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Editorial: Is Tournament Constructed a Healthy Format?

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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.
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  1. Joe Smelosky imported's Avatar
    You also have the issue of people who believe that the it's should be played separately.
  2. Unknown imported's Avatar
    I love Rainbow Draft but the negative is once you have a complete set of the cards you're basically buying boosters for no reason.
  3. Unknown imported's Avatar
    I love Rainbow Draft but the negative is once you have a complete set of the cards you're basically buying boosters for no reason.
  4. Trevor Williamson imported's Avatar
    I think the biggest constraint on Rainbow Draft is that it requires a lot of product, and that product isn't readily available for a lot of stores. Constructed is the easiest way to get people involved, since it requires no real product, a quick and easy set-up, and is open to anyone who has the game. Moreover, I'm sure it's what most hardcore tournament goers want, since a well-built deck, whether they came up with it or not, is the key to a quick win.

    I definitely think Constructed is problematic, and I don't think it leads to very fun games whatsoever. I don't want to plop down a ton of money for a Gobby card just so I can keep up with the Meta, and the game's small release so far offers little to help cause the Meta to fluctuate. Rainbow Draft is the best way to offer an even playing field, even though Constructed would seem to make things more level by allowing players access to all their cards. The problem is that the latter thinking is actually pretty anti-intuitive. I think the way to work with Constructed currently is to roll out a plan to keep a rolling ban list to keep certain cards from seeing too much play (Banning either Gobby or Rally, for example, could prevent that combo from being too ridiculous).

    Then again, I might be misunderstanding the idea behind &quot;WizKids Sanctioned Tournaments.&quot; If you're referring to things like regional tourneys, etc., that could simply be in favor of catering to those individuals who believe the best test of skill is through constructed decks. I'm not a terribly big fan of Constructed, since I prefer something like a Hybrid (although Rainbow is probably the most interesting tournament), but the number of events leaning toward Constructed may be something other than just that &quot;It's the best way to test skill.&quot;
  5. daniel galluppi imported's Avatar
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  6. daniel galluppi imported's Avatar
    I don't think it is yet possible to have a healthy tournament scene for dice masters for several reasons.
    The game is still at a stage of infancy in terms of tournaments. Big problems exist for both constructed and draft. I would hope that gets resolved.
    You need sealed product for drafts. Ideally you would have more than one set to pick from, but that is a tall order since supply (especially for AvX) continues to be an issue. And as already pointed out, lots of players already have sets so buying boosters of UXM is not the most attractive option. To realistically have a healthy draft environment you need supply and more than two possible sets. The tournament legal set release schedule is pretty slow. That will make drafting take a while to become ideal. Remember that drafting in MtG was not around at the beginning.
    So, in terms of constructed, yeah there are issues. But I am not sure banning cards is really the answer yet. There just are not enough cards to start reducing the card pool like that. We only have two sets, and one was filled with some overpowered options. The second set dealt with some issues, but two sets cannot realistically create a balanced environment. I think the larger issue now seems to be the speed at which the constructed games play out. That is certainly something that can be fixed with another set being released. Honestly, I remember getting crushed by gobby/tsarina decks, and it feels kind of good to swing in with Ant-man and Spider-Man and hit them for 20 on turn 3 or 4. That is only possible with the release of UXM. Ultron and DC sets will make changes and Ant/Spidey/Relentless will not be so scary.
    It is just going to take some time and more releases to make both drafting and constructed play better.
  7. Giraton2 imported's Avatar
    In a meta like this, my immediate thought is to find a way to make decks that counter these hard hitters through the means of a control deck, but as you said those are way to slow to even attempt trying at the moment. Oddly enough, and I've only ever said this about my own game before, I think the general card pool in dice masters is underpowered, which makes the good cards and good combos stand out more, which seems to be the issue. When I look at the yu-gi-oh set, there seemed to be more push for slower, more timely cards rather than full frontal force, so I have a feeling someone in wizkids does know that the current meta is not healthy, but is unsure how to fix that issue.
  8. Dusten McAdams imported's Avatar
    I think I got lucky here in Chicago, the few OPs I have made it to have been Rainbow Drafts. I think this fact has impacted our casual play nights by everyone coming prepared with a few teams and &quot;sideboards&quot; to play with different ideas. I have also played a &quot;Collection Draft&quot; where a player supplies 19 cards, and we draft 9 cards between each other. This has been the most fun casual variant I've played so far
  9. Dave imported's Avatar
    In my mind, though, if I'm playing at a store, I ought to be doing something to support that store. If I play a rainbow draft, I know that the store is moving product and is therefore more likely to continue carrying product. If we want stores to support this game, we have to have a reason that it's profitable for them.
  10. Dave imported's Avatar
    I know that things are different everywhere, but with UXM, I have seen zero product issues that would lead to a store being unable to support a draft. The local store where I just demoed is certain that they'll be able to get enough to support us, and the other store that I'm working on already has plenty. Again, I know the situation is a little bit different wherever you go, but was far beyond the supply issues that plagued the first set.
  11. Randy imported's Avatar
    The more I look at the options, the more I like the idea of doing a huge in-store Daredevil Draft. However, that doesn't help stores move product like Rainbow Drafts do...
  12. Trevor Williamson imported's Avatar
    Yeah, I think my perception of the issue really stems from my local area. We can't keep product on the shelves, and between weather and WizKids/distribution, product is extremely slow to arrive and really fast to go.