Wow. It has been a while since I have written about WoW as compared to other subjects. Time to fix that with a little wackiness. Before both feet end up in the deep end, it’s important to have a quick history lesson to be able to fully appreciate today’s topic of discussion. The granddaddy of modern card games is Magic: the Gathering. Everyone reading this Probably knows what that game is and in all likelihood has played it before. Magic payed the way for many games that are enjoyed today, including the WoWtcg. More to the point of this particular article, a specific format Elder Dragon Highlander (later called Commander), was the predecessor for a casual oriented format in our beloved game. This format was originally played by judges at major events on the side in multiplayer games. Each would choose one of the original 5 elder dragons (a creature type in Magic at the time) and then construct a deck consisting of 100 cards. On top of that there were some additional rules: cards could only be from colors matching the elder dragon chosen, the elder dragon started play in a separate zone and could be played again if destroyed with an additional tax for each time they perished, the life totals were increased, and possibly the most notable restriction was that except basic lands you could only have one of each card in your deck.
Eventually this format evolved into commander which sports its own ban list and even has a 1v1 variant. What does this all have to do with WoW? Well a lot actually because Our favorite game has its own version!
Let Chaos Reign!
Welcome to the chaos format! Not unlike classic, contemporary, and core the chaos format alters the typically deckbuilding rules. This format was originally introduced as part of the Battle of the Aspects raid deck. Included with the raid were 5 oversized heroes, namely the 5 dragon aspects: Ysera, Alextrasza, Malygos, Nozdormu, and of course Deathwing. While not tournament legal the idea was to create WoW’s own highlander multiplayer format. You could build with basically normal deck constructions rules (horde OR alliance not both) with a few exceptions. One key note is that in the actual rules for the format all allies can protect your hero. The aspects all sport larger health totals but this actually is a pretty significant change. Unfortunately to my knowledge the concept never really took off, at least not as the chaos format. Highlander on the other hand was relatively popular and even was a side event at the final World Championship in 2013! Talk about the big time. The difference there is that obviously the obscenely strong dragon aspects were not legal, instead you played a normal hero and built a highlander deck, and the pseudo-protector rule wasn’t in effect (the format wasn’t actually chaos, “just” highlander). Then matches were played one-on-one. A significant departure from the root gameplay, but not unprecedented as evidenced by Magic’s own 1v1 commander format.
Why Stop at 1?
So why bother playing an obviously inconsistent format? Glad you asked, or I asked, or I asked for you…ah whatever. The same general idea of multiple formats applies to chaos. Just offering alternatives. Given the nature of card games you can play virtually any way you want, this is just another one of those ways. Even for the most hardcore competitive player it is good to switch gears every once in a while play with cards you never use or just ones you happen to like. If you play with only a single copy of any given card in your deck you very quickly will need to be creative to fill slots. It can even help get the creative juices flowing again for more serious formats.
That isn’t to say that it is only fun and games when you are being. Given the size of the cardpool and the available options you can definitely play a more cutthroat gameplan, especially if you focus on only 1v1 games. Multiplayer inherently has a political aspect to the flow of any particular instance.
Beyond the obvious stuff, chaos or highlander in general lets you try to tackle the same question that other formats present. Namely trying to make the most consistent deck possible. That seems strange in the face of a deckbuilding restriction that requires you to only play one-ofs. However, a more macro approach would be to see how many 2 cost removal spells you want or need. They aren’t necessarily the best or most efficient in various scenarios, but you part of the fun is adapting. Similarly, a top end finisher ally at 6+ cost may not get the redundancy of multiple copies in this format, but that just means you can experiment with other options possibly creating some hilarious interactions.
Too Many Choices!
Sounds great right? So where do you get started? Well that question is a little tough to answer. First some parameters need to be determined. For example the typical deck size is 100 cards for this sort of thing. However, some prefer 60 or in between those or something entirely different. Second, if you consider the side event from Worlds 2013 are you playing in a group or against 1 person? Third, do you want to go big and start the game as one of the dragon aspects or simply a regular hero? How do you feel about unlimited cards and the single card restriction? The questions don’t really stop there but you get the idea. How you and your play group decide to play is entirely up to you. The consistent ruleset really is the driver here.
To get back to actual deck construction though, in my case builds often start with a single card. A little weird considering that single card could be as little as 1% of your deck! That single card is what spawns the greater idea though. Maybe I really want to play a specific hero, or I realize that Jin’rohk, the Great Apocalypse can be used by hunters, or the idea of using Summoning Portal in a format dedicated to single cards seems busted, who knows? It isn’t uncommon to stumble of things that are seem so painfully obvious after the fact but weren’t quite so clear going in. I present exhibit A: One of the popular heroes for the 2013 event was actually a horde death knight, Ghoulmaster Khalisa. The reason is her flip allowed you to consistently put an ally on the board early on regardless of whether you ended up with a heavy hand filled with high cost allies. One may not initially jump at DKs as a popular class for this format. They lack inherent draw mechanics, sport few tutors, and also can have difficulty with specific permanent types. Still, the tempo advantage gained by spawning a 3/3 on turn 2 can put you ahead significantly or prevent your opponent from pulling away in a duel situation. As you might imagine this advantage starts to dissipate when you add more players or you face a mighty dragon on the other side of the table instead of a regular sized hero.
Just a Touch of Flavor
Given the 6-feet under status of the WoWtcg and the fertile ground of a casual format, this is yet another opportune moment for custom cards. Whether they be heroes (there are plenty of lore options!) or even plain old every day cards. You can change the complexion of a deck in these sort of formats just by swapping a single piece of cardboard. Of course it can be difficult to balance. Maybe even more difficult than normal since you may not see the card in question over several games. Maybe you don’t even see it in the appropriate situation. The heroes present an entirely different set of requirements and ideas to balance, but there are so many characters in World of Warcraft who warrant this treatment.
To wrap up, I encourage people to give this format a try. Whether it is 60 or 100 cards. Colossal dragons or heroic heroes. A brawl with many fighters or a sparring match between 2 decks, there is a way for just about everyone to enjoy this mode.