Editorial: Is Tournament Constructed a Healthy Format?
by, 02-25-2015 at 08:11 AM (277 Views)
When WizKids announced Rainbow Draft last year, they said that they expected it to be the "preferred format" in which to play Dice Masters. Having experienced it, I can understand why. This is a wickedly fun game with which to draft.
And yet, what are we seeing at the WizKids sanctioned tournaments? Constructed.
I feel like I'm missing something.
As many will assert, when a headline asks a question, the answer tends to be "no." I believe that is true in the case of this article as well. Full constructed in Dice Masters is full of cheesy combos that barely interact with the opponent, other than diminishing their life total. Hybrid isn't much different, given that most of the truly effective combos can fire with four or fewer characters.
And it was like that last year too. Just look at the deck lists for the top players at the sanctioned events. They're virtually identical. And of course it has already been predicted that the majority of full constructed decks at this year's events will be the dreaded turn-four kill squads that have been oft-discussed by the community.
A healthy constructed environment doesn't look like this.
Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about what you do on a casual game day at your game store or at your kitchen table. I'm talking about the meta of the game at a macro-level.
The skill of constructed generally lies within the deck building. I see lots of creative people building decks, here and on other sites. Some of these decks would work well and be fun to pilot, except for whatever the flavor of the week is in the current tournament constructed meta. And that's where we have our issue.
In this case, one person or group of people get actual credit for the team. Everyone else net decked it, figured out how to pilot it, and that's it.
Do we develop skill playing a game by taking another's strategy and beating down with it? Sometimes, yes - we learn how that deck was built and why and can apply it to our own process. But more often than not, no. We develop skill by making interesting and tough choices, building our own teams and determining the best course of action during various in-game scenarios.
Within constructed, the winners are far less likely to be the most skilled players, unless you consider timely rolls a skill (which they're not) rather than probability. Not when the majority of decks are the same. Barring suboptimal play, when the decks are the same, it's the luckiest player who wins.
Despite the beliefs of some, more variety won't help. The vast majority of powerful constructed decks boil down to "My combo will kill you quickly regardless of what you're doing." Which means that most games, even between different decks, boil down to "My deck worked this time, and yours didn't"
Tournament constructed never wants to ask "How do I change the board state to favor me." Rather, all it cares about is "How can I wipe the floor with you in the next two minutes?"
Sounds pretty boring to me.
Even Hybrid Constructed suffers from some of the same problems, because despite the variance of the boosters, there are plenty of effective teams that only need four to pull off their win condition. How many times do you buy more than a few of your characters during a game anyway?
Tournament constructed doesn't encourage creativity in building the team (unless you originated the build) or in-game and WizKids is missing a serious opportunity to show off the actual strategy and high level of play that is possible in draft or other formats.
<h3>Some Caveats and Backpedaling</h3>Am I saying that constructed is bad? No. I'm saying that the way that constructed has manifested within the game is bad.
Am I saying that you must play draft to be a good player? No. I'm saying that WizKids would do well to recognize that there are multiple ways of playing. They should also recognize a stagnant meta (Gobby, anyone?) creates its own problems. Look at the year-long or so success of Andromeda in Netrunner or articles and arguments like these spawned by the state of Modern in M:TG. That turns a lot of people off. The problem in our game is that the answers to quick-kills often can't set up quickly enough to matter, so "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
Games are generally successful because of the social/scene impact that they can have. In this case, tournament constructed is as uninteractive as possible. And I get it! If you're someone who wants to win at all costs, you're likely a Spike.And that's great! But part of the definition of a Spike is that this type "enjoys the stimulation of outplaying the opponent." I'd argue that in a tournament full of Gobby/Rally, no one in the top tier is truly outplaying anyone else. As I said above, their rolls were just better.
WizKids needs to remember that Timmy, Johnny, and Spike aren't unique to M:TG. You need to remember that, too, if you're a key player in your local meta. Tournaments need to cater to more players or else they will be players that we lose.