Kaitlyn's been probably the trickiest balance problem since Dev released, because she was so incredibly feast or famine: especially back when starting positions were at range 4 to each other, common knowledge was "if your character is immobile, Dash towards Kaitlyn (even if it means taking a hit) or you lose the game immediately." If you were playing someone like Clinhyde who had movement to spare, she could basically never keep wormholes on the board and just got stunlocked into oblivion (because she had no defenses).
Well, that's no good.
In trying fix Kaitlyn, we had a few ideas - we basically know that her UA needed to mess with range somehow, but various play patterns just weren't all that fun to play as or against, because toning it down just felt boring. One test had it as "The opponent has Before: If you are on a Wormhole, Kaitlyn may remove it to move you 1 space." which was fine balance-wise but just... didn't feel interesting, and there wasn't much of a way to make her cards interact with it.
So after a bunch of experimentation, we basically went back to her old UA, but with a bit more flexibility and a lot less movement denial. Along with UA changes came the realization that Kaitlyn essentially had two and a half Styles. Mobius and Axiomatic were medium-range styles that moved a person and hit reasonably hard, Telepresent and Illimitable messed with wormholes, and basically everything but Paradox threatened mid-to-long range with a 0 or -1 Priority modifier and some vaguely similar movement effect. Transposition did the same things once again (punishing the opponent if you get to activate, then moving somewher), still at average speed with no defense.
This was all activation-time, Hit: or After: effects with no defense and a heavy reliance on her Wormholes in order to go off, so there wasn’t much guessing to do on her opponent’s part – mostly figure out how much Power she’s throwing at you, because the Priority is pretty much always going to be her Base’s and the Range is likely to be “2 to 5”, ish.
As part of her update, we pushed a lot more diversity into her Styles and Transposition, giving her a much more interesting set of tools for players to wrap their brains around and hope for the best.
Here they are!
The new UA is pretty similar to the old one. She still has 3 Wormholes, though they are now placed After: instead of at End: (and she doesn’t care as much about reactive stun), and Wormholes still give -1 Range to the opponent and optionally to Kaitlyn. Stepping on Wormholes is now a much smaller penalty of Power instead of movement but removing several Wormholes at once can be debilitating – and every one, if you try to trade with her, can result in small advantage. She’s still a control character through and through, but one that relies much more on a universal resource (Power) rather than taxing opponent movement and hoping they run out of things that can hit her.
Illimitable keeps its old End of Beat, now gaining a solid amount of Stun Guard and a useful counterattack component. Move exactly 2 brings you from range 1 to range 3 if you can retreat, but if you are near the corner it becomes much less reliable… unless you can sneak Wormholes between yourself and the opponent to reduce the Minimum Range to something a bit more useful (if you are 2 away with a Wormhole in between, you can reduce it to +1~4 Minimum Range as a nice, consistent trick).
And of course, If you’re counting on the reactive movement to get you into range you need to be very careful of your opponent’s Styles as well...
Axiomatic is a very interesting Style. The Ignore Soak option gives a tool that most low-Power rangers have, but its Hit: effect is where its real value comes from (on top of its solid statline) – a small reposition and the ability to drop an extra Wormhole. Tying them together poses an interesting question: do you move away from the opponent but place a Wormhole in a worse spot, or do you move towards them but set up better trades and give them an immediate threat to play around? The Ignore Soak happening next to wormholes is something you’ll see again with Mobius, so hang tight.
Another counterattack style, sort of. Telepresent keeps its enormous Range, and can brutally punish anyone trying to Dodge and clear Kaitlyn’s markers and duck into her Minimum Range. Her compensation reaching up to +2 Power, combined with her UA, makes the trading potential scary – but if the opponent doesn’t move onto Wormholes, the value drops dramatically. This and Illimitable are both extremely important in helping her fight against sticky characters that can reach Range 1 easily and stay there for the rest of the duel.
Most rangers get a high-threat card, often one that’s tough to set up but high reward if you can stay at range and land the Style. Mobius is Kaitlyn’s, likely being a +2~3/+1/+2 Style with potential Power penalty on top of that if you move the opponent through a couple Wormholes. Remember that you place a Wormhole After: as well, so Kaitlyn can quickly generate 3 additional spaces worth of range on a quick hit. Unfortunately, the corner can easily mess with her setups by forcing her to move them towards her if she wants the extra Power…
Paradox stays basically the same, though with some stat tuning. It’s now the free Wormhole, and Paradox Dodge is a useful tool now that Dodge prevents her from placing new Wormholes due to the N/A Range, but at that point you’re throwing away the chance to use it and win a beat. It was always one of her more unique tools, so everyone wanted it to stay pretty similar.
Hint: Paradox is -1 Priority now, so Burst at +Priority has a much higher chance of being a nasty surprise for her if she swings slowly with it.
Transposition got changed quite a bit. Always including Range 1 is a lot more useful now that her Styles are improved (Mobius Transposition can be a hell of a combo depending on what the board looks like), but not being able to stun opponents is pretty rough when you factor in that you’re spending a Wormhole to get your burst of power. You still give -1 Power on it, though, so it’s very very good at trading hits.
Kaitlyn’s Finishers are similar, though the hit condition on Planar Disjunction is changed up a bit. Divide By Zero continues to be a strong disruption effect, and Planar Disjunction is a high-damage hit that creates a 9-life swing if they decide to move onto a Wormhole. Take your pick!
In general, Kaitlyn’s theme as a ranger is “control.” Where Rukyuk and Trias try and find useful and nuanced attacks, and Welsie tries to zero in on the opponent’s weaknesses and bash their face in, Kaitlyn tries to set up a board position where the opponent is being tossed around the board or just barely unable to hit her, over and over again. High-Power opponents she can challenge with range disruption, while flexibly-ranged opponents she reduces their threat and focuses on trading and slipping high-value attacks around their Priority. This new setup gives her much more interesting and well-rounded gameplay, with a more stable matchup spread and interesting decisions regarding Wormhole placement and combo setup just about every beat.
We hope you enjoy the Grand Marshal’s new kit!
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Content - Daniel Honig, Balance Lead
Editing - Marco De Santos