The Collectible Card Game Thread – The Case for Useless Cards

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.

You may have seen the scene pictured in the header last week – a man was throwing out a bag of 10,000 Magic cards and it split and made a giant mess all over his stairs. A common response to this that I heard was “How can you be throwing out so many cards?” On some level, this is reasonable – you spent money and effort collecting those cards, and now you’ll get rid of them? Isn’t every card precious?

What this article presupposes is: Maybe they are not?

At the same time as the aforementioned schadenfreude, Valve’s new digital CCG, Artifact, is going though a PR kerfuffle. Among the complaints are the fact that some of the cards that people will open in the boosters that they pay for are, in their words, “useless.” This has long been an item of discontent among most CCGs, so what’s especially egregious here? Part of it is that the business model for Artifact is much different from other digital games. Most of them work on the Free-to-Play model, where you can turn your time into some form of digital currency or otherwise. But Artifact does not do this – it’s more like a physical game where the only way to turn time into currency is to get a job (the horror). There are drafts and events where you can sometimes gain value, but it’s difficult and skill-intensive. So all this comes around to making it seem like the individual cards should be “more valuable.”

But should they? Should every single card that comes out of a booster be competitively playable? Should there be a mechanism not to ever have more of one particular card than you need? In a game like Artifact, where Valve takes a cut of every “trade” (or really, “sale”), is it acceptable to be “forced” to trade away your “useless” cards?

In short, my answers are “No, meh, and um….”

As to the first question, competitive play isn’t necessarily the “point” of every card. Some cards need to be “introductory” cards, to ease players into understanding how to choose between cards. Some cards can be fun cards, meant to create interesting plays and situations without destabilizing the competitive environment. And some cards are aimed at drafting, where having a power gradient is part of makes the format tick.

As for the other two questions, it’s kind of tricky. There have been a bunch of methods in digital games for addressing the “extra” card problem, but it’s still being worked out and I haven’t yet seen the “perfect” solution. But for physical games and physical-like games (Artifact), the mechanism is the same one that makes everything else tick – the secondary market. Which leads in to the third question: and that’s…. really going to have to wait for an answer. I’m increasingly wary as we get closer to Artifact being a “real” game but we’ll just have to see if Valve can pull it all off.

Until then, we’re still going to have draft chaff and stacks of bulk commons. And the longer you play a game, the more they build up and build up until they end up all over your stairs.

(But maybe consider donating your extra cards to youth centers or the like.)

This week’s prompt: How do you feel about “useless” or “extra” cards? How much of your home have they taken over?

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of *CGs.