You also may be underestimating the number of opponents who have purchased gear though, Kevin.
I played around with Cavern Survival a bunch the other day - I was able to squeek in to the top 10 barely with a legitimate shield / bash / cleave / attack strategy and free play only items. It is holding steady in the 12-16 range both sides.
I watched a couple of specific matches when I was paired with you, and it wasn’t that you weren’t getting pummeled, it was just you had SO much more HP than I do that even with me taking less damage with me killing my opponents, I can’t keep up.
I have some thoughts for doing fences + missile dodging, but I am trying to see if there is a combat solution… If the doors are broken open, there ends up being some pass through, but it is difficult to get extra spawns to head towards your opponent.
Until there is a way to grind out more gems, the multiplayer will keep a major gear gap (similarly, on the Treasure Grove - the warrior characters just don’t seem to have any hope of being competitive with the magic characters at the moment).