Season 1 of the PvP Tournament is finally over, and with that out of the way, we are given the opportunity to sit back, relax and focus on other things -even basic things, such as eating and sleeping properly- such as analyzing the event and strategizing for the upcoming one. Whether you are overjoyed or underwhelmed with the final results, I would like to congratulate everyone and anyone who participated. Enjoy your spoils, even if those were only 100.000 silver and keep in mind that it is only a game; your life does not depend on it and it's supposed to be fun, if competitive and stressful at times.
After reading several blog posts, facebook and wiki comments regarding this season, I decided to write one of my own, mainly to present my experience during this tournament to anyone who would be interested in reading through this, point out "errors" I have noticed with the system, make suggestions and in general create a comprehensive post where readers can comment and write down their own experiences.
Please keep in mind that English is not my native language and that this blog post wasn't made to show off or troll in any way. With that in mind, let's get to it! Here's my 2 cents.
My Personal Approach to PvP
With that out of the way, I will first address the issue that is PvP for me.
I personally am not a big PvP fan in general, not just in this game. I have played several video games and explored their respective PvP aspect sooner or later; some were fun and some were not. Eventhough I certainly do not lack in competitive spirit, I find that PvP destroys aspects of what might actually be a good game as the game eventually stops being "Fun" and starts becoming "Math". I don't mind the math part in all honesty. I personally enjoy exploring the many levels a game might have; it is the attitude and elitism that ensues that bothers me. PvP tends to throw people in fits of frenzies, whether they win or lose. Sure, be a graceful loser but it helps being a graceful winner as well. The community is what keeps a game -online or not- running and when that community's attitude takes a nose dive for the worst, the game reflects badly equally on those that already play it and discourages those who are thinking about checking it out.
With that said and unaware of how this particular game's PvP worked, I avoided it with a passion since the day the first "Win X PvP Battles" popped in my task bar mainly because I was a fairly new player and I honestly doubted I could win any at that current state. It wasn't until this Season started that I actually bothered going in the PvP panel and testing the ropes. The rewards seemed nice and so I took the bait, thinking that I could at least get those 10 Gold.
Mind you, I only started playing MAA, a few days before Spec Ops 2 was released and was playing on and off since (merely because I was disappointed that I could not get Emma, who despite being a powerful heroine, is actually one of my favorite Marvel characters). My level, inventory and Hero Roster was all but optimal, but I took a leap of faith preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
So after filling my two Armory pages with whatever supplies I had on hand, which consisted of several Spec Ops 3 items, I picked two of my best heroes -or so I thought- and gave it a shot. Since I wasn't aware that I would be actually blogging about this, I cannot specify the level I was when this Season started, only that it was around level 40 with 10 or so, recruited heroes. Armed with Faultseeker and Phoenix Pinion and clad in my Dermosteel Scrapper Uniform, I was ready to brave the Danger Room!
Participating in PvP for the first time feels a lot like walking in a room full of strangers; you're shy but put a brave face on and try to work on your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. You don't know much about what's going down at the moment but you try and adapt to the situation at the best of your ability.
Adapting and experimenting is part of the learning curve and something that all players must go through if they wish to be successful in the current meta. After playing a dozen matches more or less, patterns start to emerge in the form of commonly used classes or heroes and of course, Agent weapons. These are of course very different for each different level range as higher level agents would normally have access to way more heroes and better weapons than low level ones; there are of course, exceptions to this rule.
It should be noted at this point that a factor that greatly alters the meta on this game is actually the Spec Ops, not so much for the Heroes that are given as a reward but mainly because of the items that come along with them, items that can either be equipped in your Armory page or your Agent. You could argue with me at this point that only some values change while others remain the same in terms of Heroes and Equipment and you would probably be partly right. As Season 1 was basically crammed between Spec Ops 3 and 4, there were several noticeable changes along the way.
Since I can only talk about my experience in this Tournament, I will give a few examples about how my team started off and how it changed over 20 or so levels (as I am currently level 69), adapting to what I was facing. After running a few battles and observing how the PvP AI was handling combat as well as the heroes other Agents were using, I ended up with a rather unorthodox team. My hero choices were rather limited but I would not go down without a fight.
So after being blown away several times by either War Machine or Human Torch (see Usual Suspects below) I finally decided on using heroes that could properly defend against those threats while being able to hold themselves properly in combat.
Those heroes were Sif and Ms. Marvel. The idea was pretty clear; Sif felt like a solid choice with her immunity to burning and poison since it made Faultseeker and Human Torch much less of a threat. Her powerful crits, Inspire Bravery team buff and advantage against Infiltrators would surely come in handy, plus being a Scrapper felt way safer since Bruisers that could actually hurt her were few and since most commonly used Bruisers are defensive heroes. Ms Marvel on the other hand was there to provide sustainable damage and despite her Knee Strike ability being bugged at the time, she would be able to withstand Human Torch's, War Machine's and most of Cyclops' attacks due to her Absorb Energy and Hidden Potential.
The team worked rather well, well enough at least to get me up to Gold League. Human Torch's flames were rather doused against Sif and Ms Marvel, while War Machine would become a pocket healer for the photon girl, being drawn like a moth to a flame.
But that of course was not enough. There was no real strategy to this team, other than "Survive" and the cracks started showing soon. After several level ups on my Agent, and while still in Gold League, the commonly used heroes of the current meta started emerging. War Machine gave place to Captain America or Emma Frost, while heroes such as Scarlet Witch and Mockingbird started making appearances as well. It was obvious that I had to change a few things around.
Ms Marvel apparently could not hold herself much longer in PvP battle, and it felt like being a Blaster was a bad idea in general, in a Tournament where Tacticians were commonly used, and strong, non-energy-using Tacticians at that. Sif also started feeling rather redundant over the next battles and couldn't withstand most of the things thrown at her. She didn't offer such a great advantage anymore, despite still being able to slightly hold her ground a bit more than Ms Marvel.
As I am a big fan of the X-Men, I had decided to purchase those Phoenix, Cyclops and Colossus as well as their Phoenix Five uniforms some for the looks (I find default Phoenix rather hideous) and some for their actual advantage, plus they were limited, so why not? This was done pretty fast, by 5-starring missions and spending some gold here and there, as I had no clue on how to farm Command Points at the time -which wasn't that long ago if you think about it-. With that done, I got myself a rather nice tanky hero in the form of Colossus with a very interesting passive ability to restore Health and Stamina and an immunity to burning, and a second Tactician in the form of Cyclops, that would counter Scarlet Witch and Human Torch and who would add some more passive bonuses in my PvP roster.
After some leveling up, I hit the Danger Room yet again. I was obviously doing better but not great in all honesty, barely making it to Diamond League then shortly falling back to Gold. Colossus met my expectations while his passive helped me survive quite a few battles while Cyclops proved rather useful in some situations.
However there were several problems with that team as well. I had a passive hero that actually did nothing but protect the rest of my team from single target attacks but never actually attacking, and a very suboptimal tactician that would be easily trumped by Human Torch's Plasma Body or Blazing Speed depending on which attacks I decided to use. Human Torch would eventually destroy Colossus when the AI decided to use Fireball on him and the rest of the team would soon follow. My damage output felt rather low having one character protect during the whole fight and not even be able to provide such protection against stealthy attacks from the occasional Invisible Woman or Spiderman that would send Mr. Scott Summers home crying.
At this point, I realized the superiority of some heroes and uniforms compared to those I used. Modern Colossus seemed vastly superior to Phoenix Five Colossus since he could provide some damage output while still protecting the team, something which seems like a rather good tradeoff for Guardian Force. I am not saying Guardian Force is bad; it is simply random and circumstantial. Compared to my poor 7 feet tall steel man however, WWII Captain America seemed even better, with the ability to protect against AoE attacks as well as automatically defending for a few rounds, while Inspiring his whole team, attacking first, applying debuffs, countering attacks, while still being able to pull two actions against Blasters. Yes, Phoenix Five Colossus is put to shame by World War II Captain America, but that's life and I decided to stick with Colossus for now mainly because I did not have the CPs or Gold to grab Captain and his uniform.
However, something had to be done about Cyclops. Flames of Destruction wasn't all that great and his "tactical" abilities were put to shame as well by superior Tacticians. I knew I had to fill that slot with another Tactician, one that would be able to destroy Blasters before the nibble on Colossus...
The Vibranium Team
As previously, I desperately needed someone who could destroy Human Torch before he destroys Colossus. The answer was Hawkeye, one of the first heroes players acquire and usually let him collect dust on the shelf on underused characters. And I don't really blame them; Hawkeye's abilities do not seem all that flashy or interesting but he has an advantage over some of the most overused and annoying Blasters: Human Torch and Scarlet Witch.
You have heard me complain a lot about the first one and I had my reasons to do so. I kept constantly seeing him during this tournament and the fact that he has several advantages (which are explained below). What both HT and SW have in common is the ability to Evade attacks (Blazing Speed, Reality Warping), which was rather annoying coupled with other abilities they possess (Chaos Shield, Flame On!) and the possibility of backfiring in your face (Hexed, Plasma Body, Annihlation Wave). Hawkeye solved those problems rather easily for me.
Hawkeye's Pinpoint Target is not only a Quick Action ability, but it also offered all my teammates a 100% chance to strike at their target. To make things better, Hawkeye receives an automatic critical strike against these targets. On top of that, he also possesses Trick Shot that can Stun his target for the next round. Wrapping all this up, Hawkeye would Pinpoint Target on one of these two threats and take a couple of shots at them. Sometimes they would drop in that very first round if I was lucky with the turn placement, sometimes it would take two rounds and a stun.
The team started working rather well and I climbed up to Diamond League, safeguarding my position while aiming for Vibranium. I was slightly disheartened I hadn't purchased the Avengers Hawkeye as his Cooperative Attack buff would surely help occasionally but I had to work with what I had.
With Spec Ops 4 coming out and Infernal Fangs dropping like candy, I filled my Armory Page with those (and yes I still have plenty more to go in case Frozen Hell drops), while farming Command Points in 4.4 in order to grab the heroes necessary for the Epic Boss. One of those days, I stumbled upon the Magnetic Field Generator which I automatically equipped, knowing that the protection and extra turn it provided would give me an edge.
Despite some things changing a bit due to Spec Ops 4, I found myself doing better than before, making it to Vibranium and being able to hold my position. I was tempted to buy the Quantum Jumper but I thought I'd rather save the Gold for now, just in case I run out of time with the Hero recruitment for Spec Ops 4. I also attempted to experiment with a few of the new weapons, like Soulfinder and Signpost, but despite their obvious advantages (Counter Attacks and Quick Action respectively), I found the more subtle approach of Pinion and Faultseeker better suited for me.
So with no real strategy other than "Survive at all Costs" I finished in Vibranium League with 1471 rating and here is my team:
- Generalist Agent level 69
2. Phoenix Pinion
3. Magnetic Field Generator
4. Curative Reach
- Bruiser Phoenix Five Colossus
- Tactician Hawkeye
Eventhough suboptimal, I believe I did rather well; I kept winning 4 out of 5 offensive battles, usually losing 4 out of 5 defensive battles. What struck me as rather odd was the fact that eventhough I kept being attacked 16-12 hours before the end of the Season, losing ~100 rating, things were rather safe towards the end, with only a few defensive battles occurring.
So my plans for the next season? Recruit a few more heroes and create an actual strategy other than "Survival". Feel free to comment constructively.
With this ordeal over however, there were many things that should be pointed out reagarding the meta and the PvP system in general.
The Usual Suspects
So after participating in over 900 battles during the Season, it is safe to create a list about who was most commonly used and the actual reasons behind this choice.
Yes, you knew he'd be referred to first! That little show-off gave me a serious headache during this first tournament. With his Annihilus uniform or without, Human Torch was constantly and literally in my face in 85% of the battles I've fought. The advantages of using him were obvious. His Flame On! and Blazing Speed passives added to his survivability while his Plasma Body and Cosmic Control Rod add to his damage output. On top of that his Fireball ability hits like a truck. In a Tournament were most people can use Faultseeker to induce Burning and setting up Human Torch for one big shot, it is obvious that HT would be advantageous to use him.
Very commonly used and for good reason. She can provide protection and crowd control with Force Cage, while still being able to ignore Protection abilities and striking at her intended target. Her Invisibility passive added to her survivability while her Future Foundation uniform added even more shielding to her team. On top of that, as she was commonly used with Annihilus HT who is also considered a FF member, she triggered the Future Countdown buff that could potentially be a great boost if the battle ensued for that long.
Need I say more? The Cap is one of the best if not the best hero around. His ability to go first, raise his team's stats, while defending from single target and AoE attacks, countering with Shield Bash, debuffing the enemy team and all that jazz, makes him a star in PvP with or without uniform. He's a classic and for good reason. If you want to do better in PvP, recruit him, and purchase one of his uniforms. Classics never grow old.
The White Queen of the Hellfire Club is probably the single most annoying staller around. Most of her attacks ignore protection while crowd controlling the enemy team with Migraine or Mental Trauma. Her ability to stun an opponent and increasing stats while restoring stamina, make her a great supportive character. Add on top of that the fact that her passive actually bsically makes her a tank, you have a very supportive character who can go on for several rounds. To make matters worse, her Phoenix Five uniform was epic, removing debuffs and raising stats. A gem, clearly, and one of the characters that were most complained about.
It is all random I tell you! No really, it is, but Wanda proved to be a fierce competitor in this tournament. Her Chaos Shield and Reality Warping added to her survivability, while her Hex Spheres and Arcane Blast make her an equally good damaging character. Probability Field always had its advantages and when paired with characters such as Mockingbird or Emma Frost, Wanda clearly caused chaos. A really interesting character, and one that you should get if you get the chance.
Not so commonly used as the others, but still present several times, Mr. Amazing Peter Parker proved to be an extremely valuable team member especially when in his Future Foundation uniform. His ability to protect other team members while countering attacks and seemingly taking way too many turns per round ("Oh wait a couple of minutes, Spiderman is still doing his thing"), adding on top of that Tingling Sensation and Future Countdown, raising his accuracy and evasion, made Spiderman a very hard to hit and a very hard hitting hero. Since this tournament was populated by several Tacticians, his advantage against them was quite obvious.
I saw Magik every so often but I doubt it was done purposefully. I can imagine that offensively she has her perks however defensively, Magik is not that good, mainly because the game's AI treats her as the blonde that she is. Her advantages would be the procs of Fiery Retribution of course, that trigger offensively as well as defensively on all team members as well as her Ruler of Limbo passive which also increased damage output, whilst poisoning the opposing team. If the game's AI wasn't so obsessed with her Soulsword ability, she would actually be much more dangerous as an opponent. Let us hope things will pick up.
Mainly an honorable mention. To be honest, I didn't encounter too many Mockingbirds around and I'm actually extremely thankful for that. The girl is a true chameleon who can actually destroy you when you least expect it. Don't be fooled by her stick attack. It's actually a truck in disguise! A very powerful and adapting hero that depending on the situation will step up to the occasion and get the job done with really big numbers.
I could go on and on mentioning other heroes such as the occasional Quicksilver, the Hulk or Thor but I believe that the ones already mentioned dominated the battlefields at my level range. What do you readers think? Will things change in the next Season? Will some of the aforementioned heroes be replaced? Type away!
Curse Thee, Thou Dreadful AI!
A few curses here and there should pass unnoticed with all the chaos and active demonic portals at the moment! But all jokes aside, the main issue to be addressed here is how the game seems to handle this semblance of PvP. I say semblance because PvP usually requires the participation of at least two people and not one that is controlled by the game engine itself. That would still qualify as PvE.
Ignoring the fact that PvP at the moment is PvE with a twist, the most complaints involved the game engine and how PvP is handled in general, regarding ability sequence and the matching system. In all honesty, I am a firm believer that Playdom meant this season to be a testing ground of sorts, in order to monitor participation, while getting feedback about the current system which is on many levels quite unfair, while trying to expand on this aspect of the game.
Since I enjoy the game, and I honestly wish to see it do better, I will present a few facts that I -and many other players- noticed and offer a few suggestions.
The Matching System
There have been numerous complaints about the matching system during this first season. People would be matched against opponents of far superior or inferior Agent level or Rating than them, making several battles unbelievably unfair especially comparing the each team's availability on equipment.
I will give a simple example. Say Agent X is lvl 57 and is matched against Agent Y who is level 62. Agent Y has a clear advantage over Agent X despite being controlled by the game. At this level he possesses better ISO research, accessibility to Quantum Jumper, an additional Armory Page on top of all the other perks gained through leveling up, namely stat increases. Now let's say Agent Y is matched against Agent Z who is level 68. Again, we see those problems as Agent Z could potentially have a Commander Trench uniform, having an advantage over Agent Y.
My suggestion to this problem is fairly simple. Seeing how the game scales and when certain research projects become available it would be fair to match people of a certain 5-level range together. This way a level 56 Agent would battle between the range of 55-59 while a level 62 Agent would be battling against opponents of level 60-64 and so on.
Another suggestion regarding fair pairing would be to install a limit on the maximum and minimum rating your team can go up against. +/- 50 would be a reasonable suggestion but this is right off the top of my head.
As the game is the one handling your team when you are defending or your opponent's team when you are attacking, it is clear that a simple engine cannot react and adapt like a normal, breathing and thinking organism can. Therefore the game has installed a priority list for each hero, a sequence of abilities that a certain hero will repeat during the battle. One very noticeable one is Scarlet Witch's Chaos Shield>Hex Spheres>Probability Field sequence. However, there are many heroes such as Magik that lack such a sequence or other heroes that simply act randomly most of the times.
The main issue however is the way the Agents are handled. There appears to be no real priority on several items the Agent has equipped, some of them being crucial to the player's strategy. A prime example would be the usage of Curative Reach on round one, despite the fact that no teammate is actually damaged, or the use of Quantum Jumper when all other teammates are knocked out, only to have the Agent simply Recharge after using it. Dreadful indeed!
I am aware that a game requires a lot of coding, but it is a community's job to give constructive feedback to improve it. Therefore, my suggestion regarding this matter would be to install priorities especially when it comes to handling the Agent. Quick Action items should have priority, then would come specific items such as Quantum Jumper or Magnetic Field Generator, perhaps even Recharge/Stall option if afflicted by a certain debuff such as Mental Trauma and of course, not wasting attacks on targets that cannot be hit (Force Caged target). This would actually give a chance to a defensive-squishy team to perform slightly better than they do at this moment.
Rating at this point is handled on an equal trade base, that is depending on my team's rating and my opponent's rating I gain or lose the same amount of points that he loses or gains respectively.
In my opinion this should not be the case, not while the game is handling defending teams as poorly as it does now. My suggestion would be to reduce the amount gained or loss for a defending team, as it is mainly not even handled by you, the player and it certainly is quite flawed in terms of ability sequence. A reduction of 10-15% in points gained or lost would actually make a difference in the long run. Therefore if say, you lose 22 points against a defending team, your opponent would only gain 20 points for himself.
This would actually make players attack more often instead of hanging around with their defending teams, earning points whilst doing less than nothing.
These are only a few suggestions off the top of my head. Please feel free to comment and add your own!
If you are reading this and actually read through the whole post, I cannot thank you enough for putting the effort into it. Feel free to add your comments, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism.
So do you think things will pick up? Will PvP become better or have you given up on it?
On a side note, I am planning on editing this post, enriching it with a few imagines, adding URLs and correcting grammatical and syntax mistakes.
Thank yuo for reading, now go save the world, Agent!