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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jul 10 2009 10:18am
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Another Perspective on the Death of Prismatic

I have planned on writing this article for a long time.  In some ways, I have - I have written a number of articles about the history, and the decline, of 5color.  5color is the paper format that prismatic is modeled on, and it has had many of the same problems that Prismatic has.  The history and tribulations of 5color can throw some light on the state of Prismatic.

5color was invented by Kurt Hahn, and friends, in the suburbs of Milwaukee, WI, USA, back before the Invasion era.  Yes, 5color predates MODO.  It also predates almost half the cards that are now in print.  Think about it.  When 5color was created, the sets shown on the right were in print.   The ones on the left were still to come.

         
Alara Reborn
Conflux
Shards of Alara
Eventide
Shadowmoor
Morningtide
Lorwyn 
Future Sight
Planar Chaos
Coldsnap (2006)
Time Spiral 
Dissension
Guildpact
Ravnica 
 
Saviors of Kamigawa
Betrayers of Kamigawa
Champions of Kamigawa
Fifth Dawn
Darksteel
Mirrodin
Scourge
Legions
Onslaught
Judgment
Torment
Odyssey 
Apocalypse
Planeshift
Invasion

 

5color invented sometime

around here

 

Note that there are a lot more

sets to the left (in the future) than

there are on the right

Prophecy
Nemesis
Mercadian Masques 
Urza's Destiny
Urza's Legacy
Urza's Saga 
Exodus
Stronghold
Tempest  
Weatherlight
Visions
Mirage
Alliances
Homelands
 

Ice Age 
Fallen Empires
The Dark
Legends
Antiquities
Arabian Nights

Alpha,Beta, etc.

Magic was different back then.  Creatures were smaller, gold cards were scarce and - and this is really important - mana fixing was far worse.

The original 5color decks had a couple basic rules: 250 cards, 18 cards of each color, practical tutors were banned, and you played unsleeved and for ante.    

The idea was to play with all the old, fun cards.  Decks would be large enough that the games would be unpredictable and interesting.  Tutors were banned because searching a 250 card deck wasted time. 

Back in the day, Kurt Hahn's signature card was Derelor.  It summed up the format.  It was a 4/4 for 4 mana, which was great at the time.  More importantly, it cost 3B - meaning it had only one colored mana symbol in the casting cost.  That was critical, because mana screw was a serious concern.  Wherever possible, people avoided any gold cards, because they were far too likely to get stuck in your hand.  I remember playing Nettletooth Djinn and Serendib Efreet because they were some of the best aggro cards around, while being castable. 

The reason mana concerns like this were critical was because, although we had the original dual lands, we had no good way to search for them.  The "best" option was the Mirage block fetchlands, which came into play tapped.  The next best option was Wood Elves and Land Grant, which could get dual lands that were half forest.  Cards like Sylvan Scrying and Farseek, which can get any dual, simply did not exist.  Harrow did - but getting your Harrow countered (since the sacrifice land is part of the cost) was usually game. 

Then that all changed.  Onslaught appeared, and brought us these five cards.

Derelor
Flooded Strand Bloodstained Mire Wooded Foothills Polluted Delta Windswept Heath

That changed everything.  Once the Onslaught lands appeared, you were pretty much certain to get all five colors by turn three, although it might cost you a  mulligan.  Before Onslaught, cards like Prophetic Bolt or Lightning Angel were unplayable -- afterwards they were golden.  (pun fully intended.)

The other event that really changed 5color was the first 5color Worlds Qualifier held in Madison.  Jason Mouhngey recreated Bob Maher's PT Chicago winning Oath deck, but in the 5color format.  Jason's deck was completely powered - Ancestral, Lotus, all five Moxen, Time Walk, etc.  He went undefeated, and went on to win Worlds as well.  Yes, he was playing power for ante - but since he won, it didn't matter.

Jason's deck was the beginning, but in the years afterward, if you wanted to play 5color at the highest level, here's where a competitive deck began.

  • All 40 dual lands
  • All 20 Onslaught fetchlands
  • Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Library, Black Lotus
  • All six Moxen (yes, six - Mox Crystal is a 5color only card)
  • 4 Force of Will
  • 4 Vindicate

The deck could vary from there.  Beatdown decks tended to run cards like Sea Drake (which is well over $100 a copy in paper.)   Control decks ran Mana Drain (even more.)   Decks were expensive.  Pat Fehling played powered decks, and I know he had a special rider on his homeowner's insurance covering his decks.  Anything he played was worth well in excess of $5,000.

Ante

Early 5color had another problem.  When Kurt created the format, he wanted to play all the random, old, bad cards he had laying around, and he included ante cards.  Cards like Jeweled Bird and Contract from Below were a couple cents, so they got played.  Over time, however, people evolved the fomrmat and tuned the decks - but ante remained.  That set off a battle that lasted for years.

On the one hand, people heavily invested in the format enjoyed the power of full-bore 5color decks.  They were machines, and a good 5color deck could give anything a run for its money - even a good Vintage deck.  5color also became a favorite format among the pros, for whom it replaced or supplemented money drafts.  Playing 5color duels, for ante, meant they were playing for prizes.

On the other side of the debate were people like me, who saw the problems ante created in getting new players into the format.  A 5color deck contains 250 cards.  That makes it much harder to tune than a 60 card deck.  Just finding out if the deck worked at all, when faced with a real competitor, meant playing several games - maybe dozens of games.  Playing those games for ante meant that you lost a lot of cards before you even got your deck working, much less learned the metagame.

Oh, yeah - the full powered decks just beat the non-powered decks.  To seriously compete, you had to be willing to risk losing a $200 card every single game.

Over time, 5color split into a couple groups.  There were the fanatical "must play for real ante" groups.  There were the "no ante cards" groups.  And there were hybrid groups - the ones that let you buy any card back for a buck, or that played "scribble ante" (which meant that if you lost, your opponent wrote insults on the card you anted.)

The 5color ruling council - the group of people that set the rules and developed and maintain the 5color B&R list - had a terrible time with ante.  Ante cards defined the format, but they also created real problems.  Worse yet, gaming conventions, like GenCon, had problems with ante, so when 5color worlds was at GenCon, the official rules had to dance around ante.  It was a mess.  In some ways, it still is, but the current 5color rules apply only to major 5color tournaments and 5color Worlds, so they ban ante cards.  For now - and that is a recent change. 

Platipus10 suggested  that online Prismatic just adopt the 5color B&R list.

Um - no.  Just no. 

The two formats are/were completely different.  Let me give you two examples. 

First, for most of the history of 5color, it played with the BEST FRICKEN CARD DRAWING SPELL EVER PRINTED!

EVER

EVER

EVER

EVER!!! 

I am not talking about Ancestral Recall.  I am not talking about Gifts Ungiven, or Fact or Fiction or Braingeyser or anything like that.  I am talking about Contract from Below.  Contract from Below draws seven cards for one mana.  That is more than twice as many cards as Ancsestral Recall.  It is fricken nutz - and Contract drove the 5color B&R list for years.  When Contract was around, Bribery was unrestricted, but Grinning Totem was restricted - because Grinning Totem could steal your opponent's Contract.  In those days, every deck had 4 Contracts.

If you have never played with Contract from Below, you have no idea just how insane the card, and the format it spawned, can be.  In 5color, a ton of tutors were banned, because they could find Contract.  Wild Research was banned because it could let you search for tutors or Regrowths that let you recast Contract.  Holistic Wisdom and Panoptic Mirror were banned because they let you Contract again and again. 

Contract for Below warped the format's B&R list from the very beginning.  Finally, after a decade of debate, the paper 5color official, tournament B&R list has banned ante cards, and is slowly reverting to something more balanced, but the old Contract influence is still there.

Contract from Below

Contract was not the only controversial card that warped the B&R list.  5color is a Vintage / Type I format, and it allows / allowed the Power Nine.  It allowed Time Walk.  Time Walk was restricted - but restricted is not the same as banned, even in a format with few good tutors. 

Jim Hustad is a multi-time 5color World Champion.  I faced him in the semi-finals at the last 5color Wolrds qualifier I played in.  He liked Vedalken Orrery.  One game, I tried to end my turn, and he had a response.

"Duress you."  Seeing no counters, he followed with "Time Walk, Regrow Time Walk, Time Walk."  In game three of our match, I played on turns two, four, seven and conceded after drawing on turn eleven.  Jim had all the other turns.

Time Walk is once again banned in 5color.  However, the rest of the P9 are legal, as is Sinkhole, Mind Twist and a ton of other cards that are not available online.  The presence of those cards really warps the metagame - and the resulting B&R list.  As a result, the paper 5color B&R list is not suitable for / relevant to Prismatic. 

Time Walk

Even if you assume that the list will shake out with Contract and Time Walk gone, the card pools are still different.  Prismatic can only pull from the online card pool.  5color is a Vintage format, with the full insanity of the Urza's cycle and eveything else that makes Vintage so much more broken than Classic.  Maybe, after Mercadian Masques and MED 4 are online, and the card pools are roughly comparable, then maybe the 5color B&R list might have some relevance to Prismatic.

OTOH, 5color will still have Chaos Orb.  The orb is significant - and it is never coming to MTGO.  

Chaos Orb

In his article, Platipus10 listed his  "Top 4 reasons to the destruction of Prismatic:

  • Lack of Tournament Support
  • Lack of B/R Maintenance
  • Format Stagnation
  • Player Appeal/Aquisition "

A lot of what Platipus10 wrote is well-reasoned and worth considering, but I disagee with many parts of it.

First of all, I think that prize support cannot drive a format.  Players will play a format because it is interesting, or fun, or exciting, or because they are good at it.  They won't play because of prize support.  (Okay, technically you could get players to play anything if you bribed them heavily enough, but assuming that the prize support is the same between formats, then only popular formats will get players.)  Prize support for Prismatic was yanked because the format was already failing - not the other way around. 

Platipus10, and others, had problems with the B&R list, and the way changes were made.  They also had problems with the idea of B&R based on the spirit of the format.  Not surprising.  I served on the paper 5color ruling council - the 7-9 people who were responsible for the paper 5color B&R list - for several years.  I wrote the rules and guidelines for the 5CRC.  I participated in a lot of B&R discussions and votes.  I know a bit about bannings, restrictions and the reactions of players.

First of all - a very vocal set of players is always massively irate about any changes - or lack of changes - to the B&R list.  Each and every one knows which direction the format should go.  Those directions are always contradictory.  For every card that some players think needs to be banned, another set of players will argue that it is essential to the format.  And vice versa. 

In the end, the people making the decisions have to decide what they want the format to be and modify the list accordingly.  A format like 5color or Prismatic can be either a semi-casual format, a Vintage / Classic with an extra 200 cards per deck or something in between.  If you unban tutors you let combo rip - which happened at one point.  If you ban cheap tutors, aggro goes nuts.  You could even try to recreate the format Kurt Hahn originally invented, but to do that, you would have to ban the fetchlands, and any tutors that can fetch dual lands, to make mana much more uncertain.  That would be more in the spirit of the format - or maybe the spirit of what the format was a long time ago.  Imagine mana bases if you could not tutor for non-basic lands - it's different.

Back to Platipus10's list, I will agree that the format stagnated.  I disagree that it was because of the B&R list.  The format has other problems, which I will discuss below.  The stagnation also, in many ways, is intermingled with player acquisiton, but not because acquisition changed the format - the format changed because it did not acquire new players.  New blood is critical for any format.  Players leave the game all the time, for any number of reasons.  You need to continually attract new players, or the format loses the critical mass of players.  That happened to Prismatic.  Let me explain.    

Platipus10 provided four reasons why Prismatic died. I disagree.  The following are what I believe to be the Top 4 indicators for the success of a format.  

  • How Appealing is the Format?
  • How Difficult / Expensive is it to Acquire a Deck?
  • How Inviting are the Players?
  • How Steep is the Learning Curve?

Prismatic missed the mark on some of these indicators.  Let me explain.

How Appealing is the Format?

This indicator is linked to all the others, on some level, but it also refers to a more limited question:  what makes the format interesting?  Players can play anything, from Classic to Ninth Edition  commons-only 100 Card Singleton.  Why should they choose one format over another?  Because of what makes the format interesting, appealing or unique.

Unless Wizards starts bribing us to play, then players are only going to try a format because it is fun or challenging to play.  Most will play casually at first, then try the tournament practice room, then play in for-pay events, but that only happens if they enjoy playing the format from the very beginning.  Yes, you could probably bribe people into sticking their fingers into pencil sharpeners, if you paid enough, but that's not going to happen.  Wizards will pay out roughly comparable prizes for all formats, and the decision on whether to play or not is up to the players.  With prizes being equal, players will gravitate to fun / challenging formats.

Prismatic has some problems in this regard, just like 5color did.  I'll come back to them at the end.      

How Difficult / Expensive is it to Acquire a Deck?

Prismatic has a huge problem here, since competitive Prismatic was the most expensive format on MTGO.  You simply could not compete in tournaments without spending a minor fortune.  The mana base alone - all the fetches, most of the duals, etc. - is many hundred dollars.  That's a ton.  It really is. 

And, please, don't talk about budget decks.  A very skilled Prismatic player might be able to do passibly well with a budget deck, but a new player with a budget deck is going to get stomped throughly and often.

The other problem with the format is that building a deck is just hard - simply because it is 250 cards.  That is a lot of clicking and dragging, then figuring out what is missing, or why the deck isn't legal (e.g. on 16 black cards).  It can be done - OBV - but the online deck editor is just not built for 250 card decks, and that also couses problems. 

How Steep is the Learning Curve?

I'm going to switch the bullets around, because learning curve and difficulty in getting a deck is intertwined.  The learning curve is steep for Prismatic.  This is due to a number of reasons. 

First of all, tuning a Prismatic deck is really hard.  The deck has a lot of cards, and a lot of interactions.  Spotting underperforming cards, or even cards that clash, through play takes far more games than for a 60 card deck.  A typical game of Magic lasts about a dozen turns.  (It varies, of course, but that estimate is pretty good overall.)  During a typical game of Magic, you see about 20 cards - or one-third of a normal deck.  Twenty cards is roughly one-twelfth of a Prismatic deck.  You may not see a given card, much less an interaction, for several games.

Second, far less is written about Prismatic than any other format.  I write and read about Magic.  I read a lot.  In recent times, in any given week I could find articles on mutliplayer, on drafts of all flavors, on Standard and Vintage and Legacy and Extended - but far fewer on Prismatic.  This is understandable - Prismatic articles are a pain to write.  I know, because I've written several.  The decklists are endless, and adding the card tags takes forever.  It is hard, thankless work - and as a result, few such articles get written.  The downside is that anyone who wants to join the format cannot surf the collected wisdom the way they can with any other format.

The size of the decklists is a problem in another way.  I was looking at a few decklists while doing this article, and I had trouble easily identifying exactly what was different / unique.  The decklists are 250+ cards, after all.  I was comparing Pat Fehling's Savannah ROAR with the classic 321Contract, and all I could really tell is that both were aggro decks.  Aggro decks are relatively easy to figure out.  5color combo decks are far worse - you have to read through a couple times just to find the combo, much less understand the way the deck should be played.  

All of this makes it very hard for a new player to get into the format.  That's a problem.

How Inviting are the Players?

Let's assume that a new player does decide to join the format, and somehow assembles a deck.  The next question is whether that player will enjoy his or her first few games enough to want to continue to play and work on his/her deck. 

This is critical.

I used to play Prismatic.  I probably still have a deck, but I haven't been updating it.  I remember the thing that finally turned me off completely.  I switched around a few cards, and tried to implement a new combo in a Prismatic deck.  I took it into the casual room to try it out.  I asked for a game.  I got one.

My opponent had a good deck - actually, better than that.  He had all foil cards.  He had foil fetchlands and foil Ravnica duals (this was pre-MEDII.)  He had foil Pernicious Deeds and foil Vindicates.  Hell, he had pretty much foil everything.  More importantly, he was playing in Vindicate Control.  He killed or countered everything I played.  

He was playing that in the Casual Room. 

Yes, I know that players can play anything, anywhere, and it does not violate the code of conduct, etc.  Whatever.  That one experience, along with a couple of "newb" and "that card is lame" comments in a previous match, were enough for me to see that the format was dead.  If new players' first experience with a format is going to be "newb" crap, mixed with a feeling of "you will never be able to afford this format," new players are going elsewhere.  I did.  I simply filed Prismatic under "Life's too Short for this Crap" and moved on to other formats. 

Would it have killed the players to take their tournament decks to the tournament room, or built non-foil, non-obnoxious decks to play with new players in the casual room?  Probably not - but they did not, and it killed the format. 

Those of you playing base-blue control 100 Card Singleton decks in casual might want to think about that. 

I haven't bothered to update my good Prismatic decks since 2.0.  I have a Pauper Prismatic deck, and a Pristmatic Singleton deck.  Those are fun, and the games I get are generally enjoyable.  Maybe playign full Prismatic would be, too - but I have had enough bad expereinces that I'm not going to bother.  I have fun decks and have had good experiences in seven other formats.  Sorry, Prismatic.

Conclusions

Prismatic started with a number of strikes against it.  It was really expensive. It was hard to build decks, both because of the size and because the deck editor wasn't really designed for decks that large.  It was expensive.  It was really complex - and did I mention that it was really expensive?

All of that could have been overcome - but it needed a strong and accepting community to overcome it.  Prismatic needed far more articles - more theory articles, more how-to-build-a-deck articles, and more decklists players could netdeck.  It needed some personalities to champion the format.  When you think of Classic, you think of WhiffyPengiun and Walkerdog and the Classic Quarter.  Pauper had a legion of supporters, and nice, helpful people in the chat rooms. 100 Card Singleton has Tarmatog and a growing community.  K-Scope has a few regular writers.  Prismatic, well, didn't - at least none that I can think of.  Prismatic, with its significant barriers to entry, needed more advocates, not less, than other formats.  It also really needed a stepping stone - a wading-pool where new players with new decks could get their feet wet.  Instead, that wading pool was infested with all-foiled sharks, and they ate the format.

Too bad.  It could have been pretty cool.  5color, after all, had a world-wide following.

PRJ

"one million words" on MTGO    

 

12 Comments

Nice article. As a player by Anonymous (not verified) at Fri, 07/10/2009 - 11:16
Anonymous's picture

Nice article.

As a player who likes to at least try different formats I have a very simple test before I spend a dime on cards.

Step (1) Read about the format... am I still interested?

Step (2) Design (or net deck) a deck that I feel I'd like to play then roughly figure it's cost. Remember that number.

Step (3) Build any deck legal in the format out of what I have in my colletion then log onto MTGO and start playing. Remember how many games I get and how long I was waiting for each game and how much fun the games were (always remembering I probably have a poor quality deck for the format).

Step (4) Take the cost of the format (from step 2) and the volume,regularity and enjoyment of the games (from step 3) and decide if it's 'worth it'.

Personally, using this method, I'm still having a blast playing Pauper (cheap cards good fun games with little waiting around) I'm still on the fence about classic (Expensive cards but good fun games and not very long to wait for a game) I've dropped K-scope (Expensive mana base and also ages to wait between games if I got one at all).

Which is a long way of saying although I never played Prismatic it would probably never have passed my practicality test for pretty much the reasons you are stating for it's demise.

First off, I want to say that by platipus10 at Fri, 07/10/2009 - 11:48
platipus10's picture

First off, I want to say that I really respect that you took the time to write a response to my article and I appreciate the history of 5Color as a format as a background.

I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say about WotC support for the format. Your interpretation of what I said was that WotC was not providing enough prizes or paying players enough to play the format. I was trying to say that WotC was not providing enough tournaments regardless of the actual amount of prizes to sustain the format. I believe that there is a critical mass in number of tournaments offered to sustain a format. Without that critical mass you will never develop a metagame nor encourage people to test and build new decks for a format. When there was only 1 tournament every 3-6 months there was no real reason to build, test, and update decks. Also few players are likely to enter such a format. This basically puts the format into a downward spiral where players don't have any motivation to play the format and WotC doesn't have any motivation to support it. This is also tied to the lack of any articles for the format. There really wasn't much to write about a metagame, when there was no metagame to write about since there were no tournaments.

One of the best things WotC has recently done for the fringe formats is to institute the new weekly tournaments. I hope that they do this for any new format that they try to institute. I actually thought they made a mistake by introducing KScope and then not having a tournament for the format until 3-4 months later. I think they should have had a tournament at the very latest 1 month after the announcement if they want to try and push a new format.

I also think that you misinterpreted the desire of many in the prismatic community to use the 5Color B/R List. It was very obvious to most who were suggesting it to WotC that the 5Color b/R list was born out of a different pool of cards and the way in which the format of 5Color grew. Many of us were confused why some cards like Panoptic Mirror were even on the list (thanks for the explanation) and knew than many of the cards were not the same as what was needed for Prismatic; however, using that list was far superior to the alternative. The absolute lack of any sort of reasonable attention and explanation that WotC was giving to the Prismatic list. This was extremely frustrating to the community and the idea was that we could at least get a halfway decent list by just copying the 5Color list. This solution also had the added benefit that it
required virtually zero overhead for WotC, they only had to update their list when 5Color did without putting in any other effort, since they did not seem to want to put in any effort for the format.

I'm sorry that you had such bad experiences with players in the format. I really never seemed to have the problem that you described. I started playing the format probably 2 years before the switch to V3 and most people I played with regularly were very encouraging towards newer players, but none of that makes you wrong or me right. There are always those jerks that can ruin it for everyone when you are unlucky enough to encounter them before the the more encouraging players.

I think one problem with the fringe formats is that the player base for them is not large enough that players are willing to split between the to practice rooms. What ends up happening is that players tend to just stay in Cas Cas because it is easier. When you see 10+ listings for SNG100 in Cas Cas and 0 in TP, it is not very encouraging to start your game in the TP room.

Overall, great article and thanks for writing somethign to compliment my article. I will be interested to hear if you have feedback on my second article.

You can find jerks in any format by eddie112 at Fri, 07/10/2009 - 11:51
eddie112's picture

Just saying.......

I'm a huge spike, anyone who knows me knows that. However you'll never catch me wasting my time in the casual room. Just like it bothers me when someone takes junk to the tourny practice room. In fact that happens to me so often that now i use solitare, my friends, and 2 player queues to test exclusively. Sad really. I wish people understood the reverse of the frustrations they have in the casual room. When you walk into the tourny practice room, and i'm trying to grab some playtest data, and someone sits down with 60 card zombies in extended, it drives me nuts as it wastes both of our time. Just my 2 cents.

5c was my favorite format (offline). I will never forget my college days of playing it. However, I wasn't good enough off financially (or at magic in general) to build prismatic decks until right before the format died. Oh well.... maybe someday they will zombify it. If so expect lots of prismatic info right here :)

Cause --> Effect by tempesteye at Fri, 07/10/2009 - 12:23
tempesteye's picture

"...
I was trying to say that WotC was not providing enough tournaments regardless of the actual amount of prizes to sustain the format. I believe that there is a critical mass in number of tournaments offered to sustain a format. Without that critical mass you will never develop a metagame nor encourage people to test and build new decks for a format. When there was only 1 tournament every 3-6 months there was no real reason to build, test, and update decks.
..."

I'd like to respond to the above statement. WotC provides tournaments for formats they see as active. Part of that involves looking at how many games of that type are played casually. If they don't see people playing Prismatic they aren't going to offer tournaments for it.
I think you have the logic backwards on this. It's not the tournament support which sustains or grows the format, it the activity level of the format which drives the number of tournaments offered.

If you recall back to V2, the Prismatic tournaments rarely fired, and when they did they were at, or just above, the minimum.

Prismatic always had a smaller following then most other formats to the nature of the costs associated with it. And new player acquisition was always more difficult for that very same reason. Without a dedicated community to push it, Prismatic withered. And that was, I think, the primary cause.

I believe it was Worth who stated on the Wizards messageboards that it is possible to revive tournament support for a format. But you need to show WotC that there is enough of an interest by a large enough group of players to make it worth their while.

And unfortunately, I don't think that there are.

"I'd like to respond to the by platipus10 at Fri, 07/10/2009 - 14:33
platipus10's picture

"I'd like to respond to the above statement. WotC provides tournaments for formats they see as active. Part of that involves looking at how many games of that type are played casually. If they don't see people playing Prismatic they aren't going to offer tournaments for it.
I think you have the logic backwards on this. It's not the tournament support which sustains or grows the format, it the activity level of the format which drives the number of tournaments offered."

I understand this argument; however, I still believe that the relationship is more circular than linear.

Why do people play Standard? or more specifically why do people play a format using the 2 most current blocks along with the most current base set?

At some point WotC created Standard as a format because they realized there was a need to create a format that used the most recent cards to both help sell sets and to keep a format that would be available to new players. Because this format fits their business model so well it only makes sense to give it the most support. I don't think that there were people all over the place playing under this specific set of rules and thus WotC created a format for them. If WotC had instead decided to make it the 3 most current blocks and the most current base set, you would see everyone playing that instead. Standard is the most popular format because it is the format WotC supports the most and WotC supports it because it is popular with players. It has now become a circular relationship. That circular relationship can start with either side of the relationship it doesn't matter. KScope is another format that started with WotC support and if popular with players will continue to get that support. KScope did not start because there were many people playing and demanding the format. Pauper is an example of a format starting on the opposite side. Many people were playing it so WotC decided to support it. I would bet that if WotC decided to stop supporting Pauper that the player base would drop off just as the player base grew when it received support.

Similarly if WotC said that they were creating a new format, but were not going to give it any tournament support there would likely be some early interest as people play with the new format, but it would likely eventually die off. People generally like to play formats that are written about and generally people write about formats that have tournaments, which inspire metagames and decklists.

No doubt that Prismatic had many other things going against it such as cost and deck building issues, but lack of any regular tournament support certainly did not help, as without tournaments there was not much to write about to interest players and help in acquiring new players. Also lack of tournament results made the B/R list haphazard at best.

The new weekly tournaments should prove to give formats a chance to make a showing and if unpopular it is more than fair to cut them, but this at least gives them the support to possibly succeed. If that possibility is never there then it will be difficult for any format to prove itself. It can happen as in the case of Pauper, but I think that is a rare exception and I don't think that it was easy for the Pauper advocates to build their community. A lot of work had to be put into it. There is a good chance that Prismatic would have failed this test and that is perfectly fine. I'm just saying that it never got to adequately take the test.

"If you recall back to V2, the Prismatic tournaments rarely fired, and when they did they were at, or just above, the minimum."

Actually the tournaments always fired in V2 until at some point about 1.5 years prior to V3 (but I cannot remember exactly), they changed the start time and then it never fired.

WotC created Standard to sell by tempesteye at Sun, 07/12/2009 - 11:14
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WotC created Standard to sell cards. That was, and still is, the primary reason it gets the lions share of support.
Think about how long and given set stays available for sale. There is a very concrete relationship between Standard and availability. Card sets are sold for two years and then retired. While you may still be able to get Lorwyn in a store after WotC stops selling it to retailers, players understand that it is time limited.
Standard is the most popular with players for several reasons including, but not limited to; the newness factor, the tournament support, and the marketing.

You mention Pauper as the other side format support, but pauper was healthy before WotC started support for it and it would continue to be healthy even if WotC now dropped support. Pauper has a thriving community. there are PRE's, 3rd party websites and articles all dealing with pauper and those wouldn't suddenly disappear if WotC stopped sanctioning pauper.

Prismatic never had a community. It had a few serious players and a slightly wider circle of casual players, but very little in the way of community. And I say this a a player who used to play Prismatic.

Weekly tournaments wouldn't be a panacea for prismatic. It's not like there's this grassroots wave of Prismatc fever just waiting to break free. I doubt there are more then a handful of players interested.

"Always fired until a year and a half before V3" kind of proves my point. It means that for a year and a half before the transition there wasn't enough interest. Plus, IIRC, it wasn't the time change that killed it, it was the fact that the tournaments went from 4x to 2X to 1x because at 4X the payout was bonkers even to the top 16, but at 1x it wasn't worth the effort for most players.

Look, I like Prismatic. I played Prismatic. I am probably one of the minority of players that have the capacity to build pretty much any competitive Pris deck. I do think it would be nice to have tournaments for it but I don't believe that WotC is going to offer them unless you can demonstrate to them that there is enough of a demand. One player, or two, or three, or even ten aren't enough to do that. Ten players do not a format make.

Great work by SpikeBoyM at Fri, 07/10/2009 - 14:39
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4

I remember playing CF 2 back in the day. It was actually my inability to compete in the casual room against other Prismatic decks that led me to look and find the PDC people. Prismatic can be fun, but in order to compete, you do need to invest a small fortune. I combated this by building a griefer style deck, full of LD spells, cheap creatures, and Epicenter (this was pre-Armageddon). Problem is when I played the deck, the foiled-out players would be upset with me for trying to win with my "bad cards" and I always felt bad when I played against someone just trying to have fun. There was no real happy medium.
Even worse is when I would take one of my "fun" decks out, like tribal zombies or reanimator, and just get crushed and called names. I think I've submitted more people to CoC violations in Prismatic than in any other format.
Just venting, carry on.

-Alex

Wow by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/14/2009 - 04:13
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5

Ok first of all thank you for writing about the history of 5C. I summarized it in platipus10s article I think but you really got to the meat of it and with a lot more detail. Kurt joined a 5 player chaos game I was in during PT NY fall 2001 (using a chaos deck in the middle to simulate world events) and he was a fun player but I had no idea he was the inventor of 5c until much later. Your article fills in some gaps and explains some things I didn't quite get at the time about the format. Like why people played with ante. That alone kept me from playing it myself, though I did build a deck before giving up paper magic entirely.

Is prismatic a dead format or merely taking a rest? I have to agree that it is an intimidating process to build a decent prismatic deck (one that actually draws lands occasionally that are relevant to cards in hand) and find good company in casual to play with on top of that. The Deck Editor which I expected to be better in version 3 is actually worse imho than version 2.5. But all that aside the idea is a fun one that I think will live on and eventually the issues will be fixed.

As far as bad behavior in casual I love the ability to block people who are obnoxious or unreasonable. I can't be bothered finking on morons who waste my time. I'd rather just avoid them completely and let someone else deal with them. When I am in the mood to play I don't want to be angry and hassled. But my experience with people who like the format is that they are intelligent and congenial. Very rarely do I find someone in prismatic worthy of baleetion. Maybe because I just recently came back (the end of April) to MODO I have missed a lot of the shenanigans as the players who wrecked it for you have stopped playing it entirely.

I do have to admit being someone who owns a few expensive cards and a lot of cheap cards that Prismatic isn't a format I could play competitively with my current collection. Given another couple hundred bucks worth of cards maybe I could. And maybe that says the worst thing about the format. Having to be Mr. Suitcase to have a chance in tournament is not fun. I will continue playing with the cards I have and building interesting decks (to me) and playing them casually though. I just hope WotC doesn't change the UI to the worse and lose the ability to even minimally support large decks.

Top Article- Excellent Discussion by xXWarIsPeaceXx (not verified) at Sun, 07/12/2009 - 02:47
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I am suspicious of any argument that says "If WOTC did more of...." it would all work. At the end of the day, it takes people. People find a way. If it is interesting, entertaining etc. then it will catch on. Fads and such demonstrate the power of such.

It is also my experience that joining a game - multi or 1v1 in a format that you don't normally play, is more likely to end up in flaming than sticking to what you know. Where I can drop underworld dreams and FoW in classic, I get flamed for not dropping a reflecting pool in standard. (Who would pay that much for a land irrelevant in classic is my view, but that is b/c of what I play).

Prismatic has suffered from the same elitism. I have attempted to play half a dozen games in my time on mtgo and each time it has been the people, not the format, that have dissuaded me from playing further.

Contract = ftw by xXWarIsPeaceXx (not verified) at Sun, 07/12/2009 - 02:49
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Apologies for double post.

When I first started playing, Unlimited, we all played for ante. Then we stopped.... But we kept using the ante cards - effectively RFG them, but not handing them over. Contract from below was simply just too sexy a card to ignore. And we all had 4 of them.

hmmm by Paul Leicht at Sun, 07/12/2009 - 15:33
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Flaming only occurs if you let it. :) I for one just explain that I am currently new to a format and that generally cuts the legs out from under any "N00b!" comments. If the rudeness continues the person gets blocked. I certainly wouldn't let someone else's ignorance of social decorum dissuade me from playing a format I like or am interested in investigating.

Yeah I loved Contract from Below but never got to really playing it irl. Only on Shandalar did I really get to exploit it to full effect. Ante in that game was crazy.

MED2 killed prismatic with a new HUGE entry cost by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 07/13/2009 - 11:40
Anonymous's picture

I was into prismatic until the end of v2.5. I quit for almost a year when v3 proved itself an unacceptable gaming experience during the initial release.

When I came back, MED2 was out of print. To compete in prismatic again, I would need 20 MED2 dual lands, a full set of which ran 400tix. For me, that was the deal-breaker. My collection had x4 of every card I could want in v2.5, but they printed and discontinued a vital set during my hiatus. If I put 400tix in, without regular events, I knew there would be no way I'd see it back. What I did instead was TRADE for four of the duals, one of each minus Tundra. They serve me well in the new 100-card singleton format.