Costly mistake or beneficial idea? The impacts of 4 SR's vs 8 SR's & 4 Chases
by, 07-28-2015 at 03:42 PM (2812 Views)
I want to preface this entry by explaining something right off the bat, because I know this is going to come up. I like DiceMasters a lot. I like Wizkids a lot. They produce many, quality games that are loved all over the world like Heroclix, Attack Wing and the game we all know and love, Dicemasters. I also get something else out of the way. This is not an issue of "feeling entitled" or whining. If you would like to correspond, please do, but keep things civil and avoid flaming. This is a sensitive topic, I get it, but there's no need to get into a big rage about it.
So, what are we going to talk about this week? If you somehow have not figured out from the title of the article, I would like to discuss the impacts on games in general when high rarity cards become exactly that. High rarity. @Scorpion0x17 has made a helpful spreadsheet on google docs by compiling as much feed info as he was able to get his hands on, I highly recommend you check in out as I will be pulling some numbers from there.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have probably noticed that Wizkids has increased the number of super rares per set from 4 to 8, and has also decided to included not 1, not 2, but 4 chase rare cards in the set. To some people, this is a welcome idea because they draft all the time and it gives them something to look for in the draft setting. To others, however, this has generated a few problems. I am one of these people. While not being a "full set" collector, like a few people I know, my collection is limited to a few types of sets. I collect full art/extended art cards, all OP cards, and of course, anything I like or want to have to use in a team. The only set I have collected fully as of the time of writing is Yugioh series 1, because I come from a Yugioh background and love the characters, anime and game, for better or worse and I just had to get it all. Now, how did I manage to complete my set of Yugioh? I bought a case. 2 sealed gravity feeds which gave me every common, every uncommon, most of the rares and most of the super rares. In the end, I only needed to trade for about 4 rares and a super rare to finish my set. This has been the same for a friend of mine. A new set will come out, he will purchase a case, and then trade for the last super rare and the few rares he needs to finish his set so he can get back to worrying about playing the game. and having fun. Things were simple, cards were inexpensive and it was easy to trade in a way that made both parties happy.
This goes back a few months ago. JT, theroyalfalcon and I were hanging out during the final hour of Canadian nationals. Jt and I had just finished our last game, finalizing the results for the tournament, and theroyalfalcon was patiently waiting around for me like the extremely nice guy he is so I could carpool back home with him. However, by a stroke of luck, both JT and theroyalfalcon managed to snag something really cool. An uncut sheet of the Age of Ultron super rares, with zombie chase rare cards. This was the first time anyone involved in the community had a glimpse of these new cards, so it was very cool to see. JT immediately got the images to Randy here at TRP and posted them on the front page for our speculation and wonderment to take hold. Chase rares were obviously a new addition to the game, so people wanted to see how difficult they would be to obtain, and whether or not the pull rate of super rare cards would increase. Well, now we know.
Thanks to the spreadsheet I mentioned earlier, the numbers are in, and honestly, they aren't what they should be if this increase in hard to obtain cards is here to stay. People were still getting bad boxes with only 1 super rare, 2 supers per box is as high as it went. A good case would have 4 super rares. 4. Let's compare that to earlier sealed cases, which would generally have 3 super rares. On the surface, 4 may seem like an improvement, but previous cases would contain 3 of the 4 super rares in a set. That's 75% of them. Now, a case of a new set will contain 37.5-50% at best of the super rares in a set. That's a dramatic decrease when you consider the fact that overall quality of super rares has not increased either. Zombie red skull, thanos, zombie electro, zombie gladiator, captain universe, even groot, all range from pretty bad to just barely playable at best. That's 6 of the 8 in a set. Compared to other sets, where there may be 1 poor super rare, your chances of purchasing a gravity feed and getting a super rare you really didn't want have increased by quite a lot. Chase rares factor in even worse, at about 1 in every 10 gravity feeds. Even that number is a little off, as there have been a few instances of people opening a feed and getting 2 of the same chase rare card, while others open case after case after case, and cannot find a single one. The distribution is wonky.
So you may be wondering, how does this affect things as a whole? Sure, it's harder to complete a set by opening a case and doing some trading, but you can just buy singles online or draft all the time right? More expensive cards had to be a good thing, surely!
Let's look at why that is not the case. My favourite example to look at, is Yugioh. That game is expensive. They love rarity bumping better cards and making commons through to rares awful all the time. For many years, they had 2 secret rare cards per set, and a secret rare existed in about 1 out of every 2 boxes. These cards were almost always incredibly powerful, game changing cards, or were highly collectible, so they were sought after. However, right around the time a set called Soul of the Duelist came out, secret rares were removed from the game without explanation. They came back in Strike of Neos, and they came back with a vengeance. Instead of 1 secret per every 2 boxes, it was a rate of 1 secret rare per box. The catch? The number of secret rares per set exploded to 8. Sound familiar? I hope so. So what happened after the secret rares increased in size? Easy, purchasing product was no longer the way to go. Why? As the number of secret rares increased, the difficult of obtaining good cards did as well. The company realized that they could try and exploit the playerbase by printing more and more powerful cards as secret rares only, presumably thinking that it would increase the amount of product being sold. Instead, something else happened. Stores, especially online retailers with good links to distributors, became the main way of putting cards into people's hands through the form of singles. Since they are the only effective way to get what you want, they had and still have, immense control over the prices of cards. This was never more visible than during the formats between the sets Phantom Darkness and The Duelist Genesis. A bunch of high rarity cards, including the affectionately name DAD (Dark Armed Dragon) and Emergency Teleport created a monstrosity of a format called TeleDad.
Ask any Yugioh player who has been around for many years about Teledad, and they will be happy to share some horror stories. The price of a DAD skyrocketed to $500 a copy. Guess how many of them you needed to make the deck work. 3. $1500 CAD for 3 out of the 40 cards that would be making up your main deck, not including the other 30 split between your extra and side decks. The cost of a Teledad deck, the undisputed best deck in the game at the time, could easily be over $2000 CAD. That's frighteningly high. Let's look back at the product again. The chances of pulling a specific secret rare you wanted back in the day were about 1 in 3 on the low end to 1 in 4 on the high end. Chances of pulling a specific secret rare in Phantom Darkness, such as DAD? About 1 in 8 if you were optimistic, but the rates were even lower as Konami knew DAD would be sought after and artificially rigged the chances of getting one by messing with ratios and short printing cards.
What's the purpose of that anecdote, and what does it have to do with my point? By allowing this kind of thing to happen, you put an immense amount of trust in the hands of the people who are in charge of making the game and keeping it fun. Do I think Wizkids will abuse this trust? Not really. But I do think it's important to be aware of the possibilities when these kinds of things happen. People are surprisingly quick to defend companies whenever they make unpopular decisions, and it's not something I've ever understood. It's not the customer's responsibility to remain loyal to a company. Rather, a company should be doing things in the interest of keeping it's customers happy. That's how you stay in business. When rare cards become harder and harder to obtain, the secondary market is happy to become exploitative, and artificially raise prices, even when the demand may not necessarily be there. It also makes trading more hostile, as people are easily blinded by shiny things, and will go out of their way to rip, scam, steal and nickle and dime anyone and everyone they come into contact with. Not all rare cards are created equal, but we are leaving the time where a super rare for another super rare was a sensible trade.
It's a messy subject, with no necessarily right or wrong answer. There are only answers which are more or less correct than others. What is the optimal number of super rares per set? What is the optimal pull rate for them? These are all arbitrary. One final point before I start to wrap things up though. Let's look at all the super rare cards from AvX through to AoU.
AvX: Black Widow, Green Goblin, Wolverine, Mr. Fantastic. # of power cards? 2 (Widow and Goblin) Super rares per feed? 0.5
Uxm: Spider-man, Iron Man, Emma Frost, Scarlet Witch. # of power cards? Debatable, 1 (Scarlet Witch) Super rares per feed? 1-2
YGO: The Winged Dragon of Ra, Slifer the Sky Dragon, Obelisk the Tormentor, Thousand Dragon. # of power cards? Debatable, 1 (Thousand Dragon) Super rares per feed? 1-2
BFF: Tarrasque, Red Dragon, Stirge, Mind Flayer. # of power cards? Debatable, 1 (Stirge) Super rares per feed? 1-2
JUL: Constantine, Black Canary, Catwoman, The Flash. # of power cards? 1 (Constantine) Super rares per feed? 1-2
AoU: Captain Unvierse, Thanos, Groot, Jocasta, Z Magneto, Z Electro, Z Gladiator, Z Red Skull. # of power cards? Debatable, 2 (Jocasta and Z Magneto) Super rares per feed? 1-2
This is basically what I've been trying to explain to people. With the exception of AvX and AoU, each set has roughly 1-2 supers per box, 3 per case. AoU rounds out to 3-4 per case, but has not increased the number of valuable super rares. The counter argument of trading to get the cards you want falls flat on it's face when you realize that cases are expensive, and while the number of super rares has increased, the number of good ones hasn't. Not to mention the chance of getting that good one has gone down significantly. This leads to more and more people getting the "Emma Frosts" of the set instead of something good they need to remain properly competitive without having to spend ridiculous amount of money. Don't even get me started on what this does to collectors.
We've already begun to feel the effects of this, with players either becoming less confident in the game's sustainability or just flat out leaving the game altogether because they've seen how this tends to go down. I love Dicemasters, and I don't want Dicemasters to become another Yugioh or MtG, or Vanguard. Now, the last cost vs benefit to wrap things up.
Positives of 8 supers and 4 chases per set:
- More cards for people to look out for and get excited about when drafting
- Chase cards provide another range of cards to collect
- Very slight increase in super rare pull ratios, giving a small boost to more casual players who just want to see a red stripe on their card when they open a pack
Negatives of 8 supers and 4 chases per set
- Collecting a set by purchasing a case for $200 and doing some trading is no longer viable for people who seriously want to get everything in a timely manner
- Creates a scenario where more and more cards are harder and harder to get, which can turn off new players
- Provides a breeding ground for bad behavior such as stealing, scamming and counterfeiting
- Puts a lot more trust in a company than some may feel comfortable with
- Inflates prices of cards on the secondary market
- Makes purchasing product less and less viable long-term
- Many super rares still aren't very good, which makes the chance of getting a good one even lower when buying sealed product
- Super rare pull rate was not increased enough to account for the much more difficult to obtain cards, and hurts collectors
We've already seen some of these things. After worlds, CSI ballooned the price of a rare Blue-eyes white dragon card from $12-15 to $55-60, making it more expensive than almost 90% of super rares. Is it really worth that much? You tell me. It's a good card, but it's pretty clear that the websites selling singles were very quick to take advantage of the situation, and it worked. Having a spare blue-eyes is like having a spare Green Goblin back during the AvX days.
So, now that my rant/discussion is done and over with, what do you have to say about the topic? Are you worried about the increase putting the squeeze on collectors and competitive players, or do you think it isn't a big deal? As long as everyone remains civil, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Thanks for sticking by this far into my blog entry, and if you have any questions or suggestions, maybe you think I missed something, feel free to leave a comment or send me a private message and I'll try to address everyone.