Revising Startup with Midnight Sun

More than two years ago, NISEI introduced a new format called Startup. This aimed to provide a competitive experience within a limited card pool, especially for new or returning players looking for an exciting format with a low barrier of entry. With the release of System Gateway, the initial card pool of that format was very clear and straightforward: System Gateway, the most recent System Update, and the recently finished Ashes Cycle, consisting of Downfall and Uprising.

Startup was a huge success. It brought together players of all experience levels and provided a format that was both comparatively easy to grasp, but had surprising depth, variety of playstyle, and scope for self-expression via deck building. It provided an accessible next step up for any player who had explored System Gateway as a compact beginner experience and wanted to join their local meetups and tournaments. 

Now that we have the insights from the previous Startup format and are close to the release of our next cycle, we were overdue to revisit the core ideas of this format and re-evaluate our options. For that reason, we have first decided on who is actually responsible for any sort of changes to the format structure and have agreed to place that responsibility in the hands of my team, the Balance Team (formerly the Standard Balance Team). Rest assured, however: this does not necessarily mean that a banlist for Startup is coming any time soon!

The upcoming rotation of the Ashes cycle, triggered by the release of Midnight Sun, caused us to re-evaluate what the Startup card pool would look like. One of the format’s strengths has been its wide variety of viable decks, which allowed players to choose the faction and archetype of their preference without being unduly punished by the strongest decks in the metagame. With Ashes rotating, we were concerned that the card pool would become too small to support such a wide range of play styles, and that the best decks in the format would be discovered too quickly and overshadow everything else. 

Investigating our options, we were therefore looking at two possibilities: either adding Midnight Sun to the current card pool, or rotating Ashes on its release. Both options come with their distinct advantages and disadvantages. The concerns we outlined above, however, finally swayed us towards the former solution. We have therefore come to the decision to change the definition of Startup slightly.

Moving forward, the card pool for the Startup format will be:

  1. System Gateway and the most recent System Update (currently System Update 2021), 
  2. The most recent complete NISEI narrative cycle, currently Ashes (Downfall + Uprising), and
  3. all sets in the current incomplete narrative cycle, which for now means Midnight Sun (the first half of the Borealis cycle).

This way, Startup will always include a complete NISEI narrative cycle for players to work with in deckbuilding. Once the second half of the Borealis cycle, Parhelion, is released, the Borealis cycle will be complete, and Ashes will rotate out of Startup at that time.

We believe this to be the more conservative option that will help Startup remain an engaging format in which players can explore a variety of different playstyles, while still providing a low barrier of entry with a relatively small card pool.

We will revisit this decision in a few months and ask for your direct feedback. We will be especially keen to hear from people who are not actually reading this right now: those who will discover this game in the coming months, come to enjoy it, and join our community of passionate players.

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