[Article] Meta Theory: Bushiroad did nothing wrong
Was asked about what Bushiroad can do, to allow more decks in the meta. Instead I wrote an article why we can’t have that.
We first have to assume a few things as given, so we speak on the same level:
– We assume that players want to win a tournament. We assume they want to win with some controllable factors and not pure luck. However they would take pure luck if it would occur over not winning the tournament. We assume even casual players want to be able to compete to some degree.
– We assume tournament players play anything that can compete and do not care for lore. If that what is able to compete also is what they like to play, players simply are happy.
– For this particular text do we assume balancing exists to some degree and ignore anything otherwise. We’re not debating in detail how Bushiroad should create cards, but in what “rotation” decks should exist.
Meta Theory. Why we can’t have 100 decks that can top at the same time:
People always talk about how “you can’t count that one top, because that was just luck”. People mean with that “A one time top does not mean anything, as that can be accounted to luck. If it would win constantly, the chance of it being able to be accounted to luck is much smaller.”. However people do not know that that is exactly the problem with too many decks in the meta. You assume that the more decks there are in a meta, the better the meta is. But that isn’t true. You have to find a healthy balance of decks. If I see those Buddyfight lists of 30 decks being “in the meta” with different tiers, I cringe. Hard. You usually have like 1-4 decks in the Tier 0/1 section of that. That’s your meta. Everything else is not. Everything else basically “sucks” when you want to use Vanguard Community terms.
Why do you have to find a healthy amount of decks for in the meta you ask? Because if you would create 30 decks of almost equal strength, you create a multitude of problems. Players would not know what to play, would not know what is optimal to play. That discourages players from playing in tournaments in the first place. It makes the outcome of the tournament random, and you’d have to say the above for every result. You wouldn’t be able to become better, because you can’t prepare your deck for 30 different decks. And if you could, then that deck would be meta, not the 30 others. “But then the tryhards/meta players are gone, who cares about them?”. You. You do. If you want to see the card game survive. As much as you hate on them for buying the new meta stuff in the first place, are those the ones that drive the card game in terms of supply. It gives shops a reason to invest into the game. That gives you the supply to buy the “casual” and “undersupported” decks. “Meta players” makes the life of you casual player much easier. The opposite is true as well. “Meta players” need “casuals” because they buy the cards they don’t want, so the shop can invest in more products so the “meta players” can buy more meta cards.
You also should not have a too low amount of decks to play with. But what is too low? 1 or 2 decks. Anything above that is a healthy meta. With 1 deck, it’s a highly skillfull meta, as you need to know to play really good to win, but it gets boring fast. With 2 decks it usually means you have 1 strong deck, and 1 deck that directly counters the deck. It discourages most players from entering a tournament, meaning they’re discouraged from buying products, which is again bad for supply. 3 decks in the meta is “low”, but not too low. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be, because there is usually not a third wheel here and most players find a deck in there they like. 4-8 decks is very healthy. 9-10 decks is already too much. Anything above that is not controllable anymore and you get the problem with the outcome being determined by luck (against whom you play).
What I usually read from statements with “meta players” and “casual” is players that want to bake the cake and eat it. You want cheap cards and win with them. That’s not how any of this works, at least not if a healthy and longer lasting secondary market should exist. If the secondary market is full with vastly cheap cards ($2-5 for meta deck cards), the secondary market of that game will crash in the long run (shops don’t want to invest much -> prices go up because low supply and demand stays the same -> players that paid lower prices before don’t want to buy anymore, demand goes down -> shops invest less because they’re stuck on cards they can’t sell -> players quit because they can’t get the cards they want -> game slowly dies because not enough players to sustain a tournament/market). This is why you usually see “Structure Deck” formats only a very short time and only with other, more flashy decks in the meta as well. The opposite is bad as well of course. If every foil card is $20 and up it means that the market has either been disturbed (Mkohl40/VanKohl40*), the market is slowly crashing or the supply is way too low. No healthy game environment allows either to exist. (Buddyfight is a market with way too low supply, for above reasons. You can see the market on those cards, and I don’t know how long that will go that way.)
Basically “casuals” need “meta players” just as much as “meta players” need “casuals”. That is Meta Theory for card games in general, and why it exists.
*[Something in between: While one point Mkohl40/VanKohl40 adressed/implied in his video on “Cardfight Vanguard Players Hate Card Buyouts” is true, that a secondary market with very low prices cannot sustain itself, and will collaps, if nothing is done. However the Cardfight!! Vanguard community is rather small. Buyouts did damage the market not in the sense that it raised the prices, but that it made cards unavailable for players to buy, basically discouraging players from buying the new product that supported the cards that were just bought out. This came in full circle, so that the old cards became relatively more expensive because they were unavailable, and it made new cards expensive because shops were discouraged from buying big stocks of new products. Even worse, in the fear of buyouts, or maybe just greed, shops canceled orders to relist the item at a higher price. Basically an artificial increase in price, without no real increase in demand, just because there was a demand. This meant both the old and new cards became more expensive. Older players that were used to cheaper prices didn’t want to buy the new stuff that was too expensive, newer players didn’t want to buy both old and new stuff because it became too expensive. You didn’t have a good mix of prices anymore, you had a disturbed market. The market is slowly recovering, and allowing non-meta cards to be cheaper again, but it was an unnecessary struggle nonetheless.]
[Edit: If you read from this, that I think buyouts are wrong and everyone who does it should feel bad, then that’s not what I’m saying at all. I was saying due to the above factors were buyouts problematic for the game post G-BT01, especially when Fighters Collections became a regular good thing and mass buyouts happened. Buyouts in a healthy market are what happens in a free market, and everyone can buy what they want. In this case however did is destabalize the market.]
With all that being said, how can Bushiroad adapt to these wishes by players?
So neither of the above is helping in the design of the card game. You’re asking about how Bushiroad should design the game so we don’t always see the same decks at the top? You have two answers for that. Either support multiple casual formats, where you can exclude certain stuff. Like a Nation format, where you compete against decks of the same nation. Draft/sealed format. Clan master format (where a maximum of 1 player per clan can compete). And others. That would be one solution. The other is to design the game in a way that allows clans to rotate in and out in a shorter time span. MTG has it much easier with their 5 colors and mixing. It’s also easier to set rotate. With 25 clans, this task is pretty hard to do and will leave “casual” clans even hard in the dust, if Bushi decides it is more important to anime plot armor. The time should be shorter for a clan to be viable. 2 years is way too long. 1 year is just fine. Even half a year is okay, if your game doesn’t have much variety to begin with. If you choose the time span too long, players are discouraged from investing into other clans. If the time span is too short, players are discoraged from investing into the game in general (why play something that is dead in 3 months anyway). Also here you have to find a good middle ground. And the easiest solution for that, so you don’t have to outright kill the other clans, is power creep. Not too much, but gradually. Bushiroad doesn’t do a bad job in that, as they made clans top in the meta we never thought we would see (Granblue, Nubatama probably soon), but they might want to speed up their process in doing so a little bit.
In conclusion, Bushiroad doesn’t do a bad job in general and balancing the clans, as the way they do it keeps the game and market somewhat healthy. Hell, they managed to bring the market for this game into a healthy place again (we have expensive/mid/cheap RRR). But they could speed up their process. Maybe add more formats into the mix, but that would require a bigger player base, and that would require them to take western players more seriously. Meta theory explains why the things are how they are in general for TCGs, so complaining about those things is bad.