The CCG Thread – Expansions and You

Welcome to the *CG thread, where we talk all manner of Card Games – Collectible, Trading, Living, and otherwise! Feel free to chat amongst yourselves about the card games you’re playing or anything card game-related that strikes your fancy.

It’s that time of year that players love and dread in equal measure. Expansion time! Right now, there are two major expansions coming out, replete with new cards, game shakeups, and rotations that will hopefully bring a refreshing change-of-pace to their respective games.

Hearthstone’s Witchwood expansion is due to drop later this week, a set based around spooooky ghost stories and unusual deckbuilding decisions.

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And Magic: the Gathering’s Dominaria expansion is coming in a few weeks, celebrating Magic’s 25th year with a return to its original setting in a set focused on lore and history in a land where historic people, places, and things are everywhere.

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(Side Note: On Friday, LoadingReadyRun will be streaming their Dominaria “PrePreRelease” – a special event where they play a mini-sealed deck tournament before the PreRelease next weekend, which is itself a sealed deck tournament that comes before the real release two weeks from Friday. Event Creep is weird!)

Expansions are core to the CCG experience in the same way that cards themselves are. Where cards shape the micro-customization element of deckbuilding, expansions form the macro-level. Every expansion is a different set of cards that bring different themes and strategies to the forefront. The game you play this year is going to be different than the games of last year or 10 or 25 years ago.

Generally speaking, an expansion is a thematically linked pool of cards released all at a time. They can be a unique setting, like many of the Magic: the Gathering sets, or a period of time in a story, like Legend of the Five Rings. Or in a licensed product, they may correspond to an analogous work, as with Pokemon. In a traditional CCG, it might come in the form of boosters or other randomized product, or in the case of an LCG, you would get it in the form of a prepackaged set or sets of cards. Often, an expansion will have a unique mechanic or ability that sets it apart from other expansions and create exciting, novel gameplay.

As time goes on, an obvious problem arises – you can’t print an expansion forever (except in digital, though most digital games have expansions go out of print anyway due to my next point) and as more and more expansions come out, the total card pool of the game become so large as to be unmanageable. A result of this is the creation of Formats – a limited number of expansions that can be played together. There are plusses and minuses to this – they have a lower barrier of entry, and all of the cards are theoretically available in retail products, but the constant churn can be frustrating and there’s feel-bad moments when cards that you like “rotate” or become illegal as new expansions come out. Thus, expansions can be a time of exciting new discovery or of disappointing goodbyes to favorite cards and decks. (Games may also want to make larger non-rotating or slowly rotating formats where players can use more of their cards and the metagame can develop naturally over time. In a future post, I’ll go into formats in greater detail, along with the impact of larger, “eternal” formats.)

This week’s prompt: How do you feel when a new expansion comes out? Excited? Overwhelmed? What’s your favorite CCG or LCG expansion?

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of CCGs/LCGs.