Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Open Letter Regarding the Dire Covenant Expansion (And Wilderkin Snakedancer)

I don't often post complaints, or interact with these forums in any way. I play too many factions to have any particular loyalty, and I don't devote the finances necessary to compete at the topmost level.

However, I [i]have[/i] been playing this game since the last faction-introduction expansion, give or take a few months. I've watched the power of runes grow and change, the dominance of various factions come and go, and (goodness knows) the Trade and Premium Membership concepts undergo incredible alterations. I often drift away from Pox for a time, but I keep coming back. I also bring many, many others with me- they don't all stay, but I've brought ten or so players into the game over the last few years, and all of them have spend not inconsiderable amounts of money on the game.

I preface my message with all of this, not because I am attempting to emboss my accomplishments, but because I want to stress that I have a sincere, deep appreciation for the game. Even though I'm not generally interested in playing against the most aggressive, all-exotic (or all spell) battlegroups that tend to shoot up in ranked play, I do still play and, ranking system oddities aside, I tend to do well. Particularly given that I rarely run more than three or four rare runes in any of my battlegroups (although the new starters obviously come with a higher proportion of rares, and thus some of my decks have a slightly higher rune value than others). I enjoy PoxNora for the strategic challenge of developing interesting and unique decks, finding the runes others might ignore and managing to build them into powerful assets, and experiencing those games that run into high-intensity, high pressure do-or-die moments when a single move can spell victory or disaster.

If I take a loss because I was outplayed, I can accept and appreciate that. If I take a loss because my opponent ran double Herald, dragon, exotic, exotic, I hardly enjoy it, but I can't necessarily fault the player for putting powerful runes together. In fact, I often managed to win those matchups, through careful strategic play and battlefield management. And if I take a loss because I made a misplay myself, or there's a glaring hole in my deck I failed to address, I learn from that and improve.

I try not to join in with the clamor of the forums, and am particularly hesitant to be a part of any side in an argument that uses the line "Epic Fail" or fails to devote even a modicum of attention to spelling or grammar.

However, and particularly after the sudden push for, then cancellation of, Premium Memberships leading up to this most recent expansion, I've grown concerned about the introduction of so many new runes which suddenly find homes in (or even create) entire decks. In particular, the Wilderkin Snakedancer.

Before I wrote this I did some research on the forums regarding which discussions had gone before. One individual mentioned the incredible damage this rune is capable of producing, which is honestly not an issue I had considered. For myself, the problem really is the Constriction element of their attack. I respect the innovative design that gives a character the ability to markedly impede melee units and dance away from them. However, the ability to apply a full on, movement-impairing [i]and[/i] attack-preventing Constriction, at will, from range, is simply too much. I know many others have suggested changing it from Constriction to Entanglement, and while that was not changed with the most recent patch, I reiterate a plea that it be considered.

I just played a pair of games against the same individual, and while he handily defeated both times due to a very fast, extremely cost-effective Kthir deck, what struck me was the sheer impossibility of defeating the Wilderkin. I was utilizing a full-faction UD spider deck, which means I have creatures with a wide variety of alternative movement modes: Tunnel Trap on the spiders (both spell-borne and actual deployed champs), Leap on the Hell Ticks, and (through Arachnid Frenzy) Leap, Pounce, AND Retreat on any and all arachnids. Despite this, however, a single hit from the Wilderkin rendered any of my units utterly immobile, and that attack could be repeated, at range 3, endlessly. I respect the concept behind the rune, a rune that could engage melee units and impair them, then move away. I even appreciate the addition of Evasive, since the obvious counter to the Dancer would be ranged.

However, a Snakedancer who Entangled targets would still be safe from melee units, and still difficult to hit for units with range 1-X. It would, though, ALSO be something that could be leapt to, something that could be burrowed to, something that could be pounced. Even (in the case of one move where the player constricted my Tick and then moved in to attack it with a melee unit) Retreated towards with Arachnid Frenzy and attacked.

There is no other unit in the game (and please correct me if this is incorrect) who can effectively stun a creature, every single turn, [i]while[/i] inflicting its full damage, and [i]while[/i] inflicting damage over time (including poison and constriction), [i]at[/i] the normal cost for an attack and anywhere between range 1 and 3. You don't even put creatures with that level of power in your Campaigns.

I don't understand the reason for maintaining the Snakedancer's Constriction. It's a creature which, unlike the Dragons, the Gekaals, unlike even the other rares and exotics from this expansion, utterly dominates a game without [i]any[/i] special effort on its controller's part. Playing a few games against them has been a distasteful enough experience to put me off playing the game itself; not just ranked games, but even single-player games. That's unfortunate particularly in light of all the excellently-designed, exciting, and interesting runes that did appear in the new expansion- runes I'd like to experiment with, develop, and play.

I hope you'll give this concern due consideration,