FAB 2.0 Review: Part 3 – The Cooldown

Hopefully you know the drill by this point, but, if you wandered into this article out of nowhere, it’s actually part of a series of three that were all released at the same time. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here, and the Mega Update index here. With that said, I assume you’re here for the riveting conclusion to my very extensive (some might say far too extensive) review of the FAB 2.0 info dump. After the last two, this one is actually kind of anti-climactic. The last section of the FAB 2.0 press release is, I think, the most cut and dry of the three, and a lot of it feels fairly procedural. Though, one nice thing about is, especially compared to Part 2, is that it’s packed with very concrete details, making it much easier to assess. What follows is pretty much all focused on organized play, rankings, card legality, and player rewards, so put on some chill music and let’s try to vibe our way through this.

Little Tweaks

The first piece of info here is that the types of events that Elo ratings apply to is being expanded. The stated goal is to make Elo accessible to more players globally, which, no complaints from me. LSS is considering an activity requirement being tacked on, which I always have mixed feelings about –but like, they’re largely very abstract philosophical feelings about how one cultivates a field that most consistently assures that the “best” players get invited to the big events. And it’s not super interesting to read; it’s more of an argument you have with other nerds over alcohol. So, shelving that for now, this all seems good, and the main question is if the K-factors feel like they scale properly. If none of that made sense to you, then probably don’t worry about it (seriously, if that isn’t already stuff you’re thinking about, you probably don’t need to start now).

The next bit of housecleaning is the banned and restricted lists. Short version, Blitz technically had a restricted list, but no cards were ever put on it. Now it doesn’t have one! I actually feel pretty strongly that games shouldn’t use restricted lists if it can be at all avoided because it opens up a lot of potential for cheating, and when you have competitive games being played for money, you’re going to have cheaters. As FAB’s competitive scene and prize pool grow, we’re going to get cheating scandals (we already had one recently). I honestly believe that you cannot totally stop cheating at big CCG events with the logistics that are available without spending a fortune. What you can do is make it as hard to cheat as possible, and a card’s legality being a binary legal/not legal helps reduce opportunities for people to cheat.

LSS is also introducing a “suspended” list. Functionally, this is just a ban list that comes with an implicit “we might change our minds on this one in the future.” The interesting element here is that one of the conditions they give as an example of what a suspension might look like is “Until [HERO NAME] becomes a Living Legend,” which is an interesting way to tackle a hero having a broken interaction with a card. I’ll be curious to see if some currently banned cards get moved to the suspended list pending the retirement of the heroes that caused them to be banned in the first place. This one feels largely like a technicality to me, there was nothing that I’m aware of that prevented them from “unbanning” a card before, but I do think this has the nice rhetorical element of implying that these cards might be back vs a more concrete thing like “look Drone of Brutality does things to the format we don’t like, and we’ll unlikely to ever bring it back.” Again, totally fine change here.

Hopefully all that smooth sailing didn’t lull you to sleep because there is one potentially controversial addition in this section: Weapons now get retired alongside their respective hero when they reach Living Legend. We’ll talk about the gameplay and collectability implications of this in minute, but I want to pause to ponder something related to the lore. The article frames this decision as partially attempting “to honor and strengthen the crossover between the game and the world of Rathe.” So my thought here is that heroes’ signature weapons vary a lot in terms of how iconic they are. Like Kassai’s “Cintari Sabers” or Kayo’s Mandible Claws, while tied to that character, feel way less integral to them than something like Dawnblade does to Dorinthea or Edge of Autumn does to Ira. Hell, I am 100% certain that Dash, as a charter would retire her Teklo Plasma Pistol in favor of some wild new weapon she made. So, if/when one of the integral weapons gets retired, are we going to have to get a narrative drop that explains how it was destroyed or why it was shelved, or will we just get a new version of it, like “Dawnblade, The Shiniest Sword”?

Alright, back to the more substantive implications. In terms of how this impacts official play, it seems like it has the capacity to be both good and bad things. For instance, Briar taking Rosetta Thorn away from other Runeblade if/when she’s retired probably shakes things up a bit. However, I can imagine a scenario, especially when the card pool is truly large, where a hero’s signature weapon is actually not the one people are using with the hero to get them to LL.

To illustrate an easily understood concept in an unnecessarily detailed way, imagine that “Punchy, Drunken Brawler” has the signature weapon called “Just a Normal Boxing Glove.” Now, this weapon is indeed just a normal boxing glove, and it’s a totally fair and reasonable card that people could happily use in their decks without creating a degenerate meta. However, Punchy, Drunken Brawler is not going to be held back by his mediocre weapon. No, Punchy, Drunken Brawler has a date with the Living Legend list, but he’s sure as hell not going to get there by playing Just a Normal Boxing Glove in his decklist. Don’t worry though, we can work with this. You see, a couple years ago LSS did this Return to Everfest set, and there was hero by the name of Kid Presentable released alongside his signature weapon “The Stinger”. Kid Presentable was a gimmick that no one plays except for PvE players and people trying to annoy you in the hot new multiplayer format. On the other hand, The Stinger itself is like a Normal Boxing Glove wrapped in barbwire, and Punchy, Drunken Brawler is going to tear through the meta with it. So, when it finally comes time for Punchy to hang up the glove, the glove he’s going to be hanging up is Just a Normal Boxing Glove, meanwhile The Stinger will return to the wild to await the next drunken idiot whose going to use it wreck people. (Yes, this was a very contrived and overly-elaborate set up to shoehorn in a favorite Simpson’s reference.)

But anyway, you see what I’m saying here (I hope). While there is probably going to be a general tendency for heroes’ signature weapons to be good for them, there’s no guarantee that weapons that are a problem will get retired alongside the heroes they help propel to LL status. So, in terms of whether this move improves competitive play or not feels a bit up in the air to me. I suppose it opens up design space. But, if you’ve created a powerful weapon for a weak hero that becomes a persistent problem as new wielders step in as others are retired (as in my Simpson’s example). I don’t know that, given that potential scenario, it’s not just better to ban weapons directly when the weapon itself is a problem? While this feels kind of meh from a gameplay angle, it’s a definite minus from a collectability angle. As we’ve seen with Duskblade, weapons that are banned tend to lose a lot of their financial value. Seen through that lens, this change means that the odds a weapon will be banned have gone up, which makes them feel like riskier things to buy/trade for. This isn’t a huge deal in a world where the rarest weapons cap off at non-foil Majestic, but still decidedly a small negative.

On the topic of Living Legends, the FAB 2.0 release posits a future format where all Living Legends are legal, noting it would take some time before it was viable. This is the kind of thing that can be disregarded entirely. It will take years to create this sort of critical mass of heroes, and even if we get there, it is very possible that one of the Living Legends will be extremely broken, even in comparison to the rest of the pool, and it will make for a super boring format. Also, to be blunt, we’ve literally never seen the Living Legend system work. No heroes are retired and the system has already been changed several times. I think it’s quite likely that the system will change more before we have a critical mass of LLs, or it might even be abandoned entirely. Due to those factors, I’m not seeing this as a meaningful announcement. It’s more like your friend saying “wouldn’t it be cool if…”

Oh, the article’s still going on about LL stuff; nevermind. There is a bit clarifying that LL points awarded for seasonal events aren’t static and will scale with the number of events to help produce a consistent amount of movement from the legal hero pool to the LL list.

Now we’re done. As I said at the outset, this was the least volatile part of FAB 2.0. LSS has their OP in order, and it shows. We’ve got a bunch of tweaks to the systems to keep them running smoothly, some improvements on existing infrastructure, and just a bit of obsessive fiddling with an element that’s largely ornamental. But, you can’t get too mad at someone for polishing the hood ornament on their flashy muscle car.

I mean, I assume that’s a thing people do. I don’t actually know anything about flashy cars. I drive a 2019 Legacy because it has all-wheel drive, the short list of modest features I require from a car (heated, leather seats, for one), and it amuses me to be the lesbian who drives a Subaru stereotype.

Oh, crap. I was going to end the article there. It was going to be like, this little jokey bit that really strangely pissed off a couple people, amused the small handful of fans of my weirder shit, but that most people just found mildly annoying. Like, it was going to have this sort of nice little layer where the progression of these three articles starts off serious and even a bit harsh, loosens up a bit while still being critical, and then just chills out before getting silly. But now I think I skipped over “silly” and just made it awkward. Well, on to the end I guess.

It seems like we should do a sort of “FAB 2.0 overall” thing to close out. It just feels like what is the “done” thing in this sort of article. So, yeah, FAB 2.0. I give it a 2.0. Eghhhhh…. (throwback to Part 1, baby). OK, seriously for real now, I think that FAB 2.0 is like a 6.5 or a 7 on a 10 point scale. There are some things that sound good, but aren’t really accompanied by enough details to convince me they’ll be able to make good on the promise. Aside from a couple that are actually bad, most of the things I don’t like tend to be cases where I think the changes are neutral and I would have liked to see an improvement. And there are some easy wins that are just good stuff. I would say that it hasn’t significantly changed the level of confidence I have in FAB as a product. To make that position a little clearer, I think FAB has established a solid footing in a tough market. They’ve taken one element –organized play– and made a solid case for FAB being one of, if not the best game on the market in that aspect. I think the game benefitted tremendously from its initial price boom, but that era has passed and we should not expect investor dollars flooding in to scoop up product and drive interest going forward. That means that for FAB to grow enough to be the fourth “big CCG,” LSS is going to need to make changes to court casual players. They seem to recognize that this is the case and have some proposed ways to address it. I feel like they are leaning in the right direction on these, but they haven’t given me enough information to feel confident that it’s all going to work out.

Ah, damnit! This is where I should have done the trails-off-but-then-tags-up-on-it gag.

Maybe next time…


*Header Image – Cintari Saber by Reza Afshar

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