Marvel Snap was my second favorite game of 2022, and I am still playing it every day. But, even with my love for it, I am starting to get a bit bored and frustrated. It only has one mode, and it’s not that fun unless you invest a lot of time trying to climb its ranks. The game has been around for nearly six months, so it’s time they introduce some new content that’s not just new cards or locations. If not that, then they need to rework their matchmaking and how the game resets at the start of the season.
Understanding Snap’s only real game type
Marvel Snap’s lone mode is ranked matches against others. You play in the hopes of earning cubes and moving up the ranks. Since I started playing the game, the best I’ve achieved is somewhere in the low 50s. It’s not a bad place to land, but it’s probably around the average (I suspect most people finish between levels 30 and 60).
When a new season begins, everyone gets pushed down at least 30 levels, depending on where you finished. If you stopped between levels 40 and 49, then you begin the next season at level 10. If you’re lucky enough to get to level 100, then you’ll begin at level 70. Because of that, you obviously want to try to get higher up the ranks because of the significant advantages it offers you in the next season.
There are rewards, and while they aren’t incredible, they do help you in other parts of the game. If you are ranked higher, then you’ve also earned more credits, gold, and cards than other players. Having those will help improve your collection level, which also means you’ve probably unlocked more cards. Having more cards means greater variety in your deck building. While you can certainly win with any type of collection, the ability to tweak your deck(s) is incredibly helpful.
Ranked Play is not fun
For me, I’m at that point where I have zero interest in only playing ranked matches. I’m never going to win the 1000s of matches necessary to reach levels 60 and greater. There are a few problems with Ranked Play. For starters, luck/randomness plays such an important role. That’s because the locations you get in a match can ultimately determine victory or defeat.
If your deck is built a certain way, and you get a location that works counter to your strategy, you’re not going to win. At the same time though, Turns 1 and 2 don’t really give much of an indication of who has the upper hand in a match. However, it’s Turn 3 that’s the most significant. This is where you know all three locations, and you’ve probably seen at least one of your opponent’s cards.
Once you have an idea of the kind of deck your opponent is playing, you can start to make a calculated guess on if you think you can win the match or not. If it’s clear you can’t win, this is the best time to retreat and take the minor loss of cubes. If you feel like you still have a chance, then keep playing. Obviously, the developers don’t want people to quit after Turn 3. So, if you’re playing a deep match the result is likely still “too close to call” and a winner won’t be clear until the final cards are shown on Turn 6.
Problems with Ranked Play
What I consider to be the biggest problem with Ranked play is that the matchmaking sucks. The worst part is that the developers do not explain how matchmaking works. It’s clear that it’s not solely your collection level or your current rank. Instead, it feels like it uses a matchmaking rating, more commonly known as “MMR” to determine your opponents.
What this means is that if everyone starts at 0, then this number goes up or down depending on how you fare in your matches. The more wins you get, the higher your rating and you’ll face off against others with similar scores (within a range). Reversely, if you lose a few you’ll get matches against other struggling players.
Since we never see our opponent’s rank, we have no idea if we’re playing against someone ahead, behind, or at the same level rank as us. It also means that we’re playing against a bot. This is frustrating because this undermines progression. A bot character might have a deck built to counter yours, ensuring a loss of cubes. They can also be built in a way that you can easily win against them. There is no skill since the perception is that the outcome of the match is already predetermined.
Play against people at your level
The challenge here is finding the perfect balance. If we use a bell curve, then most players are in the 30-60 level range, so matching against other players in this range is easy. But, those in the lower and higher levels won’t get matched up against other players because there are so few of them. If those two groups are facing off against more bot characters, then they aren’t progressing or regressing at the same rate as everyone else.
There need to be two significant changes to Ranked play. For starters, when you hit a level threshold, let’s say Level 40, you can’t fall below it. Technically, when you go from level 39 to 40 for the first time, they automatically skip you to level 41. Currently, if you lose cubes, you can fall back to 40 or 39. What I want is that once you hit the new level section, you stay there. This encourages you to progress since you know you can’t regress back to the old-level group.
The other change I would like to see is for the game to show us our opponent’s current rank on the level system. I’d like to know if I’m regularly facing off against high-ranked players who will most certainly have certain Pool 3,4, or 5 cards I won’t have. At the same time, if I’m facing off against someone ranked significantly better or worse than me, the rewards should reflect that. If I retreat against a lower-rated player, I should lose more cubes. Conversely, if I beat a higher-rated player, then give me a bonus cube or two for my effort.
Overall, you’re not really making much progress
Marvel Snap doesn’t have stat tracking, and for good reason. If players knew how slow their progress was, they wouldn’t keep playing. There are usually three outcomes in a match: you will either earn a victory, a defeat, or escape.
A victory includes your opponent retreating, so that means you earn either 1, 2, 4, or 8 cubes. A “defeat” means you’ve lost 2, 4, or 8 cubes. Meanwhile, a retreat or “escape” loses you either 1 or 2 cubes. The game encourages you to retreat if you don’t feel good heading into the final turn, but it’s still a loss in the sense you end the game with fewer cubes than when you started.
I wanted to track my progress, so I kept a running tally of 40 matches. In the end, I finished with a record of 26 wins, 7 defeats, and 7 escapes. Meaning I won 65% of those matches. For most people, this is a great result. Except, when you take into consideration the number of cubes I won and lost across those matches. In that case, I made little progress.
In those 26 wins, I earned a total of 66 cubes. This comes up to about an average of 2.5 cubes per victory. I had two 8-cube wins which helped. But 10 of my victories were because my opponent retreated, so I only earned 1 cube per win. On the flip side, I lost 28 cubes. Eight of those were from retreats, with the rest coming from straight-up defeats. With a +38-cube increase over 40 matches, I didn’t make significant progress. Looking only at defeats, I was averaging close to -2.9 cubes per loss. If that’s the norm, why would anyone want to keep playing?
Think about offering some new challenges
Moving forward, we need something that isn’t ranked play. The recently added friendly mode isn’t enough. We’re at a point in the game where we require an introduction of some other content. In my eyes, the best thing is to add a challenge mode. We have so many cards to play with, but I’m still typically only using about 30-40 cards. There are certain cards I’ve never used and have no intention of even trying them.
But, if I had a mode where I was forced to use those cards, I would. Hearthstone has been doing a challenge mode for years, and it’s very common in other collectible card games. I’d love for there to be a mode where I need to win matches using a specific deck type. Maybe my deck can only contain Avengers characters. Perhaps there are matches where I can only use 1,2 or 3 energy characters. The possibilities are endless.
This could be paid content. You have rewards in the mode, which would include variants, gold, and other treats. It’s a revenue stream, and it also encourages creativity from the player base. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to face off against the same three or four deck variations. Again, there are over 80 cards in Marvel Snap, so let’s encourage players to experiment.
Keep me and others playing
I cannot be the only person who feels this way about Marvel Snap. The content stream is starting to dry up and adding new cards just won’t cut it. There are more things this game desperately needs, including an auto-deck builder. It would also be nice if they fixed their reporting system, as I’ve encountered a lot of offensive-named opponents. But, if there are no meaningful changes on the horizon, I’m fine playing other games instead.