There were two other possible working titles for this one:
Wait, I thought that the Tundra Orcs were the gambling deck?
Or: the story of the Cloaks, and why they're "bad."
With some decks, as soon as we try them out on Vassal, they pretty much feel just right. You can see how to play them, and your general playing style has a way of adapting itself readily to the new deck, and most of the cards and events seem to be about the same strength as stuff we're used to.
The Cloaks were not such a deck. They did so many new things at the time: ability copying, conditional yet powerful removal, enemy draw pile and hand manipulation, as well as event and ability-based movement increases. Some cards changed a lot. I'll discuss some of the outtakes today.
In an early alpha version of the Scrapper, before they were really even tested with the playtest group on Vassal, they had GANG-UP! You know, the ability that Goblin Horde Attack grants? Instead of checking for faction, it checked for other Scrappers. So if you could somehow get 3 scrappers around a Champion, each one would throw 3 dice, for a total of 9. Even Krung was scared of that. It didn't last long. One day Colby came up with Blindside, which was a super fun and thematic ability right off the bat. I'm glad BLINDSIDE exists, as it has become one of the trademarks of Vlox's deck, especially when he uses Master of the Art to copy it. The one weird thing about it though, is that it sets up some huge swings of luck. Counting on that 2/3 chance to hit can be a pretty severe setback when it occurs.
There was a time during testing where I considered the Cloaks to be an "event-driven, and summoner directed" faction, much like the Cave Goblins. Their events were legitimately as powerful as the CG.
They've always had Magic Drain, which is strong.
The event now called Assassinate changed so many times that most people probably wouldn't even recognize it. Here's one from long before my tenure:
Name: Secret Operative
Number of Copies in the Deck: 2
Choose an enemy common Unit Card and discard it from the Battlefield, replacing it with a common Unit Card from your hand. You are not required to pay any Summon Cost.
Yeah. You could just get rid of any common and replace it with something in your hand and whack someone's Summoner. It was stupidly good, and kept getting nerfed and tweaked until it was what it is now. I'm really pleased with the version we eventually went with, thematically and mechanically.
Number of Copies in the Deck: 2
Spend 2 Magic Points to destroy any 1 Common Unit.
It's simple and worth it.
Raid and Spy were very similar to now, but more random-feeling and annoying. Raid was a 1-of, but it worked on all of your Thieves in play that turn. Spy was a 2-of, but it only pulled 3 cards, putting one on top and on bottom; what this meant was that sometimes you'd discard two champions in a game with your Spies, and other times it would just be a dud. Although I really like him, Cory Bullock is a bit of a whiner and absolutely hated losing to Cody Stevens' Cloaks. Sometimes, you have to listen to the whiners because there can be truth to their complaint. Together with the change to Dagger (which I'll discuss later), the deck felt less random. There was a time where it felt like they took the Tundra Orcs' shtick.
Cloak of Shadows was originally Reinforcements. Yawn. Before we did a ton of testing, it became Cloak of Shadows, and was super good. You just picked a Unit and it couldn't be attacked AT ALL until your next turn. You'd jam Vlox up there and he'd just sorta hang out for a bit. Then it was changed into 6+. Then we added a cost of 2 magic on Champions and Vlox, because we never saw people using it on commons. We also tried it at 1 Magic… and swapping it back to 2 magic before printing might be the one Cloaks recommendation I wish I could take back. This seems to be the Event they build most often as magic now, even if it's still game-altering when used at the right turn. If you're reading this lpsoldier, I think you may have been right.
So, now to Units. Violet, Gunners, and Thieves pretty much never changed. Dagger's ability was originally totally different. When the Assassinate Event was called something else, Dagger's Special Ability was called ASSASSINATE and was brutal and super swingy:
Instead of attacking normally with Dagger, you may choose a Unit that is adjacent to Dagger and roll 1 die. On a result of 5 or higher, place 5 Wound Markers on the chosen Unit.
There was an even earlier version where it outright destroyed any Unit on a 5!
In one test game, I killed Makeinda Ru and Shikwa back to back, and then killed Abua the same way later. My opponent was not pleased, but I was laughing my ass off. You can thank the whiners and Colby's ingenuity that now we have a much more interesting and placement oriented special ability in BACKSTAB.
Oh, and Scam's ability didn't cost any Magic at first. Seriously. Fixed in the same patch with Dagger.
In the same patch where we gave Dagger BACKSTAB, fixed the ratios on Raid and Spy to their modern versions, but before Assassinate or Cloak of Shadows had any magic cost associated with them; we also did a usability change that had huge ramifications to the deck. MASTER OF THE ART (Vlox' special ability) went from triggering at the start of the turn to during the Event Phase. Before this change, a number of our testers would draw their hand and say, "crap, I forgot his special even though it's awesome, and now knowing my hand totally changes what I'd do anyway." So we decided to just let people summon new dudes and then use their event phase to plan their shenanigans.
"Event-phase Vlox," as we came to call it, was met with unanimous praise. Suddenly the deck was what we all thought it would be. A sneaky bastard of a deck that would twist people around and make them paranoid of new Units, and of Vlox switching from a chakram slinger to a thief or a backstab expert, or even just grinding the end game out with Scam. It had its home. Its feel.
But it won too much. It was easily getting 65% of its games, and the choices weren't hard. You always had good ways to use your Events. You always got all three champions out and some commons for good measure once your Magic Drains had been played. It was a little too slick for its own good.
And that's when we started to weaken Cloak of Shadows and Assassinate by adding magic costs to them. We tweaked them a bit until they are what they are now. That shift in their magic management really helped make their choices more difficult. Even though I kind of wish that we made Cloak of Shadows cost 1 on Vlox/Champions, I still believe that he'll only get better as time passes and new Cloaks Units are released for him to train and copy.
One thing I will say looking forward: as more Cloaks units are released, Vlox stands only to get more powerful...