Sunday, December 20, 2015

Big face, tiny butt

I saw a discussion about a Hearthstone card called Magma Rager on the Hearthpwn forums and got to thinking about it.  Right now Magma Rager is unbelievable garbage, which no one is debating, so the question that was asked was "How much attack would Magma Rager have to have for it to be good?"

There are lots of other 3 mana minions to compare it against, and usually the default for getting played is about 8 stat points.  There are a number of 3/4 and 2/4 minions, but none of them are played unless they have some other kind of benefit - and the 2/4 minions have some *big* benefits.  Given that, I think we can reasonably model a simple but strong 3 mana minion as having 8 stat points to work with.  I am sure that a 4/4 for 3 would be played regularly, but I don't think it would be considered overpowered by any means.

You have to combine that with the fact that attack and health effectively multiply each other in Hearthstone.  A 1/7 is garbage compared to a 3/5 because being tough doesn't matter unless you can deliver value and force people to deal with you.  Similarly Magma Rager baseline not only has only 6 stats, which is awful, it also has a wide split that means that it dies to anything and can rarely use its high attack for anything useful.

So how high would that attack have to be for this card to be good?  Let's go nuts for a minute, and assume 30 attack.  Enough to kill people from full health in a single shot.  The card becomes totally insane as everyone uses it in One Turn Kill combos by giving it charge.  Right, so we know that you *can* give it enough attack to make it broken - so how high is just enough?  We know that 3 mana minions that are strong have 8 stat points, so how about a 7/1?

Well, a 7/1 is a fair bit more dangerous, but I still think it wouldn't be good.  It will die to an AOE, or a single hit from any 1 or 2 drop, and even some hero powers.  To be fair, druid and rogue hero powers kill it but the player has to take 7 in the face, and that isn't nothing!  7/1 has enough stats to be playable, but the imbalance still makes it bad.  You just can't throw it down on turn 3 and expect it to do much of anything, and that isn't a good card.  3 drops either have to be super powerful situational cards or just solid tempo plays on turn 3 and a 7/1 is neither.

If we ramp it up a lot we can consider what it would look like as a 10/1.  I think this would be too much since it becomes a totally outrageous amount of damage if you give it charge and starts to become really nuts with things like Shadowflame (deal damage to all enemy minions equal to a minion's attack.)  It also just *feels* wrong for something so cheap to be such a beating machine.  Why is Magma Rager, a total dork, so much more powerful than Tirion Fordring or Onyxia?

My sense is that the card would see play at 8/1.  Aggro decks could use it as a threat that must be answered instantly, and which punches through any giant taunt wall.  Combos with Charge or Shadowflame would become possible.  You would clearly never see this new, terrifying Magma Rager in any midrange or control decks aside from as combo fodder, but I think people would end up using it for something.

It is all about the numbers.  There really isn't any card or effect out there you can ignore if you make the numbers right, and this is something we have seen in all kinds of different games.  The threat and scariness of an ability is in how much it makes you worry about dying, and at 8/1 I think Magma Rager suddenly becomes something you ought to be concerned about.

Also, my Kickstarter for Camp Nightmare is still going on.  There are a few big 'design a piece of the game' backer spots left, so if you want to have a hand in how the game is made, head on over!

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