BCP recently announced errata and changes for this years tournament rules to coincide with the Ravnos, Salubri, and Tzimisce starter release date. The new cards and the changes will be tournament legal on February 2, 2024.
We knew this was coming as Black Chantry announced that there would be an announcement. I even stirred up some controversy by posting some changes I'd like to see now that these have been settled. That being said, here's my initial thoughts regarding these changes.
As much I would have preferred BCP to ban Ashur Tablets, this is the errata that I expected them to settle on. I had considered this approach several years ago before BCP began testing changes. It seems to be a solid middle ground that guts MMPA decks without necessarily gutting other decks that use Tablets. The Ashur race is now much more of a race. Gone are the days of 18+ Tablets decks. I expect decks to sit in the 6, sometimes 9 Tablets range. For those wondering, Bram will be just fine.
I'll be curious if this makes Tablets more widespread. One of the many reasons to not run them previously was that an MMPA deck could ruin your ability to ever get a single set. Maybe my Choir deck has a chance now.... Probably not, it's still a Choir deck.
Some folks are lamenting this as the end of Legionnaire decks, but I see it as a change in strategy. Recruiting them will be much more important and there's no limit (other than pool and library size) to the number of them that you can have in play. I full well expect my Angelique deck to work with this change as the Shambling Hordes are present to make space for them. Other deck types that are designed to protect the Legionnaires will also spring up.
Expect a dip in their power until folks understand how to win with them again. I'm not sure that they'll ever be the same, but I expect them to continue to win.
The Tournament Changes
This was an unexpected, but welcome announcement. The ability to run multi-deck tournaments that are sanctioned with any number of players is a boon. That being said, I was shocked to see so little effort into making it a workable format. The current approach, per Hugh, is that "the point is to not add additional bookkeeping if you’re running this." That is, in my opinion, a mistake.
The Current Approach
The currently designed multi-deck format is a complete free-for-all. Change any deck, use any deck, for any round. You're not required to use the same deck in the finals that you played in an earlier round. Showing up with decks designed for the finals' seeding that you have becomes an option. If I'm first seed, I want to play a slow wall deck, increasing my changes of winning by timeout. If I'm fifth seed, I can bring out my speed-bleed deck because VPs are the only path forward for me. Will folks go through this effort? I am already trying to understand this format enough to decide if that's worthwhile and I expect that it is.
My Suggested Approach
This is admittedly a somewhat hot take and I've only been thinking about this for a few days, but here are some suggestions that I think could improve the format.
- Allow players to pick up to X + 1 decks before the event begins, where X is the number of preliminary rounds. This is the deck pool that players have to work with for the day. They may play the same deck over and over or switch decks for every preliminary round.
- There is no "side-boarding" or deck tweaking during the event. If you want two variants of the same deck, then you show up with two (or more) copies of the same deck. One in the first variant, one in the second, etc. Each variant being a deck that contributes toward your maximum deck pool.
- If you make the finals, the highest scoring deck you played in game win, victory points, and tournament points order is the deck that you will play in the final. If there is a tie amongst your preliminary round decks, the deck is picked randomly.
The unlimited deck tweaking and side-boarding open up an additional avenue for cheating. There's no way to know that the DI was in the deck when the round started. The deck pool approach allows organizers that want decklists to get them. Managing a fixed number of decklists per player is not much harder than managing one. It's only necessary to review them if there's been a potential infraction or to verify the deck for the finals as is the case now.
A further problem with side-boarding is time. Do we penalize players that took all two hours to finish their game by not giving them time to tweak decks? How long do we give them? (The rules aren't clear.) Doesn't the additional time extend an already long tournament day?
Having a limited deck pool also makes it impossible to have the "right" deck for any situation. (If everyone changes decks you may never have the right deck, but you have more informed guesses about the metagame for the later rounds.) It further restricts what is possible to play and if the recommendation about the finals is not taken, prevents someone from having a "finals round seeding deck box." The reason that the deck pool is set to X + 1, is to allow players choices for later rounds. You'll finish the event not having played one of those decks, but you always have a choice to play something new in the preliminary rounds and have a choice in what that deck will be. It won't just be the "other" deck you brought.
Finally, limiting the finals to the best deck an individual played provides a few benefits. First, there's no way to play the best deck for your seeding. See my comments above about the finals deck box. Second, you don't get to play some random thing. While not tournament rules, per se, the TWDA used to disallow multi-deck winners. Whether that will continue, I don't know. If it doesn't, do we really want to see something that never would have made the finals in the first place win by happenstance (first seed timeout?) in a single game be recorded for all time as a "winner?" Third, scouting becomes relevant again without limiting the finals deck to previously played decks. It's much harder to guess what a deck might or might not be doing in the final based on three crypt cards. That deck may be completely new to the event. Fourth, the random choice for folks with tied decks denies that player the advantage of picking the better of the two decks for the metagame they will encounter in the final. We don't need to add more advantages for players in the finals. (We need fewer, but that's a different blog post.)
I really appreciate BCP taking the time to come up with thoughtful changes to the cards. The unexpected change to the tournament rules is very interesting and I think can help make the tournament scene more enjoyable, but unfortunately, I think more needs to be done there first.
What's your take on the errata and tournament rule changes? Do you think the errata is going to change the metagame? Do you think we'll see a lot of multi-deck events in the coming year?