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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: Risk Appetite, Playstyle and Strategy

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    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Risk Appetite, Playstyle and Strategy

    One of the interesting things I've observed in the game, by my own experience of playing and strategizing, is the presence of a player risk appetite. That is, each player evaluates, accepts, and adjusts to a level of risk they are comfortable with.

    By risk here, I mean taking chances through strategies and units to come up with a team and play to achieve victory.

    It's probably better if I use myself as an example, which other players may want think about.

    While assessing the units in my team I usually figure out,
    1. What I want to do
    2. What each unit can do
    3. How they can work together
    4. What factors would prevent the 3 previous points

    1. refers to a general strategy, and just from here you can list down and evaluate risks. Right now there seem to be 3 main paths (I would be happy if others suggested otherwise, and added more).

    A. Strength based strategy, overpower enemy with first strikes and armor ignore
    B. Break + puncture strategy, focus on break units, clean up with archers
    C. Situational hybrid strategy, mix the first two, and adapt as you go (you have less break potential than a break build or less str than a strength build, but the adaptability makes up for it).

    Breaking down the risks related to each you would see,

    A. The risk involved is low armor, being interrupted or intercepted before first strike, and armor ignore attacks chip health slower than break + str combos. Key point of success is keeping high str units safe, and reaching key targets in time.
    B. The risk involved is usually low str across the team. Key point to success is keeping archers intact, and front line lasts long enough for puncture to take effect.
    C. Key risk is failing to adapt and being overpowered in a key area (the team does not specialize, but is full of specialists), or a key unit being eliminated at the wrong time, interrupting a key play.

    Players will undoubtedly have a different opinion and preference for the above strategies, based on what they feel is less prone to risk, and more reliable to play.

    For example, a strong point part in the meta right now (I feel) still favors branch A. as the least risk, strategy, because it is simple and easier to play.

    I myself, however, prefer branch C, because I am not comfortable with my play behavior in offensive positioning and approach in Branch A (there is a tendency to hide and a hard time taking the plunge), and depending on defensive play in Branch B, to successfully keep my archers intact and rain puncture on the enemy.

    This same kind of analysis follows for the assessments which follow on units, and unit combinations.

    For example, one of the reasons RMs for many players, and myself at present are indispensable, is because it is a very low risk unit. It's good for break, which is a risk adverse action and role to have in the game (since break is not variable as damage is incurred, but constant), and the unit's role can be maximized by using his ability to increase his survivability and longevity.

    On the other hand, some players would view the SS and the WH as high risk units. This is because to maximize the benefits from fielding the SS and WH (and make the opportunity cost from fielding other possible units worth it), the two units must land key strikes with their abilities, which are to a fair degree, dependent on the opponent.

    Does the opponent run into an RoA and get trapped? Does the opponent position so that RoA prevents all key attacks at a certain time, instead of the enemy re-routing equally well?

    Does the opponent create an opportunity to tempest? Does my WH maintain his str or get maimed before I am able to tempest?

    There are more or less criteria and dependencies present, depending on the unit, which can be used to evaluate
    • what kind of play you are trying to achieve
    • how likely is it to happen
    • where does the burden of execution and control lie? Does it depend on you or your opponent? Plays that depend on the former are more reliable than those that rely on the latter.

    The less dependencies and criteria there are, for the unit to execute its ability, attack or goal, the less risky that unit is.

    Team play can change up these dynamics and evaluation, because synergies between units and the team acting as a whole, can mitigate specific unit risks, and maximize the reliability of a general strategy.

    ex. If a r3 RoA is unlikely to be run into, synergize with a SRM or PK to increase its likelihood. If WHs need key timing to pull of a tempest, synergize with a WL or PK to disrupt your opponent or catch them off-guard. If I'm running a BB, it would be best to have a breaker before, to soften up a potential target for run-through. Etc.

    It is helpful, once you've decided on a general strategy, and have assigned roles to your units, to consider the ways the team can synergize to maximize the effect.

    Note as well, the above can be reverse engineered, to break down and opponent's strategy, identify key points of success, and pick apart his/her strategy. Or of course, to improve on something you see and you like, or continually refine what you've thought up yourself.

    What this boils down to, in the end, is that players will adopt a strategy and build that they feel is most reliable, and risk averse, and to that end, comprises their specific risk appetite and playstyle.
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-18-2013 at 08:41 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kletian999's Avatar
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    This tied into that other thread about "what unit upgrade should I take" with the answer being "Depends on what you are after".

    Raidmasters are extremely low risk since their shield keep them from being "in a bad spot" and they tend to focus on break. Thrashers are low risk since they can open with STR damage and switch to flail chipping. Backbiters are higher risk because a loss of str greatly compromises their ability, but when used well it's giving you +2 break and +2 str damage over a regular attack for 1 will, giving you extra movement, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the ability to act as an obstacle where you stop moving.

    Similar breakdowns could be made for the other paths. It makes me wonder whether the 4th class units will be more or less risky then our current crop.

  3. #3
    Nice writeup, the only thing I have to disagree with is your sentiment that the meta favors A. The only reason that the meta favored A was because a lot of people abused SA (before the patch), which allowed people to do A, B AND (by default ) C according to your guidelines. Also, a lot of newer players seem to go A because of misunderstandings on how the game should be played. A, or a high str first hit build is probably the RISKIEST out of all the builds to play because it relies on first hit and higher mobility (I think the term glass cannon is applicable here). The only reason it is used so often is like you said earlier, it is the easiest build to use. I think now with the SA nerf you're going to see more B and C becoming the meta later on.

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    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Kletian, that's the interesting thing, probably. While for you, the TH is low risk and BB is high risk, for another player they may feel that is reversed. Because the TH is RNG when it comes to flail and can't be depended on when a precise and critical attack is needed. While the BB can be switched on the fly to break if you don't intend to go for an archer. I've seen late game BB clean up with run through work better than flail also.

    Since players will also perceive risk differently and have different strengths in playstyle, even if we created an objective standard for assessing the risks, it would just boil down to the fact that the player is comfortable with that risk level, and plays it well. Which I think is a sort of syllogism in my discussion. Because I think the advice I'm implying is when you're not sure what you're doing, figure out what you're feeling, assess things like was illustrated, and adjust until you feel your play is somewhere you're comfortable at. Where you feel your play is reliable and just right, not too risky or too conservative.

    KD, 2 warrior was most popular when you could run 4 raiders, cos there was no backline to defend (except the warriors themselves). The SA nerf and SB buff happened to significantly make SBs more viable, or as per this discussion, less risky. Which is why we'll probably see more builds with SBs at least. Now warriors have to contend with the risk of a well placed SB, with willpower to burn.

    Yea I think A is an interesting case. Its low risk in that it's player dependent rather than waiting for your opponent to make a mistake. But at the same time, there's always pressure when running the strategy cos it can fall apart to 1-2 critical attacks. B is less prone to this. C is less prone than A, only because C usually boils down to ability dependencies and unique strategies/tactics.

  5. #5
    Senior Member roder's Avatar
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    I agree that 2 warriors is what the current meta is moving towards right now. Because IMO it counters Strategy B. IE. since your max armor is already low (and high str), puncture's effectiveness is lowered since there's less armor to be missing. I disagree however that it takes less skill, its the only thing I lose to, and I think it still is high risk.

    I don't know much to counter the 2 warrior strategy except 1) put your formation farther back, 2) put your formation to one side, not centered. I don't use these units often, but backbiter and skystriker would do well vs warriors. And siege archer and strongarm would slow the rush.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Butters's Avatar
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    2 Warriors is where the meta has been pretty much since release. If anything, it's now moving away from that (to 1 war + 1 SB, probably, too early to tell esp. with the rtf bug still roaming around).
    I'm currently playing a very puncture-heavy team, and 2 warriors do not give me much trouble. A break for 4-5 followed by a Puncture is usually enough to take the usual warrior down to 10ish str or below, where it's not that much of a threat anymore. 11+ armor warriors are an exception, but they're not very common. If you get a second break in before puncture, that warrior will be mostly out of order whatever it's original stats were.

  7. #7
    Nice little read Raven I sorta play a style which relies heavily on positioning with units which are all classed as high priority targets. Which is probably the 4th way to build a team

    As for 2 warriors I feel that was never the correct meta people was using and find it quite easy to beat due to them relying heavily on first strike. Just remember to line up your warrior vs 1 of theirs and your shieldbanger infront of the other and stalk them around the map

  8. #8
    Superbacker netnazgul's Avatar
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    Through all the days of game experience I was always interested in glass-cannon approach based on what your "B" strategy states. That way I semi-successfully played 3RM 2WM (11/15 breaker ones) 1BM which I think is a perfect example of this approach - a lot of break among my units and a strong affinity towards conserving BM for a late game puncture cleanup.
    I've dropped this concept since then but am still trying to out-break my opponents rather than out-strength them. That requires good positioning and health-conserving in the midgame most of the time, but pays of in the end if played correctly and, which is more important, a lot more fun playing.

    PS: "B" concept in fact doesn't oblige you to play defence-heavy. You can still take aggressive turns and deny ground for your opponent so that he is forced to take only limited number of turns.
    Last edited by netnazgul; 04-21-2013 at 02:49 AM.
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    Member Yth's Avatar
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    I have yet to see a successful team completely ignore armor break, or completely rely on strength damage. In my opinion the dominant strategy is the hybrid: break first, then clean up with a few heavy hitters.

    When I think of risk I think of unit/ability combinations which have strong synergies: push + warhawk, taunt + rain of arrows, etc. Each of these ability combos or gimmics has an inherant opportunity or resource cost which makes them hard to pull off effectively.

    I found that relying on these gimmics to hold my team together ended up making me win or lose really randomly. In the tournament before this one I would win one game against a top player, then lose a round later to a complete newcomer because all my ability combos missed.

    I was also trying to do too many gimmicy things at once: a team with SS WH SRM has great map control and synergy combos, but is lacking on pure fighting power...


    I think Tirean's playstyle is the best, to use superior positioning to wear down the opponent more efficiently. Right now I am playing a very boring lineup and just trying to work on my positioning. Once I master that, I will start incorperating interesting "risky" combso again.

  10. #10
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yth View Post
    I have yet to see a successful team completely ignore armor break, or completely rely on strength damage. In my opinion the dominant strategy is the hybrid: break first, then clean up with a few heavy hitters.
    Several months after you guys stopped playing, the [3TH 2WM] build reigns supreme. The player who popularized it, RPGamer, has won about 15 Tournaments as of now. Sure, the competition may be down (a lot), but this statistical fact brings out one simple truth: ARM-bypass abilities (BF & SI), that are able to deal constant damage along the game down to the last turn of a crippled unit, are deterministically the simplest -- and thus the most efficient. They might lack the flexibility required to tackle some builds, e.g. [2SB 3Archer], but at the fingers of an expert player they have proven their potential. Note that the sum of AB on that build is like 6-7, whereas for a "regular" [2R 2A SB W] build its more like 11-12.
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 10-19-2013 at 02:32 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Wordplay's Avatar
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    This is why I like 'Warrior Rush' so much, where a warrior is catapulted into the front ranks by a support unit - either a Strongarm or a Warleader. My preference is to push a Warmaster forward with Strongarm. A risk averse player will be completely spooked, and a player with an appetite for risk will usually have their opening gambit wrecked.

    It's a very rare player who can keep a completely cool head in this situation. A risk averse player go all out to kill the Warmaster - and use far more resources than they should, or do it in an inefficient way. Even bold players will still usually kill the Warmaster.

    This is can be a mistake, because it hands the opponent turn advantage - the Warmaster will likely have injured many units, whereas your opponent's other 5 units will all be fresh. Effectively, you give your opponent a free extra unit. On the other hand, even a crippled warmaster can still do a fair bit of damage (which is why I like to use one). Therefore, the choice between killing and maiming the Warmaster is far from straightforward, and will vary from situation to situation. Most people will try to kill it - which allows me to use to move my raiders to maim the stronger units.

    The main skill in running the build though, is to know when not to use the opening gambit. There are often scenarios where the particular disposition of the opponent makes it more costly than holding back (particularly if you're going second - and the opponent has a warrior high in the turn order, or a breaker - archer combo where you can't kill one of the units).

    I think I must be risk happy - I love the thrasher, I've deliberately killed my own units to gain turn advantage (with the Siege Archer), and I've injured my own units to hurt my opponent. Indeed, my favourite opening gambit breaks armour on my Warmaster.

    On the other hand, I'll very rarely take a chance on the hit if I have an alternative. I hate gambling on the 90% in the early game and the mid-game. The own times I consider it appropriate is where a purely deterministic game would inevitably result in a loss.

    I think the main skill in the Banner Saga is being able to assess risk quickly. I suspect that the Banner Saga is like chess, in that it is possible to play it perfectly, and I suspect the same tactics for using computers to beat humans, would work for the Banner Saga. (Though I suspect the Banner Saga's random number generator, and chance based elements would mean that even the best computers could not always beat the best humans - because the humans could adopt the high risk strategy that would only occasionally pay off i.e. gamble successfully on multiple boosted chances - the computer would still win more often than not though) The satisfaction, or skill is not from being able to understand the best move, but from being able to understand the best move within the time limit.

    I guess the most fundamental skill with taking risks, is make sure that you only do so when there's a potential pay-off that equals or betters your investment. Mind you, getting a feel for your opponent's play style can slant the odds in your favour beyond what the figures on the board might suggest.

  12. #12
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    This "surprise" combo can be used most efficiently against unsuspecting players. However, anyone with a little experience that sees the SRM>{WH,WM} in the enemies turn order is (or should be) prepared for that. That means appropriately positioning your units, e.g. stand in the back, avoid clustering/adjacencies (especially when its a high-rank WM), or place a couple of high high-STR/EX units high in the map to clip the pushed Warrior's STR etc. Nevertheless, even against such precautions the combo might prove fruitful; for example, if the enemy build initiative order is totally "wrong" and/or the "gamble" in picking a side of the map to deploy doesn't pay off. What I mostly like about this combo is that it sets things in motion, practically skipping the awkward engaging phase of the battle -- As you said, the enemy focuses on the immediate threat, while you get to advance enjoying less attention

    The satisfaction, or skill is not from being able to understand the best move, but from being able to understand the best move within the time limit. I guess the most fundamental skill with taking risks, is make sure that you only do so when there's a potential pay-off that equals or betters your investment. Mind you, getting a feel for your opponent's play style can slant the odds in your favour beyond what the figures on the board might suggest.
    I wholeheartedly agree with the above.

    Another small thing I would add to it, is that some moves that might seem risky (or more elaborately put: acting on blood-frenzied impulse) to one player, might actually be a calculated cold-blood tactical maneuver to some other player. An example: I play at lot of games at power-6 where you might fall upon some obviously new player (e.g. with unstatted units) that might make a very weird risky --but strong-- move (e.g. rush an archer up and take a 3WP-loaded 90% chance shot to maim your archer with a 4STR damage) out of simple risk-taste or instinct (?), only to blunder it in 2-3 turns by an evidently wrong move (e.g. walk a warrior into a "forgotten" RoA).

  13. #13
    Senior Member Wordplay's Avatar
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    Indeed - the combo can be negated somewhat by deployment, but it's not a reliable counter, as initiative cannot be tweaked. Spreading out is not necessarily going to save you either - because deprived of shield wall raiders become much more attractive targets. On every map but the mead hall there's not really room to run. (Admittedly you could get lucky with the proving grounds, but that may just delay the combo until a crucial moment). Indeed, the mead hall will usually be the arena in which this is least worth doing, and for the wall in may not even be necessary.

    I've even had repeated success against builds running a skystriker in the first slot, which you'd think would be the optimum counter. However, the best counter, in my view, is a high initiative Warrior of your own. That makes it not worth it to engage in the gambit.

    Another small thing I would add to it, is that some moves that might seem risky (or more elaborately put: acting on blood-frenzied impulse) to one player, might actually be a calculated cold-blood tactical maneuver to some other player.
    Definitely. However, I'd say that particular example was a very inefficient use of an archer. It will disadvantage your opponent early in the game, but should balance out by the mid-game, and cost you by the end-game. I usually look to get 2 solid breaks and 1-2 solid puncture hits with each archer I run. An early crippled archer can still break though, so it's not until you're looking to do clean-up that that will bite. Meanwhile, that move will almost certainly cost your opponent an archer (unless you cover them with a Warrior or a Skystriker). So effectively you're trading a dead archer for a crippled one.

    This is only worth doing if your opponent's archer is a particular threat for some reason - for example, if you're running 2-3 archers and your opponent is running one. Or your opponent is running a break-build with no real damage dealers other than puncture-boosted archers. Even then, it's really only worth it if it's a bowmaster that you're crippling. The other archers don't really need strength to be a nuisance.

  14. #14
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordplay View Post
    Indeed - the combo can... (Ram-the-Warrior)
    Definitely. However, I'd say that particular example... (Rush archer up to take a WP-loaded shot to "clip" an enemy archer)
    To avoid turning this thread into a specific-combo or -move discussion, I am steering back to the original topic -- Risk Appetite. Both these moves (or combos) expose one of your units to danger, with the hope of surprising or outbalancing your opponent's strategy. If you catch him at unawares, you have an advantage. If you misscalculate and/or the opponent was expecting it and thwarts your combo, you are at a disadvantage. On the opposite side, you gotta "see them coming", even if they don't happen in the end, e.g. because the opponent thought they weren't worth the risk.

    Quote Originally Posted by raven2134 View Post
    A. Strength based strategy, overpower enemy with first strikes and armor ignore
    B. Break + puncture strategy, focus on break units, clean up with archers
    C. Situational hybrid strategy, mix the first two, and adapt as you go (you have less break potential than a break build or less str than a strength build, but the adaptability makes up for it).
    Returning to raven's A/B/C classifications, I think my "good" builds/games are those in C. I like having one 15STR unit, over 10AB across my units, and I'm commonly using two archers. I'd say I am 66.6% B and 33.3% A. I am also very interested to hear more about Tirean's "D" category (positioning-based), even though it seems hard to put to words...

  15. #15
    Senior Member Wordplay's Avatar
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    In addition to raven's classifications, I might also suggest the trap based strategy (which otherwise could arguably fall under any of the headings, but is closest to B), and the rare break + strength, i.e. not relying on the puncture to do strength damage.

    My current favourite build is definitely a C. I used to favour a A build, and I've been experimenting with some B builds. Generally, I find my attempts at a break build leave me with not enough strength to finish my opponent, even with all armour broken, and puncture.

    Priority is an interesting concept. In the days after beta, a good way to streamline the risk management, was to designate units as 'threats'. I've seen other people talk about this too - this is how it worked for me. My armour was generally set at around 10, so any Varl or Raider with a starting strength over 10 was mentally designated as a threat. On the other hand, if my opponent had a lot of breakers and a bowmaster, I'd designate the bowmaster as the threat. Obviously, it needs to be recalculated constantly to take into account falling strength and armour on both sides - but it worked as a time saving cheat for me.

    Essentially, my mental definition of a threat was 'a unit that you can't afford to leave alone, or disengage from - a unit that will do a large amount of damage next move/or cripple a unit integral to your strategy'. In other words, it's a combination of strength, ability, and positioning. Playing people with sub-optimal builds, this helps you to identify how to pull their fangs quickly. It's certainly a good way to help you learn how to play the game better.

    There are two points that arise when you start to get better. Firstly, your own build should have 6 threats i.e. your opponent shouldn't be able to ignore or leave one of your units unattended. Secondly, you will start to face builds that have 6 effective threats, and that keep them all threatening until you drop them.

    This is the level where you need to up your strategy, and I suspect, fine tune your risk assessment. I have not made that leap yet.

  16. #16
    Member Tatski's Avatar
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    I can relate to Raven's post as an evolution on how I play the game(Tiers from accessible to complex). I feel that most players started with the explosive high str build A (I know I did, it is fun and accessible). Then moved to high ARM/AB and archers as sweepers (B) then I settled with (C). C where I'm most comfortable because of its versatility, and it is able to maintain some sort of a threat level all through out. It has "backup plans" if your initial plan fails, unlike A and B once your threat has been tagged it is usually hard to recover from it and I hated that. Before I stopped playing I tinkered with a positioning/zone heavy build (Tirs suggestion for playstyle D). Even though I was struggling with it I find it interesting since it is not straight-forward like other builds. For me, it's definitely the hardest build to play correctly. It requires a lot of guessing, decision-making and counting, which I find tedious at times.
    Last edited by Tatski; 11-02-2013 at 11:26 AM.

  17. #17
    Superbacker LoliSauce's Avatar
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    I started with a balanced build based on positioning and eventually branched out to more offensive and defensive builds after having come into contact with them from other players. In all honesty, I mainly branched to use other styles to understand them more completely (and thereby understand what their goal is and how to shut it down when playing against it).

    The balanced team is still by far my favorite.

  18. #18
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Some thoughts on a somewhat different avenue:

    As things stand now, with the game relatively balanced albeit unchanged for months, it seems to me that the majority of play is about which build --- and not what skill --- is required to beat the X/Y/Z build. Surely, there are some players around that can probably lead any build to victory against 90% of the playerbase. Alas, such players are really scarce these days, especially in the meaningfully competitive scene. So, we're "stuck" at a situation where the relative build (and order) is the deciding factor for the victory. This brings the discussion to the unit-restrictions (for the build composition) as well as the matchmaking mechanics (should he have switchable "bench" or "wildcard" units to select from once the opponent is found?).

  19. #19
    Superbacker LoliSauce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aleonymous View Post
    Some thoughts on a somewhat different avenue:

    As things stand now, with the game relatively balanced albeit unchanged for months, it seems to me that the majority of play is about which build --- and not what skill --- is required to beat the X/Y/Z build. Surely, there are some players around that can probably lead any build to victory against 90% of the playerbase. Alas, such players are really scarce these days, especially in the meaningfully competitive scene. So, we're "stuck" at a situation where the relative build (and order) is the deciding factor for the victory. This brings the discussion to the unit-restrictions (for the build composition) as well as the matchmaking mechanics (should he have switchable "bench" or "wildcard" units to select from once the opponent is found?).
    Well, what kind of builds and common order (or specific order that a notable player often uses) is what defines the metagame. What people are currently playing the most will determine what common counterpicks others will shoot for, which cycles around in a constant flow (if you've done things right, anyway).

    The funny thing is the metagame is pretty exaggerated right now, with the limited number of classes to choose from defining clear counter builds. After the update, we'll go from 12 viable classes to presumably 32 classes. (9 base x 4 promos each) That almost triples the current roster. More importantly than the individual classes, though, are how many more complete class trees are being added in. As things are now, unit limitations are defined by their class tree and size, which will be broken wide open by adding in another 5 class trees. The passives of each tree is also a seriously defining aspect of each of them as well, so having more actual passives to work with will change team dynamics tremendously. Naturally, the more intricate build-making becomes as a result of these additions, the more the lines of build superiority and counter-picking begin to blur.

    So my suggestion is to just wait it out and watch how the meta explodes after the update. I imagine that stoic will be tweaking things here and there in the months after the addition, but once things stabilize and the meta starts to become more defined again...then it will be more revealing if there's still such clear rock>paper>scissors type of build-defined victory.

  20. #20
    You honestly don't need a counter build to survive in the current meta. Nor do you need to use one of the meta builds to survive in the meta. If you understand the concept of engaging then you can win with any build you choose (with some exceptions of course). The issue I have noticed is each player is a clone of another player. No one is finding their own style. Each is a mimic of another. So once you figure out how to beat one of the players who is using a "meta build" you can pretty much beat every other one.

    What this game needs right now is the new blood to start playing the game, not copying the game.

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