DEV DIARY – Designing Clash Decks

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  • Welcome to my second UniVersus CCG behind the scenes article! My name is Jeremy Ray and I’m a member of the design team. Today, I’m going to talk about the process of designing a Clash Deck. Mainly, I want to talk about the development of the All Might vs. All For One Clash Decks. When designing a preconstructed deck like this, we have different goals in mind compared to a standard booster set. Let’s dive into some of those differences! 

     To start, it’s important we understand what the primary focus of these Clash Decks is. Is there a particular moment or scene we want to really explore? For Set 4, we wanted to capture the epic showdown between All For One and All Might. This battle is an important moment that shaped the future of the entire show. The key outstanding element here was that All Might no longer has enough power to match All For One’s strength anymore. and we wanted to create that dynamic between the two character’s decks. In turn, we see All For One using his Quirk to overwhelm his opponent, while All Might digs deep to muster enough power to save the day one last time. 

    After we’d landed on the thematics, we faced our next big challenge: Who is the target audience? For our previous preconstructed decks, we focused on making the products as accessible as possible for newer players to learn the game with, while still introducing exciting cards for our established playerbase. If I had to give them a rating, I’d say, the Midoriya vs. Bakugo Rival Deck is 3 out of 10 in terms of complexity, and our Eraser Head and Endeavor Decks a 5 out of 10. 

    With this being our first version of All For One, we wanted to focus on capturing the moment without worrying about trying to make a beginner level preconstructed deck. Without this limitation, we decided to up the complexity levels a bit to better capture the essence of the battle. These changes bring this preconstructed deck to about a 6 or 7 on the complexity scale. We wanted these decks to be a satisfying experience to play out of the box, even for advanced players, and especially against each other. 

    But not all starter cards get adjusted with constructed play in mind. We spend lots of time balancing the battle between these two iconic characters specifically, and there are adjustments made to some cards to enrich the play experience between the two decks. A good example of this is the card “Vanquishing Punch”.

    “Vanquishing Punch” is an important card in the Clash battle experience. It gives All Might a disruptive threat that grows in strength as All For One builds up his stage. It’s a card that is important to the Clash Deck experience, even if it won’t find a ton of homes in constructed play. 

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have cards like “Ultimate Combination” that are likely to see constructed play.

    We knew this card had lots of potential outside of the Clash battles, so we had to consider where and how it could be utilized. In the Clash Deck, “Ultimate Combination” is an exciting finisher that can pay off All For One’s strategy. In constructed, the card can be a build-around (a card that many other cards in your deck aim to support) that offers board advantage AND big attack potential. To help balance the card, we tested the decks and characters we believed could leverage a card like this. Characters like Pixie Bob (Wild Wild Pussycats DLC) and Shigaraki 2 (Heroes Clash) got playtest attention to ensure that we were not creating a monster. The goal was a fun card that supports some unique strategies.

    I want to spend a little bit of time talking about All For One, his deck, and the themes we were trying to capture. All For One is a textbook “Big Bad Boss” character. We wanted him to feel like he had some unfair advantages. The “Big Bad Boss” gets to break the rules, and we wanted to capture his powerful quirk’s flexibility. Offense, Defense, and Utility — his quirk can do it all!

    One of my favorite parts about design is when I can tie two goals into one design. I wanted to capture All For One’s ability to change out Quirks to suit his needs. I was able to tie that ability with the desire to make him feel like he is breaking the rules of the game by letting him gain and change his momentum. With this, All For One is able to find the right tools for the job on every turn. It also allows him to start the game with momentum before any attacks hit the table. Plus, he never has to go into combat without having at least 1 momentum available. All For One can then turn that momentum into defensive utility using his other character ability, a powerful omni-block. That momentum can also become the firepower cards from his deck need like Ultimate Combination and Impact Recoil.

    All For One’s final ability is a scaling damage pump as he uses more and more deadly ability combinations. His ability to repurpose attacks that dealt damage out of his momentum combined with this damage pump creates an inevitability to his game plan. In time, he will grow too powerful for you to stop him, so you need to beat him before he unleashes his full power.

    All For One’s core ideas were intact from the very beginning, but through testing we adjusted his power level for both constructed and Clash Deck play. The very first thing that we changed was his damage pump. Originally his pump started with a little extra kick. More importantly, it could be used on throws. The early testing “All For Throw” decks is where testers gravitated for constructed play. This version of him was grinding games by playing the same throw over and over and using his ability to recycle them. The way this strategy was working was just not a fun experience to play against. It also allowed for very low attack count decks to thrive. We ended up placing “non-throw” on the damage pump to make sure that the strategy could exist, but it would take a very long time to close a game out.

    At this point in testing, All For One’s damage pump still had no cap, and he had more health. This proved to be problematic when games stalled, especially in the Clash Deck matchup. There are times when both players can’t draw attacks, which is already advantageous for All For One. By adding a cap, that advantage is slightly mitigated. The combination of his defensive omni-block ability and the extra health ended up making him a bit too frustrating to play against. The pace of the two Clash Decks early on was too slow with games taking a long time. Once we brought the health down and capped the damage pump, the Clash Deck experience really started to feel good.

    In All For One’s Clash Deck, we included a lot of ways for him to manipulate his momentum. In development, we found testers enjoyed the ability to make powerful plays using cards like “Forced Quirk Activation” to tutor a card from discard, or using “Helping Tomura” to create bursts of momentum to support “Ultimate Combination”. Empowering players to make strategic decisions about how and when they used their momentum became a focal point for the character.

    The final touch was to make some cards that directly targeted his rival, All Might. These are cards that really focus on the Clash Deck experience like “Where’s Your Smile Now?”, which can take away All Might’s options and take advantage of his moments of weakness. Another example is “Crushing Truth”, a card aimed directly at trying to take away the #1 Hero’s best offensive tricks.

    The All Might vs. All For One Clash Deck was the culmination of many, many hours of planning, detailing, and testing. I hope we made a Clash Deck that our fans enjoy. For me, designing a preconstructed deck presents a lot of challenges that I personally feel makes it the most difficult project to work on. Making a fun and balanced play experience between the Clash Decks that is accessible to intended skill levels of players, all while capturing the thematics of the characters, and including cards that can have an impact to the constructed format is a lot to juggle. When we recognize we missed the mark we learn from the experience and adjust in future designs. 

    If you have any questions or feedback (or you just want to tell me “good job!” and make my day), you can tag me in the main MHA CCG Discord. You can also reach out to me on my new Twitter account! I plan on posting some musings about the state of the game, links to new articles when they drop, and general news about what events I’ll be attending this year!

    F2K – on the main Discord

    @UVS_JRay – on Twitter