No matches

In the third and final part of our interview with Joel “Heffaklumpen” Larsson, we discuss his thoughts on card design and balance. We talk about his favourite card designs, why he doesn’t see so many issues with Cheating Death and why Drow Ranger/Gust are better designed than Legion Commander/Duel. The previous parts can be found below.

Part 1: On Heffa’s esports future, Artifact and Magic
Part 2: On Artifact’s monetization and card market

* * *

I want to move to another topic, which is card design and balance, which was also one hotly discussed, especially during the WePlay tournament. And I wanted to start on a positive subtopic.

During the first few days of the event, Tyler Estate Censor came out as the MVP for black decks, and was generally praised for being an awesome card. What do you make of it? Are you on the Censor hype train?

I think it’s overhyped. It’s probably a little bit better than what I think but probably worse than what other people think. Censor is an awesome card to draw in your first seven or nine cards. If you can play it on T2 and have initiative for that situation, that’s great. And it has fine stats, but as the game goes on, it’s going to get worse. There will be power spikes for decks that you’ll want to deny, like Mana Turn 4 or Mana Turn 6. You’ll want it to play it on a lane you want to pressure but it often doesn’t matter.

Sure, it’s a 2/0/8, which means it trades with two melee creeps over time. However, what you have to remember is that it does so over four turns, which is different from doing it in two turns. It’s so much easier to kill it, impact it during that extra time.

It’s very comparable to some of the other best cards in that slot, like Gank or Oglodi Vandal. It’s not extremely good, but it is a good hard.

What is your favorite card in Artifact then, the one with the best design?

Oof, I haven’t even thought about it. I guess that would be cards that make you think about the game differently, which makes strategy revolve around them or make the actual gameplay different. Like improvements in general, but maybe Aghanim’s Sanctum.

Aghanim’s Sanctum makes you understand Artifact on a different level. And because you do that you can construct strategies in a different manner.

I think Aghanim’s Sanctum makes you understand the game on a different level. Whenever any card game player sees that card game at first they’re like, “This is absurdly busted. How can you have double the mana every turn?”

And that’s partially true, but not at all completely. What you have to remember about Artifact is that a lot of the time, it comes to actually using your resources in the best way possible. That means you don’t play a card in every lane at all times. You have to understand when to use those cards, because you’ll run out of them eventually. You have three lanes to play them in, which means you run out of cards faster than in other games. So, it’s more important to play your cards better.

If you have double the mana in one lane doesn’t necessarily make that better, because you just run out of cards faster and Aghanim’s Sanctum will become useless faster. But then, Aghanim’s Sanctum means you make these strategies that revolve around winning one lane super hard and then using that to your advantage. If you have Zeus with Thundergod’s Wrath, it becomes way more useful with Aghanim’s Sanctum but it also becomes better to win the Sanctum the lane.

Aghanim’s Sanctum makes you understand Artifact on a different level. And because you do that you can construct strategies in a different manner.

For example, there was a UR deck by StanCifka that starts with three red heroes and then it has Kanna coming in. He always plays Kanna in the first lane and then it uses Sanctum to then be able to both cast spells that impact that lane, but also more global spells that can impact other lanes. You’re going to control this lane, but you’re scared of overcommitting.

I think Aghanim’s Sanctum is overall my favourite design for said reasons.

Moving on to the other end of the spectrum and cards people don’t seem to like. The first one is the obvious Cheating Death. What do you make of such cards? Do you agree with the larger community that they are toxic for the game?

I don’t know. I think I am fine with Cheating Death. It takes a lot to make it a worth inclusion in your deck. First off, there’s a huge problem with deciding which cards you choose for your Artifact deck. You don’t have that many slots and a lot of them are taken by hero cards. And then the competitiveness between the slots is larger than in other card games.

cheating death

5 mana is a lot for a card that does nothing, you know? Cheating Death doesn’t really add anything on your board, it only protects the things you have. If you want to push something, be aggressive or extend your advantage, Cheating Death doesn’t always necessarily do that.

And also, when it leaves you to think that your opponent won’t do anything in a lane because they’re pressured to not do anything, sometimes they have to do something anyways. And then maybe they do have the Coup de Grace and then you’ve paid 5 mana to do nothing. And now they’re for sure ahead.

It takes a lot of probability counting to make sure Cheating Death is worth it and I think it leads to interesting gameplay in the way of how you much you should respect the probability of you losing a roll and if you should play around the effect. And it also gives some sweet YouTube moments where everything survives or nothing survives. I don’t think this should be underappreciated.

Cheating Death is interesting because you can’t always include it in all green decks, even though most strategies right now involve it.

Cheating Death is interesting because you can’t always include it in all green decks, even though most strategies right now involve it. The latter will change and it’s more interesting than having the heroes and cards that are auto include, the ones you always have to play if you want to be competitive in the game and that shapes the metagame on its own. I think that’s worse as card design.

Like Legion Commander, for example. Axe is in the same boat, but Legion Commander gives a tool to red that it otherwise doesn’t have. She also has very powerful stats so she’s a necessity to have and that shapes the metagame. You need to play around Duels and make sure your deck isn’t much of a glass cannon. That’s worse design than Cheating Death on its own.

But then again, maybe red needs that tool to interact. I don’t know what red would look without Legion Commander, maybe it would be unplayable. But it’s unfortunate that a meta is shaped around one card or one hero.

The second card I wanted to talk about is Gust, which has been the win condition for many green decks. I think many have found this ultimate silence effect a bit too strong especially when you compare it to other similar cards that want to do the same thing, like Primal Roar, for example. Given there’s no counter play to Gust per se, especially when you play it on initiative, do you think it’s perhaps too much? If yes, how do you tone it down?

Gust is very similar to Legion Commander in the way that it’s almost impossible to build a green deck without Drow, because Gust is so powerful and gives the color a tool it otherwise doesn’t have.

I also think that the difference between Drow and Legion Commander is that the latter is a good reactive tool that you need to have. But Drow and Gust actually enable strategies.

But I also think that the difference between Drow and Legion Commander is that the latter is a good reactive tool that you need to have. But Drow and Gust actually enable strategies. They enable “go wide” strategies, they enable the combo deck. The way I built the Selemene’s Storm deck originally, was that I wanted to try out whether increasing your mana from Stars Align or Mana Drain works with the mana refresh of Aghanim’s Sanctum.

When I found out that works, I realized I could Gust first and then cast Aghanim’s Sanctum, thus protecting the entire turn. That kind of invented the combo deck in the first place. I think this makes it much more interesting than Legion Commander/Duel, for example.

I mean, it’s super powerful, but it’s easy to fix. It’s easy to have cards against it in future sets. You can have anything, you can have items that interact with the silence.

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