The announcement of the Prime format by the Pro Dice Circuit before Christmas raised a few eyebrows in the UK community and generated quite a bit of debate. Many prominent members of our little scene came together and discussed whether we wanted to start bringing PDC events to our shores, whether we felt it would achieve the meta-refresh it was intended to, was the meta so stale it needed that refresh and whether the PDC’s Player managed approach was something we may want to develop ourselves.
Largely the opinion of the Prime format was not as positively received as it seems to have been in the States. The discussion filled a whole weekend over Facebook, chat rooms & Instant Messages. Some were big D&D fans and resented the wholesale removal of D&D sets by the Prime format. Some felt it was arrogantly extreme without a transparent process of theory-testing and player input. Some just felt like it wasn’t right for the UK experience. Not everyone was uncertain though; some felt it was worth a try, took a “let’s give it a go” stance, and (I believe) encouraged their local store to put an application in.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with the PDC’s Prime format approach or not, one thing that was universally agreed in the discussion was that the competitive meta was clearly stale and needed something going on to shake something loose.
Jake Scott, friend of the blog & Volunteer TO at Patriot Games in Sheffield, definitely had concerns about the stale meta for some time and the effect it was having on his local Player Base. The PDC Prime discussion brought it front & centre for him, so he took action and last week he set a House Ban List and held his first event under the new rules.
I was interested in his thoughts,and reached out with a few questions to get some more information around the House Rules, keen to understand why he had chosen those house rules for his events, why he preferred it to Prime or Standard, what they were looking for in the experiment, and what they hoped it would achieve. Here is that interview…
You’ve decided to try out a ban list for your upcoming events. For what reasons have you decided to do this?
We looked at what people were considering a negative play experiences. So things that slowed the game to a halt, things that killed far too quickly or things that warped the game to one side far to much were considered. This became what’s referred to as “the meta”. Several of these cards see regular play because of their sheer power or stopping force. We didn’t just look at the top team and ban everything in it, because it’s not the whole team that’s a problem. It’s how they interact. Most of these became negative experiences for new players and old, some of these even made people quit because of the ridiculously over powered effects they have. We thought a ban list might be a way to address this and re-introduce a positive play experience.
What are the cards on your ban list and how did you choose them?
The banned cards are a mix of all cards types. We realised that just banning specific things would simply bring back the older teams that, again, made a negative play experience.
The Banned cards:
Half Elf Bard – Master Lord’s Alliance, this card was frequently a turn 1 purchase for the first player which made it a turn 2 or 3 field and kill. Far too strong for newer players and “Pure” players. “Pure” players are what we call the players who stick to the Marvel/DC Universe or universes. It depends on their preference.
Guy Gardner – Blinding Rage, the cheap aggro teams are just as strong as a Bard team, and this character, although he doesn’t buff other characters, buffs himself to a ridiculous amount so that your defense can’t protect you for long.
Oracle – Master Investigator, this card can grind games to a halt because of its high defense and its game altering ability. It makes all of you opponent Globals cost one generic energy more. While it doesn’t sound like much, it quickly forces a player to make tough choices between ramping to bigger characters, or actually fielding them.
Parallax – Source of Terror/Fear, these characters are part of a little known Combo, though I feel thanks to Michael Power, this could lead to a whole new series of teams that constantly re-field a character to do a lot of damage or cause a lot of effects. Though I do believe Mr. Power got his team from a podcast.
Hulk – Green Goliath/ Jade Giant, these green beasties roamed all over in teams before we gained War of Light and Faerun under Siege. The power they could create was unstoppable. Hulk lived up to his name thanks to a Basic Action, Magic Missile. You paid one Bolt energy to deal one damage to a character. You hurt the hulk, you make him angrier, you make him stronger.
Lantern Ring – Limited Only by Imagination, this card was ruled in such a way, that it became too powerful, even alone. It’s a card that you could only have one die for and it could still cause a lot of damage. It does one damage to your opponent for each individual piece of energy in your Reserve Pool, that matches one of your attacking characters. An example would be if you attacked with Green Goblin – Gobby and a Colossus – Piotr Rasputin while you have 3 bolt energy and one Melee. Because Gobby is a bolt character, he would deal 3 damage to your opponent, and because Colossus is a Melee character, he would deal only one damage.
We banned these basic actions:
Imprisoned, because being able to take away a lot of your opponents 0 field cost characters is too strong. Every sidekick is at risk because of this. There are also multiple ways of abusing this with specific characters, like Ultraman and Beholder.
Vicious Struggle, this card essentially forces a back fire on you opponent. Anything they do in damage that isn’t from vicious struggle, goes right back in turn. Even though this would result in the active player winning if both players “Lose” at the same time, it’s more of a way to make sure you opponent knows the risks they’re taking.
The next two are banned by WIZKIDS themselves. They already stated that forcing specific characters not to block was detrimental to the game and to certain strategies. These are Relentless and Swords of Revealing Light.
How did you pitch the idea to your player base and how was it received?
At first, I asked what people thought about the recent Dice Masters Pro Dice Circuit Prime format that was just announced in America. They banned whole sets instead of specific cards. For some people, like newer and ‘pure’ players, they found this perfect as they didn’t have to worry about cards from the past taking over. Whereas other weren’t impressed, cards they had spent a lot of money on would become instantly useless. As a player from AVX onwards, I have similar feelings, my first super was Gobby and my favourite card of all time is Colossus. (Totally didn’t reference them earlier because I love them…) I knew that I’d feel like I’m being punished for being with the game for so long, having these amazing and powerful cards with nowhere to play them except in a friendly game. The general response from my group was negative, they didn’t want to lose all of the cards they bought and drafted and played, they just want to play fun things that weren’t going to lose before they started.
This led me to thinking about erratas and changing the way some mechanics work like how “When fielded” abilities work and how often. I shared it on our Facebook page and after posting it up what people shared was that they felt that I had over complicated certain aspects of the game. I then asked if people would prefer blanket bans. A blanket ban is simply a straight ban, you cannot use X cards. This became the popular opinion and so I asked again. What people wanted banning and why. ‘Bard popped up so many times I thought I was play “Whack-an-Elf”!! Though I do have to mention that one player, Ben Duggan, suggested that we have a slightly competitive tournament to see what teams were heavy hitters, I disagreed with him saying that we had enough information with all the tournament teams that we could find. At least 2 years worth of teams available to us, from opens, to tournaments, to podcasts and even players themselves. I had enough data to make reasonable decisions and choices.
In what ways do you anticipate it will affect the event?
I think that we could see a surface of previously unused ideas and teams simply because they were too slow before. Villains could make a return, Teen Titans could be good again (because the current cartoon is pretty bad, let’s be honest), Justice League. We could see every available faction, ability and methods to win being used, without the fear of losing before you warm up. There are so many mechanics that haven’t been used because the meta said so, now we got rid of the most powerful cards in there, there’s no telling what could happen. Me? I’m feeling like a little Multi-dimensional character could see some love.
Has it attracted any increased interest in the event outside of your core regular base? Perhaps encouraged some players to return after a hiatus?
I’ve seen a little gleam of hope from my regular player Base, they seem pretty happy to go into the game from here, I’ve not heard of any new players interested yet but it’s early days. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’d like to wait and see what my group has to say about it, we might add more cards in, we might take some out, it’s too early to tell right now. If all goes well, I might recommend these banning to other,bigger groups to get a larger response, the community in general tends to be pretty good when it comes to taking on challenges and I feel that this could be a step in the right direction, both for old and new players.
End of Part One. In the second part of the interview I’ll follow up with Jake post-event to discuss how his first OP went with the ban list in place and whether there were good early signs of it achieving what he intended…