There are many times when formats become exciting in a card game. New sets being released, post-pro events or the first events of a given season, or even when a buff, nerf, or ban happens. It’s great to always have fun and interesting formats.
Unfortunately, like almost any natural progression of any competitive game, metagames can become stale for many different reasons. Things may not change for a while, thus making the environment stagnant. Top-level players can figure out metagames quickly, and/or “break” something, and everyone and their mom will flock to that strategy. The opposite can also cause stagnation; when the best strategy or strategies aren’t figured out quickly, it can cause a giant mess of thrown-together ideas that may all wind up doing something similar, which results in no clear cut “best” thing to be doing. No edge is gained, and contentment becomes king. “Everything is bad.”
Things don’t have to remain stagnant, however. There are quite a few things you can do when this type of situation pops up, without sacrificing whatever edges you do have.
One of my personal favorite things to do in a stale metagame is making tech decisions. That extra push that your deck may need against a popular mirror match, or something that can blow a commonly-played card out of the water. Taking this route will not only allow you to maintain competitiveness, but potentially turn games into wins with the luck of the draw, pushing your win percentage even higher. That singleton Doomhammer in your Jade Shaman deck, or the singleton Ancient Grudge against Affinity could make an entire tournament for you.
Another possible thing you could try when formats are stagnant is trying a strategy specifically made to beat the best strategy. This isn’t applicable when a stale format involves a ton of different things that are within range of each other, mostly because when you build something to beat one specific thing, you’ll be exceptionally weaker against multiple other things going on. In a format where there’s a clear best, say, one or three things, you can shoot for one, while being weaker against strategies that you may not see nearly as often.
One last thing that’s worth trying, especially when a format is drawing to its close, is splitting your time. If a format has matured to the point of stagnation, and you don’t have that many major events coming up, it may be worth taking whatever steps necessary to prepare for the next major event after a rotation, patch, or buff/nerf. It can be theorycrafting with like minded people, practicing on an applicable platform, or even going as far as mock tournaments with players who also want in. If there’s a Public Test Server of sorts, get in there! All of these will help you greatly in figuring out the best strategy that you can possibly come up with. It may not be the best one when you actually get into the tournament, but that doesn’t mean your efforts are wasted. If anything, it means that you’re picking up a valuable skill in learning to quickly find out how potential strategies work, before other people do, something that can help you immensely as you climb the ranks into professional play.
Let’s be real about it: stagnant formats suck. They feel worse because the only real thing that winds up mattering is winning. It won’t matter how awesome a win may be because it’ll matter a lot less, as will what you did to get there. The only thing that stands in your way from victory is the opponent(s) you’re facing. Not everyone is a robot that can grind emotionlessly and effortlessly, so do your sanity a favor and spice it up from time to time!
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.