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Misaligned Stars: The Problem with Celestials

Targon as a region is viewed by many as overpowered. There are many players, including myself that believe that comes down to one of its two identity pillars. Those being healing and celestials, the latter will be the focus of this article. Celestials present a plethora of design issues due to the way resources work in Runeterra this article will discuss them and how to fix them.

Celestials are a card-type exclusive to the Targon region and the result of the invoke mechanic. When you play a card with the invoke keyword, you are offered a choice between three of the twenty-three celestial cards based on the limitations of the card used to invoke. This highlights the first issue with celestials, lack of deckbuilding costs. The release schedule of this game, which deserves an article unto itself, is predicated on the fact that at the end of a release cycle every region has the same amount of cards. Well, celestials make that impossible because they are generated cards. Every Targon deck is effectively 53 cards while everyone else is stuck playing 40 cards. This would actually be fine if celestials put a restriction on your deckbuilding like say Warmother’s Call, but they don’t it’s just an extra thing Targon can do with no strings attached.

Generating good cards isn’t a bad thing; this is a digital card game, proper use and manipulation of random effects is a skill, and it should be showcased. However, if the generators of said random effects are good cards on their own then we have an issue. To demonstrate this let’s compare Solari Priestess to The Fangs. In Solari Priestess we have a unit that is weak for its mana cost that requires you to play it as the first action of your turn.

The Fangs on the other hand, is a 4 mana 3/2 with lifesteal. It will almost always trade at its mana cost because of this even without the invoke it can be used as a defensive Sparklefly. There are more cards like this including the champions Zoe and Aurelion Sol, but they are champions. Champions are allowed to break rules that’s why Hecarim has overwhelm and Yasuo is hard removal but they both exist in regions where those traits are not otherwise present. Starshaping is the worst offender, it heals you or a unit five health at burst speed and invokes a celestial that costs 7 or more mana. It really says, “you don’t die this turn and you may search for your win condition.” Being at burst speed makes the card lack the interactivity that win conditions need. “But you can interact with the card Starshaping gets.” Yes, you can but since Starshaping is only five mana they’ll just do it again.

The next problem with celestials is simply that there is too much invoking available; it takes away the skill of manipulating the game to make an earlier invoke choice pay off because you can just invoke again you are free to just pick what’s best for the current situation. There are some situations where taking an early falling comet or more commonly equinox can reap rewards later, but the reality is that those are few and far between due to the random nature of ladder climbing. As of writing this there are 11 cards that can invoke celestials. Only five of them have an activation requirement that’s less than half and that’s with me counting Zoe’s attack and Mountain Scryer’s allegiance as requirements. This coupled with the fact that these generators are run in multiples makes the problem of there being so few generators non-existent. They often make up anywhere from one-fifth to one quarter of a Targon decklist sometimes even more. This means they are too free and stifling the region’s other mechanics.

So, how do we fix it? Equinox is often the card brought up when the conversation up gets to this point. One mana slow spell that silences a follower forever. People think the card needs a nerf to three mana and they’re probably right. Personally though, I believe the effects and mana costs of celestials are fine. The true issue is two-fold, celestials are too accessible and unknown due to the generation factor. I would make all celestials collectible cards and make the generators into tutors. Meaning they can only search celestials that fit their specific requirements from your deck. Therefore, the opponent has an idea of what to play around because the Targon player will only play the most relevant celestials for the given metagame. This allows both players to engage in the skill test that celestials are intended to create and a simple UI fix to show all searched cards in hand would make this particular change really shine. The other solution if you enjoy the randomness that comes from celestials not being main deck cards would be to give all the non-champion generators activation requirements. Let us know which solution you would prefer in the comments.

Until next time.

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