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Thread: Shieldbanger Main Role

  1. #1
    Senior Member Shiri's Avatar
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    Shieldbanger Main Role

    Analysis incoming, so no TL;DR available since I'm not confident enough of the existence of a problem to advocate trying to solve it.

    "The Shieldbanger’s primary goal is protect his allies. Between his high armor rating and preventative passive ability, he should be your frontline defender."

    This is a quote from the "Your Guide to Units" thread. However, I almost never see shieldbangers actually doing this effectively. This is most obvious with a strongarm, who is usually the LAST unit to get into range rather than the first, but seems to apply to shieldmasters and provokers too to some extent - they seem to hide for a bit and wait until the raiders have gone in to do what you would think would be the shieldbanger's job from that description.

    There are a few reasons I can see for this, but it should be noted that these are all back-formed justifications for what I'm seeing, I'm not starting from the theorycraft level and making conclusions as to how to play optimally - it may be that everyone I see, including myself, is doing it wrong and my analysis just isn't up to pointing it out.

    The shieldbanger passive has its main value against two things - warrior splash damage, and break attacks/small damage attacks from frontline raiders. However, these two things are not actually the main threat they face. Because they're so fat, and slow, they can dictate movement but also have it dictated to them by smaller enemy units. This means that if you use them in the front line, they're in a prime position to have a tonne of work done on them by archers - both enhanced 4-5 breaks with willpower, the same as they might face from raiders but without their passive working, and from puncture, which rubberbands the amount of turns of break that needs to be done to them for them to start taking serious chunks of damage from archers. Furthermore, because warriors are held in the backline as well, the two do not actually encounter each other that often - if warriors were often placed in the frontline, a shieldbanger would probably be pretty good at dealing with it because the warriors can't just cleave over the top like they can with puny humans/other warriors, meaning the shieldbanger with its armour break would deal more effective damage per turn to the warrior than the other way around, in addition to the ability to control its movement.

    Shieldbangers that are played in the front are also highly vulnerable to splash damage. Shieldbangers have high armour and cripplingly low willpower and movement (I think shieldbangers with 0 exertion are pretty terrible because it exacerbates their movement weakness to an even higher degree, allowing them to be kited for a very long time by archers), so ability usage is not a reliable "when maimed" purpose, and putting a unit in the frontline means it WILL get maimed. This means you're typically adding armour break where possible to provokers and shieldmasters. The upshot of this is that if they're in the frontline they can't have high strength - something like 8-10. This means the splash damage from warriors their ability counters, and ESPECIALLY siege archer ability use and coals, is actually really dangerous to them, as it even further reduces the chance they'll ever get a meaningful strength hit off, and furthermore means they might actually die while still having a tonne of armour (I saw a provoker die to a provoked warleader on a low % shot, a stray coal, and a thrasher, with 14 armour remaining yesterday, although there was some luck involved and he at least got a decent amt of returning the favour done.)

    These weaknesses don't seem to apply particularly to the strongarm. Strongarms typically eschew armour break altogether, and go for very high armour and strength builds with 1 exertion and the base 2 willpower. These strongarms will typically stay in the back all game, boosting a friendly warrior or turtling raidmaster forward with a punt, and then just waddling around until the opportunity to pounce on a willpower-depleted enemy appears. If maimed, this unit is amongst the most pathetic in the game, not least because their punt becomes less effective as the game goes on and paths become a lot clearer, with less distance to close, less bodies to get punted through and more easy ways to get back around to the target a pesky enemy wants to attack. Also the fact they only have 2 willpower doesn't help here. So a frontline strongarm is almost never seen, and I've never been particularly concerned about them when I have. Here they fill a role more comparable to a warrior, playing as though they're too vulnerable to take any hits. This comparison to the warrior is also important because a frontline varl that essentially acts like a slower high-break raidmaster is also competing for team spots with other warriors, who are particularly destructive with the turn advantage you get by removing those high-break raidmasters (a warhawk with turn advantage is a lot scarier than, say, a backbiter or thrasher with turn advantage in a team with a slain provoker.)

    This isn't necessarily a balance problem - strongarms are pretty successful, and shieldmasters and provokers aren't really BAD per se, although I have had some pretty bad experiences with provokers now I can't use them to force skipped turns with turn advantage or on archers. Also, it's possible that the metagame will shift, particularly if siege archers are nerfed again so they're not so destructive from relative safety. However, it does seem to contradict the stated purpose of the unit. I wonder if the ability to abstractly return the favour to archers might help here (there's no animation for that ability anyway so it's not super obvious how it functions diegetically, I don't think it would be immersion-breaking if I came into the game not knowing how it currently worked) without overpowering them, given their other vulnerabilities. Something to consider. Discuss!

  2. #2
    Yeah, because units can be used in so many different ways, I think you've either got to (i) list a bunch of uses in the description or (ii) list none. For the wiki, I'm hoping to go the second route. Pretty much every melee unit can be used as a WP sponge (for your opp. to waste WP on bringing down), for example.

    As far as balance, I can't wait until they remove the RtF for coals and RoAs. That's so annoying and counterintuitive! Maybe SBs will need a buff after that...

  3. #3
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Nice post Shiri. Shieldbangers had been on my mind even from the beta days. I'll discuss my thoughts simply.

    Before the Warmaster (after being buffed) and Warleader came in and the meta shifted to warmasters, Shieldbangers and the meta was in a very good place. This was mainly because there was only 1 unit that could significantly ignore armor - TH (and to hit a SB with flail came at a significant cost), and also because WH performed much poorer than Warmasters over the whole duration of the game (once maimed, the other player creates an advantage). In this point in the meta, Shieldbangers were the tanky units they were meant to be. You had to plan to use puncture carefully to nullify the shieldbanger. Or you had to play smartly between your raiders and Warrior to do the same.

    What did the Warmaster and Warleader bring to the meta that changed how things played drastically? The Warmaster brought his guaranteed strength damage (on par with a TH from the AOE), and his incredible high strength. This strength and the ability damage effectively meant your Shieldbanger could be brought to his knees in a 1-2 combo. I have often voiced the amount of strength on warriors (especially the warmaster), has shifted the meta (especially in certain builds) back to how the game used to play before armor break was nerfed (when 1 break and 1 str hit would maim anything).

    What did the Warleader bring to the table? On the still somewhat balanced side...the WL brought a 7 break strike. Now...this was sorta ok...but at the same time, this made SBs much weaker versus archers. In addition, there was also the WL-SA combo which totally destroyed any shieldbanger strategy and that aspect of the meta (thank Odin it was reworked).

    At this point, I feel guaranteed strength hits and counters to shieldbangers on the existing units/builds hinder shieldbangers far too much. Guaranteed strength hits on the SA, WM, SS and in some cases the BM for harass, besides the TH, all make SBs significantly a less attractive choice because the amount of protection that armor gives them vs the trade off in enemy willpower spent, now leans against the shieldbanger. And unlike warriors, they cannot pump the strength to build against this inherent weakness.

    Besides the guaranteed strength damage, the ease of use and the all important first strike advantage of warriors is also a disadvantage for shieldbangers. This again diminishes the significance of putting points into armor. Why? Because there is less need for armor when you can bring the enemy strength to a point where lower armor will manage.

    Going back to my older theorycrafting, stats can mean turn advantage. And this double disadvantage for shieldbangers, stats put into armor when it may be better for strength, and losing the first strike advantage due to less mobility, mean they actually suffer from turn disadvantage twice over.

    It's surprising then how high strength varl, including the SRM, have become the preferred strategy and why the meta is currently where it is. The SRM manages to avoid at least the stat disadvantages, and copes with the mobility by equating that armor into the first hit (As should be the case).

    I have some pretty drastic ideas I'd think would be interesting to see, if we ever wanted to shake things up - alas the beta is over.

    I am thinking these things though,

    1. Reduce warmaster strength, or bring warriors down to 1 exertion to limit both maximum damage and mobility, effectively reducing their first strike potential (ever so subtley).

    2. Rebalance shieldbangers to adapt to the new meta. Subtract points from maximum armor, add a stat point to the base class if need be, but in general allow all shieldbangers to spec like SRMs, meaning raise strength maxes and re-think the "good spot build" for the unit to lean on mid armor/mid str.

    3. In general, there need to be less counters for shieldbangers. So either the units that are good against them get weaker, or the shieldbangers should get stronger- not ability-wise, I think those are in a good place, but stat wise.
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-03-2013 at 07:57 AM.

  4. #4
    Hello,
    I'm not a very good player, and I'm not posting much here -though I'm reading a lot. I say this so that you understand that what I am about to state isn't coming from a top-killa player.
    I use a build with two Strongarms. I tried PK and SM, but SM main role is to break armor and puncture -preferably with two bowmasters, I guess- at least that's the way I feel it, and I don't like to rely THAT much on puncture. The PK is fun, high armoured, but really he attracts shots and hits like mad, and he's quickly brought down and I felt him useless.
    Strongarms aren't the solution to everything, but their push can delay a unit turn sometimes, his stats are all around closer to a warrior, but more resistant. And they can push each other.
    So I use at least on of my two Varls as frontliners. I just had a game vs a 2 TH 2 SA 1 SM 1 WM turtling like a madman. I rammed one of my strongarms ahead, an move hime to block his TH and shot RoA so that his warrior wouldn't bother me. I won, my BB then safely made their way to the SA. Etc, etc.
    My point is that some of us use strongarms as an offensive unit -14 strength is quite a thing to deal with- but I found I needed TWO of them to compensate their slowness. So I guess they cannot tank properly (the whole family, I mean) because they are so bloody slow. And to invest points in WP/EX is rendering them useless.
    Sadly I don't know what can be done about this, as making them "quicker" would certainly make them OP.
    That's it. Some of us Strongarm-lovers are playing the offensive way.
    Oh, that and also you'd better not mind losses too much, because I really lose more than I win, lol. But that might be me.
    EDIT : forgive my somewhat poor english please. :-)
    Last edited by No Leaf Clover; 04-03-2013 at 08:15 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Kletian999's Avatar
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    My "buff the shieldmaster thread" talked about this some. Here's a point I didn't mention there though: With such low mobility and puncture (and siege coals), shield varls are nearly hard countered by archers. On the other hand, Warriors and Thrashers, what shield varls seem designed to counter aren't as bad off. Because they can always outrun the shield varl until the varl has lost some armor, and once they've been rendered 2 shot-able they aren't doing their job. Only the Provoker vs. high break unit is an effective matchup, but that falls apart when a second breaker does the break for the provoked one.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Butters's Avatar
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    Excellent thread. Raven's post in particular was a great read.

    I'm not completely sold on the idea that warriors need nerfing, but if they do let it be in max str rather than mobility. Having their max range on par with that of a 2ex SB seems extreme. Their high mobility seems to be the reason for most of the tactically interesting situations involving warriors.

    I do however wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be less counters for them (=guaranteed str hits). One very significant step towards what would be a nerfing of the SnB, which as proposed by Tirean and others in the chatbox, could go from (assuming break stat is 2) 2/1 @r1, 3/1 @r2, 3/2 @r3 to a more reasonable 1/1 @r1, 2/1 @r2, 3/1 @r3. This nerf happens to be really needed independently from the fact that it would bring SBs back into relevance, but that's a subject for another thread (I'm amazed that thread doesn't exist yet...).

    SBs could also do with a stat boost, indeed. I agree their abilities are where they should be. I'd be A-ok with a +1 on base stats of both SM and PK (possibly SRM too but that point should go to WP since he's already very viable).

    @No Leaf Clover : everybody plays Strongarm offensively. He is, in the current state of the meta, not really a shieldbanger. I believe this thread is mostly about SM and PK.

  7. #7
    Backer Greix's Avatar
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    I typically play a heavily offensive set up: 3 Backbiters, a Warhawk, a Warmaster and a Skystriker. I don't play Shieldbangers often, but I do play against in almost every battle. So I'll speak from the opposing viewpoint.

    My experiences fighting them often end with me reducing their strength just enough so they're almost not a threat anymore (4 or less strength early game, 2 or 1 late), and then ignoring them until I can get them with the splash damage of my Warrior archetypes, or using the Skystriker. Sometimes, I end up positioning my units to turn enemy Shieldbangers into roadblocks, blocking out enemy Warrior types until I'm ready to deal with them.

    From what I can tell, the Shieldbanger cannot effectively defend his allies, because enemy units are too mobile to stop. I don't mean just against the Backbiter's charge, but the fact that the Shieldbanger moves but three tiles. He's hard to get into position and react accordingly.

    Often, the most effective use of the Shieldbanger against me has been either the Strongarm, to knock an enemy warrior type forward and get him into the battle swiftly, or just being a rock formation: Shieldbanger up front, archers in the rear, raiders at the side and waiting for the enemy to get within range.

    In my opinion, I think the best way to balance the Shieldbanger is to increase his Exertion and perhaps give him a single point more Willpower. Thus, players will have the versatility to use the Shieldbanger a little more defensively or offensively as they see fit. It would allow a player to choose between increased mobility and/or increased attack power (edit: or reserving that boost for later), but without drastically changing the balance of the game.

    Option B is to give the Shieldbanger a niche role. Maybe give him an extra point to Break, so that he is valuable early on for shattering armor and making him a nice pairing with the archers.

    Edit: One more thought. Adding a point to Break would also make the Shieldbanger incredibly difficult to ignore, even late game. Because Break cannot be reduced, it would mean you can strip an enemy of armor even if you only have a point of Strength left. Thus, the defensive stripping threat of the Shieldbanger (though indirect) would be very difficult to ignore. In retrospect, I think this is the way to go over giving him a point of Willpower.
    Last edited by Greix; 04-03-2013 at 09:50 AM. Reason: Just a refined point

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Butters View Post
    @No Leaf Clover : everybody plays Strongarm offensively. He is, in the current state of the meta, not really a shieldbanger. I believe this thread is mostly about SM and PK.
    Well, I read that in Shiri's post :
    Quote Originally Posted by Shiri View Post
    This is most obvious with a strongarm, who is usually the LAST unit to get into range rather than the first, but seems to apply to shieldmasters and provokers too to some extent -
    But really anyway, Raven's post sums it up. his suggestion to be able to up PK and SM strength -a tiny bit- makes sense. They're too slow to tank effectivly, so maybe making them more threatening is a good thing?
    EDIT : Greix proposal about break sounds good as well. I just wonder where one would take a point from to spend it in more break..

  9. #9
    Member Leartes's Avatar
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    Imo most stat-adjustments don't cut it. They don't magically become stronger if you increase some max or min stat. People build their units mostly in extremes, therefore increasing a minimum makes a unit worse. Increasing a maximum mostly does nothing except when you increase a stat that is maxed all the time. I doubt increasing max strength does much when people build their SB with high armor anyway. Decreasing max armor does nothing as well as it is a restriction that only removes options thus makes the unit worse.
    Also adding additional stat points messes with the general balance approach thus far (but might be neccessary). Finally, I'm not sure we can achieve the target role by simply buffing some stats or the ability. In all those cases we have to keep in mind that people could also use them as sweeper last (like they do with strongarms). If we buff the passive to be better vs archers, then strongarms become ridiculous. Imo the best move for now is to a) wait a bit longer if warriors stay in favor and then b) nerf warriors a bit (e.g. reduce max strength).

  10. #10
    Senior Member Shiri's Avatar
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    Your prescribed method aside, I'm not sure strongarms suddenly become ridiculous from a buff like that. Since they're played in the backline anyway because of how useless they are when maimed, archer armour isn't the most relevant thing by then. It makes a lot bigger difference to units that want to go in first since that's where the archers are dumping all their wp and attacks early, from behind the safety of something meaty.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Butters's Avatar
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    @No Leaf Clover : apologies, I failed at reading there. In my mind anyway, SRM is not really concerned as it is very viable right now.

    @Shiri : SBs are not useless when maimed. Well the SRM is, but a PK or SM whith 3/4 break certainly isn't. [EDIT : apologies, misread again ; you were talking about the SRM, not SBs, so I actually agree with you fully] I'd go as far as to say that these units' role is precisely to get maimed, attracting multiple heavy enemy hits because they can take it. While a backline sweeper with high arm/str (so, a SRM) works, I think the typical SB role is precisely to stay on the front line taking the hits, not on the back line.

    @Greix : SM already has 4 break and PK 3. I think that's plenty.

    @Leartes : I was suggesting to up the base stat, specifically willpower, not minimum wp. The difference is that I wouldn't take the point away from an other stat. You may have noticed minimum point totals are different for each base class, so it doesn't seem too unreasonable. The thing is, shieldbangers already have the highest base point total (archer 16, raider 18, warrior 20, shieldbanger 21).
    Last edited by Butters; 04-03-2013 at 09:10 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Kletian999's Avatar
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    Base movement speed is worth more than a few stat points. Especially since Varls have to move inefficiently at times.

  13. #13
    While I think a +1 wp boost for bangers might be on the money, I'd suggest that we may need to wait a week or two for the meta to drift a bit before it'll settle from the rank 3 abilities coming online.

  14. #14
    One thing that Raven mentioned as an issue for Shieldbangers and other high armor units was the prevalence of high strength Warriors and units with guaranteed strength damage. Right now the meta seems to favor as much strength as possible (Warhawks, Warmasters) and abilities that are equally effective at full strength and when maimed (Thrashers, Siege Archers).

    Even if none of the current units are changed, I hope that newly introduced units/classes will bring other benefits and provide greater team-building options. If they have lower strength than the Warmaster and abilities that don't guarantee strength damage, then I think things will be going in the right direction.

    I'd also like to see what the game looked like if Shieldbangers had some sort of protection from archers trying to break armor (for example, a passive that reduces armor break damage by 1 to a minimum of 1-2). Currently an archer can break up to 5 armor without taking damage from "Return the Favor" or risking retaliation from the Shieldbanger on the next turn.

  15. #15
    I imagine going over the top of armor with a warrior to maim a banger and then leave them alive, maimed, is going to be a pretty bad strategy once menders hit the field and you can buff that high armor/low strength unit in the late game.

    Once everything that can go over a banger's armor is dealt with, a suddenly rejuvenated banger would be a scary lategame play.

  16. #16
    Junior Member Bertez's Avatar
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    I don't know about balance but I think it would be funny if shield bangers threw back arrows they are hit by for armor damage.

  17. #17
    Member HappyRaccoon's Avatar
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    As far as I can tell archers and more specifically SAs just dump on SM/PK. Especially at higher levels. AS it currently stands I don't really know where SMs fit into the meta, where as provokers at higher levels can always be a nuisance.

  18. #18
    Member Leartes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Butters View Post
    The thing is, shieldbangers already have the highest base point total (archer 16, raider 18, warrior 20, shieldbanger 21).

    When I suggested it last week people said stuff like "varl have all the same amount of points, only distribution is different" and "shieldbanger has -1 move so warrior and varl have same". Now you can break this symmetry, no problem. But you have to keep in mind that the srm should get the same stat-buff as the others. And I'm not sure if we really want to buff him.

    Again, I think we should wait and see how power 12 meta evolves. Maybe nerf sa or warriors and see if problems fix themselves. There are several strong players that claim sm is not underpowered, only hard to use. Now, if the "hard to use" way is an unintended role, we still have to be cautious not to also buff this unintended useage of shieldbangers.

    I mean, I partially agree. Shieldmaster/Provoker only work as frontliners if they have some protection vs archers. Do we really want to remove the designed weakness and create units that are bad to fight against for everyone? Especially since we don't know if archer heavy teams will prevail with new unit releases?

  19. #19
    From my point of view, SB is weaker than warrior not because of some strength concerns or something, but because 1 point of movement>1 stat-point. Really, if i could, i'd gladly remove 1 point for that 1 movement advantage.

  20. #20
    Junior Member Serum's Avatar
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    I've been using a 12/13 ab4 SM in the backline for a couple of battles now. I bring him out after the raidmasters have set up a bunch of breaks in the midgame to get a couple good strength hits off before he gets maimed. At that point he generally gets another couple breaks off for the archers.

    It's worked pretty decently so far, even if his active is generally not useful. I'm wondering if a 13/12 ab3 PK could perform the same role, but I'm not sure he'd do it as effectively.
    Last edited by Serum; 04-09-2013 at 01:32 AM.

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