Prismata December Balance Patch – full details

Hi everyone.

Today we’re revealing the rest of the changes that we’ll be deploying in our upcoming Prismata balance patch. Part one was posted here.

Before I get to the changes themselves, I want to announce a new Prismata alpha survey that has just gone live. We want as much feedback as possible on events, as well as any suggestions you might have concerning anything else in Prismata.


The December 2015 Balance Patch

In addition to a boatload of buffs, nerfs, and other small rebalances, we’ve also somewhat modified our approach to balancing some of the more extreme units in Prismata (Zemora, Savior, Thunderhead, and so on). We’ve added a lot of crazier units over the last few months, and many players told us that they felt that the influence of these units on Prismata games was a bit too strong, so we’re making some conscious efforts to reduce their overall impact on the game—not by nerfing them, but by making it more necessary to mix in other strategies and tactics when going for them.

This patch has taken a little more effort than usual to put together as there are a lot of changes, and many of our intended tweaks required a lot of testing, iteration, and refinement. In particular, units like Savior have been overhauled quite a lot, and these changes required many many hours of testing (we probably experimented with over a dozen Savior variants).

Thanks to everyone for being patient for this one. Below is the complete list of changes.

The patch will go live sometime in the next 24 hours.

Lancetooth – Cost decreased from (8B + 1 attack) to (7B + 1 attack). Lancetooth was deliberately balanced to be a little bit weak (compare it to a pair of Tarsiers) because it provides a lot of versatility for players going blue early. However, we found that it actually was bought far less often than we had hoped (probably due to the lack of other good early blue units to transition into Lancetooth). Hence, we’re trying a one-gold buff to see if it opens up a few more uses for the unit.

Tia Thurnax – Cost increased from (6GGGR + sac 7 Drones) to (7GGGR + sac 7 Drones). Tia actually used to cost 4GGGR before we made the change to 6GGGR, which helped reduce the forcefulness of the unit in the early game. We’re taking an additional step in this direction with a further 1 gold nerf, which conveniently gives Tia a rather nice 7/7/7 theme in its price/Drone sacrificing/attack. Tia will still be a strong purchase at some point in most games, but it will be a little less scary as an early-game threat.

Thorium Dynamo – HP decreased from 10 to 8. Thorium Dynamo, like most economic units in Prismata, is balanced to be fairly strong. However, it also has sufficiently high HP that breach-proof strategies felt too mandatory in a lot of Dynamo games. And even though the unit has a similar cost-to-value ratio as Trinity Drone, 10HP is a lot of damage to deal all at once (dealing 5 damage to a Dynamo doesn’t hurt your opponent’s income next turn, unlike dealing 5 damage to a Trinity), and thus Dynamo was actually far more breach-resistant than we expected. At 8HP, Thorium Dynamo is still tough to kill, but players attempting breach-proof strategies involving the Dynamo will need to take a little bit of extra care to keep their Dynamos alive.

Grenade Mech – Ability cost increased from (sac a Blastforge) to (pay 1 + sac a Blastforge). We did a poll on Grenade Mech in our last survey, and the overwhelming consensus was that players liked the “3 Pixie” version much better than the old “2 Pixie” version, but felt that the unit was a little strong. In particular, the ability was so cost-effective that cycling Blastforges for the whole game became a viable single-minded strategy, and we saw many games in which players bought no non-base units other than Grenade Mech. Thus, we’ve increased the cost of the ability. At the new cost, clicking Grenade Mech will be a trickier decision in many situations, (though still much better than it was when only two Pixies were created).

Doomed Mech – Cost increased from 8BB to 9BB. This was another unit that we asked about in the last survey. The choice of 8BB vs 9BB is mostly a matter of taste and preference rather than a game-breaking balance issue, but a majority of respondents, including many top-level players, believed that the 8BB Doomed Mech was too efficiently priced. Our recent nerf to Chieftain was also well-received, so we’re going to try deploying the 9BB Doomed Mech on the alpha server for testing. We’re looking for lots of feedback on this one as the final decision between 8BB and 9BB will be made sometime in the future.

Ferritin Sac – Click ability now produces 1B instead of B. We had a lot of players suggest that we make Ferritin Sac a little bit stronger to make skipping a Blastforge more viable. We think that high-tech units costing BB or BBB in their cost should require a bit of a tech commitment, but we’re interested to see if removing the necessity for that commitment in some games could create some interesting options for players. We like the way that Ferritin Sac plays right now, so we’re happy to oblige.

Wincer – Cost increased from 8GBBR to 9GBBR. This is literally a direct revert of our last change to the unit (a one-gold buff), and it’s a response to a big change in the statistics that we observed after deploying that buff. Namely, top players started buying Wincer *almost twice as often*, and many complained that the unit felt like a must-buy in too many sets. We think Wincer should be more of an optional purchase than a high-value unit, so we’re inclined to agree that the previous buff was unnecessary. We’re still considering future changes to the unit and welcome your feedback on the matter (for example, would Wincer be a better unit if it was cheaper, but less powerful?)

Odin – Cost increased from 19BBB to 20BBB. Odin is still one of the most-bought 1-supply units, and we noticed that certain builds (particularly the p1 DD/DDE/DDD/DDDB/BBW/Odin build) were difficult to counter with other strategies, making it highly likely that Odin games led to a mirror. A nerf to 20BBB eliminates this build (while also weakening Odin slightly), which should increase the viability of other strategies in Odin sets. We realize that Odin has been nerfed a great deal in the last few months, but the viability of BBB strategies has greatly increased after changes to Grenade Mech and the addition of Ferritin Sac, so some of the more overpowered BBB strategies are showing themselves more.

Trinity Drone – Cost increased from (2G + sac two Drones) to (2EG + sac two Drones). Now has a click ability—convert one green to one gold. As we discussed last week, this change is aimed at curbing player imbalance while still preserving the availability of interesting Trinity Drone plays. That said, it’s not necessarily final—we’re still exploring other options for the unit. However, we feel that the green-to-gold click ability is a good place to start.

Vivid Drone – Cost increased from (4EEE + sac three Drones) to (4EEE + sac four Drones). Now produces six gold per turn instead of five gold per turn. Another change discussed last week, our goals are to reduce situations where player 1 has an advantage in Vivid Drone openings (by making p2’s DD/DDEE opening stronger), and to make it more difficult (and riskier) to make 3 or 4 Vivid Drones.

Thunderhead – Attack decreased from 5 to 4. HP increased from 10 to 11. Thunderhead is a one-of-a-kind unit in Prismata that demands very precise planning on both sides of the battlefield. Though we don’t want every unit in Prismata to be like Thunderhead, many players appreciate the variety it brings to gameplay. That said, some players also complained that mistakes with the unit were too punishing, and we found that early Thunderhead purchases often didn’t leave the opponent with enough options for counterplay. After some testing, we found that taking Thunderhead in the direction of being a less powerful attacker helped balance the unit out. Using Thunderhead optimally is now more about buying it at the right time to maximize its defensive value, and less about buying it early for a huge damage swing.

Blood Pact – Now spawns a Grimbotch for the opponent instead of a Tarsier. This is an experimental change with a number of goals. Blood Pact is bought a lot less than a number of other units with similar costs, but is also a bit too strong in situations where the opponent is going breachproof. We found that swapping the Tarsier for a Grimbotch mitigated a number of these issues by providing a minor buff in typical situations, while removing the liability of a 1hp Tarsier in breachproof scenarios. It also reduces the “snow-balling” effect of the old Blood Pact (since players can defend with the Grimbotches) and might open up some new opportunities to purchase the unit earlier in the game.

Savior – Start-of-turn damage reduced from 2 to 0. Buildtime reduced from 8 to 4. Cost changed from 9 to (6 + sac 6 Drones). HP reduced from 8 to 6. Savior has been one of the most positively received units of those we’ve released this year, so we’re really hesitant to screw up a good thing. That said, we feel that there is much room for improvement. We’ve observed a number of problematic phenomena—Savior mirrors often being won by the person who bought Savior first, Savior being incredibly strong in some sets (particular with Wild Drone as player 1), and Savior games generally being heavily dominated by Savior itself, without much room for other units to have a strong influence. Due to Savior’s popularity, we’ve resolved to leave both of its key abilities intact (doubling the income of Drones and converting Drones to Plasmafiers), but we found that the unit played a lot better with a much shorter build time. Having Drones in Savior’s cost means that players run into the supply limits much sooner when trying to pump Drones for a Savior-based economy, so the unit’s overall effect on the game is a little weaker. There are also a lot more choices available to players in terms of build timings (in fact, player 1 can go turn 1 Savior, but we wouldn’t advise it!) With Savior’s attack removed, we found ourselves blocking with Plasmafiers more often, and it created a greater number of interesting choices in the turns after Savior arrived. Overall, we’re very happy with the change. We tried over a dozen different variations of the unit before settling on this one. We hope you like it!

Zemora Voidbringer – Cost reduced from 6GG to 5GG. Ability changed from (pay GGGGGGGG for 8 + 8 attack) to (pay GGGGGGG for 7 + 7 attack). This is a small change, but it aligns with our philosophy of making Prismata’s most extreme units a little less influential overall. Zemora’s power and cost have both been reduced by roughly 1/8th. The new Zemora is also a little easier on your Conduit supply, meaning that it’s a little bit better in breachproof situations. The 5GG cost enables a few new openings as well, like the p1 DD/CC/D+Zemora and p2 DD/CC/DD+Zemora. One word of caution with this change that bit us several times during internal testing… **BEWARE** OF THE FACT THAT YOUR OPPONENT CAN NOW FIRE THEIR ZEMORA WITH ONLY 7 GREEN!!!

Flame Animus – Cost reduced from 7B to 5B. Buildtime increased from 1 to 2. Flame Animus is one of the most aggressively priced units in Prismata and has been implicated in a number of strong openings, particularly in combination with units like Shadowfang and Hannibull. We really liked the simplicity of the 7B Flame Animus, but ultimately feel that it’s just too strong for the long-term health of Prismata if it remains at its current cost. We considered simply reverting the unit to its original 8B cost, but we want to experiment with a 5B buildtime 2 Flame Animus first. It’s ever-so-slightly weaker than the 7B Flame Animus in a way that mostly only hurts the more rushy and aggressive builds, and it played well in test games.

Centrifuge – Cost reduced from 12EEE to 9. Now gives 12GGBBRR after construction completes instead of 20GGBBRR. Many players, including two of our PAWC finalists, have told us that Centrifuge is their favourite unit in Prismata. It gives players a huge number of options on a single turn, and can lead to some spectacular plays. However, we’ve also seen problematic situations where Centrifuge’s build timing is hugely important, particularly in sets where the first Centrifuge is very strong. Thus, we conducted a number of experiments to see if making Centrifuge a little bit smaller could improve games involving the unit. We observed two benefits: the new lower cost (in particular, without energy) allows players more flexibility in when they build it, and the lower gold payoff nudges players toward buying it a little bit later in the game (buying it too early can now result in a lot of red and blue being wasted). Together, these changes mean that a half-turn difference in Centrifuge timing yields a smaller difference in the overall effectiveness of a Centrifuge build, which should help balance out Centrifuge openings. We’re hoping that we’ve made an interesting unit even better.


Units that we’re not changing yet, but have an eye on…

These are some of the units that we’ve been working on behind the scenes, but aren’t changing in this patch (either because we determined that no change was necessary, or because we haven’t completed the design and testing of an updated version of the unit).

Deadeye Operative – Our current plan is to split Deadeye into two units—one that only snipes (and has no attack or other abilities, but does have stamina), and a second that is similar to the current Deadeye but has a different click ability. We’re still testing candidates for these new units.

Auric Impulse – We tried the 2E -> 3 Auric Impulse in last week’s event. Do you think this change should be permanent? Let us know in our survey. Of course, we’re happy enough with the 3E -> 4 Auric that we don’t mind leaving things as-is.

Blood Phage – The unit exhibits good player balance according to our statistics, but some players have suggested that certain powerful Blood Phage builds are creating a lot of inflexibility in the opening. We’re still investigating these issues to see if changes are needed. One thing we’ve found is that players really like the unit’s click ability, so we’ll be looking to keep the click ability intact if we make any changes.

Venge Cannon – We investigated claims of balance problems involving the new Venge Cannon, but we haven’t found anything conclusive yet.

Xeno Guardian – The recent change to Xeno Guardian was designed to fix an imbalanced player-2-favouring winrate, and the change helped (according to our current statistics). However, we’ve noticed that it still seems a bit p2-favouring at high levels, but we’re not yet sure how much of that is an actual problem (it could be statistical noise, or players still trying to figure out the unit). One hypothesis is that p1 DD/DD/DCB/DD+Xeno openings are overplayed (they seem to be weak relative to DD/DDE builds in Xeno sets), but in either case, our current plan is to wait a bit longer and gather more stats.

Wild Drone – We’re experimenting with some possible changes to see if they improve the unit. No announcements yet.

Corpus – We think that Corpus is in a better spot since it was last redesigned, but we’re still looking at a number of improvements to the unit. We’re particularly concerned with how well it synergizes with some other RRR and RRRR units, so we’re considering some changes to its tech requirements. More info on that in the future.



New units are coming too. Here’s a sneak peak!

We’re almost there!

With this round of changes, we feel more confident than ever that we’ve addressed most of Prismata’s unit design issues, and we’re growing increasingly close to finalized designs for the vast majority of units. Of course, we expect a few of the units that we’ve updated may require further changes, and we still have quite a few new units coming. But we hope to spend a bit less time on balance patches in the future—the campaign is increasingly becoming our main design focus!

About Elyot Grant

A former gold medalist in national competitions in both mathematics and computer science, Elyot has long refused to enjoy anything except video games. Elyot took more pride in winning the Reddit Starcraft Tournament than he did in earning the Computing Research Association's most prestigious research award in North America. Decried for wasting his talents, Elyot founded Lunarch Studios to pursue his true passion.