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Sawmaw and Murmurquill: A critical analysis on balance

For the longest time, even since before the Arena was released, the dragons Gritty Sawmaw and Mythic Murmurquill have been the most notorious of the game. The forums have quite a few posts asking for a “nerf” or a “balance readjustment” for these dragons. It most probably is a topic that the game developers have heard about, and thought over.

In this post I aim to explain the reason why these two dragons are unbalanced, and bring forth discussion and suggestions on how to improve the experience with these two dragons.

First of all, I’m going to break the obtainable 5* dragons into three categories. The categories are made based on how they are obtained. Every dragon that is obtainable through a select method belongs into that category, however, there are some outliers with a more limited availability. Here are the categories:

  • Regular or Purebreed dragon, obtainable through draft and breeding
  • Crossbreed dragon, obtainable only by breeding
  • Trust dragon (weekend event), obtainable through regularly scheduled weekend events. Extra points can be bought with runes and won from chests.
  • Trust dragon (celebration event), Obtained through a 3-chapter event designed to gather as much trust as possible for said dragon
  • Outliers (Glaivedriver, Skullcrusher and Maeve’s buffalord), which have too specific obtain requirements and cannot be placed in the same value category as the ones mentioned above

Every dragon belonging to one of these categories, with the exception of the outliers, has the same value as other dragons in that category. By value I do not mean stats or abilities, only the means to obtain them. For example every dragon in the Regular category can be obtained with the same odds of breeding and drafts, making every 5* dragon just as rare as the other.

Each category can also be divided into dragon types, which are support, single target, semi-AoE (Area of Effect) and AoE. These sub-categories do not affect the hard value of the dragon, even though some of them could be considered more valuable than others based on the type of game they are playing.

So, what does all of this have to do with Sawmaw and Murmurquill, or game balancing?
I talked about the value of items, or dragons in this case. In this game, the balance is completely related to the dragons and their benefits.

In good game design, objects belonging to the same category are balanced if they have the same value/benefit ratio. That means the benefits you gain from a dragon that has the same value as another one should be in proportion.

Let me show you an example. We will take two dragons from the same value category, meaning that they have the 5* rarity and are Regular dragons. They both belong to the AoE subcategory. If these two items are balanced, their benefits should be similar in proportion.
Let’s compare The Shrill Boltbeak and Gritty Sawmaw.

The overall benefits of these dragons are weighed by their stats (attack, defense, health, power) and abilities (the AoE damage and two buffs/debuffs that come with it)
The Shrill Boltbeak’s stats and benefits are, at maximum level:
https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/dragons-titan-uprising/images/b/be/The_Shrill_Boltbeak_Card.png/revision/latest?cb=20190925140440
All Foes Take 150% Damage
All Allies Inflict 35% Increased Damage For 4 Turns
All Other Allies Gain Counterattack With 210% Damage For 4 Turns
At maximum level the Boltbeak boasts these stats:
559 Attack, 605 Defense, 2568 Health, 1535 Power

Now for the Gritty Sawmaw:
https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/dragons-titan-uprising/images/8/86/The_Gritty_Sawmaw_Card.png/revision/latest?cb=20190925140927

This Dragon Recovers 35% Health Of 180% Damage To All Foes
All Foes Generate -30% Spirit For 4 Turns
All Allies Inflict 25% Increased Damage Vs [Blue] Dragons For 4 Turns
Stats:
561 attack, 603 defense, 2568 health, 1536 power.

Compared to each other, their stats are extremely balanced with only one point of difference in power! This is good, because they are both in the same category and have the same value as AoE fighters.
However, there is a significant difference in ability damage: Boltbeak, just as any other 5* AoE fighter (not counting DoT AoE), does 150% damage with its ability. However, for some reason, the Sawmaw does a whopping 180% damage to all dragons.

At this point, if we take into account the ratio between value and benefit, it is explicitly clear that the imbalance exists.
Both of these dragons have the same value, however, the Sawmaw’s benefits are WAY better!
Additional inbalance exists in their spirit speeds: Boltbeak generates its spirit slowly, meaning its ability won’t be recharged as quickly. Sawmaw however has “very fast” spirit speed. So the Sawmaw, while having the same value and damage type as Boltbeak, is able to use its ability more times within a match while dealing a lot more damage.

The same issue exists in the crossbreed category: other AoE crossbreeds which have the same value as Murmurquill, do only 150% damage to all dragons, while the Murmurquill does an absolutely devastating 190% damage - to every single opposing dragon!

So it is clear that inbalance exists in these two dragons specifically, and it has not gone unnoticed. A lot of forum posts have been written about them, but for some reason gone ignored. Some people went defensive and even hostile, saying that it would be a bad thing if these dragons were adjusted for various reasons.
What I really want to know is, WHY do the developers keep these two dragons in that value category, when there is such a steep difference between damages and spirit speeds? Why haven’t they adjusted their damage to be the same as the others in that category (150%), or moved them to a completely new category of dragons? They are good dragons, obviously, but if you want a well designed, well balanced game, you have to adjust either the value or the benefits of these dragons.

So how would we approach bringing these two notorious dragons into balance? There are multiple options and here are my suggestions:

*Bring the value/benefit ratios to proportion within a category, meaning all dragons should have similar benefits in one category. If the AoE damage is determined, as a rule, as 150%, it should be so for every dragon that deals single-hit AoE damage.

Make the Murmurquill and Sawmaw outliers - meaning they wouldn’t belong in their current categories anymore. As their benefits are huge, their value should also be bigger. To balance these dragons without adjusting their damage, make them harder to obtain. They shouldn’t have the same odds in breeding and drafts as the rest of the 5 dragons.

*Limit the usage of Murmurquill and Sawmaw. There already was a forum post talking about banning them from the arena’s defense teams, which is a viable strategy.

Well, as fun as writing this has been, I will not make this post TOO long! I will also not go into detail about why game balance is important. But here’s a good read , part of which I used as a source for this analysis. It is a wish of mine that these issues reach the knowledge of the game designers. If they do decide not to make balance adjustments, I would love to hear the reason why.

Thanks for reading.

8 Likes

As much as I agree with you, we just do not need any more nerfs in this game. While I always say Hybrids must be more powerful because they’re harder to acquire, I also believe that nerfing old dragons is unfair to people who own them.

7 Likes

A very well presented argument. However, lots of people would complain if they were nerfed - perhaps we need new dragons in the game of a similar level? Maybe some of the new dragons planned will be as good??

3 Likes

More hybrids should be buffed,they are supposed to be the hardest dragons to acquire in the game!
Cardinal Combatant,
Should be something like this in order to be in the same tier with murmurquill
-All foes take 240% damage
-All foes inflict 40% decreased damage for 6 turns
-All foes cannot be healed for 6 turns

The Deafening Dawnbrawler should 100% get a buff as well
-All foes take 275% damage over 3 turns
-All other allies generate +38% spirit speed for 6 turns
-All allies gain 285% damage counter-attack for 6 turns

Slight changes such as 6 turns instead of 5 turns can make it so much better.

2 Likes

There is no difference between nerfing a dragon or buffing the other dragons…

It’s a monster I have, but it’s seriously strong. Look at the people who have a crystal collector and a shifty muklurker now. Poor little monsters.

If you read the post, I’m not saying that “nerf” is the only option here. But the balance needs to be adjusted. Increase the value of these dragons or bring them to balance.
Balance can also be achieved by improving the other dragons of the same value. As long as the benefits are normalized. But I think that nerfing two dragons would be less effort than buffing every other dragon.

they nerf the muklurker but doesnt do anything to sawmaw, I have 2 dragons and feel so sad to the thunderum 5stars :frowning:

1 Like

Sawmaw will probably be nerfed in the near future.

What is funny in Arena is re-rolling over and over and over trying to find an opponent that doesn’t have Sawmaw and then being matched with bots that have Sawmaw.

Sawmaw and Murmurquil are extremely strong on skills, but When they fight against many enemies, they absorb their physical strength seriously with blood-sucking techniques.
The funny thing is that the spirit is fast and the defense is high.
What’s really interesting is that Ludia has been watching for almost a year.
Do you know why people aren’t really interested in new monsters? They’re not worth anything compared to the two dragons.

1 Like

Ban them in arena defense team…