Duelyst gets big changes, boss battles and free cards

If Hearthstone is the Pokemon of today’s free-to-play card battling, Duelyst [official site] sometimes feels like the Digimon – lesser-known but still beloved and popular enough to get by. Also: objectively better in every way. Some big changes are coming in the next patch though, including the addition of AI-controlled bosses who will change every week and bleed rewards when you defeat them. That’s good. Meanwhile, the daily challenges – small one-turn problems that are Duelyst’s equivalent to chess puzzles – are being put on hold. That’s sad.

Let’s have a more detailed look at the changes, and what else is good or sad.

First, let’s talk bosses. Each one will come with its own bespoke deck and starting board state, and will only be available to fight for a limited time (the first two, starting on a Monday, are planned to last a week each). Beating them will get players a spirit orb with the usual five cards and a ‘boss crate’. Here’s were things get a bit grubby.

The Boss crate costs $4.99 to unlock and contains:

  • 1 Common Chest Key
  • 1 Gauntlet Ticket
  • 3 Shim’zar Spirit Orbs
  • 1 Random Legendary Card

The Boss crate expires 48 hours after you have earned it.

Loot crates and loot keys I can just about deal with, and there’s some decent gear in this box. But expiry dates, as ever, feel too much like a sleazy salesman’s tactic. “For a limited time only! Buy now or miss this opportunity!” As if dangling a crate in front of someone – making them feel like they’ve earned a prize but have no access to it until they buy a key – isn’t bad enough. Now there’s more FOMO-exploiting salesman psychology at play. Yuck.

As for the daily challenges, they are being put on the back-burner for the time-being as developers Counterplay Games “regroup and explore a better vehicle to deliver challenges”. This is a pity, not because players are now losing the puny 5 gold you’d normally get as a reward, but because these puzzles were often great practice for learning the strengths and clever uses of the more obscure cards. In its place, however, is a daily free card for everyone – one “random common craftable card” every 24 hours. That’s nice.

The dripfeed of monthly cards is also stopping, say Counterplay. This is because they want to focus on bigger, “more cohesive” expansion packs and seasonal events. This makes sense to me. I would far rather have less cards of a more interesting quality than tons of cannon fodder choking up the game and making rarer cards even harder to come across.

Last but definitely not least is the teasing of a new “continuous draft mode”. This isn’t coming out just yet (it’s being toyed with for the “near future”) but here’s what they are saying about it:

In this mode, you will pick a General, receive a fairly basic starting deck, and improve your deck over time by leveling up. But there are a number of twists including something special: in this mode you can build cross faction decks. That’s all we’re going to reveal for right now, but feel free to start dreaming up zany cross faction combos you can build.

Cross-faction nonsense! Very exciting.

Anyway, the 1.79 patch is out today, and despite some of icky free-to-play stuff I’m glad they’re mixing things up a little, especially with all the interbreeding between factions on the horizon. My amazing decks are going to be even better now.


  1. kwyjibo says:

    Your decks have nothing on my Mount Rushmar.

    The loss of the daily puzzles is a real shame. From the patch notes, it looks like they’re trying to crowdsource them. So I hope we’ll see a return at some point.

    I’ll also miss the monthly new cards. I like how the meta would shift every month, keeping the game fresh. Maybe they can introduce new cards irregularly through the card-a-day system.

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      As long as they keep the patches coming (with all the balancing and all the little tweaks to already existing cards), there’s enough in Duelyst right now to keep the meta fresh for another half a year, I think.

  2. Christo4 says:

    I got really hard into this game at one time because i really liked the chess with cards feel.
    But then after two weeks or so it started to get really annoying, no matter how good i built my deck, someone always had something better. And i don’t mind losing much, but getting defeated 10 times in a row… Yeah not that fun.
    Most annoying probably was that a lot of times the matches were decided from the beginning, one small mistake and no matter what you do, you are going to lose. Not all the time, but too many times. I’d say at least half, probably even more.
    I understand that it’s kinda like chess in that way i suppose. But it doesn’t really help when you have access to a limited amount of cards. Unless you pay of course. Which isn’t necessarily bad (cards aren’t that hard to get if you play constantly), but it can get frustrating especially if you lose a lot.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Try Warband Bushido or Pox Nora, should be much more at your taste.

      In both of those games the deck is just a small part of the equation, it’s your tactical play which makes the difference and you can win against a theorically superior band/deck.

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      I love Duelyst, but I’ll admit that the CCG element sucks – there are a few cheap decks that stay competitive until you reach Diamond, but unless you’re willing to play one of those – if you want to be both competitive and to play the faction and the archetype you simply like – you have to grind a little bit with the quests, the orbs, etc. Good luck running a high-level Vetruvian deck right now, for example.

      Having said that, I think that the more important difference between Duelyst and other collectible competitive tactics games is that at some point Duelyst becomes is very, very unforgiving. “One small mistake and no matter what you do, you are going to lose” – you’re pretty much right; although Silver and Gold still allow for a few “simple” mistakes (as in – when you move your unit onto a wrong tile or use a wrong card), from Diamond onwards you’re not supposed to make mistakes of this kind; you should remember what cards your opponent will be potentially able to play on their next turn, etc.

      • Christo4 says:

        I don’t really care about reaching diamond, but even in silver, there were plenty of times when you just couldn’t do anything to win. Well, i at least. Most likely a combination of not being used to card games and not having a good deck, but still, it’s frustrating when you can’t do anything about it.
        For example, in almost every other MP game i enjoy, there are things you can go to make a comeback, most of the time. For example, in a capture-point game with 5 points, you can recapture them and win. In duelyst it feels like the first person to capture one point then also captures half of the other points and after capturing the second point, the other person can’t capture anything else. You could probably still make a comeback, but it’s way too geared towards the person that captures that first point and it makes the rest of the fight rather redundant, which now thinking about it is what made me quit the game. I don’t like surendering, i like at least having a chance to make a comeback. There’s almost none in duelyst. Unless you have a top tier deck of course and even then it’s barely anything.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Duelyst is very fast. It is marketed as a lightning-quick game. One missed turn and you can lose the game.

      If you want a cheap effective deck, use a Faice deck. There are lots of good budget decks which can easily get you into Diamond rank.

      If you want something slower, try Faeria.

    • April March says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever lost ten times in a row. Whenever I start to lose I drop rank to people who are as bad as me, and then I start winning again.

      I imagine there’s an unlucky few whose skill is just short of the average Rank 20 player (or maybe rank 10?) and they’ll get stuck at the bottom of the pool forever?

      • TheDandyGiraffe says:

        As far as I remember you don’t lose chevrons in Bronze? So if you play long enough, you should be able to get to Silver by sheer luck/probability.

      • Christo4 says:

        Thing is that i reached silver plenty of times and stayed there, but sometimes even so you lose a lot in a row. Then you get back little by little, but it’s still annoying.

        I’m not looking to get into diamond fast or anything, just for a fun game. And losing so many times in a row is not really that fun. Granted, my decks weren’t that good most likely, but it was only silver.

  3. April March says:

    That is one unfortunate line break in the promo image. “What, if I defeat the mega-hard boss I get ONE SPIRIT?”

    And the concept of cross-faction cards boggles my mind. Imagine the kind of creature boosting a Magmar or Vetruvian deck on an Abyssian swarm. Or Songhai spells sending Vanar walls and infiltrated creatures. I am screaming, a little.

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      Or a Healyonar with Kelaino. They’ll have to put some restrictions in place – although with the whole levelling thing (you’re supposed to get more cards the longer you play) this might actually be quite easy.

  4. malkav11 says:

    The constant praise and the puzzles were tempting me to try Duelyst but now you tell me they’re dropping the feature I was interested in and replacing it with frankly the scummiest freemium mechanic I’ve encountered. So no, no thank you.

    Edit: I missed that you do actually get some non-pay reward from the bosses, so it’s not quite as bad as I thought. Expiring pay-to-open chests are still really gross, though.

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      Well, it is, at its core, a free game; I can see their need to generate some steady income. As you said, there are still free rewards for defeating the bosses, even if you don’t buy a key. And the boss mode itself will be an added piece of content – it’s not like it affects your standard ladder/gauntlet games.

      I know I’m defending what is basically a freemium mechanic, but for my defense I can say that this is the only exception I’ve made so far; I don’t play any free to play games at all (never have). And I want to defend Duelyst for two reasons: first, the sheer amount of content you get for free, from the start, is really amazing; the gameplay is rock solid, the production value (graphic design, etc.) is through the roof. Second, the game is really generous with gold – there is no dual currency system (everything you can buy, including the cosmetic items, you can buy with gold and spirit you acquire while playing) and the quest system together with your standard bonuses (win of the day, 15 gold for every 3 wins, etc.) means that you can reliably buy 2 orbs (boosters) every 3 days or so.