3 Recent Weapons that Jumpstarted my Faith in TNT
It had been a while since the BD Chat had something to buzz about. The excitement of the New BD had long worn off. The Smuggler’s Cove had remained empty for years. Fyora hadn’t added anything to her tower in a while. After 15 years of barely venturing outside the BD Chat, it was time to for me to see what else this site had to offer. And with the Games Master Challenge underway I figured that would be a good place to start. With the BD forgotten, I set about playing flash games that I hadn’t even realized existed.
Then along came a volleyball. A Volleyball on Fire, to be exact. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the GMC’s daily prizes. All I cared about was beating AAA. But when a weapon generates multiple discussion threads on the BD Chat, I figure I should I click on one of them. Just to see what the fuss is about. And I’m glad I did.
The Volleyball on Fire provides 100% water defense and a solid 11 icons of offense before breaking permanently. Fragile full-blockers are a very powerful but underutilized class of weapons, and I’m always happy to see a new one. But this volleyball had an extra mechanic that caught my attention: it only breaks after blocking water icons.
To fully understand how important that little addition is, you need to understand fragile full-blockers in general. These are extremely cheap single-use weapons that provide 100% defense against a single icon type (with the exception of the Slippery Floor Potion which blocks both fire and water). Each one also deals a few offensive icons, which is a nice little bonus. But the important part is the 100% defense. That level of defensive power is usually only found in the multi-million NP shields. Of course, the more expensive shields provide a wider range of defense and never break, which justifies their higher price tags, but the super cheap fragile full-blockers provide a great alternative for those battlers who can’t afford big weapons.
While these fragile full-blockers are great for cheap sets, the drawback is that you only get one use out of them. So if you whiff your defense, you’re out of luck. You could equip multiples so you could have more chances, but then you’re spending multiple weapon slots to block a single icon type. And that’s where the Volleyball on Fire shines: it only breaks after serving its purpose. If there’s no water to block, then the volleyball just becomes an 11 icon offensive weapon and you can use it again the next round.
New weapon mechanics are always exciting, and the Volleyball on Fire was no exception. But more than just creating an interesting weapon, the Volleyball showed us that the Jumpstart team had a good understanding of weapon mechanics and how to balance them. Not an easy task!
I do have one gripe with the Volleyball, however. The rest of the fragile full-blockers are extremely cheap. As in, 700 NP a pop cheap. That’s what makes them worth using even when you know they’re going to disappear on you. But the Volleyball being released as an event prize means there is a finite supply and as that supply gets used up the price is going to rise. At its current price of 5,000 NP, it’s already pushing the limit of how much one might be willing to spend on a fragile weapon. Had the Volleyball been released through a shop or a daily, its price would better fit its usefulness. This doesn’t take away from the solid design of the weapon itself, but I feel the rarity should have been lower to ensure the price stays down and the weapon remains viable.
I had hardly finished marveling at the Volleyabll on Fire when TNT threw yet another surprise at us: The Dangerous Maraquan Yo-yo. This one was a heal-drain weapon; a very exclusive class of weapons with only two other members. While healers exist in many forms at all levels, draining weapons are extremely rare and difficult to balance. But once again TNT showed their prowess in weapon design.
The reason drain damage is so difficult to balance is that there is no way to block the damage. With regular weapons, you simply find a shield to block the right icons and that mitigates the damage you take. In fact, having to pick icon types for your weapons is a huge part of competitive battling. But there is no shield for drain damage, so there’s no need to worry about icon types, and the only way to mitigate the drain damage is to use a healer. It’s an extremely powerful mechanic in low league battling and is only balanced by keeping the drain damage low and drain weapons rare.
To understand how heal-drain weapons are balanced, let’s take a quick look at the Yo-yo’s predecessors. The Cursed Elixir was the first ever heal-drain weapon, but went largely unused until it was mass released by the Spooky Food Eating Contest in 2013. The elixir drains 20 HP from your opponent and heals your pet for the same amount. This drain is unconditional, so if your opponent has 20 HP or less, and they don’t use a healer, the Cursed Elixir’s drain is guaranteed to take them down to 0 HP. That makes it both a great weapon for beginning 1P battlers and a great strategic item for low league 2P battlers.
The second heal-drain weapon was the Crisp Blue Tunic. An r99 item that stocks in the Brightvale Armoury, this tunic drains (and heals) a whopping 100 HP, but it only works under certain conditions. First, the pet using the tunic must have at least 750 intelligence or the drain won’t work. Next, the pet using the tunic must be missing at least 101 HP, and their opponent must have at least 101 HP remaining. In other words, unlike the Cursed Elixir, you cannot beat your opponent just by using the drain from the Crisp Blue Tunic. Those strict requirements are what keep the tunic’s power in check and turn it from an auto-win weapon into a weapon that requires some forethought and allows for some degree of counterplay.
This brings us to the Dangerous Maraquan Yo-yo with its 35 HP drain-heal. The Yo-yo has similar requirements to the Crisp Blue Tunic, with one minor change: your opponent only needs to have 35 HP remaining, instead of 36. This means, if you’re able to get your opponent down to exactly 35 HP, then the Yo-yo will get you the win (assuming your opponent doesn’t heal).
35 is an interesting number, and at first glance I thought it was too weak to be worth using over any of the plain 50 HP healers. But I was only thinking about the healing part. Yes, it’s 15 points weaker than the Greater Healing Scroll, but you will also be dealing 35 unblockable damage to your opponent. For pets around the 100 HP mark, that’s the equivalent of a mid-tier offensive weapon. Quite the worthwhile trade off if you can manage your HP well.
Again, though, I did have one minor complaint about this weapon. It’s standard design to only allow one healing weapon to be equipped at a time. There were previously only two exceptions to this rule (neither of which are drain-heal weapons), but the Yo-yo provides a third. This seems more like an oversight than an intentional deviation from the rule, because pairing the Yo-yo with a second healer (such as a Greater Healing Scroll for a second heal, or a Cursed Elixir for a double-drain combo) takes the Yo-yo from well-balanced to overpowered. Other than that, the Yo-yo is another example of TNT’s ability to create a unique, well-balanced weapon that uses rather complex mechanics.
The third and final weapon was probably the biggest news on the BD Chat in the past few years: The Shuriken. (Oh boy, the Shuriken.)
The Shuriken was released just a few months ago, and this time I didn’t wait for others to test it out first. After the Volleyball on Fire and the Dangerous Maraquan Yo-yo, I was eager to get my hands on any new weapons TNT released.
So when the first Shuriken popped up for sale on the BD Chat, I decided to throw in an offer. The seller was hesitant to test it because the item was “limited use” which meant it could either break for the battle or break permanently, but we wouldn’t know which until someone actually used it. Then I went to check the Battlepedia and my mind was blown. The Shuriken dealt all 7 icons—an unprecedented feat for any publicly available weapon. And it could freeze. And you could equip more than one. And it was only r87.
The onsite Battlepedia doesn’t give you as much info as the fansite battlepedias, and it doesn’t give any info at all about the rarer weapons, but it is a good place to get some preliminary info when a weapon hasn’t been tested yet. The Battlepedia will show you which types of icons a weapon deals or defends, but not how many of each icon. It also tells you if it heals, freezes, has an equip limit, and whether or not it can break. But even with that limited information, I knew the Shuriken was going to be fun.
I went back and upped my offer, even though the seller hadn’t said anything yet, just to make sure I’d get the first shot at using the Shuriken. And man was it worth it. It dealt two of each icon type (for a total of 14 icons), froze more often than not, and only broke for the battle. And if that wasn’t good enough, you could equip more than one (which I did after finding another for sale and restocking a third). This thing was going to make all other mid-tier offensive weapons obsolete. And if the rarity stayed low, it would be a mid-tier weapon at a low-tier price.
I released the stats, sold my Shurikens for a nice profit, then watched the pandemonium unfold while I tried to decide whether or not I liked this new powerhouse weapon. It was fun, it was unique, but it was undeniably overpowered. Releasing such a strong weapon at such a low rarity set a dangerous precedent and sent the BD Chat into an uproar. Surely there was a mistake or two. Was it supposed to have an Equip One limit? Why was the rarity so low? Would TNT nerf it?
When I finally took the time to consider the Shuriken piece by piece, I was actually impressed by how nearly it wasn’t overpowered. There are four major parts to this weapon, so I’ll go over the pros and cons of each part and show how they all work together to keep the Shuriken (mostly) balanced.
First, the 14 offensive icons. That’s a solidly mid-tier weapon amount of icons. The current mid-tier weapons are each in the 13 to 15 icon range, but none of them provide anything extra. But consider the Shuriken’s icons themselves: two each of all seven icon types. It’s extremely difficult to block all seven icon types at the same time, but it’s extremely easy to block at least one icon type. Use a shield—any shield—and you’ve just blocked part of the Shuriken’s attack. So it has the raw damage of a mid-tier weapon, but rarely will you actually land all 14 icons.
Next, the freeze. Freezing is an extremely strong mechanic in its own right, and previous freezers have been limited to just a few icons, with each additional icon adding quite a bit to the price tag. In fact, the strongest freezer (100% chance of freezing with 15 offensive icons) is one of the most expensive weapons in existence. So why does the Shuriken get to freeze with its 14 icons? Because it only freezes about 66% of the time. A 1/3 chance of not landing a freeze is actually a huge tradeoff in competitive 2P fights, and even in some 1P scenarios. Generally, the goal is to freeze your opponent at a point where you can go all-out offensive and win on the next round. Not having that guaranteed freeze creates a substantial risk, and those 14 offensive icons are needed to help mitigate that risk.
That leads into the third aspect: the multi-equip aspect. Limiting pets to a single freezing weapon is the standard. In fact, before the Shuriken, there was only one other freezer that didn’t have an equip limit (the Thrown Slushie Cup), and that was a single-use Altador Cup prize that quickly got used up. Being able to stack Shurikens (or pair it with a more reliable freezer for a chain-freeze) is what tips this weapon over the line for me. Stacking two Shurikens gives you 28 icons of damage and a 90% chance of freezing your opponent. Or, you can wait for your Shuriken to freeze, and then use a second, more reliable freezer, to ensure you get two free rounds to damage your opponent. The Limit One rule for freezers is what keeps the mechanic balanced, and the Shuriken’s offensive power makes it a bad candidate for breaking that standard.
Finally, I took issue with the fact that such a strong weapon was only r87. Of all the other weapons that fall in the 13-15 icon range, none of them stock in the regular shops. Two of them are given out as prizes through NeoQuest II, three were released through the Hidden Tower (two of those are now retired), one was released through the Smuggler’s Cove, and five were released through various plots and Altador Cup prize shops. Note that all of them are either not being given out anymore, or are given out very rarely. This helps them maintain a price that falls between the extremely cheap starter weapons and the more expensive anagram swords. A mid-tier price for a mid-tier weapon class. But not for the Shuriken.
Stocking in a shop is not inherently bad. Plenty of strong weapons, even a few top-tier ones, restock in shops and maintain an appropriately high price. But being r87 meant that Shurikens were flooding onto the market faster than users could add them to their sets. The price continued to drop until it was in the 100-200k range, and it would have pulled other mid-tier weapons down with it had TNT not snuck in with a ninja fix.
The Shuriken’s rarity was just recently increased to r99. A rarity more befitting of a strong weapon. Now the Shuriken has gone up to meet its mid-tier buddies in price, rather than creating an even larger price gap between mid-tier and top-tier weapons, the Shuriken’s new price has set it up to be a stepping stone between those two weapon tiers.
While each of these weapons have their flaws, they are far outweighed by the positives. Where the Shuriken was too common for its strength, the Volleyball on Fire was too rare for a single-use weapon. The Dangerous Maraquan Yo-yo and the Shuriken both broke the standard of limiting healers and freezers to one per set, despite being already strong weapons. But all three weapons were otherwise well-designed and balanced around the current weaponscape. And it’s the balance and design aspects that are most important in creating new and exciting weapons. Matching rarity to power and adding Limit One restrictions are easily remedied. But the ability to use complex mechanics to create unique and balanced weapons is a difficult feat that even the original staff members didn’t always get right. And after seeing these new weapons, I am ready to put my faith in the Jumpstart team in the hope that one day the Battledome will return to its former glory as a bastion of competition.