So… there I was in work yesterday, sat in the canteen at lunch, thinking “I’ve not got much to write about on the blog this week”, and so I set about brushing up an old team brew post that, honestly, was in danger of being a bit dry & pedestrian. Then, just a short three hours later, like mana from heaven sent to inspire me, this hit the internet:
Wow. Big news indeed. You can click HERE to go have a gander at the Announcement, but the long & short of it is that there will now be two Dice Masters formats: ‘Golden Age’ (All sets at all times will be legal) and ‘Modern Age’ (Only sets from War of Light onwards will be legal, with the exception of the ‘Half-Elf Bard – Masters Lords Alliance’, who is now banned.)
I’ve largely kept quiet on the matter. There’s been a little insight into my thoughts here & there scattered through the blog, but most of the time I’ve kept my own council on the subject.
But today it’s officially – so in no particular order here are a random gathering of my thoughts on the subject…
It’s been brewing for awhile now…
Wizkids made their intent very clear on the subject of rotation some time ago now (I’m searching my memory but can’t quite pin down when. I’m pretty sure it was at the same Game Fair they spoiled the first TMNT box set, but could be wrong) and speculation has been a regular feature in all the virtual Dice Masters haunts. This speculation particularly picked up pace when the Iron Man/War Machine and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Heroes in a Half Shell sets were spoiled and we saw that a number of popular Basics Actions had been re-printed with new titles.
So, really, it was just a matter of time.
Is it too late?
There’s clearly been some impatience for change in parts of the community, so much so its been largely reported that attendance was down at many international WKOs. The reasons cited? A stale meta that many had got tired of. Tired of the dominance of cards like ‘Half-Elf Bard’ and ‘Beholder’ making it boring & repetitive. So it does beg the question as to whether this change has come too late to satisfy those in the community who have already dropped the game.
There is something else to factor in here too: there has been a new shiny ball in the form of Star Wars Destiny that has made a few run to a new corner of the pitch, and, while I argued in this post HERE that I don’t think it will be too damaging to the survival of Dice Masters, on the question of the timing of this announcement it may have been too late to retain or attract back some (and I stress “some”) of those who are thinking of moving on or have already sold up.
But, y’know, shoulda, woulda, coulda on that one, I suppose.
Is it going to solve the game’s challenges?
Let’s face it; there’s more issues than just the stagnation of the competitive meta that’s driven players away, or makes it tough for new players to get going, and this is just one solution to one problem.
It doesn’t speak to the quality control issues, the infrequency of rules clarifications, the repeated ambiguity of card text, and the lightening pace of new releases.
Wizkids are notoriously slow in addressing rules clarifications and card interactions on their Rules Forum, and it’s largely recognised that when they do address something it is somewhat the “low hanging fruit” when it comes to complexity. This line stands out to me in the announcement:
“Modern Age begins on June 1st, 2017. Qualifying events, National Championships, and World Championships held after this date will be in the Modern Age format.”
So I have to ask – if ‘Modern Age’ is the focus of high level, competitive play, then how likely is it some of the rules clarifications we’ve been begging for will get answered.
And, the pace of releases, in fact, could potentially be an even bigger problem now than ever before; how likely is it that players are going to choose to invest in the game & keep up with the release schedule in the knowledge their purchase will have a limited life-span? The announcement states there will be a yearly rotation, but a year’s worth of sets in Dice Masters terms could be 6-8 releases.
This is just a hypothetical, but let’s say you’re just getting started out at the moment. There’s a likelihood that ‘Lantern Ring – Limited Only by Imagination’ is going to shift up a bit in the top tier of competitive play. Do you still endeavour to get the card, most likely at a high, secondary market cost, to be competitive in the 17/18 WKO seasons in the knowledge that War of Light is going to be first up for the chop come June 2018. And then, if you choose not to, can you reconcile with the fact you’ll be meeting it at WKOs, possibly getting repeatedly beaten by it, and not be able to potentially reach the higher tier of competitive play yourself without it? Right now I wouldn’t know what to suggest to that player.
This is, of course, an assumptive stance for me to bring up, because the potential for creativity in the Modern Age format could produce the next “Poly Hulk” or “Bard-Blitz” or “Apologies in Advance”, and is also driven by my unfamiliarity with a rotation approach in CCGs (I mean, it hasn’t slowed Magic: The Gathering at all, has it? People still buy into that with the knowledge it’ll be rotated out) but that leads me to my next thought…
The cream will always rise to the top…
Competitive players are always going to seek ways to deal more damage, faster, while stopping you from dealing damage. That’s just a fact of competitive events. It doesn’t matter how you cut up your sets, or add rules to the rule book, the best will seek to be the best.
If you told Usain Bolt a new rule was being introduced to have all Olympic sprint events take place on gravel he would just start to strategise and train to be the Gold Medal standard of sprinting on gravel.
So the cream will rise to the top, and great teams with great pilots will just take up the mantle. One way or another, when I compete in a WKO, there will be someone there who is primed & ready to defeat me with power and efficiency.
This begs the question – is the problem for a number of peeps in the community the power cards, or the mindset of competitive players who want to be the best?
(I want to be clear here – in the 2 years I’ve been playing I have never once met a bad winner. Not once. The community is great. But I have had a salty time of getting beaten lots – and that’s all about me)
My local scene is going to struggle with it
I can only speak of my own local community here, but a quick straw poll on Facebook tells me this is going to split us three ways – a third of my local scene will want to be exclusively ‘Golden Age’, a third will want ‘Modern’, and a third will be happy to play around in both.
The argument would be just to mix it up (which what we will likely will do), but it’s not as simple as that.
The announcement firmly states that the ‘Modern Age’ format is the way of the future for high, level competitive play. There are a few implications of this, but the main concern is when WKO season is upon us it is likely that the more competitive players in my group are going to want to practice playing with ‘Modern Age’ teams, which will be alienating for the ‘Golden Age’ fans. In that environment ‘Golden Age’ fans will have two choices; go with the flow, or not play.
And, in the wider community, again, during WKO season, where does a ‘Golden Age’ player go for their internet-ty stuff? It’s highly probable that the focus of blogs, social media, podcasts and forums will lean more towards ‘Modern Age’ during the more competitive parts of the year. ‘Golden Age’ fans may be at risk of being a marginalised minority within the Dice Masters community.
The Nationals prizing seems less prestigious now
Just that – this season’s WKO prize cards aren’t quite as cool anymore. I mean, one of the prize cards can’t be played in either of the new formats!
Reading this post you would be forgiven for thinking my view of rotation is a negative one. But this actually isn’t the case. I’m actually pretty cool with it, almost indifferent.
In my professional, non-nerd life, my job asks me to be a critical analyst, to identify weakness & risk, and mitigate it. And that’s what’s driven this post’s content – it a critical eye that’s produced a list of risks to mitigate.
I’m a fan of creative team building. I’ve not once played a Bard, because he sucks the fun I find in the challenge of team building out for me. I’m quite into limited formats to drive out more creativity, I think it’s got a lot of potential.
I’m not fussed about the money I’ve put into the game either, but I’m not insensitive to those who might feel upset about their investment, especially if they’ve got into the game recently. I’ve played pretty much once a week, every week, for nearly two years now. It’s a comparable amount of spend as socialising in the pub or over a meal in a restaurant, or a trip to the cinema, to my mind. If ‘Golden Age’ dies a death in my local scene I’ll be sad not to play my ‘Johnny Swarm’ or ‘Villain Retaliation’ teams as often but I like shiny new stuff too – so I’ll be fine. We’ll still always play ‘Single Affiliation’, it’s waaay to popular a format in my local community, and this will need to be ‘Golden Age’ to keep the card pool decent for different affiliations. (Try making an X-Men only team in ‘Modern Age’ that’s got some game!)
I’ll be watching with a great deal of interest how things at Worlds look. Let’s see how it all pans out…