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Marvel Snap’s “Over the Air” hotfixes to cards are now live for November 9, 2023 – no need for a game update! As many as seven cards have been changed as part of a scheduled balancing cycle: Shang-Chi, Mobius, Doctor Strange, She-Hulk, Warpath, Jessica Jones, Strong Guy has had their power and cost adjusted. Also Monster as a token from Monster Island got a small power change.
The developers also announced that there will be no OTAs on 11/23 and 1/4, but OTAs on 12/7 and 12/21 are planned for release.
Check out the full OTA update details below!
For our analysis and some decks you can try, check out our analysis article!
November 9th – Balance Updates
Today is a lengthier update than usual, as we’d like to explain more about our recent balance changes and how they’ve impacted our process moving forward.
We’ve received a lot of questions around the unusually high number of balance revisions to new cards over the last couple months. It’s not our intent to change new cards this often; unfortunately a variety of related issues combined to impact multiple cards. Some of these challenges included:
- Unusually and unexpectedly shortened development cycles
- Multiple complex cards requiring additional time
- Playtesting concurrent seasons in isolation for too long
- Our internal metagame diverging from live
These aren’t excuses, we just want you to know we’re investigating our process and taking steps to improve. Some of the changes we’ve made:
- Season design starts 4 weeks earlier
- Season Pass cards receive -double their previous playtesting
- Playtesting methodology keeping Seasons more mixed
- Additional investment in personnel and resources for balance work
We’re going to miss high and low; we’re going to have bad ideas that look good for the first thousand hours. But our balance goals remain keeping the game fun, the metagame fresh, and the cards you acquire enjoyable additions to your collection.
Patches vs. OTAs
We’ve talked about this in other venues, but because it’s important to this topic let’s review our live balance methodology. The design team updates the game in two ways: through scheduled patch changes, which happen approximately every 4 weeks on a Tuesday, and through OTA (“over the air”) changes, which happen every two weeks on Thursdays. For many of you, they probably look and feel fairly similar. For us, they’re totally different work.
The most obvious difference is in their content. Our OTA adjustments are restricted to changing numbers on the cards: Cost, Power, and the scale of the ability (if the card has one with a number). If we want to change a card more dramatically, that requires a patch, and patches are a different kind of update.
Take the patch we released on 10/31. Because a patch involves several changes and feature additions, it needs more time between locking changes and releasing them. That means Design locked our patch adjustments in around 10/2, with notes written the following week. However, OTA updates only require about a week to build. So the 10/31 patch was final before the 10/12 and 10/26 OTAs were even identified. Patch changes are in a difficult position-when we feel a big change may be warranted, we know the game could look very different by the time it’s actually live. For that reason, we’re often careful making big nerfs with patches.
Let’s Talk About Mobius
The 10/31 patch did include a big nerf-it radically changed the functionality of Mobius M. Mobius, a relatively new card. If we knew patches risk being obsolete, why make such a huge change? Well, the data on our side was scary. We expected Mobius to have an impact on the metagame and to change card choices for players and top decks. We also knew we couldn’t predict exactly what would happen, as he’s a generally playable card.
What we didn’t expect was exactly how Series 4 Mobius would affect players completing Series 2 or moving through Series 3. Many exciting strategies players gain access to there basically disappeared overnight. We hadn’t accurately evaluated how commonplace Mobius might become, and there was still a bundle on its way.
If you’re tracking dates, we only had a few days to react to this discovery, as Mobius launched on 9/26. We had to make a call-wait and change his numbers via OTA, or book a patch change. At the time, we worried we had grossly misunderstood his long-term impact and didn’t want to risk waiting for the next patch if an OTA was insufficient. We made a reactionary nerf proportionate to the concern.
In hindsight, that was the wrong call. Mobius’s metrics calmed down, the metagame stabilized, and the play rates of many affected cards and decks improved. While Mobius was still overperforming, it became clear an OTA would’ve likely worked-but the ship had sailed. We also inadvertently generated more concern with this passage from the patch notes:
“While we were eager to see the world Mobius would create, we expected to make an adjustment down the road in order to welcome Cost reduction strategies back into the sunlight.
.. We’re also interested to hear your feedback on our approach here, using a new card as a tool to create a new play environment temporarily.”
This was carelessly written and fails to convey our intent, which was that we knew we needed to protect viable Cost reduction strategies in SNAP if it turned out Mobius was too much. On that count, we’ll just apologize and expressly say that 1) we don’t launch cards with a nerf planned after a period of time passes, and 2) we don’t nerf cards based on upcoming bundles.
To be clear: we will launch cards we think we might need to nerf, because game balance is imprecise. We’d rather do that than launch cards we believe will need a buff, because the risk is worth ensuring the new cards are meaningful additions to the game. But in those cases we’ve always made an earnest and responsible effort to hit a mark we hope can land and stick, and we’re going to work harder on that.
So, with all of that said, here’s today’s change to Mobius.
OTA update changes
Mobius M. Mobius
- [Old] 2/3 – On Reveal: Until the end of next turn, your Costs can’t be increased and your opponent’s Costs can’t be reduced.
- [New (sort of)] 3/3 – Ongoing: Your Costs can’t be increased. Your opponent’s Costs can’t be reduced.
First off, yes-this is new functionality for the OTA! We recently developed the ability to change card text, and this will be our first live test with it. Hopefully, you’re reading this and it worked perfectly. This does potentially change the kind of OTAs we can make in the future, but we’ll move slowly on that count. Expect OTAs to continue as usual for now.
As for Mobius himself, because we believe an OTA might’ve been the right call, we’re just doing that. This change returns Mobius to his previous functionality at a higher Cost, because the card we most want Mobius to emulate is basically Cosmo. Cosmo isn’t a staple, but Cosmo is playable enough to serve as a release valve for strong On Reveals. Mobius is better against Cost reduction than Cosmo is against On Reveal because his location placement doesn’t matter, so we went with 3/3 rather than 3/4. Plus, he’s a Cerebro-3 kind of card.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on Mobius and spend playtest cycles looking at other versions of his effect that hew closer to the original than the On Reveal did, just in case it turns out we do need one. In the spirit of additional transparency, that effort is starting with “2/3 – On turn 6, your Costs can’t be increased and your opponent’s Costs can’t be reduced.” But again, we hope to not need it.
Let’s dive into the remaining changes!
Many of us fondly remember our first Move decks, with Doctor Strange calling over a Vulture and a Multiple Man. As collections matured, this enjoyable card and popular character often fell to the wayside. In an effort to augment his long-term potential while keeping a fun early-stage card, we’re trying this simple change on for size.
- [Old] 4/3 – On Reveal: Destroy all enemy cards at this location that have 9 or more Power.
- [New] 4/3 – On Reveal: Destroy all enemy cards at this location that have 10 or more Power.
We’ve been waiting for the right time to deploy this change-in fact, since we began considering and vetting it, the conversation around Shang-Chi and his ubiquity in decks have both changed dramatically! We first began considering this adjustment because he was simply so popular-a play rate that would’ve merited a nerf on most cards, even though his other performance metrics were average.
However, two other good reasons emerged as we thought it over. First, 10 is just a “better number” than 9, in game design speak. It’s easier to remember, an intuitive benchmark for “big” Power, and has special significance to Shang-Chi thanks to the Ten Rings. We’ll be using this threshold for more cards in the future, too. Second, this change adds “space” for us to design with a larger mix of Powers and abilities, especially among 5 and 6-Cost cards, without letting Shang-Chi catch them all.
We’re also making related changes to other cards, so that Shang-Chi still destroys some existing cards that could also use a buff, while others he wasn’t destroying have room to gain Power now. Notable cards we aren’t changing that Shang-Chi will no longer destroy include Black Cat, Rescue, Abomination, Living Tribunal, and the occasional Ronan or Devil Dinosaurs. We’ll monitor all of these cards closely to make sure their performance remains appropriate-looking at you, Living Tribunal-but we’re optimistic.
Nothing much to see here, just keeping the generic “token” from Monster Island in Shang-Chi’s range.
She-Hulk’s a fun card that merited a nerf earlier in the year off her 6/10 stat line. As decks have evolved, we think She-Hulk deserves to return to form. However, given that one of the popular things to do with She-Hulk is make copies of her, it’s also important she stay in Shang-Chi’s range so that he functions as a counter to that strategy. Plus, something about a Hulk sitting at less than 10 Power just doesn’t sit right, you know?
- [Old] 4/5 – Ongoing: If any of your locations are empty, +4 Power.
- [New] 4/5 – Ongoing: If any of your locations are empty, +5 Power.
Warpath is a pretty efficient Powerhouse in early metagames, and that makes him the kind of card we like Shang-Chi being able to handle. However, given he’s not as popular in competitive play, he’s also a fine candidate for a buff. Warpath offers a few cool moments of discovery to new players, with one of our favorites being “dodging” Shang-Chi by moving cards into or out of your third location, a dynamic we’re happy to preserve.
- [Old] 4/4 – On Reveal: If you don’t play a card at this location next turn, +4 Power.
- [Change] 4/4 -> 4/5
Jessica Jones is kind of just the converse of Warpath, as an early game 4-Cost card offering bonus Power for a fairly small drawback, but while avoiding Shang-Chi’s effect. That will remain true, and maybe this buff will also help her find the occasional home in a larger metagame.
This is a double adjustment as we’re moving Strong Guy out of Shang-Chi’s range and buffing him to better complement his supporting cast, given how many strong 4-Cost cards Discard decks have available. Now you can play him the turn before Hellcow and threaten a lot of Power very quickly! Strong Guy’s also unique as a discard reward that doesn’t want you to play Apocalypse, which means we can push a little extra strength here and see if an extra Discard deck might emerge.
Last but not least, we’ll be making some changes to the OTA schedule for the end of the year. As many of us are taking the opportunity to eat first and second dinner with our families during the holidays, there will be no OTAs on 11/23 or 1/4. We are tentatively planning to keep the 12/7 and 12/21 OTAs on the schedule, but if that changes we’ll let you know.
That was quite a read-thanks for sticking with us. Until next time, happy snapping!