Master X Master is the newest NCsoft title to enter an external alpha.
Describing The Game
MXM is a difficult game to describe succinctly. It has been describes as an ARPG, a MOBA, and an MMO. What is it exactly?
First, I need to cover one of the core features. One of the core premises of the game is the “tag” system. With the “tag” system, you are swapping out one master for another that you had preselected. “Master” is this game’s term for hero/champion. The tag system has a 15 second CD and the masters have separate health bars and resource bars, but they have shared ultimate bars between them.
Now that that is covered…
The ARPG portion of MXM is primarily focused on speed running and attempting to win one of the big prizes in the end of the dungeon. This is how you will get the components to unlock some of the time distortion heroes. It is also how you will get the nodes and other resources to upgrade your PVE powers. Note that your ARPG progress does *not* carry over to the PVP portion of the game, so if you’re only interested in PVP, you will only need to run the time distortion dungeons enough times to unlock the heroes you seek, and then you can go back to running PVP only.
Its MMO elements are the most easily summarized aspect. Instead of being in a chatroom, everybody is in a virtual lobby where they can see each other. Everyone picks a “representative master”, and that is their physical representation in the lobby. This “representative master” feature is more important than just a representation of yourself in the lobby, but I’ll cover that later.
The MOBA portion has two sub-modes. The first is the 3v3 arena mode. It is a rather straight forward deathmatch mode. The winner is the first team to 25 kills or the team with the most kills after 10 minutes.
Then there is the 5v5 mode, Titan Ruins. The base concept is the same as other MOBA/ARTS games — Destroy the enemy team’s throne/core w/ a 25 minute timer. In the case of the game going 25 minutes, the team with more points wins.
Attunements, Attributes, and Playstyles
And now we get into a more advanced concept that is present within MxM. It is a simple concept on paper (and in practice), but on the surface, it promises to greatly expand the professional metagame. Whether it will deliver that or not has yet to be seen.
There are three attunements; Ardent (Red), Helix (Green), and Kinetic (Blue). Ardent beats Helix, Helix beats Kinetic, Kinetic beats Ardent.
To be more specific, each attunement deals 15% more damage to the attunement it “beats” and 15% less damage to the attunement it loses to. In this case, Ardent would deal 15% more damage to Helix and deal 15% less damage to Kinetic. Kinetic would deal 15% more damage to Ardent while dealing 15% less damage to Helix. Helix would deal 15% more damage to Kinetic while dealing 15% less damage to Ardent.
Weapon Damage – This shows how high the master’s basic attacks deal.
Skill Power – This shows how much damage the master’s skills do approximately. A skill with 300 skill power will do a lot less damage than a skill with 750 skill power.
Survivability – This shows the amount of health or tankiness in general the master has.
Difficulty – This shows the approximate difficulty of playing the master. A character with a difficulty of 1 will be much easier than a hero with a difficulty of 7.
Juggernaut – These are the tank types. They will be very good at getting to the front line and staying in the front line.
Assault – These are the sustained DPS types. They tend to have the highest weapon damage but medium skill power. If they do have high skill power, that ability’s damage is likely distributed over a longer window.
Assassin – These are the squishy high burst DPS types. They tend to have lower weapon damage but higher skill power.
Skirmisher – These are primarily the initiator or counter-initiator types. They tend to have either a charge or a way to bring the enemy to them.
Marksman – These are the long range siege types. They aren’t necessarily bad at fighting players, but they tend to have a range greater than that of towers, allowing them to siege towers even without the assistance of creeps (Titanites).
Support – These are the healer/support types. Not all supports are healers (Nanurunerk and Maia come to mind), but no real healing is provided by non-supports (except for your utility skill that anybody can have).
Summoner – These are the “pet” types. They summon pets, but the “pets” act on their own. This does make playing a Summoner frustrating at points, but it also reduces the total micro needed.
So, what does all of this mean for the game?
In theory, let’s say that you have a master that is exceptionally powerful. Because almost all of my MOBA experience comes from DOTA 2, I will use DOTA 2 examples. Let’s say that you have a case of 6.84 Sniper or 6.85 Leshrac. In this theoretical system, Sniper would deal 15% reduced damage to and take 15% increased damage from 1/3rd of the heroes in the game. The same would be true for Leshrac. Would this have theoretically “fixed” Sniper or Leshrac or at least made it so he wasn’t always the answer? It may not have fully fixed either of them, but I imagine it would have helped a non-trivial amount.
Being that MXM is a game of two masters per player, there will be 10 masters per team instead of 5. The pick menu does not show both heroes that an individual currently has selected. It only shows their “primary” hero and a “?” for their secondary hero. This allows some room for counter-picking, but, as is the case in most von Neumann games, it can also result in overthinking the draft stage.
Pick and Ban Modes
I mention the pick and ban mode, but I have not been able to get enough players together to test it out, so I do not know how the system works, but there is a pick-ban mode in alpha test 3 of MXM already available for both the arenas and Titan Ruins.
The Camera and Backstabbing
The camera seems to be focused in a more forward position (relative to the team’s starting location) than most MOBA cameras, giving a “bottom-screen advantage”. Attacking from the enemy’s side of the map gives you a tactical advantage as they will have less time to react to your movements and positioning.
Unlike other MOBAs, MXM always gives you the bottom of the screen. This means that both teams are the “bottom” on their screen, and both will be equally susceptible to bottom-screen backstabbing.
Just as a forewarning, the rest of this article will focus on Titan Ruins, but I will indicate it on every section’s header.
For a breakdown of scoring and how Titan Ruins works, here is a link to the Wiki that discusses it in great detail. There are some minor errors on there, but it is accurate for the most part. One key aspect not mentioned in the Wiki is that you are always the team on the bottom. This can make the map disorienting for newcomers, as sometimes Aduman is on top lane, or sometimes Aduman is on the bottom lane.
The quickest way to orient yourself with the map is by looking at mid. In mid, there are symbols similar [^], [^^], and [*]. [^] and [^^] will be right next to each other, and those markers indicate the position of the ritualists. [*] indicates the position of the Summoned Guardian. By orienting yourself with the location of those two markers, you can determine where Ruak and Aduman also are. The ritualist altar will be slightly closer to one team than the other, and the summoned Guardian altar will be slightly closer to the other team.
The Hero Altars mentioned in the Wiki (which summon the aforementioned Ruak and Aduman) can be found at the midway point of the side lanes. They initially spawn 4 minutes after the game starts and 4 minutes after the altar’s hero dies. Whenever the Altar Protectors spawn, a voice calls out “Altar Protectors have spawned”. There are two Altar Protectors, which are rather basic PVE mobs. Killing them makes the Altar vulnerable which then requires a player to capture it (which is a 10 second channel that requires you to do nothing else and take no damage for the duration).
There are four Titan Sights on the map. As mentioned, the Titan Sights give a large swathe of vision, and they are positioned in a consistent manner around the map, and they remain captured for 5 minutes after being captured. After 5 minutes, they will become neutral and can be captured again. There are two Titan Sights on each side of the river.
One Titan Sight is in the jungle between your middle and top lane. Given that the best way to kill a lane is by coming in behind it (due to the limited vision on bottom screen), this Titan Sight provides protection from backstabbing to your top lane unless they cut directly through the river and risk being ambushed by the River King. It also makes enemy rotations from top lane to mid much harder, although bottom to mid is exposed.
The second Titan Sight is favorably positioned on your bottom lane. This means that you are able to get vision that sees behind where creep equilibrium falls in bottom lane, allowing you to see incoming backstabs. The bottom Titan Sight becomes especially valuable whenever the Altar is captured by the enemy team. The bottom Titan Sight will show you who is with the Aduman/Ruak push, which can be especially helpful
The enemy jungle Titan Sight is perhaps the most valuable individual Titan Sight in the game. If the enemy has it, it is very hard for you to rotate from bottom to either mid or their jungle for a gank. If your team has it, though, it makes it very hard for the enemy to rotate from (or through their jungle) to your bottom lane, and it limits their total access points to the Ritualist/Summoned Guardian on your side of the map substantially.
The least valuable individual Titan Sight in the game is likely the top lane Titan Sight. This Titan Sight primarily has one valuable aspect to it, and that is that capturing it denies them their bottom lane Titan Sight vision. You can also see if they are pushing towards the top altar, but this information is already provided by your lane creeps (Titanites), and the area of vision it provides is not great enough to see them unless they are walking directly down lane. If they are sticking to the side of the lane towards mid, they will not be in range of the Titan Sight. Ritualists have a 6 minute respawn after they die. Summoned Guardians have a 10 minute respawn.
As for the tower layout…
Top lane has one outer tower. Bottom lane has one outer tower. Mid lane has two outer towers. Inside of there, top lane and bottom lane each have their own inner tower. These towers are able to attack anything pushing down mid while also being out of range and untargetable to the mid push. Then there are two towers at the core.
Timing Windows (Titan Ruins)
Timing windows are a very important thing within Master X Master. In DOTA, the term “timing windows” generally referred to when a hero’s peak strength would be achieved. For example, a Naga Siren’s timing window is much later than a Juggernaut’s timing window. In MXM, your timing windows are less master dependent and more environmentally dependent.
The Titan Sights will originally be captured around 20-30 seconds into the game. Once they are captured, you have 5 minutes until they become vulnerable again. The hero altars for Ruak and Aduman become vulnerable 4 minutes into the game (and 4 minutes after death). This means, in most cases, the altar protectors will spawn 1 1/2 minutes (or so) before the Titan Sights become vulnerable again.
As a reminder from the end of the previous segment, the Ritualists spawn 6 minutes into the game and give powerful buffs. The Summoned Guardian is up from the start, and he has a 10 minute respawn. This is important because of the timing of it all.
At 4 minutes, the altar protectors spawn. It will take 10-15 seconds to kill the protectors (assuming only one team is actually trying for the altar). It’s more common for it to take 30 seconds or more (due to the enemy team contesting). After that, it will take 10 seconds to capture the shrine. This puts the game at 4:20-4:25 minimum, more likely around 4:40. Ruak and Aduman will occupy part of the enemy team’s resources for 20-40 seconds. This puts the game at anywhere from 4:40 to 5:20 (more often towards the later end of that range).
If you remember from earlier, 5:20 is the time when Titan Sights come up. This means that Ruak and Aduman will generally be occupying the enemy team during the team when you are setting up to capture the important Titan Sights. As I mentioned earlier, I consider the enemy jungle Titan Sight the most important, your own Titan Sight the second most important, bottom lane Titan Sight the third most important, and top lane Titan Sight the least important. Their jungle Titan Sight will also be the easiest for them to contest, so it should be the highest priority for taking.
Now that you’ve captured the Titan Sights, another 20-30 seconds of game time likely passed. That puts the game around 5:40 to 5:50, so very close to the window where the Ritualists will spawn. With good vision, you can send most of your team back to their lanes to farm with one or two people going to the Ritualists to claim the buffs for themselves.
Keep in mind that while you are doing all of this around the map, you want to do these activities with the smallest group possible. The individual points scored by killing Titanites in lane may seem trivial, but they add up. If you are taking your team away from point farming in lane too often, you may end up being point starved in the later phases of the game.
The most difficult timing window to properly execute is the Summoned Guardian. He is up at the start of the game, so there is no trickery necessary for his first spawn. With that said, it is time consuming to kill him without your full team, and it is often rather obvious if one team is killing him (especially if the whole team is killing him). He gives 75-100 points, though, which means that, worst case scenario, you get 75% of the way to the next Titan and, best case scenario, you get a full Titan worth of points. It’s usually in the middle, though.
Due to the Summoned Guardian’s very tanky, boss-like nature, he takes a lot of resources to bring down. This makes him a poor choice of targets when the altars are up (except in the case of a game winning push opportunity). Your team will take a lot of damage and spend a lot of time or mana in there, making an immediate follow-up fight risky.