Hey everyone, Marco here! While I’m not the lead balancer, like Daniel is, I have been a playtester for some time and I’ve gotten to make a few changes to some of the Devastation cast myself. In this article, I’ll talk about how we ended up changing everybody’s favorite Legendary Hunter: Joal!
Joal was, in no means, overpowered. In fact, he was also not underpowered. He would be, by many standards, an average character during the release of the original Devastation of Indines. So, the question is: “Why did we change him?”
The answer is twofold: changing times and game health. Joal was created in an era with different core systems and some of his niche interactions (such as Dual Wield Dash) simply ceased working when Dodge and the Force Gauge came along. We’ve implemented some changes to, hopefully, fill in this gap in his power budget. Aside from this, simply put, Joal’s gameplay was not fulfilling his fantasy as a “weapon master hunter.”
It was not uncommon to see Joal simply do a rotation of Dual Wield Dash > Relentless Shot > Something Ironstar. This is problematic on multiple levels. First, it implies a serious lack of game health in his kit as none of his other options seemed “worth it” to play. Second, it also doesn’t “sell” the supposed fantasy of having all these awesome weapons at your disposal.
Ultimately, Joal was meant to be a toolbox character with strong, but niche tools that let him handle a variety of situations. Our changes featured here bring him closer to that fantasy.
Joal’s Unique Ability remains the same as most of its power comes from his Unique Bases. We’ll go over them before exploring his styles as the bases now play quite a vital role to understanding why some of his styles were changed in the way they were.
Let’s start with the three bases that did not receive any changes. Ironstar, Runeblade, and Knuckle are perfectly good bases. In fact, many might say that they’re Joal’s best ones. There is no doubt about this. Ironstar exerts a lot of pressure on the opponent’s dodge, Runblade is amazing when it hits, and Knuckle gives Joal a good piece of anti-soak tech that lets him slug with heavier characters like Alexian.
We’re featuring these to show an underlying philosophy in fixing the fantasy of a character. We don’t want to simply “change” them for the sake of changing them. If certain parts of a character’s gameplay have become representative or indicative of that character, we will attempt to keep or enhance it. Joal’s threatening bases are part of his fantasy, so these three stay put.
To enhance the fantasy and give Joal more of a “hunter with many tools” feel, we most definitely had to improve his other bases, giving him more choices during his starting set-up.
Binding Knife’s change gives Joal a new tool for setting-up. Hitting with a Binding Knife now lets Joal set-up some cool two-hit combos that can deal massive damage. Opponents cannot Drive or Dodge past Joal once they’ve been hit, giving him the option to follow-up with a hefty Shot or sneaky Burst play.
Hand Cannon was always a weird base, specifically with its odd “Move” effect. How does a shooting someone with a cannon PULL them towards Joal?
Regardless, this new Hand Cannon packs a way bigger punch. It now has Stun Guard 2, making it easier to pair with many of his styles (or just Force Stun Guard). Its new effects further sell the strength of his gun by pushing the opponent way further. So much so that, if the opponent is close enough to a wall, they “wall bounce” and take 2 extra damage!
This gives Joal a POWERFUL execution attack that works at near full-board range. Something he didn’t have before!
In keeping with the “emergent identity” of Joal, we realized that not that many were actually using Dual Wield for the “double attack” feature. Instead, many were using it as more of a “cheat the priority of my moves” kind of card, especially with Dash.
New Dual Wield attempts to keep this identity while also furthering his toolbox fantasy. The increased Priority allows Joal to fill in the void left by the loss of Dash, while his retooled unique bases give him way more cool things to cheat out depending on the situation.
Overall, Dual Wield now has less Power (as it doesn’t double attack), but has gained a fair bit of utility in return.
Relentless is the other “problematic” style in Joal’s kit, as mentioned earlier. It was simply too powerful and too “easy” to spam with Shot due to its amazing trading potential with Force Power and Force Stun Guard antes.
New Relentless is an overall nerf, but is in-line with the fantasy of having powerful but niche tools. Now, Relentless deals more damage if the opponent hits Joal’s damage cap, turning it into what it was always meant to be: a powerful pay-out punish.
Warded has received a drastic overhaul. “Ignore On Hit and On Damage effects” has been found to be quite an unhealthy effect as it “turns off” a lot of characters, making it oppressive in some match-ups.
New Warded sort of acts like a reflection to New Relentless. Instead of punishing giant swings, Warded now heavily punishes swift pokes. Not only does it give Joal great trading potential, it also lessens his opponent’s options. This, again, further sells the “I have more tools than you” fantasy.
Warded now also packs range, giving Joal more options when attempting to hit from far away.
Slayer’s was meant to be a utility style with the ability to hit at range and give Joal more bases to play. However, in practice, Joal would not need more bases as the ones left in his Stockpile are often the ones he DOESN’T want. This left Slayer’s in an awkward limbo of having poor stats and no real utility.
New Slayer’s is now a stat-good style with good stats and an added BONUS of getting an extra base if you hit. Mixed with his retooled bases, the Range and Priority go a long way in giving Joal more consistently-threatening attacks. Slayer’s Binding Knife, anyone?
Many of Joal’s cards were supremely buffed in this update, so some of his other cards had to take a small hit to balance out his power budget.
Cutthroat loses some flexibility by forcing Joal to at least advance 1 space with it. It now also interacts differently with Soak; not stunning if the damage is negated entirely. These nerfs will be felt most against Control characters and Heavies with Soak. However, Joal has gained way more tools that help him in these match-ups, making it a fair trade.
Overall, Cutthroat is still a powerful style. His updated bases now pair awesomely with it. It’s just less flexible mid-beat.
Annihilator actually did not receive any modifications. It does, however, get a clarification that revealing Dodge means it deals no damage (it always acted this way).
While this card is untouched, it’s power level has increased. The release of Dodge allows Joal to reveal it and turn the finisher into a Dodge, giving him an “easy out” should the opponent have played something that completely beats Annihilator.
In addition to this, Binding Knife and Hand Cannon’s retooled effects can now be added onto Annihilator, potentially giving it better power and damage mitigation.
Neutralizer stays pretty much the same. It still gives Joal great comeback potential, while also exerting huge amounts of pressure on the opponent’s Dodge and Brust.
Overall, it, more than anything, shows Joal’s fantasy. It’s powerful and absolutely deadly, but only in certain situations. However, those small windows are all Joal needs to pull off a win.
In the end, Joal’s changes were less of a balance fix and more of a gameplay fix. Many of his cards had to be retooled to stay in-line with current design principles, while also emphasizing on his core fantasy as a “many weapons hunter.”
We hope you will enjoy this new, more flexible Joal in Devastation Remastered! He’s got more tricks up his sleeve and he’ll always have the right tool for the job. Do tell us what you think of the changes in the comments below! We’ll see you in the next update.
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Content & Editing - Marco De Santos