After weeks of playtesting, theorycrafting, ladder-climbing, and a bunch of shit-talking, I am ready to face my friends in Marvel Snap’s PvP mode. In a new blog on the Unity developer tools website, Marvel Snap associate design director Kent-Erik Hagman wrote about what players can expect when Battle Mode is planned to launch on January 31st.
Marvel Snap’s Battle Mode will work a bit like a standard match with one critical change — instead of wagering for cubes that can be won, you’re betting with your health. Each player starts with 10 health, and at the end of the match, the winner deals the amount of wagered health as damage. Hagman wasn’t clear if betting health will work the same way as betting cubes, so we don’t yet know if wagers will automatically double at the end of a Battle Mode round. But if it works just like regular matches, a match in which both opponents “snap” could deal a whopping eight damage to the loser.
According to Hagman, the small health pool will make even the low-stakes rounds that much more exciting because when a player only has 10 health, every point of damage matters. In Battle Mode, players will only be able to use one deck for the duration of the match. Hagman shared that the ability to predict your opponents’ moves will add an additional layer of hype to a head-to-head showdown.
“We also knew that over a series of games, the mind games of learning and anticipating what was in your opponent’s deck and their specific play style was something that would add a ton of fun,” he wrote.
While it makes sense that decks be locked-in when initiating a match, since decks are so small — 12 cards vs. the 30 in Hearthstone and even more in Magic: The Gathering, depending on the format — it’ll be pretty easy to parse what an opponent’s carrying early on. So my hope for Battle Mode is that it might include the option to add a sideboard — a handful of supplementary cards that you can slot in and out between each round. It’d be really frustrating to play against, say, the Bucky Barnes / Carnage / Nova combo if my deck’s ill-equipped to counter it or at least slow it down. Being able to slot in utility cards that I can then use to frustrate an opponent’s combo (and vice versa, of course) could make head-to-head play more dynamic.
Hagman also gave us a little insight into the earliest iterations of Battle Mode, including the development of a high-stakes round.
According to Hagman, a Battle Mode match should take around 20 minutes. But in the early stages of testing, players wanted to feel out their opponents’ decks, so they would intentionally lose the first two rounds, risking minimal health and making matches take way longer.
“To keep Battles around 20 minutes, we added ‘High Stakes Rounds,’ which kick in starting on Round 5. High Stakes Rounds start with the stakes at two damage, so it’s much more deadly,” Hagman wrote.
Another feature of Battle Mode is the restriction that doesn’t allow players to risk more health than they have. This feels smart to me because of the way Marvel Snap matches can swing wildly on the last turn. If I won round after round, whittling my opponent down to one health, only to lose outright because my opponent wagered big on a moonshot, I’d never play Battle Mode again.
Battle Mode isn’t the only thing coming to Snap in the next patch. If you missed out on purchasing Black Panther during its season or still haven’t cracked a She-Hulk, they’re about to get easier to obtain. (Sorta: we still need to have a conversation with Second Dinner about how it spaces out its cards in collector levels. It makes no sense that caches can award variants for cards I already own when I haven’t collected all the base cards in a series yet.)
Basically, Marvel Snap is introducing what it’s calling a series drop whereby cards transition from a higher, more rare tier into a lower, more common one. You can see which cards are dropping here, and Second Dinner’s also said it plans to add badges that will denote if a card was obtained before its drop. Lol, Second Dinner, we already know who the cool kids are because they’re the ones with the $99.99 player avatars.
My grumblings at bundle pricing and card progression aside, I’m stoked for Battle Mode. I can’t wait to terrorize all my friends and Snap-playing colleagues, and I’m really looking forward to all the community tournaments that are sure to crop up when Battle Mode hopefully goes live on January 31st.