|Image by Privateer Press|
In previous years, Masters has always been a simplified version of the regular steamroller packet. Slimming the scenario selection down to only those that are the most carefully balanced and competitive, and removing any gimmicks that might inadvertently give any player even the slightest inherent advantage over the other. In recent years, Masters has been a three list format with the divide and conquer rule in effect, meaning that each player has three lists to chose from at the start of a game, but that each list had to be played a certain number of times. This meant that it was possible to be locked into playing an unplayed list in the final rounds of an event and that your opponent in that round would know which list you had to play going into it. Beyond that however, the rules were the same as a regular steamroller tournament, just played at a higher level.
This year Privateer decided that they wanted Masters to be more unique and have a flavor all together different from regular steamroller. I suspect this was in large part because the number of steamroller scenarios has been pared down to only those that would normally make it into the Masters packet in the first place. The first, and most controversial, change they made was reducing Masters to two lists per player rather than three. Anyone who has played in one of these tourneys knows that there are a lot of different strategies that can be exceptionally difficult to play against without having the right tools available in your list. So reducing the number of list builds you get to have drastically reduces your ability to prepare for every contingency you might face at an event.
Privateer combats this issue two ways. First, each player needs to play each of their two lists only once. So it's a lot easier to keep yourself from being list locked and providing your opponent with the advantage of knowing what your are going to play before getting to the table.
The second is by introducing a concept called Active Duty Roster. This is a rotating selection of four warcasters that, if used in both of your lists, give you access to 20 points of specialists. Essentially allowing you a sideboard equivalent to nearly half your total points. While this is an interesting way to combat the "list chicken" problem, allowing players to set lists up to play into multiple strategies by changing out army components, I can't help but feel like the inclusion of the rotating four active duty casters is just another ploy to try to goad players into purchasing the casters that aren't seen as competitive. Further, it's only a matter of time before the most competitive casters end up on the list, and if that utility isn't spread equally across all of the factions, then one faction is sure to have a pretty decent advantage over another. I'm holding out hope that this will all work out and lead to a greater variety of casters in the scene, but right now this experiment is looking like one of Privateers rare mistakes when it comes to competitive support. Templecon is just around the corner, so we'll be seeing real soon if this move is a success or a disaster.