Rejoice, for the Monster Train has been updated. Cry, for your favourite cards are probably worse now. Yesterday's patch to Shiny Shoe's splendid roguelike deckbuilder introduced optional mututators that tweak the rules for each run, but I'm more struck by the balance changes. Shiny Shoe say they've gone after "the outliers", aiming for a state where choosing a certain card is "never a 'no-brainer'". That's reasonable, but it does make me long for Dota's balancing philosophy where buffs were always prioritised over nerfs.
It's not all bad. Morsels look pretty strong now.
The headline feature doesn't actually grab me, even though the 35 mutators do sound fun. You can slap on up to three of them on before you start a singleplayer run, and they do all sorts. You can let normal shops clone your cards. You can make it so all your units descend a level every turn, and double all your money gains. It's wild and playful and I know I'll be too preoccupied with climbing covenant levels to actually bother with them.
Players who've beaten covenant level 25 now also get to make things harder for themselves with "Expert Challenges", which do stuff like removing your champion. Outrageous.
Let's talk balance. It's a big overhaul, with cards from every faction receiving significant changes. Shiny Shoe say they've started balancing around a more experienced playerbase, partly to cater for a higher average skill level, and partly because now the game's been out for a while they've got more data to work with. Their goal is "to make sure the end-game depth is as diverse as possible with the biggest practical impact being around updating the scaling values on certain cards to make sure they're viable at all covenant levels".
I haven't had a chance to play yet, but this brave new world makes me both eager and nervous. The best part of Monster Train is pulling off overpowered combos, and hey, there are less of those now. At the same time some picks WERE outright better than others, and many cards I'd entirely dismissed now look viable.
I'm particularly pleased to see Umbra buffs, because at covenant 13 I simply couldn't get them to work. The little chewy morsel units they summon are now stronger individually and are tied to more powerful consume effects, though it is worth noting that feeding them to your frontline units no longer counts as them dying. That removes the ridiculous synergy between Umbra and Remnant, which I never actually played with because I was saving that combo to bust through higher covenant levels.
This is part of why I have sadly fallen off the Train, a mere 6 weeks after my glowing Monster Train review. I foolishly committed to climbing the covenant ranks without repeating faction combos, and this is the sole reason why Brendy (RPS in peace) is now temporarily so far above me.
This will lure me back. One of the new mutations adds googly eyes. Here are the patch notes.