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For Collectors, What's So Super About Super Rares?

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Originally published here. It looks better there because I have better control of the html and photo captions:

I love Dice Masters. If you're reading this, I can assume you enjoy the game on some level as well. I love everything from the game mechanics and the sense of community this game enables, to opening packs to see what cards/dice I will add to my collection. I just got back from a trip to NYC with my students, and they looked at me with dumbfounded looks when I told them the highlight of my trip was stumbling upon a game store on the outskirts of Koreatown, buying 10 packs of the new D&D set and pulling a super rare I had not owned. This from the guy who had a ticket to the Late Show with Colbert screening with guests John Oliver, Jordan Spieth and New Order.

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Despite the sheer enjoyment the game provides, I find myself pondering whether I will continue to support the game, and it all comes down to one factor for me: WizKids. Others have spoken on the topic, so I'll go on a limb and say I'm not the only player to reexamine Dice Masters. Though I applaud many facets of the game, there's one aspect that threatens to kill any willingness to continue my obsession with Dice Masters: super rares.

More specifically, how hard WizKids makes it to collect them all.

Consider the latest set: World's Finest. In order to "Collect all 142 Cards", a gamer would need to purchase at least four boxes (360 packs) to obtain a complete collection, assuming the unlikely scenario this person draws two super rares per box (of the two boxes I purchased, only one satisfied this condition) without doubling up any of the precious red-lined cards. It leads me to conclude that WizKids has forsaken responsible capitalism in exchange for milking its customer base for as much money as possible. A bit cynical, perhaps, but let's look at how the game has evolved.

WizKids should be commended for early changes to the game that showed they cared for their community. The Avengers vs. X-Men set contains two major flaws that WizKids addressed and fixed. First, I think they realized that players felt cheated if and when they purchased a booster box of 60 packs and did not pull one super rare, so WizKids increased the number of packs per box to 90 to remedy the situation and guarantee players pull at least one super rare per box. The second flaw, which often gets overlooked, dealt with the characters featured in the AVX starter's set. The booster-pack versions of characters featured in that starter set carried the uncommon designation, which made it difficult to collect dice for popular characters like the Hulk, Human Torch, Beast and Storm. WizKids changed this so common versions of all future characters featured in the starter set would be pulled from booster boxes. Players who now purchase two boxes of booster packs and a starter set average about 7 or more dice per all starter and non-starter set characters (except for Black Lanterns and other 1-die characters).

That's the last positive change that immediately comes to mind. Since then, WizKids has not done much to boost my confidence or loyalty to their company. My local game store has been having problems with their Dice Masters distributor, and two of my last three paid-in-advance pre-orders were not completely filled in a timely manner. The game store owners tell me it's hard dealing with their distributors because regardless of the specific order, the owners never know whether they were going to receive more or less product than they ordered. I remember when WizKids announced their Rainbow Draft promo program last year and the store ordered a promo kit on my request. I felt that it would provide a great opportunity to crystallize a suddenly active Dice Masters community. Unfortunately, it took at three to four months before the first promos arrived (Teen Titans), and our local scene had fizzled by that point.

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Moving beyond the hyper-local, let's not forget the WizKid Open prize fiasco, in which none of the announced participation or winner's prizes were available at the time of the events. I have still not received my participation prize or the cards I earned for placing second at the Lacey, WA event (let me know if you got your stuff by posting in the comments). After supposedly qualifying for the 2016 Dice Masters National Championship at this event, I checked out the WizKids website for any information regarding the event. It took some searching, but I managed to find a news release from January that stated the event was going to be held in New Jersey in April or May. Two days later WizKids announced a venue and date change to Origins in June. As of today, I still haven't received any official announcement or letter from WizKids saying I qualified for the event (not to mention the prizes), regardless of the amount of preparation it takes to plan and arrange travel for such an event.

It's also getting harder for me to overlook the environmental impact of the game. I'm far from perfect, but I try to be a socially responsible person. I don't own a car, and always vote for the candidate who prioritizes policies that positively affect the environment (apparently I'm better at playing Dice Masters than choosing popular political leaders). I attempt to collect each card and 8 copies of each die so that I could accommodate a two-player game at a moment's notice. I have purchased (at the very least) every starter set and two boxes of booster packs for each set save Yu-Gi-Oh and the first D&D set, though I have managed to acquire both complete sets. Before Age of Ultron, I'd have a pretty fair chance of needing only a few cards to complete the set after purchasing two booster boxes and the starter's set.

But then WizKids doubled the number of super rares in a set from 4 to 8, and collecting Dice Masters now requires a larger financial commitment for players who intend to collect each set in its entirety. Looking at my most recent World's Finest purchase, I needed five super rares, one rare and five non-Black Lantern dice to complete the set. After purchasing 180 packs, I still lacked more than half of the super rare cards. Players who purchase two booster boxes reach the point where they can buy an additional booster box and only get two cards that they need.

What kind of collector likes those kind of odds?

Even before I reached that point, I had 190 common, 63 uncommon and 5 rare doubles from my initial purchase, and these numbers have grown exponentially as I've started buying single packs to whittle my sparse needs away. I've bought 25 additional packs thus far, and have been able to scratch four dice needed off my list. I still need the same number of cards. Side note: Another customer bought the remainder of the box that I pulled most of those packs, which further increases the likelihood I will not pull the cards I need since the number of non-SR packs resets to its maximum number with each new box. I understand that vibrant communities might be able to support numerous drafts to help collectors acquire cards they need, however some of us live in places like rural Idaho, which is so dice backwards we cannot get our act together to even host one PDC event in our state.

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Meanwhile, I'm guaranteed to endlessly pull more and more plastic dice and cards that hold little economic value. I've built starter decks I've given away and mailed numerous care packages, but the truth of the matter is I consider most doubles that I get nowadays to be little more than waste. I'm totally cool with WizKids releasing cards rare powerful promos like Iron Fist that are only available at WizKids-sanctioned events, but I'm finding it harder and harder to justify supporting them when they engage in an economic model that exploits its customers to such an extent. I'll be looking very closely at the Dice Masters set that proceeds Civil War and TMNT (which I hear is a self-contained set. The idea has promise, but I do enjoy purchasing the occasional DM booster pack because it gives me a consistent low-cost purchase I can make to help support my local game store).

Quite simply, my future in Dice Masters is going to come down to the number of super rares WizKids includes in future sets. If they continue to release sets that contain 8 super rare cards, I am done financially supporting their company.

My friend Ben and I have discuss the game's shortcomings occasionally. He's an enterprising sort, and he's tried to convince me to design a new dice game with him. After a few brainstorming sessions and note-taking sessions, I can say with 100% certainty that I have no desire to create a new dice game. Dice Masters is already a (mostly) perfect game that brings me tremendous joy when I'm playing. Unfortunately, the game is now structured in such a way that I feel like I need to be a secondhand Dice Master vendor in order to justify the large purchase cost required to complete just one set. The time and effort it takes to manage my doubles detracts from the best thing about the game: playing it.

What do you think? Should WizKids go back to offering 4 super rare cards per set?

Updated 03-22-2016 at 12:43 PM by Mactavius

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  1. ninjahonor's Avatar
    To quickly answer your question, I don't believe we should go back down to 4 super rares. Having 8 encourages trading and promotes community. Now, below for my thoughts.

    It appears you are stuck in the "collectors conundrum". The want for all of the cards of a given set. I, too, was in this group for a long time, buying up feeds and trading for the rest. What I came to grips with, and this may or may not apply to you, is that I don't need every single card. I have most of the major cards that are needed to be competitive right now (save for rare dwarf wizard), and if I didn't have it, I traded for it.

    The point I'm trying to make is perhaps your love of collecting is getting in the way of having fun with the game? You could decrease your spending on dice masters. This still supports the company, but not as much as you previously had. I feel that your approach is very black and white when there can be a gray area. One of my first blog entries on TRP had to do with playing casually and yet wanting to be the best. I feel your scenario draws a parallel.

    Just the thoughts of a rambling dice masters friend. :-)

    PS: The city is Lacey, WA.

  2. Mactavius's Avatar
    I see where you're coming from ninjahonor, except I live in rural Idaho, where the odds are stacked against sustaining an active trading community. We can't get more than four people to attend a draft (usually less). I don't live in a vibrant DM community, though I am trying to build one. I loved the WizKids Open event because it was the first opportunity for me to trade cards. I only needed to travel 350 miles to do so.

    I also try to be a competitive player, and as such, I want every tool at my disposal. I collect to be a competitive player. A "worthless" card today might suddenly become quite exceptional when paired with a card from a different set, and most of my strongest builds/teams resulted from me just flipping through my binders and reading cards.
  3. Mactavius's Avatar
    Follow-up: How does having less Super Rares in a set discourage trading and community-building?
  4. Scum's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mactavius
    Follow-up: How does having less Super Rares in a set discourage trading and community-building?
    By having more to get you have less of a chance of having everything, so you trade with people to get those things. The problem is it's actually really fallacious logic because the people who'd be interested in trading for things are people that already play the game so it doesn't really draw new people to the game and thus doesn't really build a bigger community - it just makes the community that does exist have more incentive to spend money.
  5. Jwannabe's Avatar
    I find the fact that gravity feeds went from an average of 21 rares per box to an almost exact 16 in the last couple sets the most concerning issue That's a huge rare draw rate difference.

    But I also agree that 8 super rares are too many.
  6. Jauron's Avatar
    I agree, too many super rares. The feeling we are being milked is turning me off a lot. I proxy many cards now, I don't feel like there is a reasonable alternative.
  7. pk2317's Avatar
    First off, I just got my WKO cards yesterday, so I would expect them to arrive this week. Yes it stinks that they didn't have them at the event, but I'm willing to accept that there were logistical factors beyond their control. The fact that they are mailing them to every player, at their expense, speaks a lot to me.

    I think the increase was partially because at 4 SRs, people would buy 1 case and be done. No incentive to buy more, which means more stock is just sitting unpurchased at the store (how many boxes of UXM are sitting unsold all around the country?). People wanted the incentive to buy more, so they added 4 more SRs and Chase variants. Now even if you buy a case, it's still worth picking up packs now and then to have a chance at the SRs/CRs you're missing. But people complained about the chase Rares and guess what? They did them for 2 sets and then listened to the user base and stopped.

    The more product is purchased, the more is out on the market for trading or giving away to new players to entice them to join the game. Curb the completionist tendencies, and just consider the "normal" SRs as "the set" and the unique Zombies/BLs/Epic Magical Items to be a reason to still do rainbow drafts once you've "completed the set". Realistically, only some of the SRs are competitively playable anyways (one of the better things to come from the AvX "fiasco" of the "best" cards being impossible to get).

    All that being said, it was nice to meet you at the WKO. I won't be at the next one in Lacey though since we have one in Oregon this time
  8. GNGJ's Avatar
    I'm new to DM but not new to the collector's conundrum. My local area is also not a DM haven. I began collecting/playing 7 weeks ago. It's been fun going back and collecting sets. I started with AVX and began moving forward. I bought feeds for AvX, UXM, and BFF. And then found someone selling Tsarina and Gobby and I bought them. At that point I realized that I just couldn't commit to collecting every card. YGO brought me to realize this too. So I bought someone's used YGO collection online, which contained the 6 or so cards I wanted including BEWD, and contained a lot of other goodness. It didn't have Jinzo so I found one and paid cash for the single card. Instead of buying a feed and being disappointed to not get the cards I wanted I searched online and found what I wanted. Another criteria for collecting a set arose at this time. Do I really want this set enough to buy a feed or case? With JUL AOU WOL and ASM I decided that I just wasn't interested so I ordered starters for each and bought the cards and dice I wanted individually. FUS and WF looked great so I bought a case of each and am selling many of my SR to fund my hobby. However, I kept and purchased the SRs I wanted for each set.
    I say all this to show how you can still be a collector and not include every SR as a requirement for your collections. Get the few you want and forget about the rest. If that SR becomes awesome in the future then pick it up at the going rate. Another alternative is to just scoop the ones you missed off of eBay. For the price of a case you can grab the 4-5 SR you missed from your first case. Then you have your complete set and don't have to keep searching. Make it so that you still enjoy it. That's the key.
  9. Nemesis's Avatar
    I have no issue with the number of super rares in a set at the moment, but I have never been a "gotten catch em all" type player. The thing I like is that I can be mostly competitve (Top 4 in 2 PDCs) while playing with just the cards I have. I usually buy a gravity feed for each set and do a draft or two. From there I trade within our small community to get anything I might be missing.


    I am on the brink of simply cutting ties and being done with the WizKids shenannigans. Here's why:

    1) Development: There is simply just NOT ENOUGH development being done. There are cards mistemplated or misworded. There are MULTIPLE rules interactions that require the WizKids Rules Forum to weigh in on with EVERY set.... I just can't understand how we as players have been so accepting of how terribly developed the games is. The design is FANTASTIC!! but they just don't put enough effort in passed the "this is a fun idea" stage.

    2) Speed of the Formats: FOR GOD SAKES WHY? I mean it was about 8 weeks give or take for FUS to be on the back burner as WF was released? Now WF has been out a week-ish and we are already looking forward to Civil War? I haven't even had the opportunity to draft WF ONCE yet! I am not at all ready for a new set. I wasn't ready for World's Finest as I had been hoping to play with the FUS cards for a bit!

    3) Cost: I'm thinking at this point, I need to sell my daughter to some Vietnamese black market rice farm in order to have the cash availble to buy my one grav feed, a started and do, what at this point might only be 1, drafts. Partly its the exchange rate and economy but mostly its the fact that I just can't keep up with how fast they're pumping out the sets. The cost here is freakishly high for the items you get in return and as @Mactavius mentioned half of what I pull after the first few packs is doubles (+) and ends up trashed.

    All in all I REALLY like the game and wished more people in my area played regularly but I know my community is getting smaller. Why? Because WizKids just can't seem to get their S#!} together and put a little effort into this GREAT game.
  10. KennedyHawk's Avatar
    I really don't think the problem is the number of super rares in a set but maybe the number in a feed. If we had 8 super rares per set and the number increased in a feed from 1-2 to 2-3 that would even the odds quite a bit.

    I was also pretty happy in Spiderman days when the super rares didn't really need to be sought out. (They weren't that great). Now World's Finest came along and shattered what I thought was the new design philosophy.
  11. bahamut7's Avatar
    I see the pain from the collector perspective, but than again I don't collect. Most Super Rares really aren't that good. Wizkids started this game with the mindset that a player didn't have to pay to win. So Super Rares are niche cards. The other problem is that your rant is essentially asking them to standardize the SR pull from feeds. Isn't the point of a SR to be well super rare? Sure, 1 or 2 per box guarantee would be nice for the collectors.

    My advice is to sit back and determine if your current approach to the game is worth it in the long run.
  12. KennedyHawk's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by bahamut7
    I see the pain from the collector perspective, but than again I don't collect. Most Super Rares really aren't that good. Wizkids started this game with the mindset that a player didn't have to pay to win. So Super Rares are niche cards. The other problem is that your rant is essentially asking them to standardize the SR pull from feeds. Isn't the point of a SR to be well super rare? Sure, 1 or 2 per box guarantee would be nice for the collectors.

    My advice is to sit back and determine if your current approach to the game is worth it in the long run.
    I'd disagree that this was their original philospy at least two of the SR's in the first set are bonkers good. They seem to saver in this respect. Some SRs are almost must haves for competitive play. Black Widow, Gobby, Constantine, Zombie Magneto. Then some are complete duds. I'd like for them to pick a standard with Super Rares. Either make them strong and sought out (like several of the WF rares seem to be) or make them awful, (I'm looking at your ASM - Hulk), they could even pick a middle ground but pick one area and stick to it.