As an LCG, opening a set of Laboratory Mayhem can be a daunting experience, as you are greeted by 252 unique cards all wanting to be played. To ease new players into the game and give them a sense of the possibilities, we came up with two duel deck products, each designed to provide a fun, fair matchup. These duel decks have plenty of depth in the matchup to also challenge experienced players. We first made Symbiosis vs Corrosion, mono-discipline decks featuring Naturalism against Toxicology.
But before we even got to Naturalism versus Toxicology, we first tried Naturalism versus Reanimation. The first few games were promising – the games were fun and exciting, and both decks were winning at similar rates. However, after further playtesting, the games too often fell into the same pattern. Naturalism’s formidable servants applied a lot of pressure on Reanimation, which was often juggling the need for defensive servants with the sacrifice requirements of cards like Manflinger.. The Reanimator was also heavily reliant on Needlework Fiend + Violent Repurposing to put up a real fight, and even when the Reanimator assembled that combo, by the time the players reached endgame, the Naturalist’s superior numbers would prove decisive.
With that in mind, we decided to try a different matchup, and here, Symbiosis (Naturalism) vs Corrosion (Toxicology) was born. Not in the current form you see now, obviously. We were still many playtest games away from that. But we made first drafts of the decklists, and started playing. The decks went through several iterations as we played games and made adjustments to reach an even winrate.
Initial playtesting favored the Toxicology deck. Between Wreath of Vapors, Gas-Bloated Rats, and Wilting Malignancy, the Toxicologist had more than enough removal to deal with the Naturalist’s few threats. At this stage, the overall quality of servants in the Naturalism deck was lower than it is now. It was just a little too easy for the Toxicologist to take control of the game. So, in our first round of changes, we took out some of the more potent removal options from the toxicology deck, increased the threat density of the naturalism deck, and then it was back to playtesting!
Having both nerfed the toxicology deck and buffed the naturalism deck, did the matchup now too heavily favor naturalism? As it turns out, yes - from the next batch of playtest games, naturalism held the higher winrate. However, the gameplay experience felt much better. There was more interaction. Interaction leads to fun, interesting situations, which is exactly what we wanted from these decks!
The changes also more clearly highlighted the central themes of each discipline. Toxicology has many cards that care about -1 counters. Few cards care about stun. When we took out the control options from toxicology, we removed the cards that stun (Gas-Bloated Rats and Wreath of Vapors), but left Wilting Malignancy and Necrotic Burst, the cards that generate -1 counters. For naturalism, we wanted to show the importance of both the smaller supporting servants and the larger, formidable fighters. We first decided to add a couple more Tundra Emissaries to give the deck the extra muscle it needed. To make room for the Tundra Emissaries, we took out Leshii Runt, an overall much weaker servant. There were still plenty of supporting servants remaining, and the size of naturalism’s beefier servants was worth accentuating.
At this point, we were feeling great about the way the decks were playing and how the matchup was shaping up, but since naturalism was favored a tad too much, we had to iterate once more. The last round of changes featured minor nerfs to naturalism. Playtesting showed that naturalism was able to output threats a little too quickly for toxicology to handle, so we replaced one Tundra Emissary with a weaker card, and after some more playtesting, that brought the winrates close to even. Amazing how changing the numbers on one card can drastically impact the gameplay experience!