Buffs Are Better Than Nerfs: Here’s Why Elevating Bad Cards Is More Fun Than Bashing Good Ones
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Some time this week (expected Tuesday March 21, but it has not been confirmed yet), we should finally get our long awaited balance patch, which will hopefully put an end to Shuri Zero‘s and Thanos Lockjaw‘s dominant run. Considering these two decks have been vampirizing most discussions for the past month, the patch talks followed a similar logic. Most questions around the patch are centered around what nerfs those two decks might face. Shuri, Thanos, Quinjet, and Lockjaw are therefore the most discussed cards in Marvel Snap right now, but the end goal of a balance patch isn’t to demolish the stronger cards and make them unplayable. Instead, it’s to restore a sense of equity amongst all archetypes. Of course, lowering the power of the strongest and most played cards has a big role in restoring this equity. Through making those cards weaker and less appealing, other cards have more space to be played, promoting overall diversity.
In the long run, though, if nerfing powerful cards is the only solution, Marvel Snap will become a bit annoying. Indeed, as you nerf cards and reduce their power, you also reduce the appeal they have for the community as they have fewer situations where they can be played. Nerfing cards to help balance the game also hurts the perceived fun around the game. Players will feel they have fewer possibilities compared to before, and they might lose interest as more nerfs happen.
In order to keep the game fun and drive engagement from the player base, a game should be looking to increase interest, not lower it. As a result, if your only way of balancing your game is to constantly nerf the stronger cards, you are doomed to eventually have a boring game because nothing strong will exist anymore. Unless, of course, you release strong cards often to keep feeding the fun. Then those cards will have to be nerfed later on, and this cycle will eventually get noticed and hurt the game’s reputation quite a bit.
So, if we’ve established that nerfing cards reduces the fun one can get from them while playing the game, maybe it means buffing other cards will increase said fun. Buffing a card that was barely seeing any play will put it back on everyone’s radar and have a similar effect to a new card being released. If we factor in the current Marvel Snap card acquisition system, it doesn’t take long to realize that buffs might be Second Dinner’s saving grace (unless they plan on making Collector’s Tokens rain on us).
For these various reasons, Second Dinner can’t really afford to just nerf the stronger cards to balance their game. They also have to buff some of the most unused ones so the community finds new ways to play with powerful tools. This is a much more enticing cycle, and it ensures that players stay hooked to Marvel Snap.
I’m sure you guessed it by now. In this piece, we are going to talk about the other part of the upcoming balance patch: the buffs! Let’s explore some unused cards in Marvel Snap and what changes might help them become relevant in the next metagame.
The most basic way to help a card in a game about scoring points is to increase the power of that card. In the past, we have seen power buffs have a huge impact for some cards. Aero, notably, went from a very discreet card to Marvel Snap’s best after gaining a couple power back in September.
There are other cards like the old Aero. Cards that possess a sweet ability but don’t contributing enough in the points department to be used, or at least not compared to another card with more upsides.
Here are a few cards that could benefit a ton from gaining some power:
→ 5|6. The latest Season Pass card suffered a lot from the current metagame. Still, it is hard to argue that Nimrod isn’t strong enough to justify building around it. The card sees play, mostly in Galactus decks. But with Shuri likely seeing a nerf, Nimrod will need a little bump in power to be appealing alongside Destroyer and Arnim Zola.
→ 3|4. Scarlet Witch outshines Rhino plain and simple. Cards included in decks for their abilities will usually be judged based on their costs. If we factor in that Scarlet Witch exists for cheaper with the same power, there is basically no reason to play Rhino.
→ 3|3. Three cost cards with a six power ceiling aren’t strong enough anymore, especially when the opponent can control it. Since Punisher is a beginners card, I don’t even expect the change to help it be included in refined builds. It would at least make it a nice consideration against the likes of Captain America and Wolfsbane early on in a player’s experience.
→ 5|8. I wouldn’t even be mad if it went to a 5|9 considering Nick Fury is the most disappointing Battle Pass card to be ever released. I think I’ve seen it be generated more often than included in a deck.
→ 4|7. Vanilla cards only have their power for themselves. So when Patriot doesn’t play them, it means the card needs some help.
→ 5|10. The Thing, but as a 5-cost card.
Changing the way an ability works is always much more risky than simply changing the power of a card. First, these are more subjective because someone will usually target abilities they like or offer directions they think will help the card. Then it’s much harder to guess the impact of the change. It might not lead to the card feeling stronger, while more power will always translate to a stronger card.
Take these suggestions with a grain of salt. These are my views on how to help these cards, and there are other ways of positively impacting these abilities.
Uatu the Watcher
→ Starts in your hand. Unless the card is reworked, it only makes sense to make sure Uatu contributes to the deck he is played in. Depending on how good this ends up being, and to prevent Uatu being a straight-up better Quicksilver, Uatu could become a 1|1.
→ When one of your cards is destroyed, summon this from your deck. Angel has so many situations where it actually doesn’t summon itself while a card was destroyed. Worded this way, Angel would be summoned if the opponent played Yondu, for example.
→ Return your 1-cost cards to your hand. They cost 1 less next turn. Compared to Beast, Falcon is laughable, and six turns are often not enough to use the card properly. Reducing the cost of the returned cards for a turn should help Falcon feel more explosive, and help it become a real tool for a deck built around 1-cost cards.
→ Give the lowest cost card in your hand +3 power. An ability like this impacting random cards just doesn’t cut it, and buffing Nakia’s power doesn’t feel like a flavorful way of helping the card. With this change, Nakia becomes synergistic with Deadpool, Human Torch, Swarm, and other such cards with power that can be easily manipulated.
→ 3|0 – Discard a random card in your hand. Destroy a random enemy card at this location. I have read ideas around Gambit like making sure it can’t touch a card protected by Armor, but it just feels weird to do it that way. Instead, giving Gambit some sense of targeting should help the card fit into Discard based decks. I lowered its power to 0 as the ability seems strong this way, but I’m not sure if it is necessary.
→ Move all locations to the left or the right. The idea here is to give the player playing Quake the ability to predict what will happen. Similar to Rhino, Quake never sees play because Scarlet Witch feels so much better. Quake’s power is, however, on par with her cost, so making her ability a little more reliable feels more adapted.
The core of the patch will obviously be focused around nerfing the two decks that have been the best in the game for over a month now. To be fair, the task is already difficult enough considering the many routes available to do so, especially for Thanos Lockjaw. I would be surprised to see much else included alongside its inevitable nerf. Still, it feels necessary to give some cards a little push, if only to remind everyone that they exist. This prevents the patch from simply nerfing two decks and the community from defaulting to the next best thing, thereby limiting the feeling that anything changed at all.
Nailing the perfect changes is extremely difficult to do, and I don’t think the list I offered is one to follow precisely. The more important part is to drive the idea that the patch is bringing some changes while we try to put the difficult metagame most of us endured rather than enjoyed behind us.
Thanks for reading this opinion piece. I would love to read about anyone’s ideas for a good buff to shake things up. You can find me on the Marvel Snap Zone Discord, or discussing the game on Twitter.
Good Game Everyone.
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Shadow King has not had the chance to roll out into series 3 but it needs a buff. It should not be lane dependent and should effect the whole board. Shuri Zero decks use Cosmo (the card with no counter) to protect their big card making Shadow King currently useless. Shadow King on 6 without priority would wipe out the Shuri buff and reduce Taskmaster to 0 power and would be a great counter to that deck without a nerf.
Nimrod does not have NTW out to help it yet (coming tomorrow), so I can’t say it already needs a buff but NTW should have been out before the season started like Kitty Pryde will be out before Hit Monkey season.
Rhino pays the extra point in energy to guarantee you don’t have a bad zone with Ruins. I am fine with 3/4 but I understand why he is 3/3.
shadowking affecting the whole board be insane, look past the OP shuri deck that allready is going to get adressed and see a buff like that whould kill many many deck options.
How so? Luke Cage counters it (on the whole board), so the cycle continues.
This would impact any on reveal buff card like Silver Surfer, Hulk Buster, Nakia, Bast, Iron Heart, Okoye and Shuri.
This would impact any card that is not ongoing like Sunspot, The Collector, Deadpool and Bishop.
This would not impact ongoing cards like Patriot, Devil Dinosaur, Knull or Morbius.
How would Uatu just not be an auto-include in every deck?
Where does Angel get summoned to in the Yondu situation? Realistically, M’Baku and Angel should just also work if they’re in your hand.
Gambit having targeting would be nice, but it also shouldn’t destroy cards under the “Can’t be destroyed” protections.
Quake feels a bit reasonable. She and Crystal need assistance.
As said above, Rhino’s advantage over Witch is Ruins, plus I like him in my C3 over Wanda.
What you didn’t include as the most requested buff?
Heimdall changed it to “After you play pick if you wish to push cards left or right.”
While I don’t agree with all the reworks (quake should just have her ability working independently on where you play her, angel could get a buff like wolverine if he pops up from your deck) I absolutely agree in giving small buffs to underused cards, in order to make the more competitive. Others I would have included are Hawkeye, Medusa, black bolt, crystal, drax and crossbones. A little power increment would help them a lot.
Cards like angel and m’baku should also have the ability to “starts at the bottom of your deck” or make them work from your hand, too.
No first proper nerfs BEFORE any buffs, heartstone has made that error time and time again, nerfing a bunch of cards and buffing others at the same time or to short after and then just shifting the problem to the newly buffed cards.
Not every card has to be good and it fine when cards are very situational.
As for the sugested changes:
– patriot is plenty strong those no ability cards do not need buffs.
– nimrod for sure doesnt need a damn buff, it allready a ton of power with zola/destroyer
– buffs for gambit? hell no cards like gambit excisting together with wong is the damn reason so many “have to” run cosmo