Discussion about ultimate decks and scenario difficulty levels


Pathfinder Adventure Card Society


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

We have had ultimate decks now some months. I would like to hear peoples opinion how and if They feel that the scenario difficulty levels have changed when They have used ultimate decks Beside their normal character decks.

For me personally it feels that I now rarely have situation where I feel that there is nothing worth of card upgrades. I have not played so Many old adventure paths that I can be sure if those older scenarios feels easier at this moment than They did before. All in all at least They seems to be less swingy. It is not so much about that I get that good weapon from the deck, because there seems to be several good weapons now that can do the trick. So in that way those old scenarios seems to be a Little bit easier than before, just because the deck seems to be less svingy. So the general power level of the characters seems to have riced somewhat. Even these newer characters seems to benefit from having ultimate deck, not just the old ones that really needed that powerup. Do we need now harder scenarios? Maybe. But all in all I like what ultimate decks have done to the game. There seems to more good options, you have to leave out good cards because you just don`t have card slots to those cards! And that is good thing. You can make different build of the character and feel that all have their good points so there is more variety how to develop your own hero.
The negative thing is that chosing two deck combination instead of having only one deck has caused quite bad analyze paralyse among some of our players. Also ultimate decks have made 70% of the older cards in original decks obsolete. You just don`t use them because alternatives from ultimate decks Are just so much ”better”. This tells something about those earlier decks... al in all it has fulfilled their purpose and made those older decks playable again, though even now those newer character decks seems to be more powerfull than old with ultimates included and when the new decks Are even more powerfull with the ultimate decks the power balance between the new and old is still quite deep...
I still almost hope that we get new versions of those older 7 deck even we now have these ultimate decks but the need is not too strong as it was before ultimate decks. All in all I am personally very happy how the ultimate decks have turned out in real envinronment usage.
But I would like to hear about other people opinions. I have only replayed Seoson of lumbered tombs with uktimate decks in use. Not the older ones so comments about seasons of righteousnes and so on with ultimate vs original Are most wellcome!


I talk too much, so these are my brief thoughts - mostly in agreement with what you say above.

The pros are very strong. There are a number of organized play (OP) characters that were weak or borderline unplayable in their original forms. Kyra has more swords to use with Ultimate Combat or Ultimate Intrigue, for instance, when her original pickings were slim at best. And I would have avoided Gronk the Druid at all costs, but with Ultimate Equipment (and probably other options) he's great fun.

But there are cons. Some newer characters are now overpowered in combination with certain Ultimate decks, with a few power/card combos that are abusable and/or broken.

But the pros strongly outweigh the cons. I like all my characters to be helpful (not a hindrance) to the party, and I'm not determined or patient enough to figure out the broken combos anyway. And pairing different characters with different Ultimates is simply entertaining.

So sure, organized play is now easier. But the OP groups I play with are pretty casual, so it works great for us.

Note: I'm only talking OP. Using Ultimate decks in at-home play is a whole other thing.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Similarly, we have only played Plundered Tombs start to finish with any Ultimate decks. So it's a little early to tell.

I did not find they made the challenges easier - some card combinations might be strong, but that could easily come from your class deck.
But they absolutely made things more fun, since you had access to a wider variety of options and thus more upgrades to play with. Something to take regardless of what the party acquired, if you will.

For instance, Damiel locked in his items pretty quickly, and almost all from the Alchemist deck, but having extra blessing and weapon options beyond the few that the deck has was great.
(( pro tip [which I've noted elsewhere]: MM Damiel with UM Ice Chemist ))
By contrast, Rhivani was using Ultimate Magic and took as many spells and allies from it as from her deck. The extra flexibility was really nice, but she still only has so many slots. And most of the rest still came from her deck.

I have played a couple SotS scenarios with Bard and Ranger decks combined with new cards (I started them as a solo pair three years ago and play a couple scenarios every few months while making a new batch of kalhua), so those characters have picked up a small number of newer cards. And I would say I've seen a nice improvement with both characters - or at least that I've noticed when I draw the new cards, cause they're new and thus stand out.

As to the analysis-paralysis of having so many options... yeah, I've fallen prey to that once or twice. Best thing is to plan certain moves ahead of time (next spell is X, next item is Y, etc) so the wrapup phase goes quickly. Just a thought - worked for me quite a bit, since the other player is much quicker about that.


For what it's worth, in our current OP campaigns, these are the deck breakdowns by card type (class deck/Ultimate deck).

Nok-Nok +UC (Tier 6): 9 class deck, 12 Ultimate
Kyra +UC (Tier 5): 9 class deck, 11 Ultimate
Grazzle +UM (Tier 3): 7 class deck, 10 Ultimate
Radovan +UI (Tier 3): 12 class deck, 6 Ultimate
Oloch +UC (Tier 6): 11 class deck, 10 Ultimate
Linxia +UC (campaign complete): 9 class deck, 13 Ultimate (a guess)
Gronk +UE (Tier 2): 8 class deck, 11 Ultimate (including card rewards from 4-7)
Aric/Red Raven +UI (Tier 6): 9 class deck, 15 Ultimate

Clearly, in our case, the Ultimate decks have had a dramatic impact.


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Hannibal_pjv wrote:
We have had ultimate decks now some months. I would like to hear peoples opinion how and if They feel that the scenario difficulty levels have changed when They have used ultimate decks Beside their normal character decks.

I'm the only one in our Plundered Tombs group using one, so now I'm playing Siwar (Bard CD, Ultimate Intrigue). I added the new deck for Adventure 6 and since then we've gotten through most of the Adventure. Our next Scenario is 3-6E.

Hannibal_pjv wrote:
For me personally it feels that I now rarely have situation where I feel that there is nothing worth of card upgrades.

So after I decided to pick up the deck I went through and picked out cards that I thought would be good for Siwar, if we were able to get relevant upgrades. I ended up with about 10, a couple from each of the card types Siwar can take scattered throughout the Adventure Deck numbers. Since then I've added 4 cards from UI and one from my CD. If I didn't have UI I would have added 2 or 3 cards.

Even if I'd had it from the beginning, I'd still be using cards from the Bard CD. There's a lot of important staples (Blessings, Spells, Old Salt, Ruby of Charisma, etc.) that aren't in the Ultimate Intrigue deck. My guess would be about half from each.

Hannibal_pjv wrote:
So the general power level of the characters seems to have riced somewhat.

Yup; power creep has been going on throughout the evolution of the game. Suddenly giving all characters an extra ~100 cards built with the most recent design methods in mind is going to make them all more powerful and flexible.

Hannibal_pjv wrote:
I still almost hope that we get new versions of those older 7 deck even we now have these ultimate decks but the need is not too strong as it was before ultimate decks.

I don't think we need new versions of the first seven decks, and I'm sure Paizo would prefer to keep making new products that would appeal to old and new players. The new set and new edition of the RPG gives them a perfect excuse to do it, though.


I forgot one character from the above list, who is our most extreme case:

Varril +UM (Tier 5): 6 class deck, 14 Ultimate

Venture-Agent, Online—ACG aka redeux

Hannibal_pjv wrote:
For me personally it feels that I now rarely have situation where I feel that there is nothing worth of card upgrades.

Agreed. I now frequently have more choices for deck upgrades. This is nice because I don't feel so bad if I lose a rolloff for a certain deck upgrade to a teammate. I simply find another card I want.

Hannibal_pjv wrote:
I have not played so Many old adventure paths that I can be sure if those older scenarios feels easier at this moment than They did before. All in all at least They seems to be less swingy. It is not so much about that I get that good weapon from the deck, because there seems to be several good weapons now that can do the trick. So in that way those old scenarios seems to be a Little bit easier than before, just because the deck seems to be less svingy. So the general power level of the characters seems to have riced somewhat. Even these newer characters seems to benefit from having ultimate deck, not just the old ones that really needed that powerup.

I've only played Season 3 with and without Ultimate decks. I'd say my experience with the Ultimate Deck was much more smooth. I played with different characters so it's hard to compare, but in general, I had more options the second time through. Strangely enough, I did kind of a wacky build when I used an Ultimate Deck. It was not an optimal build, but I feel like it did better than my non-ultimate character who was playing Season 3. I do agree that new characters benefit from the ultimate decks and not just the "old 7" class decks.

Hannibal_pjv wrote:

Do we need now harder scenarios? Maybe. But all in all I like what ultimate decks have done to the game. There seems to more good options, you have to leave out good cards because you just don`t have card slots to those cards! And that is good thing. You can make different build of the character and feel that all have their good points so there is more variety how to develop your own hero.

The negative thing is that chosing two deck combination instead of having only one deck has caused quite bad analyze paralyse among some of our players. Also ultimate decks have made 70% of the older cards in original decks obsolete. You just don`t use them because alternatives from ultimate decks Are just so much ”better”. This tells something about those earlier decks... al in all it has fulfilled their purpose and made those older decks playable again, though even now those newer character decks seems to be more powerfull than old with ultimates included and when the new decks Are even more powerfull with the ultimate decks the power...

I probably would like harder scenarios. I think Season 3 and 4 started to move in that direction, though I think perhaps Season 4 was easier than 3. But at the same time I know not everyone wants harder scenarios, so it is hard to find a happy medium. Hopefully we are able to see some kind of difficulty settings in the future

--------------
Now, next bit is just some more of my personal opinions.

A lot of this is obviously subjective, but yeah, I do think in general the ultimate decks have contributed to power creep, which makes scenarios less difficult.

One of the big advantages the Ultimate decks give is that they can help make your character more versatile. Gem of Physical Prowess, Gem of Mental Acuities, Grappler's Mask, Fire Snake, and a slew of other cards let you do skill replacements for characters that previously didn't have these options. That alone is huge. No longer do you need to worry about running into barriers you can't handle because you can now have a skill replacement gem to give you a d10/d12 instead of a d4.

Past that, the boons are just better. Look at Orcish Earthbreaker+2 (GoblinBurn AD 6) and Corrosive Backsword (UI AD 6). Orcish Earthbreaker+2 for a "reveal" attack is Str/Melee+2d6+2. So that's an average of 9. Corrosive Backsowrd is 1d6+4, or average of 7.5. But there's more... Orcish Earthbreaker can be recharged to add 1d10 on your check against a barrier. Corrosive Backsword can be revealed to let you use your melee skill on checks against barriers. I know this is subjective, but given the choice I'd choose Corrosive Backsword over Orcish Earthbreaker any day.

I'm sure I could think of other examples, but the TL;DR of additional examples would just go back to "characters with ultimate decks are more versatile." You don't get forced into taking a deck upgrade at a certain AD, you now have lots of options. Those options let you customize your character and this in turn can make them stronger.

Overall, I think that ultimate decks have been a good thing for Pathfinder ACG. I like them, I enjoy them. They are fun, and arguably they let players customize the difficulty of their game by giving them better cards to play. I suppose I could always not play with them if I wanted to challenge myself but I do hope in the future I can play with them and have official guidelines for modifying scenario difficulty.


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Power creep is somewhat inevitable in this type of game IMO. As you explore the design space of total possibilities of boons, you inevitably have to put in slightly more power to wow people and continue to get them interested.

But really the versatility is more important in terms of character build. Extra options are always fun. Things that do more things are always welcome (but not necessarily things that can do everything)

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