On Tuesday Wizards of the Coast released the patch notes for version 1.01 of their relatively new mobile game Spellslingers. The notes cover a wide array of topics from the imminent release of the Dungeons & Dragons Icons mini-expansion to the resetting of the competitive ladder season and finally a handful of adjustments to existing characters and cards meant to address the dominance of Liliana Vess and Ral Zarek in the metagame.

While the coming of Drizzt to Spellslingers along with the rest of the new D&D expansion is exciting news, we’re going to hold off on talking about it too much until the full set is revealed. For now, let’s talk about the changes being made to Liliana and Ral Zarek, how the current metagame led to those changes, and what to expect going forward in the new competitive season. Here’s the explanation from the patch notes:

spellslingers patch notes gameplay changes

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite Necromancer. It’s no secret that Liliana’s starter deck is very powerful, and is much more powerful than the starter decks for most of the other planeswalkers with a few exceptions such as Kaya, Vraska, and Ral Zarek. For the most part Liliana is dominating the lower leagues and can easily crush Chandra decks (the one every new player starts with) and can also crush most of the slower planeswalkers including Jace, Teferi, and Ashiok.

Once you get into the middle and upper tiers of competitive play, Liliana isn’t as dominant. Decks with more epic and mythic rare cards are able to stack up better in general and the metagame smooths out. Let’s look at the changes being made.

First, Liliana’s starting health is dropping from 24 to 23. That might seem like a trivial change, but remember that new players all begin with Chandra, who opens games by dealing 4 damage to the opponent. Liliana’s ability lets her gain life. So most new players enter the competitive ladder with Chandra only to get crushed by Liliana decks.

Second, Liliana’s Goliath is having its toughness reduced from 3 to 2.

liliana's goliath

This is an unsurprising change because, once again, Chandra players have more ways to deal with a 2-toughness creature than a 3-toughness creature. As part of the upcoming Spellslingers patch, this change should be pretty well received by the entire community as Goliath is probably the hardest card in the deck to deal with, especially as it keeps returning to play.

Lastly, Dark Gladiator has seen its power increase by one, going from a 5/5 to a 6/5, but its Debut ability went from giving -2/-2 to -1/-1. This change is listed under “general” because it affects a core set card, but this card is often a way for Liliana decks to close out games by clearing a path for the aforementioned goliaths. Gladiator was especially effective against decks like Chandra, Gideon, and Kaya which rely on a swarm of low-toughness creatures.

This part of the Spellslingers patch is likely to be met with mixed reviews. It helps new players build aggressive decks in the lower rung of the ladder and not get wrecked by a timely Gladiator. But, at the mid and high levels of competitive play most players can deal with Gladiators and there are far better removal spells as well.

Neither of these changes is likely to drastically change the metagame at mid and high levels and should generally be welcomed. The changes to Ral Zarek on the other hand might be a bit heavy-handed.

If the Liliana changes are meant to bring balance to the lower rungs of competition then the changes for Ral Zarek are for the higher rungs where his tempo style deck is incredibly popular.

The cost of Chaos Lightning going from three to five is absolutely devastating. Many games would see Ral Zarek players pump out two of these on turn six resulting in an absolute blowout. Even in the late game, being able to play something like Jolt of Inspiration for four mana and then Chaos Lightning for three mana (or less if you chained into a discount) could completely swing a game in Ral’s favor.

The changes to Breaching Serpent and Aether FIgment are going to be a big loss for not only Ral Zarek but also Jace, Teferi, and Ashiok decks as well. Any blue control/tempo deck was using Figment to keep small creatures at bay early on and Serpent to close games out in the mid-to-late stages. Figment will no longer be able to trade for two creatures in most situations and Serpent will take a few more turns to land and won’t be as devastating.

Ultimately Ral Zarek will be the biggest loser in this shake-up. Without cheap access to Chaos Lightning I expect Ral players to see their win rate decrease significantly. I also expect Jace, Teferi, and Ashiok to do worse as well. The big winners will be mid-range decks like Vraska, Kaya, Vivien, and Ajani which will now have more of an advantage over control and tempo decks.

Wizards of the Coast has not yet announced when the new Spellslingers patch will go live but it’s expected to release some time on Wednesday, September 7th. They will be live-streaming cards and game-play from the new expansion at 5pm Eastern (2pm Pacific). We’ll update this article once more information on the timing of these changes is available.

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