Friday, October 26, 2012

Shadow Era: Meltdown Breakdown

Hello, Shadow Erans. It's been a long time since I've posted here (roughly four months) and I have a long list of excuses, everything from hardware malfunctions to hard-ons. I'm sure nobody wants to hear about either.

If you do, call me.

In any case, I feel inspired to chip in on the most recent addition to the Shadow Era game client: Meltdown.

I've touched on limited formats like Meltdown in the past, but here's a quick recap for anyone who doesn't know.

In Meltdown, players are given four packs with which they build a 30 card deck (29+hero). This deck is not subject to any faction or class restrictions like normal play. In other words, you can include human allies in a deck with a shadow hero, or play War Banner in Majiya.

and iiivory

In the Shadow Era digital game, playing a single round of Meltdown costs 200g. Each week, there's a pot created from those admissions which is then split up among all Meltdown players (based on performance) at the end of that week. Here's a quote from Kyle himself that explains in more detail:

How does the weekly Meltdown competition work? Each Meltdown match costs 200g, and 100g from that is put into the jackpot. Wins get you 30 points, draws 15 points, and losses 10 points. At the end of the weekly countdown, the jackpot is divided up according to your percentage of Meltdown score vs the global Meltdown score total. For example, if you have a Meltdown score of 10 and the total of all Meltdown scores is 100, well then you get 10% of the jackpot. Win more games to get a much higher payout! Check your Status screen for more info.

The format itself is fun. However, Meltdown alone is not the subject of this article. It's been around for a while already.

I want to talk about the digital implementation of Meltdown. And it needs some serious work.

First thing's first: creating meltdown games. There really should be a way other than entering the custom game menu, which is a bit un-intuitive. On the bottom where you have buttons for search, create game and quick game, is it too much to ask for a quick Meltdown button? This is a small thing, so I won't hold this one against Kyle and the team. It just seems awkward to me as is.

Next up: viewing the pool. When you first enter the deck construction screen, the client demands you pick a hero first. What it should be doing first is letting you view your pool in a screen similar to purchasing a pack from the shop, since you want to pick a hero based upon the other cards you have. Again, not a big deal since you can just pick one to get rid of the prompt, then pick a different one once you got a better look. This isn't a biggie.

Next: The deck construction timer. This one is the biggie. It's what makes me never want to play Meltdown. If this wasn't in the client, I would still be playing now and never get around to writing this piece.

Ever had a frosty melt prematurely? I blame that poor timing on Kyle too. 

For those of you who haven't played Meltdown yet, there's a three minute timer on deck construction. And if you don't submit your fully built deck in three minutes or less, the game kicks you to the lobby so you have to do it over again with a new pool.

This is ridiculous. I understand why Wulven feels the need for a timer; because without a limit it would be fairly easy to get plenty of help from the community, friends, me, etc and that could be considered unfair. However, a three minute timer that resets your pool is also unfair.

What Wulven needs to understand is that some pools are simply more complicated than others and some players are slower at the building process than others. I do this for a living and I've been kicked out mid-deck. Imagine what it's like for a casual iOS player who keeps losing constructed so they have to grind out painful loss after loss to make that 200g, then get kicked out before they're halfway done. That's like spending all week saving up to buy an hour with your friend's mom and then the friend walks in on you half-finished.

Or maybe that's just me.

Moving right along...

The 'proper' way to play limited formats in other games such as Magic: The Gathering is to fully examine your pool, sort cards by whatever preference you have (depends on the person), then making methodical cuts one by one until you get to the deck limit. In a game like Magic, this process usually takes around 20 minutes. For a format like Meltdown, which is relatively simple but has you include more cards (mtg 40 card limited deck will have around 17 'land', meaning only 23 actual cards to Meltdown's 30), I'd guesstimate that a ten to fifteen minute timer would be appropriate.

The current timer is three minutes.

I quickly discovered you can't stop to think in digital Meltdown. You can't examine your pool, you can't sort anything, you can't use an ounce of strategy. It's just grab the pretty threats and go.

I'd love to do a piece on Meltdown strategy. What cards to look out for, deck construction tips, what to expect from opponents, etc. I can't do it, and that's because there's currently no time for any of it. The only way right now to build a Meltdown deck is just grab what grabs you, and even then you'll barely make it in three minutes. It's a vicious cycle of grabbing that never stops.

At least, it doesn't stop until your friend walks in halfway through.

Again, maybe that's just me.

What I want to see, Wulven, is a ten minute timer. What I'd settle for is five, that's at least enough to get a quick peek at the pool before adding cards. Ten is enough to add good cards and then look at your deck composition while making those last few choices, Fifteen is enough to really sort through your cards first, consider things like tempo, etc. and open up some intelligent decision making for even the most difficult of card pools.

Another huge problem is that because the timer is so low, the entry fee isn't taken until you submit your deck.

That's right, sleazy people who already figured it out like I have.

To the rest of you: You get to look at your pool and build a deck before deciding if you want to pay for it or not. If you're confident in the deck, submit it. If not, let the last few seconds on the timer drip away and you'll be dropped back in the lobby at no charge. In other words, you can keep entering over and over again until you have the best possible pool of cards.

That's like if in quickmatches you got to see your opening hand before deciding to play a game or not.

This is a horribly broken system. If I ever run low on monies, I will play the hell out of the current version of Meltdown until I make it all back from collecting a large portion of the pot. Until something is done about this, you won't see me playing the otherwise enjoyable format any more than I have to.

Lastly is more the lack of a feature than a complaint: acquiring whatever you open.

I know I reference this game too much, but it's kinda hard not to.
I mean, they INVENTED the TCG. They've done most everything first.
Also, Momir Basic is a great time-waster (google it).
I understand why Meltdown is priced the way it is, and why you don't keep the cards. Magic: the Gathering Online has what are called 'vapor' events which are essentially the same thing- you get to play limited on a budget, but can't keep what you open. And that's fine. Keeping the format available for free or cheap players is awesome, and I applaud Wulven for that. I really do. Most companies would jump at the chance to drain more cash from their customers.

My issue is that if I want to spend 400 crystals on the packs and then keep the cards after, I should be allowed that option. But I'm not.

Again, not a big deal. I wouldn't be spending those crystals anyways since the timer really needs a fixing first. However, for people who don't care or for those who are buying packs anyways and want to get the most value for their crystals, the option is sadly missing. It's a great way for both Wulven and the players to profit.

To wrap it all up, Meltdown is a blast, but the digital version needs some improvements both for ease of use and fairness. If you were a pre-order customer and have a box or two lying around, I encourage you to try the format with real cards. If you're just curious or want to sate your appetite for Shadow Era limited until the official physical release, then there's that. If you want to make a quick buck with my leet haxorz tip, do that too. Otherwise, I would stay away until the timer is extended and you pay up front. I can only assume that these things will be fixed to avoid cheating.

As a side note, there was a bunch of other stuff in the update too, like friends lists and messaging for people who like certain other players and want to play with them more often. For more information on that, be sure to check the forums over at the official site

Until next time (which is hopefully not four months from now),



  1. don't apologise for referencing mtg, I think wulven doesn't pay nearly enough attention to it. I was shocked to find out the other week that gdc's only knowledge of it came from iPad duels. knowing the #1 competition should be mandatory in the tcg biz.

    absolutely agree that there should be more time to build, and also a non phantom product option. It's not a big deal for most of us atm with full playsets but I'm going to resent just opening boosters of xpack product. NO ONE on mtgo opens boosters outside of draft, where they pay for the privilege of doing so.

    btw I put up a strategy overview/discussion in the official strat forum, interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. Nice article. There were some people pointing out you lose money playing this format in the forums. I'm surprised you didn't mention that. Good to see you back buddy :)
    Pete (Padawan)

  3. Has the author.been informed that if you don't complete your deck in 3 minutes that when you enter it again it doesn't take another 200 AND its the exact same pool? Just thought you should.know!

  4. I agree with pretty much everything.. I just did my first meltdown. I am glad that it wasn't pay up front though, because the first time I did do it, I was not clear on the 30 card limit.. I spent a lot of time figuring out that the restrictions were not enforced... it was just very guess work the first shot and the timer ran out.. It would really suck for first time players to have that happen, be out 200 gold and get nothing.

  5. Really the only point to play meltdown is to grind gold. This only becomes worthwhile if you can dedicate time to play many games. Quite frankly, meltdown is the poorest designed limited format I have ever encountered in any ccg.

  6. In game name "Elthis"

    I didn't read your whole post I got up to the meltdown timer.

    I to have an issue with that, and one thing I think would be really helpful in fixing it is to cut away with the timer all together

    BUT...Heres the kicker....

    Each opponent has two buttons, a button telling the other side they are complete, and another button that when either player presses it they both have a 3 minutes to finish up there decks.

    That way they both are building there decks with as much time as they need, but when one is finished they can hit the button letting the other player know that he has three more minutes to finish up..or if the person is kind they can just hit the complete button giving the other player addition time to finish up without the countdown...

    This would be completely fair, this would cater to the nice players where time isnt an issue, and the fast players that like the 3 minute countdown, they could push it as soon as the card picking starts, this would rush the opponent while they are completely fine rushing a deck..

    If you agree with my thoughts please get this post out there for they can see it, thanks.


  7. In game name "Elthis"

    Also, I like to come up with ideas to things, that's what I do.

    Feel free to check out my other ideas, new videos will be coming, thanks


  8. So you write thousands of words about this timer, then conclude with an 'exploit' that doesn't even work(since you get the same cards again if you re-enter) that relies on the fact that the timer running out is absolutely irrelevant, since there is no penalty and you can just start over and practically have all the time in the world to pick your cards.

    Your other complaints range from the fact that players that KNOW THE CARDS get an 'unfair' advantage over players that don't. Wow, no shit. Are you going to blog about how the game doesn't tell you what the best plays are or warn you when you're making a mistake next? Worst part is, this isn't even the fucking case since, again, you can just RESTART THE TIMER AND WILL GET THE SAME DECK.

    Are you some kind of moron? Did somebody pay you to shit talk Shadow Era? The fuck's going on here?