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The Next Generation: Welcome to the Block!

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

6th April 2012

The Continuing Committee has been extremely pleased by this community's reaction to the announcement of block format and its planned changes to First Edition development. Your positivity and excitement has inspired us to deliver a truly excellent product in The Next Generation, and to work overtime to ensure that block format will be something that offers longevity, fun, competitiveness, and excitement.

This article is intended to give you all the information you need to plan, host, run and participate in block format tournaments. In addition, we'll let you know some of our long terms plans and share with you our expectations for how you can shape the future of block format.

A Brief History of Block
First, a little bit of context. When the idea of "block design" was first proposed, it was a single concept. We intended to design and plan our virtual expansions according to blocks, but there was never a plan to turn that structure into a new tournament format - that idea came later.

When we realized that our block design plan was almost entirely compatible with the desire to create a new, limited, constructed format, we merged the two programs into one to create the new Block Formats. But this did leave us with some problems to solve and some decisions to make as we wrapped up development of The Next Generation.

One of the first problems was that Design had built the starter decks with a different scope than what Block would end up using. When the project was first started (well over a year ago), it was to create virtual starters, not to create block starters. This meant that the starter decks would have cards in them that were not part of the block. And once Block Formats were created and set into motion, Design set out to solve this mismatch problem.

Supplemental Expansions
Design considered quite a few options for how to solve this problem, but settled on something that gives us quite a lot of flexibility: the creation and addition of a new expansion of reprints. This leads us to The Next Generation: Supplemental, a virtual reprint expansion of forty-five (45) cards that complement and enhance the starter decks (and potential constructed decks) for block format in general and The Next Generation in particular.

The Next Generation: Supplemental (TNG:S) contains all of the cards necessary to make the starters block legal. In addition, it has quite a few reprints of cards that enhance the deck building options for block play. For example, one can find reprints of Jo'Bril (for the Scientific Diplomacy deck) or Vekor (for the Raid Ancient Burial Site deck) - and even a copy of Trek's most famous starship for use with Finest Crew in the Fleet.

All of the cards in TNG:S are straight-up reprints (no alternate images) - except one! We thought a thematically appropriate alternate image for Assign Mission Specialists would be fun and put it in; however, it is the only change. All of the cards are legal in all formats - not just Block. It does create a bit of a weird situation where virtual cards (such as the Enterprise above) are printed in more than one place, but it makes the definition of block much cleaner. Thus, it was deemed to be an acceptable decision.

Why did we create a separate expansion instead of just including these reprints in The Next Generation? Logistics, mostly. We didn't want to force veteran players to print out cards they might not want - after all, if you've been playing or collecting awhile, you have more copies of Alternate Universe Door than you need. To make things easier for these players (and everyone), we separated the new cards and the reprint cards.

To make Supplemental expansions easy to identify, we've borrowed a trick and used the "gold foil icon" coloring. For example, compare the icons for TNG and TNG:S:

We've used this icon convention and this naming convention of Expansion: Supplemental so that it's something we can use again in the future. We plan on having - if necessary - one of these reprint-style expansions per block. So don't expect to see a Supplemental expansion for Project Umbridge or Project Snape; but you might see one next year when the DS9 block gets its "big" expansion.

So, with that said, what exactly is legal in Block? Well, as of the release of The Next Generation, the following products are legal in Block events:

Core Expansions
Homefront Homefront II Homefront III
(eta Summer 2012)
Block Zero: "Phoenix"
Life from Liflessness Straight and Steady BaH! Shades of Gray Resistance is Futile
Block One: The Next Generation
The Next Generation The Next Generation: Supplemental Project Umbridge
(eta Summer 2012)
Project Snape
(eta Winter 2012)

When you're building a deck for a Block Constructed event, you'll be able to use cards from any of the twelve (12) expansions listed above. All of the cards in Block are virtual cards - the only physical cards you'll need are as backing cards in your sleeves. For ease in the future, you can use our Search Tool to help you find out exactly what cards are legal. When you're searching for a card, you can use the Expansion drop-down box of the Collector Info section to select a specific expansion, or a specific block.

Figure 1: Expansion/Block Search Options

For now, you'll only find the TNG-Block option listed (in addition to each expansion). As more blocks are released, more options will appear and the search will only return the appropriate Block-legal cards. And don't forget, with a premium subscription you get access to this search engine in the deck builder, making the assembly of Block Constructed decks a piece of cake.

Figure 2: Limiting Results to TNG-Block Only

Sorting It Out
That's a lot of information, so let's break down exactly what you'll see, do, and download on Friday, April 13th. First and foremost, you'll be able to grab a high-resolution PDF of The Next Generation virtual expansion.

In addition, there will be separate downloadable PDF files for each of the three TNG starters: Federation, Ferengi, and Klingon. Each starter PDF will contain a cover sheet with quick start rules, and the entire contents of the starter deck. You can download and print the TNG Ferengi starter and it will come with every card you need - just cut, assemble, and play.

There will also be a link to (and an article about) the Virtual Pack Creator. Combining this sealed pack generation tool with the starter deck PDFs will allow you to hold Block Sealed tournaments, and we believe they'll be lots of fun!

This new version of the Virtual Pack Creator will allow you to generate packs of cards based on an expansion or series of expansions. For example, you can create The Next Generation packs that will pull from TNG and TNG:S; and, as more block-legal expansions become available, you'll be able to create virtual booster packs from those products as well.

Finally, you'll have access to the PDF of The Next Generation: Supplemental, containing all of the reprints needed to enable and enhance block play. If you already have more printouts and physical copies of these cards than you can handle, you can simply ignore this product. Otherwise, it adds quite a few new cards to the printable/virtual pool for use in all tournaments, across the board.

The Next Step
We hope this article has put everything into perspective for you regarding Block Formats and what you'll find come release day for The Next Generation. But the next steps will require your help. Block Format is young, new, and has a lot of growing to do. We are eagerly awaiting your deck lists, tournament reports, and discussions on the cards and their interactions and how they represent at tournaments.

We need to hear the good as well as the bad. If something is fun, let us know; if you run into problems, let us know those too. We'll be reading and watching as we work on Project Umbridge and Project Snape and looking to make adjustments to the block (in addition to the game as a whole).

Your feedback, combined with the lessons we've learned in designing The Next Generation, are going to be invaluable as we complete this block and begin work on the next. We can't make things better without your feedback and your help, so get to work! Start building and playing with the new cards, participating in Block Format tournaments, and - most of all - submit your deck lists and tournament reports!

This is an exciting time for First Edition, and we can't wait to see what happens. Stay tuned to our Gameplay forums as well as our front page for the latest news and discussion. Live long and prosper!

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