It's fine if the decision was not to cater to the vocal minority here. The problem is that this nerf is more likely to remove flame notes as a choice from the casual audience than it is the hardcore audience. Flames were (arguably) overpowered only in the hands of those that could string together massive chains without missing, or who could play 2 simultaneous lanes in a 4-part song. For the vast majority of players struggling to 5-star or gold star most songs, flames are now completely out of the question.
When I started playing I consistently achieved higher star ratings with blast notes and thus rarely attempted flames my first month, even being nearly 5 times higher in value than they are now. There's just no chance that I'd consider them today under those same circumstances. I'd quickly write them off as useless much as I did runaway notes.
At the same time on the expert/hardcore side, pinball scores can compete with original flame note scores which will still lead to outliers at the top of the ranks. In rare cases of very slow tempo songs with less than 5 parts which aren't that dense (such as Charlene in this week's tournament), it may be possible for a miraculous jackpot/flame run with an incredible amount of timing window abuse combined with luck to stand a fighting chance. Though that's far from a fair reference point for balance decisions to be based.
I attempted Charlene a few times today and could only manage to come within one-third of the top score, but think it might be possible with a single jackpot and single flame chain encompassing the entire song. If anyone pulls that off (or has already done so) I'd be curious to know how it fares.
I guess I'm a bit confused about the intended goal of tournament participation, and more specifically what factors this had hoped to achieve to motivate further participation.
Was it reducing score gaps such that even if scores are out of reach, psychologically they don't appear too out of reach? Leveling the playing field such that lesser skilled players realistically do have a higher chance, in hopes to spread prizes to more people? Encouraging power-up diversity such that everyone feels more included? Appeasing balance complaints in hopes to increase customer confidence? Or some combination thereof.
I think we're seeing already that outliers and large gaps will still occur at the top, and that only a handful of expert-skill players (most who've posted here) are likely to land there. As mentioned earlier, flame notes are likely to be almost entirely removed as a choice for casual users hoping to better their scores or beat friends at their skill level. This leaves blast notes as the only reliable option, decreasing power-up diversity across the board.
I could be wrong but I don't believe the lack of this nerf would have been a breaking point for any player otherwise wishing to participate for fun, nor do I think its existence will attract new participants. It's easy to say "flames were overpowered / something had to be done" when looking face value at top scores on certain leaderboards. But it quickly becomes a lot more complex with a full understanding of the actual mechanics and factors at play, and I wouldn't be surprised if popular opinion is reconsidered after seeing this in effect. Either way I think those people would be participants regardless.
To put it in perspective, for all combinations except jackpot previously you had to hit about 6-7 flames per chain to compare favorably with blast notes. With this nerf you need to average 28-29 flames per chain. That's far beyond my ability even with bandmate for 4 and 5 lane songs, much less that of more casual players. That's also totally independent of song length and multipliers (my previous post breaks down this logic further).
This all completely ignores the side effect of being left with leaderboards and personal scores which are very difficult or impossible to top for players of all types that have been lucky with flames in the past. In my opinion that would have been the deciding factor to lean in the direction of buffs, or even keeping how things were.
Simply sticking to using a majority of 5-lane songs for the tournaments would have in my estimation promoted well-rounded competition just as well, except without having to stir the pot with such a major balance adjustment and potentially revert back afterwards.
While I don't fully understand the reasoning behind the decision, I'm always thankful for the resources devoted to the community. It's great to see important issues continually discussed amongst new goals and content added on a regular basis.
Until I hear otherwise I'll hold out hope that eventually I'll be able to finish playing the rest of my library the challenging way I've learned to enjoy the most. Relying on pinball isn't fun for me, but I'll still attempt tournaments in the meantime because it's the one place leaderboards are accurate.