Akama Prime and overvalued abilities

  • AngryShuckie's Avatar 1145 1096 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago

    Akama - and more to the point Akama Prime (AP) - is a card that I have wanted to find interesting for the last year, but it has always been underwhelming. I'm hoping that by writing all my thoughts down I can begin to understand why, and then better understand card design too.

    As a 3 mana 3/4 stealth, the first body is a solid card by all accounts, and certainly in the same league as the first bodies of the other prime cards. If anything it is better than most of the primes' first bodies because stealth denies the opponent the ability to remove the minion before it accomplishes something, and isn't situational like rush or spell damage.

    The problem arises with the prime version of Akama. All the prime cards were designed to be bonkers strong, and something you couldn't print as a normal minion. Where the other prime cards achieve this with a hefty block of text detailing a fancy effect, Akama takes a more succinct and elegant approach by simply switching out 'stealth' for 'permanently stealthed', which we know from adventures can be very powerful. I have no doubt that if AP was a collectible card, it would indeed be bonkers strong.

    So where's the problem? I think it is that the odds of drawing Akama twice by turn 6 are tiny, even in rogue. Statistics tell us you need to be ~75% of the way through your deck on average to draw AP, by which point you're probably long past turn 6. If you're against aggro or playing aggro yourself, the game is probably over before you see AP, so it is only worth evaluating against slow decks, and therein lies the issue: most slow decks have a way to deal with a 5 health stealthed minion.

    Even when they cannot remove it immediately, AP still takes a whole turn before it can attack and show off the permanence of its stealth, and it probably has to attack at least twice before people it becomes interesting, making AP really, really slow. Compare that to the other primes, all of whom have much faster effects except Reliquary Prime, but at least that has a set of stats and abilities that make it more likely to achieve something significant right away.

    The end result is that AP is in practice only marginally better than a 6 mana 6/5 stealth, a stat-line that can conveniently be compared to two cards that have been around in the Classic set since 2014: Stranglethorn Tiger and Ravenholdt Assassin. I think the tiger did see a tiny bit of play in druid at one point, but that's about all these two ever did in constructed. So AP sitting between them makes it seem like AP is actually just a bad card on its own. I'd say he's weaker than MSoG's attempt at this sort of effect (Lotus Assassin), and you can run 2 of those without any worries about shuffling them first.

    Am I contradicting myself? First I say I think AP is a bonkers card, then a bad one? Again, timing is everything. If you could play AP on turn 6 and have him be part of a wider plan to pressure the opponent, then he's great. But if you have him on turn 14, when your opponent has stabilised or you are playing a deck that doesn't put on much pressure, then he doesn't do very much.

    The (flawed) logic behind the design

    It's quite easy to see how AP was made the way he was. Not only does it look cool and powerful at first glance (the community rated Akama quite highly), but we've seen first hand how powerful permanent stealth can be in adventures.

    It's also notable that the prime mechanics (deathrattle and shuffle) are both things rogue had synergies for, and it stands to reason that rogue would have an easier time abusing primes than other classes. Stowaway in particular seems to alleviate the slow draw of AP. The trouble with the Stowaway solution is that you still need to have drawn both Akama and a Stowaway, and you have to be playing a fairly slow deck to justify him when you don't see Akama.

    The fix

    Fixing AP is simple: give him more health. I'd lean towards 7 to put him just out of range of modern Flamestrike +1 spell damage (which is so common and cheap in mage today that it's pretty much always going to be there). That way it makes 1 more class have to work to remove him, but makes almost no difference to classes that couldn't kill him to begin with, or who have un-targeted hard removal. It also gives him the opportunity to trade into a taunt minion without being reduced to piddly health that can be removed by small AoE.

    The design lessons

    We already know a card's power depends strongly on when it is drawn and played. This is doubly true for uncollectible cards that are shuffled into your deck. So the lesson is to ensure such a card is a good late game card at bare minimum. It doesn't matter how good it is as an early-to-mid game card if it's almost never going to be drawn then.

    6
  • YourPrivateNightmare's Avatar Bloodfeather 1375 2698 Posts Joined 03/25/2019
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago

    I don't really see the point in buffing Akama Prime. If he was actually playable he would just be insanely frustrating to deal with and be yet another instance of "you queued up with the wrong class buckarooo".

    Akama was intentionally designed in such a way that most (if not all) classes have a limited ability to deal with him. As such he couuld be viewed as sort of a tech choice if you need to get an edge against a specific deck that can't deal with him.

    Right now you could, if you wanted, try to use him in Secret Rogue to have a guaranteed win condition against Paladin. Paladin has no way of killing stealthed minions (unless they start running Equality Consecreate). In this Scenario managing to get out Akama Prime wouuld allow you to spend all your stuff on removing minions while you keep beating their face in with a minion they can never remove. Same applies to Rush Warrior.

    At the same time he'll be much weaker in a Mage, Priest or Warlock matchup.

     

    He's a balanced card as is purely because of the fact that he isn't good enough to just be run without justification.

    I tried having fun once.

    It was awful.

    0
  • allthehype's Avatar Crossroads Historian 510 619 Posts Joined 07/26/2019
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago

    Akama feels good to drop most of the times, especially on curve. His prime, however, is often awkward to play because at later turns you want more immediate impact for 6 mana. The few times I made him stick he's extremely helpful, but that's not very often. 

    0
  • AngryShuckie's Avatar 1145 1096 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago
    Quote From YourPrivateNightmare

    I don't really see the point in buffing Akama Prime. If he was actually playable he would just be insanely frustrating to deal with and be yet another instance of "you queued up with the wrong class buckarooo".

    I fully appreciate he would be frustrating if commonly played because some classes have no real options for dealing with him (although neutral options do exist). However, that's a bit of a non-issue because all the classes that struggle to remove him can easily win games before he is drawn, and even more easily win after their opponent spends 6 mana on a minion that does nothing immediately, and not very much the turn(s) afterwards. So he's balanced for those match-ups by how long it takes to get up and running.

    A good comparison is Rattlegore. He's another card that many classes just cannot deal with without playing a weak neutral tech card. And he's much easier to play at a relevant time than Akama Prime, especially with Commencement around. But does anyone complain about Rattlegore? No. So I just don't buy that making AP a 6/7 would cause any problems.

    Quote From Author
    He's a balanced card as is purely because of the fact that he isn't good enough to just be run without justification.

    Here's the problem: the best justification for it atm is that you want the normal 3 mana 3/4. You don't even want to draw the prime version a lot of the time because he's genuinely weaker than most other cards in the deck. Whether that's healthy or not, it flies in the face of what the prime cards were meant to be, and certainly leaves space for a health buff without him causing trouble.

    0
  • YourPrivateNightmare's Avatar Bloodfeather 1375 2698 Posts Joined 03/25/2019
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago

    fair enough

    I tried having fun once.

    It was awful.

    0
  • sinti's Avatar Global Moderator Barrens Sleuth 1830 2292 Posts Joined 10/20/2018
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago
    Quote From AngryShuckie

    A good comparison is Rattlegore. He's another card that many classes just cannot deal with without playing a weak neutral tech card. And he's much easier to play at a relevant time than Akama Prime, especially with Commencement around. But does anyone complain about Rattlegore? No. So I just don't buy that making AP a 6/7 would cause any problems.

    While i understand where you are coming from, the comparison is not as close as you want to make it out to be. Having or not having the option to silence the problem card is a pretty big difference imho.

    Forged in the Barrens GuideCore Set 2021 - Year of the GryphonHearthstone Mercenaries
    ~ Have an idea? Found a bug? Let us know! ~
    ~ Join us on Discord ~

    1
  • AngryShuckie's Avatar 1145 1096 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 1 week, 4 days ago
    Quote From sinti
    Quote From AngryShuckie

    A good comparison is Rattlegore. He's another card that many classes just cannot deal with without playing a weak neutral tech card. And he's much easier to play at a relevant time than Akama Prime, especially with Commencement around. But does anyone complain about Rattlegore? No. So I just don't buy that making AP a 6/7 would cause any problems.

    While i understand where you are coming from, the comparison is not as close as you want to make it out to be. Having or not having the option to silence the problem card is a pretty big difference imho.

    Fair point, although I would counter it by saying that, unlike Rattlegore, you don't really need to silence Akama Prime. You just need to find some way to do destroy him once, either through chipping his health down or hard removal. There are several neutral options in both directions, and from experience AP damages himself by taking trades quite often, so we should not ignore the potential contribution from any old minion, especially those with taunt.

    Perhaps more importantly though, most slow decks don't need to run any tech cards to deal with AP because they already have answers by default. So there isn't even a need for tech cards like there is with Rattlegore. 

    In the end, experience shows that AP is just too easy to remove at the time he is played, which is a shame for a card whose entire purpose is to be difficult to remove. I'm fine with 'weak but cool' cards - they are my HS bread and butter! - but AP dies so often that you quickly come to doubt the 'cool' part.

    0
  • Leave a Comment

    You must be signed in to leave a comment. Sign in here.

    Remove Ads - Go Premium