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Balancing card cost, strength and special abilities

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

It's for a game like duel masters(renamed kaijudo) which is a simplified version of magic the gathering.

There is a situation where 2 cards with the same ability have a different cost with different strength. When I play duel masters, most of the time, I will prefer paying less to have a weaker creature and get that ability rather than paying more. Here is an example:

Cost 3
str: 1000
tap a creature in opponent battle zone

Cost 4
str: 2000
tap a creature in opponent battle zone

The mathematology is simple, each mana gives 1000 str, and the ability cost a certain str. In this case 2000 str for the tapping ability.

But waiting a turn to summon a creature with the same effect is not worth it on my point of view. I would prefer use the cost 3 creature. But if the cost 4 creature was str 3000, then I might reconsider because it could give me an edge over my opponent.

So I was wondering if creature strength is actually more valuable that special abilities. Or does people expect to get stronger creature when paying more mana rather than getting better abilities. This is why I thought of cutting ability cost by half.

I know that abilities are more situational, so there are not useful all the time while strength is a better investment. But playing without abilities is very hard (at least in duel masters) so they are essential.

ckleach's picture
Joined: 02/26/2013
Sounds like a situation where

Sounds like a situation where we would ALL pay less to have the creature with the same ability. You bring up a very good point and it looks like you have an idea of what the answer is already. My 2cents on the idea of balancing that situation is this:

Cost 3 = X
Cost 4 = Y

If X and Y have the same ability but the STR is different, then the cost for the stronger creature is more expensive. Makes sense. But in the case where you're playing that card for the ability and not necessarily the STR, the creature with the lower cost, X, should either have a more severe limitation put on it. The limit will hinder players from using it unless they can satisfy those requirements. Make the card dependent. Pay more, use more... Abilities are usually situational, you are right, but there should be more of a restriction/requirement for the lesser costing cards.

Joined: 02/28/2013
How do you want gameplay to ramp up?

I think the rate at which you want the game to play, and how much variety in play style you want players to have, will help guide your philosophy.

I play Magic now and then. Currently, it appears there is little reason in Magic to use a creature that does not also have some kind of ability. Maybe in whatever the current competitive format is, but certainly not at the casual level I play at.

More to your point, I also have had a tendency to go with the quicker play style. So, I would take your Cost 3 creature in most cases. However, if playing a fast game does not get you the victory quickly enough, someone with stronger creatures will win over the long haul. There are many cases where I have gotten someone close to defeat and they have pulled out something (creature, spell, combo) that what I have on the field cannot deal with. The ability to bring more to the field over time, is one of Magic's intended features.

In your game, I am not sure how much of an advantage Str 2000 has over Str 1000 - will these cards have the same rarity? Are you using card rarity? Accessibility to the cards, to place in a deck and play from the deck, can help determine the player strategy. I am likely to include both cards in the deck and, if both are in hand, decide which to play based on what the opponent is doing or what I can anticipate. Can I wait a turn for the stronger creature to give me the tapping ability? Does the opponent have a way to deal with the weaker one if I play it now?

Some random thoughts, anyways. It seems like you are approaching the card cost structure the right way, you may need to have cards that you wouldn't tend to play but allow for the kinds of strategies others would use. Magic has some defined player archetypes that they consider in the design process.

JustActCasual's picture
Joined: 11/20/2012

Well, the cost 3 creature would probably be preferred in most circumstances, but it is not strictly better.

There are lots of cases where you would want to play the 3 cost creature AND the 4 cost creature simply to add redundancy: in this case the advantage of the 4 cost creature is simply that it is not the 3 cost (so you can keep adding it when the max slots for the 3 cost are full). I could also see playing the 4 cost in a Control deck to fulfill a double roll as an answer and a finisher: with the weaker 3 cost creature it's body could almost be viewed as a liability (you have to pay more for the ability than bodiless, but the body is mostly useless and prone to removal). I don't think that one is better than the other: they both have situations and strategies where they are better. The key to making their differences interesting in your game is making sure that different situations come up and different strategies are viable.

In terms of ability-less (or "vanilla") creatures not being useful in Magic, this is due to a number of factors. There is of course the excitement factor: people want to play with creatures that do new and interesting things. There is the issue of diminishing returns: even if you have a 100/100 creature it can still be chump-blocked by a 1/1 to prevent all damage, and there is little difference between it and a 20/20 when your opponent only has 20 life to take (you don't get points for style). Similar to the diminishing returns problem is the return on investment problem: a creature without the haste ability can only block for the first turn it's in play, and who's to say it won't get struck down by cheap removal in the meantime? You'd be better to get something upfront for your payment so you can be sure of getting something. Another reason skilled players want creatures with abilities is because they provide more options, which tends to favour the more skilled player.

All that being said, there still is room for vanilla creatures to shine at the lower price ranges: a 2/2 for 1, a 3/3 for 2, and a 4/4 for 3 are all relatively playable simply for their "ability" to quickly overwhelm the opponent. After this price point efficient costing doesn't really pay the same returns: a 5/5 for 4 would be barely playable these days, whereas in the past it was playable with a drawback (I'm looking at you Blastoderm / Calciderm).

Joined: 07/12/2012

Somehow my mind was going to the "echo" ability for Magic cards as I was reading this topic. You get to pay for the ability, and you get a short-term creature. If you want to keep the creature, then you pay again the next turn. So you trade pace for the creature.

Cost is not just the mana, but also time (turns). You don't get to 4 mana as quickly as you get to 3 mana.

How easy is removal in your game? That extra mana/turn may be worth it in a world where things at 1000 str die easily.

Joined: 11/12/2012
I've played a ton of magic

I've played a ton of magic and took a quick look at the rules

keep in mind that some combinations of powers might be more powerfull then others

imagine you rate the ability "when this comes into play draw a card" at 2 mana "quicken" at 2 mana and "tap a creature" at 1 mana

a 1000 power creature for 5 mana with "tap" and "quicken" is probably a lot stronger then a 5 mana creature with 1000 power "quicken" and "draw a card".

apart from that color is also a huge factor, some abilities are better in diffrent colors card drawing in blue can be cheaper then in green

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Some comments I made for the

Some comments I made for the other thread. Thanks for the feed back so far.

Abilities that modifies other cards has no impact in the card itself. So this is much tricker to balance. I am not sure if I would use such ability.


Does the creature using the ability become tapped (unusable for the turn) if the ability is used?

I mistranscripted the ability. It's when summoned, tap an opponent's creature.


Could I pay 4 mana for a 4000 str monster with no abilities?

In the original duel master game, it worked like that but I will give an extra 1000 for monster with no abilities.


How much life does my opponent have? How much mana do you get each turn and what determines it?

6 hits, creature strength does not matter (In duel masters), if 6 creature passes, the player dies. I am not sure if I am going to keep the same system in my game.


What are the synergies during the game? If I had a deck full of tap creatures, is there any way you could stop me from just disabling your creatures every turn and attacking you with a single creature every turn and wittling you down? are there any counters to this strategy?

Again in duel masters, players can attack players or tapped creatures. So using a tapping ability makes it vulnerable to attacks and not all creatures can block. There are creatures with tapping abilities, and if you do not have blockers to back them, you might lose them on the next turn unless they are strong.


PS please don't use multiples of 1000 for stats, use smaller values, it is a headache dealing with the extra 0s.

Of course, I was simply citing duel masters. I might use increments of 10.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Making strength more valuable.

After thinking about it, beside for the creature with no abilities, the goal should not to make creatures stronger but rather make strength more valuable. That would make the math less complicated.

(note: I was first thinking to give creature with no abilities +500, allowing them to win ties, but maybe +1000 is the way to go)

Now there is a few things in duel masters that makes creature strength less valuable. For example, the strength does not matter when attacking a player since they all break 1 shield. It still has it's advantages because it can make you win even if you do not have strong creatures. Strong creatures gives you and edge, but are not essential, so the game is more a game of openings (a bit like chess). I like the idea, but it still makes strength less valuable.

I could change the rules above by allowing stronger creatures to do more damage on players or even allow to soak damage inflicted on players. Here is an idea, give all creature the ability to block and the trample ability (extra damage are assigned to a player). When a creature attack a player (only in that situation), if a blocking creature is weaker than the attacker, the left over damage is applied to the player. If the target was a creature, there is no trample damage. Each 1000 str inflicted on a player would destroy a card from his deck.

So with this method, all creatures can be used to soak damage and they must be in play to do so. That is interesting because if the creature is in play, you paid mana to get that soaking. So what you pay is what your get, which is my design philosophy for card balance. I would also make, like in Hecatomb, a guardian ability that gives the creatures extra strength when defending specialising it for defending.

One thing I want to avoid is the total defense situation. It happened many times in magic the gathering that each player has 20 creatures on each side of the board and they are looking at each other. Because the person who attacks is sure to lose anything that was sent to attack since the defender could group 10 units together to block 1. I think this situation could be avoided (and is currently avoided in Duel Masters) if:

- There is no Banding to block, so if my creature is stronger than any of yours, blocking it will force you to lose your creature.
- Attacking tapped creatures gives the player more attacking options. And tapped creatures are vulnerable, so they can be destroyed.
- Resolving 1 battle at a time. Attacks and block are resolved one at a time, and they must be resolved in the order of the attacker. So the defender cannot always optimise which creature is going to block which creature.

In Duel masters, not all creatures can block, this is the main reason why the player is always open. Still, If I allow all creatures to block, considering there is trample damage and that there are also all the condition above, I don't think I will get that many full defense situations.

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