It’s a dream for many players that want to aspire to be high level competitors. The ability to want to play anything, anytime, anywhere. This glorious utopia where everyone can play anything they want and nothing has flaws and incredible strategic matches is bliss. You’ll sign up for any given tournament with your hat with “style” artistically sketched onto the front. You have your “teched” out choices, making sure you have everything for every matchup in this blissful diverse format where nothing is bad and everything is good.
It’s very common among players that aren’t quite at the highest level of a competitive environment; that having a format where every single strategy is about even is the best form of competition, that esports-level games would be more enjoyable when metagames involve everything being great.
There are a whole plethora of problems with this.
In a format where everything is good, nothing is good. Let’s say you have a Hearthstone format where there are 6 good decks, but none of them actually have an edge over another. This means that most meaningful card choices, tech choices, or in extreme cases, gameplay choices, don’t actually wind up mattering. No edge is easily obtained over anything. A diverse format does not mean anything could happen. It just means the same things will happen.
When the same things happen, the actual text on cards ends up meaning less and less. An egregious example of this is Innistrad/Dark Ascension Standard, where Thundermaw Hellkite and Thragtusk were the big dogs in the format. These two cards in particular were so powerful, that every other deck had to keep up with them, and the only way to keep up was by playing your own. Even the aggressive B/R Zombies decks played Thundermaw Hellkite, just because you had to. Eventually, almost all of the decks played one or both of these cards, resulting in a bunch of different decks that ended up doing the same thing on turn five. Does it actually matter if there are ten different deck in the format when eight of them do exactly that?
Another oft forgotten about flaw to this type of format is the fact that there isn’t anything to try and beat. In formats where there is a best strategy or strategies, you can actually have a plan to beat said strategy or strategies. If Pirate/Jade Shaman is the best thing going on, you know that Maelstrom Portal, Lightning Storm, and probably Brawl are cards that go way up in value. If you’re the Shaman player, and you know those cards are going to be played more, then you may be able to adjust accordingly if your deck allows it. This creates an easy flow of metagaming; the best deck(s), decks that beat the best decks, and decks that ebb and flow depending on what’s happening. Sometimes, the lesser played decks will steal a weekend because the best deck(s) didn’t adjust in time. Sometimes they won’t. However, all of the time, every deck within said metagame has a shot if the pilot can approach the metagame properly. Your card’s text matters way more, because they actually do something different from what another deck could be playing. That Lightning Bolt could be different from that Shock if a metagame revolves around three toughness creatures, but if everyone and their mom is playing 2 toughness creatures with haste because it’s the best thing happening in the format, then the different between two and three isn’t nearly as big.
Coming off of the last point; these kinds of diverse formats result in a major lack of evolution. When a format doesn’t actually involve different things happening, it has no room to grow out of that. If it does actually wind up growing out of it, then it’s usually due to a deck that’s looking to ignore all of the rules about the format (think Bant Hexproof in the aforementioned Innistrad/Dark Ascension Standard format). This results in even more problems with card text not mattering, not because everyone’s cards do the same thing, but because the deck that’s ignoring your cards is ignoring them by literally preventing you from playing the game. While this is technically an evolution in this format, it’s not necessarily one that is deemed popular most of the time. If it continues to evolve, then it could turn into “who can get to the cards that don’t matter fastest?”, just to beat the deck that’s trying to make your cards mean nothing. Now, we’re back at square one, except now the rate at which your cards wind up doing the same thing is hastened. This cycle continues.
This is just one measly example of how too much diversity can be a very bad thing for formats, but it can extend to other games as well. In other non-card games, diversity works out much better because the skill gap is so light on luck, if it’s within weight in the first place. This is something that card games wind up having to go through from time to time, but power creep helps a lot with managing the flow of a metagame.
Anthony has been competing in games for the better part of his adult life and is dedicated to improving his game, improving his community, improving himself as a person, and most importantly having fun and enjoying himself while doing so. You can check out his stream to find out which video game is the latest to catch his attention.