• Competitive Scene Dice Masters: Why I Play



    There has been plenty of talk about the competitive scene in our game right now, and how skewed it may be, first turn advantage, stale metas, non-interactive games and many other things that don’t shine the most positive light on it. Today I want to tell you how I feel about the competitive scene as a player who has moved from casual to competitive in the past year. What I like, what I don’t and what I would love to see moving forward.


    I wonder if new players read and hear about the competitive scene and think “there is no way I would play in that-it sounds horrible.” If I was just walking into the game today and read what is said about it, I would wonder if I should even bother with competitive play. That was not the case pre-Origins 2015. I was excited to see what playing with a group of players from around the country would look like. I felt like I had little to no chance to win anything, but I was excited to try none the less. There were meta concerns, but they were with perceived over-powered (OP) cards and their play. Ultimately the Gobby//Tsarina/Hulk meta is what shined with extra tech pieces around it-and people who did well played a lot of the same cards. You can see that HERE where Bankholdup wrote about the 2015 vs 2016 breakdown of the top teams and cards.

    The negatives

    I am not one to dwell on negative aspects of most anything in my life. I am blessed beyond reason to spend time focusing on the negatives-but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some that exist. There are problems in this game right now at this particular point in the meta and gameplay when it comes to high-level competitive play.

    First turn advantage is a thing, and when two players of equal caliber of play level and team build come face to face, the odds of the first player winning is quite a bit higher than it should be. How do we know that? At Nats and Worlds 2016 into the top 8 there were very few games won by the second player. Way less than there should be. How else do we know? Guys like Whisperni take the time to playtest thousands of games and write it up HERE to see this very telling statistic:

    "If you go first you would have a 75% chance to win
    If you go second you would have a 25% chance to win"


    So first turn advantage is a thing, and we cannot ignore that fact. The saving grace to me is that it is a thing right now, not a thing all this time. Meaning, prior to this most recent cycle of play first turn advantage was not the issue that everyone talked about. And I have faith that it will move out again either through new card interactions, change in first turn/second turn mechanics and choices or cycling out of older sets.

    Stale meta. We hear this a lot also. As referenced earlier, there was about as much variety in the 2015 Worlds scene as there was this year. But for some reason after the event, there was a bigger drive to say how stale it was. In effect, we have this interesting trifecta in the meta-Bard aggro, Mask midrange and Vicious Struggle (VS). I think what sets it apart is how aggro it all leans towards and the general lack of interaction with the VS team and at times the Bard aggro teams. The back and forth of past interactions-doing the mental math, trying to play off of your opponent’s moves or lack of moves seems to be less overall. But again-this is where we are right now. I fully expect that to evolve. Once again you can see a great analysis by user Bankholdup HERE looking at the breakdown of what cards were used the most in the top teams at Worlds this year. You may be surprised to know that Half-Elf Bard was only the fifth most common card used.



    Positives
    or
    “Why I am willing to pay and travel to play this game”


    I love this game. I have had fun playing it with my friends and kids since I learned it. Each piece I was introduced to was one more aspect that opened up and really fleshed the game out for me. But why transition into more competitive games with people you don’t know and pay to play the game? At its core, why I am willing to sink even more money into the game (at 3x rate for my son, daughter and I) to go play it outside of my home?


    The people

    First and foremost, I can promise you that if my local scene and the scene as a whole wasn’t as awesome as it is I would not be playing competitively. No way. The people I play with in Toledo have all been awesome-sure there are people you butt heads with sometimes, but as a whole all amazing people. And we keep getting more. We have gained a few in the last month and they are all awesome players and people in general-ones you don’t mind spending time with at all. The ‘’extended’’ local scene for me is the Detroit area players-all great people (even Brian) that I genuinely look forward to seeing and hanging out with. And to the national/world scene-all those people have been great. The people you think might be jerks or ultra-spike cutthroat players are still super cool and fun to play with. There is no shouting, fighting, screaming at each other in these areas small to large. The people are what have kept this game up for me and I would imagine will continue will do so.

    The cost

    This game, in comparison to other collectible card games (CCGs) is significantly lower. If I wanted to play weekly with my kids a game like Magic, I would need to take out monthly loans. This is a game we can and have been able to manage 3 players with one full collection of cards and lots of extra dice/cards. Your investment in this game overall and for Organized Play (OP) events is not a huge amount. Plus, promo cards! As a ‘’gotta have it all” collector I love getting the promos and adding them to my collection. So the overall financial obligation is manageable for most.

    The gameplay

    I love that this game requires skill, but there is also just enough luck to mess that up. A skilled player can work around a lot of things, but the luck of the dice rolls can leave a match hanging. I played on Hangouts the other night with a very skilled player and friend named Kevin. He was running his team to a T, making all the right moves and purchases he needed. But I watched him roll a Dwarf Wizard die 6 different turns (over 12 times with parallax global) before it came up character. There is enough variance that even first turn advantage isn’t 100%, but admittedly I do wish it was closer to 50/50. This game plays like a CCG and deck-building boardgame hybrid, with awesome dice and card interactions. Games like Puerto Rico, Agricola are almost entirely skill with little chance/luck. Games like Sorry and Monopoly are on the other side of the scale. Dice Masters hits the sweet spot for me of having skill play with enough variance to chance and luck.


    What I would love to see

    There have been all sorts of opinions on how to fix the game out there-do we change first player gameplay, add or subtract cards, errata more, rotate sets-the suggestions have been endless. As someone who has played the game at various levels since near the beginning of it all, I have ideas and things I would like to see. First and foremost-I am not a playtester or creator of this game. I only have the insight of what it looks like as a player, so I don’t get to come around the whole picture of it like someone in those roles would. With that in mind, I would love to see two things:

    1-A modification to going first and/or going second. Something besides not being able to attack if you go first is necessary at this point in the game. I don’t know what the right answer to that is-roll one less die going second, skip your re-roll, play blindfolded, start with one extra generic-I admittedly do not have the answer-I just know that is a spot that needs some help.

    2-Bans/errata/rules discussion. I think this area needs to be fleshed out more to help balance perceived problems in the competitive meta. There are plenty of people who play this game who have experience and knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and what is truly overpowered. Using those people and the feeling of the competitive players would help to frame the meta today and make modifications to remove overpowered pieces or neuter them until an answer is determined. We have seen it done well so far in cases like Spider-bomb, Vulture and Relentless but I think this area done more frequent to the current meta would help the community as a whole.



    I love this game. I love the people that play it, the way it has helped foster and strengthen relationships between people and families. I want to see this game succeed in casual, local and competitive arenas. If you love this game also, let’s find a way to share that with new players and support the areas and the gameplay components we love.
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. GRider10's Avatar
      GRider10 -
      Last year at the WKO i feared i would be playing 6 opponents with ring rush teams. I only played one. I know a lot of world's and nationals players used the the same basic team but you still see a lot of variety out there. Ring and guy rush were popular last spring, but have fizzled out now. I'm guessing a new combo will come out of the fall sets to change the meta again and i look forward to the constant change. Part of my love for this game comes from trying to predict what types of teams I'll have to defend against and still finding my own way to win.
    1. JustK's Avatar
      JustK -
      Good Article. You remembered Spider bomb and Vulture. Spider bomb relied heavily on Relentless. But it could let you win on turn 3, tho the luck involved with that was incredible, still knocking your opponent down to 5 or less life on turn 3 was very demoralizing. And that Spiderman and Vulture were both errataed.

      I remember that last year, the same kind of the same teams were there. I don't know why I am more concerned now than I was then, but I am.

      We shall see what happens.
    1. gkpon66's Avatar
      gkpon66 -
      Nice write up Isaac.

      I had stayed completely away from competitive games due to some of the nastiness I'd seen and then the money on top of that!

      The mix of game play, the chance of winning or losing based on the dice feeds my chance needs nicely, the picking of the cards that make up your team to set up your best chances within your play style, keeps my interest in the game alive. The nice players certainly help.

      Bard? He is just a bump in the road. Enough combos to try with him to keep somebody like me happy. When the next big card comes along, I'll try that.

      See you this weekend, Gary
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      The difference, to me, is that it felt like if you had something well crafted that you could pilot well, you had a shot. See Dragons, Johnny Swarm, Kitty Pryde, that kind of thing. It feels much less open now.

      While Guy did fall by the wayside it's because he absolutely needed Relentless/Swords to operate.
    1. IsaacBV's Avatar
      IsaacBV -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dave View Post
      The difference, to me, is that it felt like if you had something well crafted that you could pilot well, you had a shot. See Dragons, Johnny Swarm, Kitty Pryde, that kind of thing. It feels much less open now.

      While Guy did fall by the wayside it's because he absolutely needed Relentless/Swords to operate.

      The top 8 US Nats and Worlds last year still had those repetitive lists, meta cards:

      Psylocke, Widow, Gobby, GG, PXG, BEWD, Hellblazer(at Worlds)


      Sure some people made it in to the top cuts without them, but they still defined what a well-crafted team looked like and ultimately what won

      ______

      http://www.thereservepool.com/showwi...itle=Decklists has a good look back at those teams thanks to Paul
    1. alleyviper's Avatar
      alleyviper -
      While FTA was not the issue everyone talked about prior to this cycle, it was an issue that has been talked about since the game was first released, so it's not as though it's specific only to this most recent cycle.

      That said - FTA in the current meta is more a symptom than the cause of the main problems. You essentially link to the main problem through the 2016 decklists: the combination of Elf Thief and PXG. Those two cards have created an environment where, when going second, you need to maintain ramp to keep up with your opponent, and if your method of ramping relies on keeping energy in your reserve pool on your opponent's turn, their Elf Thief will cause you to a.) lose that ramp, b.) add to their ramp and c.) miss out on the chance to have spent that energy on something instead of saving it. It has been said before, Bard is the most underpriced card in the game for what it does, but Elf Thief is right behind it and the Elf Thief/PXG combination is what allows Bard to run rampant, because there clearly hasn't been an alternate form of ramp to be found that can go toe to toe with PXG while also not exposing yourself to Elf Thief.

      Without an alternative ramp option, something needs to be done to address either Elf Thief or PXG to lessen the weight of FTA. Maybe Chalkboard will do that, turn two Constantine is one obvious way to stifle Thief. As is, though, Elf Thief completely removed the one drawback of bringing PXG on a team, namely that your opponent can use it, too. Maybe given enough time we'd see some self-correction, maybe people stop bringing PXG and only bring Elf Thief, leading to non-PXG matchups like we saw in 2015. As is, in any game where PXG is available, anyone who has Elf Thief going first gets an absurd advantage. Something likely needs to happen, either through new cards or rulings, to address that before addressing FTA in isolation.


      Quote Originally Posted by IsaacBV View Post
      The top 8 US Nats and Worlds last year still had those repetitive lists, meta cards
      There was still more of a variety in how the teams played, even if there was a lot of redundancy in the cards contained within, than what we're used to seeing in the current meta.
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      I can vouch for same at US Nats. Despite some similarities, it was the cards that only one or two people brought that were difference makers - Patch, FWX, Venom AF, U-Hulk, for example. And these cards were the bombs. It's not just the homogeneity of support cards right now, it's also that of the win conditions.

      People were also doing informal polls on FTA going back to that event as well.
    1. bahamut7's Avatar
      bahamut7 -
      Quote Originally Posted by alleyviper View Post
      because there clearly hasn't been an alternate form of ramp to be found that can go toe to toe with PXG while also not exposing yourself to Elf Thief.
      On a side note, I did play out all forms of ramp and discovered what was what.

      PXG is the best out the door but during midgame falls in line with Kobold Swarm. Swarm starts slower but has the advantage of encouraging you to use those dice every turn you have them. With PXG you are almost always saving 1 - 2 masks for your ramp next turn. Which means you are only getting maybe one extra energy every turn you intend to use PXG. At that point you are actually churning more than ramp.

      Not saying one form of ramp is better than others, it honestly comes down to how you structure your team. Elf Thief and Oracle have shown global dependency can hurt which really hurts PXG users. Swarm doesn't always guarantee you will be able to purchase the high cost characters, but can always provide energy or characters that you can use without any problems each turn.
    1. The0retico's Avatar
      The0retico -
      Quote Originally Posted by alleyviper View Post
      Without an alternative ramp option, something needs to be done to address either Elf Thief or PXG to lessen the weight of FTA. Maybe Chalkboard will do that, turn two Constantine is one obvious way to stifle Thief. As is, though, Elf Thief completely removed the one drawback of bringing PXG on a team, namely that your opponent can use it, too. Maybe given enough time we'd see some self-correction, maybe people stop bringing PXG and only bring Elf Thief, leading to non-PXG matchups like we saw in 2015. As is, in any game where PXG is available, anyone who has Elf Thief going first gets an absurd advantage. Something likely needs to happen, either through new cards or rulings, to address that before addressing FTA in isolation.
      I think RHCG will only strenghten the FTA. Your opponent can get an Elf Thief faster just as you can and rolling two shields for RHCG and Hellblazer is harder than rolling a shield for RHCG and a mask for Elf Thief. Also although Hellblazer is awesome, it is still a character you have to field before your opponent rolls, so even if you stop stealing, your opponent can just roll for energy and get ahead, not to mention taunt globals.
    1. Drakolich's Avatar
      Drakolich -
      Quote Originally Posted by bahamut7 View Post
      On a side note, I did play out all forms of ramp and discovered what was what.

      PXG is the best out the door but during midgame falls in line with Kobold Swarm. Swarm starts slower but has the advantage of encouraging you to use those dice every turn you have them. With PXG you are almost always saving 1 - 2 masks for your ramp next turn. Which means you are only getting maybe one extra energy every turn you intend to use PXG. At that point you are actually churning more than ramp.

      Not saying one form of ramp is better than others, it honestly comes down to how you structure your team. Elf Thief and Oracle have shown global dependency can hurt which really hurts PXG users. Swarm doesn't always guarantee you will be able to purchase the high cost characters, but can always provide energy or characters that you can use without any problems each turn.
      The problem with this line of thinking is you're only playing your team. If I bring PXG and you bring swarm, because PXG is so good early game as you put it I'm forcing both of us to play PXG. With Elf thief on my team I'm making it a one sided global. PXG + Elf thief is so good right now, that teams that don't play PXG are being forced to bring Elf Thief just to keep up in match ups where their opponent is bringing it.


      As for your second part on swarm letting you use the energy you're ramping is a little incorrect. Assuming were playing a game with no energy oppression, if you PXG 3 times as most players do you will have 6 sidekicks and 4 dice to roll on your following turn. If we assume you save 3 of these to PXG again this leaves you with 7 dice worth of energy to spend/field. If you have a Kobold in play and you draw 3 other Kobolds out of your bag this will net you a total of 7 dice worth of energy to spend/field. That's also assuming you actually hit that perfect swarm turn.

      The real advantage to swarm over PXG is that it's one sided, your opponent can't use it. It also lets you specialize to have an abundance of a certain energy.


      There's tons of other minor differences between the two however I think the main thing we can agree on is even if you don't play PXG on your team and I bring it, you are forced to use it or you will fall behind and not be able to catch up.


      @ IsaacBV Great Article and thanks for the name drop. Those were some fantastic games that night, even if you were a little distracted.
    1. bahamut7's Avatar
      bahamut7 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Drakolich View Post
      The problem with this line of thinking is you're only playing your team. If I bring PXG and you bring swarm, because PXG is so good early game as you put it I'm forcing both of us to play PXG. With Elf thief on my team I'm making it a one sided global. PXG + Elf thief is so good right now, that teams that don't play PXG are being forced to bring Elf Thief just to keep up in match ups where their opponent is bringing it.


      As for your second part on swarm letting you use the energy you're ramping is a little incorrect. Assuming were playing a game with no energy oppression, if you PXG 3 times as most players do you will have 6 sidekicks and 4 dice to roll on your following turn. If we assume you save 3 of these to PXG again this leaves you with 7 dice worth of energy to spend/field. If you have a Kobold in play and you draw 3 other Kobolds out of your bag this will net you a total of 7 dice worth of energy to spend/field. That's also assuming you actually hit that perfect swarm turn.

      The real advantage to swarm over PXG is that it's one sided, your opponent can't use it. It also lets you specialize to have an abundance of a certain energy.


      There's tons of other minor differences between the two however I think the main thing we can agree on is even if you don't play PXG on your team and I bring it, you are forced to use it or you will fall behind and not be able to catch up.


      @ IsaacBV Great Article and thanks for the name drop. Those were some fantastic games that night, even if you were a little distracted.
      I wouldn't say forced and while I only highlighted the results of my testing, Swarm is statistically better in the long run, but of course if you get out some major characters, that long run no longer matters. Elf thief helps make PXG one sided but can be stopped nonetheless.

      The point I was trying to make was that each style of ramp has its merits and its downsides. If you are in a meta that is heavy on global dependency and control (oracle), than swarm may be the better choice. You can use PXG to get a lead on what you need while setting up what you need to ignore their thief and/or oracle.

      If your meta is not big on energy oppression, than pxg if that is your preference. I personally try to avoid using pxg as so many players become dependent on it as these forums have suggested.

      As we can agree though, there are many styles of ramp/churn and each have their ups and downs.
    1. alleyviper's Avatar
      alleyviper -
      If you can manage to actually get into the midgame against one of the current meta teams that run PXG/Elf Thief, then Swarm will do you well. The last gasp iteration of a team I had put together before deciding not to play in Worlds this year had Kobolds in it. Unfortunately the likelihood of getting there is not terribly high.


      Quote Originally Posted by The0retico View Post
      rolling two shields for RHCG and Hellblazer is harder than rolling a shield for RHCG and a mask for Elf Thief.
      They're equally likely.
    1. pk2317's Avatar
      pk2317 -
      Quote Originally Posted by alleyviper View Post
      They're equally likely.
      Not with though:






      Vs.









      4 possible combinations vs 7.
    1. alleyviper's Avatar
      alleyviper -
      Good call, hadn't considered wild cards.

      Apropos of nothing, I'll be curious to see if uncommon and rare Morphing Jar grow in popularity with Chalkboard global.
    1. The0retico's Avatar
      The0retico -
      It is also more likely you get one of two energy types before reroll than you get one of one.
    1. Yort's Avatar
      Yort -
      Does anyone think that the Internet has anything to do with the perception that the meta is stale? I mean, in my local area, there aren't nearly as many people who are as obses... uh, as "invested" in Dice Masters as I am, meaning they are not daily checking TRP, listening to Double Burst, The Reserve Pool, and the Attack Zone, reading Dice Dice Kitty's articles, and reading every comment on Dice Masters Unlimited. And in our WKO in May, we saw a LOT of variety. Even Bard wasn't as prevalent.

      So I wonder if some of this isn't the greater Internet Dice Masters community creating a feedback loop of sorts?
    1. Shadowmeld's Avatar
      Shadowmeld -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yort View Post
      Does anyone think that the Internet has anything to do with the perception that the meta is stale? I mean, in my local area, there aren't nearly as many people who are as obses... uh, as "invested" in Dice Masters as I am, meaning they are not daily checking TRP, listening to Double Burst, The Reserve Pool, and the Attack Zone, reading Dice Dice Kitty's articles, and reading every comment on Dice Masters Unlimited. And in our WKO in May, we saw a LOT of variety. Even Bard wasn't as prevalent.

      So I wonder if some of this isn't the greater Internet Dice Masters community creating a feedback loop of sorts?
      The meta is less about what everyone plays, and instead is about what wins. Not everyone is going to play bard or VS or mask control, but what wins?

      In your WKO in May, what won?
    1. Yort's Avatar
      Yort -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shadowmeld View Post
      The meta is less about what everyone plays, and instead is about what wins. Not everyone is going to play bard or VS or mask control, but what wins?

      In your WKO in May, what won?
      Fist Lantern Swarm and Bat Family. There were two Bard teams in the Top 8, out of probably 5 or 6, though I'd say only 3-4 of them actually knew what they were doing with it.

      I guess I'm just wondering if there isn't a little bit of chicken and egg - Bard blitz gets discovered, lots of people look into it, and it is definitely insanely powerful... But if you have 50% of the people bringing a team with bard to a tournament, it's not surprising he ends up on top.

      How was Bard represented at PDC in Ohio? I think I saw him on the first place team, but he definitely wasn't in the 2nd place team!
    1. Jwannabe's Avatar
      Jwannabe -
      Quote Originally Posted by alleyviper View Post
      Good call, hadn't considered wild cards.

      Apropos of nothing, I'll be curious to see if uncommon and rare Morphing Jar grow in popularity with Chalkboard global.
      My mask control team, pre-elf thief and oracle used UC morphing jar and was fantastic. I went back to using it after elf thief became an auto include, just because I hate un-originality.
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yort View Post
      Fist Lantern Swarm and Bat Family. There were two Bard teams in the Top 8, out of probably 5 or 6, though I'd say only 3-4 of them actually knew what they were doing with it.

      I guess I'm just wondering if there isn't a little bit of chicken and egg - Bard blitz gets discovered, lots of people look into it, and it is definitely insanely powerful... But if you have 50% of the people bringing a team with bard to a tournament, it's not surprising he ends up on top.

      How was Bard represented at PDC in Ohio? I think I saw him on the first place team, but he definitely wasn't in the 2nd place team!
      I'd not say stale, just un-interactive. The first top eight game on stream was quite interactive, very entertaining, and we remarked about how these games are great and they still happen, just not as often in the current setup. The runner-up was not using Bard, VS, or Ring, but rather team based around The Front Line and sidekicks. Has some similar problems to the Phoenix Fastball in that it gives the opponent the same tools, but it's still darn cool - just not interactive. It's games were over QUICK.

      Even games that go longer aren't necessarily better. Consider my and Isaac's game on stream. The one solid game choice you saw there was Isaac recognizing that I had him locked down, so fielding sidekicks so that he would get through more than I could block, and it worked well for him. Otherwise, it was turn after turn of buying and fielding and ramping. Not really play/counterplay. Buy, field, ramp, repeat, someone misses a crucial roll, game over. If we're going to let variance decide this many games, let's at least make Swiss best-of-three.

      OR! Brainstorm. Two game sets. Each player goes first once. Life-in-aggregate wins. So it's not so much about winning the game that you're not going first as much as it is doing damage when you can? That likely has problems too; just spitballing. If we can't fix the rules, we can at least experiment with formats that are less impacted by them. Perhaps the rules are fine, but we have a tournament structure that doesn't allow them to shine?

      There are rooms for differences, but we keep getting faster and faster tools every set. Something's gotta give.