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 Post subject: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 07:03 
SG Tournament Winner
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Taxing is a poor mechanic.

It allows scrolls to have effects that are unbalanced for their costs the first time they gets played. This leads to a frontloading of the power of individual scrolls by transferring card effiency from the later plays of the scroll to the early plays. In the cases where the game doesn’t last long, this is a straight up buff and makes the entire scroll hard to balance.

As Taxing makes it especially beneficial to cast scrolls one or twice per game, scrolls with similar effects will step in to take the slots left by cutting one or two copies of the scrolls with Taxing, leaving the overpowered scroll with Taxing to be superefficient every time it is drawn and making the game more swingy depending on if you draw the unbalanced version or the fair replacement. This problem will compound over time as more sets are released, introducing effects similar to those already existing on Taxing scrolls and increasing redundancy in the decks.

The dangers of a frontloaded environment

An extreme case of frontloaded power would be the restricted list in Magic (http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Re ... sfrvintage) for the Vintage format (where you can play with every single Magic card printed) where every competitive deck in the format commonly dedicate about somewhere between 20-30 slots to single copies of cards on the restricted list which eats in to deck building a lot and allows cards in the format that weren’t balanced with four copies in deck, but also aren’t really balanced with one copy of it either.

Granted, Magic might be a special case because of its 20+ year history but is also an example of a situation that Scrolls doesn’t need to end up in. With Scrolls being a digital game, cards can get nerfed on the fly to make sure that their power level is not oppressive to newer cards getting played. Taxing however, is creating a safe zone for overpowered cards to exist with effect at costs they are not balanced at, potentially paving way for a format where you can play low counts of extremely powerful scrolls and get a lot of discounted effects this way which would again eat into deck building options and deck variety.

Case study: GO Draw and GD Control in patch 0.124

GO Draw (example decklist: http://www.scrollsguide.com/deckbuilder/#12868) was hurt a lot by Taxing 2 getting added to Quake in patch 0124. This is in large part due to the deck having very little redundancy for removal and relying heavily on Quake. On the other hand, it’s not really Taxing with its very specific hate towards deck cycling that killed the deck - almost any change to the power level of Quake would have destroyed that deck. This is completely fine by the way, GO Draw doesn’t have to be powerful for the metagame to be fun and healthy.

However, putting Taxing on Quake did very little to affect the power level of another big cycling deck – GD Control.

GD Control was perhaps the most nerfed deck of 0.124 with Taxing added to Quake, Damning Curse and Return to Nature as well as the change to Puppet Soldier that rendered it useless in the deck. However, the deck is still very much alive and functioning, I’ve tested a tweaked build for patch 0.124 (http://www.scrolldier.com/deck/442) in Ranked and am 8-0 so far with it. Don’t take that as a sign that the deck is overpowered, but it might be an indicator that the nerfs were ineffective.

In my opinion, this is largely because of how ineffective Taxing is at hitting decks that have redundancy, draw and resource ramping and how dangerous it is to frontload the power of individual scrolls to the first few plays of them.

In my new build that plays only two Quakes, Quake was actually buffed in the last patch because of the cost change! Quake at 5 is insanely powerful. Here, the scroll was frontloaded even further with Taxing 2 “justifying” a cost decrease.

Same thing with Damning Curse, close to the only true “Destroy” effect that is left in the game after Violent Dispersal was nerfed. This scroll laughs in the face of Magic Armor and is clearly undercosted at 4 Decay. Still, it is a fine play even at 5 or 6 resources since this play would come later in the game where resources matters less for decks like GD Control which has the draw and ramp to have enough resources where costs almost become moot at that point. Again, curbing the power level of Damning Curse would be easier if Taxing was taken off and the scroll was rebalanced to be fine at its first play, second play, third play and so on.

Notice that I still play 3 Return to Nature, despite it having Taxing. It turns out that an early Return to Nature is fantastic at only two Decay but later on the cost increase from Taxing is insignificant – the effect is still powerful and if the game went long enough for it to cost 5-6, the deck has already won. Return to Nature is probably too powerful at 2 Decay and should get changed, and the inefficient Taxing nerf is now blocking that change.

It would be better to remove Taxing from the game and to change the effects of individual scrolls to be balanced in the first place, and instead have the natural progression of the game make the effect less significant over time – a Quake on turn 6 or 7 is naturally more impactful than a Quake on turn 20 where the other player can recover from it more easily due to having more resources available to cast more scrolls with higher power than in the early parts of the game.

Complexity creep

Finally, I think that the Taxing mechanic in itself is unnecessarily complicated – it requires players to not only identify the cost of scrolls by glancing at their art (which is the most common way of identification in any ccg for experienced players) but also having to doublecheck their cost to plan their turn accordingly or having to keep this information in your head. Regardless, they are spending mental resources on admin rather than on analyzing real decisions in the game.

This is made even worse in a topdecking situation – for you to make an informed decision of what to sacrifice for the turn, you need to remember the current costs of your Taxing spells without any visual clues from the game whatsoever unless you have another copy of the scroll already in hand. This is just unnecessary bookkeeping and does nothing to contribute to the fun of the game, instead it uses mental resources from the player that could be put to better use.

For beginners, I definitely don’t think that Taxing is something they should have to put any mental effort to as they are striving to get better at the game. Every new keyword or mechanic in itself does increase the complexity of the game and should not be added without this careful consideration (see New World Order in Magic for a case where this problem which was hurting the growth game a lot was identified and dealt with). On top of being another mechanic and keyword to keep track of, Taxing just so happens to be even more taxing on the mind than most other mechanics.

TLDR?

Remove Taxing from the game. It will not scale over time as more scrolls increases the redundancy of deck. It doesn’t adequately fulfil the task it was presumably added to perform – hurting the late game power level of control decks.

Rebalance the scrolls that currently has Taxing.

And remember to take care of each other.

Much love,
Sysp
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 07:20 
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A great explanation (and better than anything I could have tried) of what I'm thinking since the first suggestion about taxing.

All aboard the taxing hate train !

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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 09:57 
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Very informative and well written; you've obviously given this much thought. I, personally did not; just swapped quakes for frost gales in my late-game growth and changed absolutely nothing about the way I incorporate damning curse into a deck or in the way in which I play it.

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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 10:45 
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Great write-up, but I don't agree with your conclusions. Taxing set out to reduce "unfun" elements without having to drastically changhe effect of the scrolls in question, and in that sense it has very much worked. GD Sweeper decks, or more accurately, complaints regarding them plummeted with the introduction of this trait. Sure, they might still be playable, but you're also a great player so I wouldn't translate your success with this deck into overall viability of it.

The pseudo buff to quake in turn in mono-growth decks has on the otherhand made it more frequently played in my experience since the rise of Gaggro, without returning us to the old days of guaranteed board resets for mid-range.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 10:45 
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Yup. And aside from the handful of such decks you mentioned, Taxing was introduced pretty much as soon as we saw the consequences of wild. The abundance of rampy and cantrip removal scrolls saw deck cycling stall decks become broken, and so they added this blanket mechanic to powerful scrolls. The core mechanics need to be fixed.

Taxing by its very own definition is compensation for a lack of balance! Why is it being used on a completely controllable digital game???

I spoke about Taxing at length in this post about wild http://www.redd.it/288kd8 , and Mans did say he agreed, so maybe that's a good sign?
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 11:01 
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Very well analyzed Sysp!

While I agree with almost everything you've said it's important to keep in mind that taxing could be balanced but they didn't implemented well in the game. Taxing mechanic is in some sense similar to unique trait where you're kind of limiting (unique is a real limitation while taxing is an attempt) the quantity of scrolls played (or in the field) with that ability. So it's obvious that if quake had taxing 99 you only will see one quake played in all the game but they instead reduced the cost and added taxing 2 which is not that huge. If quake stays at 6 cost but with taxing 3 or even 4 that would make a real difference and the same with Damning Curse that with taxing 1 it doesn't make that huge difference because you're ramping as the game progresses so taxing should be higher. So, from my point of view taxing could be balanced but they were scared to make real taxing values that were relevant as the game progresses. A powerful scroll can be balanced if it spends all your resources so you can't play anything else but with the small amount of taxing they added didn't solve that problem.

Don't get me wrong now! I agree with you and taxing is probably not the best solution and a very dangerous trait because of everything you've said.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 11:28 
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Agreed: it is an inelegant attempt at discouraging cards that were strong but never fundamentally OP to begin with.

Scrolls is a beautifully straightforward game that allows for incredibly subtle and complex strategical (deckbuilding) and tactical (ingame) play. Introducing clumsy mechanics to control unwanted side-effects from other introductions is not the way to go.
=> Patch the things that create the problem, not the things that were fine.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 13:17 
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It seems that all these new traits are causing problems. I didn't think about it much at its first release, but I can definitely see the problems at least Taxing causes.

In a game like Scrolls where board presence is king, it's almost always better to sacrifice some late-game potential for some early game power. Taxing does exactly that, but with something wrong. The player isn't forced to play a taxed scroll, thus they can gain extremely high efficiently by simply playing a scroll with Taxing a few times then sacrificing it whenever else. I've seen similar aspects with the Striped Fangbear and the Blightbearer where the supposed penalty for being stronger fails to perform its purpose and such ends up being a loophole power boost.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 14:08 
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My god i love you Sysp :3 Great post amazing arguments well presented and nice format for the overall post. Love it
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 14:15 
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Thank God there are still smart people around :)

Great post.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 14:43 
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I think it's a 100% vote against taxing so far.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 15:12 
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Wow - all you write makes sense, but something within me still wants to argue.

I was very skeptical about taxing at first, but in the end I just ignore it; OP Draw-decks have vanished mostly (for whatever reason).

To sum it up: can it be there just is no problem with taxing, or the scrolls that have it?
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 16:24 
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I am just going to post here that I am also in favor of removing taxing from the game. I think it's done it's job for now, but it is unhealthy for the game in the long term. Originally, i was a big supporter of Taxing. But now, I just don't like it. And that was before I read this post and realized that Taxing actually limits future design space like this.
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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 18:57 
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I have to say I love how you can make an argument and support it. I completely agree that taxing seems like a poor mechanic. However, I do like the fact that they are trying to change and fix certain powerhouse scrolls. But taxing does not seem to be the answer.

PS. why did they need to nerf VD?

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 Post subject: Re: Why I believe Taxing should not exist in Scrolls
PostPosted: July 15th, 2014, 19:00 
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valhalla wrote:
I have to say I love how you can make an argument and support it. I completely agree that taxing seems like a poor mechanic. However, I do like the fact that they are trying to change and fix certain powerhouse scrolls. But taxing does not seem to be the answer.

PS. why did they need to nerf VD?

The Violent Dispersal change was less of a nerf and more of a change to establish more distinct resource type philosophies - Energy being about brute, but inefficient damage.
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