Image via Sony Pictures Entertainment

Zabu and Silver Surfer Have Finally Been Nerfed – How do I feel about this?

Goodbye, Spider-man + Absorbing Man combo.

Long-demanded and long-expected nerfs to Zabu and Silver Surfer have finally happened in Marvel Snap. It seems that everyone and their grandmothers (except ones working on Marvel Snap balancing and card design, obviously) knew from the start that Silver Surfer and Zabu would define the meta upon just glancing at their stats and effects. The community has suffered two months of Silver Surfer combo finishers and a month of Zabu’s reign. Zabu’s hopefully no longer the king of the jungle, and Silver Surfer will hopefully surf away into another universe so that healthier decks can (once again, hopefully) emerge.

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How Did Silver Surfer and Zabu Get Nerfed?

If you follow the Marvel Snap tag and read my rants, deck ideas, and content updates, you have probably stumbled upon this:

Related: Will Zabu and Silver Surfer get Nerfed in Marvel Snap? Answered

Zabu got nerfed in a way that it costs 2 Energy now, but it provides a 1 Energy cost reduction (cannot be lower than 1)

Screenshot by Prima Games

I haven’t expected them to reduce the cost of Zabu, but I did expect that the cost reduction nerf will happen, and it seems I was (partially) right about this. Setting Zabu to 4 Energy would probably outright kill it, and on the other hand, this allows Zabu to survive by playing Mystique on Turn 3 as a follow-up to copy Zabu’s effect and basically reach the pre-nerf state on the board. It’s far-fetched and you won’t do it every game, but we as a community will make a deck that works out well, to prolong the degeneracy of these two cards.

Silver Surfer took a nerf for which I was once again, partially correct. It indeed will just grant +2 Power instead of +3 Power as I suspected, but I didn’t predict them giving him 2 Power now. These are some great crutches for Silver Surfer which allow him to keep existing in the meta in some capacity that we are yet to see. I failed to foresee that this +2 Power addition eliminates Silver Surfer + Mr. Negative combo. Brilliant move. Why wasn’t it done on release?

Screenshot by Prima Games

Here’s a Developer Note from their official Discord:

Card Changes 
Weakening these two Season Pass cards wasn’t a light decision. It’s paramount that we protect our gameplay, but our team also takes seriously that players trust us to be responsible stewards of that content. These changes aren’t meant to “delete” Zabu or SIlver Surfer–just give other cards more room.

Zabu’s individual card performance was strong, but not amazing. It didn’t crack our Top 5 cards for most of January, which is usually where you find troublemakers. Zabu’s dominance only became apparent in evaluating its clusters, which is data that takes longer to surface. In mid-January we saw three distinct Zabu decks gaining steam near the top of our rankings on winrate, cube gain, and population. That was when we knew a change would be necessary, but the next patch was already locked, which brings us to today. 

Moving Zabu’s cost reduction from 2 to 1 reduces the potential Energy reduction of the cat, making it harder to hide game-winning amounts of Power until turn 6 or empty your hand for Dracula. It also breaks up the Spider-Man/Absorbing Man combo, which was stronger than we’d like. Sliding him down to 2-Cost hopefully refunds enough tempo to retain the fun of building around various 4-Cost cards. We expect Zabu decks to look a bit different, but still have competitive builds. 

Silver Surfer
 Silver Surfer’s change is oddly linked to Zabu’s. It’s been a Top 5 card in a Top 5 deck since release, but steadied and gained cubes slower once players adapted . . . until Zabu. During Savage Lands, “Sera Surfer” was an unlikely hero and the best overall deck. However, it also had positive matchups against over 75% of the field, which meant it threatened to become too dominant once we adjusted Zabu.

This change aims to keep mostly the same Surfer decks viable, just weaker. We’re specifically happy to carry Power on Surfer himself, because it makes figuring out where he’ll be played more interesting for both players and lets us fine-tune his strength. Those gains unfortunately come at the expense of some cool Mister Negative decks we enjoyed seeing. 

Future Balance Changes 
For now, we still expect patches to be the primary way to deliver balance changes. Our internal processes aren’t designed to do these impromptu changes regularly yet, and we’ll often want to make more substantial changes than this tool allows. However, we may experiment with slightly more frequent balance on a small scale, to see if there’s an even better experience for players at our fingertips. Thanks for reading, and good luck on your next snap


My Take on These Nerfs and the Genesis of these Culprit Cards

I don’t know… I just… refuse to believe that these two cards were not properly tested before release. As mentioned, everyone spotted these cards as format-defining as soon as their previews saw their first rays of sunshine. Why couldn’t the people behind Marvel Snap identify this as well? Not even after playtesting? Come on.

Related: A Player Has Somehow Reached The Current Maximum Collection Level in Marvel Snap

It certainly makes you wonder what the purpose of it was. To provide attractiveness to the Season Pass? Fear Of Missing Out? Or even worse, pressure? Because let’s face it, these two cards were pay-to-win through and through. You either run these, or you run a counter deck (good luck drawing the counters on time and playing them in properly before it’s too late).

Naturally, the common excuses in the Discord discussions were “it’s digital goods, you don’t own these cards, they have the right to change them at any time or terminate the service altogether, they need to balance the game, you have used the card for long enough, you got your value out of the season pass, etc…”. Yes. Everything is legitimate. You are correct and legally clean. But that doesn’t build trust with the customers, and then they leave.

Yes, nerfs to Zabu and Silver Surfer were needed. What was more needed, is for them to come out more balanced and not blatantly overpowered from day one. Hopefully, the Marvel Snap team does better in the future. The situation should be monitored to see if the same thing happens again in the future.

Related: When Did Spending Thousands of Dollars in Video Games Become the New Normal?

So, in my very direct, straightforward, and unhinged opinion, it’s either:

  • a) The developers underestimated how powerful these cards could be in the overall meta and, after extensive testing, decided that a nerf was inevitable.
  • b) The new cards were overpowered as an incentive to purchase them, but later balanced to better fit the meta – the usual move we see in many other GaaS games these days.

I really do not see a third option here, but either way, it rubs me the wrong way.

Related: Five Reasons GaaS Games are Dissolving

At any rate, my trust in this game has been (mostly) shattered, and I am not feeling enthusiastic to buy the current, new Season Pass at all. Thank you for surviving my rant. I did it for the good of the game because I really like it, and I want it to succeed. But if such mishaps keep happening, I fear the worst fate might come.

Check out the rest of the Marvel Snap coverage under the game tag below if you wanna see more news, decks, etc…

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Nikola L
Nikola has been a Staff Writer at Prima Games since May 2022. He has been gaming since being able to hold an Amiga 500 joystick on his own, back in the early 90s (when gaming was really good!). Nikola has helped organize dozens of gaming events and tournaments and has been professionally attached to gaming since 2009.