I think most arguments and discussions regarding overpowered cards being introduced, old cards being buffed, or new mechanics being added, over the last several months have a very common element that became rather clear to me when last week, I played mostly explore to try getting event keys during the goblin event, and ignored PVP mostly.
PVP is, by design, not fun. And for me at least, the problem has grown to be increasingly stressful and has sapped the fun from the game as a result of PVP also being the mode where you get the most rewards relevant to keeping your guild happy with you. Everything you need for your guild; seals, trophies, and gold are most effectively gained by doing PVP.
So, as my frustration with the game has grown, and the number of events continued to expand, I began to make decisions to cut certain modes from my play time so that I can keep up with guild requirements while reducing my play time so I can cool off between BS incidents. Always, I would be cutting the least effective game modes out, and thus spending more of my time on PVP, and more time getting frustrated with whatever meta weapon or team composition is being abused at the time.
So, it was a breath of fresh air to play last week focusing on explore at max difficulty. Playing against random assortments of teams, with varied stats, and team compositions of varied levels of quality. And it’s made me realize that there are two huge problems with the way PVP is designed which makes it guaranteed to be a frustrating and unpleasant experience.
The first is that there is no variety. When a new meta emerges, everybody and their mothers uses it. Doesn’t matter what it is, really. Whatever happens to be the meta will be adopted by MOST players. The best I’ve seen in the many months I’ve been playing has been overlapping metas, where you get a tiny bit of variety because two or three meta teams are being used, rather than just one.
The second, is that a lot of defense teams are either gimmick teams, or luck based. Either chaining together an infinite loop, abusing the streakiness of the RNG to have troops summon/resurrect infinitely, or having a team that can fill up and destroy you in one turn. Mechanics that either waste the player’s time during the match, or wastes the player’s time having even started the match because it was destined to be the AI’s victory from the moment the board was set.
This creates a situation where PVP is just fighting the same team, with the same team, using the same strategy, over, and over, and over again, and randomly lose one in every few matches because the gimmick of the month is so overwhelmingly powerful that there’s just nothing you can do about it when the AI gets the lucky roll it needs.
Victories feel hollow because you’re not facing any new challenge, and defeats feel unfair because you couldn’t have done anything different to win.
The objectively best way to build a defense team is to use some gimmick that guarantees victory a certain percentage of the time, regardless of the skill or team building ability of the attacking player. The team with the highest percent chance to force a victory will be discovered by someone, emulated by everyone else, and then that becomes the new team everyone has to fight in almost every match until a new meta takes over.
The fact that there are no points for creativity means that this will always happen. the defensive meta will always become homogeneous, finding whatever team structure is currently the most likely to force the match out of the player’s control, and sticking to it until a buff, nerf, or new card is introduced that shakes things up for the week it takes for a new meta to form.
It seems to me that some means by which to encourage creative teambuilding would be very helpful for making pvp more interesting and varied. Either creating a limit on how often you face identical teams, thus forcing players who want to have their teams fought more often to change up their teams, and making “meta teams” unprofitable to emulate.
Or perhaps you could give defense teams higher rewards when they are “fresh”. For example, it could look at the last 100 defensive fights, and if a team is a high percentage of those fights, it gets lower rewards, while if a team is a low percentage of those fights it gets higher rewards. This would encourage players to experiment more and not just sit on the same team forever.
I believe though, something done to encourage more variety in pvp and less dependence on gimmicks (I have no suggestions on how to overcome reliance on gimmicks though) would make pvp a lot more enjoyable.