The Demise of the Front Meat Shield (in General)
February 11 2008 12:19 PM EST
I have been having a lot of fun with the new supporter item: the Amulet of Leadership. It is a nifty little gadget that, more than ever, makes minion-order dynamics a fun part of strategy. In playing around, I also realized that the front-side meat shield is all but a dead concept.
Let me explain what a pure "meat shield" is. A meat shield is a minion with relatively low HP, usually an enchanter, who occupies a slot on a team merely to take damage for a round. So, a very important thing to note here is that I am NOT talking about a Wall of any kind, and I am not talking about an Evasion minion. Those sorts of minions are not meat. They have a specific use and have items or stats that facilitate that use.
With that definition in mind, I will make this statement: Front-side meat shields are a dead concept. Why? Basically, because of explosive shot.
Let me get some other housekeeping details out the way before I continue... Back-side meat shields are still very much alive. A few pieces of garbage in the trunk are great for nullifying a couple rounds of Magic Missile, that back-firing diva of Direct Damage. And "all-side" meat shields still work -- taking a slot in order to dilute spreadfire magics for as long as possible.
But on the front side, a meat shield can no longer do its job when facing explosive shot. In fact, the meat becomes a detriment. Let's take a look at how truly unique explosive shot is.
First off, explosive shot involves a physical attack. That means that it can hit multiple times per round. So, it is the ONLY ATTACK IN THE GAME that can hit multiple times per round AND possess spread-fire capabilities.
Second, just by nature of attack dynamics in CB (and so not all that unique to exp. shot, I guess), the multiple firings of explosive shot will keep the same minion targetted, even if that target is dead. That dynamic is a GOOD thing. If it weren't for the fact that targetting stays with a specific minion (even when dead), tanks would be incredibly powerful, able to kill several minions in one round using ANY weapon.
Third, put one and two together and you have a frontal attack that can really only be nullified in two ways: damage reduction and/or simply not getting hit in the first place.
I moved my poor meat to the front to act as leaders. It worked pretty well -- started drawing with Mikel, st least for a bit (not sure if I still do). I also figured that, "Hey, meat in front...that's a good idea, right!" Not really. Two or three large SoDs coming up the ranks can use their defensive exp. shot to kill my whole team in one or two rounds:
Oddo's explosive shot hit Mary Frances Boyd , Dave , Joe , Hubbell Man's familiar , Hubbell Man 
Oddo's explosive shot hit Mary Frances Boyd , Joe , Hubbell Man's familiar 
Oddo's explosive shot hit Mary Frances Boyd , Joe 
Oddo's explosive shot hit Mary Frances Boyd , Joe 
To be honest, my fight logs make me giggle out loud. I keep imagining poor, dead Mary Frances, getting blown further and further into the ground by HUGE explosions, and the rest of her team running in circles around her while on fire. It's fun stuff. *smile*
I get the rare loss and less-rare draws against these couple SoD teams, and Freed's latest monster can win (easily) in one round. It's really not a big deal (pfffft has been off my fight list for weeks now), and it is the choice I made by moving the enchanters to the front.
But I have to confess to really lamenting the demise of the front meat shield. SoDs are only going to get larger and larger, and slinging doesn't even require Archery to work. Explosive shot is so common such that rarity is no longer a limiting factor at all. And while I understand these bundles of shot are VERY expensive, they are useful as defensive ammo -- an option I do not have as a mage. It sucks whichever way I try to slice it.
Finally, it points out how binary things have become. Evasion (or lack thereof) makes other teams go from totally missing me to being able to kill me in one round. If Jonathan ever nerfs Evasion, that takes my options from two (damage reduction or not getting hit) down to just one: damage reduction. Dull, boring, no-brainer damage reduction.
At this point, I have to say I hope Evasion doesn't get nerfed (even though I know in my heart it absolutely _should_ get nerfed). When a physical attack can have the best of both worlds (multiple hits AND spread-damage) there is no longer a fun alternative to simply not getting hit. Not even the good old-fashioned sacrificial meat shield works.
That makes me sad. Farewell, brave, front meat shields! You have served me well! Godspeed as you burn in the powerful fires of explosive shot!
February 11 2008 12:26 PM EST
I've quite a few teams on my fightlist with front placed meat shields. Maybe people will wise up. Giving me something I can hit at the front is not a good idea....
One of my fightlist even has their RBF on that minion. Not clever at all...
February 11 2008 12:33 PM EST
Right. In that case, how can the AoL be useful at all? Unless Jonathan begins allowing two amulets per minion (which would have HUGE ramifications and defeat the idea of an amulet in every game I have ever played).
You can't even try to have a leader in front for even one round, because it results in explosive shot being able to kill the whole team in one round.
I think that sucks.
I should probably dredge up my old post from ages ago about SoDs and Ex Shots becoming so large as to kill entire teams in one round due to multi-hitting spread fire.
Just another reason I think we need CB3. ;)
Sute, being unable to use a AoI on the front minion means you absolutly must use Evasion on the Leader.
No choice there at all.
If you want to use the AoL, you must train Evasion, and suck up the fact you can't boost your Evasion with a AoF. ;)
February 11 2008 12:40 PM EST
Not to dilute my original post, but I was also trying to bring up a couple other concepts not just against exp shot:
-- The binary nature of Evasion becoming MORE important instead of LESS, as I wish it would.
-- The fact that mages cannot have defensive ammo. If anyone mentions how expensive these ammo bundles are, I will counter with a gargantuan I DON'T CARE. They are for defense, and a mage can't do it. Getting someone off your back is HUGE when it comes to the current state of clans.
February 11 2008 12:42 PM EST
I don't boost my Evasion with an AoF anyway. That's not the issue, in my eyes. The issue is wondering who has a lead minion devoted to Evasion (but no damage dealing) who could actually make the AoL useful? I guess a simple Evasion, ToE wearer with an AoL strapped on could be useful...
February 11 2008 12:45 PM EST
I had an evasion wall of sorts on my last team, the AoL would have been useful then.
ps: I don't like the AoF, anything that increases the size of enemy EOs is not good for the way I work my teams...
February 11 2008 12:47 PM EST
With evasion so comparatively cheap to raise an evasion wall at the front isn't diluting the enchantment side. You don't need evasion over (100) for quite a large part of the game, so putting it on enchanter/meatshields isn't a major difficulty.
February 11 2008 12:51 PM EST
BTW, what's defensive ammo? ;)
I'm too lazy to maintain a couple of bundles of ammo. The change with ex shot has kind of encouraged me to create a very large bundle. With just over a million ex shot to raise it to x2 costs me 7 million. X16 costs me 115 million.....
So being lazy there's no chance of me using boosted ammo at those prices lol...
February 11 2008 12:55 PM EST
well with your current set up johnny your also a target for SOD teams :)
Even with me having the largest Effect of Evasion on my evasion minion... I still can't move my evasion minion in the front and use an AoL instead of an AoF especially with the huge Defensive Exp shot... That evasion is one of the only things keeping my team from losing or drawing with Yanki... the Robf only works as far as there is another minion targeted so the splash damage dissipates... and my DB's which help him miss a round or two when my Robf minion is the last one alive.
February 11 2008 1:47 PM EST
But back on topic (not adamantly so, just curious on other people's thoughts), doesn't it bother anyone that front-side meat is a dead concept? Or do people think that is a good thing? Putting Evasion on front means it isn't meat any more. That's an evasion wall.
I long for the good old-fashioned meat-shield idea, and explosive shot has not only made that idea impossible, it has made it WORSE than alternatives. Since when did offering up the life a minion mean so little? *smile*
February 11 2008 2:07 PM EST
I still miss the old CB1 team layouts, meat shields at the front, damage dealers at the back. You knew where you were with those.
Ah nostalgia. ;)
I don't morn the loss of the front meat shield. Another multi minion team advantage gone. ;)
I will have to agree that meat shields are dead... but if defensive ammo I.E. upping ammo is disallowed then some of the problems with Exp shot killing a team in one round would be non existent.
I also miss the old days of MM hitting the front minion and not having exp shot destroy a team in one round ^_^
As you mentioned, sut, it makes minion-order dynamics a more fun part of strategy. I think that Jon has been trying to add that in gradually, by changing MM to fire from the back and by making familiars spawn in front of/behind their carriers depending on what the minion has trained, among other things. There are things like Mageseekers and stat-draining Xbows that are part of an offensive counter to well-arranged minion orders, and now more things are being added in to make defensive minion order a more interesting and important aspect of gameplay. For example:
AoL minion at the front, and with an Evasion mage second or third in the line-up:
The leader "meat-shield" minion may die first round against a lot of things... but what about against Mageseeker archers? They fire at the Evasion mage (whose evasion is boosted by the AoL), and may miss all 4 rounds of ranged trying to fire at a minion with a boosted evasion, failing to take out the front minion. Then, your DD is still boosted into the melee rounds.
What I'm saying is that not everyone takes out the front minion first. SoDs do, and I see how that bothers you. But, for mages (or a similar scenario could be applied with Exbow/Axbow) who are getting hit with MsK, it will make those deadly archers need to make a choice between killing the damage-dealer, or killing the team-enhancer.
February 11 2008 3:00 PM EST
Yeah, I guess with how expensive these upgraded bundles are, my main issue is simply with defensive ammo, a subject that has been brought up many times before. And still, nothing done about it yet, other than to actually make explosive shot MORE plentiful while SoDs continue to grow game-wide.
February 11 2008 3:10 PM EST
Speaking strictly as a novice (not THE novice) to this game I still enjoy the help my meat shield brings. He trains AS and AMF and when he dies, he dies. He now holds my ToE which gives the 40% residual to the rest of the team even after he dies. He usually survives at least one round (more often than not more than that) so the plus that the AoL brings can make a definite difference in the HoC round for my exbow guy. It's usually pretty important that I hit with that as soon as i can and I'll take all the help I can give him. So my meat shield still takes that valuable first round that those really big archers throw out there and as long as i can hit a few times, that's what I need to survive.
Just my 1 penny. (won't even value this as two cents) :)
February 11 2008 3:24 PM EST
Sure, j'bob, except your "meat" has the same problem as mine -- explosive shot can kill you in one round (especially if the enemy has DM). That lead minion is nothing more than an SoD enhancer.
Hell, I've done two lots of Ex Shot farming tonight, for fun.
Got 13,000 Ex Shots.
I think I'll go get some more. Stockpile if I ever want to run a ToA Ex Shot archer.
February 11 2008 3:39 PM EST
THAT part is true yes. But as has been said before ya cant beat em all... well, you can maybe, some day. I'll take the losses to my share of SoD fights if I can win more of the ELB battles that are coming my way.
Hey, that's a nice pair of scissors... let me show you my ROCK!
(HEY, keep that paper over there.)
Tell me again, why do we need ammo amounts any more? Seriously.
February 11 2008 4:03 PM EST
Just to give tanks something to do? *smile*
February 11 2008 4:16 PM EST
This may be wrong but I'm going to say it anyway-I thought the idea behind the game was to come up with the best strategy you could and utilize the tools available.So the SoDs and ex.shot are on the hot seat now. What's next? I think ex/ax bows are overpowered. EC is too strong! Evasion at higher levels is just sick. Should we change the game every time something doesn't work out the way we want it or should we adapt to the dynamic of the game? P.S. It's not any fun when the rabbit gets the gun (for any of us) .
February 11 2008 4:29 PM EST
Completely agree with you, WW. I like a mix of things to make the game fun. That's why I lamenting the tactical loss of a type of minion use. And that's because of Evasion. And because of massive ranged damage... The list goes on.
A lot of it comes down to the binary nature of things. I can't stand it. Jonathan seems ambivalent to it. So, who knows what the future holds?
Pretty soon the rock/scissors/paper aspect of the game is going to get so hard-set that the game is going to get boring in another direction. We might as well all just wear colors and say red beats blue, blue beats green, and green beats red. Then we all just click C-Enter and see what happens. I don't mind rock/scissors/paper, I just don't want it to become soooo ingrained that I can predict battle outcomes without even having to dive into details. At this point, Evasion is such that you can look at an Evasion investment and know that it nullifies a large portion of physical damage (especially ranged). And if you look at a large SoD/exp-shot user, you know they can nuke anyone without Evasion. In my opinion, that's dull.
February 11 2008 4:58 PM EST
Remember one does not have to use the AoL.
Its benefit is not that large.
For an evasion minion, the AoF is a far better item. Better to stay alive then to give your team a bonus for a round or 2.
However, I do agree the game, especially in missile rounds, is quite binary.
February 11 2008 5:11 PM EST
Yeah, I will probably just go back to my old stance, and I can still use the AoL on Joe... Problem is, familiar is already drawing Mageseeker fire...gah, now it will take that much longer to train above it!
February 11 2008 10:21 PM EST
"Right. In that case, how can the AoL be useful at all? Unless Jonathan begins allowing two amulets per minion (which would have HUGE ramifications and defeat the idea of an amulet in every game I have ever played). "
I say FB/FF on front, AoL, TSA Archer in back. A boost in PTH(huge!) and ST to the non-ToA Archer, extra DD for the two FBs. A quick ranged killer's dream come true.
At least, it sounds good in theory.
February 11 2008 10:24 PM EST
Btw, I would be totally cool with Evasion getting only a nerf in the form of half effect during melee rounds.
Then you're choosing to use Evasion to stop ranged, and having to dedicate to melee. Archers can't use it themselves, and mages have loads of ways to get their damage reduced.
as far as overpowerness goes, I think there is a threshold. As soon as the amount of people uses the skill at top level passes it, it becomes either use it or use the counter (if it exist at all).
As long as the % of people use the skill is below the level, it is acceptable.
Can anyone understand what I just said? I am not sure I got it myself.
February 12 2008 2:25 AM EST
people -.-" the thing is... why do you HAVE to put it on the lead minion?
enchanter/meat wall <--- AOL here
after the evasion wall served its purpose prolonging the fight and letting your tank enchanter and meat wall survive to a round where evasion is lesser boosted your tank gets the bonus from the AOL and blasts through the enemy
so i ask... why the obsession with AOL in the 1st slot?
If that minion gets hit by spread fire, it dies before it can get any use.
There's also no point in waiting until round 4 to use an item if your damage dealer is already dead before that (AMF, GA, Exbow, MsK).
Also, the AoL minion won't be useful against MM teams, whereas in the first slot it would be effective the WHOLE fight.
I'm sure there are other reasons people can think of, but it's 12:43 AM and I can't think of any more... :)
February 12 2008 4:31 AM EST
at least there ain't no defensive ammo anymore :)
PL wall backing the AoL wearing minion? drop some AC on it maybe a TSA? Evasion could work?
Well, I can say I'm sad to see the Front Meat Shield go.
I think it died long before the rise of the SoD. Since an elb kills you just as good with 2M HP or 0 and MM hits from the back it is only really useful versus melee tanks or as a splitter versus FB/CoC but it doesn't have to be in front for that.
Even versus ELBs or Melee Tanks, it was a kill slot. It could have been left with 20 HP and still do it's job well. They were only expected to last one round, but they've already cast thier enchantments, and it's a round where your main damage dealer isn't being hit.
But, with Ex Shots, they are now a liberty, as it's allows your main to be hit by the splash.
I like the fact that the 20 HP Enchanter kill slot has a draback now. ;)
I don't -_-
I can't exactly fire an enchanter because of the silly exshot.
February 12 2008 7:26 PM EST
ohh thought you were ban for real lol good too see ya sutekh137
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