Tales of Aria Prerelease Weekend & Banned/Restricted Announcement Musings

So Tales of Aria prerelease happened over the weekend, and I thought I would give a quick recap and thoughts on the set itself.

BC (lower mainland anyway) had one prerelease slotted for each day of the weekend. First up was Friday at Treasure Chest. This was also the day that a storm decided to drop on us, which caused a lot of havoc on the streets, causing issues on the highway to get to the store itself, which would have normally been a 30 minute drive. I carpooled with Chris, and we were definitely excited to finally get a chance to play a limited format in person, even though we did do sealed for Monarch prerelease, albeit over webcam. We had formulated some strategies ahead of time in terms of deckbuilding and whatnot, trying to determine what is required depending on which elements/hero combinations we decide to go for. I ended up on Briar, simply due to a fairly strong 3 equipment build along with some strong arcane damage cards. My NAA were fairly week (count at 9), but I did manage to go 3-0 on the day, winning the prerelease mat. My initial thoughts were arcane damage seems pretty OP in this set given the lack of protection, but Oldhim and Lexi both have their ways of dominating attacks to push damage through. The off turns for Briar felt good when you had a lot of Embodiment of Earth tokens if you had the NAAs in your hand – that is a big IF. Even though I accounted fairly well for the number of elemental cards (Earth/Lightning) in my deck, there were still times where I just completely whiffed and could not fuse. Earthlore Surge emerged as one of my favorite cards along with Mark of Lightning paired up with Ball Lightning – it just simply makes life tough for your opponent when they are debating about blocking. TC charged 50$ for the tournament (no additional prizing). Pull a CF Deep Blue and 2 majestics, so overall, very happy with I walked away with on the day.

Saturday’s tournament was Infinity, which ended up needing to be online. This was definitely the one I wanted to win given it was Infinity and also because Dillon offered Armory prizes in addition to a bunch of raffles for the prerelease mats and boosters. Wilson came by earlier so I could give him a refresher on the game and go over the mechanics on the new set. Ended up pulling a single Majestic which felt pretty bad value wise. Had to go on Briar again due to the lack of support from the other two hero pools. This tournament was back to back against people who know how to play the game well. Ended up 4-0 on the day, but due to whatever algorithm LSS used, I ended up 2nd, which actually was what I wanted anyway. Yuki and I had played our last round, and we had agreed we would swap if we were 1/2 in the standings (given that we were table 1 for the last round). Walked away with a RF Lexi, some boosters, and won the raffle for the prerelease mat, so I just gave one to Wilson. He pulled a CF Ragamuffin’s Hat, which is probably pretty useless, but hey, CF (which he just gave to me anyway). Dillon charged 30$ for the tournament – which is actually insane when you think about the additional prizing he was giving away.

Sunday’s tournament was Stronghold’s, but again, online. They charged 40$ after tax, no additional prizing. I really wanted to play something other than Briar, but I ended up with an even worse pool for Oldhim and Lexi compared to the day before, so I again, had to play the Elemental Runeblade. Not much to say on this one. Went 2-2, didn’t win any raffles, pulled 1 NF majestic, which was the exact same thing as the day before. My initial though is that Briar’s specialization is pretty weak, but I’ll have to test around more with the card to see how I can bring out its full potential.

Quick thoughts on TOA:
-Arcane damage seems broken, but all three heroes have their ways of getting damage through in sealed
-Some of the common equipment are amazing and definitely high priority in draft
-Tested with Lexi a bit with Chris afterwards, and she is fun and requires a lot of planning/setup – excited to see where she goes from here
-Ball Lightning, Bramble Spark, Earthlore Surge -> three amazing commons
-Winter’s Grasp, Heaven’s Claw, Autumn’s Touch -> three vanilla elemental attacks, but block for 3 -> boring, but effective
-Oldhim: you cannot just put a bunch of blues in his deck and just hope to fatigue out your matchups; I think Briar just deals too much chip damage for Oldhim to shut her out completely
-This set is a lot faster, and you cannot just face tank 10 damage on one turn unless your turn is amazing and does even more than that; the kill range in this set is very different from previous sets

Overall, super fun weekend of playing limited and opening packs. Very much looking forward to seeing how the meta shifts from here with Nationals in two months and Skirmish season coming up.

LSS Banned & Restricted Announcement
So if you haven’t seen it, you should check out this article, written by the man himself. I can’t say I am shocked, but I am definitely surprised given the timing. I think this is the first that I have ever seen a card banned before a set is officially released. My initial thoughts were props to LSS for owning up to their mistake and being completely transparent with why they were making the ban. I think it would have been easy for them to make an excuse to maintain their pride/ego, but they were humble enough to own up to their fault. There are a few things that I wanted to highlight in the article though:

  1. They mentioned nerfing Chane before release via considerations such as lower intellect, less health, no arsenal, etc. I think the lack of arsenal would have been a good fix since then Chane does not have access to the effects of Plunder Run. They also mentioned that Seeds of Agony and Rift Binds were reduced in cost. Having Seeds of Agony cost 1 might have allowed the card to still stay in the format. Without Seeds, it does indirectly affect a lot of Chane’s other BD cards.
  2. “We put too much focus on balancing Chane for Monarch booster draft during development at the cost of CC in particular.” This is a bit worrying to me because from the get go, they have indicated that this game is designed for CC and that is the premier format.
  3. Duskblade was put in after the fact, was not subjected to CC testing, and was a callback to Monarch. When I play games, I like to immerse myself in the theme and lore of the world. I did find it very odd that you had some Runeblade cards in TOA that did not look like they fit. Cards like Sigil of Suffering, Spellbound Creepers, Duskblade, they all looked out of place in the set. But now with this article, it does shed light as to how Duskblade made it in. Perhaps there was no space left in Monarch, but I feel like it would have been something you could have added in a supplemental set instead. You have the vibrant scenery of Aria in this set, and then you get the really dark looking Runeblade cards that yank you out of that region. Again, the comment of adding a card late and not subjected to testing feels odd and the weapon itself does not fit Briar very well either.

Worries aside, it takes a lot for a company to come forward like this, so we have to give credit here. I’ve played Hearthstone before where they would take months before they would even consider banning/restricting/modifying a card. Cardboard card games do not have the luxury of rewriting code and modifying a card, providing a temporary period of time to get a full refund of the digital card. LSS made this change with the upcoming Nationals in mind to give players enough time to still test the new field. There are not many companies that are outright and forthcoming like this, as most companies will just opt to save face instead. What will determine the success of this company and game is how they learn from this going forward, which they have reiterated in the article. They have given me a game that I am passionate about so I will continue to have faith in them. It is just simply impossible to balance a game within a small team versus the public mass. There will always be something broken found; it is simply the nature of card games. It’ll be interesting to see what the next banned announcement will be, as there was a small excerpt at the bottom:

Header image: Lexi, LiveWire by Frederico Musetti

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