Is Anyone Having A Blast? My perspective of the current competitive format in Force of Will

Bahamut, the Dragon KingTake a minute to scroll through the posts on your favorite Facebook group or page dedicated to Force of Will. How many were specifically in reference to “Regalia” or “Bahamut, the Dragon King”? It’s no secret that one color has a grip on our community in a way that we surely didn’t expect before the release of the new Alice Cluster starter decks. Whether it’s about a 2500 damage swing on turn 1, or a very recent price spike, we can’t seem to avoid them. Many players are advocating against this new format, while others are pushing back hard with the idea that this is an acceptable trend with no room for complaint. I wanted to write this article to help provide some background on why players (including myself) are incredibly frustrated right now. Please bear in mind that this article is 100% my opinion. While no one should treat my words as fact, I believe they bear weight.

Laevateinn, the Demon Sword“Laevateinn, the Demon Sword” is a new Regalia that grants your J-Ruler the skills Swiftness and Imperishable. In addition, it has the ability to discard another copy to float a Red Will. Players are using it in combination with Bahamut to J-Activate and swing in for big damage as early as their first turn. The best possible hand on turn 1 would include a copy of “Hunter in Black Forest”, 1 copy of “Cthugha, the Living Flame”, and 2 copies of “Laevateinn the Demon Sword”, but an above average turn can be achieved with multiple copies of any Regalia card and a 1-drop resonator. Even without a second Laevateinn, the Bahamut player is most certainly getting in for a minimum of 1000 damage by their second turn. Other J-Rulers can take advantage of what this card offers, but not quite like Bahamut. 1000 damage in the air on turn 1, as well as 1000 more multiple times over the course of the next few turns can add up very quickly, and there’s little your opponent can do to stop it.

So...what can we do to stop it? Not a whole lot, to be completely honest. First we have to assume we’re on the play against an opponent with the ideal Bahamut hand. Our best case scenario is that we go first and call a stone that can produce Red will, and also open with a “Demonflame” or “Thunder” in hand. They might play “Apostle of Cain”, a 1-drop resonator with an enter ability, but doesn’t that seem like a really long list of unlikelihoods? It’s far more likely that they see you have a Red stone up and play a different resonator, then retain priority before J-Activating for Bahamut. Some options that can serve you well a bit later in the game include “Crime and Punishment” and “Bullet of Envy”, but Crime suffers from needing Red early and assumes they can’t simply make Bahamut Imperishable, while Bullet assumes they’ll leave anything worthwhile on the board for Bullet to pump before Bahamut has ended your game. This whole paragraph has been just that, assumptions. Assumptions that your opponent isn’t good, and that you have an incredibly lucky opening. Regardless, none of these cards are hugely relevant when they’ve played first. I don’t mean to imply that a Bahamut player is going to always draw into an incredible turn 1 play, but I certainly think we need to be prepared.

I want to be very clear about where I think the issue lies, and that’s with the new Regalia cards. Giving Bahamut Swiftness isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened in a card game, and giving him another option for having Imperishable isn’t absolutely terrible either. Being able to J-Activate before your opponent has even played a card is blatantly overpowered, and combined with Swiftness and a second chance at Imperishable this gives you the chance to get leaps and bounds ahead of your opponent in tempo and life. I’d like you to ask yourself if you think that’s healthy for the game. Some have compared this situation to past decks such as Abdul, but there are outs to Abdul. Abdul doesn’t have the ability to swing in on turn 1, and he certainly can’t be J-Activated before a very lucky turn 2. Even to that end, he can’t fly over your opponent’s resonators and get in for big damage every turn. Abdul had real solid outs, and was an extremely balanced control deck that was fairly paced in the last format. Sheer volume made him look overpowered. Volume isn’t what’s making Bahamut overpowered.

I’d like to believe that by this point you may be convinced that the Regalia cards have created a color imbalance in the current format, but maybe you’re still in disbelief. Please consider then that the US is a cluster behind, and countries like Italy will not be allowing these Alice cluster decks until the release of the first Alice set in September. It seems likely that they were simply excluded directly in relation to the cluster they were printed for, but it’s just as likely that Italy’s officials in Organized Play recognized how powerful they were in our current format, and regardless of FoW Inc.’s decision to print them early, prevented the Italian players from suffering through this degenerate format. I believe FoW Inc. might’ve seen a cash cow in the Alice decks and chose to print them, regardless of the fact that we won’t have real answers until September. When everyone needs 4 copies of a $30 product to compete, everyone buys 4 copies of said product. Please don’t get me wrong. I love this game, and I love the direction it’s headed in. Hopefully come September we’ll have a non-Red answer to these degenerate cards. I don’t blame FoW Inc. for taking an opportunity to hype a product as highly as possible, and honestly prefer it as long as it’ll help fund and make this great game last. We just need some balance, and it’s going to be a LONG month and a half.