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Analysis of the 25 Card Deck

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Here I am with another behomoth of a post :) The idea of a 25 card deck has come up now and again, and with recent interest in heavily reworking nature/frost t1 I think it's time to put together a full case of pros and cons, as well as gameplay analysis.

I am personally in favor of increasing card slots, although I could certainly be convinced otherwise. Also, I'm not suggesting that we add 5 extra cards immediately; in the balancing discord there is some talk of a complete rework of multiple core cards in nature/frost t1--such a rework would take at least a year to get right, and if we are ready to tackle such a long-term problem, I'd like us to know if 25 cards is a possibility.  For example there is talk of buffing the card tunnel. If you spend a deck slot for it, you need to get value from the card in every game. So the card is a bit underwhelming atm. But if you had room for it to be useful in the right situation, perhaps a buff isn't needed. Another example in regards to the swift problem that frost has, we might add a "shrine of swift" and "spell of swift," the spell only works if the shrine is built up so you would be sacrificing 2 deck slots in t1 to get 10-15 seconds of swift. Spending 2 deck slots in a 25 card deck is much different than spending them in a 20 card deck, so I think we should decide if a 25 card deck is something to consider when looking at super-long term balancing discussions.

Pros of a 25 Card Deck

  • It allows more balancing tools. In some cases, certain factions don't have good allround counters (stormsinger, wildfire, shadow mage, etc). To address this situation, we are usually either 1) buffing a card to be more multi-purpose, or 2). buffing a new card to fill the gap. Option 2 is often unsatisfactory because it requires a new deck slot which may not be affordable. With more deck slots, we can fine tune balancing without resorting to giving all buffs to the same essential cards.
  • It allows more deckbuilding freedom. Most decks have, say, 2 cards that aren't required to avoid autolosses. Without the slots to try some crazy combo, you usually just spend those spots on extra t3 options, or a tech card which helps against a specific faction (like global warming).
  • It allows more anti-meta plays, and counters to anti-meta plays. Suppose you play a church camp shadow. That's not a common playstyle (although in our small community we know which players are likely to play it)  and it can be extremely effective if your opponent is not aware that you have a giant t3 and tiny t2. With more deck slots, you could play this anti-meta deck more safely because you'd have slots that aren't being sacrificed in the hope that your opponent thinks you have it. (I often skip firesworn because people assume it's in my deck and don't rush with sundy). Additionally, your opponent would have more tools to counter anti-meta plays. Earthshaker, inferno, and backlash are not used in fire decks, but with 5 extra slots, it may be worth taking one to stop church camping.
  • It allows more consistent plays. If you are pure shadow going against pure fire, you would probably like to play undead army. However, that card is mostly useless against the rest of the decks, so most shadow players wouldn't waste the slot on a card that is strong in 1/10 games. However, with 5 more slots, this card might suddenly be very appealing: you have all the cards you need to avoid autolosses, and you could play a card that is extremely strong against one of the most powerful factions. On the other hand, fire players would know that undead army is a likely option, so they will play more proactively to avoid it, rather than being surprised when they see it. The same is true for scorched earth--scorched earth is not super common, so players will often gamble whether their opponent has it. If they guess wrong, the game is instantly over. With more cards, scorched earth will be normal to have, so taking an orb in range of scorched earth would be considered a stupid play, rather than a calculated risk.
  • It allows more interesting t3 fights. Most factions can have about 3 units in t3: an offensive nuke, a swift unit, and probably another nuke that's used as defense. Some factions have more slots available for t3 which gives them an advantage, but the gameplay is still largely straightforward. A richer t3 experience, where both sides have 5+ cards (and defense is not so strong) would be exciting imo. And players could have the possibility for richer t3 fights without sacrificing their t2 or t1.

Cons of a 25 Card Deck

  • Possibly more intimidating to new players. Imo, 20 cards or 25 cards doesn't really make a difference here
  • UI issues? I don't think there are any UI issues, although hotkeys would be a concern. Again, not an issue imo, but I'm curious if anyone else cares that much about hotkeys
  • PvE will change. Zyna has mostly confirmed that 25 card decks would be a global change, not something he can change just for one game mode. I am not that qualified to speak about PvE, although I understand that speedrun strats rarely require even 20 cards (and imo it wouldn't be bad if this allowed better speedrun strats). For casual pve, I think more cards is strictly more fun, except for the new player. But I think there are much bigger issues facing new players.
  • PvP balancing. Obviously I hope this is not a con, since the idea is that we'd start balancing plans for the long-term future were 25 cards is normal. However, adding 5 extra cards in the current pvp environment would affect things quite a bit. It would probably require at least some reworks to every deck. For example, stormsinger would be a good target for a nerf, since her role can be covered by 2 cards if deck slots allowed.

PvP Changes

If the devs suddenly changed the deck size tomorrow, how would PvP differ?

Pure fire: this is pretty much a nerf. There are not enough pure fire cards worth using, so this deck gets less value than all others. 

Possible additions: global warming, red nomad, girl power, rageclaws, wrecker, spitfire, vulcan, virtuoso, magma hurler, earthshaker, inferno. None of these are especially interesting. I'd probably take global warming, magma hurler, wrecker, virtuoso, and rageclaws. These would help with pure frost, the worst matchup for pure fire. Wrecker would also be good against frost (and nature). Otherwise I'm not sure that the extra cards adds much, unless the meta shifted and I needed  counter for a new meta card in a different deck (like mine, if undead warriors became meta?)

Bandits: more cards would mean that bandits can use some of their overpowered combos (embalmers + phoenix +rallybanner, or super buffs) without sacrificing core defense. The deck would still need help, but it would be better able to use some of its extremely powerful combos.

Fire Nature: this deck would get a full t1, mauler to counter stonekin, and maybe an extra t3 card or two, although it would still have the weakest t3. These changes would largely be QoL.

Fire Frost: this deck would finally get to use some of the interesting combos like wintertide+ rageclaws, warden's sigil +termite, or tower of flames+architect's call. None of these cards are played in a regular fire frost deck because of slot issues. Additionally, there might be some fire frost players who start frost t1 to take advantage of a super large t1 where 1/3 of the cards translate into t2 (ice barrier, homesoil, wintertide, frost sorceress, lightblade, possibly even frost mage).

Pure Shadow: this deck would get to use shadow phoenix, maybe embalmers for nice combos. It could have a 5-card t3 while also having room for knight of chaos and possibly undead army. Although church decks would be empowered, if they became more common then other factions would be able to afford 1 slot for t4 earthshaker or something, to close games.

Shadow Nature: this deck is in a pretty nice place with 20 cards, but lifeweaving, burrower/ghostspear, and some t3 cards would make play a bit more consistent. Enlighten earthshaker might become a possibility!

Shadow Frost: this deck has tons of good cards to choose from, but these cards would mostly be tech choices. Lyrish would be an obvious addition, maybe an extra t1 card and homesoil+rallybanner. I'd expect to see stormsinger nerfs coming, (stormsinger is not only a great card, but it saves deck slots) which would force this faction to spend slots on maybe templar or gravity surge. I'm not sure if 6 or 7 t3 slots would be much better than the standard 5 card t3.

Pure Frost: glyph of frost would be standard, and possibly wintertide. that would be good for making frost a bit better in t1, and it would also feel like less cheese when you are surprised by one of these cards. In general pure frost doesn't currently benefit from extra slots as much as other decks though, in my opinion.

Stonekin: more t1 for consistency, but this faction would become the strongest in the game, hands down. Currently there is a style of playing stonekin where you don't use t3 at all, just rely on superior t2 units to overwhelm your opponent when he goes t3. Stonekin has superior t2, so it's not like another faction can simply add a tech card to even the t2 matchup (mauler would help though). This incredible t2 combined with a solid t3 (stonekin also has a very strong t3, but usually not enough slots for it), would be oppressive in the current balance patch.

Pure Nature: I'm not sure if deck slots helps this faction that much atm. It would allow root decks though, which would be a nice change option. It would also allow tunnel plays, and maybe timeshifter spirit.


I made this post here so it can have a lot of thoughts in one place, since this will probably be a conversation that takes a long time. I'm curious what other people think, and if there are any pros/cons that I missed.


TL;DR Let's talk about changing the number of deck slots from 20->25


Edited by Eirias
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I always believed that 20 card deck is not enough.

There are so many cards that allow for unique strategies as well as allow to counter certain strategies.

20 card limit will always put limits on what we can do.

Often it's a matter of luck if we have the right cards to counter our opponent's strategies (cards).

Adding 2 or 4 cards to a deck won't do any harm.

On the contrary, it will allow for a more versatile and dynamic game play where game tactics are even more important.

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just to the UI issues where would you like to draw the additional cards to not be hidden or hide another elements?

I guess you playing on "reasonable" resolution of 1920*1080 or even more, but I was really suprised how many people play on the smaller resolutions, and some of them just do not have space for this.

(btw. changing the size for only 1 game more does not seem like an issue, but it would deffinitly be very confusing for players)

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We might be able to talk about this in a few years, but right now it would create more problems than solutions for balancing.

Only a few decks do have sufficient options, that really improve decks at higher slot numbers. If almost every deck has 35+ truly viable cards for PvP, an increase might be an option, but for now most decks would just overload their T3's or add oppressive conditional strategies rather than providing more interesting game dynamics.  


Stonekin is the only exception right now as it has many different unique and viable T2/3 cards, that are not used for slot reasons. Adding them would improve options in T2 and allow different game styles (Attacking f.e. can revolve around different core units, that work against specific factions: Burrower, Mountaineer, Stonetempest, Crystalfiend, Stormsinger, Razorshard) or stick with current options, but with an actual T3.

Standard meta deck Lost Souls has a very solid core deck structure, that wins scaling games consistently once you are ahead of the curve. This playstyle would be totally unaffected by increased slots, you just increase the options of getting that little lead throughout the game by adding counter cards like Lost Reaver, Lyrish Knight, Skyelf Templar and solidify the raw T3 power level by slot increase (6 slots are really powerful). 

Some decks Like pure Pure Fire could add something like Global Warming or Spitfire, but these cards don't really add anything and don't reduce any core issues. Relative to other decks pure Fire gains nothing new, while facing some more versitile decks with specific counter units (Twilight Brute, Skyelf Templar) and much more oppressive attack patterns (heavily supported L units, undead army etc.). 



Playing off meta decks is always possible, but people usually prefer to stick with the most powerful and most well rounded strategies. 25 slots won't change this. They won't randomly start playing things like Tower of Flames + Architechts call even at 40 slots, because these things are bad and not situational sleeper combos, that are restricted by slot investments. Stuff like Enlightment + Earthshaker might be more realistic, but that's just another toxic basenuke.


PvE implications are also huge on a sidenote, since it makes deck building much more efficient and alot of speedruns are affected by this too. Makes the game much easier in that department. 


Creating more strategic options through card balancing and removing opressive matchup imbalances should be current priority. If we ever reach that goal in a couple of years and get to a larger healthy card pool, slot increases might be reasonable as a result of this. 

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3 hours ago, RadicalX said:

We might be able to talk about this in a few years, but right now it would create more problems than solutions for balancing.

Yes, that is my premise :)

The question is if we want to go there eventually, because making that decision now can influence future balance changes, and the direction of our current prioritizes. Would you like to see a 25 card deck at some point? Assuming a game balanced around 25 cards, not 20.


Or do you see some downside with this?

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13 hours ago, Kubik said:

where would you like to draw the additional cards to not be hidden or hide another elements? 

Whenever it's time for bigger decksizes I'd suggest 24 card decks and place them in two layers of 12 cards. Second layer would be partially hidden behind the first (big enough to be accessible by mouse). The 12 card layers would perfectly correspond to the 12 f-keys which are the games default hotkeys.

I already wish there would be small gabs between card 4 and 5 as well as 8 and 9 for visual clarity. 

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15 hours ago, Kubik said:

I guess you playing on "reasonable" resolution of 1920*1080 or even more, but I was really suprised how many people play on the smaller resolutions, and some of them just do not have space for this.

By "I was surprised by how many players," how many does that mean? Because more than 5 people a day would be very surprising to me, but I guess the card size can just be shrunk--it's really hard to believe people *can't* play at 1080p.

I'd also guess most of the people who play below 1080p just do it because they don't feel like changing the default resolution?

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I would like to see 25 slots eventually, given that each faction was adjusted to allow for more diverse viable strategies - especially pure factions (with the exception of pure shadow to some extend, there is some build variety there) are quite reliant on must have combos. Right now, i feel that only universally strong cards are being played and more situational cards are maybe 2-3 slots at max in meta builds depending on the faction (for some faction this number is 1 at most...). With a more viable set of optional counters / combos, it will be much viable to adjust decks to personal preferences and slot-hungry t1s like nature t1 (and frost t1 if you would otherwise not play home soil/ice barrier) would be buffed by this change. 

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12 hours ago, Eirias said:

By "I was surprised by how many players," how many does that mean? Because more than 5 people a day would be very surprising to me, but I guess the card size can just be shrunk--it's really hard to believe people *can't* play at 1080p.

I'd also guess most of the people who play below 1080p just do it because they don't feel like changing the default resolution?

Here you have one - my laptop doesnt have 1080p screen. And you have just random reader in one random thread.

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I didnt buy it for gaming, it was cheap buyout of laptop from my employer, so why not take it. End hey, it runs Battleforge just fine! I do not have any gaming laptop. Only old "gaming" PC, now 12 years old. Also without 1080p screen. (which I used to play Battleforge as well)

I am not sure I understand the notion why people should have gaming laptops to enjoy Battleforge. Not all players are hardcore. Some are, you know, casual.

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it was not specific to you. I just know people that buy cheapest laptop they can get and have it as main gaming computer.

I can uderstand someone having cheap/old computer and want to play BF on it, because the game is so old it can run on it just fine.

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  • 1 month later...

I have been experimenting with playing a double deck. Such as pure nature/stonekin deck. If I see my opponent goes pure fire I'll go T2 stonekin to counter it. 

I'm quite sure that besides allowing decks to have more counters or playing a larger T3, it will also open up possibilities to play more factions depending on your opponents strategy. A stonekin player can have both frost t1 and nature t1 depending on the map.

So yeah, not an easy decision as it will be a huge change on the meta. Definitely like the possibility to play a 25 card deck (sometime)!

Edited by Zappyx
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