Balance Patch 2.5 Review

As of the publishing of this article, Patch 2.5 is live and it brings with it a host of balance changes, some as predicted and some that are complete surprises. TESLBlog is excited to present some thoughts on the potential impact of these changes. Today TESLBlog contributors Holoir and WayneMcPain are joined by special guest Major Broski as we dive into the patch notes and review the changes.

Tullius’ Conscription – Increased Magicka cost from 11 to 12

WayneMcPain: For a card that has seen as much widespread disdain in the community, this was a fairly “safe” nerf. There have been a lot of other suggestions such as making it Unique, affecting only one lane, summoning copies of creatures or even changing its attribute entirely. So for many people this may seem like a rather tame and ineffective nerf. However, cost increases have historically been a lot more impactful than people realise (see anybody playing Bringer of Nightmares or Slaughterfish Spawning lately?)

This nerf probably hurts non-Telvanni Conscription decks a lot more due to Telvanni’s ramp capabilities, but pushing that first Conscription back a turn is not insignificant. The devs clearly are okay with what Conscription is doing, but they aren’t okay with how effective it has been. It remains to be seen how much this actually hurts the boogeyman deck, but any nerf to Conscription seems to be welcome in most people’s eyes. In the end, this is still a highly impactful card that offers an enormous amount of value and will probably see play, albeit maybe less in non-Telvanni variants.

Major Broski: The one turn difference is impactful. This gives other decks another turn to respond. Adding cards that increase magicka may help Conscription Decks reach it sooner, but possibly not [soon] enough.

Holoir: Conscription was a major community-favoured nerf in my view. I remember listening to Peter Janaros on The Fun & Interactive Podcast. He said they had taken the voice of the community into consideration for some nerfs. This is clearly the case where, personally, I had good success playing against Telvanni Conscription over the past few months, but the deck was a little too present in the meta. From my point of view the increased cost still lets Telvanni play it as a turnaround or finisher.

I hope we will see more of the other 12-cost finishers again, but I don’t think the increased cost will break Telvanni Conscription, conceptually. Telvanni can still run it as they have magicka ramp and a decent toolbox to control aggro. Redoran and Tribunal are less likely to be running ramp, but Conscription still remains an option. More for Redoran, than for Tribunal of course. But for Hlaalu and Dagoth, Conscription is more difficult now. Fleeting Apparition can be a good option for midrange and still tutor the higher-cost Goblin Skulk. Maybe it’s time for Apparition and Brass Arquebass decks to be tried for a similar deck thinning and tutoring effect.

Genius Pathmage – Increased Magicka cost from 6 to 7

WayneMcPain: It is unfortunate that some of these nerfs that are targeted toward a single archetype are going to hurt many more decks with collateral damage. Genius Pathmage is primarily being nerfed to slow down Nix-Ox combo (yet again), but this nerf is also going to significantly affect the card’s playability in traditional Control decks like Tribunal and Assassin. While it is still very potent tutor effect, it takes a lot longer before you can begin to pull significant creatures into play. (Turn 9 for a 2 drop, for instance)

For Nix-Ox combo this nerf’s effectiveness remains to be seen. It can no longer tutor Nix-Ox without ramp (ring only puts you to 13) and it can no longer chain off itself. However, historically speaking, every nerf to Nix-Ox combo has mostly only been a challenge for players to relearn some math and find new ways to abuse it as efficiently as possible. Again, 1 turn delays are significant and this nerf probably kills Pathmage’s viability in most non-combo decks.
Holoir: This one balances one of the most powerful tutors in TESL. He was a staple in many combo decks. It will no longer be possible to summon 6-drops without magicka ramp. Nix-Ox combo will be much more difficult to pull off. Both Nix-Ox and Pathmage are now occupying the 7-slot. I think this might cause the Nix Ox player to tutor the undesired alternative delaying the combo by a turn. This will make Piercing Twilight or Cast Into Time much better counterplays, as they combo might take two turns two finish.

In addition, it makes Altar decks probably go back to Conjuration Tutor on the 6-cost slot. Also, tutoring Jarl Balgruuf in a Unite the Houses deck is impossible now. While balancing Nix-Ox Combo decks was desired, Pathmage was used in so many other scenarios that we will see him a lot less in the new meta. If players don’t find alternatives – which is difficult – this nerf could be another driver to get more magicka ramp back into the emerging meta.

Goblin Skulk – Increased Magicka cost from 2 to 3; Increased Health from 2 to 3

WayneMcPain: This is probably one of the most impactful nerfs that this game has seen in a long time. An unanswered turn one Skulk with the Ring can very often lead to snowball openings and such massive tempo generation that your opponent struggles to ever get off the ground. It doesn’t even matter much what Skulk is pulling, whether it’s Lesser Wards, Curses, Goblins or Cruel Fireblooms — the amount of early game advantage these 0-cost cards offer is many times as impactful or more impactful than some of the other most powerful 2 drops in the game such as Mournhold Traitor.

Delaying Skulk by a turn kills a lot of T1 tempo explosions in many decks, but buffing its health makes it more resilient and more likely to pilfer. This hurts decks like Hlaalu far more than it hurts Telvanni potentially, but Telvanni’s ability to completely shut down aggro/midrange decks’ early game with free cards (Firebloom) is significantly diminished with this change. Combined with the nerf to Conscription, Telvanni’s matchups across the board may see some weaknesses develop.

What I really like about this change though is how it will impact the landscape of Aggro and Midrange matchups. With this change, many decks will be looking for replacement 2 drops for Skulk, which means as many as 6 slots will open up in most Agility aggro/mid decks. The relative power level of all 2 drops increases with Skulk pushed to 3 and it will be interesting to see what the aggro/midrange meta looks like in the weeks to come.

Holoir: After Conscription and Pathmage, the Goblin Skulk is the third tutor that has been downgraded by this balance change. I understand the rationale. Almost every opening I have seen in any deck running green brought the Skulk to the table. While Sparkypants balances the abusive use of Skulk/ Firebloom for Telvanni, it also hits Goblin decks at their core, making them much less viable. It also requires a redesign of Market Archer decks. These are some undesired side-effects that should be addressed in a future content release. The increased cost slows down Hlaalu’s Firebrand explosive opening, too. To run Skulk, you need to want that 0-cost much more badly, like Improvised Weapon for the Bog Lurcher/ Unstoppable Rage combo.

The increased health makes a few 2/3-cost guards a bit more attractive for consideration. Dark Guardian, Rihad Battlemage equipped with a cheap item, Camlorn Sentinel, Clockwork City Pilgrim, Guar Stablemaster, and perhaps even Blacksap Protector might be considered.

Major Broski: Goblin Skulk is a 3-drop with 3 health, now. The Skulk cannot be dropped with Ring of Magicka, but it cannot be nuked by firebolt. Bottom line – it’s a card to silence if possible. May it makes cards like Crushing Blow more attractive as a way to work around Goblin Skulk. What’s interesting about this patch as well is how Skulk can no longer be summoned with Tullius’ Conscription.

Ash Berserker – Decreased Power from 4 to 3

Major Broski: Ash Berserker — Not as bad as people make it out to be. The card was designed to supplement card draw with the intent of another creature having 5 power. Plus most red decks already have Steel Scimitar which can be added to Berserker to make him a balanced 5/5 instead of 6/5. Big thing was – not dropping him next to Orc Clan Captain for the draw and giving him 5 damage. That’s two bodies for a total of 7 as opposed to two bodies for a total of 6 – which can be a win or a loss for an aggro deck.

Holoir: Ash Beserker is much more difficult to self-trigger now. You are left with Steel Scimitar, Dagoth Dagger or Shield Breaker, so much more relying on another 5-cost card getting played. Consequently, we might be seeing a bit more Rally in earlier turns. I always like to look at underplayed cards and find uses for them. I was recently looking at Caius’ Machinations and Caius Cosades who buff your creatures by 1/1. Maybe there are some decent item decks in Redoran that could leverage these two. Praetorian Commander can also provide a good synergy in control decks.

WayneMcPain: Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that this card wasn’t nerfed a long time ago. I disagree a bit with Major Broski though as I think that Ash Berserker will be a completely dead card after this change. In my mind, the self-triggering of the ability was not nearly as important to Ash Beserker as having 4 power for tempo purposes. It used to be that you could throw down Beserker in a lane with Orc Clan Captain or Fifth Legion Trainer and have a 4 cost 5/3 that replaces itself with another card. Now, you do the same thing and you get a 4 cost 4/3 that doesn’t replace itself. And it’s an even worse tempo play by itself than it was before.

I’m pretty confident that Ash Beserker sees very little to no play after this new patch. RIP.

Temple Patriarch – Decreased Magicka cost from 7 to 6

Temple Conjurer – Decreased Exalt cost from 4 to 3

Enamor’s Keeper – Decreased Exalt cost from 5 to 4

Major Broski: Partriarch, Keeper, and Conjurer seem like the Devs are trying to push exalt. The best card patched out of the three exalts – in my opinion – is Temple Conjurer. I think we should note that Temple Conjurer, while looking like a 2 drop, is actually a 5 drop. So while deck building, one has to take that into consideration even though the bar graph suggest otherwise. It’s a good card, it’s just a crap 2 drop tbh. I think Enamor’s Keeper still sucks.

Holoir: The Temple Patriarch change is so cool as he makes Exalt more playable. Big power plays are now possible for 13 magicka when you follow-up with Ulfric’s Uprising. You can even tutor him with Pathmage at 13 magicka now. Hahaa. I remember the day when Houses of Morrowind was released. I bought the Tribunal Temple Exalt deck and wanted it to work badly. Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well in the long run. Too much removal and silencing was around. I still would like it to work, so this is an exciting change. I also hope we see more of the Tribunal gods being played. I have only seen Vivec lately. Sotha Sil and Almalexia probably was a few month ago I last saw them played.

The reduced Exalt-cost gives Enamor’s Keeper a great push as well. He is still weak on health so he will still need support in that area. He is also not having an immediate impact when played, so the old weaknesses still exist in a way. But a 9/3 for 7 magicka is pretty decent, given that you can reuse the 5/0 item he summons on your next charge creature for a lot of reach.

Temple Conjurer? A clear yes, without a doubt. Make your opponent think you are playing Exalt, when you are really playing Atronach or vice versa.

WayneMcPain: It was a huge and welcome surprise to see the Exalt mechanic getting some love in this patch. I think that in a vacuum, Temple Patriarch is probably the highest impact of the three because of the amount of potential value you can gain if you manage to maintain a board of 2-3 Exalt creatures before turn 6. However, very few of the Exalt creatures were seeing play before and only two others were buffed, so it’s impact in dedicated Exalt Tribunal decks is going to be hard to predict.

Enamor’s Keeper has always been a card that is on the fringe of being competitively viable, but 8 cost for an Exalted version was just a bit too steep. A 3 cost 4/3 in Intelligence has already been pretty decent, but only paying 7 magicka now for a 9/3 that puts an Heirloom Greatsword into your hand on death is actually really good value. Heirloom Greatsword has always been a powerful midrange finisher, but the opportunity cost of including it in your deck was more than the card was worth. Now maybe it will see play with Enamor’s Keeper at a cheaper premium.

Temple Conjurer in my mind comes out as the most likely to see competitive play, mostly because Intelligence decks really lack good turn 5 plays. At 6 for an Exalted Conjurer, you didn’t get any discount on the two creatures, only the advantage of having to pack a single card in your deck. Now you actually get better value at 5, it comes down a turn earlier and has the upside of potentially baiting an Ice Storm from your opponent just by playing a single creature. I’ll be very excited to try this out in Midrange Intelligence decks.

Overall Summary

Holoir: I think Sparkypants and Bethesda are trying to do the right thing. It must be noted that they generously improved their policy on how to compensate players who had soul summoned these cards either as a normal or a premium version.

The player community has been very vocal about a Conscription nerf. Sparkypants have addressed this without going over the top. I personally dislike the side effects of the Skulk/ Pathmage nerf on some archetypes. I think, this might have been unintended and we still need to see about the exact impact. The push for the Exalt mechanic can add some flavour to the meta in the short-term.

Bethesda and Sparkypants clearly demonstrate their commitment and their ability to act on feedback of their loyal player base, quickly. These changes will shake-up the meta enough to keep me engaged while I’m in anticipation of the next expansion. I hope it’s already coming for Christmas or New Years…

WayneMcPain: While many players will probably think that Sparkpants’ new design team didn’t go far enough with their nerfs to Telvanni and Conscription, I appreciate their soft touch with regards to most of the nerfs. Goblin Skulk was a surprise to be sure, but I think given the explosive nature of T1 Skulks and the prevalence of the card in Agility decks for nearly 2 years now that it was due for a change. I’m not even convinced that it isn’t better in some ways, even if it doesn’t allow for quite the insane power openings as before.

Ash Beserker might be the only card in the list that is truly killed with this nerf and Hlaalu decks are really going to feel the paint between this and Skulk. As for whether or not Exalt cards will see play, it remains to be seen. But I am very happy to see Sparkypants trying to breathe some life into an underplayed mechanic. Their willingness to make balance adjustments both ways has me excited for the future.

All in all, Telvanni decks will probably still reign supreme as the king of Control, while a lot of Aggro/Midrange decks have to figure out how to move on without two of their most explosive cards. I’m excited to see if the Skulk and Ash Berserker nerfs open up room for a more diverse metagame.

Major Broski: I am grateful for those at Sparky Pants. Regardless of negative or positive comments, I deeply appreciate the hard work they are doing to make for a pleasurable gaming experience. I believe that this balance, while not satisfying everyone, is an amazing attempt to produce a product that everyone will enjoy. I hope that this is a representation of what we should look forward to under the development of SparkyPants. I’m sure everyone here who helped write this article would agree.


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