent complaints, Dracula and Shuri (Red Skull). Dracula rose to be somewhat of a meme on the Marvel Snap subreddit, with a lot of silly and serious discussion over how to counter Dracula or if he is too good. Other players find the discussion to be just complaining. Dracula sees play not only in the tier 3 deck Discard Dracula, but also in hand dump decks that aim for Dracula to hit The Infinaut for a surprise 20 power.
Shuri, on the other hand, is a much less diverse card, but extremely powerful in the right decks. Her ability to generate massive power has caused a lot of discussion in the reddit community, with some comparing Shuri players to “braindead” Leader players because of the ease of generating wins, specifically in regards to Shuri into Red Skull followed by Taskmaster or Arnim Zola. Some posts like this joke that the combo is so straightforward, almost half the deck doesn’t matter. Shuri slots perfectly into a Zero deck, which has made Shuri Zero one of the top tier decks in the game currently.
Are these complains warranted, or do players need to learn how to “get good” and be better prepared?
Breaking It Down
To talk about if a card is overpowered, let us use three simple criteria to measure.
- Can the card be countered/teched?
- Can the card/combo be similarly matched in power and energy?
- How reliable is the card/ does the deck fail if the card isn’t drawn
These criteria are in no way an official measurement, but rather a guide for discussion. Previously nerfed cards fit at least two of these criteria. Leader, for example, fit all three categories. He used to be extremely difficult to counter unless your deck was built around countering him. He created a large amount of power for his cost since he copied anything your opponent did, with the possibility of being even better than your opponent. He also wasn’t required to win if you didn’t draw him, but often provided a near guarantee for victory if he was drawn.
After Leader‘s nerf, these criteria are no longer met. Zabu and Silver Surfer also meet these criteria, as they both had very little counter play unless you designed your deck around it. They also frequently provided massive power output compared to other cards or combos available. To better gauge of our example cards are too powerful, let’s use the the same criteria on them.
Shuri offers the next card played to have massive power, but this often means the card is within reach for Shang-Chi to remove it. To combat this, Shuri players often use Armor and Cosmo to protect the huge target. This means the biggest counter, Shang-Chi, often times can’t do its job. Aero is the next tech option, but can be a bit less reliable as Arnim Zola and Taskmaster make the opponent’s follow up play unpredictable. This means players have very few counter play options unless you get a lucky Cosmo to drop in front of Shuri.
To measure the power output for Shuri, we will use her biggest target Red Skull. This gives a 5/30 stat line (varying down to as low as 22 if played on an opposing full lane). Task Master or Zola can give a second lane an additional 30 power, for a total stat line of 10(11)/60 between two turns. Considering no other card in the game has more than The Infinaut’s 20 power stat line, we have to look at what other combos can generate 60 power over a 3 turn commitment.
The tier two deck DeathWave can play wave on 5, and play America Chavez, Death, and She-Hulk on turn 6 for a 34 power, two turn play. This leaves turn 4 to generate 26 power (18 power if Red Skull‘s effect is active on a full lane) to match the power of Shuri‘s combo. Of course cards like Shang-Chi could swing a lot of power back in your favor, but we are talking about raw power generation capabilities for each deck without tech cards. So in the case of DeathWave, the deck cannot keep up with the pace of Shuri.
Finally, we take a look at the third criteria for Shuri, if the deck can operate without having her be drawn. In the ShuriZero deck, there are alternative plays for turn for such as Typhoid Mary, but there isn’t a real substitute that can provide the amount of power that she can. To simply put it, without Shuri, the deck is much more susceptible to a loss. Not only do we have to look at Shuri‘s draw rate, we have to consider the likelihood of also drawing Red Skull, and then also drawing Task Master or Arnim Zola. This further complicates the ability for this big combo to function properly.
When you look at the three criteria together, Shuri offers a combo with nearly unmatched levels of power. If Armor or Cosmo are played, the deck is very difficult to tech against, but that assumes the full combo is even drawn. In the example we used above, Shuri meets two of the three criteria that we are using to judge a card’s power.
Dracula is a similar card style in that he only is viable in certain deck styles, but much simpler to analyze. His power level has the potential to be unmatched if he discards a card like Infinaut, making him hold a 4 cost 20 power stat line. He cannot be countered through traditional means, but through sneaky tactics like Black Widow, where Dracula could discard a zero power target instead of a larger one. This counter is also his greatest weakness, in that you can’t control what he discards. If you didn’t empty your hand, he could easily discard a 1 cost over a 6 cost, which makes him inconsistent. Simply put, Dracula meets two of the criteria as he offers a unmatched power level at times and has very little tech options.
Based on the data, both cards should obviously be nerfed, right? It isn’t fair Dracula stole my cubes when he discarded, or when my opponent only won by playing three cards the entire game. Well, not every card that is good requires a nerf.
It’s Okay to Have Good Cards
In every card game, there will ALWAYS be good cards and bad cards. There will always be decks that are stronger than the rest, and there will be decks that will simply never be competitive. Marvel Snap is no different from other CCG’s in this fact. The key point to understand, however, is this fact is not a bad thing. Snap, like every card game, always wants to be perfectly balanced where every deck has an equal chance of winning. The task is next to impossible, though, when you need to constantly change the game with new cards and mechanics that change a card’s effectiveness. A card that was perfectly balanced before, may become too strong or too weak when new cards release that are synergistic, a counter, or simply have better stats than the cards before it. Balance updates can have the same effect.
After every update, a card or combo that was originally not viable may suddenly be one of the best in the game! Take a look at the latest sandman change for example. Sandman went from a 4/1 with hardly any play, to a 5/5 with the new potential to be a solid choice in countering many top decks! These changes can often be abrupt and dramatically shift the effectiveness of many player’s favorite decks. Using Sandman as an example, players who use Negative, DeathWave, or Sera may voice concern that Sandman is too good, as their gameplan is now unusable when the card is played. In reality, shifts like these are healthy for the game as they create change in the meta and keep things fresh.
Good cards can also exist that simply offer better results than other cards. Death, for example, is a good card for destroy decks that has the potential of being a 0 cost 12 power card. If I told you a card in the game had 0/12 stats, you would say it sounded over powered! The balance of the card, however, comes from having to destroy 9 cards in a match, or getting supporting cards like Wave to make a combo happen. Both options are not guaranteed, which many times will make Death cost more or at times be unplayable. These variances and drawbacks help to make this good card not be too good. With that said, how can we determine if a card is too good?
Looking at the Data
One thing that players can’t see is the massive data that the developers have access to. They can see how often a card was included in a deck, how often it was played, how often the game was won with a card in play, what cards are often played together, and even the average cubes gained. The general player base can make their own data from our Marvel Snap Tracker or even based on their experiences, but the devs can see the data for all players, across all collection levels, and across all ranks and MMRs. This data is key to helping determine if a card is too strong. But what about the criteria we talked about?
Community conversation is also a big part of balancing decisions. On the official Discord, one of the developers, Stephen, wrote that “people would be surprised by the amount of community feedback that the dev team reads.” Community discussion can help not only highlight issues, but solutions to fix the issues. It can also be a way for players to figure out solutions already in game for how to counter a popular card of combo.
Dracula is a great example of this. Many community members were growing frustrated by not knowing how to counter Dracula. Once discussion started, ideas like black widow or moon night started popping up as a way to combat the card. If the community can’t find a solution and the card dominates the meta, the developers can combine their data with the community discussion to see if the card in question needs a change, or if other cards need a buff to offer more counter play.
Applying What We’ve Learned
To bring back our examples of Shuri and Dracula, let’s take everything we have discussed and apply them. Shuri has received a lot of community discussion as her combo (when it works) offers a massive amount of power that is unmatched, and the discussion has yet to stop. With tech cards in play, the deck feels unbeatable at times. What we don’t see is the full data the developers have in the background that shows the amount of games where Shuri was not drawn and if the player still won or not. We do, however, see the deck’s effectiveness as it has quickly risen into the top tier of decks next to Lockjaw Thanos and Zabu Darkhawk.
Dracula, on the other hand, is not carrying a top tier place, but rather a tier 3 deck. While the card is difficult to counter, the variance of the card can lose you just as many games as it wins you. Dracula has been in the game since launch and has not been dramatically effected by new card releases or balance changes. After potential work arounds for Dracula were discussed in the community, the overall conversation died down and has not been a continued topic of debate.
At the start of this article, I asked a simple question: Are constant calls for nerfs warranted, or are they just complaints? After breaking it down with our examples, Shuri‘s combo has the potential to be over powered. The community discussion and the deck’s performance will help the developers to analyze the data and decide if a nerf is warranted to Shuri or her combo pieces. Dracula, on the other hand, may be a good card, but doesn’t appear to be over powered.
To summarize our findings using our examples, constant calls for nerfs will always happen. It is the nature of card games. The important thing to recognize is that some of these calls may be warranted (like Shuri) and some may not (like Dracula). Discussion can help highlight game issues to developers, or highlight ways the community can solve a card’s problem. Even if a player expresses concern over the silliest card, the discussion can help that player to learn how to grow and counter a card they struggle against. The idea that players will never be satisfied as a whole may be true, but it is also true that the game likely will never be perfectly balanced, so these discussions will help guide the game to a better place of balance.
What do you think? Are these calls for constant nerfs good for the game’s discussion and growth, or do you think otherwise? Are the calls for a change to Shuri Red Skull warranted? Make sure to let us know in the comments! Be sure to also keep up to date with the best decks with our tier list and our breakdowns of the new card each week!
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these are just good cards. they do not need a nerf. all these decks are still being optimized across all archtypes. time is needed on all fronts to fully understand what needs to happen. id prefer to see more buffs than nerfs at this current state.
I have no issue with periodic nerfs, and buffs, if done correctly, to shake up the meta. Considering nobody can get the new cards, little else does. What I do have an issue with is the bizarre policy of not giving refunds for nerfed cards – no other digital CG operates such a scummy policy. There is no reason the devs couldn’t give 50% token value, for example, for nerfs to Series 5 cards, like Silver Surfer.
I do wonder if there will eventually be tech against cards already on the field, like Kraven, Dracula, Bishop and Lockjaw.
Only thing you can do is an early Leech, and that’s it.
Magneto for the 3s and 4s, Sandman for the flood, Shang-Chi for the big boys, Goblin for the Lockjaw, Maximus for the Dracula. There are lots of ways to skin these cats. None of them will work 100% of the time, but it shouldn’t be that way either.
OK. But Bishop, Kraven and Dagger continues without counters (only Cosmo on the Heimdall possible place).
Forget what I said about Bishop, Sandman for it, I forgot, sorry.
No problem! And yeah I meant Shang-Chi for the others once they grow enough. Honestly, I don’t see Move decks enough to have to plan against them, but maybe they will become stronger at some point.
Yes, but that’s not the tech I was leaning on, which is why I mentioned Leech. There is nothing that robs them of their abilities when they’re on the field.
Didn’t want to outright go “Wonder if Silence will ever find its way into the game for cards on the field”, that’s on me.
I’m still waiting for them to quietly reverse Surfer. Regardless, SD has demonstrated clearly that loudly complaining gets results. I’m not sure I trust their decision making in the adjustments they’ve made lately. One card that was not mentioned in this article that I think needs a rework, is Wave. In decks like Deathwave, getting the Wave and then the discount is pretty busted. Cards should cost 4 and be set in stone for that turn.
In fact, the actual mechanics of Wave reduces or increases the original cost of the card. So, if Death is 9 and reduces 5, if you already reduced, let’s say, 3, then it costs 2. If you played Sera or Quinjet or Zabu, f.ex., cards could cost less. You have to calculate everything together. Sometimes opponent’s Wave in Deathwave helps me too because of Sera or Quinjet (or Elysium).
Thats a pretty insightful and analytical post. You put more thought into this than anyone on the subreddit for sure.
I’m not advocating for a nerf, but if Shuri was a pool 3 or a season pass card, everyone and their cats would be screaming for a nerf, like it happened with Zabu and Surfer. The only reason we are not seeing such an outcry is simply because she was a series 5 card very recently and even at series 4 not many people have it.
If the devs are reading this, you’re doing a great job! It’s an impossible task but you’re taking it on very well. Keep up the great work!
Interesting analysis. The several criteria to use (apart from raw data), are fairly spot on. I mostly agree with some caveats:
1) You put Leader as the prime example of “nerfable” card, and I disagree.
You say Leader “created a large amount of power for his cost since he copied anything your opponent did, with the possibility of being even better than your opponent.” and “often provided a near guarantee for victory if he was drawn.” But that was not so, many times it didn’t (as data showed, we do have fairly relevant data in another friendly Snap site). Shuri, Zabu and Surfer do/did it far more.
You say also “He used to be extremely difficult to counter unless your deck was built around countering him.” In a way, he was easier to counter than anything, giving that certain archetypes countered it naturally, some of them very popular (Surfer, Patriot, Destroyer…). Sure, a card that is countered by decks and not cards leads to polirizing matchups and/or less varied meta, another good criteria for nerfs.
2) “Dracula has been in the game since launch and has not been dramatically effected by new card releases or balance changes”. MODOK for sure has impacted the consistency of the card and the deck. Not saying it’s top tier, or deserves a nerf, but the reliability has improved, and that could explain the conversation this season, when many people were experimenting with MODOK.
Shuri seems a potential candidate for nerfs, I agree (potential, not sure about it), but the new discussion could be, “how?”. Power is meaningless, 5 cost may be destroying the card… Maybe a more elegant solution could be done, via counter cards.
I meant to reply to your comment directly, but made a new comment instead. Oops! Great input!
Thanks for the reply! I wanted to mention MODOK was a good addition to Dracula’s capabilities. I usually think of MODOK with Hela decks, but I forgot he works well with Apocalypse to wipe out any other contenders for Dracula to hit.
When I said Leader was hard to counter, there wasn’t a tech card that could protect you from his ability unless you used your final turn to play Cosmo, and then it only mattered if you revealed first. Cards like Destroyer only work in decks build around Destroyer. SS was at the mercy of a turn 5 Leech before Leader dropped. Any many other decks like Infinaut she hulk were unplayable because of Leader. That’s what I mean by having insane power capabilities and no simple counter.
Fantastic point about a card needing to be countered by deck rather than by card needing to be a criteria!
Thanks for taking the time to answer. My main disagreement to your Leader comments was centered more on the power side (on average, it gave power plays far less than Shuri, Surfer or Zabu, in great part for being out of your control) than in the countering side (I agree it couldn’t be easily countered in a “conventional” way, even if Leech worked also, and that was part of the problem; I agree Leader countered some decks (Deathwave, S-H+Infinaut), but that was precisely his more healthy role, stopping last turn big plays.). Some people had the impression that you could slap Leader last turn without thinking and win most games and that was very far from the truth, and that comments (“created”, “often”) seemed to go along that lines.
You had to think more that it seems to play Leader and win (I discovered it when I got it), and accounting for Leader was part of the analysis like now is accounting for Aero; there should be cards you have to think about when making plays if the game should have some deep. Even if I agree Leader matched the 1 and 3 criteria, the nerf was more sentiment based than power based (and that’s why they destroyed the card instead of tuning it down). Sure, feelings I understand should also be a factor, but I think it’s a pity.
All in all, as I said, I liked the article, and I like your weekly developer summaries. Keep up the good work.
The final straw for me was Darkhawk. They nerfed Zabu then Darkhawk when it Zabu itself toned it down. To top it off they make Thanos stronger when it is the best deck in the game. I feel like cards are being needed for no reason. New cards introduced into the game will balance things out. Nerfing cards just to nerf solves nothing. Game is getting stale and boring in my opinion.
I believe Shuri should be +4 to the next card played a 4/2 as a double Forge. This makes it good in decks with Black Panther or Brood not good with just any big card.
As someone who has a long background in playing fighting games. They are probably the most comparable to TCGs, in the fact that it puts players 1v1 matches.
I think the developers need to take a page from fighting game developers and just let the meta develop.
There is no need for a knee jerk reaction to nerf everything the community complains about. No need to be constantly analyzing analytic data.
Give players and the community time to come up with strategies to deal with issues.
If they constantly keep nerfing cards, 1) we’re not going to see the full potential of the game devlop, because the will be constantly changing before tech is developed, and 2) we’re going to wind up with a very boring overly balanced game, that players simply aren’t going to enjoy playing long term.
Also need to keep in mind, that a lot of times, it’s the minority that are very vocal about thier grievances with a product. Players have invested the least amount of time and just simply want to complain about something they don’t want to put in any effort to obtain.
I’ve been playing daily since the public launch, maybe dumped ~$100 into the game with the various passes and so e boosts, and have been able to obtain all pool 3 cards in that time frame. Along several pool 4 & 5 cards including Thanos.
Anyone complaining these cards are unobtainable and ruin the meta are simply full of it IMO.