On Reflect/Refrain and Bans

Hello! My name is Alex Gerdes and this is my first article here at Of Dice and Pens, but you might recognize my name since I am the host of the On the Chase Podcast. With the top 8 decks from the first two AGPs after the release of the Moonlight Savior, AGP Montreal and AGP Hawaii, being made up of primarily reflect there has been a lot discussion about a banning of reflect and how bad it is for the game. This article is going to be about why reflect isn’t actually as bad for the game as everyone makes him out to be and why I feel he shouldn’t be banned.

Diversity

The first argument against reflect is that it reduces diversity in the format. This is only partially true, and all comes down to how we view diversity. If we analyze diversity based only on ruler than yes reflect does in fact hurt the diversity of the format but the thing is, this is a horrible way to analyze the meta. Why is it bad? Simply because a deck is not just its ruler. As we all know a deck consists of a ruler at least 10 stones and at least 40 cards in your main deck. So analyzing a deck based on just the ruler and ignoring the rest of the deck means you’re looking at about 2% of the cards that are actually in the deck, not including the side deck.

The way we should actually analyze the meta is by viewing the archetypes of the decks. If you look at the archetypes of the two most recent major events as of me writing this article (ARG Detroit and AGP Montreal, AGP Hawaii deck lists haven’t been posted as of me writing this) in the top 8 for both events there were five different deck archetypes. If we assume that these decks represent around 40% of the participants in the tournament and compare this to say Magic the gathering, where in every format the top 4-5 decks make up 40-45% percent of the meta, the meta we see from force of will is consistent with magic’s metas. Why do I even bother to compare force to magic here? The reason is simple, magic is the most successful card game in history and if they have been that successful with competitive metas that look like that then that means that force of wills meta is fine.

Balance through Imbalance

You can argue that banning reflect would make the game balanced but that statement is also not entirely true because that’s not how the balance of these games work. To understand the balancing of the game you first have to look at it from an economic standpoint of the company. If the game is completely balanced then that means a deck made of older cards has just as much of a chance to win as a deck with new cards so there’s no incentive to buy the new cards, which would make the company and the game fail. But if they company were to only make cards in each new set stronger than old cards would never be relevant leading to power creep. Most games including force of will avoid this by achieving balance through imbalance a system in which everything has built in strengths and weaknesses so no matter how strong something is there is something else which is well positioned against it.

And I know what you’re thinking, there isn’t anything that’s well positioned against reflect yet. That statement may be true but the most important thing to keep in mind is just because there’s nothing yet that doesn’t mean there won’t be. The fact that reflect was errataed shows that they underestimated it when they designed it and if there’s an answer it would need to be put into a new set. It’s important to keep in mind that these sets are designed in advance and most likely the new set begins printing shortly after the release of the previous set, so if there was an answer to reflect being printed we wouldn’t see it in the next set it would take at least an additional set for us to see it.

Blinders

As I’ve mentioned before in this article a popular idea going around right now is to ban reflect. As I’ve said I don’t agree with banning reflect, or any other cards, but if it came to the point where the only solution was a banning I don’t feel that reflect should be the card banned. I feel that while reflect is a little stronger than average it isn’t the problem with the meta right now, in fact the problem is with two other cards which have been much stronger than other cards in the format since their printing. These two cards are the cards that I would say are the pillar of the two most popular reflect decks and we’ve just zeroed in reflect as the issue instead of these cards. If you haven’t already figured it out I’m talking about Lancelot and Gwiber, that’s right I feel that if something needed to be banned it should be these two.

Let’s think about the two decks which have been the boggy men of the format since reflect was released, alice’s world and aggro. With alice’s world was is the card that is actually the card that wins the game, the namesake of the deck alice’s world? No first there have been various world decks which have top tournaments without actually running world so pinpointing world as the problem card would be incorrect. The card that actually enables the deck is gwiber without gwiber you can cast world and attack with your army of one drop resonators for maybe 1000 life without pump effects but with gwiber you can get a 1200/1200 with flying for one will that enables you to actually finish out a game with world.

With the aggro decks the card that really enables it is Lancelot, and the reason is simple its way too efficient for how little will you need to cast him. For two will you’re getting a resonator which is one pump effect and a reflect pump away from attacking for at least a quarter of your life and most likely killing one of your resonators. If you don’t pump Lancelot you just get a large body with swiftness.

These cards are the actual issue right now not reflect, in fact reflect is actually balanced, yes it provides you a ton of utility but the thing is that utility isn’t as free as you might think it is because there’s one thing that reflect can’t do that most every other ruler can, win you the game. Reflect cannot attack when it flips, there’s a legitimate trade off to the advantages it gives, but that trade off doesn’t matter because reflect can play these cards like gwiber and Lancelot which can do so much for so little investment and are inherently that much stronger than the rest of the cards printed.

Again I’m not a fan of banning cards in general so if anything should be done about either of these cards it’s an errata. I realize that a lot of people have an issue with errating cards because it changes what the cards do from their printed text and requires players to be aware of them but banning cards does a similar thing but is even worse because you can’t play with the cards in general because the game doesn’t allow it. If these cards were to be errataed I would recommend making gwiber reduce by one will for every resonator instead of two and taking swiftness away from Lancelot.

Precedents

Lastly we need to stop pressuring force of will and let them fix the problem in their own way. They are aware that it’s an issue and I’m certain that something will be done about it but we need to give them time to do it. If force of will decides to emergency ban something because of community outcry than it sets a horrible precedent. It’s like raising a child if they cry and complain about something and they’re wrong but you give in you screwed yourself because now they think that if they do something again and just complain about it you’ll just give in again. Banning a card solely because of community outcry would do the exact same thing. It’s important to understand that a ban list exists in a game to fix mistakes made in development not to balance the game, these things are similar but are not necessarily the same. Often something does need to be banned and is so powerful that it also throws off the balance. In the same sense there can be something which can throw the balance of the game of but not need a ban. In short let force of will fix the problem if they decide that there is a problem at all. If my time playing this game has showed me anything it’s that the people who are behind this game generally care about both it and the competitive scene and want to do what’s best for both and we should have faith in them to make the correct decisions.

Alex Gerdes

On of the founding Members of team Twisted Fate and the host for the On The Chase Podcast.

2 thoughts to “On Reflect/Refrain and Bans”

  1. Im not disagreeing with you and suggesting that rr should be banned. However, I do want to comment on the fact of what i do feel you glossed over. Yes SOME other rulers do give bodys that can win the game, but they have to typically pay mana, skip a stone drop, and unless they have swiftness do nothing but maybe block till the next turn. And more to the point they often do nothing or close to nothing until they j activate. And while those rulers can actually win the game, they also can lose you the game. Its very hard to come back in fow if your ruler is destroyed espeicaly in a regalia format. Rr cant be killed even by blazer so while he cant win himself he is also never going to die.

    1. That’s a fair point. I was more of trying to get the point across that I feel reflect isn’t the issue since it isn’t directly winning you the game it’s the cards that he’s getting.

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