Skill Re-balancing: A Game Design Discussion

It was less than two weeks since I discussed the new Crystal Beast support. Unfortunately, the deck received a horrible nerf in the form of a skill re-balance for “Transcendent Crystals.” Let’s discuss this type of re-balancing in Duel Links, as I hold back my tears.

What Makes A Successful Skill Re-balance?

A skill re-balance is meant to either improve or worsen a skill. It is easy to know if a re-balance intended to improve the skill was successful. All you have to do is see if people are using it or not. Most skill re-balances meant to improve a skill are not successful at first. But the Duel Links team will often simply improve it until it’s usable.

Due to this, a failed improvement is not a big deal. Nothing is being taken away from the player if the newly buffed Cyber Commander skill is still very bad. Which, it totally is. But a poor decision relating to a skill nerf is extremely impactful on the Duel Links experience. Many decks rely on skills. What is the difference between good and poor skill nerf?

All Duel Links skill re-balances are made with the game’s health in mind. I fully understand and respect the intentions behind them. That being said, sometimes they are ill-advised. A nerf should optimally stop whatever is being exploited, while still leaving potential. The Transcendent Crystal re-balance ironically kind of does this. While Crystal Beasts are now possibly even worse than before the new pack, they will still use this skill. 

How does this apply to May 2020?

In the most recent mass skill re-balancing, “Grit,” “Transcendent Crystals,” “No Mortal Can Resist,” and “Baggy Sleeves” were all nerfed. “Grit” was given the clause that after use, the player who used it is given a special summoning restriction. “No Mortal Can Resist” had its life point deficit trigger doubled. “Baggy Sleeves” was changed to only be usable once per duel.

Do the “Grit”, “No Mortal Can Resist”, and “Baggy Sleeves” nerfs accomplish a successful skill re-balance? Sort of. Grit loses most of its appeal, but may still find use in some Lunalight builds. “No Mortal Can Resist” has lost some of it’s utility, but Dark Magician builds utilizing Dark Magic Curtain can still trigger it to majorly hurt Lightsworn decks. “Baggy Sleeves” is probably just bad now, but we’ll have to see how the metagame develops.

Harsh Skill Rebalancing

Similar to modern-day Yu-Gi-Oh erratas, Duel Links has a habit of rewording skills to be completely nonviable. To their credit, those balancing Duel Links often hit skills very lightly at first. The skills “Grit”, “Baggy Sleeves”, and “Beatdown” have been hit at least twice in the history of Duel Links. They still saw a lot of use after their first nerf. Personally, I would have changed Beatdown to being used twice per duel, and not changed Grit at all after the first change. But I can understand wanting to diversify the game’s skills. I think Duel Links is mostly consistent with their ideology of “two strikes you’re out,” and I value that consistency.

Duel Links skills could certainly be changed in a manner that makes them competitively viable but less exploitable. But all things considered, I value the honesty and transparency that goes into duel links skill re-balances currently. I think players should be mostly thankful for the attention to game balance the Duel Links team shows.

Archetypal Skill Re-balancing

So why is the “Transcendent Crystals” skill re-balance considered a bad one? It both removes a skill exploitation and still leaves room to be used. It’s an archetypal skill, related to Crystal Beasts. What’s more, it was nerfed just weeks after the release of more Crystal Beast support. Skills created with one archetype in mind should, in my opinion, be treated as part of that archetype, and re-balanced with that archetype in mind. Nerfing a key archetypal skill less than two weeks after that archetype’s cards are released and purchased from a new pack is perceived as dishonest by many players. Thankfully, not many were pulling for Crystal Beasts, but this sets a worrisome precedent nonetheless.

Hitting a deck less than two weeks after releasing support for it is potentially bad for the community, as it causes distrust among the player base. It may set a precedent of unease for pulling for new support. If Crystal Beasts were, you know, a good deck and this happened, there would be unbelievable outrage. I understand the reasoning behind hitting Crystal Beasts, as it is an indirect hit to Crystron. But when skills can be reworded to anything the Duel Links team wants, many might think that we as a player base should ask for a higher level of game balance than ruining archetypal skills to indirectly inconvenience a deck that will still be perfectly competitive.


This is not a hit piece against the Duel Links game balance team. I actually believe they do a phenomenal job most of the time. They are fairly consistent with their skill re-balancing process. While some of their decisions may leave some of us scratching our heads, they do a great job. Transcendent Crystal’s nerf is a rare misstep, and I implore readers who share this sentiment to write a calm, polite Game Design inquiry, noting the perceived slight against a deck with newly released support, and explaining their dissatisfaction with this. Truthfully, I’m going to build Crystal Beast either way because I am a sucker. It would be nice to play them with a Transcendent Crystals reworded to only work with Crystal Beast, but I’ll play them nonetheless.



My favorite archetype in duel links is Madolche, but only because Crystal Beast refuse to be funtional. Waiting for Yugioh Sevens with bated breath.

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