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Thread: Malenatar--cat's out of the bag

  1. #1
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    Default Malenatar--cat's out of the bag

    PART 1 OF 3


    1. There is no cat
    I remember the first game of Mal. It was exhilarating. It was tantalizing. And then I played 20 more games, and in many Mal failed to launch. I kept thinking, there's gotta be more to Mal, there's gotta be something that I'm failing to unlock. If I just do this...if I just play this build...if I transition at the right time to more economic play. And then I played about 5-10 more games and the cat was out of the bag: there.is.no.cat.

    There are two root problems. First, Mal can steamroll too early in a game. Second, his economy is poor, situational, and draw dependent. From these roots flow the rot of his secondary problems: unacceptable power fluctuations on matchup and your own draw. Make no bones about it. Mal helplessly rolls over enemies in many matchups. Yet, in others, he rolls over helplessly in a turd-like flop.


    2. The Blitzkrieg Steamroll
    In too many matchups, Mal wins in 3-6 turns. This is the Blitzkrieg Steamroll, and the enemy can't do anything besides hope for some combination of an early wall, great rolls, and bad rolls from Mal.

    The fully actualized Blitzkrieg Steamroll is unacceptably unbeatable (and yet, in too many matchups, doesn't work at all). Here's what one turn of the maximal Blitzkrieg Steamroll looks like: draw Superior Execution or Superior Planning into Superior Execution on your first draw, all your starting commons are alive, you use Superior Execution to move all you starting commons and choke off 2-3 wall spots, you kill 2-3 enemy commons, and then you build all 4 of your drawn cards, setting your opponent up for a turn where he has maybe 1-2 commons on board and only 1-2 summon spots, and setting yourself up to start your next turn in an insane position and a fat magic pile. Sometimes, you'll even have Onslaught during that turn. You'll discard one less card via Superior Execution, saving Onslaught, and then playing Onslaught to allow you to kill an enemy common and choke off another wall spot.

    Once you've choked so many wall spots so early, your enemy can't compete with your superior supply. He can bring only 1-2 units to the battlefield at a time. Meanwhile, you can easily restock your front lines or prevent your front lines from dying with Guards. This lets you either raze the enemy's starting Wall or quickly pressure and assassinate a low life summoner.

    Hm. Nice. Sounds unbeatable. Except it's not. In some matchups it just doesn't work so optimally or it doesn't work at all. In some cases, Mal's opponent just has strong starting commons, or the wall is far enough back, or goes first and destroys a couple of Mal's starting commons, or draws a wall during the first 2 draws, or has strong common hate abilities and events. And the Streamroll Blitzkrieg is expensive. You've marched commons in for magic fodder, maybe taken some hits on Mal, and spent a couple events, with nothing to show for it.

    So the Steamroll Blitzkrieg is OP as hell...sometimes. And rather toothless...sometimes. Gee, Commander, that sounds like a problem. Yes, yes it is. Quite a design flaw to have Mal wash over some summoners and luck situations like a hurricane and against other summoners and lesser luck situations spectacularly or anticlimactically plop.

    Sounds like you're complaining a lot. Got a solution? Well, I'm glad you asked. I do. And let's start with what are not the problems, for the purposes of this analysis what I'd call the Steamroll Blitzkrieg Enhancements: Superior Execution and Onslaught. Superior Execution is NOT a problems outside of Mal's ability. And Onslaught is NOT a problem at all other than being used to enhance the Steamroll Blitzkrieg. Both only become problems when combined with the Steamroll Blitzkrieg. If they are not problems on their own, and that they only become problems when combined with Mal's ability in the Steamroll Blitzkieg, then it's clear the rootier problem is Malenatar's ablity. Mal's ability must be the target.

    The only way Mal's ability wouldn't have to be changed is there's another way to neuter the Steamroll Blitzkrieg. There is! But, it's unpalatable. And yet, still important to flesh out in the same way it is to publicize a failed experiment. The idea is to change the setup card. Back, back, back it up! Move all the Units back. The only way to truly slow the Steamroll Blitzkrieg would be to move everything back 2 spaces. This slows the Steamroll down by a turn, and this may be enough to give Mal's foe enough time to prepare a suitable defense. This idea has some appeal. But it has a bad aftertaste, that's where it's unpalatable. Mal's starting setup would be terrible. The farthest forward unit would be in the second to back row and. Not only does this feel pretty shitty, but if Mal goes second, Mal's enemy may not even be able to attack Mal's units on the first turn. So this is why the starting setup can't solve the Steamroll Blitzkrieg.

    Weird. Why did you start the solution with a failed solution? Because I think it was the most obvious idea and the strongest contender to what I'm going to tout as a good solution. And clearing it away as rubbish first helps to approach the good idea knowing its prime competitor sucks. So here it is. The "good solution" is to turn Mal's volume down from an 11 to an acceptable decibel. It needs to have a lower cap. I'm not sure what the magic number is. I know that 4 is too many because that's how many Mal uses it on for the Steamroll Blitzkrieg. Turning it down only 1 dial to a cap of 3 sure doesn't feel sufficient to limit the Steamroll. And I would not plummet it to a 1. So I'd start by trying to cap it at a 2.
    Last edited by commandercool; 06-29-2019 at 02:44 PM.

  2. #2
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    POST 2 of 3


    3. "Spare some change?"
    Mal's economy is poor, situational, and draw dependent.

    The poverty stems from no traditional economy to speak of. He has no cards granting him straight magic. No summoner ability equivalent to a quantifiable unit buff like Sunderved's ability granting +AV. Instead, he has an event suite granting him a poor man's version of magic: the Ability Discount Card. These are Superior Execution and Battle Procurement. Superior Execution is Mario with fireballs, though more situational due to its cost than Battle Procurement, which is a minor economic powerup. (A brief aside: Ability Discount Cards are nice, but nowhere near as nice as pure magic. They're less versatile. And they can't bring your Units to the board.) This is the most conventional form of an economy that Malenatar is working with.

    There are two problems with this psuedo economy. Primarily, he has very few legitimate uses for the Ability Discounts: Mal's ability, Varden's ability, and Ossa's ability. (Let's set acknowledge that Korbolden is nothing more than a high stakes roll of the dice.) This isn't a problem for Battle Procurement because there's no cost to it. Where the problem crops up is with Superior Execution.

    There are few good Superior Execution turns other than the Blitzkrieg Steamroll. A similarly valuable play is using it with Varden. But everyone knows it's a fickle and tricky proposition to have any strategy dependent on drawing 1 champion. And it's important to highlight for a moment, how tricky the timing has to play out for you to get great value in your game from Superior Execution. You have to try the Streamroll Blitzkrieg and if that fails hope Varden isn't buried. If Varden is buried, Superior Execution is pretty...wait for it...useless. It's not really like Malenatar can reload for a second Steamroll Blitzkrieg once a first attempt fails. He can't. The opponent is prepared with magic, stronger commons, maybe a champion, better position, maybe a second or third wall. Hm. No thanks. That's not what I want from a summoner if I want a reliable chance to be in the ball game.

    Even if you consider that you can potentially pair Superior Execution with 1 of 2 champions in either Varden or Ossa, Superior Execution is not nearly as strong with Ossa as with Varden. And pairing Superior Execution with Ossa, what's that turn look like? At the cost of 1 card, potentially moving 1-2 commons 2 extra spaces and get the upgraded version of Ossa's ability? A discount from the 3 cards it would typically cost, but it's not necessarily super valuable. That's the myth of the store sale: just because something is on sale does not mean that it's valuable, it does not mean it's worth the sale price.

    Here's the tidy and gift-wrapped conclusion: Mal has no pure economy. Mal has a couple cards Ability Discount Cards that give him a pseudo economy. One of these Ability Discount Cards, Battle Procurement, is super easy to use, but it's not like every play is worth 1 magic and therefore giving you 1 value worth of magic. The second Ability Discount Card is Superior Execution, which can be extremely strong, but depends on matchup (Blitzkrieg Steamroll) and luck (Varden draw). In other words, Superior Execution has very high power value, and when it flops Mal loses out on a lot of power. This is why Malenatar is magic impoverished.

    A second economic weakness derives from a second kind of economic value that he can have: Trading Cards. No, not Pokemon cards. What I mean are cards related to "trading" with the opponent. Onslaught is one such card. Unify is another.

    Onslaught is strong to be sure. It's an extra attack. During your movement phase. In most cases, Onslaught is used on 2AV Units. This, however, is a bit unreliable. That 1 card spent in playing the event could result in 2 damage...or it could result in 0 damage.

    Sure, Onslaught can be made more reliable. With Storm Mages. But, the Storm Mage play is almost laughably predictable. Mal's enemy avoids specific placements with high value units. In reality, what usually happens against a good player is that the Onslaught + Storm Mage play is a mere threat, a strong defensive play.

    Onslaught can also be made more potent with Kadros. But this has downside, too. Everyone knows how crazy it is, but it's also almost laughably predictable. You gotta have 8 magic. Best believe if Mal has 8 magic, your opponent is going to see it coming. On top of that, the Kadros play requires a ton of setup: the aforementioned 8 magic, drawing Kadros at the right time, and having 2 of the right events in your hand (can be Superior Planning into the needed Unify + Onslaught). This is already 3 hand cards.

    So there you have the book on Onslaught: strong event as an extra attack but your dice can fail you; and too predictable or difficult to use as a homerun bat with Storm Mages or Kadros. So there's your first Trading Card.

    Your second Trading Card is kind of like a holographic Raichu. You think it's pretty cool. But the reality is it's semi-useful but no game changer. This is using Unify to Guard protect your Summoner and Champions. There's clear value to this. But, it's not always clear the exact value. So these Trading Cards are situational in terms of getting their max value.

    As for the draw variance of tha econ. I've already hit on Superior Execution + Varden. But something that's not immediately clear, is a slightly different kind of draw variance. The kind of draw variance that Ret Talus can experience where his power fluctuates drastically depending on the order that he draws cards. Mal has something similar. Let me prove it to you.

    Superior Execution
    - You want one in your first two draws to execute the Blitzkrieg Steamroll to max power. It's obviously better to draw the first Superior Execution instead of having to use Superior Planning to search your draw for it.
    - Then, you want your second Superior Execution to be early, too, so that you can build it for the 1 magic and spend it as Magic so it'll be in your Discard Pile by the time your draw Varden.

    Varden
    - You don't want too early, because Varden is so valuable with Superior Execution you want to summon him, and if you have him early that means he's clogging your hand for a bit until you're able to summon him.
    - You don't want him too late, after you've used all your Superior Execution and/or Superior Planning.

    Superior Planning
    - Ideally, you draw all your non Superior Planning events when you need them so you never have to use Superior Planning to dive in your Draw Pile for an event, which is slightly less efficient and powerful. And then, in combination, you draw all your Superior Plannings later in the game so they don't clog your hand.
    - If you don't draw a Superior Execution in your first two turns for the Blitzkrieg Steamroll, you pray like hell you draw a Superior Planning in the first two plans so that you can convert it into Superior Execution, even though it's slightly less efficient play.

    Onslaught
    - Good anytime, but slightly better as part of the Blitzkrieg Steamroll, so ideally you draw it then.
    - If you want to set it up with Kadros, you can see why you'd need to draw at the right time.

    Unify
    - A bit situational to want when using it to protect Mal and champs with Guards. Requires the right positioning, time of game, having the Event, and having Guards. It's the most buildable of the events

    Battle Procurement
    - Clearly best ASAP, and yet there's only 1, and you hope you don't have to use Superior Planning on it, though this is probably one of the best Superior Planning uses.

    Using this, think about how much power difference there is between the ideal/worst draw. There are just way too many things that can go wrong.

    Finally, finally, finally, the final part of the Mal magic writeup is the positional muscling. Mal obviously tries to roll a Blitzkrieg Steamroll into either an immediate win or a prolonged situation where he just trades a lot better than you by forcing you into inefficient plays just to stay alive, starts to pull even economically, and then comes out ahead. The thing is, I've never been able to turn the positional muscling into trading a lot better than my opponent by forcing him into inefficient plays just to stay alive, starting to pull even economically, and then coming out ahead. The end result of my positional muscling is either demo-ing the starting wall and winning, assassinating a low life summoner, or puttering out, retreating, and then sucking wind before being put out of my misery in the late mid game.

    Do I have a solution? I'm working on it.
    Last edited by commandercool; 06-28-2019 at 09:45 PM.

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    PART 3 OF 3

    4. The gameplay grace of a trade barge
    You want to Blitzkrieg Steamroll? Good luck with the draws. The draws sucked so you couldn't do it to max potential and your sputtered out? Good luck after the massive investment trying to fall back and play economically. And if you do, good luck starting action. What will you start it with? Quen...please. Hope to draw Varden and then combined with Battle Procurement for a 3 AV range champ? Foolish to have a strategy relying on 1 card in your 28 card draw. Growden? By some miracle you are able to effectively action start, are you hoping to even the score with a big Stormslaught (Storm Mage + Onslaught) turn? How are you getting a good player to fall for that?!

    Ok, so you lost. Just gotta take a better strategy next time. Try the Blitzkrieg Steamroll, test the waters with that fast rush, and pull the plug on it before it's a sunk cost that makes you effectively lose the economic game that you try to switch into. Ehhhhh, wellllllll, that econ game you hope for is pretty draw dependent on the right draw order starting with Varden, and also hoping your Onslaught turns don't flop, and hoping your enemy massively brainfarts for you to pull off a Storm Mage. And then, mayyyyyyyybe your chances of winning are better than a snowball's chances in hell.

    All of these are indirect ways to say that Malenatar needs a LOT to go right to switch gears between the Blitzkrieg Steamroll and economic trading, and even then, I think he has to get lucky with the dice.

    How to fix this? I haven't even begun to think about it. At least until I wrote the last two sentences.


    5. Conclusion
    So there you have it. My take on Mal. A deeply flawed design. I had such high hopes. The first time I played him I thought he could be my favorite summoner. I suppose that's why he's disappointed and frustrated me so much.
    Last edited by commandercool; 06-29-2019 at 02:50 PM.

  4. #4
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    Nice write up. I haven't really played games with Malentar so it's nice to learn the in's and out's of his strategy. I'd request a similar detailing of the post-alliances second summoners, as I haven't played much with them either.
    Did you know? Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.

  5. #5
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    This is how Nat feels -- "skillfully" roll several 2/2s and win or "mistakenly" roll several 1/2s and lose, with equal odds, not much true game there -- unless you do what I do, playing Prong / Glurp / Savagers so that I can reliably throw 20/27s at walls.

    This still doesn't make her strong across the field, just gives her a shot and makes it a game.

  6. #6
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    Lcanela had some posts about Malenatar about a month or two ago. Some of my comments are there.

    One thing you may consider trying out is adding Growden, Bellor, or Torodin. All 3 of these champs are good value 6 costers, with decent abilities. I have found success with these champs specifically because they are easier to pull out when blitzin.

    I also feel like malenatar needs to burn magic really, really fast. You alluded to the deck clogging issues caused by his reliance on events. I don't rely on events. I'm trying to get my first champ out in turn 2, everytime. I rarely try and hang on to any cards, even champs. I can always draw something the next turn that can help me out.

    I don't think he's a broken deck, but I would agree that if you play even slightly tentatively, your rush will not work.

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