Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pre-Orders Are Up! Also, An Article About Card Synergy

Hey guys first of all if you missed the Kickstarter, you can read all about pre-ordering Mage Tower here:


Secondly, I'm going to talk about something very important in Mage Tower- CARD SYNERGY.  Card synergy is super important in deckbuilding or deck drafting games, and Mage Tower is a little bit of both.  If building/drafting your deck is one of the main gameplay mechanics, there have to be strategic decisions involved or else you're just always picking whichever card is slightly better than the others.

So let's talk about different ways that cards can provide synergy:

#1 Cards That Provide No Synergy

Okay, theoretically every card has some synergies with other cards, but this is definitely on the low end of the spectrum.  Flame Volley is good for destroying monsters, particularly the two furthest monsters if they are both big and not angry.  But it doesn't care what other cards you have - it always does the same thing!  Synergies are created by making cards care about other cards, which creates complex interactions.

Let's talk about what happens when you have too many cards that don't have the potential for synergy.  Selecting your cards just becomes about choosing whatever card is the most efficient.  One example I'll give is the video game Diablo 3.  Building your tableau of 6 active skills and 3 passive skills is kind of like building a deck, but 90%+ of the skills don't have any synergy potential built in.  When assembling your "deck" of skills, how much different is "Drop poison on a bunch of enemies" vs. "Shoot fire at a bunch of enemies"?  vs. "Shoot arrows at a bunch of enemies" vs. "Throw grenades at a bunch of enemies"?  They all accomplish the same thing (damage a bunch of enemies), so obviously you'll just choose whichever ability is the best at that job.  This makes "deckbuilding" and choosing your skills quite boring.  If every card was like Flame Volley and didn't synergize with other cards, drafting your deck in Mage Tower would also be quite boring.

#2 Cards That Want One Card To Synergize With Them

Okay now we're getting into synergy territory, and this is the lowest level of synergy.  These cards are designed to deliberately "buddy up" with another card, and are much more powerful this way.  They may make you draft cards you wouldn't normally draft.

Forgemaster is a super blunt version of this- he wants an Equipment in your deck, and if you've got one suddenly his ability is much more efficient.  He will make you draft pretty much any equipment to do this, even if it's bad.  You may draft several Equipment just so it's more likely you'll be able to take full advantage of Forgemaster.

Juggle also wants one card to buddy up with- preferably the most powerful 4-cost card you can draft.  If you draft an above-average 4-cost card, or a 4-cost card that is really good for your particular deck,  suddenly it's like you have two of them.

#3 Cards That Synergize With An Array Of Cards

These are probably what people think of when they think of cards that provide synergy, and they can influence a huge chunk of your draft picks.  For example, if you draft Ambassador, suddenly drafting a ton of "Boon" and "Attack" cards sounds like a great idea because they will all be lower costed, which is a huge deal.

Harbinger Totem deals 3 damage for 3 energy which isn't so great, but if you have a ton of 3-cost cards he becomes 5 damage for 3 energy which is awesome.  In this game and many others, over time you start to really appreciate cards that are efficient for their cost, and Harbinger Totem is very efficient if you design your deck to let it be.

#4 Cards That Anti-Synergize With Your Opponent's Deck


Here's a whole other class of synergy you probably weren't expecting, but is actually pretty obvious.  If your opponent has a particular strategy, there are cards that your opponent doesn't want you to have in your deck.  You may be saying "Is that really synergy"?  Well, let's talk about it.

Memory Beam destroys a Permanent or Equipment an opponent controls.  If your opponent's strategy hinges on a specific Permanent or Equipment, obviously Memory Beam is awesome against them and has great "anti-synergy" with their deck.  

Fleet Battle also provides anti-synergy in a more interesting way- if your opponent's deck is based around using a lot of low cost cards and emptying their hand every turn, they probably don't have 2 cards to discard to Fleet battle, so suddenly it's a really efficient card at killing monsters that has no drawback.  If they however have a deck where their hand is always loaded with cards, suddenly Fleet Battle's synergy with the opponent's deck is in *their* favor (though it doesn't become a completely horrible card).

Treasure Goat is a lot like Fleet Battle in this sense, if the opponent's only Defender/Permanent/Equipment is the Knight in their starting deck, you're going to get way more mileage out of Treasure Goat than you would normally be able to.  If they have a ton of these cards though, Treasure Goat's synergy with their deck will be in their favor.

So as you can see, synergy can be achieved with any card that cares about other cards or players, and having a deck that completely destroys the opponent's strategy can be just as good as having a lot of cards that work together in your favor.


So is synergy good or bad?  Well, it's a tool, and in deckbuilding/drafting games it's an important tool, and it's a shame when it's ignored.  When the game designer isn't cognizant of how much synergy they're injecting into the game, often there isn't enough, or enough different kinds, and the game just kind of feels like you're picking whatever choice is the most efficient.  In Mage Tower I've definitely been very aware of how many cards of each of the above types I've provided, and tried to fill holes where needed.  The right level of synergy can create a lot of interesting back-and-forth interaction while players draft their decks.

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