Wizard101: Are Shield Gambits Too Good?
Every shield spell throughout Wizard101 has been 0 pips since the game was first released, which has made shield gambits very easy to setup. It’s something everyone has gotten used to. So the question “Should they be audited” wasn’t really considered up for debate until 5th age dropped almost a year ago. Why is it, that you have to spend pips and resources to efficiently setup a gambit associated with blades, weaknesses, or even overtimes while shield gambits require no pips at all?
In this newest version of Test realm, we’ve seen all 3 shield gambits now align at 11 pips. This was done to make them harder to cast and harder to combo with. This should be a nerf to those gambits, but is it enough?
(Current versions in test realm as of 03/24/2023)
Efficiency is key
Let’s take the weakness gambits for example. You have two options to set them up. The first being spending multiple turns casting 0 pip single hanging effects like Infection or Weakness. This is very slow and inefficient. Option 2 is to spend 2 pips on a threefold fever and still need another hanging effect on top of that in order to meet the condition. This is more effective, but when compared to that of a shield gambit, you’re just slowing yourself down. Since you can not gain pips while setting up these other gambits like you can with shields, tempo becomes very hard to maintain.
Punishers don’t work
The main argument I’ve seen for leaving the shields in their current form, comes from the encouragement to “dual school”. Assuming we had the proper stats for this, the spells simply aren’t good enough as a punishment. The most notable spells that do this outside of the Rhoshambos are Helephant and Minotaur. their spellemented max tier versions do in fact attack shield gambits and create solid pressure for it. However, even with their shield punishing abilities, they do not keep up with the tri-shields in their current form. At 0 pips, the opponent can cast an elemental shield first turn then immediately cast another tri shield to cover it.
If the player wanted to use Helephant, it now ends up running straight into a shield. You do get a decent DOT from the conditional, but thats hardly worth running the initial hit straight into a shield. As for Minotaur, it can clear upwards of 5 shields. for hanging effects, thats pretty solid. The problem? Once again comes down to the pip exchange. 5 pips to remove 5 effects, and place 3 of your own effects while also doing some damage is very good, but its 5 pips. Compare that to the shields they spent 0 pips on. The trade is still not even when you’re spending 5 pips to counter a gambit that costs them 0 pips to setup.
Even if these spells do their job correctly, this would simply limit options for all schools. It would be almost mandatory to run Myth/Fire damage pins in order to punish these gambits properly. This restricts variey in what setups and strategies can be used.
What are the Solutions?
There have been a lot of different possible solutions thrown around. Here, I’ll go over the most common suggestions and why they would or would not work.
Option 1: Increase the Shield requirement
The first possible solution was to increase the number of shields required for these shield gambit conditionals due to the zero pip investment. Bumping the required shield cost from only 4 shields up to 6-8 would help slow them. They would have to spend at least one more turn setting it up. The upside here is tempo requirement. This would also make spells like Helephant and Minotaur much better at actively preventing these gambits. However, I fear this would not be enough. With the shields remaining at 0 pips, this wouldn’t really solve the problem at its core. Shields would still be highly spammable, and as a result the gambits would still be way too easy to setup. Taking just one more turn to set them up isn’t going to slow it down enough.
The first possible solution was to increase the number of shields required for these shield gambit conditionals due to the zero pip investment. Bumping the required shield cost from only 4 shields up to 6-8 would help slow them. They would have to spend at least one more turn setting it up. The upside here is tempo requirement. This would also make spells like Helephant and Minotaur much better at actively preventing these gambits.
However, I fear this would not be enough. With the shields remaining at 0 pips, this wouldn’t really solve the problem at its core. Shields would still be highly spammable, and as a result the gambits would still be way too easy to setup. Taking just one more turn to set them up isn’t going to slow it down enough.
Option 2: Decrease the value of the shield
This second option involves a full on re-evaluation of the shields and their percent values. In the case of the 0 pip tri-shields, this would mean lowering their value from 50% to something along the lines of 35%. Two things result from this. The first being that players can now simply hit through these 0 pip shields and still do a decent amount of damage through them. The second is that any players trying to set up a shield gambit will be unable to spam them when they are behind. If they’re trying to avoid a big hit, using a tri shield probably won’t be enough to save them from taking too much damage.
This could work, but once again we still have the problem of them being 0 pips. They might not be able to spam them in the later stages of a match, but early on spamming them is still very easy to do. Not to mention that this also hurts players packing them for the shield itself without intent on using it for a gambit.
Option 3: Increase the pip cost
Right away, I’m gonna go ahead and say this one has my vote for most reasonable and balanced option. Increasing the pip cost from zero pips to one, would do more good for it than anything. They would more than likely have to adjust the value of the shields as well to fit their current formulas for hanging effects (bumped from 50% to 60-70%). The biggest upside for having them be 1 pip is the even trade on tempo now. I can try to set up a different gambit without falling behind in pips against someone going for a shield gambit.
So whats the problem with this? Notably, the most negative aspect is of course further restricting how many spells can be used to gain pips. However, the -70% set shields would still remain at 0 pips.
Option 4: A Teaser from the Devs
After some consideration, the devs have come to a conclusion. They have looked at all of the previous suggestions and found a fourth option: Change the return rate on Shield Gambits.
Essentially, what this means is the damage of the gambits will be adjusted when they meet their condition. Instead of getting a full 2x multiplier on them, it will be a set value. When compared to other gambits, their corresponding hanging effects were all being valued the same. This will no longer be the case. With how easy they are to set up, their gambit damage was reduced, as you can see below:
(These images are teasers provided by KI Devs and will make their way into the game soon.)
Re-evaluation of Shield Gambits
Previously, shields as well as any other hanging effect (except OTs) were given the same return exchange for their gambit condition. All of these gambits got 50% extra damage just for being a conditional. Each hanging effect that was sacrificed for the gambit would also add roughly 10% or “one point” of damage. With 4 shields being the conditional, that was another 40%.
Now, these shields will only be worth 5% or “one half of a point” of damage. This is because of the cost difference between shields and blades. Shields are way cheaper to create, hence the reduction of their value for a conditional. With this change, shield gambits only get a 20% boost in their damage if you meet the condition.
In terms of countering these gambits, your best bet will still be the spells from Fire or Myth. However, you can now more reasonably trade with these spells if you do not have the counters readily available.
Why not Option 3?
So why didn’t they just increase the pip cost on tri shields? There are a few issues surrounding this. They did not want to change legacy spells like Elemental Shield to accommodate the gambit’s easy condition. This would have caused problems for other players not doing PvP. Not to mention, adjusting the pip cost or balancing of tri shields would then require them to have to do the same across every other spell with a shield attached to it.
Something needed to be done
We’ve seen shield gambits become a problem on and off since they were introduced. When Betrayal and Meltdown were made chromatic, this change did help prevent shield gambits, but came at a cost. Every school was doing the same thing. It was an unfun experience for most of the players in the arena.
Hopefully this new change will allow some breathing room. Shield gambits will still be very good, even with this damage nerf. How do you feel about their decision? Will we finally see some lesser used gambits shine in the spotlight? Fingers crossed this will be enough to balance out the meta!
Do you agree with this change? Let me know your thoughts down below!