There was a full decade of my life when I declared there were two things I’d never play. One was MMO’s. I decided this when a guy I knew quit his job to play Everquest full time and mooch off his girlfriend. The other was collectible card games, because I was astounded at how much money one could drop on them. This decision was made easy to live with by being in college and/or mostly poor. Over the last two years, both of these vows have been broken. I’ve started and quit playing WoW twice now, and last year I killed two birds with one stone by starting to play the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (which I will refer to hereafter as WoW TCG, as I dislike typing and/or pasting).
I was absolutely not prepared for having both disposable income and my first real introduction to collectible card gaming. At first, it was lots of boosters. I’d hungrily open each pack, hoping for a useful rare or epic draw. At some point, someone showed me the magic of buying single cards. While it never got to “completely irresponsible” levels of spending, I was blowing every cent I had available each week. And usually, it was on cards I “might use” after reading about some strategy on a forum. I shudder to think at how much money I spent doing this. Eventually, I managed to slow down. I started using LackeyCCG for my experimentation purposes, and I haven’t bought new cards in a month or so. I have more than I know what to do with now. More than I want to sit and sort.
I suppose I should actually mention that I really, really enjoy the game itself. I was never much into Magic: The Gathering, but a lot of the guys I play with were. In Magic, you have a ton of Land cards you use as resources to play your spells. Frequently, you find yourself either with not enough lands to do anything, or you have a crapload of lands and no spells. WoW TCG’s solution to this problem is to have generic resources that everything uses. There are Quest and Location cards that act as resources and have effects you can pay or tap for (frequently some variation on drawing more cards). If you don’t have any of those, you can just take one of the cards in your hand and put it face down. Ta daa! No more mana-screwing. This seems like a nice enough solution to me, but to watch a former Magic player see this mechanic in action is not unlike watching someone get faith-healed at one of those giant televised church revivals. Yes, complete with seizures, speaking in tongues, and the surprising ability to walk again.
The game tries to mimic its MMO parent in as many ways as it can, and you play a class with specific powers. You also play Horde or Alliance, which has different ally cards (and sometimes powers), and it provides a varied and rich game experience. That, coupled with familiar characters (to WoW players, anyway), gives the game a lot of personality. You can even stop fighting each other and play a “raid deck”, facing off against the bosses of many of the more popular raids in WoW. I personally have played Molten Core and Naxxramas, and I count these experiences as among my favorites in gaming. Ever. No, really. I enjoyed card-raiding way more than doing the same raids in “real” WoW. The card game is really good.
Therefore, you may understand my concern upon seeing this announcement on the official World of Warcraft forums. In short, Blizzard isn’t renewing Upper Deck’s license to make the game. Okay, so they’re going to change companies. Granted, all my cards have an Upper Deck logo printed on the back, but theoretically they’ll still be tournament legal if we all use opaque game sleeves, right? Right?
Then someone passed me this announcement. Here’s a good formula to raise my blood pressure.
- Step 1: Blow a ton of money on cards.
- Step 2: Read announcement that says “downturn in the economic climate” and “will not go into production” in reference to the card game you blew all the money on in Step 1.
Having seen a lot of CCGs come and go over the years, obviously this has me and the guys I play with very concerned. But this is Blizzard, and Blizzard isn’t known for failures. Here’s hoping they take a few shavings off their giant mountain of platinum and breathe new life into their errant creation. I think the most work needs to go into their marketing and public image of the game. There have been reports of tournament prize winnings not getting paid, which I’m sure they’ll put a stop to. The thing I think they need to work on most is the perception that the game is just an expensive way to buy yourself in-game loot in the MMO. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that. All you get is decorative stuff. Tabards, vanity pets and mounts. For me, selling the loot cards I got was just a way to keep funding the habit – like being a non-smoker in prison with a cigarette economy (except I don’t have Grom Hellscream tattooing a picture of Zy’lah Manslayer on my back for our “date” that night).
Here’s hoping Blizzard takes us out for dinner and a movie first at the very least. We’re not that kind of girl.