February 3, 2020
As the spellwrighting system expands, players have noticed a new feature that came bundled with the system. Certain spells that have (or will soon have) an upgrade path can no longer be pre-enchanted. For those unaware of what pre-enchanting entails: Pre-enchanting refers to using a treasure card enchant, such as gargantuan, on a trained spell. The now-enchanted spell will be returned to your sideboard at the end of battle if it was not used. This methodology has been a key part of pvp since its inception, becoming even more important as the meta sped up recently.
However, as evidenced by spellwrighting and confirmed by KI developers on Twitter, the era of Pre-enchants is coming to the end. As such, I will be making the case for why a removal of Pre-enchants may actually end up being a net positive change to the max level 1v1 environment.
The Function of Pre-Enchants Today
There are several reasons why pre-enchants have been a staple of PvP since their inception. The first and most obvious reason is their damage. Pre-enchanted tc are far stronger than their traditional equivalent. This extra damage not only makes them more offensively potent, it also enables efficient counterplay against certain strategies. A great example of this phenomenon is with minions, as you can easily kill most minions with a 2 or 4 pip pre-enchanted tc. This interaction can often be seen in mid level and lower level matches.
More recently (particularly in max level PvP), the main function of pre-enchanted tcs is to mitigate rng. The max meta is so fast that one often has to pull out the exact counter or combo they need to avoid defeat. Thus, players often keep pre-enchanted offensive tcs in the side deck and defensive cards in the main deck. This allows them to simultaneously maintain a smaller deck size while increasing the chance that they pull key cards. This principle is known as Deck Segregation and has been used by savvy pvpers for many years.
Finally, the last niche use of pre-enchanted tcs was to create custom cards to serve a specific strategy. Certain mutates such as Thunderbird and Deadly Minotaur are essential to Storm and Death wizards, respectively. Similarly, the ability to create sideboard copies of the shift spells (such as Shift Grendel) allowed utility challenged schools such as Death more combo potential. Similarly, sideboard copies of Shift Greenoak often see use in Dark Nova-centric strategies.
As we can see, pre-enchants have had a large impact on the pvp arena and how pvp matches play out. Their removal will certainly have a tremendous impact as well.
Deck Segregation in an Era Without Pre-Enchants
In an era without pre-enchants, would deck segregation still work? I would argue that, yes it still can, albeit to a lesser degree. Most players today generally play with a sideboard filled with pre-enchanted offensive cards, and a main deck filled with defensive spells and utilities. However, the reverse can also function. Dedicating the main deck to attacks/enchants and the sideboard to defensive/utlity spells could still reduce deck clutter and mitigate rng. Unfortunately, such a deck would be larger, since using attacks in main would require packing both the attacks and multiple enchants. This would lead to a deck size at least 33% larger(assuming a relatively even distribution between main and side deck) than the current pre-enchanted tc decks.
Furthermore, card cycling would become much harder, as players would have to choose whether to retain excess enchants or hits(slowing down discard rate) or discard resources that they won’t get back without a reshuffle. While this does increase the amount of RNG players are subject to, it is still much more efficient than the alternative of having a completely random main and sideboard composition.
PvP Without Pre-Enchants?
This is the most concerning question for PvP veterans. Pre-enchanted tcs have been a staple of PvP for its entire lifespan. The move away from pre-enchants would represent the largest paradigm shift in PvP since the removal of reshuffle multiplication.
Could PvP function without pre-enchants? I would argue that yes, it could. Ironically, pre-enchants have led to the exacerbation of many problems that max level pvpers are familiar with. Strategies that centered around spamming Loremaster, Wild Bolt, or Bad Juju stemmed from the ability to carry many copies of a card in one’s sideboard. Similarly, pre-enchanted tc magnify the random nature of shadow-pip acquisition and the huge swing of an open shadow hit. How? With pre-enchanted tc, you can always pull a shadow hit from your sideboard.
Barrier to Entry
Pre-enchants also presented a small, but not insignificant barrier to entry. Newer players, unaware of the mechanic, step into the arena at even more of a disadvantage. Furthermore, the necessity of pre-enchanted tc meant that players need to either passively earn gold (gardening) and/or farm it (Hello, Halfang). Finally, the very act of creating pre-enchanted tc’s wastes gameplay time. It involves simply engaging with a mob, making your tcs, and fleeing. In a game with an already sky high and ever increasing barrier to entry, I find it hard not to applaud the removal of at least one such barrier.
With that said, how will the current pvp environment react to this change? I for one believe it will bring a limited slow-down to the meta at higher levels. Without the ability to reliably pull offensive bombs from the side deck, the pace of matches will slow. Minions, which rarely see play at high levels, could see a minor resurgence, as the opportunity to kill a minion the round after it is summoned is significantly reduced.
As spellements roll out, we will also begin to see more diversity in deck structure and play between wizards. Perhaps some wizards will continue to use the standard offensive side deck, instead substituting tcs like snow shark/firezilla for pre-enchanted attacks. Others may begin using an ultra small, main deck oriented spam strategy, trading longevity for damage. Meta shifts such as these are exciting, as they create room for new strategies, tactics and gameplay styles to emerge.
That isn’t to say that this removal doesn’t have the potential to exacerbate certain other problems in PvP. While I’ve mostly considered max level 1v1 pvp, pre-enchant removal will impact all levels of pvp. At the lower levels, the removal of efficient attacks and easy minion killers could easily lead to stall-centric strategies. Luckily, we know that the removal of pre-enchanted tcs aren’t the only changes to pvp in the works. It will certainly be interesting to watch how the meta shapes up following this and other upcoming changes to its core mechanics.
When enchantment tcs were removed from vendors, many pvpers, myself included, were in an uproar, and understandably so. A major game mechanic received an out of the blue change. However, after seeing the discussions with Wizard101 developers on twitter and the explanation of Wizard101’s goals in Falmea’s newsletter, I have reason to believe that a phasing out of pre-enchanted tc would be a net positive for max-level pvp.
Unlike the removal of enchantment tcs from the vendors (which is still likely to happen mind you), disabling pre-enchanted tcs will affect all players (pros and noobs). Thus, there won’t be the situation of haves (those with sunions) and have-nots that resulted from the abrupt removal of enchantment tcs. Yes, this change is major, and one that’s likely going to receive a large amount of backlash from the community. However, coupled with other changes that are in the works for PvP (turn based, resist changes, etc.), this may end up leading to a more balanced experience overall.
What do you think of the upcoming removal of pre-enchanted tcs? Let us know in the comments below!