[22 Sept 2023 Edits: Changes to existing Starter Axies]
The (preliminary) balance changes for Season 6 of Axie Infinity: Origins are FINALLY revealed after a long wait during the off-season. Along with the balance changes also came the reveal of 2 new Starter Axies with Rage synergies, some new mechanics update with Energy Fragments and Energy Burst, as well as Charms that can make sub-optimal (budget or collectable) Axies more competitive!
[Disclaimer: These changes are not final. There could be further changes before the Season starts.]
2 New Starters with Rage synergy (Puppy mouth on Bing OP!?)
Faster to get to Energy Burst with +1 Card Draw after 1st Energy Burst
Mirror Charms to make budget / collectable Axies more viable by swapping any card to a 1-Energy 70 ATK / 60 Heal / 65 Shield
Winners: Bleed, Fury, AoE, Single Carry teams
Losers: Sustain, Curse teams
2 New Starter Axies
Xia - Attack to gain Shield and Rage
Xia can be used as a tank support Axie for Rage and Fury teams as it can gain Shield and/or Rage while Attacking with Pangolin, Pangolin Slayer, and Rocky Skull. Hard-boiled's ATK scales with Hit taken, synergistic with its role as a tank.
Xia's Shattering Shield is a support Rune that gives +1 Rage to all allied Axie the first time the Axie loses 30 Shield each turn. The power level is relatively weak but it can potentially be used for Fury Combo teams to gain Rage. I assume Gecko (and other self / ally targetting attacks) can trigger this effect but it requires Shields to be applied first.
Pangolin Shard is a Charm that can only be put on Beast Multihit & AoE Attacks, i.e. Chubby, Belieber, Pocky, and Furball (+ Pangolin and Pangolin Slayer in Xia). The effect of the Charm is to get +1 Shield per DMG Dealt (Cap at 30 Shield), which is synergistic with Xia's Shattering Shield (and maybe Square Teeth).
Bing - Attack to Heal, Purify, Snipe, gain Rage, and Draw
Bing is another support Axie for Rage and Fury teams with its ability to gain Rage, Heal, Purify, Snipe (apply Taunt to opponent), and Draw with its Attacks. Puppy mouth is pretty crazy with Draw 4 cards if your team has an Axie in Fury Form. While it has Limit 1 and with a relatively low ATK of 55 for 1 Energy, the value from the Draw 4 allows for crazy pop off turn as it also grant +1 Rage to allied Axies. I can see a pop off turn with 2 or even all 3 Axies in Fury in the same turn, gaining Energies and drawing many cards (as Fury now also gives 1 Card Draw). I think Puppy Mouth alone makes Bing viable for high level play.
With Purify, Puppy eyes and ears help against Curse Cards teams. Toy Ball is similar to Pocky but unlike Pocky, you can put Rocket Stamp on it. It pairs well with Target any enemy Attacks as well as Pocky and other Target lowest HP Attack cards to snipe opponent's key Axie.
Bing's Chill Winds is a support Rune that grant +1 Rage to allies with < 4 Rage when the Axie's Heal Cards are used. The main limitation is that it can only grant Rage to allies with less than 4 Rage stacks, making this Rune relatively weak (if not unusable).
Bing's Ice Cream is a Charm that can be put on any Beast Attacks and Heals (all) allied Axies = 20% of the card's ATK. When put on a card like Little Branch or Shiba (which are now 140 ATK), it heals all allied Axies for 28, which is good value (similar to Oak Bud) but it is not easy to get its full value.
Changes to existing Starter Axies
Buba - Changes to Buba Brush (and Persimmon)
Buba Brush changes from 1 Energy 65 ATK with 25% Splash DMG in Fury to 2 Energy 80 ATK with 85% Splash DMG in Fury Form. The base ATK per Energy on the main target is lower than before but the Splash DMG (which deals DMG to all other targets based on DMG on main target) gets a huge buff. It is good early game but it can be worse at late game when opponent only has 1 Axie left.
Also a very small change with Persimmon which now grant +1 Rage but only Cleanse 4 (i.e. Cleanse once before the upcoming Cleanse change) as opposed to before where it cleanses twice if the Axie has Buff.
Momo - Nerf to Feathery Dart & Death Shower with Ambush
The targetting ability of Feathery Dart and Death Shower has been nerfed from "Target any enemy" to Ambush. One of Momo's strength / niche was to be able to snipe down opponent's middle Axie. With Ambush on Feathery Dart and Death Shower, it will make Momo teams quite a bit weaker as it cannot snipe down opponent's Carry Axie in the mid.
Pomodoro - Very small change to Passion
Passion is changed to Cleanse 3 (instead of 4 with pervious Cleanse mechanic), but still be able to Cleanse away 2 or 3 turns Sleep as well as self-inflicted 3 turns debuff, e.g. Bleed from Risky Fish / Beast / Bird.
Game Mechanic + Status Effect Updates
The Energy Fragments update is the most significant of all. The New Energy Burst Scaling is much faster with only 12 Energy Fragement Required for the first Energy Burst, then 16, 20, 24, 28 etc. for subsequent Energy Bursts. Another key update is the +1 Card Draw after the first Energy Burst.
The first thought is that this will allow Combo teams that rely on Ramp, e.g. Perch, Tiny Fan, (maybe even Bubble Bombs), to get to their Combo faster. This will also benefit archetypes that do not typically run Cottontail (e.g. Hot Butt, non-Cottontail Topaz, Nimo tail AoE Leafy, Ramp Aggro - Cuckoo Piranha, Sandal etc.) to get to Energy Burst faster than before.
While Cottontail is still a very strong tempo card for faster archetypes, some archetypes may decide to drop Cottontail depending on how prevalent Cottontail is in the meta. I personally think that it is a good change to hopefully decrease the prevalence of Cottontail, allowing more slower strategies to shine (given that Combo teams do not break the game because of this change).
Another small change in the Energy Fragment mechanic is the gaining of 1 additioanl Energy Fragment if you end turn with at least 1 Energy remaining. It allows for more decision making and planning ahead for future turns.
A new Keyword - Ambush - was introduced to describe the effect of "Target the closest or furthest enemy". More cards now have Ambush, including a very important Tool card - Forest Wrath.
Dispel and Cleanse now change to Remove 1 stack or 1 turn of a random Buff and Debuff, respectively. Existing Cards, Runes, and Charms are updated accordingly with certain numerical changes. The main impact I can see is that it will make it harder to Cleanse off all Sleep turns when there are other Debuffs on the Axie compared to before where you can get lucky and Cleanse off the Sleep. Similarly, it makes Dispelling all Feathers a bit harder if opponents have other Buffs as well.
In terms of quality of life changes, the Turn Timer changed from 60 seconds to 45 seconds, which makes it even more important to plan your turns, especially with card draws like Clear and Nerdy.
In Season 5, the win rate of Player 2 was still above 50%. Moving forward, the free Keep for Player 2 will be removed. This should help with getting us closer to 50-50 for Players 1 and 2.
The most significant change is Death Mark, which is a Debuff that makes the Axie with the Debuff to take Pure DMG from Attacks. The Death Mark DMG itself is nerfed from 15 to 12 but the additional effect of taking Pure DMG from Attacks is huge, especially for teams that rely on Shields (e.g. Shield Sustain, Topaz etc.). Sustain teams that rely on Shield will now need to run Cleanser (e.g. Rejuvenate, Mint, Rose Bud etc.) to prevent opponents from applying Death Mark.
Cleanser follows the same change as Dispel and Cleanse, now preventing 1 stack or 1 turn of a Debuff.
Fury received a Buff, now Drawing 1 Card when an Axie gets to Fury form. Rage had a very small text change which effectively means Axies can only get into Fury form on your turn, not on your opponent's turn.
Feather received a big buff where attacks from other allies with Feathers also add to the Feather DMG Buff count. We may see AoE teams that rely on Feathers making a comeback as any attacks will stack Feather DMG Buff counts on all 3 Axies assuming all 3 Axies have Feather, making the scaling much faster.
Bleed itself received a slight nerf from 15 to 12 HP Loss per Card played but Cards with Bleed received significant buffs.
Snake Jar now does not have any HP threshold and it deals DMG to all enemies = 1.5 times Snake Jar's Base Shield where Snake Jar is now a 50 Shield Card (which can be increased to 63 with Reptile's Charm of Endurance II).
Curse and Tool Cards
Forest Breath and Forest Wrath received some well-deserved nerfs. For Forest Breath, the Sleep effect is only applied when played as Initial (i.e. as the first card of the turn). It now only Cleanse 2 (as opposed to 4 from before). Forest Wrath now has Ambush, which means it cannot target enemies that are not the closest or furthest. The scaling of Forest Wrath is also nerfed from +15 to +10 DMG per other Forest Wrath in Hand.
Feather Dagger is buffed to 10 ATK and also changed to Ambush, allowing it to target the back as well. Purge and Prayer now Dispel 3 and Cleanse 3, respectively.
Goo is reworked to Retain and if able, Consume 1 Energy Fragment to Exile, else if able, consume 1 Energy to Exile. This means Goo will remain in your hand (as it has Retain) unless you use 1 Energy Fragment (or 1 Energy if you do not have any energy Fragment) to Exile it. Goo is most effective against Combo teams as they tend to keep cards in their hand, and Goo will clog up their hand unless they spend Energy Fragments to remove them. I still do not think this is enough to make Goo viable, main reason being that the Cards for shuffling Goos are a bit weak and the rate of shuffling Goo is a bit slow. Also, the additional card draw after the first Energy Burst makes the Goo strategy (and Curse Cards in general) less effective.
The Bleed package received quite a bit of buff with Chubby, Nyan, and Jaguar applying 6 Bleed stacks, making it harder to Cleanse off as well as stacking faster for Brutal Claw. The same changes are made for the Reptile Cards that apply Bleed. Bleed was already getting close to be strong last season, and I think Bleed has a good chance of making it in Season 6.
The anti-Secret Beast cards, Arco and Gerbil were changed to AoE attacks with Detect 1 as well as +10 DMG on targets with Secret. This allows Arco and Gerbil to remove a Secret and testing where the opponent put their Shields. In a way it is a nerf to Arco as it used to be Detect 2.
Confidence now only Cleanse 2, which makes it weaker but still effectively against Sleep except Potato Leaf (as most Sleep applying effects - Tiny Turtle, Rosa, and Forest Breath - are for 3 turns from the opponent's turn).
The 2 Energy Cards, Little Branch and Shiba, were buffed to 140 ATK. Goda changed to adding a Goo, which is sort of a nerf as Void removes 2 Energy Fragments instead of 1 for Goo. Risky Beast is back to being Risky with 3 Bleed to self instead of Hex.
The Leafy-Bamboo Spear pakcage is nerfed with Leafy consuming 4 Leaf stacks to deal the same DMG as before while all 3 Spears Cards are nerfed to grant 1 fewer Buff stack for allies. This will make the Leafy teams a bit less consistent as they will need to play more Bamboo Spears to get the full value from Leafy. I expect Leafy will still be strong but it will be a bit less consistent compared to before.
Beech received a massive change which is now a 2 Energy 80 ATK Card with the effect of losing 15% of current HP and deal bonus DMG = 2 times the HP Loss. It now has Initial: Detect 4 instead of Detect All. It is a significant buff in DMG while sacrificing some HP (and Detect limiting to 4 and Initial). For a 400 HP Axie at full HP, Beech will cause 60 HP Loss to self and deal 80 + 60 × 2 = 200 DMG to the opponent. This is a 100 ATK per Energy Card at full HP. For a 500 HP Axie, the DMG becomes 230 for 2 Energy. While damage-wise it is not as good as Sandal, Detect is an advantage against teams that rely on Secrets. Remember that Beech can be used with Oak Bud to heal back the self HP Loss with interest.
Rose Bud received a slight buff now with 10 Cleanser, which can be very important for Sustain teams. Bidens is now Cleanse 8, and Mint now gives 3 Cleansers.
A small change with Cattail (and Ant, i.e. the 4-turn Taunt) in that it is changed to 3 Taunt to self from next turn, meaning stacking Cattail and Ant gives fewer total Taunt turns than before.
Anemone got a slight rework which now have Ambush and instead of resetting, it is now -10 ATK when played and +20 ATK when an enemy Axie dies, meaning it can get to 120 ATK in the late game after 2 of opponent's Axies are knocked out.
Koi also received a buff which is now 2 Energy 145 ATK which Ambush and the additional 15% Splash DMG per Bubble Consumed (up to 2 Bubbles), making it a very strong early game card with the Splash DMG of 43.5 with 2 Bubbles.
Risky Fish now also changed to 3 Bleed to self. Seaslug now has Ambush, deal +15 DMG + Cleanse 4 if Debuffed (or +4 Cleanser if not Debuffed). Oranda now Dispel 5, which is significantly better than 3 previously.
The biggest change to Bird Cards is the additional of Ambush to all 3 Little Owl, Trump, and Feather Fan. Feather Spear received the same nerf as the other Spears. Only a text change for Kestrel which still Dispel 3 stacks or turn per hit.
Winghorn (instead of Wing Horn!?) changed for 2 Energy 40 ATK with 3 hits to 2 Energy 35 ATK with 4 hits, but only get 1 Feather Dagger per hit on target with <50% HP. At the base level, Winghorn now deals 140 DMG (instead of 120 DMG before) and scales better with bonus DMG as it now deals 4 hits (instead of 3). The down side is receiving fewer Feather Daggers, even though Feather Daggers are buffed to 10 ATK. With the changes with the Feather stacking mechanic, I am seeing a potential comeback for AoE, which is a nice change to the meta.
Snake Jar received the biggest change for Reptile and is now a 1 Energy 50 Shield Card, target any allied Axie, apply Snake Jar, and Lose HP = Base Shield. The Snake Jar buff effect now does AoE DMG = 1.5 times the base Shield of the Snake Jar Card, meaning 75 AoE DMG at the base level or 94.5 AoE DMG with Reptile's Charm of Endurance II. Do note that there is no HP threshold for the application of the Snake Jar buff, though now the Axie that uses Snake Jar loses HP = Base Shield, making it a net 0 effect per Energy unless the Snake Jar DMG goes off.
Gila received a significant buff now starting at 45 ATK and +3 DMG per Poison stack (Cap at +75 DMG). The maximum DMG from Gila is still 120 AoE DMG but now you only require 25 stacks (instead of 40 stacks before) to deal the max 120 AoE DMG. This is a strong buff to the already strong Poison archetype. With the nerf of Leafy, we can expect to see a lot of Poison around.
The Bleed Cards, Razor Bite, Curved Spine, and Croc all buffed to applying 6 Bleed. Gecko is now only Cleanse 3. Scaly Spoon only has a text change to Dispel 6 times. Scaly Spear got the same nerf as the other spears, now granting 1 fewer Spikes to other allies with Spears.
Square Teeth continuted to be nerfed to Bonus DMG = 50% of the consumed Shield (Cap 60 Shield consume), meaning it can now deal 40 DMG (instead of 65 before) for 0 Energy at the base level. There are also other changes with Runes and Charms that make the 0-Energy Attack less useful than before. Having said that, it can still do 40 DMG for 0 Energy and denote Bubble Bombs for 0 Energy.
Garish Worm now has Initial for the Discard effect, limiting the amount of Discard per turn by multiple Garish Worm in a turn as well as making it harder to play with other Initial Cards.
Twin Tail received a big nerf which now has Limit 1, which makes it a lot easier to play against, especially after the Card Draw changes with Energy Burst.
Buzz Buzz received a similar nerf as Leafy. It is now a 18 base AoE ATK with +8 DMG per Card Discarded or Banished this turn (Cap at +32 DMG), meaning it can still do 50 AoE DMG but it is harder to get to the max DMG. It is still good in Leafy (and AoE) teams with a slightly lower power level, which is a good change for the balance of the game.
Ant received the same very minor nerf as Cattail, which is changed to 3 Taunt starting next turn.
Runes and Charms
Adaptive Program has one of the biggest changes amongst Runes. It now only gain 1 Energy Fragment for every 75 Shield cumulatively received from Cards. So instead of needing to receive at least 90 Shield from a single card, now you can gain Energy Fragments from most Shield Cards but only 1 Energy Fragment per 75 Shield received (instead of 2 Energy Fragments from 90 Shield). I personally like the change as it does not force players to run certain Runes or Charms to get to the 90 Shield threshold while lowering its power level in terms of ramping.
Blunt Teeth may finally see play, and it may even be at the level of an Epic Rune. Blunt Teeth now changed to applying 2 Weak to self after each Attack if the Axie does not already have Weak. It still has the effect of Attacks grant 1 Energy Fragment per Energy Spent. Together with the changes in Energy Fragments required for Energy Burst, I can see Blunt Teeth being played to get to Energy Burst quickly while attacking. Weak is only applied after the first attack, and Weak can be dealt with using Cleanse and Cleanser. The Weak to self can also be synergistic with Rise & Ruin, giving a self debuff to be Cleansed.
Dominant Predator received a small buff where Single Attacks now apply 3 Bleed instead of 2 previously.
Pangolin Scale can now have Shield! It now changes to take -20% unblocked DMG from Attacks. It is now more flexible in terms of being able to receive Shield but otherwise it does not make other exciting effects that other defensive Runes has, e.g. Leech or Leaf Cloak.
Giant Bubble now has an additional effect of granting 50% of the Axie's Bubble Bomb stacks to other allied Axies when the Axie is knocked out, making it a good choice as the tank support Axie in Bubble Bomb Teams.
A very small change to Sturdy Fighter just so that the Rune's effect does not apply to Square Teeth.
The biggest change here is Feather Descend, which now only consume 3 Feathers to get 3 Feather Daggers in Hand when Feather is at 10 stacks. However, Feather Dagger for this Axie deals 2 hits, which means 3 Feather Daggers deal 6 hits. This is highly synergistic with other Feather Dagger generating cards including Winghorn and Lil Bro. Could Feather Descend Momo be a thing in Season 6!?
Rejuvenate now applies 2 Cleansers from Heals and Shields with 2 bonus Cleansers on Single Targets, which is a slight nerf to AoE Heal or Shield. Regenerator is just a text change to Cleanse 4.
Heaven's Echoes got a bit of a nerf where its Shield effect is now limited to once per turn. Healing Force got a small buff, dealing 4 DMG to enemies for each living ally (instead of 3 perviously).
Brutal Claw received quite a big buff, now creating Bloodstorm on targets with Bleed when using Single and AoE Attacks, removing the 6 Blood stacks requirement as long as targets have Bleed. It still doubles the Bleed stacks, now on targets with < 10 Bleed instead of 6. I think we will finally see Brutal Claw teams making it in Season 6.
This is perhaps the most significant change of all - the 3 Mirror Charms - Green Mirror, Red Mirror, and Blue Mirror. The Mirror Charms can be applied to any Cards, and effectively changing the Cards to a 1 Energy 60 Heal (Green Mirror), 1 Energy 70 ATK (Red Mirror), or 1 Energy 65 Shield (Blue Mirror). The Mirror Cards belong to the Original Axie, meaning they can be synergistic with certain many Runes that buff an Axie's Cards. In particular, it is a gamer changer for budget and collector Axies with sub-optimal parts, making those Axies a lot more viable (especially for AXP grinding). Having said that, the Mirror Charms require 5 PP, which makes them less relavent for the very top of the Leaderboard where players run mostly optimal Axies.
The other new Charm is Bloodpact, which can be applied to Single Attacks, and it applies 3 Death Mark to the target while applying 3 Bleed to self. This gives teams an answer against Shield-based team without having the 3 Cards that apply Death Mark - Axie Kiss, Kotaro?, and Toothless Bite. The 3 self Bleed can also be synergistic with Rise & Ruin, though Rise & Ruin teams probably do not need Death Mark to beat Shield-based teams.
White Rage is nerfed slightly for AoE Shield and Heal with only Cleanse 2. Black Sage can now be applied to AoE Attacks with Dispel 1. There is a slight buff of a total of Dispel 4 (instead of 3) on Single Target. This is a slight nerf to Buff-based strategies such as Leafy, Spikes, Feather, Rage, Bubbles, Cocoon etc.
Mantis Dagger now changed to Discard 1 random Card per Energy Cost, which means it cannot be used on Square Teeth for 0 Energy Discard while Sandal can Discard 2 Cards! Will we see a Sandal Discard Meta in Season 6!?
Moon Stamp will be removed from the game from Season 6, making the middle position even safer in Rare and Epic Eras (especially with the additional of Ambush to Forest Wrath as well). Note that Rocket Stamp will still be able to target the mid in Mystic Era.
A small buff to Earth Stamp with +15% DMG on the closest enemy, which may have some use case for specific scenario on high ATK cards coupled with Taunt on the target. Sun Stamp is also buffed, now with Ambush, allowing it to target front or back, and the penalty is now -10% DMG instead of -15% previously.
Energy Drink M changed from Banish to Exile, a slight nerf to Topaz teams. Red Sage is has a slight nerf with Cleanse 2 for AoE Heals and Shields.
I can see that Axie Origins is making gradual progress in terms of game balance as well as player experience. The 2 new Starter Axies allow beginners to learn more about synergies (though the Puppy mouth on Bing may be a bit too OP). I think the new Energy Burst system will lead to more diversity in terms of playstyle, allowing certain archetypes to move away from Cottontail. Cleaning up Dispel, Cleanse, and Cleanser is a nice quality of life change as well as allowing more balancing between AoE vs Single target for those effects.
This update hits a good amount of changes, which gives room for theorycrafters to have a bit of fun while not changing the existing archetypes too much. I love the introduction of the Mirror Charms, which makes budget and collector Axies a lot more viable. I wish I see more buffs to many unused Cards but I understand that it is a gradual process. At least I see that there is some progress in making more archetypes viable to get to the Top.
The winners of this update are Bleed, Fury, AoE, Single Carry teams (e.g. Triple Owl and Glorious Mane), and possibly Poison. Topaz and Leafy were toned down a bit but still strong. The losers are Sustain and Curse teams, where Sustain will need to run a lot of Cleanser to avoid Death Mark while the additional card draw from the first Energy Burst makes the draw disruption from Curse Cards teams less effective.
It will be a long wait until we get to play with these changes, followed by another wait until Season 6 actually starts. Meanwhile all we can do is to enjoy theorycrafting and start shopping for Axies for next Season.
Thank you so much for your support! If you have any comments and/or suggestions, please feel free comment or reach out to me on X (Twitter) or Discord @mauriceccy.
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