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Marvel Snap February 8, 2023 Card Balance Updates: Silver Surfer and Zabu Nerfed

With the release of the new Marvel Snap Season, the powerhouses Silver Surfer and Zabu has also been nerfed. Den analyzes the balance changes, and explores what decks they can still fit into to be competitive!

As previously announced, Marvel Snap has pushed out the card balance updates for Zabu and Silver Surfer, the first of its kind where it did not require a full patch. Please note that this is a hotfix – no game update from players are required, and should be able to see the change in-game right away. Check out the full post below from game designer Glenn Jones, as well as our full breakdown on the changes as we explore what decks they can still be played in!

MARVEL SNAP is making balance changes today to two cards. Second Dinner game designer, Glenn Jones, shares behind-the-scenes insights on how our team thinks about making changes to cards.

Balance Update: Zabu and Silver Surfer

Today’s balance changes mark our first “over the air” change to card content without using a patch. Many of you may be wondering why we’re taking this action, so I’m going to walk you through some of our balance philosophy, the metrics that led to these changes, and the adjustments we’re making to Zabu and Silver Surfer.

Why Do We Balance?

MARVEL SNAP’s content release model gives our metagame a unique texture. By releasing a new card each week, we hope to constantly provide something new and exciting to look forward to for players. That requires a diverse metagame featuring opportunity for innovation and exploration. This game is at its most fun with a large variety of viable decks featuring many different cards. It’s awesome to see individual cards succeed, but we need that success to exist within a spectrum that also allows many other cards to flourish.

Balancing Act

Let’s talk about our general process for balancing SNAP. Every week, our design group looks at metrics for both individual cards and “clusters,” the groups of cards that most commonly make up various decks.

  • For individual cards, we focus on win percentage when drawn, popularity, and cube contribution, the number of cubes a card yields.
  • For clusters, we focus on win percentage against the field, average cubes per game, the percentage of all games using that cluster, and its matchups.

Each of these values has tolerances, and that’s what determines whether we make a balance change. Exceeding one tolerance doesn’t mandate a buff or a nerf, but it does build the “watchlist” you may have heard about. When a card goes on watch, we discuss potential changes and begin playtesting them, just in case. If things don’t improve on the live game, that’s when we’ll make the change.

But which change to make? Our goal is to find a version of each card that makes the game more fun, not just turn strong cards into weak ones. If one of our adjustments prevents too many players from enjoying their card, we’ll revisit it later.

Card Changes

Weakening these two Season Pass cards wasn’t a light decision. It’s paramount that we protect our gameplay, but our team also takes seriously that players trust us to be responsible stewards of that content. These changes aren’t meant to “delete” Zabu or Silver Surfer–just give other cards more room.


Zabu’s individual card performance was strong, but not amazing. It didn’t crack our Top 5 cards for most of January, which is usually where you find troublemakers. Zabu’s dominance only became apparent in evaluating its clusters, which is data that takes longer to surface. In mid-January we saw three distinct Zabu decks gaining steam near the top of our rankings on winrate, cube gain, and population. That was when we knew a change would be necessary, but the next patch was already locked, which brings us to today.

3/2 – Ongoing: Your 4-Cost cards cost 2 less. (minimum 1) ➡ 2/2 – Ongoing: Your 4-Cost cards cost 1 less. (minimum 1)

Moving Zabu’s cost reduction from 2 to 1 reduces the potential Energy reduction of the cat, making it harder to hide game-winning amounts of Power until turn 6 or empty your hand for Dracula. It also breaks up the Spider-Man/Absorbing Man combo, which was stronger than we’d like. Sliding him down to 2-Cost hopefully refunds enough tempo to retain the fun of building around various 4-Cost cards. We expect Zabu decks to look a bit different, but still have competitive builds.

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer’s change is oddly linked to Zabu’s. It’s been a Top 5 card in a Top 5 deck since release, but steadied and gained cubes slower once players adapted . . . until Zabu. During Savage Lands, “Sera Surfer” was an unlikely hero and the best overall deck. However, it also had positive matchups against over 75% of the field, which meant it threatened to become too dominant once we adjusted Zabu.

3/0 – On Reveal: Give your other 3-Cost cards +3 Power. ➡ 3/2 – On Reveal: Give your other 3-Cost cards +2 Power.

This change aims to keep mostly the same Surfer decks viable, just weaker. We’re specifically happy to carry Power on Surfer himself, because it makes figuring out where he’ll be played more interesting for both players and lets us fine-tune his strength. Those gains unfortunately come at the expense of some cool Mister Negative decks we enjoyed seeing.

Future Balance Changes

For now, we still expect patches to be the primary way to deliver balance changes. Our internal processes aren’t designed to do these impromptu changes regularly yet, and we’ll often want to make more substantial changes than this tool allows. However, we may experiment with slightly more frequent balance on a small scale, to see if there’s an even better experience for players at our fingertips. Thanks for reading, and good luck on your next snap

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  1. No they did this greedily after people paid for the monthly season. You can say what you want about the cards themselves and what needed to be changed, but they did it sneakily for money. Shady…

    • Tell me how Mile Morales, Modok, Nick Fury or any of the other season pass card busted. The only other great card would be Wave which never got bad enough too nerf. You reek of recency bias and salt. Most of the season pass cards are ok to meh.

      • That’s a false equivalency because some of the season passes were meh doesn’t mean that the recent ones around the holidays (where more money is spent) weren’t overpowered to make the season pass attractive. Also you’re saying that being angry/upset about being tracked is unreasonable, that’s a bit bizarre.

      • MOST of the cards were ok, not some, unless you can prove otherwise. Also kook at the ones coming up, the vast majority are gong to be fine. Unless they tweak the numbers super hard, which hasn’t really been a thing since we have been to see the future releases. More money is spent during the holiday season on other people, not themselves, unless every purchase was by gift card. I’m saying applying malice when there is not a history of doing so or looks to be in the future is salt.

  2. Zabu decks are dead. Zabu is just Psylocke 2 now for Mr Negative and any other deck that really wants to play a 4 cost card on turn 3, not that I can think of any besides Mr Negative.

    I suspect Surfer is still very good but Negative Surfer is probably gone.

    Ah well.

  3. Just my honest opinion, but they devs either deliberately released OP cards behind the season pass paywall, to force sales, only to nerf them after a few weeks. Or they are extremely bad at playtesting and balancing cards. Either way, it is trash game development. No wonder the community is unhappy.
    Ultimately, the problem is the “no refunds for nerfs” policy. Snap is one of the very few digital CGs to do that, and it really cements Snap as having the worst economy of any of them.

      • By 6 months all the people that were annoyed by Zabu would be long gone. You kind of need players to have a game.

    • Tell me how Mile Morales, Modok, Nick Fury or any of the other season pass card busted. Your only argument could be Wave which never got bad enough too nerf. You reek of recency bias and salt. Most of the season pass cards are ok to meh.

  4. I put in for a refund. No news nothing in game not on website stealth nerf. Seriously how about buffing character’s that see no play before nerfing characters. They can pick and choose data. They use select player bases and such. Buff some unused characters or better yet create counters. Maybe Hazmat gets -2 on reveal maybe another card increases opponent’s 4 cost cards by 2. There are so many better options

    • You can’t just buff cards. When a card is overperforming like Zabu was, you can’t pull up 90% of the OTHER cards to bring it in line. No, you nerf that one card.
      I do agree that they could make more counters though, but that is not the one big solution. I was just thinking what about a card that makes it so no card can be increased or decreased in cost.

      But your proposal of making Hazmat do -2 instead of -1 shows to me that you’re clearly not meant to be in charge of balancing, ever.

      • Yeah I’d prefer if improving counter cards were tried first before the nerfing begins. With Surfer it’s tough, outside of a well-placed Cosmo or a Leech, there is little to prevent the Surfer drop. But with Zabu there seemed like a few decent counters already. eg. Sandman could be made a 2 or 3 Energy instead, so you can get him down either in anticipation of a Zabu or after but he’s also cheap enough that you could drop another cheap card same turn. Just an idea.

      • I’m not saying all but cards like The Watcher, all movement cards, King Pin, Abomination, Quake. These are cards that I would like to see. Then if there are no answers then look at nerfing. Then try to be absolutely minimal. Leader sucks now. Instead of what they did he should have been left alone but instead of copying cards as is he essentially copies the cards but with no abilities. Just the bodies.

  5. Truth is, they should’ve never released those cards as they were. I do understand that you can’t always predict what will happen when you release a card. Still, they knew that Sera’s effect was broken enough to warrant a nerf, so why did they think double the energy discount would go well?

    That said, since they did release the way they were, I am glad they got a nerf. They both still seem very playable, so I’d say that’s a job well done on Second Dinner’s part! I can see why people would look at this as a quick money grab, but I think they wanted these cards to work so they pushed their power level. Ended up too strong.

  6. I can see why it seems shady that these cards came out way overtuned and then adjusted after they cycled out of their season passes… but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and just say that their playtesters need to improve.

    These cards were obvious problem cards that got a lot of attention because of how accessible they were, but not as much attention was paid to the recent Series 4/5 additions because they’re in less than ~20% of decks atm. Cards like Shuri, Darkhawk, and Sauron are wayyy overtuned and feel totally unfair to play against when you don’t have access to them.

  7. Creo que el nerf de Zabu es absurdo pues es una buena carta tal y como esta, además mencionar que es la especial del pase pasado, es extremadamente ridículo lo que han hecho mas se cargaron todos los mazos de Zabu con las combinaciones de carta de coste 4, por dios, inicie el juego dos meses después de su lanzamiento y he comprado todos los pase desde el de Colector y Infinaut, llevo tres salados pase reuniendo fichas de colector para poder adquirir a un precio ridículo, una y solo una carta de serie 5, y en tres meses solo he obtenido 1700 fichas, claro esto es sin comprar las desorbitantes ofertas, por dios, 60 euros, 100 euros, por dios que es un juego y con eso uno come un mes, es un juego, ya 11 por el pase es caro, y si a eso le sumas que me vas a nerfear las cartas de los pase, para eso desinstalo en juego y me pongo a jugar LOR, que por 100 euros me compro las carta que yo quiera, sin mencionar que lo ridículo del sistema de colección, 100 fichas de coleccionista, nunca me ha caído por encima de esa cifra, y mi colección es de 1691 actual mente, títulos y avatares en serio, variantes, lo que uno busca en nuevas cartas para hacer del juego más divertido, por dios eliminen las variantes de pixeles o al menos déjelas a elección, no se si en el sistemas de nivel de colección te toca una variante al menos no se una propuesta que te den a elegir dentro de 3 posibilidades a quedarte con una, no se cuantas variante de m… de pixeles me ha dado el sistema, bueno volviendo al tema creo que lo de Zabu lo han hecho mal, al igual que lo del nerf de Líder, qu también se la cargaron, y ojo que aun ni lo tengo pero si me lo han jugado mucho en contra y después de nerf ya ni lo he visto mas, creo el juego solo se esta haciendo divertido a aquellos que estén dispuesto a invertir en el pero, a la larga eso al final es lo que lo está matando, bueno un saludos al grupo de desarrollo, un buenísimo juego, u gran juego, pero con pésimas decisiones y balances.

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