Shaping the 5th Age of PvP
Kingsisle hosted their very first PvP oriented KI Live stream on February 13th 2020. They answered some community questions and explained their thought process regarding potential future changes. And now it’s our time (as a community) to respond to the livestream, thereby helping to shape the 5th age PvP with Kingsisle.
Note that the developers were merely having a theoretical discussion about possible solutions, using the livestream as a barometer to gauge the community’s feelings. This is a much better approach than what Kingsisle has done in the past. It is much better to figure out what the community wishes instead of rolling out major changes without community input and reckoning with the blowback after the fact.
Furthermore, don’t hesitate to ask questions or share your thoughts if you have an opinion about the stream or this article. You can check our article about communication with Kingsisle if you’re not sure how to craft a good post/video response. Be patient, since good things need time to be developed. And as they said, we will get 5th age of PvP after everything is fixed.
The first major gameplay related discussion centered around ensuring fair matches for low level PvPers. However, I’ll expand this point to Matchmaking more generally. Lower levels fighting higher level players with Critical/Shadow Magic was the main concern both players and the Devs had. Those that suffer the most from this are either very high ranked players or people who fight right below the next “PvP level tier”. For example, these two groups includes extremely high ranked grandmasters and legendary wizards, Master wizards fighting level 50’s with critical, and Promethean’s fighting level 100+ wizards with shadow magic.
While creating wide level-bands might work in 5th age PvP, (0-49, 50-99, 100+ bands, with players only able to fight those in their bands) a lot can be also done by adjusting matchmaking by pairing warlords with warlords and privates with privates, i.e. having rank be the primary determinant of matchmaking.
One popular solution that many have championed in the past is the creation of a soft cap / pseudo rank. A soft cap would allow players have any rank, as they do now, but when calculating match-ups, the system would have a “cap” rank. For instance, someone with 2000 rank in a system with a 1000 rank cap would have their 2000 rating shown, but would receive matches as if they were 1000 rank. The same could be done with a rank floor (a minimum rank).
Using a system like this would prevent unfair matches for high ranked players (facing zero-heroes, and/or much higher level, inexperienced players), as well as rookies with minimal experience. Since many of the more “extreme” matchups occur when one or both players are at rank extremes (very high or very low rank), enabling a soft cap will make it less likely for these matchups to occur in the first place
Another idea was to keep a temporary win-loss log to pair you with other players who are performing similarly to how you are in a short window of time (similar to the idea of power rankings in sports). If you win lots of matches in a row, you’ll get matched with other players who are similarly hot. This is quite the good idea, but later on the stream they revealed the plan to keep the win/loss ratio close to 50% for all players. I agree that players who win a lot should be paired with similar ones. But I don’t agree with strivings towards having 50% win/loss ratio. Skilled players should have a better ratio, but one school shouldn’t have a higher win rate across the board.
Preventing Boosting and Ghosting
Mattnetic and Ratbeard also mentioned that they plan to improve on catching boosters. They want to try to come with a better automated system, but they need to be really careful to avoid punishing the wrong people.
Furthermore, we need to address two similar issues that weren’t mentioned on stream. The first one is the problem of zero heroes, or “sandbaggers”. These are skilled and well-equipped players who lose on purpose to match themselves with lower level warlords. Something needs to be done in regard to catching these players, just like boosters, as both demographics interfere with the system’s ability to function as intended.
The second one is choosing custom positions in team PvP. If a team wants their healer on the 1st spot and hitter on the 4th, they should be able to do this in the game’s UI, not with tricks they’ve happened to find. This solution would also work very well in PvE, since many farming teams require a fixed order. Some bosses already have auto-pull mechanics based on the order in which you enter the room, but it would be a nice addition to have a way to pick your order in PvP as well.
Shadow Pips in 5th Age PvP
If you ever did level 100+ PvP you probably experienced shadow magic RNG. The Devs mentioned two possible solutions to the problem:
- Implementing turn-based Ranked PvP
- Restricting shadow-pip gain on the first turn of a match
In a turn-based system, the player starting 2nd would still be able to generate a shadow pip on their first turn, although this is a subject to change. Regardless of whether or not turn-based Ranked happens, the player going 1st should have their first opportunity to generate a shadow pip after the player going 2nd. This is because you pretty much need a shield to counter a shadow hit, so the player going second needs the additional turn or half turn to find one, since pulling a shield is once again based on RNG.
Staggered Shadow Pip Gain
It all comes down to how many cards you can cycle before your opponent can hit you with a shadow enchanted hit. With the current idea of staggering when the players can gain a shadow pip, player 1 and player 2 can both cycle through 7 cards for every round that shadow pip gain is blocked for player 1 (if we ignore treasure cards). Disabling shadow pip generation for both players in turn 1 would effectively allow player 1 to cycle through 14 cards (or 21 if we count TC) and player 2 through 7 (14 with TC) before they’re able to get hit with a shadow attack.
In conclusion, if the player starting 2nd can’t generate a shadow pip in the first “n” rounds, then player starting first shouldn’t be able to generate a shadow pip the first “n+1” rounds. Players would then be able to cycle through the same number of cards.
Shadow Pip Meter
Another interesting idea is a shadow-meter, which would fill up as you cast spells. It would give you a shadow pip after filling it. But this might be a much tougher task than it sounds, especially since PvP and PvE spells should have the same functionality. Maybe I’m overthinking, but having a shadow-meter would also impact our PvE experience and farming.
Having too complex of mechanics might be problematic for casual PvE players, who wouldn’t pay too much attention to shadow-pip generating rules or would lack the skills to obtain them efficiently. Casual players already have difficulties with beating tougher bosses and this would hinder them even more.
Shadow Spell Rebalancing
Another problem with shadow spells is how strong they are compared to other spells. Shadow pips are supposed to be worth 3 pips. So in theory, Glowbug Squall should have a damage equal to an 8 pip spell (this isn’t the case in reality). This might explain why shadow pip spells are so problematic. Their intention was good, but the execution wasn’t. Kingsisle mixed two mechanics in one (pip generation + high damage per pip) and pushed it live without proper testing.
If they would follow the already existing “formula” there wouldn’t be so many problems with shadow spells. By this, I mean shadow pips would be successor of power pips. They would count for 3 pips when casting spells in your class or “true” shadow spells. This would mean shadow enchanted spells would only have a normal pip value (for example, 3 pips instead of 1 shadow pip for shrike, 8 pips for Glowbugs, etc.).
This would also bring some other benefits. You wouldn’t need to rely on shadow pip to use a spell like Fire From Above, for example. Gaining the shadow pip would just be a nice bonus – like power pip generation is for our baby wizards.
General Spell Rebalancing
This wouldn’t be good as a standalone solution though, since people could still hit right away with the “shadow” spell if they’d generate a shadow pip in first turn. Furthermore, many shadow or shadow enhanced spells would still be overpowered in this new system (3 pip shrike, for instance). This is where the previous solution comes into play, as well the following statement by Kingsisle: they’re looking to rework the spells to meet new standards. This means that they plan on re-balancing the spells based on new damage per pip standards, taking into account the value of aftereffects. They already did that with Loremaster and I’m looking forward to the rest of their changes.
Staying away from creating two code paths for spells is another important topic the Devs addressed. Essentially, they hesitate to create spells that function differently in PvP than they do in PvE (like Bad Juju’s old version). I fully support this decision and 100% stand behind it. One rationalization they mentioned is that people should expect their spells to be the same when transitioning from PvE to PvP. The second reason is more technical. Creating spells with different functions basically means coding each spell twice and maintaining twice the code for future updates. Instead, all this time could be spent creating other exciting game updates.
Changing Shrike and Beguile
Mattnetic and Ratbeard addressed two specific spells on stream. The first one is Shadow Shrike, which is actually the most cast spell among high level players. We already knew that, but it was nice to hear the confirmation from Kingsisle. Shrike was created to counter high resist and jade strategies, but Shrike spiraled out of control. And right now they’re looking to redo the stats on new gear so shrike won’t be necessary in the future. We’ve noticed this new trend in gear drops already, which leans toward lower resist on full gear sets.
However, Shrike is still too powerful even if gear philosophy changes. The spell is still very useful with lower opponent resist, since it shreds through shields. It’s a simple argument here – why would you bother with strategy to find a way around opposing shields when you can just brute force through them?
Beguile was the second mentioned spell. A similar argument applies here as it does with Shrike. If it’s possible, they’ll try to fix the game as a whole without changing beguile directly. So, they’re going to try to fix stuff the underlying game mechanics to make Beguile a more fair spell.
Barriers to Entry
The barriers to entry are pretty high in PvP’s current state. Catacombs gear and spellements require lots of grinding and farming, yet another barrier to entry as we move into a 5th age PvP. Currently, the progression toward fixing PvP feels like trying to fill a bucket with water while this same bucket has lot of holes in it. You’re fixing one issue but fixing it creates a new problem.
One suggestion for spellements was that they could be obtainable with arena tickets, but this has one problem. This is still a barrier to entry. New players still would need copious amounts of arena tickets to get their spellements (veteran players would have no problem making these purchases though). This simply replaces one barrier with another. There was a talk about creating new currency, but I’m not big fan of that. It’s just another layer of confusion. Right now we have crowns, gold, arena tickets, and lunari. Adding new currencies in game just creates a bigger mess and confusion.
One solution would be to reset arena tickets as we enter the 5th age of PvP. Players would be notified, of course, and have time to spend them for stuff or just let them reset. This would get some initial backlash, but it would still be better long term solution. Another solution would be to transform arena tickets into crowns. This wouldn’t be permanent feature, but a one time automated process so players wouldn’t feel cheated if their tickets fall to 0.
Low Level Barriers to Entry
Treasure cards were the main point mentioned when the discussion got to whether low levels are considered when making changes to PvP. I was always indifferent when it came to treasure cards in low level PvP. On the one hand, they are way too strong for low levels, but on the other, they counteract overpowered, enchanted lore spells. But if lore spells will receive a nerf, then there won’t be a need for high level TC’s anymore.
There was an interesting idea to rank-lock certain features such as treasure cards, shadow pip generation, or pets. This is a really good idea, since new players would have time to gradually learn and improve their PvP game. But this can be done only with properly functioning matchmaking. Thus, privates will have to face privates and not higher ranks, who would be able to use extra tools in a fight.
Now, that’s a tough one. While Kingsisle said they’re testing some things in Beastmoon, I still think this won’t be enough to eliminate the toxic culture. The community needs to take the first steps towards improving the culture. Popular youtubers, streamers, and other community leaders are in the first line here. The ones with large followings are the ones who should set a good example to the rest of the community by ensuring that they treat opponents with respect, rather than deriding their decisions or playstyle, which will trickle down.
Finding an automated process to monitor toxicity will be a hard task, because players will always find new and creative ways around it. Human supervision such as hall monitors might be a good idea.
Avoiding School Nerfs
This is the one statement I don’t particularly like, but am willing it to give it a chance. The premise is to bring other schools up rather then nerf leading ones. This statement is fine in a vacuum, but past updates bring me doubt. This very same scenario happened after jade gear was introduced. They decide to buff other strategies instead of nerfing the jades, which just snowballed and brought more problems (Shrike). On the other hand, Mattnetic and Ratbeard are really dedicated to fix the mess, and I believe they can bring the other schools up without any (or too many) negative consequences.
There were couple of other questions and points in the stream. There’s not much to discuss here, but I’ll still put them down to round up the article and have everything they said in one place.
- Giving free daily credits to do ranked PvP is a possibility.
- Strong polymorphs are banned in PvP because they’re too unbalanced.
- Rank based items being rank locked. This should be always a thing, not just when ages change.
- Creating seasons or events within an age to give players reason to continue PvP-ing.
- They should remove rank requirement for conviction.
- 3 pip Sanctuary cost was balanced back in 2009 and should be looked into.
- A speed stat for starting the round has potential to bring even more problems.
- To prevent setting, the game could lock your gear when you enter a match/tourney, but you’ll still be able to change sideboard.
- Creating custom PvP modes would require lot of work, but would show up the desirable trends.
This was very exciting stream overall and I’m looking forward to see the future changes for the 5th age of PvP. We can finish the article with Mattnetic’s and Ratbeard’s words. PvP matches should be a fun experience for everyone. When you lose you should lose because of your decisions and not because of RNG, gear or pierce. Defensive plays are okay, but strategies that have the sole intention of winning by frustrating your opponent and getting them to rage quit have no place in PvP. PvP should revolve around deck building and execution instead of spending hours on unicorn way to make lot of spell copies.
Are you excited for 5th age PvP?
Do you have any suggestions or improvements?