January 10, 2023 Patch Card Balance Update Analysis: Does it Impact the Metagame?
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The Marvel Snap patch that a lot of us were eagerly awaiting a while now, finally went live on January 10th, after an issue delayed it by approximately a week. In this patch, the developers team have made minimal changes, a reduction of a power point, to some of the strongest cards in the current metagame.
Aero, Leader, and Galactus had their power reduced by one alongside Nova, a popular inclusion in most decks where Killmonger made sense.
- Aero 5/8 -> 5/7
Developer Comment: Aero’s effect can be a very powerful disruption and control tool. While previously, we buffed Aero up to her current statline, players have since learned to utilize her to great effect, so we think it’s appropriate to reduce her Power a bit.
- Galactus 6/3 -> 6/2
Developer Comment: Even at the highest ranks of play, Galactus and decks using him are demonstrating concerningly high cube-gain and win rates. Not all of these decks overtly herald his approach, and the range of cards that can complement him has proven wide and difficult for some decks to counter. We’re taking one Power away from Galactus now and evaluating whether or not we should make more meaningful changes to his design in the future.
- Leader 6/4 -> 6/3
Developer Comment: Leader’s effect is proving to be very frustrating to many players and polarizing in its ability to lock down games and discourage playing some other 6-Cost cards. We are taking a bit of power away from him for now and exploring further changes to the card in the future.
- Nova 1/2 -> 1/1
Developer Comment: Nova’s effect makes him much stronger than an average 1-Cost card, so we don’t think it’s appropriate that he has the stats of an average 1-Cost card.
At the same time, some of the most underplayed cards in Marvel snap saw their power increased by a point, such as Nakia, Black Cat or Hazmat, who all gained a power with the patch.
- Hazmat 2/1 -> 2/2
Developer Comment: While we are aware of the Hazmat combo decks that may feel strong, Hazmat is actually doing fairly poorly overall. We’re giving the decks she enables a small buff with this update.
- Black Cat 3/6 -> 3/7
Developer Comment: Black Cat sees virtually no play, so we’re giving her an extra Power to make running her more worthwhile.
- Nakia 3/1 -> 3/2
Developer Comment: We think Nakia’s effect is a fun mechanic to play with, but she’s currently seeing very little success. We’re hoping a small buff will make her a more appealing option.
Lastly, Drax and Groot, two of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a rather unpopular clan in Marvel Snap, have seen one less point gain when triggering their On Reveal ability become granted but their base power increase by one as well. Drax is now a base 4/5 and Groot a base 3/4.
- Drax 4/4 On Reveal: If your opponent played a card here this turn, +4 Power. -> 4/5 On Reveal: If your opponent played a card here this turn, +3 Power.
- Groot 3/3 On Reveal: If your opponent played a card here this turn, +3 Power. -> 3/4 On Reveal: If your opponent played a card here this turn, +2 Power.
Developer Comment: We believe the Guardians’ effects create fun moments, but they can feel too sink or swim. We’re giving Drax and Groot a small buff to their baselines to make them less risky to play and hopefully open them up as more viable contenders in the 3 and 4-Cost slots.
In this article, I would like to cover two very important points concerning this patch. First, what decks are going to be impacted by these changes, and how the popularity of the cards listed above might change – so an in-game look at this patch. Then I also want to take a look at the future, as most those changes clearly have not been enough to satisfy the community, and Ben Brode seems to be aware of this, as he already addressed the situation in a Tweet:
There’s some discussion about a card nerf leak where Leader gets a 1 Power reduction. There might be some context missing that I wanted to clear up. Here’s the note that was intended to accompany that change: 👇
“Leader’s effect is proving to be very frustrating to many players, and polarizing in its ability to lock down games and discourage playing some other 6-Cost cards. We are taking a bit of power away from him for now, and exploring further changes to the card in the future.”
That last sentence is not intended to mean “we may or may not change him again” it’s intended to mean “we are determining exactly which change to make”.Originally tweeted by Ben Brode (@bbrode) on January 4, 2023.
Simply from reading this Tweet, it seems clear that this patch is a step towards a future, at least when it comes to Leader. It seems logical to look at it as just a part of the bigger picture, one where the team probably needs to assess the impact of the Series 4 and 5 cards, alongside Zabu who was released just last week. As a result, let’s explore what this patch is changing immediately, but also how it might tip the good folks at Second Dinner on what to do next.
Are any of these cards going to see more or less play?
The biggest criticism towards this patch is that it doesn’t seem impactful enough. Indeed, if I trust what I read on social media, Leader at three power is just as big of an offender as it was as a four power card. The card retaining that “guarantee” of a win in many situations, as long as you are ahead. Same conclusion for Aero, who is touted as being just as annoying with seven power, as the strength of the card lies in the abilities to dictate where the opponent is able to play.
For Galactus and Nova, the power of the card was rarely the problem. Indeed, both cards see play because they have unique interactions in the game. Nova is Killmonger‘s best ally, and often is the go-to 1-Cost card in a deck with the 3-Cost card included. At just one power, Nova loses priority against most other 1-Cost cards, which gives the opponent a chance to use Armor before we can destroy it on turn two, and that is about it. Yes, there is a chance it could impact a game on some occasions, but this seems very rare nonetheless. Galactus follows the same path, as the card was never pointed at because of its power. Rather, the frustration with Galactus came from its ability, which usually means the game ends if you aren’t in a position to deny the card’s activation.
Overall, we have four cards with their power being impacted, when none of these cards actually had a power problem. Of course, in a game where the winner is the one with the most points on two out of three lanes, these little changes will eventually have an impact. However, I doubt it is enough to make the frustration Leader and Aero have built amongst the community the past two months go away.
Furthermore, the same could be said for the cards receiving a buff. Although they are safer, Drax and Groot still seem subpar compared to several cards at their cost. Jessica Jones, for example, still seems like a more reliable way to get to eight points, and Rescue, Dracula or even Jubilee have a higher ceiling. The same goes for Groot, who will have 6 power when things go right, on par with Mister Fantastic, Ironheart or Brood. It isn’t enough to compete with Maximus, Wolfsbane, or Thor, cards that are able to reach seven or more power.
Nakia follows the same logic, the card now representing six total power. Considering Shuri is a very popular card currently, maybe Nakia has a shot a seeing a little more play, but the change doesn’t seem life changing either.
The last two buffs are Black Cat and Hazmat, two cards that see some occasional play. Black Cat was a staple of the Hela archetype a while ago, so maybe that little push can help the card find some love once more in the archetype. As for Hazmat, the card has a unique ability and started being more popular since Luke Cage joined the Series 4 releases (). The card gaining a power can only help, but the problem here seemed to be more of Luke Cage being need in order to consider Hazmat as a viable option.
On a general level, there aren’t many cards which seem to be heavily impacted by this patch. From the little time I had to play before starting to write this article, Aero still seem very popular, and not being mindful of Leader on turn six will still punish you heavily.
The announcement of the first Series Drop of Series 4 and 5 cards to the lower Series might actually have the biggest impact on what is played and what isn’t. Luke Cage and Absorbing Man going to Series 3, and Shuri going to Series 4 are huge buffs to Nakia or Hazmat. Card availability might end up impacting the overall diversity of the game a ton.
What decks are impacted?
This is a little of the issue with this patch – it is hard to know exactly how it will impact the metagame, as no deck really becomes either much worse or much better because of it.
Obviously, the Good Cards archetype may be impacted, but I don’t think the deck goes away this easily. Aero and Leader are at their best when played with priority, and this part of the deck wasn’t changed at all. So as long as you can get ahead at the end of the fourth turn, both cards should still fulfil their role in the deck almost the same as before.
The same can probably be said for the Galactus archetype, which doesn’t seem to have a reason to change a thing because its signature card now has two power instead of three.
A deck on the rise could be Hela Discard, at least for the duration of the Black Cat testing period. The same could be said about Shuri decks testing Nakia, but we all know Shuri doesn’t need any help to be played. Her demotion to Series 4 will probably make the card much more popular than any buff Nakia could receive, if we’re being honest. Same goes for Hazmat, who sees most of its deck be available in Series 3, which could entice some players to finally test the archetype.
Looking at decks who might suffer with the latest patch, I think Baero isn’t happy as it is the only deck impacted by both the good cards, but also the Nova change. In addition, Armor was particularly problematic for this deck, as it blocks much more than a mere Nova being destroyed. This is in comparison to Sera Surfer, a deck that simply runs Nova and Killmonger without any other Destroy pieces. The build barely cares about the Nova changes, as the deck wasn’t planning on destroying on turn two anyway, so priority doesn’t matter regarding Armor being a problem or not.
To conclude, let’s take a look at the Guardians of the Galaxy, and if their light change can make them any more interesting. Bluntly, Groot isn’t. The card still suffers from being a conditional [3/6] in a sea where it is the norm for many. One could argue the card is at least worth testing in a Silver Surfer archetype, but let’s be honest, Groot has nothing to do with the deck’s success.
Drax is seeing more play than ever since Zabu joined Marvel Snap, and the card being more reliable should lead to more players including Drax in their deck when looking for which 4-Cost to include. I am still not convinced about Drax being worth more than a Jessica Jones when it comes to reliably scoring points, but it could be the card we see the most early on amongst the one recently buffed.
What decks should one play?
If I look at our latest released tier list, I don’t see a deck that screams at me “Don’t play me any more!”. I would argue Baero was the most impacted, and already on the decline lately, so the deck should be more discreet in the future. Once Altar of Death isn’t featured any more, I mean.
Amongst decks piquing my curiosity are Hazmat Combo and Shuri with Nakia included in the mix. The first one is very niche in the current metagame, and could be a surprising good deck for a bit, at least until people learn how to recognize it.
As for the Shuri archetype, we already know how good the deck is, but with the card being demoted to Series 4 at the end of the month, the deck could pick up in popularity and be worth countering. As such, trying to have a bit more diversity could be something worth exploring.
With several cards announced to drop from Series 5 to 4, and from Series 4 to 3, the very light balance patch makes a lot more sense. Indeed, Marvel Snap’s card acquisition system naturally limits the popularity of the newer cards, impacting how much of these can come and change the complexity of the metagame.
We saw that, even with Series 4 and 5 cards in the mix, the biggest offenders in the current environments were still Series 3 cards such as Aero and Leader. In that sense, nerfing these two cards was very legitimate, and most players would have been much severe in their way of reworking Leader and Aero. Now that we know there is another change in the form of nine cards being demoted, the popularity of Leader and Aero could reduce, simply because more options are available to more players.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the patch notes, as I am one to love the big shakeups and complete 180 degree turns in card games. The Series Drop announcement made while I was writing this piece changed my vision of this patch, and I understand way better why the Second Dinner team decided to go for something soft and see if more options could be a solution. We will have to wait until the end of the month to find out if their solution was the best, but it is an interesting one for sure.
We will of course keep you posted on everything the community comes up with, and share the best performing and most innovative brews we can find! To have a chat with the team, join us on Discord. As for myself, I am usually available on Twitter.
Good Game Everyone.
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Notably, two of the buffs aren’t actually strict improvements. While Cerebro 1 wasn’t exactly a high-performing deck to begin with, taking Hazmat to 2 power pretty much kills it. And playing Drax into Absorbing Man, a line Zabu decks occasionally take, especially on a Daredevil turn, is now a fair bit weaker.
Any power change would effect Cerebro decks, I believe those are going to be ever-changing and always niche besides maybe Cerebro-2/-3 if Scorpion decides to take a break