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Specialists: Revisited

PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:14 am
by rathorian

If we haven't met, my name is Rathorian and it's nice to meet you. I've been an active player at the top of the Subterfuge global leaderboard for the past 3 years ranking as high as 5th with an elo of 1913. Although the subz forums have been withering away over the past couple years, I'd like to use this thread to write out some of my thoughts and give back to the community. More specifically, I'd like to have a little fun and rank each specialist in the game.

The criteria I am taking into consideration when ranking each specialist is as follows:

1. The percentage of games it would be useful to hire this specialist
2. The maximum value this specialist can provide when hired and used well
3. The assumption that your opponents will play their best

Next, I have sorted each specialist into one of 6 categories:

1. Broken (1-6)
2. Overpowered (7-8)
3. Balanced (9-13)
4. Practical combo pieces (14-16)
5. Impractical combo pieces (17-20)
6. Garbage (21-28)

Disclaimer: by "combo pieces" I mean specialists that cannot realistically carry out their intended function without the help of other specialists. Because of their nature, these specialists often provide little face value and are riskier early to mid game hires. While there are a lot of metrics I considered, I hope gives some additional insight into my ordering.

So without further ado I here are my rankings:

1. Navigator
2. Admiral
3. Smuggler
4. King
5. Hypnotist
6. Tycoon
7. Helmsman
8. Pirate
9. General
10. Lt.
11. Assassins x2
12. Tinkerer
13. Foreman
14. Martyr
15. Double Agent
16. Saboteur x2
17. Sentry
18. Princess
19. Revered Elder
20. Diplomat
21. Intelligence Officer
22. Minister of Energy
23. Inspector
24. Engineer
25. Security Chief
26. War Hero
27. Thief
28. Infiltrator

I do not intend to give a complete analysis of my rankings because that would require me to branch off into other topics like game theory, diplomacy, and raw personal experience. However, I would still like to give a little more insight into my decision making process, so I will go through each specialist one by one again and provide some comments. For an uplifting effect I recommend reading the new list from last to first.

1. Navigator - When you get a Nav hire, you hire the Nav. This spec single-handedly shapes the meta and inflates the rankings of any other specs that work well with or against it. Joining a game with an Admiral limit? No problem! - Navigator on its own is still broken. Not only do you get to pick your battles, but you get to pick your friends too. Everyone wants to be your friend when they see that demon ship looming near their territory. I guess the only downside of Navs is that you might feel like you're the bad guy as you unleash an unfair amount of power on your very suspecting yet helpless foes.
2. Admiral - Playing vanilla Subterfuge feels like a competition of who can get the most admirals. If you are losing but acquire an Admiral do not fear. Simply give it to an ally to make said ally win the game and reap all the benefits of coming in second. I once played a domination game and captured 24 outposts in 48 hours with 5 Admirals against an enemy with 4 Admirals. At least the spec that promotes to this beast must surely be bad right?
3. Smuggler - Think of this spec as Smuggler or Tycoon. You get all the benefits of either of your choice, Tycoon being a subset of those benefits. Not only is this spec disgustingly over-tuned for what it was designed to do: defend, but you can apply some tricks to use it offensively too. As early as the first day, you can send several subs with only 1 drill each towards ally outposts across the map. Often times it'll take days for those subs arrive, but if an ally lets you land it can give you many more options for a smug/nav attack across the map. I see this done all the time and it's effective. Now when you take this and add an optional promote to Tycoon on top we're talking about some intense game design imbalances. Lots of players like to limit the number of Admirals or Tycoons allowed per game nowadays, which is actually a buff to smuggler because less Admirals means less speed options other than Smuggler existing in the game.
4. King - The devs may have nerfed this badboy 5+ years ago, but its effect is still obviously broken. King has an edge on tycoon because one King can be sneakily passed between multiple allies for tremendous surprise value across the map. In other words, King offers all of its value up front.
5. Hypnotist - You hire this spec to promote to King. Simple. You're just one hire behind now. Happy hunting.
6. Tycoon - The only problem with this spec is that by hiring it you're sacrificing a Smuggler. Since Tycoon needs the assistance of speed to shine, but demands that you sacrifice great speed to hire it, you may experience some uneasiness in your stomach when you man up and make the hire. It still offers a broken effect though so you won't regret it that much. You need to be prepared to apply the driller dumping strategy if you want to optimize for value.
7. Helmsman - This spec gets a slight edge over pirate because it's easier to use. 2x speed is perfect for nav subs so you're gonna want to slap a helmsman on there every time. Not to mention that if you get this spec early against an opponent with no speed to defend themselves, it can be a wrap on the spot.
8. Pirate - If someone were to code a high-end AI for subz, it would value this spec over Helmsman every time. Truthfully, pirate does everything Helmsman does and so much more. Unfortunately, the diplomacy required to ask other players to time 1 subs across the map for you can be quite tedious and you'll find yourself not in the mood to put in the work for this spec sometimes. This is a tactician's weapon of choice and always a safe pickup because it pairs well with both Navigator and General build around concepts.
9. General - This spec is more similar to sentry than you might realize. Imagine each of your specs becoming a little cute sentry. General might not be the strongest build around concept in the game, but you never feel bad hiring it. This spec provides immediate value, only upsides, great flexibility, and scaling. Later in the game, you'll typically find yourself using General to transport vital specs like your queen and tycoon. Unfortunately, this spec scales real slow so you'll have to be cute with some pirate and assassin type combos if you want to cash in your value more quickly.
10. Lt. - This spec doesn't offer the best speed, but it's still speed. Speed is a necessity and you'll take it where you can get it. You might not love Lt., but you'll sure as hell need it sometimes, especially in the early game. Offers upside of promoting to a spec that only adds upsides and no downsides. Probably the only spec in the game that promotes the way you wished every spec did. However, you won't always find yourself promoting this quickly because other specs demand more attention.
11. Assassins x2 - This spec is extremely flexible and resourceful. Great on offense and defense. On offense a Nav/helms/assassin is a perfectly good queen hunting sub for opponents that can't get their hands on a princess. On the other hand, if your opponent has assembled his own nav/helms/assassin sub you can leave a spare assassin at any outpost you wouldn't like that sub to land at. Your opponents are scared of your assassins just as much as you're concerned about theirs. Even if your opponent hires Revered Elder to counter your assassins, you should feel good. This spec gets bonus points for synergizing with General. It's not a synergy you'll use every time, but it gives you even more options.
12. Tinkerer - A tricky spec to rank because sometimes it's the perfect answer and other times it's completely useless. If you learn to apply the driller dump strategy mentioned lower down with the Minister of Energy, this spec might rightfully belong in the garbage. On the other hand, like the foreman, this spec is a very low investment hire and can hold it's own weight with no downsides. Lets be real lowering shields is not a downside because if shields were important people would be hiring Security Chief. Different from foreman, tinkerer has much higher potential for value and scales to the late game.
13. Foreman - You won't hate hiring this spec early game because it provides immediate value and can hold its own weight. You just won't love it either. It's cute when paired with Tycoon or Admiral, or even used to load up a Nav sub, so you got some options. Weak overall, but at least it's consistent. 1 spec for 1 factory makes me think this is the definition of the average Subterfuge specialist - not surprising it's right in the middle of the pack.
14. Martyr - Think of this spec like a Double Agent, but you can use it for both offense and defense. Unfortunately, you should usually prefer to opt for assassins over either Martyr or Double Agent, so in that respect Martyr and Double Agent are held back by the same problem. For any tricksters who like to send martyrs over enemy territory and ask an ally to send a 1 back from the other side to blow it, it's cute but it doesn't help the big picture.
15. Double Agent - When paired with pirate this spec is a good first line of defense against Navigators. Have I mentioned that the Navigator meta is extremely relevant??? It's not a great defense because offense is the best defense, but at least it's a defense.
16. Saboteur x2 - This spec combos well with pirate and/or general when used on defense, not to mention that it usually provides more up front value than any other combo piece. Unfortunately, Saboteurs are countered by Navigators which is a huge flaw.
17. Sentry - Coming from someone who once used this spec to its fullest potential to make a 3v5 comeback where one of our 3 only logged on to gift specs, this spec is bad. Considering that sentry's low starting power level is balanced around the fact that it was designed to be built around, you get very little back for what you invest into it - not to mention that the sentry build around concept demands a lot luck to get more sentry, princess, and intelligence officer hires. Even if you hit the sentry hire lottery, 1 nav/helms/(martyr or assassin) can easily defeat all of your hard work. Only placed higher than princess because it can sometimes provide upfront driller value.
18. Princess - The importance of this spec's existence is more relevant than your need to hire it. If you're considering whether or not to attempt to eliminate another player a sensible question to ask yourself is: "does this opponent or any of his allies have an upcoming princess hire that could be used to save said opponent?" If the answer is yes, then the available hire should be enough of a deal-breaker to deter you from attacking. Luckily for princess, it gives you tangible value when paired with sentry. But unfortunately, you shouldn't find yourself needing to hire sentry that often.
19. Revered Elder - Like diplomat, this spec needs the right environment to shine, it just gets there a little more the time. Equip a nav/pirate/elder sub with a lot of drills and you won't have to fear losing your Nav sub to assassins. Conveniently, you'll most likely want to have a nav/pirate and a lot of drills anyways. The problem is that the last slot on the sub is highly contested and Elder doesn't usually make the cut.
20. Diplomat - This combo piece is usually cut from its own combo because pirate does a better job and so much more. However, this spec can still shine in the right environment, it's just tough to get there.
21. Intelligence Officer - Perfect example of a "for fun" spec. Whats going through your head when you hire this spec is that you might see an incoming attack from further away and accrue great payoffs. In reality you're giving intel to your opponents! Any opponent paying attention can tap on your sonar range from afar to see that you have hired IO and understandably want to attack you MORE because you're announcing to the world that you chose to hire a spec that does not help you in combat. Any information gained regarding outpost type or incoming attacks should be attainable through better diplomacy. The only reason this spec isn't last is because it technically combos with sentry. But that's a bait too because sentry is a poor build-around concept and princess gives twice the benefits IO does anyways with no downsides. If there was a garbage/combo piece mid-ground this would be it, but just leave it in the trash.
22. Minister of Energy - This spec can shine given that you already have tycoon and no allies near you. However, why don't you have any allies near you? You've probably made a noticeable diplomacy error if you're hiring this. It's always better to use an ally as driller storage and keep production as high as possible. I've seen people producing 1000+ drillers a day and driller dump to prevent capping successfully, and so can you.
23. Inspector - If you find yourself hiring this spec, your opponent has made a mistake. And to assume your opponent will make a mistake is a mistake. Luckily, if your opponent makes that mistake by launching drills at you early game and you have the inspector hire to pair with a smuggler hire out of your enemies sonar range, you're in good hands because inspector can give you some significant value. And even then inspector quickly gets outscaled by other specs. Don't expect to actually hire this spec, it's smarter to threaten the hire to deter your opponent from attacking in the first place.
24. Engineer - I'm starting to get sick of substituting the word "promote" with "demote". By hiring engineer you just went from a spec that provides drills to a spec that maybe provides drills. Useless if you put this on an attack sub for the same reasons War Hero and Thief are. Sometimes you can hire to accrue some surprise value, but not that much. And for those who'd argue this spec should rank higher because it's stackable you're living in fantasyland.
25. Security Chief - This spec has so much potential in a world where Navigator doesn't allow you to bypass defenses. Unfortunately this spec is slow, weak, and provides almost no immediate value. In the case that you're sitting with a useless inspector late game for some reason, at least this pairs with tinkerer for some cute value.
26. War Hero - Shares the same problems Thief does. The purpose of this specialist existing is to deter opponents from attacking your sentry with 20 drill subs. Sometimes smart opponents will even bait you into hiring this by firing several 20 drill subs at your sentry to encourage you to promote it, or more accurately, demote it. In the case that you even hire sentry and your opponent makes this move, at least you can pull the trigger for a quick fix.
27. Thief - Not promotable, not a combo piece, and doesn't give any speed. Occasionally a quick fix against another player attacking you early game, but just move your queen close and threaten the hire to deter them instead. Even if used well, you were probably better off giving up whatever outpost you saved with it and using the hire to help an ally promote a spec.
28. Infiltrator - This spec is absolutely useless 99.99% of the time. There is an infiltrator combo that exists that gives it a power level approximately equal to that of diplomat. Feel free to dm me if you're interested, but don't get your hopes up for this one.

Thank you very much for reading my post! Please don't be shy if you have any comments or feedback. Peace out!