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pacovf

The problem with "combo" cards

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pacovf    571

I started writing a very long post, and realized that my point was just getting lost in it. So let me condense it to the important points:

- Combo decks need two pieces: cards that give combo, and cards that spend combo. 

- Because combo expires at the end of your turn, you have to draw both kind of cards on the same turn to make use of combo (with some exceptions).

- None of the combo cards currently in the game (producers or consumers) are good cards by themselves.*

- Very few of the combo cards have enough payoff to justify their drawbacks.

 

In practice, what this means is that you need to hit a very high critical mass of both kind of combo cards before adding more of them stops making your deck *worse*. And, even when you get there, the payoff is not that impressive compared to other deck archetypes that are easier to achieve. Compare to the discard deck: you also want two types of cards, those that discard, and those that want you to discard; the difference is that there are many discard cards that are very good even by themselves (footwork, adapt, shroke skin, bedlam...), and that the cards that the cards that reward you for discarding give great rewards (windup, the bleed whip, into the shadows, the two defense ones...).

Right now, the only way to make a combo deck work is with Inside fighting, because it's the only way to negate most of the issues that combo decks have: all of your attack cards give combo, so you don't need to stuff your deck with (bad) combo-giving cards, and you will almost always have a source of combo when you draw a combo-consumer. And then you can only put the high-payout combo cards in your deck, which is basically limited to Blade flurry, Shoulder Roll, and Carve, which makes for a very powerful deck. Switch blade is another card that really likes Inside fighting, but unless you are planning to go infinite, you shouldn't be building your deck around it. But it's problematic that a whole deck archetype relies on you getting a specific 2-cost Rare card...

 

I don't know what the devs were planning with "combo", but if the idea was to reward playing many cards in a single turn... well, cards like Rebound and Slice do that much better, fit into many more decks than something like "Blade Flurry", and even their worst case scenario is competitive with upgraded starter cards.

Also, can we please change the name of "combo" to something that doesn't have an established meaning in card games? Any of "momentum", "'flow", "focus", and I am sure there's many others, would be preferable, while having similar connotations.

 

*I consider a card to be good value if it's better than an upgraded starter card, otherwise I am just diluting my deck for no gain. This usually means a straight damage card has to deal at least 6 damage for 1 action, and a defense card has to give 5 defense (boosted feint would be better, but feints take forever to upgrade). If they give less value than that, then their utility has to compensate for it. No combo card beats that baseline, and it turns out that (without Inside fighting), there's very few ways to spend a standard 3 actions turn with combo cards that go very high above it either.

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Therlun    20

I completely agree.

I never get combo to work in any of my games. In the last five runs I tried hard to force a combo archetype just to see it in action but it never really worked out. Sure, occasionally I get a 15 damage attack card in but it's not really worth all the effort and all the turns where I don't get the pieces and have to play with weak cards.

Bleed as it's weakest is still some piercing damage and the gradual reduction means you have several turns to use your bleed utilizers.
Even with two cards combo isn't that amazing most of the time. You really need exactly the right 3-4 ones to pull off a good result.

With the very random nature of gaining cards a combo deck is too difficult to assemble, too difficult to pull off and much too weak in 90% of the scenarios where you don't get the exact right card combination.

Some suggestions:

- Combo stays until you play a non-attack card or a finisher.

- All attacks always give one combo. Combo giving cards just give additional combo. Finishers aren't dead cards as often this way.

- Each combo related card is both a generator and a finisher at the player's choice. Might be annoying to have too many "choose one" menus though, also might be too much card text. But it would allow giving the combo cards some real character and punch and put it near "discard" in deck building difficulty.

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I agree. Combo synergy needs too much work, for little compensation. It's a much higher-risk (to achieve) kind of deck, without any benefit over the others.

The fact that combo are lost at the end of the turn is problematic because you need to be lucky enough to draw finishers and combo builders at same time.

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2 hours ago, Therlun said:

Combo stays until you play a non-attack card or a finisher.

I agree that Combo needs a buff, and this seems like the easiest way to do that. This would require nerfing most (if not all) Finisher cards and slight reworks of some other cards, but that seems like an acceptable sacrifice. The main reason I like this suggestion is that it doesn't require you to build your entire deck around Combo cards. As it is (at least on higher Prestige levels), the only way to build a successful Combo deck is to only add good Combo cards and remove most cards that don't have something to do with this strategy, and there's rarely enough removal options for that.

More importantly, this kind of archetype-focused deckbuilding is less interesting than Slay the Spire's fluid design. If you've played enough Slay the Spire (or watched some Jorbs), you know that that game is less about archetypes and more about building a deck that can survive any combat situation. You always need some sort of scaling, AoE, card draw, counters, and finishers, and then you just build your deck around what the game gives you. In Griftlands, that means you should be able to start off building a Combo deck, but then switch to another strategy after getting a key card/graft or two, leaving your existent Combo set as a kind of secondary damage dealer. Right now, that's pretty much impossible.

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pacovf    571

I would say that, aside from combo decks or counter decks, Griftlands is not a whole lot more focused on archetypes than Slay the Spire. Or at least I do just fine by mostly getting the good cards that come my way. Another difference with Slay the Spire is that in Griftlands you have a lot more control over which fights you get into, and you can run away from fights, so you don’t need to build a deck that can beat everything. Just the bosses.

That being said, I fully agree that “combo” decks are too restrictive right now.

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I also appreciate that griftlands is focused on chaining cards, I'm addicted to that aspect!

My slay the spire experience is very limited, but having two decks breaks the repetitiveness of the game

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An example of a great card in the combo deck is combination (gains bonus damage for each combo and gives two combo). On my play through of prestige 5 i ended up getting 5 of these in my deck and if your lucky enough to get a one of the combo grafts, then you will deal just a insane amount of damage from these cards alone. I practically flew through prestige 5 on this alone didn't even need any finisher cards :D.

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That makes sense given the state of combos, you are basically playing "combos" without combos (you use always the same type of card, stacking with itself).

Combo, suggests that you should chain different cards, but right now is very hard and doesn't yield supreme results

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SoM    46
2 hours ago, Excaliber41b said:

An example of a great card in the combo deck is combination (gains bonus damage for each combo and gives two combo). On my play through of prestige 5 i ended up getting 5 of these in my deck and if your lucky enough to get a one of the combo grafts, then you will deal just a insane amount of damage from these cards alone. I practically flew through prestige 5 on this alone didn't even need any finisher cards :D.

I feel like that's an outlier because that card by itself reaches critical mass.

Since cards in general are costly, spending at least 2 actions to do a combo/finisher means you are committing a lot to what those cards do instead of reacting to the situation. Like literally the first combo card you unlock (Cross) is 2 cost. You are not going to be able to draw and increase your chance of getting a Finisher card in your hand in most circumstances, and it's a terrible card on its own (2 cost for 3-6 damage). 

Plus, since the starter cards are terrible, you really want to have a few high value cards asap, and that usually means picking non-combo cards. In a sense, trying to construct a combo deck is like actively sabotaging your own chance of success.

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I agree with most of these points. ive found on most of my play throughs that combo cards dont combo well with each other. Having 3 or so combo cards is enough and only a specific few are even worth touching. The ability or graft to gain combo on attack feels necessary for combo. Maybe if some combo cards could improvise attack cards or a card that improvises a finisher then expends could be fun.

I have had fun with combo cards though. The attack a random enemy for each card in hand with the ability and the defense finisher card for crazy amounts of defense leading into an offensive finisher in the next turn was pretty wild.

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3 hours ago, SoM said:

Like literally the first combo card you unlock (Cross) is 2 cost. You are not going to be able to draw and increase your chance of getting a Finisher card in your hand in most circumstances, and it's a terrible card on its own (2 cost for 3-6 damage)

 I agree that cross is pretty bad on its face and is super risky to take early on when building your deck especially since the card Stomp basically does the same damage and you can play it for free if you have combo already accumulated. I always see cards like those as late day 2 or day 3 pick ups as by then you know what you deck can handle. However the common and basic card pick up for combo can be really good even if picked up early cause you always have fighting dirty or Sal's daggers in your starting deck.

I finished a play through again and tried to use combo cards for the most part and was pretty successful. The finisher cards aren't even needed though as i never use them and tend not to have any problems at all. Ill post the combo deck i just built so you can see.

Combodeck1.thumb.png.b2c964df2a48c6d4c48b5bd80ebec9bd.png

Combodeck2.png

ComboDeckAssasin.png

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pacovf    571

Combination is probably the combo card that is closest to being good as-is, that's true. And Finishing strike is surprisingly decent for an upgraded starter card, if you want to go combo. Yet I still don't think your deck works if you don't get Inside Fighting offered to you, which is a symptom of the issue with combo decks right now.

Just to illustrate, if I got Boulder Stance, Rebound and the Quick Charge graft offered by the end of day 2, I would just be focusing on those, and have a much easier time with the rest of the run.

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BanditR3D    6

Just finished a run (Prestige 5) where I ran a 39 card deck with 4 stomps, 2 combinations, echo strike, 3 stuns, and a bunch of card draw.  It had no grafts to support combo and I passed on inside fighting when given the opportunity.

Honestly, it was just a super aggressive deck that was lack strong defense.  I made sure I had buddies at the end fight by stock piling money, and it worked quite well.  I don't think combo is bad, but I generally stay away from finishers.  Combo seems to work best when creating small synergies throughout the deck as long as you can keep drawing cards to keep the bullets flying.  

Combo is far from the best deck, and it works better as a complimentary piece.  

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1 hour ago, BanditR3D said:

Combo is far from the best deck, and it works better as a complimentary piece.  

Agree with this completely. Some crazy stuff can come from the combo cards even if they aren't your focus. I've had the 2 cost card that hits random targets for each card in hand with inside fighting and shoulder roll. Had literally 50+ defense going on with those cards in my hand.

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pacovf    571
2 hours ago, BanditR3D said:

Just finished a run (Prestige 5) where I ran a 39 card deck with 4 stomps, 2 combinations, echo strike, 3 stuns, and a bunch of card draw.  It had no grafts to support combo and I passed on inside fighting when given the opportunity.

I honestly think your deck would have been better off without the Stomps, Combinations and Echo strikes. And I don't even know what else your deck had in it, besides that you didn't have Inside Fighting.

The game is not very hard. As long as you pick your fights, convince people to help you for the bosses, and don't get attacked by wild beasts later on, you are pretty much guaranteed to win. Even with a mediocre combat deck on the harder prestige levels.

 

1 hour ago, TheCoolestFool said:

Agree with this completely. Some crazy stuff can come from the combo cards even if they aren't your focus. I've had the 2 cost card that hits random targets for each card in hand with inside fighting and shoulder roll. Had literally 50+ defense going on with those cards in my hand.

Well yes, but that's Inside Fighting doing the heavy lifting. That one card, and that one alone, makes combo cards viable.

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BanditR3D    6

Inside Fighting is a crutch. It has good power, but if I cannot get it early in a run, I will avoid it. 2 cost late in a run for a non-upgraded version feels like I am playing behind and will have a subpar turn. With the way damage progresses in late game fights, I can't typically throw away a turn just to get online. The deck has to work without Inside Fighting or get Inside Fighting early enough to have it upgraded and built around. 

Combo decks are about "action efficiency." If you are reducing the costs of cards and gaining more attacks/actions per turn, then you are succeeding with combo. If you are only playing 3 or 4 cards a turn at full cost, your combo deck is not efficient and you will be behind most fights. 

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Sometimes i just grab inside fighting just for the upgraded version of sal's daggers. The aoe on the shroog fight is handy sometimes. Then ill just pick my favorite combo cards afterwards if they show up. It be nice if there were stronger combo cards that retained combo till next turn so inside fighting wasn't needed to make combo feel good.

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pacovf    571

So since clearly I should be doing something else, here's the buffs I think non-upgraded Combo cards need before they are competitive without Inside fighting:

 

Rain of blades (from Sal's combo daggers): either it drops the "Finisher" tag and consumes a single point of combo to power up, or it starts at 4 damage and has its damage increase by one point per combo.

Combination: this is fine as is.

Cross: make it cost 1, reduce the damage spread to 2-5. I don't think the concept works at 2 actions.

Echo strike: eh. Return to hand is too strong an effect to buff this. I guess it has to stay as is, and remain a niche card. It's kind of unfortunate because combo decks don't really support that niche. Would be much better if it returned to the top of your deck instead of your hand, and had a moderate damage boost (4-6).

Hilt bash: Gains combo for every card you've played this turn instead.

Chamber: either gain 5 defense or apply 4 defense. The current "gain 3 defense" is too little.

Stomp: eeeeh, could use a slight damage increase and less xp to upgrade, but it might already be ok in a deck that can produce combo reliably.

Switch blade: base version deals 1-3 damage. Wound upgrade deals only 1 damage but guarantees the wound. Damage upgrade deals 3 damage.

Haymaker: base damage of 5, or 4-7, *at least*. It's not a great way to spend your combo.

Blade Fury: this is fine as is.

Follow-through: cost 0, spend up to 2 combo to gain twice as much next turn. This really wants to cost 0.

Sneak attack: either make it piercing damage or really boost the damage, something like 8-18. The current 6-12 is way too low, and a terrible way to spend your combo.

Carve: could use a slight damage increase, but is fine as is.

Breather: Gain 3 defense. Spend up to 3 combo: play this card again per combo spent. This is easily the worst combo card right now. The only situation in which you would want this over Shoulder Roll is if you have zero combo, and 2 defense for 1 action is baaaaaaad.

Shoulder roll: fine as is, but might become too strong if combo generation becomes easier.

Inside Fighting: might need to be toned down in power if other combo cards get stronger. Either limit the maximum combo gained per turn with it, or limit the total amount of combo it produces before it "turns off". The second version could cost 1 and not expend, and be uncommon instead of rare.

Reversal (from experimental): gain 2 counter per combo, instead of 1.

The other two experimental cards are good once upgraded, somewhat less so beforehand. I would reduce their xp costs.

 

Something else that could be taken advantage of is the "sticky" keyword. That would work great with either a combo producer or a finisher. Actually, more the former than the latter, we have a lot more ways to spend combo than to produce it right now.

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