Someone suggested Lost horror as a starter card? Earning/trading for a tier 3 XL makes sense. I will admit that the shadow-fire deck lacks an XL in general, and in the original game shadow-frost lacked one as well, that renders those decks inoperable for advanced-expert play IMO, (although the decks were fun). Nature Frost has giant wyrm which establishes it as functional, the original nature fire managed to get by, but this starter setup with tweaking is genuinely playable right in the door, thank you devs!
I am incredibly grateful for some of the starting additions they've made, with only 1 disappointment. ~BIG THANK YOU! for Offering, Breeding grounds, and Hammerfall. All highly functional additions for new or advanced players using a slim selection to build a deck.
Unlike the overall commentary suggesting players never user starter commons later: To some degree in this kind of game, I kind of enjoy torturing myself into trying to come up with optimal layouts for whatever starter cards are in front of me. Still not sure why, but in doing so I wound up taking what I could and immediately creating a mixed 4-color deck that outperformed either starter, and the original EA starters without fail.
That being said, I'm only really posting for a handful reasons mostly nostalgia. I too somewhat miss the starters, but am far more grateful for the addition of some of the cards in this new setup, offering, breeding grounds, stone shards, stone shell, hammerfall, ray of light, equilibrium, and silverwind lancers all proved incredibly useful for starting out.
A few counter notes however: Werebeasts regen gave a slight bit more survival than spearmen, a regenerative frontline helped t1 nature (for players that lacked a shaman) quite a bit, but I guess it makes sense that werebeasts shouldn't be a starter because spearmen have a visible utility to them, and earning werebeasts is a burst of nostalgia (even if you weren't a nature starter as a player) and potential improvement.
Tremor was a relatively vital card for new players back then, I assume alot of people remember that at first it fit more toward frost heavy decks, but later Phenomic devs decided that tremor would be better balanced as a 1frost orb Tier 3, they did this because of the overall power creep the expansions added to tier 3 in the form of considerably more XL unit options, with the more immediate comparisons being core dredge or deepcoil worm (which in fairness tier-3 XL units do kind of set the tone for advanced gameplay/deck building) I'm not sure if you all have considered re-establishing tremor as a 1frost T3, its nostalgic to use it but didn't quite stack up to core dredge in combat value as a 2frost unit, which makes it less favorable. (sorry for that rant -> tremor, but i guess it competes with mutating frenzy in the 2orb t3 large field, but not quite vs sun reaver/magma hurler etc. Also worth noting: when EA did lower the tremor orb requirement, it made mutating frenzy and tremor both playable at T3 for frost-shadow) Not a big deal tho, just a memory of the olden days.
A bit sad missing Lava Field, for a functional nature-fire start, rageclaws+firestalker set the unit base, only lacking a t2 grade anti-air archer role in their starter. That aside, fire spell damage with lava field+fire stalker siege generally exemplified fire's offensive capability, that generally gave a good demonstration of 'expected strategy'. With only eruption currently tho, its kind of like a sports car popping an exhaust fireball, then sputtering to a halt. Notably: lava field can be pretty OP, I understand why it should probably be earned. No real complaint here, just that missing sense of nostalgia from nature-fire when I started.
As far my only let down: Spirit hunters
My only ACTUAL concern, and I've spoken to a new player attempting to use the current nature-frost deck, with poor results at first I might add, is that Spirit hunters, although a unique effect on a unit and one who's affinities show a big difference in strategy, are VERY far from new player friendly units. The poison effect they use, does not actually stack, and when attempting to fight a large unit at tier 2, are woefully underpowered. That being said their issue was that their initial t1 windweaver force was no longer around and they thought they could cobble up a bunch of spirit hunters. Unfortunately as far as card damage goes:
The attack speeds of windweavers and spirit hunters are comparable, but the 'attack damage' per shot Windweaver 10 vs Spirit hunter 4 (+non-stacking poison)
as a given example you can test: since spirit hunter's poison effects don't stack, 3 windweavers can kill a magma hurler faster than 3 spirit hunters. This divide becomes more drastic with more units. Someone noted: 'spirit hunters are just micro heavy', that's totally true but the issue is simply: that it is not a spammable unit, new players (like the one I spoke to) may have a hard time if they don't realize the downside of that unit (non-stacking poison) and how its best to have it spread its fire out among many targets. This downside however is also notable for windweavers meaning two tiers in a row for nature-frost theres a weakness vs singular hardened targets (particularly air/large/structures). Windweavers CAN be bulk spammed and push through, spirit hunters cannot, this IMO provides an experience which is unlike traditional RTS gameplay for new players (where a bulk of units should generally meet a challenge) and might bother some players thinking 'i just can't spam enough tier 2 units to get through this part' but it literally would only be due to spirit hunters incredibly low on hit damage. I recommended to this player to get defenders or stormsinger to replace them, they had already found a defenders, replaced spirit hunters, and saw an immediate improvement.
If I had ONLY ONE recommendation for the starter deck at release, it'd probably be to put defenders in instead of spirit hunters, due to the traditional RTS concept: if i NEED over 5 of a unit to kill 1 target, it shouldn't miserably fail anyway because they shoot poison toothpicks.
This deck I've constructed I know does not 'completely fulfill' the conditions MrXLink had mentioned earlier, but the general guidelines for a solid deck for PVE/RPVE in this game are a tad more lax then the ones mentioned, for RPVE a T3-4 tower is optional(1 is nice for solo RPVE), but no towers are necessary, for PVE campaigns, 1-2 towers tend to be helpful (a tier 1-2 tower, and a tier 3-4 tower) utility structures often a must have. I put in master archers as a 'spammable alternative' to assist with spirit hunters, and with this setup easily cleared a RPVE 7 with almost no upgrades, and am fairly certain it could pull off an RPVE 8 right away with some patience strategy and luck. (if not it definitely would with some upgrades, and skill)
If I tried to rebuild this setup to meet his 'Per Tier' requirements: 2 units: 1melee-1ranged, 1 spell, 1 structure. 'WITH MINIMAL CHANGES'
I'd pull out master archers & spirit hunters, put in a defenders and primal defender, and if being a stickler about tier progression, would remove unholy power, and put in tempest, (but unholy power's utility is incredible for bosses in both pve+rpve) but wouldn't remove offering+rifle cultists, they pair perfectly.
If I proposed one.. oddball idea: I know the devs don't want to "ruin the value of any card above common" by putting it in the starter: but if there was one uncommon XL unit that could fill out the fire-shadow deck (the only exception i could imagine) would be putting Necrofury in it. The only logical reason that this would be a decent idea: You can't genuinely devalue a card that's eventually going to devalue itself drastically anyway. (the one t4 XL that was rock bottom priced all the time back in the day)
At any rate, sorry it became an essay, and thanks for bringing this awesome game back +with a relatively epic starting selection.