Legacy, Unlimited and Wild, Oh My: Why You Should Try Eternal Formats
Here's another one from our digital card game team's owner, Aphelion! Aph goes over Eternal formats in card games and helps you figure out if they're right for YOU.
The digital CCG market has really exploded over the past 3 or so years. With Hearthstone taking off and leading the charge for the scene to grow, many others have popped up since. Now is an absolutely amazing time to be interested in card games, as you no longer have to track down tangible cards, buy sleeves to protect them, make time during the week to travel somewhere and play. You have the luxury of picking up your phone, tablet or computer, logging in, and playing as many games as you feel so inclined. We are truly spoiled, as card game players, with the variety of games and formats to explore.
The most popular, pushed and profitable of these formats usually shapes itself as "Standard". Generally, Standard formats in each game play with the most recent card sets, usually limited to the 3 to 6 most recent, similar to that of Magic: The Gathering. In Hearthstone, the Standard format is broken up by year, with the most recent year, plus the current year, being playable in Standard. This allows for changes in the format, so the game does not stagnate, and always feels fresh for competitive players. It also encourages players to invest in each new set in order to stay competitive, and ultimately support the company. Regardless of your chosen format, I always encourage players to buy at least some new cards each set, if they enjoy the game, to support the developers. Most digital CCGs have the option to be "Free to Play" (F2P), which allows you to develop a collection without paying any money. These options are great for players who can't budget for buying cards, although there is usually a pretty decent grind accompanied. In one of my favorite digital card game (DCG) articles of all time, Neon goes over this in great detail (https://rngeternal.com/2017/10/01/going-deep-free-est-to-play/).
Some games, like Hearthstone and Shadowverse, offer players an option to play with ALL of the cards released, rather than just those in Standard. I would imagine this will be an industry standard moving forward, when games such as Eternal, Gwent and The Elder Scrolls: Legends add a rotating Standard format. In Magic: The Gathering, there is both Modern and Legacy, in Hearthstone it's Wild and Shadowverse has Unlimited. The main appeal of these formats is that you get to use all cards available in the game, usually the decks with the most prominence combine incredibly powerful effects from the games history, a lot of your favorite archetypes of yore still have a presence, plus it incentivizes players to not "dust" or "disenchant" your rotating cards. This last point is something I am surprised does not get more emphasis from the companies. Many players will immediately dust their rotating cards, so they can craft cards from the forthcoming sets, in order to play the decks they want in Standard. However, if Hearthstone hosted more Wild tournaments, encouraging more people to stay somewhat active in the format, they would in turn be encouraging people to buy more packs since they had not dusted the rotating cards they have. There are two sides of this argument for sure, but I genuinely believe that the more support Wild gets, the more people keep cards and buy packs.
As an almost exclusive Legacy MtG player, I admittedly have a bias. I enjoy playing with the most powerful cards the games have to offer, and appreciate that my cards have value as an investment, rather than possibly depreciating in their entirety as they leave Standard. This is something that is incredibly common in Standard MtG. It's a natural part of the games ecosystem, and is what keeps Wizards of the Coast afloat, so it's existence is absolutely paramount to the games survivability (players buying packs/new cards). The same can be said for Hearthstone and Shadowverse, so I understand why Standard is very important.
What generally drives players to Eternal formats is boredom with Standard. Eventually, the price tag stays fairly high, players who don't try and liquidate with each rotation have loads of old cards floating around, and nothing to do with them. It happened to me, and I am very grateful it did! Since then, I have almost exclusively played both Wild and Unlimited. Again, I already subscribed to the mindset of Eternal formats being a lot more enjoyable long term, as they get new tools with each set, but also the meta does not shift as rapidly. One of the biggest selling points for Eternal formats, is that they stay fairly consistent. While new cards can come and shake things up (see: Star Aligner), they decks you know and love will likely be around for a long time. That is not to say the meta doesn't shift. New decks surface, and the top decks from standard often have more tools in Eternal formats, so they can even be more powerful. This is less so the case in Legacy, as Wizards has refined their card printing methods to not break formats as easily, but in Wild or Unlimited, often some of the top decks are just a few cards different than their Standard counterparts.
If you are interested in checking these formats out, hop on Reddit or the official Discord channels, and connect with players interested. Since they are inherently smaller, due to less tournament support, so less of a competitive scene, the player-base is generally very warm. The passionate members of these communities want to see them grow, so often you can find folks to make deck suggestions, refer you to valuable resources, give some coaching, or introduce you to streamers who can show you what is going on. Team Rankstar has a healthy Legacy and Wild presence, with some Unlimited players as well. Don't hesitate to come by and ask questions, as we would be delighted to assist with your experimentation with these formats.