On reflection, I think a lot of people are talking past each other in these
discussions. Part of the problem is that strong strategies, and the tools for dealing with them, exist in many forms. For instance, we could create an "axis of cheese" with guidepoints like:
A. You auto-lose (*) unless you can counter the strategy.
B. You are at a major disadvantage unless you counter the strategy.
C. You are at a minor disadvantage unless you counter the strategy.
(*) By this I mean you have no chance of winning, with no future recourse.
As examples from old strategies (staying away from the current metagame in hopes we can view them more dispassionately), "Wormhole all your ships to Montana Missile Complex" would be A, "Kivas/Kivas/Kivas/Red Alert megacrew" would be B, playing Masaka to mulligan your hand would be C. Or, in terms of battle decks, A is "all your facilities are destroyed", B is "you lose a ship and large crew", C is "a ship is damaged with a casualty or two from Tactics".
We can add a second, perpendicular axis along these lines, ranging from "uncounterable" (1) to "only stoppable if you stock expensive cards that aren't otherwise useful" (2), all the way to "easily countered by actions not requiring you to stock specific cards" (n).
How problematic a strategy is depends on where it falls in this matrix. An uncounterable auto-win (A/1) clearly breaks the game. Strategies at the other corner (C/n) are harmless, but rarely played. The interesting discussion happens along the other diagonal of the matrix: minor advantages that are hard to stop, and very powerful strategies that can be cheaply countered.
The tools we have for fixing "problem cards" -- ban/errata,
cards, other specific counters, do nothing and let the metagame fix itself -- shift where strategies lie along this second axis.
My point in introducing this framework is that not all "potential NPEs" are equal in terms of impact on gameplay balance. I think we all agree that different strategies need different counters; I hope this gives us a vocabulary to discuss *why*.
For example -- I said that the interesting discussion happens on the "minor impact/hard to counter" to "huge impact/easy to counter" spectrum. But these are not symmetrical: the latter leads to "high-variance" games which boil down to whether the right counter was stocked or not. This is where my issues with
stem from: it puts the onus on the defender, rather than the aggressor. We get better gameplay if the risk is directly borne by the player choosing to use the strategy in the first place. Example: White Deprivation should not be a
card; instead, it should be a mandatory download on Jem'Hadar Shrouding and/or other key
engines. This way the risk of the strategy is inherently baked in whenever someone plays it. This makes for a more stable play environment, and is MUCH friendlier to new players. Especially since
very easily gets into complex timing rules (and not the fun kind of complexity).
To summarize, as this post has gotten very long, even for me:
Very few category A threats should exist in the game, and those that do exist (think Stop First Contact or armadas blowing up facilities) should be costed high. Ban/errata is the right tool for cards on the wrong side of that line -- ideally, errata so that an appropriate cost or risk is built in upfront.
If you're worried about category C threats, stock regular counters like Kevin or a targeted bullet.
Category B threats is where "boosted" counters like
should be. If you want protection, it's there. If you don't, you are taking some additional risk, but NOT the risk of being shut out of the game. Mirror Image against Kivas is fine. Pre-errata Operate Wormhole Relays was not.
I was never a huge fan of the
mechanic for many reasons -- it puts the onus on the defender, adds friction to deckbuilding, involves complex and legalistic timing rules, and isn't even thematic (Q was a trickster himself, if anything he would delight in exploiting loopholes) -- but at least this way nobody runs the risk of an auto-loss if they don't plaly it.
can stay in the game as protection against mid-level threats. But no player should feel obligated to play
lest they lose to a Category A strategy.