I love card games and card game design. I have played Magic: the Gathering for the last decade on a semi-competitive level. I’ve delved into Android: Netrunner, Hearthstone, Star Realms and many other card games in that time as well. When Paragon revealed they were implementing a card-based system into their game, I was immediately interested.
I will be using Magic: the Gathering cards heavily in this article to support arguments. Sorry if it’s not your cup of tea, but Magic has been the most dominant card game of the last decade and there’s a reason behind its success.
The first thing I try to do when approaching how to evaluate the power of a card is to find the constant which you can rate all other cards by.
We use the “Vanilla Test” in Magic: the Gathering to check creature cards.
For one mana (resource), we can expect a 1 power 1 toughness creature with no abilities in return (this will be abbreviated as 1/1). For two mana, we can expect a 2/2 with no abilities in return. For x mana, we should have a creature with no abilities of x power and x toughness. Grizzly Bears is a perfect example of a vanilla creature in Magic.
When we check whether a creature with an abilty is good or bad, we compare it to a “vanilla” creature, or one with no abilities, of the same cost. When we look at Elvish Visionary, we can see on the upper right it costs two mana and on the bottom right that is a 1/1. We know a reasonable two mana creature should be a 2/2, so Elvish Visionary fails the Vanilla Test. But that’s not all that Elvish Visionary states. Elvish Visionary has an ability that reads “When it enters the battlefield, draw a card”. We can rate the card by asking ourselves, “Is drawing a card worth 1/1 weaker stats?”. The answer is usually yes, but it depends on the deck.
So now you know how to evaluate creatures in Magic: the Gathering – a game you may never intend to play. How does this pertain to Paragon?
We need to find our Vanilla Test for Paragon, a rule that we can evaluate all other cards by.
Across all Affinities in Paragon you can see a golden rule be established with 3 Card Point cost Equipment. 3 Card Point (CP) Equipment with no abilities all provide 4 points of stats after factoring in the fully upgraded bonus. How this is weighted is unique to some Affinities, but that is something I’ll discuss in another article coming out very soon. Most 3 cost Equipment follow the formula of passively having 1 point of one stat, 1 point of another stat and a fully upgraded bonus worth 2 points of some combination of the two stats.
Now that we have a rule that 3 CP cost Equipment with no abilities provide 4 points of stats after being fully upgraded, let’s look at a 3 cost Equipment with an effect.
Just like we evaluated Elvish Visionary above, let’s evaluate Brawler’s Ward. Using our rule and because Brawler’s Ward is a 3 CP Equipment, we should expect 4 points of stats. But Brawler’s Ward only gives us 1 point of Physical Damage, 1 point of Maximum Mana, and when fully upgraded 1 additional point of Physical Damage. Brawler’s Ward is missing 1 point of stats, but has an additional ability. We know can evaluate Brawler’s Ward by asking ourselves the question, “Is having a ward and granting your team vision in a section of the map worth 1 point of stats?”. If you’re any team player, you know the answer is a resounding yes.
You an use this logic to evaluate any 3 cost Equipment with an ability in Paragon.
THE “HATE CARD” CYCLE
“Hate Cards” is a term I’ve taken from Magic: the Gathering to describe 4 new equipment added to Paragon in the v.24.1 patch two weeks ago. Hate cards are amazing against the right opponent, but average or outright terrible against everyone else. Hate cards usually point out a specific Color in Magic (equivalent to Affinity in Paragon), and provide a very powerful effect when used against them.
These cards are super narrow. Currently, the only heroes that apply bleed are Killari and Grux, and the only hero that applies burning is Iggy & Scorch. They fit the definition of a “hate card” as they hate on Killari, Grux, and Iggy & Scorch but very bad against everyone else. But how good are they when they are at their best?
Let’s evaluate Combustion and Hemorrhage using our evaluation rule for 3 cost Equipment. Both these cards provide 1 point of Cooldown Reduction passively and have a unique effect. We are missing a whopping 3 points of stats from these items! But there is that unique effect. Hemorrhage gives 3 points of Attack speed and 3 points of Physical Damage when under the effect of a bleed. That’s 6 points of stats! 7 points of stats in total for 3 cost is an incredible rate.
The bonuses from these Hate Cards are almost double our expected rate of 4 points of stats for a 3 cost Equipment. As a Fury character, this is an easy way to gain a quick advantage over foes that apply burning and bleeding in lane.
Evaluating Thickblood and Quenching Scales is bit more difficult as they are 4 point Equipment for Growth Affinity. You can trust me on this fact – Growth is unique in having 4 cost Equipment with no abilities with 5 points of stats. Thickblood provides a measly 1 point of Health Regeneration and 1 point of Mana Regeneration, but when under the effect of a bleed, we gain 3 points of Physical Protection. This does not grant us more stats than a normal 4 point equipment from Growth. However, Thickblood can provide all of those stats at a much earlier time than it would take to fully upgrade a 4 cost Equipment.
Having situational and conditional cards in Paragon is great. Currently it is very easy to construct a 40 card deck, but with the addition of more hate cards deckbuilding will become more robust. We will have to make conscious decisions on what we decide to hate out and what we want to counter. We won’t be able to counter it all. I think it’s safe to bet that, provided the cards, it would be in a player’s best interest to allow 5/40 cards in a deck be specific counters to other heroes in case they have to lane against them.
We also don’t know what Ranked Play is going to look like at the game’s launch. If there is a hero selection and a deck selection (viewable to both parties) before we get into the match, these hate cards are going to effect picks and bans dramatically. This also means you can’t just pick the deck that best suits your character after you zone into Agora, but need to balance your 40 cards ahead of time.
There is so much room for growth and this game is still only in Early Access Closed Beta. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the Card System.