(Metagame Archive) Voices from the Field: It’s All in the Format!

By Ben Kalman

As most (if not all) of you know, Jeff Donais dished out a sweet surprise just in time for Valentine’s Day—he sent out a letter last week that gave us a taste of the changes being implemented to make the Pro Circuit more exciting.

As expected, instant doom cried forth from many pairs of lips. Any change will immediately cause anguish in the minds of some people. There will always be those who dislike change and would prefer an eternal status quo. Change, however, is healthy, and every game needs a dose of it now and then to keep things moving forward and avoid stagnation.

The main issue here is the Golden Age versus Modern Age debate. Golden Age is essentially a Vintage Vs. System format, which means that any set is legal in a Golden Age tournament. Modern Age is essentially a block format in which only the two most recent sets of Marvel or DC, depending on which type of Modern Age tournament it is, are legal in that format. Some long-time players will decry the Modern Age format, because it means that all of the cards from the old-school sets that they’ve hoarded into play sets are not legal in that format. On the flipside, newer players really tend to like this format, because it gives them a chance to compete as pros without the difficulties (not to mention the expenditure of time and money) of tracking down necessary cards from the old sets or learning what thousands of old cards do.

Love it or hate it, there are a few aspects of this new multi-format schedule that must be considered in terms of the health of the overall game.

First and foremost, this is not set rotation. While we may someday see set rotation in this game, there are no plans to do so right now, and if you read between the lines of Dave Humpherys’s recent Metagame.com article on these formats, you’ll see that he has essentially told us that there are no plans to eliminate the Golden Age format any time soon. If the Pro Circuit maintains alternating formats and ensures that at least one or two PC events each year are Golden Age, then this is a fantastic development for this game.

Why? Because this is a Professional Circuit, and to truly show one’s mettle on the PC, one must be able to demonstrate competence in a variety of formats. Remember that the PCs and PCQs are not the be-all-end-all of competitive play. These formats do not affect your local Hobby League or weekly tournaments. They do not affect the $10K tournaments, which will mostly remain Golden Age (and are individually governed). They merely affect Pro Circuit events and qualifiers to Pro Circuit events, so if you’re not a pro, there is no need to worry.

Alternate formats such as these are true tests of a professional’s abilities within a game. They shake up the structure of the metagame, push people off of their heels and onto their toes, and force people not to rely on the same old decks (or worse, net decks) that they’ve used since Day One with a bare minimum of alterations. Anyone can repeatedly tune up a proven successful deck and continue to perform with it (to a degree). But how many can work within a changing system, perform under alternate formats, and prove that his or her skills as a player and a pro go beyond a single-format lane? Tunnel vision will never help a game to grow. Just as there were complaints that Day 2 of PC events was Booster Draft, there are and will be complaints about alternate formats. However, the players that come out on top are those who are strong and have skills at the fundamentals of the game, rather than those who rely on crutches or those who are one-dimensional players. And, like the complaints about the Day 2 Booster Drafts, there was complaint upon complaint about one-game matches—complaints which died down quickly as players began to enjoy and appreciate it.

As well, the nomenclature of these formats (Golden Age/Modern Age) leads me to wonder whether we may someday, when there are many more sets, see other formats introduced on either the PC or in $10K events. Maybe we’ll see a Silver or Bronze Age format using certain sets from the past.

In the end, these sorts of changes tend to turn out for the best, and they often (if not usually) add flavor to the game and the Pro Circuit. As well, UDE has been really good at adding nice twists to spice up the tournament formats. The Marvel vs. DC format at the So Cal $10K was made even more interesting with the announcement that the winning side would get double prize money—a good way to gain a few extra spectators and add some spirit to the mix. Well, they’re at it again—the winner of the Marvel Modern Age PC and the winner of the DC Modern Age PC will face off against one another during PC So Cal, and anyone who won a PCQ during one of the Modern Age PCQ seasons who shows up in a t-shirt of his or her winning imprint (Marvel or DC) will get double prize money, too. It’s the little touches of flavor like this that put professional Vs. on top of the game.

The other news item that got me excited about the up and coming year in competitive Vs. was the announcement of Sealed Pack $10K events. Since I personally prefer Sealed Pack to Constructed, you could say that I’ve been waiting for this format for quite a while. I expect that there will be some people who cry foul against this idea, as well, but I am on the side of those who believe that Booster Draft and Sealed Pack formats take a lot of skill. Ideally, I’d love to see a $10K Booster Draft made up of pods of four to eight players, though that may be a tad difficult logistically. However, since PCQs are split between Sealed Pack and Constructed, it’s about time that Sealed Pack Vs. hit the higher tiers of competitive play. I even wonder whether the PC will eventually rear its head into Sealed Pack territory . . . though that may be a bit much.

Well, competitive Vs. is looking good for 2005, and I can’t wait to hear more about Worlds, which will hopefully be the culmination of a successful year. In the meantime, sharpen those skills and get ready for a Wild Ride!

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the Vs. community since day one. He started the first major player in the online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, which now boasts well over 1300 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG

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