• Pretending to Know Stuff Vol. 12 - Bardy Bard Bard

    Randy did a card review a while back about Jinzo and it got a lot of buzz. Perhaps because of the subject matter, but probably mostly because it was very well written and thought out. Iím here to do the same thing but for Bard. And, because Bard seems like the thing that is on all winning teams nowadays, I wonít have to rely on my awesome writing skills or clever wit to make this article pop. I will just sub-title it Bardy Bard Bard, and that should do the trick. Ready? Here we go:

    If you donít know what Iím talking about, thatís fine. We welcome you to the discussion with a brief overview and loads of envy for not having to deal with this issue wherever you play in a constructed format. Half-Elf Bard Ė Master Lordsí Alliance reads, ďExperience. When Half-Elf Bard attacks, each attacking character die gets +1A and +1D for each of your other different character dice.Ē We now know that this means for each of your other active characters. Itís the easiest win-condition to plug in to virtually any team right now in the entire game. Seriously. Pick a team, put this on it, and it just got better. I think the one redeeming quality about this card is that itís a starter. EVERYONE has access to it. Letís not begin to imagine the implications (or price) if this card happened to be a Super Rare. Just about every other aspect of this card demonstrates that it is completely and totally broken in all ways in its current state.

    When I sit down to play and see Bard, itís not surprising in the least. In Mexican Nationals it was used in something like 7 of 10 teams. In Canadian Nationals it was on 10 of 11 teams. The one player who didnít run it asked me to read my copy when I swung for lethal in our match in the first round of Swiss. So, the one player who didnít use it in that National Championship Event didnít know, or wasnít completely clear, on what its ability is. I donít know the specifics of UK Nationals, but we know from less-than-cryptic forum and Facebook posts that Bard was prevalent. Bard was on the winning team in many WKOs, and the final Nationals Qualifier event before US Nationals held at the Salt Lake Gaming Con just about 2 weeks ago. I expect nothing short of 75% of all teams at Nationals, Worldís Qualifiers, and Worldís at Origins to carry the Bard in one way or another. This is your meta right now Ė letís talk about whyÖ

    Purchase Cost:

    Bard is a 4 cost. You need no ramp to buy Bard turn 1. Itís so attainable, itís astounding. The game only has so many 4 cost win conditions to begin with. Formerly Weapon Ten (FWX) and Lantern Ring Ė Limited Only By Imagination (LOBI) are the ones weíll look at for this cursory comparison. All cost 4 and have a specific energy type. Bard has 001 fielding while FWX has 123 fielding costs. FWX is statted much better, but the fielding costs reflect that. Bard needs other characters to make stronger, FWX needs overcrush, or unblockable, and must attack alone. Bardís effect also stacks, so two bards attacking grants the bonus twice Ė one for each Ė while two FWXs attacking cancels the bonus. LOBI on the other hand, has no stats, but is continuous and has a pretty profound effect, if you can build up a group of like-energy characters and get a reserve pool full of that energy. LOBI also does not stack, since it is a ďwhile activeĒ ability. With Bard, you can buy more to win faster Ė with the other two, not so much.

    Itís a 4 cost!!! You can ramp so efficiently in this game focusing on 4 costs itís almost ludicrous. The purchase of your win condition should mess with your ramp a little. Whether itís because of cost (Obelisk, Thanos), or because you need multiple copies (Tsarina), your win condition should not fit this well into the purchase curve when it can do what this one can do at the speed at which this one does it.

    Ability Effect:

    The effect is bananas. It kind of turns all of your characters into Guy Gardner Ė obviously not exactly, but more or less. Itís close enough that Iím sticking with that comparison instead of coming up with another. When attacks boost effects are not new to the game. FWX has a boost when it attacks, and Guy Gardner too. Neither is a when attacks ability that boosts other characters Ė see Angel Ė Inspiring for that type of ability. See also, Green Lantern Ė Willpower from the Justice League set. I love that card. When I was teaching a new player the game just around this time last year, we pulled out JL for a villains vs JL game and had loads of fun. At one point, I was attacking for a total of 37 and couldnít win the game! Green Lantern is statted better than Bard, but costs 6. The ability effect is a flat boost rather than scalable boost, and comes at an increased purchase cost, but it also stacks like the Bard. It does not boost himself, while Bard does.

    Hereís the problem Ė Bard costs one more than Angel who provides a flat 1/1 boost to sidekicks only (with similar stat to purchase cost ratios). But Bardís effect is categorically better than Green Lanternís and comes at a significant price break (both purchase and fielding) on a die that has better defensive stats (which matters for defender removal via damage during the inactive turnís Main Step).

    Nothing else in the game can do what this can do. The ones that can do something close do it worse, or more expensively, or both. This embodies the very definition of power creep. Only it does it by leaps and bounds with no regard for the state of the game in the larger sense.

    Counters:

    The most recent counters to Bard have been covered here. You can also board clear on your opponentís turn (Hulk Ė Green Goliath comes to mind). You can Joker/Loki the Bard. You can use Constantine Ė Hellblazer to buy yourself a turn. Deadman can isolate individual Bard dice, too. The problem is most of these counters are MORE expensive than the Bard. In a game like Dice Masters, where characters that are KOíd can come right back. Counters, at least some of them, should be cheaper than the threats Ėat least the counters that are actions and go to the used pile and have to cycle back through to the bag. Heck, Iíd be totally satisfied with a Continuous action that went back to the CARD when it was used. And right now, even the cheap counters canít be put on the board before your opponent might get lethal.

    The counters to other win conditions, like FWX and LOBI are either global speed or still fast enough to, regularly, have a positive impact in countering the win condition (I put Constantine Ė Antihero and the Mera global in this category). Bard makes every character a threat. Youíre not just countering bard, youíre countering 4-8 attackers. Mera would continue to be an option if energy oppression hadnít entered the game. Itís seriously just a question of who goes first. And while first turn advantage has been discussed as an issue with this game in the past (and some, rightfully, continue to discuss it), Bard simply highlights those issues to the nth degree. Why? Because as the Bard team is lining up the win condition (multiple characters in the field) and the counter team is lining up counters, all the Bard team has to do is buy a simple 4 cost action to cross-counter ALL the counters on the other side. And sure, Spray has a counter, too. But guess what, the common Doomcaliber Knight is more expensive than Spray, and can only counter 1, unless you pair it with the UC Raven. Even then, a string of Ravens and DCK are easily countered by 1 or 2 cost actions.

    The point is there is no reliable counter to Bard except to Bard faster than your opponent can. Since about 30 other cards can be put with Bard to win turn 3 or turn 4, you might see some variation in the top teams. And thatís great, thatís what we want Ė we want that variation. But, ultimately, thatís not variation. Itís slight mutation. Itís not the difference between a swarm of ants and a herd of elephants; itís the difference between identical twins with different haircuts and outfits. They have the same DNA, the same building blocks, and enough similarities that they are often indistinguishable to those not intimately familiar with those subtle differences. This is the opposite of a healthy meta; oh, how quickly things change. Just a few months ago the meta was vibrant. Control was (at least arguably) the strongest of the archetypes of builds. Now? Itís not a question of what type of team are you running, itís simply a question of what cards youíre pairing with Bard.

    The Logical Disconnect:

    WizKids, and game creators Eric Lang and Mike Elliot, released a statement which says, in part, "In particular, some games have been ending turn 3 without players having a chance to participate in the game. We have solutions in the R&D pipeline but weíd prefer to not let events between then and now be corrupted by this issue." But hereís the thing Ė turn 3 wins happened at US Nationals in 2015. And Canadian Nationals in 2015 (I still feel torn, Ron. On one hand, that was one win I needed for a Full Art Tsarina, and on the other itís not the way the game should operate). I donít know about Worldís 2015, but I lost a game in 4 turns. So they banned Relentless and Swords of Revealing Light. Don't get me wrong, I love playing a game for which there is this type of support from the company that makes it. But I don't - I really don't - understand this move being the only move. Why not errata the global? Make it a cost and it immediately nerfs it enough to not be as much of a problem. Why not look at the mechanics that fuel that T3 ridiculousness and errata other globals to once per turn? Twice per turn even. Increase their cost. Banning those cards did little to remove the T3 win from the game. I know. I went to a WKO and had no fewer than 3 T3 wins that counted, and probably 6 more in games just messing around waiting for others to finish whatever round of Swiss we were in. And hereís something importantÖI wasnít using Bard or Relentless or Swords of Revealing Light.

    I'm no game expert, I'm just a guy who loves to play. But I look at the situation and see that you have the statement, and the related action, but the outcome clearly isnít sufficient to accomplish the goals set forth in the statement. At least not to the degree I would have expected if they're making use of the ban-hammer. But, in most environments, that means further action is required. I donít want something hasty, but something else and of another strategy than what has been done so far would be spectacular. I really see an opportunity here for all of us to learn about the inner workings of the game by exploring separate strategies beyond the banning of a global. I donít care if you win or lose, playing this game is less fun when everyone has Bard and is gunning for a T3-T5 win. You want to fix this T3 non-interactive business? Fix the fact that my opponent can spend my energy to steal my energy. Remove or cost adjust or Max:1 these crazy early single swing wins. Those are strategies that are worth looking at, and they're not the only ones. I've heard lots of good ideas from numerous players. They're out there. There are plenty of possible solutions.

    I love coming up with the turn 3 combos when theyíre limited to less than 50% odds; but when they're consistent, itís a different story. The current Bard builds are so reliable that it comes down to who goes first or who misses more rolls. Yes, this is the ultimate parity in terms of accessibility to viable winning builds, but it has stripped this game of any illusions of actual competitive player ability having a role in the outcomes. I really wish the actions that were taken were sufficient to accomplish the goals in the statement that was made. Theyíre not. More is necessary. The game went from an interactive, inviting game to something... else. Something not those things. At least at the competitive level.

    Conclusions:

    These arenít new things, but we look at them for comparison because the win-condition is the comparison weíre trying to make. A year ago PXG was everywhere at US Nats, CanNats, and even Worldís, and there was significant discussion about whether or not you should bring PXG on your team, what it had done to the game, and if it was healthy enough to stick around Ė all because it was so prevalent. I firmly believe that PXG is not a problem for Dice Masters. I may be more alone in that camp than I think, but thatís what I believe; itís not even required for Bard to win T3. The answers to it are affordable, and it doesnít win the game. It dramatically changes the game, but it doesnít win the game. When a win condition becomes this prevalent, it is a problem. Bard is an over-powered, under-priced, readily accessible turn 3 and turn 4 killing machine that has no business staying in the game without an errata (my preference would be to make it a 6 cost) or cheap, reliable, immediate, global-speed answers. I recently played in a constructed event trying to get some reps in before US Nats at Origins this week. I went undefeated and hated it. I hate this card. But, until WizKids does something about it, Iíll run it. Transparency time: I want to win. Iím a reasonably smart individual (maybe) who is wildly over-educated (and will be paying for that for an awfully long time), but I donít have the smarts to figure out how to beat this thing without using it. So Iíll use it. Begrudgingly. Please, WizKids. Do something.
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. jacquesblondes's Avatar
      jacquesblondes -
      Awesome article, JT. So very well said.
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      Thanks! This time around the editing process included a few of us, so I need to share the credit because a number of rewrites were at the suggestion of other staff members. Really, it was a team effort!
    1. The0retico's Avatar
      The0retico -
      Bard Masters: Gotta Bard'em all!
    1. msteele999's Avatar
      msteele999 -
      I'm really glad you wrote this. I'm a very new player looking to start OP and competitive play this year and was taken aback by the current meta. It's disappointing to see how many teams are being piloted with just a few cards - as you articulately stated; 'but it has stripped this game of any illusions of actual competitive player ability having a role in the outcomes'.

      That's WHY I stopped playing MTG - it became less about player skill and more about player memorization. As long as the right cards became available, it was simply play them in a certain order.

      Now, with that being said, DM does mitigate this with some chance (i.e. bad die rolls) more than MTG in my opinion - barring the occasional 'mana screw', if you had the cards in your deck, you were going to win.

      So, banning - not a fan at all. Errata - less obnoxious but a better solution. Introducing dice that directly counter - well - IS that really better or does that create a race condition - time will tell.

      When I get frustrated with the concept of HAVING to build a deck that will win versus building a deck that I want to play, I play single die drafts with my son. We shuffle a bunch of cards together, alternate picking random characters and then build a team with only one die of each character. It's a really good way to learn a character and it inspires the 'hmmm, if I had TWO of her think of what I could do'.

      The other thing that has been working for us is to build the '$25 or less' teams from Sagi's blog - that dude is also a huge community asset.

      Best regards,

      Mark
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      @msteele999 ,
      Thanks for the response. I don't know what the right response is. That's why my article sounds like I'm along WK to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. At this point, what I know it's that we need something more. I don't have a MTG history, or any other competitive gaming history, actually. So I can't claim to know the answer. But the competitive scene is not what it was a year ago. It's not even what it was 6 months ago. I hope we'll see solutions soon. I know in Ottawa they've banned several cards to keep the local meta fresh and interesting. That may be temporarily necessary for local scenes until we have an official action from Wizkids.
    1. Ajeddy's Avatar
      Ajeddy -
      Hear, Hear!!

      Very, very well said JT.

      I hate Bard, but no chance in hell of not running it when I want to win.

      I will also leave this game readily if something is not done about Bard. Bard IS over powered, broken and just completely bad for the game! Combined with the already ridiculous and completely ignored first turn advantage, Bard has now made the game all about one die roll..."Action or energy?" With Bard, it has come down to being on the right side of that 50-50 coin flip, because call it correct and enjoy an 80+% of winning, all other things equal.

      That fact alone - and make no mistake about it, it is a FACT - is terrible!

      Not only does Wizkids need to do something about this, but they need to do something immediately. Or risk doing real, lasting damage to the community that is, until now, growing, and in my opinion, awesome.

      I am glad my local scene has chosen to ban Bard. I look forward to playing this Saturday and getting back to some fun team building and play testing of ideas NOT Bard.
    1. BenSaidScott's Avatar
      BenSaidScott -
      Seeing as you said we were being vague, here is my UK nationals winning entry:

      http://dicemastersdb.com/teams/team/?id=14109

      Out of the 12 rounds I played in I think there was only 1 team that didn't run bard. Two of my friends playing in the event didn't take Bard and both suffered for it.

      I completely agree with your point about their not being real variance in top meta teams. It is Bard plus whatever else you can run. But I disagree strongly that the game is now down to who goes first. I only went first in two of the round I played in and was able to slow down my opponents Bard long enough to get back into the game. There are plenty of solutions to slow Bard down (Imprisoned is actually amazing against it and the reason I won nationals). The problem is that once you have managed to slow down your opponents Bard unless you have a Bard to respond with then you aren't going to win.

      I'm encouraged that during the event Eric Lang came over and made several off hand comments about how strong Bard was, even writing on one players Terry McGinnis that "this card stops Bard", and called it new game text. On several peoples mats he wrote in the attack zone "bard vs bard", and one of my friends asked if he could ban the card, to which he said "of course". While these were jokey comments he is aware of the problem that we are facing in tournaments scenes, and I believe that unless we see something strange happen at US nats and Worlds that Bard will receive some kind of errata or fix (there are a lot of ways to do this also).
    1. WiLDRAGE's Avatar
      WiLDRAGE -
      I played a Bard Team exactly once. I went 3-1 losing only to another Bard team (because I miscounted an attack). I felt dirty and I refuse to play it again in our weekly DM nights. We haven't had to ban it because it's not being played constantly (people realize it's so oppressive and not fun). If it does start showing up more often, I'll probably start banning it too.
    1. chrisrhenke's Avatar
      chrisrhenke -
      Great article. My local group has recently spent a lot of hours trying to find counters to bard. It has been very frustrating and demoralizing. Specifically the bard/elf thief/golem consistency. Best I have found is a mask ring team with common Elf Thief and Morphing Jar (although I wish I knew who picked the die for the Morphing Jar ability).
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      I really appreciate the replies, to all!
      @BenSaidScott , I fully intended my article to say "less-than-cryptic" - my apologies for any confusion. I figure there is a blog post forthcoming and didn't mean to cast any shadows on reporting thus far. I just didn't have data like the other events.
      @Ajeddy , I think they need time to fix it, but I want it to be a priority. Show us that's the case, and I'll live with the struggle for now. Or don't, and I think your points for walking away gain a lot of clout.
      @WiLDRAGE , a group that collectively plays without it can really get hammered if someone new to the scene shows up with it. That's no fun for everyone. I highly recommend taking action (banning) as a scene if most are already playing without it.
      @chrisrhenke , I think there are lots of people in that frustrated boat...
    1. chrisevans's Avatar
      chrisevans -
      Yeah going against Bard when you go second is pretty bad. I've been thinking more about trying to survive with sidekicks and the super rare ring (for energy fixing to sidekicks on second turn) and just buying the 1 cost kobolds with swarm. In theory (though sidekicks only come up 1/6 times) if you can get enough sidekicks out to block as much as possibly (maybe letting bard through to the used) then you can keep swarming with kobolds while doing an alternate strategy a little more slowly? Just an idea, cause technically those sidekick blockers kind of turn into ramp after the bard attack. This Bard strategy is crazy powerful though...I'm going to run a non bard team at worlds qualifiers, hoping I can get at least one win. Maybe throw a resurection in there? try to not be able to draw 4 dice to lose a life and gain generic energy the ring can use?
    1. chrisrhenke's Avatar
      chrisrhenke -
      Quote Originally Posted by chrisevans View Post
      Yeah going against Bard when you go second is pretty bad. I've been thinking more about trying to survive with sidekicks and the super rare ring (for energy fixing to sidekicks on second turn) and just buying the 1 cost kobolds with swarm. In theory (though sidekicks only come up 1/6 times) if you can get enough sidekicks out to block as much as possibly (maybe letting bard through to the used) then you can keep swarming with kobolds while doing an alternate strategy a little more slowly? Just an idea, cause technically those sidekick blockers kind of turn into ramp after the bard attack. This Bard strategy is crazy powerful though...I'm going to run a non bard team at worlds qualifiers, hoping I can get at least one win. Maybe throw a resurection in there? try to not be able to draw 4 dice to lose a life and gain generic energy the ring can use?
      The bard team we have been practicing against brings magic missile and can easily shut down swarm and can get those sidekicks out of the way. :-(
    1. jojodadevil's Avatar
      jojodadevil -
      Quote Originally Posted by chrisevans View Post
      Yeah going against Bard when you go second is pretty bad. I've been thinking more about trying to survive with sidekicks and the super rare ring (for energy fixing to sidekicks on second turn) and just buying the 1 cost kobolds with swarm. In theory (though sidekicks only come up 1/6 times) if you can get enough sidekicks out to block as much as possibly (maybe letting bard through to the used) then you can keep swarming with kobolds while doing an alternate strategy a little more slowly? Just an idea, cause technically those sidekick blockers kind of turn into ramp after the bard attack. This Bard strategy is crazy powerful though...I'm going to run a non bard team at worlds qualifiers, hoping I can get at least one win. Maybe throw a resurection in there? try to not be able to draw 4 dice to lose a life and gain generic energy the ring can use?
      You will not me alone I am going to worlds with no bard. Maybe we can play a game that lasts a few turns.
    1. chrisevans's Avatar
      chrisevans -
      Quote Originally Posted by chrisrhenke View Post
      The bard team we have been practicing against brings magic missile and can easily shut down swarm and can get those sidekicks out of the way. :-(
      hmm yeah I see your point, though magic missile could be used against the bard team itself to KO sidekicks... Also I just noticed that Kobolds are "monsters" and Bard has the experience keyword, yikes!
    1. chrisrhenke's Avatar
      chrisrhenke -
      Quote Originally Posted by chrisevans View Post
      hmm yeah I see your point, though magic missile could be used against the bard team itself to KO sidekicks... Also I just noticed that Kobolds are "monsters" and Bard has the experience keyword, yikes!
      The team I have been practicing against uses elf thief, so you can't reliably use ANY energy based globals on the opponents turn. :-( :-(
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      Bard is a problem and needs to be dealt with, but make no mistake. What JT said about illusions being shattered is exactly right, for they are illusions. Bard only magnifies some of the problems with the current structure - they existed before him and will continue to exist after unless a few structural elements are tweaked.

      I'm against banning symptoms rather than problems but it's the game system that enables Bard to work so well. You can't ban that. So Bard has to go, but they need a 2.0 rule set and rotation.
    1. zeon20's Avatar
      zeon20 -
      @Jthomash2 "Banning those cards did little to remove the T3 win from the game. I know. I went to a WKO and had no fewer than 3 T3 wins that counted, and probably 6 more in games just messing around waiting for others to finish whatever round of Swiss we were in. And here’s something important…I wasn’t using Bard or Relentless or Swords of Revealing Light."

      I think your example is slightly off on this. Granted you can achieve a turn 3 kill with your wolverine best there is combo, but you had to devote 8 slots just to get that turn 3 kill (spider, blue eyes, white tiger, red dragon global, pxg, dck global, Back for seconds, anger issues) leaving your no room for answers. Then assuming rolls were good to land on that turn three (back for seconds & anger issues) you would need to spend 5 energy to get wolverine out at level 3 with 3 energy left to spare. You then had to spend 1 energy to generate a sidekick and 1 energy to force block and 1 for dck global just to counter any global stoppers they have leaving you with zero ramp. And even after all that, your opponent could still just blue eyes their own dude before you attack to deny you the turn 3 kill and take 12 damage. Now comparing that to a standard bard blitz style team or a guy rush turn 3 kill pre ban where its 5 cards (mirri, relentless, bard/guy, morphing jar/Big entrance, ring/pxg) and its not only much more energy efficient, but also allows room for slots for more answers to the counters. The power difference is quite real here.

      Now i'm not saying that relentless ban solved the main issue many are facing (bard) but I will say the ban did help improve the overall health of the game. Turn 3 combat damage kills take more slot devotions to get working and when block abilities (beast, supergirl, ect) are finally usable in the game, and action dies (cloud kill, imprison) are now utilized by more people in the game than ever before.

      It is a bummer to see the creativity die down with even the top players devoting a slot to bard, but this isn't something new. Tsarina was very much on a similar place in most people's competitive teams last year from nats all the way up to worlds. Ive been juggling between 3 teams for nats/worlds with one of them being a bard team, but with all this bard bummer talk from the community I think i'm gonna drop my bard team out for nats and try something a lot more exciting for people to see. As much as I enjoy winning, Im much more interested in keeping this game alive and growing. And a stale meta full of bards in the highest level of competition is not the way to keep the this game going.

      U.S. Nats looks like its gonna be the most stacked competition of players, might even be more so than the actual worlds tournament (wish you guys could stay for the world tournament @conductor & @Randy ), and it looks like everyone is gonna be running some form of bard. So I will try to take on this bard meta without a bard and I will try to break it. So pray for my rolls and me going first ppl, but more importantly get hyped for U.S. NATS!!!!!
    1. ElraE's Avatar
      ElraE -
      I don't like the idea of a ban. I do like your suggestion of making her 6 cost. This would definitely slow her down a little.
      Also making her only able to boost 2 target attackers would help.
    1. chrisrhenke's Avatar
      chrisrhenke -
      Quote Originally Posted by ElraE View Post
      I don't like the idea of a ban. I do like your suggestion of making her 6 cost. This would definitely slow her down a little.
      Also making her only able to boost 2 target attackers would help.
      Even if they just re-ruled Bard's ability. Made it "When Half-Elf Bard attacks, each OTHER attacking character gets +1/+1 for each of your other active characters." If Bard were to not buff herself, you could let her through, and you take away the "Oh, I didn't kill you? I'll just attack again next turn" factor. If you read the card, it's almost like that's what they intended, and just left out the word. As I recall, in D&D, Bards were about buffing other people, not about turning themselves into weapons of mass destruction.
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      @zeon20 ,I see what you're saying. And that's true. But the bard blitz teams of WKO fame dedicated 10 slots to give the best chance at winning. That's what every T3K team I've ever played has done. You must sacrifice something to put anything on your team. And you should only ever put things on your (competitive) team that give you the best chance to win.

      I'm not saying it did nothing. I'm just saying that if the goal was to eliminate that outcome, the ban was, at best, insufficient. And while imprisoned and cloudkill and blocking abilities are being used more, Bard is still broken. I hate the state we're in. But I don't have the magic silver bullet to Bard, so rather than find a way through to show my prowess in brewing, I'll deal with my hate as I play the card.

      I wish you the best of luck, my friend. I would like nothing more than to see Bard blown to smithereens by you!