Nov 21, 2019
Reverting Executioner & Witch Changes
Hey Clash Royale players!
We’re writing this post to let you know what we will be doing about the recent Executioner and Witch changes, the reasons why we made them in the first place and how we will balance cards in the future.
This is quite a lengthy post so here is a summary:
We are reverting Executioner to its original stats and adding Area Damage (splash damage) back to Witch, alongside some other changes, so that she will still keep the original role that she held in your decks. We want to do right by our players, and we apologize to those who were affected by the recent changes to these cards or had a negative gameplay experience because of it.
Below we wanted to write a more open response to the recent changes and our reasoning behind the recent design changes/balance changes in general.
REWORKS & WHY WE DO THEM
A rework is a big change to a card that affects the way that it plays in a big way, sometimes changing the way that it functions or plays.
We planned regular reworks that started with the introduction of Seasons, and at the time Baby Dragon was the most widely played card in the metagame. We believed that most Area Damage attackers were a bit on the weak side and if they were all as good as Baby Dragon, the metagame would even out a bit. When we polled the community on Twitter and asked Clash Royale League pro players which cards needed a rework, Executioner and Witch were near the top of the list which is some of the reasoning as to why we fixated on Executioner as the first major rework, with Witch following after.
Over the last 3 months we have seen the effects of these card reworks on players, and have decided that this is not the direction we want to take these cards anymore.
OUR PRIMARY FOCUS WHEN BALANCING CARDS
- 4-12% use rate for each card (this number changes as we release more cards, but with 95 cards this is the range we aim for)
- 45-55% win rate for each card
However, from time to time we discover that when certain cards are actually in this range, the meta takes a bit of a downward turn. We experienced this about a year ago with Freeze - a rework took it a ‘balanced’ place statistically. In practice, Clash Royale isn’t so fun when Freeze is in 10% of decks with a 50% win rate. We have come to learn that the same applies to tough, spell resistant ranged attackers (like Executioner).
Ranged attackers, especially ones with Area Damage, need to have some obvious drawback to their design. Either they die to lighter Spells (like Princess or Magic Archer), or they do so little damage that they need some support (like Ice Wizard or Baby Dragon). Others, like Wizard, can be well-rounded but weak at the competitive level as players figure out more efficient methods of dealing with swarms, but great for players levelling up and progressing through the Trophy Road.
The Witch and Executioner reworks were designed to get these cards into a solid winning position, but what we learned is that the metagame isn’t so fun when tough, high damage ranged attackers are prevalent. In the next update, coming this month, we have two major changes to walk back aspects of the recent reworks.
Reverting the September rework
Hit Speed: +4%
Range: Increased (4 - 5 > 4.5 - 6.5)
Projectile Radius: +25% (800 -> 1000)
Ultimately, we have come to realize that while our heart was in the right place, this rework was fundamentally flawed. Area Damage/splash attackers provide a mechanical crutch for players to handle swarms. Whereas great timing and placement allow for non-area attackers to pull off amazing defensive tricks (think of all the things Musketeer + Ice Spirit can defend). If area attackers like Executioner are statistically the same (or even better) than other more high skilled cards, it lowers the skill cap of the game overall by making these defensive plays just a feature of a card that is otherwise viable in a multitude of 1-on-1 situations.
- Added Area Damage to attacks
- Damage: -49%
- Hit Speed: +35% (1.7sec > 1.1sec)
The community reacted very strongly to Witch losing her Area Damage radius over the past month, and rightly so. After listening to passionate arguments from the community, we want to say you are all correct – we should not fundamentally change the function of cards.
If you spent time and effort to level up Witch as your primary Area Damage dealer, it is not fair to have that change overnight. Because of this, Witch is receiving her Area Damage back with a more familiar damage/hit speed.
We opted against a full revert of the Witch rework for two reasons.
First, the pre-September balance change Witch was very problematic for casual/Ladder play and needed some form of change - whereas the original Executioner was not nearly as frustrating.
Secondly, there are many aspects of her that feel much better, the new deployment pattern of Skeletons and the increased damage per hit for example make her feel more imposing and useful in a variety of situations. What she is really missing currently is the Area Damage and faster Hit Speed that Witch users have come to rely on.
This Executioner & Witch changes will go live with the next update, expected to land near the end of November.
WE OWE YOU AN APOLOGY
This is a situation where we can definitely say we as a dev team made a mistake. We really regret pushing the Executioner and Witch reworks so early. We had a variety of low-usage cards that could use a fundamental rework, but felt that area-damage cards were the highest priority because they play a key role in many decks. We felt that diversity in the meta could be achieved by buffing these cards first, and the end result was essentially the opposite of what we hoped to achieve.
We apologize for the upheaval this caused in the metagame throughout Seasons 3, 4 & 5, especially to players who felt like one of their core cards were changed too dramatically, that they had been 'betrayed' by the dev team or forced to upgrade other cards to replace Witch. We still believe that reworking some cards will be beneficial to the game, but we have learned pretty clearly that powerful Area Damage ranged attackers do not create fun or interesting metas ripe with counterplay.
THE FUTURE OF REWORKS
We have reworked numerous cards over the past 2 years, including Spear Goblins, Royal Giant, Barbarians, Freeze, Cannon Cart, and Barbarian Barrel. We don’t always get it right at first, but we believe with iteration we can get the least-used cards in Clash Royale to a healthy place.
Many of our planned reworks were for cards like Bomber, Bowler, Wizard, and other area damage attackers. We have decided to halt these reworks as we are not certain the game would improve even if those cards were statistically balanced.
We have shifted our focus towards providing more utility to underplayed cards, instead of making well-rounded cards competitively viable. We have solutions that feel very good for cards like Arrows and Heal that you will see over the next few months. Aside from those two, we will be far more judicious and question our assumptions about the outcome of reworking other cards in Clash Royale.
THANKS FOR READING
See you in the Arena,
The Clash Royale Team