This weekend, Splinterlands finally announced its Land presale and released a lot of information about the whole process in two articles that you can find here and here. I don't want to go into any detail on what information can be found in both articles as you should absolutely read them yourself if you have any interest in Splinterlands at all.
While most of the information we got so far is focused on the economic aspect of land and the presale, there's also some information available already on the implications the land expansion will have for the actual Splinterlands gameplay. Today, I want to take a very early look on how that should be working out and what I think about the new dynamics we'll see in the game.
So what the land expansion will do to the Splinterlands universe, is introducing new kinds of cards, namely spells and items. We don't have any details or examples yet how such an item or spell would look, but there's enough information available already to deduct how they should be going to work.
Right now, a match in Splinterlands is played in two phases. In the first one, you are presented with the rules for the round, the mana cap, the Splinters that can be used, and an information who your opponent is going to be and how his lineup looked in the last matches he played.
You then move on to choose the Summoner you want to use, thus dictating the cards you are allowed to choose for the match. After you decided what monsters you want to play and in what they order they should be placed, you submit your team and wait for your opponent to do the same. Once both players have done so, the outcome is determined and you are given the chance to watch the fight play out or to just skip to the end to see who won.
The battle itself is thus fully automated (and the outcome predetermined before you even start to watch it) and you don't have any influence over what is going to happen. The land presale is going to change that drastically. Instead of just starting the battle once teams are submitted, there while be an additional phase before the actual fight starts.
Both players will be presented with both line-ups and then have the chance to use items or cast spells to further influence the outcome of the battle. Only after they both submitted these spells and items, the actual battle will take place the way we are used to.
As mentioned above, we don't have any examples how spells will look like yet, but I think it's safe to assume that they will serve to de- or increase the stats of a monster, add abilities or modifiers to a monster, move monsters around, or change the rules for the whole match. We'll have to wait and see how powerful these spells are actually going to be, but different spells will most likely have different mana costs and I'd assume we'll see varying mana pools and rule-sets for the spell&item phase just like we already have in the summoner&monster phase.
So looking at the scenario above, this opens up a ton of interesting strategic options. It's important to note that it has the Super-Sneak ruleset, so melees will attack the back line if they are not in the front spot. So what's going to happen if nothing changes here? The Imp will kill the Chicken and enrage the Dragon, bringing his attack up to 9 (he'll get +1 attack from his Summoner when the battle starts) but that won't be enough to kill the Cerberus who will get +1 Health from Yodin Zaku.
Afterwards, the Cerberus will either Counter-Attack or heal up and do his regular attack. If he does not heal up first, he'll die to the Dragon's Thorns, moving the Goblin Fireballer to the front and thus removing his ranged attack, costing me the match. If the Cerberus does not Counter-Attack, he will heal up, survive the Thorns giving the Goblin Fireballer his attack and I will (very likely) win the match. So the outcome of this round basically comes down to the question "Will Cerberus counter-attack or not?" and it's now up to both players to work around that condition and increase their chance of winning.
If the Dragon did one more damage with his attack, it would be a completely different story as he would kill the Cerberus in one go and it will be an all but guaranteed win for my opponent. Obviously, I'd know about that possibility, so I'd use spells and items myself to prevent my Cerberus from dying right away. Since both players are choosing their spells simultaneously, this opens up all kinds of different options and mind games.
This additional phase is also going to change the way you think about positioning your monsters. If there's a spell that can push back the frontline monster one spot - do you put an off-tank in the second spot or do you use a card yourself to prevent a possible push? The cool thing about the item&spell phase is that you'll have a lot more information than what we are used to from the Summoner&Monsters phase.
This change is also going to make the game a lot more skill heavy than it already is. Being able to quickly analyze how a battle is going to play out will be key to making the right decisions and playing your spells in the right way. Factor in that your opponent is going to do the same and you'll end up with an incredibly high skill ceiling.
Just look at that high mana cap battle with Equalizer above. How long does it take you to factor in all the buffs about to happen? Who is going to win this battle and what are the determining factors for that? What changes would most likely lead to a different outcome? But also, what is you opponent most likely to do? Are you going to counter what you suspect him to do or do you focus on your own strategy to make a change?
Personally, I feel like items and spells are going to make the game a lot more interesting and fun to play. At the same time, though, the game is going to become a lot more complex and more difficult to play. It also adds another obstacle to new player acquisition as now new players won't only need summoners and monsters but also items and spells in order to become competitive.
I'm sure the Splinterlands devs are aware of this and there are probably different options on how to deal with that. Personally, I'd give a number of basic phantom spells to every account, just like every new account receives his phantom Untamed cards. This would allow for a more even gaming field for starters.
I'd also advise to not have spells and items be used right away. The Novice league probably should just ignore that aspect of the game completely, with Bronze then slowly introducing the system but just allowing for a hand full of mana to be spent on spells and items and slowly increasing that limit as you advance through the ranks, with spells and items only reaching their full potential in Gold or maybe even Diamond league.
To me, these upcoming changes are going to alter the way I play Splinterlands right away. I'll start to pay more attention to the actual combat and practice determining its outcome before starting it. Many battles are often determined by a single or only a couple of key moments - A tank surviving with one hit point before it is healed, the wrong monster being resurrected, and so on. Learning to predict these key moments and deciding on how to alter them in the most favorable way is going to become a key skill in playing Splinterlands at the highest level.
Personally, I'm really looking forward to spells and items and I can't wait to play around with all these new options we'll see in the game!
That's all from me today, thank you all for reading and see you next time!