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Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

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Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 23 Sep 2015, 12:20

Maybe there is allready a thread like this, maybe not, but I'm in the process of making a nice and abnormally patiently thought out overhaul of the enemy decks (and all the world mechanics I can possibly mooch off Korath). I've got a whole life experience of playing magic, all possible formats, casual, professional, constructed, limited, cube, I organized tournaments, delved into actual development, and all that kinda stopped a few years ago with Forge and Shandalar bringing me back periodically. I'm making a mod for myself and my family, and a bunch of buddies, but I'd like it if I managed to make it have a broad appeal, and I've got some reason to believe I have the necessary experience for making a great mod. And well, the expansion that Korath pulled through created a whole new metagame (and will continue evolving it as he adds more stuff), one well worth discussing at lenght :)

So, basically, what this is about is if anonye would like to share their Wizard / Arzakon wins, exploits, stuff that always bugged them about Shandalar, and most importantly - impressions about how difficult / tricky was it to put togather a deck they were going for. I've read a bunch of stuff from columnists about Shandalar over the years, but it's not really all that spot on (even the more involved guys tend to confuse the order in which critters scale and completely miss the point occasionally) - I'm interested to hear from other folks who obviously still play it after all this time. I've seen many knowledgeable comments allready, but this pre-alpha thing ought to turn into a serious beta test :)

Also, I do lack experience with some of the relatively recent blocks, and some stuff that might fit in well with my ideas could've just gone right past me. For example I was sad about Mental Note not being in, simply because I missed the memo on Thought Scour. (I was pleasantly surprised at how the AI still uses it to acquire Threshold by targeting itself in "mind control" matches, v nice tbh).

Thieves Hideout 2, a quick 2 day full playthrough:

Anyway, I've been testing some white decks I've made for the low end white critters (Cleric, Priestess, Crusader), they seem to be doing their thing and in the process I completed a full wizard (highest difficulty) game. Got all the mana links on the map, got a deck togather and kicked the wizards and Arzakon.

I didn't use any of the current enemy deck overhauls apart from one bundled with Thieves Hideout - I'm sure folks can put togather powerful decks for the AI, but I was looking to remind myself about the (semi) original decks, their limitations and how the new stuff behaves in an environment similar to the original one. Slapping staples in there is not what I have in mind for where I'm taking it and even the adjusted merfolk deck wasn't much to my liking (I find the idea of playing with the deck injector strange, once you have the deck you were looking for you just round up the wizards, no point playing that way IMO, and overly powerful decks force you into cheeze). Some of the applied changes from the whoshisface collumnist fellow (I kinda remembered his articles as stuff popped up) were quite nice, others were problematic.

Anyway, it was very refreshing to not have any restricted T1 stuff in the deck for a change, and in that sense I'm overjoyed with the update. The deck was:


DECK | Open
4 Savannah
2 Tropical Island
3 Tundra
3 Windswept Heath
3 Misty Rainforest

3 Serum Visions
3 Thought Scour

3 Werebear
4 Tarmogoyf

3 Mystic Enforcer

3 Armageddon
3 Swords to Plowshares

3 Aeolipile


Notes on the deck & playthrough:

- It's a 40 card deck, but it's also a Moxless, Power 9 less deck. A variant of the Legacy Threshold, and making it a 60 card deck would require stuff that's unavailable, as there's no real reason to add anything to it.

- Blue Stuff is threshold Enablers, so are the Fetch Lands and Armageddon is instant threshold. Aeolipile adds an artifact in the graveyard for Tarmogoyf, Serum Visions is a Sorcery and Thought Scour is an Instant.

- I didn't intend to go for this deck, it sort of built itself. It went from a GW thing to the 3 color thing in a convoluted way which mostly involved me picking up stuff that would make Tarmogoyfs useful. As broken as they are, you gotta work to make them work in Shandalar, which was in fact awesome. Since most of the cards are absent from AI decks (apart from dual lands and StP) I hand picked them as they came to mind. Finally having Aeolipile in the pool is AMAZING, that thing would've been a well loved and well remembered Shandalar staple had they just not skipped adding Fallen Empires to the pool originally (was a mistake IMO).

Swords to Plowshares | Open
Some of the enemy decks and common card choices sort of force anyone running white into Swords to Plowshares. I think they'd sort of force anyone running anything into StP. I was quite happily not running them until the Wizard cleanup, but then I kind of had to have them as the only real ye olde brokene staple. There's too many Mana Vault / Dark Rital enemy decks and anyone white is running them in semi-vanilla, and you just can't win that arms race with anyothing I can easily think of. Never been happy with this, and I've got the AI white guys experimenting with all sorts of new stuff and it's much more interesting. One of the goals for me personally would be to make the experience more approachable without just dumping a bunch of jewels into a playset (or othersiwe tributing them off hapless critters).


Aswan Jaguar and Might of Oaks | Open
I tried out Nimble Mongooses (surprisingly ineffective in the wall / acceleration heavy Shandalar meta, nice), I ran 3 Aswan Jaguars for most of the run, had fun with Overrun variants. Two cards that made my watch list were Aswan Jaguar and Might of Oaks. Might of Oaks is completely retarded in Shandalar. The update added a lot of bombs, but I dumped that thing half way thorough the run because it made the game boring (and didn't even bother picking up more than one) - it goes on my list of stuff that's better off locked in a dungeon. The presence of Aswan Jaguar is also problematic - I bet everyone fondly loves that card (I know I do), but the old "big creature update" made everyone a human, and besides that it makes dedicated tribal decks (which aren't exceedingly over the top) a big liability (and one of the highlights of adding more cards is making Shandalar decks more flavorful and in line with the nominal wielder). As long as the decks stay themed these guys will be stupidly powerful against the AI, quite certainly should be impossible to get playsets off for jewels / money.


LIFEGAIN | Open
Another thing is that the update added a million ways to gain life. This is highly exploitable in dungeons, but what folks might not know is just how exploitable that is. Since dungeon wins count outside of dungeons, as long as you can lifesteal through a dungeon steamrolling everything in the process - you can easily get a bunch of critters into begging-you-to-let-them-go territory outside. Which means they give you free stuff. Which THEN means, since so many decks have cheezy lands in them, that assembling a silly mana base is no problem at all (and also that you break the bank with money and jewels so putting together any deck at all is also no big deal). I think my personal tweak won't include every card ever if for no reason than this.


DUNGEONS | Open
- Also - dungeons whithout life loss carried over don't really have a way to challenge you, unlesss Korath goes out of his way to tweak how they work. I know there's probably folks out there who love their lifegain, so saying something like "lifegain cards are mostly boring, they all do pretty much the same thing so I'd rather keep my dwindling resources dungeons than god knows how many samey cards" might rub some folks the wrong way... But dungeons without life loss carried over are mostly no different than just dueling guys outside one by one. They get a starting card, but that was never meant to be a big factor (otherwise it'd make dungeons unplayable). I stayed away from lifesteal this time around and that meant that even though I kicked wizard assass and got all the mana links on the map (all of them) I still had to walk out of dungeons empty handed and didn't have the entire T1 setup for the endgame even if I wanted to use it. On the contrary, in wizard castles where life loss didn't count, I just steamrolled with no metagaming even though some bonus cards were nasty. So if I do trim the total pool a bit (which I most certainly will as it's way too huge to even browse when picking cards), the lifegain that reamains will be very carefully picked.


Now, there's an OLD BUG that reared it's ugly head in full glory again, and I've informed Korath about it via a ticket, but it's probably quite a bit of work and would mess saved games up, but is well worth fixing for several reasons:

- As I informed Korath (possibly, maybe he knew) Critters will start offering you tribute / running away even if you've beatein them just onece. As Korath informed me it works like this under the hood:

BUG | Open
Comment
--------------------------
Looks like it's only storing the enemy's class and its wanderer color
(which is always just one color), rather than its full color. For most
enemies there's no overlap, but for nine of the ten 2-color enemies there
is: Centaur Shaman is black, green, and ENEMYCLASS_DRAGON (why, I dunno)
so overlaps with Mandurang (black) and Prismat (green).
Centaur Warchief is red, white, and ENEMYCLASS_DRAGON (again, I dunno why)
so overlaps with Dracur (red) and Kiska-Ra (white).
Elementalist is blue, red, and ENEMYCLASS_FEMALEWIZ so overlaps with Seer
(blue) and Sorceress (red).
Lord of Fate is black, white, and ENEMYCLASS_KNIGHT so overlaps with
Undead Knight (black) and Crusader (white).
Tusk Guardian is green, white, and ENEMYCLASS_LORD so overlaps with
Beastmaster (green) and Paladin (white).
Ape Lord is green, red, and ENEMYCLASS_LORD so overlaps with Beastmaster
(green) and Goblin Lord (red).
Mind Stealer is black, blue, and ENEMYCLASS_LORD so overlaps with Vampire
Lord (black).
Fungus Master is blue, green, and ENEMYCLASS_MALE_WIZ so overlaps with
Conjurer (blue) and Druid (green).
Sedge Beast is black, red, and ENEMYCLASS_TROLL so overlaps with Troll
Shaman (red). On the one hand, there's only one byte per duel victory to
store both an enemy's wanderer color and enough data to identify its type,
if we still want to distinguish e.g. between Fungus Masters starting out in
forests and ones starting out in islands (and I think we do). On the
other, shandalar_duel_victories[] is widely-enough referenced, and in the
middle of large-enough functions, that it's going to be difficult to change
its semantics at all without rewriting all those functions entirely.
Either way, it'll break savegame compatibility.


What happens if it's not fixed is the following:

- Critters get wrong values applied to them in regards to how many times you beat them. This has most often happened in my games with Fungus Lords (but happens with others, too).
- The affected critters will start running away from you as if you've beaten them 3 times, even if you didn't, and even start offering tribute as if you've beaten them 5 times. (It can be a bit of trouble catching them occasionally.)
- All this is actually terrible because you can then mooch jewels, money, info and, most importantly, dual lands, swords to plowshares and whatever else they have in their decks.
- What's even more silly is that dungeon wins count as regular wins (not sure if they decrease wizard life total anymore, and not sure if the overlap is applied but I believe it is). Since dungeons have a large ammount of identical critters you can either clean it all out with lifegain cheeze (there's oodles of it in the pool right now), or in case life loss didn't carry over simply have a large number of similar critters you can be well prepared for, line them up and get them to tribute status (plus all the "incidental" overlapping tribute status on other critters potentially). And then just walk around with everyone giving you tribute, easily collecting mana links, powers, lairs and dungeons.
- Whether the bigger problem is that it's exploitable or that it's buggers up the game even if you don't try to exploit it is a question, and I whish I were a programmer capable enough of fixing it. Been bugging me for ages ever since I was a kid simply chasing those damned Fungus Lords and not understanind what the hell was wrong with them. Oh, and this particular time, just walking from one castle to another got me 4 Bayous because I ran into 4 Centaur Shamans.

IDEA:

If some work was put into fixing that bug up there, possibly in a way which managed to prevent in-dungeon monster kills for counting as global kills, and if it were possible to have monsters pick decks other than their default ones it would be possible to have:

- Dungeons with different permanent stuff (Growing enchantments from Urza Block which the monster could fire off and get a powerful effect once per match, or simmilar enchantments from Zendikar Block, am allready making a list)
- Dungeons with different dungeon-specific dice effects (so a dungeon with a certain flavor could give you adventuring gear or flavoruful allies depending on which dungeon you were in instead of the highly exploity way it works now)
- Monsters using dungeon appropriate decks - so that you could have R/W clerics and Priestessess in appropriately flavored dungeons where you couldn't beat them up and take stuff from their decks and the enemy deck pool would be much more varied and more new cards could be used without breaking the orinal feel of the overworld.

^ That there's the dream. Well, my dream at least.

If it's not fixed, a serious attempt at a fun & challenging AI deck composition has to take into account that it's way too easy to accidentally turn monsters into very concreete card dispensers. This would also turn any power cards you give to lower-end guys (easier to beat ones with not much life) practically guaranteed on every playthrough steering people towards particular cards and strats. Oh, and also ones you give to higher end guys overlaping with them. I'm not sure if it's possible to get a critter you've literally never met before to hand over tribute without fighting you even once, but it may as well be.

---

Anway that's enough textwalling, I got very nice Priest, Paladin and Crusader decks so far which are still work in progress but I'll be happy to share them in the decks overhaul (except they've been designed to fit into a larger whole) and I'm working on the higher up white decks for the next run.

What have your experiences been like so far? :)
---

My Shandalar deck pack folder is avaliable here:Dropbox
Leave feedback on particular decks here: Google doc
Ask for instructions, give feedback and complaints here: Thread
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 02 Oct 2015, 13:16

I've made a big ole incomprehensible comprehensive list of all the green cards currently in Shandalar (with unhelpful helpful groupings). To help me with puzzling out the potential metagame and deckbuilding design choices and stuff, trim stuff that overlaps with too many other things (there's several identical copies of Grizzly Bears, etc.).

Q: Is there a relatively simple ("time consuming" is not an issue) way of adjusting individual card rarities?

Q2: Is there a relatively simple way of creating a "Current Shandalar" set, as opposed to current "Total Shandalar" which you get by selecting the "Block" filter? What would adding a completely new custom Set to deckbuilder entail?

It would help me in what I'm doing immensely, as I could permanently filter out cards with known bugs or stuff I decide to trim. This would make deckbuilding much easier. I could also use this to adjust rarities (I've done a bunch of research) for cards in Shandalar for my own sake, as Shandalar has very specific card-purchasing/acquisition mechanics (and many, many other considerations which applied when cards were designed for paper magic but don't apply at all or work counterproductively in Shandalar. I could go on about this for days, but, err, brevity and all that).

---

Right now I'm doing the final sorting on green creatures and putting together a list of "known bug" cards which don't look like they'll be fixed soon and basic AI deck adjustments focused on taking these out of them.
---

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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby Korath » 02 Oct 2015, 18:48

lujo wrote:Q: Is there a relatively simple ("time consuming" is not an issue) way of adjusting individual card rarities?
Edit magic_updater\Manalink.csv and then rebuild Cards.dat, Rarity.dat, and DBinfo.dat by running csv2dat.exe.
lujo wrote:Q2: Is there a relatively simple way of creating a "Current Shandalar" set, as opposed to current "Total Shandalar" which you get by selecting the "Block" filter? What would adding a completely new custom Set to deckbuilder entail?
You can in Loremaster's Tower by running with the --deckbuilder command-line option. It'll be in the next release of Thieves Hideout as well.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 02 Oct 2015, 21:45

You wouldn't believe how hyped I am for the next update allready. Currently and traditionally, one of the few ways for the AI to kick ass semi-honestly was to stack a bunch of auras on something and mess you up if you can't deal with it and/or block it. This ussually takes more deck space than is necessary (in order for the AI to draw pump consistently), and is very vulnerable to removal. All the equipment that's coming, if the AI can use it decently, is going to do wonders in terms of making sure every single AI deck is consistently annoying and able to give the player a headache ^^

With the ability to trim the current pool into something more navigatable, and with rarities properly adjusted after having mapped out all the stuff that's there and what's missing I think I can really make magic happen. Fingers crossed for that Song of Blood to make it into the next update ^^ That thing just never had a format where people could fall in love with it.

Working on green, I promise I'll have something constructive and usable next time I post something.
---

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Leave feedback on particular decks here: Google doc
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 08 Oct 2015, 16:43

Right, I'm deep into analyzing the current green cards fund for various purposes, and I can share this tidbit for now if anyone wants to make their card pool just a teeny-tiny bit less cluttered when browsing shop pools:

This stuff is quite redundant, and I've left the stuff with ** in the pool while taking out the other stuff.

| Open
Norwood Ranger - (There's a million elves in there anyway)
Trained Jackal - (Really no need for this little guy)
*Woodland Druid*

Skyshroud Ranger
*Sakura-Tribe Scout* (Is strictly superior to the ranger, unless you're hell-bent on having the ranger in some sort of elfball because it's your favourite deck ever or something.)

All these bears are identical, and there's a bunch of other "Bears" in there that are almost identical except the creature type.

Runeclaw Bear, Bear
Grizzly Bears; Bear
Forest Bear, Bear
Balduvian Bears; Bear

Silverglade Pathfinder (Strictly inferior to Greenseeker)
*Greenseeker*

Centaur Courser
*Nessian Courser*

Nettle Swine
Golden Bear
*Order of the Sacred Bell*


Then there are these guys that you can probably also pretty safely put on the disabled list in the ini, barring bug testing:

| Open
Smallish green shroud guys (can't pump them, can't enchant them, can't interact with them and green really wants to interact with it's dudes, so these guys are quite meh in the vast majority of situations and there's not much you can do about it. You can pick and choose, or be emotionally attached to any of them, but in general the pool is kinda better off without them and even the better looking ones have plenty of obviously better alternatives. NOTE: This doesn't apply to every small green dude with Shroud, just these guys).

Scythe Tiger
Humble Budoka
Pincher Beetles
Hawkeater Moth
Deadly Insect

Green Infect/Poison guys (what with the mechanic being so insular and not necessarily all that good in below 20 life matches. Yes, the "wither" part of it has it's appeal, but in general, they'd work much better in a different Shandalar setting.):

Glistener Elf
Twinblade Slasher
Blight Mamba, Snake
Viridian Betrayers
Viridian Corrupter
Cystbearer
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Mycosynth Fiend
Marsh Viper
Blightwidow
Putrefax
Phyrexian Swarmlord

Green Allies, again, an insular mechanic that simply overlaps with general but can flood the pool with ally-variants of every basic mechanic (it one of the most filler things WotC ever came up with, but I suppose there's folks who enjoy them. Otherwise they're pretty much like a variant of Slivers and flavor vise possibly much easier to work into Shandalar, but as far as it goes if you don't care about them a bunch you're probably better off without them.)

Harabaz Druid
Oran-Rief Survivalist
Tajuru Archer
Joraga Bard

Really outclassed small green fliers (just the really superfluous ones):

Bayou Dragonfly (Better Swampwalk available)
Fire Sprites (Better color fixing available)
Emerald Dragonfly (Well, First Strike is First strike, but it's still terribad).

Multicolor Friendly Semi-Chaff (these aren't terrible in a multicolor friendly limited environment, or look like stuff you wouldn't take out of a starting deck if you were on color, but in Shandalar and in reality all they really do is inflate the pool for no good reason):

Disciple of the Old Ways
Stonefare Crocodile
Agent of Horizons
Graverobber Spider
Steam Spitter

Hexproof Stuff (depending on how you feel about the ability, but equipment is coming in the next update and hexproof + equipment is just cancer to a MtG environment for too many different reasons so this depends on whether you want to give yourself access to a cheatcode or not. Vast majority of MtG cards can't deal with it when backed up with quality pump/buffs and that's a sad fact. I'll think long and hard about which of these guys gets into my final pool if any, and which doesn't.)

Gladecover Scout
Slippery Bogle
Sacred Wolf
Bassara Tower Archer
Dungrove Elder
Troll Ascetic
Witchstalker
Primal Huntbeast
Rubbleback Rhino
Archetype of Endurance
Plated Slagwurm;

Lifegain:

(All of these are tied to lifegain, some just have lifelink, some sac for more than 2 life, and most others are madly broken in Shandalar wherever life carries over and/or serve no purpose but to gain ludicrous ammounts of life. You can pick and choose to your liking, but end of the day using many of these (especially in decks built around them) is just being a wanker.)

Essence Warden
Wellwisher
Lifesmith
Voracious Wurm
Grazing Gladehart
Brindle Boar
Gristleback
Oracle of Nectars
Nylea’s Disciple

Abzan Kin-Guard
Cliffrunner Behemoth
Ravenous Baloth
Totem Speaker (Lol, this guy isn't worth using anyway XD)
Orchard Warden


You stick those into the Disabled portion of Shandalar.ini using Notepad++ and you've made your life easier when both browsing the "any green card" or "any creature" or trade screens and you also get the pool to play nicer with each other with quite a few evolutionary dead-ends and insular mechanics out of the way. Sure, someone might want to try to go on a rampage with Infect because it's his favorite mechanic ever but that's something you do for a laugh, this is for a more stable general experience (and ofc, for now, obv).

I'll correct the names of those that I seem to have spelled wrong later and there's quite a bunch of other stuff that's generally safe to trim, safe to trim according to one's liking, or just plain busted/unfunctional in Shandalar as it currently is. I'm working on a tame green deck pool rework and sorting through a ton of other stuff and all that, this is what I've got for now, hope it helps someone.

Oh, and also there's the "stuff that's confirmed as not working right now" list, but I'm kinda waiting for the next version for that one, and dealing with that stuff is more about getting it out of enemy decks than just the pool, and I can't type it up ATM.
---

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Ask for instructions, give feedback and complaints here: Thread
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 09 Oct 2015, 07:13

Ok, here's some more stuff in various categories that's probably safe to trim, along with considerations. Err, don't go madly trimming because bugtesting's a thing:

Ghazbán Ogre

Mind the á. If that's indeed the correct accent. I've played him a bunch IRL, but he's problematic in Shandalar for obvious mechanical reasons.

Redundant:

| Open
4 mana CiP draw a card guys. First two are identical, third one is a bit different but not too different. The deal is that Elvish Visionary is in the pool, and so is Sylvan Ranger who are basically the same deal with a more user-friendly mana cost, and there's also Haru-Onna.

Striped Bears
Shaman of Spring
Llanowar Empath

In a similar vein there's also these two, also probably elbowing for space with Sylvan Ranger (and a ton of other land search):

Borderland Ranger
Civic Wayfinder


Insular:

| Open
"Cards in hand dudes"

Maro
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
Masumaro, First to Live
Sylvan Yeti

This mechanic is not unusable, but is generally awful when looked at realistically. It HAS been used in control decks, but in the vast majority of cases it's more hassle than it's worth. There's folks who'd want it in, but there's probably more folks who will gladly stick it in the disabled list. I'll probably try to see if an AI deck could work with it at some point, there's actually interesting support cards for the mechanic all over green, and my deck-artist senses are tingling, but for those who don't care...

Elfball

Elvish Scrapper - *Scavenger Folk*
Elvish Lyrist - *Druid Lyrist* - Elvish Hexhunter

The scrapper and the lyrist have non-elf equivalents, and the hybrid guy just makes them all look pointless while being, IMO, too much bang for buck in two colors. I'm pretty sure I'll take the elves out of my pool because having druids who aren't retconned elves is wellcome and elves having all of everything is interesting pretty much only if you're dead set on your elfball being the ultimate toolbox. In which case you can just take them all out and cheeze the hexhunter (and I'll very likely take the hexhunter out too for my pool or seriously bump his rarity).

Actually, when you compare the rarities and power/utility level on stuff in Shadowmoor/Eventide to most of the rest of MtG, a lot of it is quite insane. Hexhunter might be a bad example because it doesn't terrify anyone but that blocks power curve is in another universe.

Savaen Elves - These poor dorks are just way too niche. I can immagine them being crazy good in a very specific environment but they just take up space in most of them.

SNOW - not enough of it around to support it

Boreal Druid - Quite niche outside of it's home environment and there's a million mana dudes
Woolly Mammoths - Are sort of meh even in a snow enviroment

SPIRITCRAFT - there's actually enough spirit related stuff that's legit to keep around even if undersupported but

Kami of the Hunt - he's not exactly hot stuff even if he WAS supported.

KAVU

Kavu Mauler

Kavu were always a lousy "tribe" honestly, even back in the day, they were just made up filler they could stick in any color. This guy is currently the only green one in TH2. Safe to put on ice until things possibly change (there's not even changelings around).

SLIVER - I've not much against them, personally, but they're hella difficult to work into Shandalar decks if you're trying to keep the flavor anywhere sensible and they're kind of underrepresented from color to color. I can imagine there being people who'd trim them on runs. These are the currently present green ones:

Muscle Sliver
Spinneret Sliver
Venom Sliver
Predatory Sliver
Horned Sliver
Reflex Sliver
Might Sliver
Megantic Sliver
Groundshaker Sliver


MULTICOLOR FRIENDLY

Maze Behemoth - Not a bad card in it's environment at all, but it would take a specific Shandalar pool makeup to be really worth keeping around IMO.

ARTIFACT FRIENDLY

Citanul Druid - These guys would rock in a Mirrodin/Scars environment, but in most possible incarnations of Shandalar - they just take up space, unfortunately.
Gaea’s Avenger - Same thing with these guys.

I will in any case keep a set of pro:artifact creatures in my tweaked pool for 2 reasons - they can't be equipped which is an interesting downside to have on very baseline commons, and they can't be taken out by colorless removal which is bound to end up in many player decks (Aeolipile, Moonglove Extract, Spellbombs). These two are not among those:

Tel-Jilad Chosen - It's the same as Nacatl Savage and strictly worse than Argothian Pixies (which CAN be equipped making them very cool)
Tel-Jilad Outrider - And these guys are just a lousy card with a bad downside outside of very specific environments.


Chaff:

CHAFF | Open
Ley Druid
Juniper Order Druid

There's strictly superior / strictly better options for these guys, and you can't really try to get the AI to use these right - the basic Druid is a mess of a deck because it tries that. Anyway, there's a 2 mana 1/2 Satyr who does the same thing and Argothian Elder who untaps 2 lands, and all sorts of shennanigans which put these two (identical except creature type) old buggers to shame.
---
Rabid Wombat - there's more aura friendly dudes than you can shake a stick at in there now, he's just always been terrible when you get down to it.
---
These two are part of the Naya teme from Alara block and they're awkwardly built 5cc dudes who buff guys who generally don't need buffing. Naya had an awkward theme, and even if some of it's support is still there, these guys are very likely just chaff - and just way too easy to kill with too much stuff.

Beacon Behemoth
Mosstodon
---
Sylvok Explorer - from an era when mana dorks had to cost 2 mana regardless of how good they were. This guy is really bottom of the barrel.
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Force of Savagery - this is an "art" card, if you don't want it in there specifically because you want to do wacky hijinx with it on a Shandalar run, you don't want it in there at all.
Gaea’s Liege - Poor, poor thing is, and always has been, terrible.


Again, keep in mind that some of these could use bug testing, and some you might want on or off the list, so the best way to add them, if it's possible is to copy them and separate them with a ;whatever line between groups so that you can easily edit the list whenever.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 10 Oct 2015, 23:32

I've got a very important question: How difficult would it be to create new rarity tiers in Shandalar?

As I've been trying to sort out the huge bulk of cards I ran into a lot of problems which all sort of disappeared once I just started sorting cards in 6 instead of 4 rarities. So instead of Common - Uncommon - Rare - Treasure, I started sorting them into Basic - Common - Uncommon - Rare - Mythic - Treasure, and it seems to be working out wonderfully.

| Open
Basic - Elementary stuff that you could find in core sets, or theme/mechanic setup stuff you'd generally find in larger sets in a block. Lets each color have a baseline staple for each of it's features and includes elementary support for whatever mechanic the pool wishes to support. This also helps with building enemy decks as if you want them to be thematic/mechanic oriented you don't have to make them full of rares or uncommons, etc.

Common - Actual good but elementary stuff, improvements and strictly better variants of the very basic stuff, or even some potent redundancy.

Uncommon - really solid staples or serious enablers, stuff that's not unfair or "this resolves and you win", or even capstone for archetypes/mechanics. Also, killer redundancy enablers (like allowing for a second playset of Llanowar Elves in form of a Llanowar Elf clone to ensure you draw one every time etc.)

Rare - Splashy effects, capstones that really pay off if you build for it, highly efficient stuff, generic bombs (but not madly silly booster-sale driving ones). Also a further way to tax mad redundancy archetypes

Mythic - Stuff with bullshit impact but not straight up design mistakes. It'll likely win you the game if you resolve it, or is so on top of the curve that you should really be paying through your nose for a playset of whatever it is you're looking for in this category. Mostly bombs like Sword of Bull and Shit, Stoneforged Mystic, whatever lands are top dogs in the color-fixing department, format warping stuff like that. Should be madly overpriced per-amulet, and probably not be acquireable in any other way than sinking a load of amulets into each one you get.

Treasure - Silly bullshit that you're supposed to get anyway, generic all-star design mistakes to stick into dungeons with a nice helping of not-actually-problematic-but-very-chaseable stuff so even people who don't want to chase moxes have a reason to go in there.

There's also the "trimmed" category with the subcategories of "Oh, god, no", "Aw, hell, no", "Darnit, I'll want to stick this subset of stuff back in at least once" and "There's gonna be a special Shandalar setup for stuff like this (multicolor friendly, artifact world friendly, etc)". But those aren't important right now.


So the deal is that just 3 categories of amulet-per-card (and more importantly amulets-per-playset) is too little. The Basic and the Common cards don't need to use different expansion symbols or rarity colors or anything fancy like that, there has to be a difference between a 1 amulet common and a 2 amulet common, and all that, with Mythic being ludicrously overcosted compared to everything else (so that saving up for a Mythic instead of getting a rare is an actual investment).

How difficult would this be, and what would it entail?
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby Korath » 11 Oct 2015, 00:49

If you just want to be able to tweak the amulet or gold costs in the Nomad's Bazaar/Diamond Mine lairs, it's feasible. If you want to play silly buggers with everything else rarity does - card generation in towns, random cards found, etc - then I wouldn't want to try it without at least a month to spend on that, eating, sleeping, and just about nothing else. And that's before we start talking about things about extra buttons in the cardpicker, different rarity colors for the expansion symbols on the cards, etc.

I suspect most of the problem here is that those lairs let you keep buying cards until you run out of gold or amulets respectively, anyway.

A quick fix in the meantime is to flag the cards in your mythic and treasure categories as unpickable.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 11 Oct 2015, 02:53

Right, let me clarify - it's not about the lairs, it's deeper than that in several directions. But there might be a rather easy (comparatively speaking) solution other than reworking the whole game and stuff.

So the numerous problems and how they pile up, optional reading for who's into this sort of thing (It's long and possibly confusing, apologies):

| Open
1) The way card acquisition in Shandalar works is the following - you go around the map getting amulets, and then you exchange those amulets for cards in cities. You don't want to trade white amulets because the game is quite unplayable without spamming the white amulet power, but all the other ones are just there so you can buy cards with them for all practical purposes.

2) Yes, there's a lair where you can buy any cards for amulets, and there's a lair where you can buy any cards for money. The first one is basically just a city, except with a rather wide selection of cards. The second one is also not all that special unless you're looking for cheap commons, because there's the third, the really busted one, which lets you buy a crapton of amulets for 200 g per pop. This then turns any city with
cards from a category you want (color, type) into a servicable nomad's bazaar. Vast majority of my money goes into that one, because it also lets me stock up on white amulets, and all the other ones let me get cards. You can get hit by the lair where you lose half your amulets later, but wth, money's plentiful anyway because:

3) You really only want to build 1 deck, 2 at best. Not one particular gamebreaking deck, but, and this is the same as in Forge Quest Mode, once you have a deck you're happy with it's also the deck you're gonna beat the game with. And most cards you can win in duels don't go into whatever that deck is (off color cards for one thing), so most cards can be sold without batting an eye. And since most cards are worthless to you as cards, what you're always really looking for is amulets and cities which let you get the cards you want or the closest approximations thereof. (I'm thinking up ways to incite players to build more than one deck per run, there's several possible ways to achieve this - I hope. I still have to succeed in making myself do it even once :( ).

4) Now, all this is actually fine and to a degree unavoidable - there's 5 colors in MtG and if you're building a mono deck, all the other stuff IS going to be largely worthless to you. The problem is that having only 3 rarity tiers, or rather 3 subsets of cards which sell for 1 amulet, 2 amulets or 3 amulets in the standard shop (any city which trades for what you're looking for) makes any power outlier card simply push out everything else. And those exist because:

a) Core Set cards exist IRL - you need them in the pool, but core-set level commons, while perfectly playable, are simply worth less than expert level commons. There is an unnoted "entry level" rarity IRL which makes it possible to have a sensible power curve that defines the worth of other cards in the meta. That's the "advanced" product, most of the time, since "expert" level product cards, ones which people put in decks, most often just tack abilities onto existing designs. Standouts among those simply push out the non-standout ones.
b) Power Creep & Seep over the years. Cards weren't developed around the same power curves so a common from one set or age can be vastly superior to a common from another. This applies to other rarities, too, but it's somewhat easier to bump something up a rarity tier than it is to bump something below common. Various environments inherently contain above-curve cards - this is well known to anyone who's played the Forge Quest mode where "easy" level decks made with mostly Eventide commons are more brutal than just about anything else.
c) Built up Redundancy - three rarities isn't really enough to deal with the redundancy backlog. There's something like 13 non-creature, quite playable, distinct enough, green "fogs" in the pool in TH2 (that's not counting truly redundant ones, and creatures which can fog as an ability). There used to be just 1. 24 pump spells which boost power and toughness - there used to be just one. All these cards are either commons or uncommons, so unless someone goes for, say, turbo-fog, the best of the common fogs pushes out all the other ones, and if I cut it down to just 3 rarities I cut down a ton of actual green spells (which aren't all that varied to begin with).

But Shandalars card buying system, with the amulets, actually makes place for all of that, because it can make a "basic" common attractive in it's own right. If Golden Hind is "basic" and Llanowar Elves is "common", I can get a playset of the Elk, for the price of 2 Llanowar Elves, and that's a tangible distinction. But if I have to bump the Elf to Uncommon instead, then he's in the same tier as, IDK, Bellowing Tanglewurm, and that's just silly. And if I bump that, that's in the same rank as Tarmogoyf. And where do I bump the Goyf??? Not sure if the best example, but I could go dig up a different one. And you can't have Golden Hind and Llanowar Elves at the same rarity tier - anyone looking for mana acceleration will snap pick the Elves, and anyone looking for a 2/1 will pick up... Idk, whatever's a better fighting 2/1 common than the Elk.

I spent a week staring at the pool and tried a million different things, but starting the progression with "basic" rather than "common" fixed all sorts of issues like that. There's no place for Craw Wurm in the pool if you start at common, because it'd be sharing the rarity with 4-5 things that are strictly better picks for the same amulet price. And if I bumped those things to Uncommon you'd have a cluster of stuff you'd never pick over actual uncommons at uncommon. Etc.


The probably simple enough solution:

If the amulet-for-cards shops (cities, lairs, whatever), didn't look at rarity but rather a Set when determining the amount of amulets, and I could create sets, then it'd be easy for me to simply make the newly distributed rarities into sets. As for card rewards from duels or actual city shops - those don't matter at all in practice. You take a peek at those in case there's something you like, but most of the time they're not what you're looking for or are just filler until you hit an amulet-for-whaterver city. But again, if those could be set to pick from set rather than rarity, and I made my Shandalar-only sets to only include one rarity each, that would solve that, too.

I mean, I'm already close to done with green parts of the "sets" - I arranged cards into groups according to their rarity. Transposing that into appropriate CSVs for hypothetical Shandalar "sets" shouldn't be too difficult for me :lol:

Or I could just manually adjust amulets for each card, that would work too.

EDIT: Really important thing I forgot to mention in that big textwall:

| Open
Shandalar is, for the most part, a below 20 life format for either the player, the enemy or both. Card rarities and power levels, even when up or down due to power creep fluctuations, were adjusted for the 20 life format. A lot of famous and solid staples at various rarities are murderous in matches where people have up to double the starting life than they have in Shandalar.

This means that a LOT more cards are competitive in Shandalar than in real life. An evasive 1/1 clocks you in 10 rather than 20, a +2/+0 equipment cuts that down to 4 rather than 8. Commons which are competitive in Shandalar don't even get used IRL, and if you make RL competitive commons actually common in Shandalar, and then fill the enemy decks with them that'd be terrible. So Shandalar needs the sub-common rarity as the baseline and there is just no room for it the way it is now.

Just think - even a tier 2 competitive deck from various formats and eras kills you in 5 turns. Heck, various draft archetypes in various formats can kill you in 5 turns. In Shandalar a deck with 4 vanilla 1/1 for R and 4 Lighting Bolts can kill you dead.

Not to mention that the card limit in Shandalar is 40 cards per deck rather than 60 and in most competitive decks one of the keys to success has always been redundancy to ensure that you'll draw mostly the same stuff despite having to have 60 cards. So in Shandalar, for a player, it's even easier to put together a deck which kills you in 5 or fewer turns from 20 to 0. And you don't even need to do close to 20 very often.

This is important to keep in mind, because it means that quite a few cards either can't be in at all - or have to leave enough room for more elementary / less murderous cards. Only way to do it, after busting my brains about it, is what I described above. I think.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby stassy » 11 Oct 2015, 06:55

Well, early game deadly cards can be put in late game enemy deck, though usually in late game the player will rack up ton of life, making them useless.

That is why I am not too fond of restricting cards for the whole game, the meta for Shandalar using new cards should be to show the whole Magic history by displaying typical/themed decks, broken or not, and that would be the player job to counter them with all the cards available.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 11 Oct 2015, 14:45

^ I'm a bit confused by what you mean. The issue is that you can't fit cards from the whole of magic history onto just 3 rarities in a meaningful way which lets most of them be shown off and potentially play a role, or give the player a sense of progression.

If it's possible for me to manually adjust amulet costs for individual cards, or to rejigger the amulet-for-card shops (cities/lairs) to charge depending on "set" rather than rarity so that I can create separate shandalar sets of "basic", "common" etc, no probs at all. It's probably easier than adding actual rarities. As I said, cards won in duels, cards that can be bought for gold and all that don't really matter, amulets are the only serious currency / card acquisition mech in the game

Just checking if we're on the same page, Shandalar gameplay looks like this: pick highest difficulty because otherwise the monsters are completely harmless and your inital pool is too consistent, pick white for the sword because there's no other way to play the game at the highest difficulty (otherwise go find it asap), walk around from vilage to city to get effortless mana links and pick up the world magic stuff, or do quests to get amulets, and trade amulets in towns for playsets of whatever. Hit the white power when something is under seige. Don't bother selling everything because free mana links require diverse spells to be given away, but do sell the vast majority of what you get and use money to pay monsters not to fight you if you don't feel like fighting a monster, otherwise dump all the money into amulets or cards if the lair pops up. When you're happy with your deck (in other words you've got around 40 cards which curve out consistently) go kill the wizards and arzakon in quick succession, because there's bugger all left to do. If you want cards from enemy decks, hit a dungeon or two and beat up everything that's in them to make monsters give you tribute all the time and ignore the dungeon cards because, lol, what's the fun in those / they're no on color? Average run time, a few hours unless you horse around on purpose with self-imposed challenges like getting over 20 life or stuff. That's it, right?
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby jiansonz » 12 Oct 2015, 15:01

I randomize my starting colour and I don't allow myself to go below 60 cards in my deck (except in the very beginning, of course). It usually took me about 10 hours to complete a campaign in classic Shandalar.

The only campaign I've played in Thieves' Hideout (against a mixed pool of enemy decks from the overhaul in this forum), it took me considerably longer and I actually lost in the end (defeated all wizards but black, then once my deck was falling apart from my many failed black castle assaults, I decided too late to try to rebuild it, and eventually ran out of white amulets so I couldn't reach the last city under siege.

Okay, I probably took longer than I had to, because I had so much fun and was playtesting as well.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 12 Oct 2015, 16:50

^ Well it's taking me longer for fun playtesting reasons these days too ^^ I apologize for the tone, the point kind of is that buying cards for amulets is the most important thing because it gives the player the most control. You actually pick the card/s you want and this is what (should?) usually determine what your deck ends up like. If it's a handy common, that's where you get a playset of it to draw it consistently, if it's a bomb that's where you choose to pick a bomb over several less powerful but highly appreciable cards.

Sorting cards in more than three ranks let me add a level of meaningful choice to that, and when I say "X pushes Y out" what I meant was that it happens naturally. Both cards are in a pool and cost the same amount of amulets, so the player isn't presented with a meaningful choice between say Golden Hind and Llannowar elves. But if the hind is in the basic category, something you can assume a player should have relatively easy acess to, and llanowars cost 2 amulets per pop, things get interesting - for 4 amulets you can get a playset of a basic card, while really outstanding commons take a bit of investment, etc. When I'm done with green I'll just upload the grid so you guys can check out what I'm talking about.

The point of noting that Shandalar has lower than 20 life by default is - it's well worth including the baseline stuff because it's actually quite a bit more dangerous and worthwhile using (for both the enemy and the player) than IRL, but with only three rarities it gets naturally crowded out by more advanced/powerful cards and ends up just flooding the card sellection screen. I'm actually very much in favor of including as much stuff as possible, I'm just compelled/forced to have to carve out a niche for it for progression and balance (and variety! :) ) sake.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby Korath » 12 Oct 2015, 18:42

If it's easier for you to balance stuff out if enemies all start with at least 20 life, keep in mind you can do that in the next update.

I agree that the general strategy of
  1. Kill random critters to get a bunch of cards you don't need or want
  2. Sell all those cards for way too much gold
  3. Wander around looking for lairs until either
    1. you find a Nomad's Bazaar, and buy your perfect deck all in one visit; or
    2. you find a Gemcutter's Guild and buy a zillion amulets all in one visit
  4. If you didn't luck out with 3A, either find another lair with Diamond Mine for your perfect deck, or go the slower route of trading amulets in cities
is problematic. Way problematic. Always have.

I continue to think that main problem is that those three lair types let you keep on trading forever. I could fix that for the Gemcutter's Guild in about fifteen minutes (since it's already in Shandalar.dll), and for the Nomad's Bazaar and Diamond Mine in two or three hours (since cost determination and repeated buying isn't). But we need to decide what precisely we want to do first: do we want to have the costs be the same, but have a maximum number of trades in each lair? Or do we want to increase the cost with each trade after the first in a given lair? And if so, by how much? Should it be by a constant amount, or be exponential?

By way of comparison, changing the gold or amulet cost for all cards of a given rarity when trading in Diamond Mines and cities would take no more than another fifteen minutes once the missing part of NB and DM gets put in Shandalar.dll, as above. Being able to adjust the amulet or gold price on a per-card basis would take maybe a day, so I'd rather not if you can accomplish what you want to without that.

And yes, Sword of Resistance is far too crucial. If I knew how to make it possible to slow down city sieges, I definitely would.
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Re: Improved Shandalar General Playtesting & Feedback Thread

Postby lujo » 13 Oct 2015, 02:26

Korath wrote:If it's easier for you to balance stuff out if enemies all start with at least 20 life, keep in mind you can do that in the next update.
I'm looking forward to seeing how that works out. I'm hugely interested in anything related to adjusting enemy starting lives, and especially a future possiblity of adjusting Wizard starting lives and how much you can take off by fighting monsters. Fighting stuff for the purpose of weakening wizards, which caps off after 10 always seemed kinda meh.

It's a deep and interesting topic, for a general glimpse into what I'm juggling right now when it comes to lives (again, LONG read if you're into that sort of thing, thoughts appreciated, but please don't think I expect anyone to read all this, I feel bad for talking a lot and not yet presenting you guys with tangible results of my work and cool AI decks and stuff :(. Repeat: save your energy and read the long on-topic stuff below, this is off-topic for now):

For those who like a long MtG related read and aren't coding cool cards right now, and are possibly already miffed at me for being a pest on the bug tracker | Open
The starting lives not being 20 for either the player or the monsters is a blessing and a curse, in terms of balancing & inclusion. MtG is generally balanced (or on occasion miss-balanced) for 20 life each, but in that format vast majority of MtG cards are, to put it bluntly, useless.


However, with a lower life total, a lot of cards which would otherwise be useless simply because they were generally underpowered or from a powered down set become significantly better deals. They have to do less to be fine enough in a deck. Some cards become way too brutal, but there's more "weak" cards IRL than there is "strong" ones, so a metagame where matches are played at below 20 lives is actually beneficial if you want to include a lot of creatures from across the ages. And you can always make power standouts more difficult to obtain or include them in sub-optimal decks for them.

Big prop, again - Creatures which would never see constructed play become legit threats - which is why the original Shandalar was so appealing, a ton of rather useless creatures became dangerous. That is a big part of why you can even play your initial limited deck vs. constructed decks at all.

What the format "breaks", comparatively and what we know for now, is direct damage, outstanding-acceleration-into-bomb, p/t buffs, things that cost life, and lifegain (indirectly, because lifegain was progressively buffed throughout the ages until it became competitive in a 20 life format, but it has a much bigger impact in a sub-20 format, obv) and stuff that's hard to remove from the board especially if it's hard to block.

This plays out differently in regards to color:

RED - If you build red decks the way they're built in real life, the player is f***d against any red opponent. It only barely worked at all because the original pool had a very limited amount of efficient burn spells (or indeed the total amount of them), and the deck pool had a limited amount of burn-per-deck. Also, it kinda worked because monsters had fewer lives so you could kick their ass before they just threw 2-3 burn spells at you and you croaked. Heck, anyone with any kind of direct damage at all (like Elvish Magi with Hurricane) was a deck which could always randomly kick your ass. With an all-star array of random burn from across the ages in a below 20 life format... any deck with red could consistently kick your ass with their opening hand. Especially if you're a Red Mage looking to farm them for cards, because red is the worst color against red (fewest anti-burn strategies and you start with a pile of cards and they start with actual decks).

Oh, and red creatures improved the most in terms of power too, from the original pool. IRL, red is the color which has managed to be dangerous while their creatures always compared badly to any other color creatures in all possible ways. This can probably be worked around - red's bound to have interesting stuff besides burn, but if making any color work is going to be trouble it's definitely going to be red. I read about it a few days ago, one of the design goals they're STILL working on after all these years is giving Red an identity other than cheap bad weenies and burn. Ouch. This is also quite true - the design approach to red in most MtG blocks was almost explicitly "were just not going to give red more than 1-2 playable cards per rarity even in limited", and yet you could kinda always make a passable bad-cheap-dudes-with-burn just from core set junk in most non block-constructed. It's also the eternal joke about standard (T2) - you either have a lot of cash... or you play red.

Which is why I'm doing red after Green. I would've done it first, but I wanted to see green because Green had the strongest Stupid Shandalar 40 card beat-everything weenie deck and most green AI decks were boring and samey so I wanted to see about giving them a bit of a work over first to make playtesting more interesting. But if a color truly breaks the below-20 format it's most likely that that color is going to be red.

---

- Green's problem is that pump can be used the same way as burn, and you usually beat a green deck IRL by stabilizing before it does 20 to you. The pump is kinda easy to solve, just don't put too much of it in (and in fact most of it isn't actually much better than Giant Growth since it costs more so it's slower, silly as that sounds). Players aren't likely to overload their decks with pump, either. Putting Might of Oaks in enemy decks is obviously a bad idea (and Might of Oaks is strong even IRL, it's just rarely used. My kid brother used to eat Fires of Yavimaya decks for breakfast with it as even Blastoderms couldn't race 1/3 of your life for 4. He laughed out loud when he herd it was added to Shandalar, said it was the silliest idea ever XD He also qualified for the European pre-Worlds at 13 with a BG madness with 3 Might of Oaks in it in a field of UG Madness and Psychatog, that card is actually quite silly in general).

Also, blowouts are deadlier in Shandalar (Winter Blast, Fog, any way to get to swing with all your dudes) simply because you need less power on the board to KO.

However, below 20 is actually rather good on Green, because it has a LOT of interesting creatures which are sub-par in a competitive 20 life format but are excellent in a below 20 one. If the truly silly stuff is carefully placed around enemy decks to not overload most of them and the truly silly bombs are overcosted in amulets correctly so that the player has to work for it, green should be awesome and diverse with a clear sense of accomplishment whenever you bring your deck up a power tier with new acquisitions.

Also - there's a huge elf pileup. Lord decks were kinda ok in OG Shandalar when if was a red deck with 4-5 different 1/1 semi-vanilla goblins and no burn in it. When you can make them with any number of quality weenies or even all-lords, it goes without saying that it's complete overkill and should be reasonably difficult to put together.

---

- Black has two general issues: The first one is that it's fond of paying life for stuff, but that's mostly a matter of which opponents you give which cards. Guys with less life don't use that stuff, guys with more life use it and all's well I think.

The other potential issue is that the quality of black creatures is almost completely different depending on which era they are from - the Dark Ritual era or post dark ritual era. Not all of DR era stuff is unplayable without it. And even the general overcostedness can smooth out because it needs to do less damage in a below 20 format. (Fun fact, the dreaded "suicide black" deck never really took off where I live because it tended to pay life for power... and that just made it lose to piles of red chaff with some burn which was usually the only thing kids could afford).

For those who're not aware of this fact, one of the biggest turning points in MtG card design was discontinuing the printing of Dark Ritual. From some early point onwards everything (not just black cards, EVERYTHING) had to take into account the fact that it can be ritualed out and costed accordingly. This is, for example, why Mercadian Masques mercenaries suck compared to the rebels (unless Agant of Shauku is around, ofc) - you could Ritual a Cateran Brute out, recruit something turn 2 and slap down Contamination turn 3. Game over vs. non-black. Removing Ritual let Wizards up the power curve all around...

...but a ton of post-DR stuff is probably madly busted with Dark Ritual, especially in a below 20 life format. I'm VERY curious if the AI can be made to work without Ritual/Mana Vault (which is also bugged atm), as many Shandalar decks which people remember as tougher are only really dangerous because you're playing below 20 life and the enemy has Dark Ritual. But with the pool expanded, especially for black, there's a ton of stuff in it which assumes there's no Dark Ritual around and it wouldn't have been made if it was. I wouldn't mind making DR a high-amulet mythic card so you have to bust your ass for a playset (instead of it just raining DR), but black is going to be interesting and quite tricky to make a properly inclusive pool out of regardless.

White - White has various issues simmilar to black - it lost almost all of it's core/iconic stuff at some point - Banding, Armageddon, Balance, Swords to Plowshares. Yes, Banding is included, as it was a silly strong ability, just confusing - we all know how it works because of Shandalar, most people who haven't played Shandalar never figured it out. Several older sets play really well and make a ton of sense if you understand how banding works, and play terribly if you don't (Fallen Empires come to mind immediately).

As a result it's creatures got pushed harder and harder over the years because the 20 life format let the opponents get rid of them easily with white being unable to respond in meaningful ways. Much like Green, you beat white by stabilizing before it kills you, except white has brutally efficient Weenies and a ton of evasion. What this means is that white's threats come online faster (most of them are cheap), and if it has to do less damage than usual it can easily get ugly. They get cheap stuff with bonuses, where other guys get cheap stuff with drawbacks, or vanilla. Serra Angel is the undisputed creature bomb of OG Shandalar (it's almost literally in every deck with white, it's egregious) and since it wasn't even played in constructed from some point on white bombs just kept better and better.

Also - lifegain everywhere.

Also - once equipment hits it'll easily be ludicrous with white. Even lousy stat boosting auras are effective for the AI in Shandalar because of the lower life - probably the second most effective thing after direct damage in the format (there's a reason why there's so much Unstable Mutation, Holy and Unholy strenght etc, all that stuff is much more viable when you need to do less damage). White Cheap Combat Friendly Dudes + Cheap Power Buffs That Don't Go Away if the random dork dies can get nasty, and there's a lot of white dudes that get very buff for no reason if you just have equipment around (as if you needed an incentive to play it).

If red doesn't end up forcing a format wide life adjustment, White still could.

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Blue - Blue... is weird. Despite what one might think, the obvious issue of too much evasion isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

From what I'm seeing currently the bigger problem might be something not everyone's familiar with and that's the potential of bounce pileup. If you've played at the time when Apocalypse crossed into Odissey, you might remember there being a UG precon called Swoop which was a surprisingly effective tempo deck - blue fliers and a bunch of bounce (especially with Rushing River in the format). When folks think of Oddisey they thing UG madness, but the thing was that the first UG powerhouse was actually an evolution of that principle, UG threshold with a ton of bounce in form of Aether Burst and Rushing River.

Reason for that bit of reminiscing is that if you pile up a big bunch of fine blue cards, many tempo archetypes are going to present themselves. I'm actually playing one in my current run. Some of those are scary s**t even in a 20 format. It's also brutally difficult to play against them with most creature decks, which is why Wotc kinda didn't let bounce pile up in a sensible meta ever again (afaik). And since bounce and the other general terror (counterspells) got reduced in volume and quality, blue creatures have been steadily getting better and better. This might turn out to be a problem - it's one of the few obvious ways to make a blue deck that the AI could reasonably play. Once upon a time there was only Man-O-War, now there's quite a bunch of stuff that bounces stuff when it comes into play to back the other bounce up. Stuff like Sunder is in there, too. Yes, it's an instant Armageddon.

That might be too difficult for the player to handle if it's overdone in AI decks. It's also very easy to put together for the player, so determining the pricing and availablity of various bounce stuff is gonna be tricky.

What's not helping is that if multicolor is all over the place this tends to really get out of hand because multicolor for blue usually means that a creature gets to have stats/cost of, say, a green dude, but with flying tacked on. Blue also has so much evasion in general - in other colors "creatures with evasion" is a small subset of creatures you can distribute around the rarities, in blue this is basically the default. Yes, they usually have unimpressive/mediocre stats, but they often can't be blocked in a life format where those stats are perfectly fine (anyone who got killed by a Zephyr Falcon with an Unstable Mutation on it a bunch - say hello to a pileup of 2 power blue fliers for 2 with equipment, and your dudes are in your hand all the time).

That's not even going into Merfolk lord pileup, but that can be kept in check by not overloading decks with them too much and making assembling a monstrous iteration at least challenging. They were pushed to RL Legacy power, for gods sake :lol:

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Right, that's just the immediately obvious stuff (some of it at least), and as you can see it's tricky bussiness. Lower lives make more cards playable which allows for a diverse basic/common powerbase to build up on and make the game varied and interesting and have a sense of progression as you grab amulets and boost your deck in various ways. However it seriously affects how some colors work - and not just in general, but how cards from various eras of various colors work. I believe we can make it all work out in the end and make Shandalar awesome as all hell, but you've got to understand that some cards/mechanics were not made for a 10 life format while many great things can't compete for attention with outliers in a 20 life format. The more we can cram in, saddle with proper acquisition costs and have be relevant the better!

Sory for huge wall of text :( This is like, the tip of the iceberg :lol:


Korath wrote:I agree that the general strategy of
  1. Kill random critters to get a bunch of cards you don't need or want
  2. Sell all those cards for way too much gold
  3. Wander around looking for lairs until either
    1. you find a Nomad's Bazaar, and buy your perfect deck all in one visit; or
    2. you find a Gemcutter's Guild and buy a zillion amulets all in one visit
  4. If you didn't luck out with 3A, either find another lair with Diamond Mine for your perfect deck, or go the slower route of trading amulets in cities
is problematic. Way problematic. Always have.
Yep - except I hope you understand that I don't actually like the lairs but consider getting amulets and trading in cities to be the core of the game. It's actually much better than, for example, only getting stuff off monsters because that's too deterministic in regards to what you can get. And also causes problems like "playing a red mage is awful because you're in the worst possible color to beat up other red guys for cards you might want". Letting people buy stuff they want with amulets in cities is absolutely fine. It lets us balance out the challenge level of obtaining crazy ass cards and hugely synergistic decks and build up a nice progression curve along the rarities that one can pursue both horizontally and vertically (you can go for more expensive cards or more copies of cheaper cards).

The lairs in question are quite silly, BUT! The silliest thing is quests in cities letting you get a card of your choice (in whatever category) for doing the quest. I could make, say, Tarmogoyf be mythic (effectively) and cost, IDK 6 amulets. This dude sayes "I'll give you any creature/green card if you beat up this one monster". You KNOW which monster it is, you sideboard up, walk about a bit, beat the monster up - bam! You got your bomb. If we're looking to balance the whole thing we'll have to get around that. Eventually, ofc, I'm very glad we're discussing things for now.

Korath wrote:I continue to think that main problem is that those three lair types let you keep on trading forever. I could fix that for the Gemcutter's Guild in about fifteen minutes (since it's already in Shandalar.dll), and for the Nomad's Bazaar and Diamond Mine in two or three hours (since cost determination and repeated buying isn't). But we need to decide what precisely we want to do first: do we want to have the costs be the same, but have a maximum number of trades in each lair? Or do we want to increase the cost with each trade after the first in a given lair? And if so, by how much? Should it be by a constant amount, or be exponential?
If we can agree that amulets-as-currency is fine, because it gives you something to actually do, it gives you choice in deckbuilding, it prevents you from having to fight a certain type of monster to get on-color cards, and, most importantly, you can actually balance a bloody enormous history spanning pool that way XD, here's what I think of those lairs:

-In general: I don't actually chase those. I just use them if I bump into them, but I get my cards in cities and get my amulets from quests or tribute (if I'm feeling like a dope and use dungeons to rack up my kill count, which also happens accidentally sometimes). The game would be perfectly playable without them.

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- One where you get any card for amulets. That one's actually, well, fine in general theory. It's just like a city. If you limt it to one card, you've made it a city with no category for cards and no quest attached. Fair enough IMO, better than finding a basic land.

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- The one where you can buy cards for money. The problem with that one is that the game rains money because the prices are all over the place and you generally don't need it for much. In fact, you do, you need it to pay off monsters, but the way duels reward you simply gives too many cards and for some reason too many expensive cards. It's not exactly helping that monster decks have been loaded with duals and that rarities for OG decks haven't been adjusted and that some of the staples are rare, so even Ante stuff is dodgy in terms of price. With reworked decks, adjusted rarities and possibly adjusted match rewards (eventually) it shouldn't be raining so much money every time you win a fight.

There's still a problem with there not actually being another use for money but food, paying monsters off and occasionally buying something from the town shops. That lair is simply out of place as far as the rest of the game is concerned. If you limit it to one card, folks will probably use it to pick up some rare or mythic and it should work out.

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- The one which lets you get amulets for money - that one is actually strange. In theory, you could get better deals on low rarites in the money-for-cards one, but in practice that one just sets you up to clean up towns with no questing. You hit it, then open up the map, hit info view, find cities with categories you want and buy whatever deck you're looking for.

In theory, it simply lets you buy any rare for 600g (2400 for playset), any uncommon for 400g (1600 for playset) and any common for 200g (800 for playset). I think these numbers are kind of bad? At least for non-rares? ESPECIALLY when you consider that hitting lairs indiscriminately, if I understand it correctly, makes tougher enemies spawn, so if you don't find this thing you make the game harder and also effectively eliminate lower tier enemies eventually denying yourself access to cards in their decks should you want those. If wizards had a ton more life, and you could knock a ton more off, then you'd have plenty of interest in fighting monsters - then hitting lairs and making the average monster a tough one too soon would be quite a bit of a problem.

Also - a) there's no other way to turn money into amulets in general, so money piles up and you're likely to have a huge bunch when you run into it, and b) if you get a huge bunch of amulets out of it you effectively skip all the gameplay of the actual game, which is questing for amulets so that you can put together a decent deck, which you then use to loot a few dungeons for legendary trinkets, which then help you power through castle bonuses and kick the wizard ass.

What I figure is that if the rarities of individual cards are adjusted (kinda necessary anway, hopefully in a way which lets us have effectively more than 3 rarities) and if the duel rewards are then adjusted to not shower you with gold (duels don't give out the top rarity stuff, just plain give fewer cards and stuff simply sells for less than it does now), running into the gold-for-amulets thing wouldn't be so bad. If you're not walking around with 10-20k every time you bother to sell some stuff that place is going to be like you've done a few extra quests (which you, in fact, did, since you sold cards to get the money), not all the quests you'll ever need. And if dueling didn't shower you with rares (that you sell for a crapton), you'd have to... quest for bloody amulets and walk around looking for cities that sell your bloody rares, like you're supposed to! :lol:

Short term you could just bump the price for amulets and make the rates even worse. Or you could limit the price to 3 amulets - not even enough for a single rare if you have to stock up on white amulets. Game's playable without that thing (as long as you're not starving for white amulets), and exploring lairs is actually a very bad thing to do long-term (if they do work like I think they work, by making higher level stuff spawn). Once the decks are reworked and rarities adjusted (and possibly duel rewards adjusted to not hand out crazy loot), both this place and to a degree the one where you buy cards for gold will kinda sort themselves out to a large degree. With wizard decks and castle advantages finely tuned, and wizard lives boosted requiring you to seriously murder half the place to get them to be beatable, managing to put together a constructed deck shouldn't be a problem in and off itself, but kinda necessary. And much more difficult if you couldn't rack up the kill count for tribute in dungeons.

I hope that at some point you'll be satisfied with the ammount of cards you added take a serious look at the shandalar engine because there's a ton of stuff that could be done - if triggering lairs could make enemies have progressively more life / tougher decks that'd be a hoot. IF doing quests also made enemies fine tune their decks as you get more and more amulets that'd be cool too. With more ways to tweak the adventure map we could put more of those cards to use.

Korath wrote:By way of comparison, changing the gold or amulet cost for all cards of a given rarity when trading in Diamond Mines and cities would take no more than another fifteen minutes once the missing part of NB and DM gets put in Shandalar.dll, as above. Being able to adjust the amulet or gold price on a per-card basis would take maybe a day, so I'd rather not if you can accomplish what you want to without that.
You did tell me once that rarities can be adjusted by editing a .csv and rebuilding something, but I couldn't find the .csv or the .exe I was supposed to rebuild with. I'm not rushing you on anything, I'm not even done evaluating Green yet and when the next update hits equipment will take some serious testing and reconsiderations across the board so even if I could do stuff I rather wouldn't go past my own sorting and anlysing before that update. And I do my best to research every single card and you're adding quite a bunch, so even if you want to go out of your way to make my life easier there's no rush for now.

What would be very important to know, on my end, is: how difficult would it be to have cities, shops, monsters and/or lairs determine what they sell and how they price it depending on what "set" a card belongs to, rather than rarity?

Because if I can make a shandalar pool which consisted of cards belonging to, say, 5 custom sets, each one for each rarity including only cards of the designated rarity tier we could kill many birds with one stone. We then use that as a pricing system and all's well. There are already "dungeon reward cards" in there which sort of behave like this (a group which can't be bought, received as rewards or anted by enemies), how difficult would it be to make all cards in the pool belong in a category like that?

Korath wrote:And yes, Sword of Resistance is far too crucial. If I knew how to make it possible to slow down city sieges, I definitely would.
Eh, I hear ya. Well, what we could do is (maybe) rejigger a lower difficulty to act more like the final one in other regards? I'd like the life stats, duel AI and dungeon/castle rewards consistent with the highest difficulty (and possibly other stats which don't come to mind right away), but the initial card pool less scrambled (at least in terms of lands) and the seige/tougher monster spawn frequency of a lower difficulty.

I just reread that and facepalmed. If you knew how to do that, you'd know how to slow down the seige at a higher difficulty #-o
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