The newest addition in Gods Unchained, a mechanic that deepens the strategy, increases the skill cap of the game, gives more dynamic gameplay... Well in theory it does but does it really? The simple answer is "no it doesn't" but it is the first step that gives the potential to lead the game in a unique direction that can fulfill those promises.
For those that weren't active in the past week and aren't familiar with Sanctum & Favor mechanic, you should read the official Gods Unchained blog post to get a better understanding about this topic.
Before I start to rant about what I see as a problem with Sanctum & Favor let's go through some positives about it.
What happened with the introduction of the Sanctum changed how we approach the game from turn one, not completely but by seeing the three cards that can be taken from the Sanctum can change how you develop the board or prepare yourself for trades and I think that is awesome and gives some "freshness" in each game.
The other great thing is the decision making aspect of whether you should take the card from the Sanctum, do you really need it or does your opponent really need it and the fact that after you take a card there is a chance you opponent might get a new choice that completely screws you over on the next turn so it is possible to, overextend just by taking the card and spending your favor. What I mean by that is when for example you play an aggro deck and you have the option to get yourself a decently big threat that you wouldn't have otherwise but one of the inactive decks is the "Board clears" and you are faced with a decision where you can opt-in for an extra pressure card from "Threats" but your opponent might get something like End Times on the next turn and wipe your board completely and you could lose on the spot.
This is all cool in theory but is rarely the case in the actual game. The problem comes from the way you accumulate Favor. This of course, favors, the aggressive player a lot more than the defending one. For some reason that I don't fully understand only the player that is making the trade with creatures gets Favor so basically, you can trade your 3 creatures for their 3 creatures and only you get the Favor. This makes no sense as it gives a clear advantage to the player that started with the board control which will in most cases be a player that started first (surprising, I know).
The second problem is tied to the first one and it is the potential for a comeback which is almost non-existent, especially in the mirror matches. In aggro and even midrange mirrors, this is felt the most. If you lose board control you are pretty much lost. This is not that much out of the ordinary because those type of decks rely on getting a stronger grip on the board to win anyway but with the Sanctum available the gap between winning and losing has widened to the point where the winning player is getting a bunch of free cards while losing player can only hope for some kind of miracle to pull through.
Probably the biggest one. The game was obviously made before the idea of the Sanctum & Favor mechanic. The balance, the card design, god powers and literally everything was made without this mechanic in mind, at least it feels like it. So with this mechanic all of these change which also changes the balance of the game completely. Now we are at the square one balance-wise and there are even more questions like what should and shouldn't give Favor. Should a 1 attack creature and 8 attack creature give the same amount of Favor when hitting face? Should you get the same amount of Favor for destroying a 1-cost creature vs 8-cost one? Should you get Favor when your opponent suicides his creature by attacking into Nature's relic Vine Armour? Should a creature destroyed with the Burn effect give Favor?
Probably some of you expected some solutions here but to be honest I'm not sure what to propose here without introducing other problems that could come with it. As I see it, the amount of Favor should be directly tied to the "effort" of what you are doing. There should be a clear reason why you get a specific amount of Favor for an action. Hitting your opponent in the face for 1 or 8 is not the same thing and should reward different amounts of Favor, this also goes for destroying a 1 mana creature and 8 mana creature. Defending is also not effortless. If your opponent needs to sacrifice creatures to remove yours, that should be rewarded. I can't give you any specific amounts of Favor for these cases because as I said, balance-wise we are back at square one and devs will need to experiment with it, a lot.
It is early to say what is the best way to continue with this mechanic so I hope we will see slight adjustments every week so that devs can explore as many ideas as possible and eventually with enough data they will get to a more fine-tuned version and more importantly the fairest one for both players.
This was my short rant about Sanctum and even though I didn't propose any concrete solutions to the problems I hope that pointing some of them out could help someone else to come up with an idea how to solve them. Now let's take a look at this small balance patch. We got only three changes, for two god powers and only a single card.
Death God Power, Reanimate:
Reanimate changed from "Give a friendly creature soulless then destroy it. Summon a creature from your void with mana cost of X +1 or less. X is the cost of the destroyed creature." to "Give a friendly creature soulless then destroy it. Summon a creature from your void with mana cost of X+1 or less, and give it soulless. X is the cost of the destroyed creature."
Say goodbye to infinite value God Power, repeating Siren of the Grave board locks and any funky afterlife "tricks" with Death. This is a good change for opening up more design space for Death and Neutral cards, too bad it was one of the more fun to use God Powers but it is something that was needed to be done. Every time when some kind of infinite loop is introduced there will be problems with design space, especially when we are talking about the God Power that can be used constantly.
Light God Power, Heal
Heal changed from "Heal a character for 2." to "Heal a friendly character for 2."
A small change but an important one. I am actually surprised this wasn't used before, people started using Heal to remove Ward from opponent's creatures which was obviously not intended and is the reason it got removed.
Penitence changed from "Gain control of a creature with 4 or more strength. Set its attack to 2 and give it protected." to "Transform an enemy creature with strength 4 or more into a 2/2 Acolyte. Gain control of the Acolyte. It gains frontline, protected, and ward."
I love this one! Light was outperforming almost every other God for a couple of weeks now and it is because Light has access to answers for all kinds of situations. Even though that remains true with the new, weaker version of Penitence, the receiving side of this spell isn't punished nearly as much. The power of the card is now more consistent which feels a lot fairer.
That's it for today's rant/review it is exciting to see Gods Unchained diverging from other similar TCG/CCGs into something more unique, I hope to see more changes and adjustments with new mechanics. What do you guys think about Sanctum? Is it a good thing or is it a stretch not worth making? Maybe all of this will make more sense when we get Trial of the Gods expansion rolled out in the meantime I would like to see more balance changes so that meta stays fluid and fresh as long as possible.
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