Predendum: having absorbed the feedback, I retract the nerf call. The team described may be near-maximal in terms of wins per game and resources per game, but not in terms of resources per time since the games take more turns (and more thought). So that’s what balances it.
tldr; troops that transform all of one color into another should be changed to transform “X + magic” gems instead to rein them in.
I’m close to burning out on GoW because I’ve hit on a particular set of three troops that I can use together to defeat anything. This week I streaked straight from rank 15 to 1. Not enough challenge anymore. There is a high skill cap to the combo, which is the only factor keeping me interested for now.
Here’s the team (numbers reflect level 15).
[Any green-only, purple-only, or green-purple troop, + their banner]
Alchemist (red-brown) "Transform a selected Mana color to Yellow. Gain 10 gold."
Valkyrie (red-yellow) "Transform a selected Mana color to Blue. Gain 4 Soul(s)."
Sunweaver (yellow-blue) “Increase Attack, Armor, Life, and Mana of an Ally by 6.”
Here’s the strategy:
Match red and brown to power up your transformers. Never match-3 blue or yellow if you can avoid it, you want as many of those gems on the board as possible.
Never transform blue to yellow or vice versa except as a game-finisher.
Never cast a transform unless it gives you an extra turn.
Never pass up a transform that DOES give you an extra turn. Even if you can’t use the mana. Your goal is to relentlessly reduce the color diversity of the board. You can manually make match-4/5’s in between transform casts as long as you don’t leave yourself with a board that can’t give you a free turn via transform.
Do pass up opportunities to give away the turn via match-3 skulls, when you can do anything to get an extra turn instead. You want those skulls to stay on the board so that when you do your giant transforms, they chain into skull-matches during an action that gives you an extra turn.
If you hit a stall (no way to guarantee an extra turn) and there are two match-3 skulls available on the board, let opponent match the first while you cast Sunweaver’s buff on your striker. The 12 total health+armor you get will offset the hit, and then you can hit back with +6 attack.
Learn how to see ever-more-obscure extra-turn opportunities. (See addendum at bottom.) This is where the skill cap comes in. If you cast a transform and then the other player takes their turn, you’re doing it wrong. (The one exception is that a single low-gemcount transform in the early game, giving nothing away to your opponent, can prepare the board for your subsequent takeoff.) When you have one or both transforms ready to go, and you have cast at least one transform so far this game, then there is usually a way to guarantee an extra turn on your next action – it just may be hard to find.
Use Sunweaver’s buff on your front troop if you’ve already gotten your transforms rolling. If the opponent has taken off before you, buff Alchemist instead. The plus 6 mana alone may be enough to trigger Team Transform and win. However always buff the front troop if the opponent’s spells are oriented around killing your other troops first.
Here’s how it goes down:
You each make a few matches, maybe trade some skull hits. Opponent may cast a spell. One of your transformers becomes active, and you either cast it right away for a free turn or have to sit on it for a turn or two until you can. That removes a mana color from play, making further extra turns much easier to find and chain into. After you’ve cast your first transform, the only times you ever let the opponent take a turn are when you take a turn to cast Sunweaver’s buff, or you get an occasional stall where you can’t guarantee an extra turn and can usually settle for a match-3 skulls.
Sunweaver’s buff is perfect for Team Transform. Every transform removes a color from play, relentlessly increasing the density of Skulls until chaining into match-3 Skulls is inevitable (while you only take actions that give you extra turns). Thus Sunweaver’s +6 attack on your striker is greatly magnified in value. Alternately, +6 mana can be the burst of nitro that you need to get your extra turns rolling. +6 health AND armor on the target troop protects your investment. You’ll often be able to cast the buff again after a single turn of your opponent’s, which is essentially game over.
The only spell that interferes with this team somewhat is Entangle, since the team has no direct damage (unless you put some in your first slot). However all you have to do is wait it out while buffing with Sunweaver like mad – you can generate health/armor faster than you take damage – so this is not really a threat.
What’s crazy is that Alchemist and Valkyrie also generate free gold and souls when they cast (both from spell text and from tons of match-4/5’s). So clearly the designers thought that, being neither buffs, debuffs, nor direct damage, their transform powers were underpowered for their slot – as they should be for a resource farming team! If I’m careful not to kill the opponent too fast I can finish every battle with capped gold and souls. I chain into a map not uncommonly too.
Looking at it from a game design perspective, this team is a big problem. 1) The strongest combo overall shouldn’t also be generating extra resources (in three ways no less). 2) There should be rock-paper-scissors, where nothing is strong against everything. 3) It shouldn’t be possible to deterministically chain turns to this degree.
There’s an easy fix that’s in line with other spells. Change “transform all of a color” to “transform [X + magic] of a color”. When there’s more gems than that number you could still -probably- make yourself an extra turn via transform, but it wouldn’t be a guarantee anymore, resulting in a more reasonable number of turns given to the opponent. If the intent is to leave the gold/soul generating parts of these spells intact, X + magic should be made a low enough number that while the troops are still reasonable to use as mana feeders, they no longer rank among the most powerful combos in the game via guaranteed turn chaining.
Note: “remove all gems” is nothing like transform and doesn’t need a nerf. 1) it’s much harder to find a guaranteed extra turn with a remove, and 2) it’s “remove a color and replace with random stuff from the top” rather than “remove a color and replace with one other color”. The latter is far more effective at changing the board into a volatile match-chaining zone with just a few colors left plus skulls.
Candidates for first slot:
Tyri (green-purple) “Remove all Gems of a chosen color. Gain 10 gold, boosted by the gems removed.” It’s hard to cast a remove without handing the turn to the opponent along with a rarefied board. However you don’t need to cast the spell in this slot, and at 11 attack (with banner) she’s already brutal with the rate you can generate skull-matches in a single turn. You can often win with her in front without casting Sunweaver’s buff at all. But at only 16 health+armor, she will get killed sometimes when the opponent takes off before you, forcing you to win by buffing Alchemist (woe!). You don’t need her spell to max gold per game.
Boar Rider (purple-green) “Remove a row, and deal 8 damage to the first enemy. Gain an extra turn”. It’s a spell you can cast without giving away the turn, but you can reach 100% win against everything without it. You can occasionally remove a row in a way that sets up a match-4 as your next action, but not often enough to make an important difference. At 19 health+armor (with banner) he’s a sturdier meat shield to survive until your first Sunweaver buff, but only has 7 attack.
Dark Song (green-purple) “Deal 10 damage to an enemy. Deal double damage if they use green mana.” Sexy, but superfluous to the team since it gives away the turn. At 25 health+armor (with banner) she’s great as a meat shield to take hits until you start casting your other spells. 7 attack.
…or your favorite [green and/or purple] troop/weapon. Just remember that if the spell gives away the turn, don’t plan on casting it more than once per game.
Make sure your visual cortex understands that any of these shapes qualify for an extra turn, and can spot them when composed of any two colors (one of which blue or yellow but not both):
xxxx x x xxx x xxx x .x. xxx .x.
You also need to watch for these single-color shapes, which can indicate that a one-step chain to four of a kind is available, via a match-3 or a transform that creates a match-3, which causes this shape to fall into place.
xx ..xx ..x .... .... xx.x x x . x x x x . . . x x