Let me preface this with one thing: I hope I am wrong. I truly do. In patch 1.11, DC got another change with the hopes of easing its impact on the arena without making it unusable. I really appreciate that Ludia wants to fix the DC problem, but I think this change only makes it more of a problem.
I come from a long background in a card game called Magic: the Gathering. Some of you may be familiar with it, but for those that aren’t, it’s a highly competitive game played worldwide with players making a living off of tournament winnings, writing articles, and/or selling cards. It also has an economy to it that make the P2W complaints about JWA seem trivial at best, but that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, there are often times where a certain deck is over represented in the meta. If it gets bad enough, one or more cards may get banned from play. It may be an overly powerful card, but it could also be a very efficient utility card that requires other players to build their own deck around defeating. I see DC as the latter of those.
What is the Problem With DC?
When I started playing JWA at the beginning of this year, DC has Swap-In Defense Shattering Rampage. This was definitely overpowered. It was basically a huge unstoppable hit that came out of nowhere. It always did the same amount of damage so it was easy to memorize one number and just swap in your DC when the opponent was below that HP threshold. Not to mention it can just Regen to escape. In 1.8, DSR became simply Rampage. This was a huge help because shields and armor could now give a slight disruption to this menace. But it still has the problem of coming out of nowhere and escaping to come back. Then Boosts 2.0 came out and while I love that system, it gave another indirect buff to DC. Since DC doesn’t need speed (it already has the “fastest” move in the game) and HP doesn’t matter if you’re swapping in to kill their 3rd creature, pumping 20 tiers of attack into DC is a no brainer.
So, it’s clear Ludia knows there’s an issue, but it doesn’t seem like they understand what the issue actually is from a meta perspective. The issue isn’t 100% how powerful the attack is, it’s more about how DC warps the arena around it. The best way to beat DC, in my opinion, is to draw it out early so that you can either kill it with the next creature or set up a counter for it later. This is because you need to prevent people from using DC to get the 3rd kill and “stealing” the game. But that means you have to put yourself in a position to get DC’d in the first place! Not ideal. So as long as the attack power remains significant, it’s the element of surprise that makes DC meta warping. As long as it can be used to “steal” that 3rd kill, it’s a problem.
So Why is This Nerf Actually a Buff?
On average, 40% max health is a damage nerf. Especially when you consider it doesn't pierce armor or shields. It will never be able to 1-shot a creature from full health again. But it’s still significant and does nothing to fix the “stealing” problem. So if the damage is worse and the “stealing” is the same, why is this a buff? Well, it introduces a new problem. Or rather, it amplifies an existing problem that I touched on earlier: escaping. By making the damage tied to the opponent’s max HP instead of DC’s attack, it means the clear boosting choice is 20 tier of HP. This makes DC much harder to kill and with it’s Regen skill, it will easily be able to escape to be swapped back in later. My gut reaction to this change is using DC with a team full of counter attackers in order to prevent “losing” a turn when you swap DC out. Rending counters seem especially useful for this strategy since they break the shields that DC can’t.
Does a Balanced DC Exist?
As I mentioned before, simply changing how much damage DC’s swap in ability does doesn’t fix anything. It can either steal kills or it can’t. That is to say it’s either too good or useless. Removing its Regen has a similar effect, but not so polarizing. As much as many players would like DC to just go away completely, I think it does try to fill a very unique role and deserves a properly balanced kit. But does that exist?
Personally, I can only think of one solution to DC: bleed. Some kind of Swap In Lethal Wound ability that does both normal damage and bleed. Let me break down how I see this as a solution. Bleed is the only option to “slow down” a swap in ability. When you swap in a creature with Swap In Wound, it uses that ability immediately like any swap in ability. But the damage doesn’t come until after the opposing creature gets to use whatever ability they had selected. That would mean you couldn’t use a low health DC to score that last big hit without risking the opponent’s move killing your DC as well. No more game stealing!
Now why not just use Swap In Wound and call it a day? Well, two reasons. The first is that this is completely useless against immune creatures and those are a pretty huge part of the meta right now. Like I said, we’re trying to fix DC, not make it useless. The other factor is that like the current change, it makes attack boosting effectively pointless. You’d just pump all your boosts into health and we know where that goes. So having a normal damage component solves both of those. It shouldn’t be enough to steal a game on its own, but enough to make attack boosting a viable build. Let’s give this new ability a shot:
Swap In Gore
Deal 1x Damage.
DoT 0.33x of target's max HP per turn for 1 turn.
Cannot swap for 2 turns.
A Final Plea
I foresee a very obnoxious arena ahead of us, folks. I think it’s going to be a big, miserable DC swap-fest. I’m not trying to be one of those doom and gloom “I quit” players, but the thought definitely popped into my head when I read the change. I will definitely give this an honest try and so should you, but I play games for fun. When they stop being fun, I will stop playing.
Remember if you want to provide feedback to Ludia, be courteous and constructive. Just shouting “I’M GONNA QUIT” isn’t going to solve anything. Likewise, demanding drastic measures like “Delete DC” are a waste of everyone’s time. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to give Ludia something to work with. Put some thought into what you want, what others might want, and what is best for the game as a whole. Try to be reasonable and balance those factors in your feedback.