(Metagame Archive) Two Turns Ahead – Cold Turkey

By Tim Willoughby

As I sit here in the holiday purgatory that is the time between Christmas and New Year’s, I can’t help but wonder at the sometimes imperceptible link between the various meanings of the innocuous term “cold turkey.” Within the space of this week, turkey goes from being the top of the menu to being the leftovers hidden in every meal. In the meantime, we ponder what to go cold turkey on in our New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never been a massive fan of giving things up at the best of times, and when the weather is cold and I’m already on a big holiday comedown, the last thing I want to do is make my life any more miserable.

So, let’s try to keep 2006 constructive. It stands out in my mind as one of the first years that the comic book time travel of my childhood chose to visit. According to the comic books, the not so distant future could have been a crazy place with Optitrons turning into snow plows and Framistats for every occasion; a year as far ahead as 2006 held a whole world of possibilities. I remember my tiny mind being blown at the thought that I would be twenty-three by the time that the year rolled round. Somehow, it doesn’t seem quite as impressive now as it did then, either in terms of what I am doing now or of how the world has changed. If we aren’t allowed flying cars, then I don’t see why I should have to give up eating sugary foods anytime soon.

In fact, everything I’m up to right now is sufficient to keep me busy enough for any New Year’s Unnecessary Disappointing Changes (as they will henceforth be known) to be well in surplus of requirements. I have been sitting on my newly plumped Christmas rear all through the holidays. Nosireebob.

I have been making big plans.

First, some bad news. There will be no Willoughby Invitational at Pro Circuit Atlanta.

After much reflection, I decided that there were a few little problems with the Invitational, primarily the invitation-onlyness of the whole affair. Nobody likes lists of names if they aren’t on them. If your name wasn’t on the list, you weren’t coming in. No fun whatsoever. Another problem was that with just eight players on the list, there were far more people wanting to play than could actually get involved, which was a bit of a shame. The Willoughby Invitational was fun, but it seemed that there must be something lurking in the back of my mind that was simply funner.

At about 4 a.m. on December 28, it came to me.

Pro Circuit Atlanta will see the debut of The Willoughby Team Classic. Did you notice that the word “the” got capitalized in that last sentence? It wasn’t by accident. This is A Big Deal.™
Team formats have always been a personal favorite of mine – they are just great fun on so many different levels. You will always be playing in the company of good friends, regardless of opponents. If you are having a hard time winning, you can (hopefully) rely on your teammates to shore things up by winning in your place and keeping you motivated. All the time that you would spend sharing bad beat stories with friends between rounds at tournaments can be avoided; just point them out to your friends sitting right next to you as they are happening. The victories are sweeter; the edge is taken off the defeats. Everyone’s a winner.

Team Sealed events, be they Sealed Pack or team Booster Draft, can be a lot of fun, and so can team Constructed. Ever since Justin Gary first suggested the idea of a team Pro Circuit, I have been pondering in the back of my mind just how it would work. You see, I have a few concerns about team Constructed formats. It always rather felt to me that constructing three decks from a common card pool is not dramatically restrictive. Normally, there are about three clear “best decks” in a Constructed format, and working out who will sit in what seat and hoping for good matchups seems a little uninspiring to me.

Then, as the (slightly belated) first snow of Christmas fell, I had an epiphany.

The format for the first Willoughby Team Classic will be Team 450!

How do you take team Golden Age Constructed and mix it up so that it is a little bit more involved, both in terms of deck construction and in creating a true team dynamic in deck construction?

My solution is this (with commentary in italics):

Team 450


Use the Golden Age card pool (Overload is banned). For the sake of allowing players to start preparing straight away, the new X-Men set will not be legal.


You can have no more than four of any non-Army card between the three Constructed decks.

So far, so good, though not terribly exciting.

In total, the threshold cost of all the characters, plot twists, locations, and equipment in all three decks must total exactly 450.

This makes it a little bit trickier for deck construction. After much research, I found that Golden Age decks have a threshold cost of between approximately 90 and 200. So, 450 shouldn’t make life too tough, but it will definitely require a little tweaking of established builds so that all three decks are competitive.


The decks will be assigned to seats A, B, and C based on their total cost, with the lowest cost in seat A and the highest in seat C. In the event that two decks on the same team have the same cost, players must designate which seat each deck is designed for.

Players will then play their matches against the corresponding seat letter of opposing teams: A vs. A, B vs. B, and C vs. C.


This means that there will be a jolly little metagame where the cheap decks play the cheap decks and the expensive decks play the expensive ones. Fantastic Fun probably won’t play against much Common Enemy. This in turn should make for some tricky deck and matchup decisions. Here’s the kicker, though . . .


Initiative will not be determined at random. In each match, the initiative will go to the player whose deck has the lower total threshold cost. In the event of a tie, there will be a Special Challenge™ to determine who is allowed to choose the initiatives.

In my experience of bad beat stories, a lot of them come down to “. . . and I didn’t have the initiative of my choice all day.” I am tired of this. I think that letting people try to take control of their own initiative destiny is a neat way to start a whole new era of bad beats.



The event in Atlanta should reward a little bit of preparation and be a bit of a giggle along the way. Rather than letting my creative impulses go wild with a Sharpie if players start making cool or cheaty plays (which got a little out of hand at the Willoughby Invitational), I have the opportunity to go crazy with Special Challenges if a player happens to have the same deck cost as his or her opponent. If anyone really wants a special challenge, I would recommend playing a 150/150/150 team and hoping that others do the same.

There is only one other rule of entry to this event. It’s not an invitational, but I’m not quite sure that I can handle running an event open to all comers. In the same way that the Pro Circuit has entry criteria, I have a couple of little stipulations for any team that wants to enter.

Each team must be ready and able to play on the Thursday before the Pro Circuit. If they aren’t, then ultimately they won’t play (as that is when it is).

Each team must have decklists written out (ideally printed out) with the costs of each card in their decks and the total threshold cost of their decks clearly listed for quick deck check purposes.

Each team must include at least one player who has won a Vs. trophy—a $10K winner or a Pro Circuit Top 8 player. I don’t want to appear too elitist, as I really want the event to be fun for all the family, but somehow or other I have to keep the numbers in check. This way, the coverage is sure to have plenty of juicy features from players that you might just recognize. If you’re looking to get a bit of fame and fortune, just track down your local pro and badger him or her into playing on a team with you! Think of it like a scavenger hunt.

I only have one New Year’s resolution this year, and that is to have more fun than I’ve had in any year before. I hope that this year in Vs. System, you will join me.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Tim “Is on a Quest to Get People to Know How to Spell His Surname by Sticking it in the Title of Events in a Shameless Bit of Self Promotion” Willougbhy


P.S. – Following a bit of a read through of this article, I discovered that I had used the word fun over 12 times in the first submitted version of this article. Suffice to say I’m looking forward to Atlanta. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually remove the fun in this one, I just gave it some other names. Believe it or not, fun by any other name is just as sweet.

P.P.S. – Any typos are entirely unintentional, but by some masterful manipulation of serendipity I think that they actually made this article better, hence they remain.   Note: The Willoughby Team Classic/Invitational/British Cooking Contest (Where Bland is #1!) is an unofficial, unsanctioned event, and is not endorsed by anyone other than Mr. Willoughby. That should be enough though, no? – The Big TW


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