Ben Brode, lead developer on Marvel Snap

Developer Update for the Week of April 12, 2023: Snowguard Edition (25+ Questions)!

In this week's edition of Developer Update, we get answers to questions from the team at Second Dinner about Marvel Snap over the past week.

Hello all! Welcome back to this week’s breakdown of what’s happening over on the Marvel Snap official Discord! This week, we get answers to why didn’t the developers nerf Shuri in the OTA update, will Shang-Chi ever be changed, what all can be changed in the OTA balances, and more! If you want to stay up to date with what’s coming and what answers developers have for the community, make sure to check back here each week!

This week’s edition comes after the release of Snowguard! If you wish to catch up with the events over the past week, make sure to check out the breakdown for the new Series 5 card, as well as info on the recent “Over The Air” balance changes. If you aren’t sure what that is, make sure to read about it here so that today’s questions make sense! Finally, check out our latest release of the Meta Tier List for the week to see how the best decks stack up currently.

Answers and questions may be slightly rephrased for more clarity and ease of reading.

With a continued large volume of questions this week (keep up the great questions!), it will be divided into two sections for ease of reading: Card Specific questions and all other questions.

Card Specific Questions

Q: Why change Red Skull when you know Shuri is the offender? Why not make Shuri a negative power card like -2 as a placeholder until next patch.
A: Glenn “Specifically reducing her Power wouldn’t matter much, but opens up weird ways she might be stronger, such as ducking priority more often or combining with Mister Negative. It’s not worth the time figuring out how dangerous that might be. It’s a fair question as to whether we should’ve done a guaranteed ding, like 5-cost, for the next 2 weeks. We decided not to, because we don’t want to yank cards back and forth over so short span of time. Maybe in this case, that was the wrong call, given how long she’s been strong, but we’re wary of setting that precedent.”

Q: I don’t get why Blackbolt hasn’t been buffed yet. I’m pretty sure he’s one of the least used cards in the game.
A: Glenn “He’s underplayed, but not particularly close to the bottom. However, targeted discard is an effect where we err on the side of caution, because it’s very frustrating to play against with high frequency.”

Q: Do you guys consider Shang-Chi when you “Buffed” Sentry? I was never worried about Sentry getting destroyed until the change.
A: Glenn “We do consider card interactions such as what you’ve described. We believe Sentry is on net stronger with his change, even though he’s not strictly superior. If we’re wrong, then we’ll consider another change later.”

Q: How do you feel about Shang-Chi’s effect on the metagame and card balancing?
A: Glenn “Shang-Chi is incredibly influential, but his impact is also important to creating a diverse set of strategies simply via the threat of his existence. As a primary pillar of our game’s ‘release valves’ that’s also widely available to all players, we won’t change Shang-Chi unless we have a very high level of confidence it’s for the better.”

Q: How does Snowguard’s Bear form trigger locations that are set to trigger on certain turns (such as Hala or Attilan)?
A: Glenn “The Bear can’t affect these locations, as they are conditional on both a turn and a time window. Ex: You can’t draw an additional two cards from Asgard, because when the Bear reveals it is never the end of the turn, even if it is turn 4.”

Q: What is the role of Sandman as a “release valve” vs Leech? Do they not both aim to disrupt final turns, and thus compete for this role?
A: Glenn “The goal for cards like these are that each can hit some space that another misses, so that while one may be overall “better” there remain cases where the other is necessary. For example, Sandman will almost always ‘trump’ Sera unless you’re way far behind, while Leech can often be overwhelmed by rate Power. Meanwhile, Sandman can be destroyed by Galactus, while Leech will still have stripped Knull and Death of their utility.”

Q: Would playing Snowguard’s Hawk “ignore” the seventh turn from Limbo? If so, would playing Hawk on turn 5 or 6 cause this effect?
A: Glenn “Playing Hawk on turn 5 will ‘turn off’ Limbo. Playing Hawk on turn 6 won’t, as the effect doesn’t apply until turn 7 has already started”

Q: Will playing Hawk on turn 5 disable ongoing locations for the end of the game? For example, if you play Hawk on turn 5 and Negative Zone no longer debuffs cards there, will that change persist through the end of the game?
A: Glenn “No, the location will resume being active during calculation at the end of the game.”

Q: Why is Daredevil a tech card that is a 2 cost when he provides such key information?
A: Glenn “Daredevil’s cost is his inefficiency-he’s below rate on curve, and way below rate off-curve. Daredevil could exist at a handful of Costs with different Power, but making him cheaper is a bit more interesting because playing him on-curve creates tension and uncertainty around whether you should snap before revealing you have Daredevil. I wasn’t here when Daredevil was released so I can’t speak on specifics of design’s intent, but he seems rad and balanced at 2-cost.”

Q: If Jeff able to move into Fisk Tower and Kingpin (on turn 6) without being destroyed?
A: Glenn “Jeff can go wherever he likes, but that doesn’t mean bad things can’t happen to him once he’s there.”

Other Questions

Q: Is there any intention of changing cards that effect the current turn AND next turn without specifying? For example: Wave and Spider-Man
A: Glenn “We’re always improving our templating, and I’m personally working on that right now.”

Q: Is MMR necessary in this game?
A: Glenn “You’re paired based on your MMR within bands determined by your rank and collection level. Your MMR is meant to reflect your skill in game, which includes how effectively you gain cubes. As you continue playing, you’ll play a lot more close games because your MMR has gotten accurate enough that a majority of your opponents are as good as you are. As you get better, the opponents you’re paired against will also be better, so your climb will be similarly challenging even as you improve.”

Q: I am curious if the limits are reached when it comes to design space that destroys multiple opponent’s cards like Killmonger. It seems like this is “dangerous” territory, but do you think there is any space left to be explored in that direction?
A: Glenn “The space is narrow, but more exists🙂 “

Q: After reading the new changes to weekly “Over The Air” updates, as I understand it can change the cost or power of a card. But can it change “simple” numeric text on a card? Say Zabu, decreasing the cost of cards by 1 being changed to 2 (like before), Goose blocking 5 or 6 cost cards, or Adam Warlock drawing 2 cards instead of 1.
A: Glenn “We can change any numeric variables on the card, which mostly means any number. There are a handful of ‘printed’ numbers where that’s not true, because they may not have been coded as variables.”

Q: With the new OTA balance cadence, are there worries that this will put pressure on competitive experiences?
A: Glenn “We think the most interesting competitive metagames are always slightly in flux, with less “solved” deck lists and matchups and more opportunities to experiment.”

Q: I know every card can’t be perfect. Cards like Medusa, Punisher, and Quicksilver are crucial for the new players to understand the game and plays in Series 1 and 2, but after you reach some good Series 3 cards, these cards become useless. They have great variants and are beloved characters, so are there any plans to make these kinds of cards more viable in the future?
A: Glenn “We want every card to have a purpose in the game. That doesn’t mean every card’s purpose will include being viable in competitive play, though.”

Q: Why is it wrong to play a lot of cards on the last turn? Cards like Leech and Sandman seem to discourage this kind of play.
A: Glenn “It’s not wrong to plat a lot of cards on the last turn. But if everyone’s doing it, that’s too much-part of the core fun of SNAP is interpreting and reacting to enemy plays that are visible. We also want to ensure decks that commit early are viable, because that’s more diversity in our gameplay.”

Q: On a number of occasions, you have justified cards like Leech citing a desire to prevent big final turns. By designing each round provided more energy than the last and the higher cost cards having often more powerful abilities. Having the game be won by turn 5 is and should be rare because it would diminish the snap mechanic. So by its very nature is your game not essentially based on explosive final turns?
A: Glenn “There’s a big difference between turn 6 being the most important turn (fun!) and turn 6 bring the only important turn (not fun). Seeing what your opponent is doing and deducing which locations they’re fighting for or trying to trick you into fighting for is one of the most enjoyable parts of SNAP. We love decks that explode on turn 6 existing, but we also want to ensure there are plenty of equally strong decks that don’t.”

Q: Is it healthy to have a card that makes players often retreat as soon as it’s played?
A: Glenn “If there’s a diverse range of viable decks, it’s fine (even good) for some of them to almost always retreat to certain cards, the way Galactus fears Debrii or Sera fears Sandman. If the card makes everyone retreat, that’s not healthy.”

Q: Are you guys planning to add a feature that unlocks your play after your opponent snaps into you?
A: Glenn “We’re considering things like this. It’s not a minor change.”

Q: What is the dev team’s ideal meta?
A: Glenn “I’m sure different devs vary on this based on some personal predilections. The guiding light I use to evaluate decisions is ensuring there’s enough diversity among both the successful and popular decks. We specifically don’t aim any general strategy to sit on tip; if we can solve the metagame internally without live data, that’s a sure sign it’s not going to be dynamic enough to stay interesting for players. So we try to make lots of strong things and also one or two ways to exploit each thing, thus cycling what’s best as different things get targeted. That’s the goal, at least.”

Q: Why do move cards move cards left, but Bifrost move cards right? I suspect it has to do with players tend to play more towards the left with revealed locations?
A: Glenn “That’s mostly it; the left locations revealing makes them more common to play on, so having late cards care about the left locations being more open introduces interesting tension. For example, if Bifrost moved left, it would move less cards total on average based on common gameplay patterns.”

Q: When devs play against players for testing, do you all jump on around the same time to test and play with the community?
A: Glenn “We do actually have a short weekly meeting to play the live game together at the same time, but most of us also play live regularly for fun.”

Q: After hearing you say you and the team play sometimes, what’s your favorite deck to play?
A: Glenn “I don’t really have a favorite, personally. I play a ton on live and playtest builds, and always get in hour or more with a version of every deck seeing meaningful play each season. Even once that’s done, I change it up every 5 ranks or so unless something’s really clicking. I can name a few specific cards I particularly enjoy playing: Quinjet, Polaris, White Queen, and Death.”

Questions From You!

Recently, I asked readers of the weekly dev update to leave their questions down in the comment section. That way we can ask those questions on your behalf, or let you know the answers if those questions have been asked before! I read each comment you leave, so I will be adding this section at the end of each week’s edition to highlight your questions that you asked last week!

Q: Could you ask next time if it will be possible to do something with duplicated cards that are useless?
A: Stephen “We know [Collection Bloat] is a mounting issue. We have other higher priority things to solve right now, but this is on our minds too”

Q: If we tap our Avatar, we can see how many cards we’ve discarded and destroyed during a match. Can you include some sort of integration with these areas to show which cards were destroyed, and more importantly discarded?
A: Ben Brode “Yes this is something we’d love to do – not sure where it is on the [roadmap] though”

Keep Your Questions and Feedback Coming!

That’s all for this week’s update! Be sure to check back here at Marvel Snap Zone for next week’s update! If you enjoyed the amount of content in this edition, make sure to keep asking your questions to the developers by submitting it in their official Discord in the “#ask-the-team” channel. If you have questions and don’t use Discord, leave your questions for the developers in the comment section here, and I will make sure your question has been answered by the devs!

If you have feedback or changes you would like to see with these weekly updates, also let us know in the comment section!

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