Less Is More

Apparently, continuing a series of … Is …

The subject of availability of V:TES cards came up recently.  Yes, it’s harder to get various packs/boxes/precons then it was.  That has actually been true for ages.  No, I can’t put myself in the shoes of someone trying to get into the game or expand what is possible for them to build.  But, I’d be curious to try.

I enjoy owning all of the cards for a CCG.  I enjoy having tons of chase cards others don’t.  I don’t think it’s a good idea when people can’t compete because it’s prohibitively expensive to get tournament necessary cards.  Of course, what is prohibitively expensive is open to question.

I can’t compete in constructed Magic formats with my current collection, with a few specific deck exceptions.  For instance, I could probably get a couple of sideboard cards and compete in Legacy with a Red Deck Wins deck.  I do own x4 Force of Will, though I read that Force is becoming less useful.

Staying on the subject of older formats, I’m missing largely two key things – modern creatures which are much more powerful and aggressively costed on average, multilands.  I have hardly any original dual lands and I’ve never tried to acquire sets of more modern multilands.  To me, fixing the land problem, by itself, seems prohibitively expensive.

In terms of more modern formats, though not so much Modern, I could run out and acquire a bunch of Standard legal cards, trade, pick up key singles, and become competitive only sinking a thousand* dollars into the game.  Again, that strikes me as prohibitive.

*  Based on typical value of singles of modern Magic decks adding up to $300-400 a deck, discounting because I’d buy boxes of cards rather than all singles.  Of course, this is a suboptimal way to compete in Magic from a cost standpoint.  Far better to draft against inferior players for rares, buy what is needed for a single tournament and turn around and sell cards that won’t get reprinted, and so forth – these strategies for cost containment, however, don’t sound appealing to me.

Getting back to V:TES, what is a prohibitive level of expenditure in effort and/or $$?

My recommendation to a new player (to an existing group) is to borrow decks until the player is sure that they want to play it for the long haul, then go find someone getting out of the game or putting a collection up on eBay.  That should give somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 cards to work with at a cost of something along the lines of $50-$300.  Then, can hunt for harder to get cards to build weirder decks.

That’s not how I got into the game.  I did borrow decks before investing.  I decided I was interested in creating my own decks from my collection.  I started buying Jyhad boxes.  Then, I bought some Sabbat.  Then, I bought some Dark Sovereigns and Ancient Hearts.  At some point, I had a case or more of Jyhad – it being so cheap at various points that we played a single game of sealed box Jyhad.  I stupidly didn’t buy a ton of Sabbat when it was cheap.  I bought lots of every White Wolf published expansion.  I virtually never traded in the 16 years I’ve been playing.  I have bought singles on eBay at times but not for years and, obviously, not before eBay was a thing.

On a tangent, speaking of playing for 16 years, it’s kind of interesting to realize that.  I still enjoy the game quite a bit, testament to the value of CCGs I would say.  Why only 16 years?  I was introduced to the game in 1995 and started playing the following year.

I had an epiphany at some point with the Babylon 5 CCG.  I know I’m rambling, but I’m finally getting to the point.  I had all of the cards, for all intents and purposes.  My collection was defined more by how many autographed rares or chase promos I had.  One day, I thought about how much more fun it was to build decks when I had only a couple of boxes of starters and a couple of boxes of boosters, roughly my initial purchases.

Ever since then, I’ve always kept in mind that there are disadvantages to being a Mr. Suitcase.  Mark Rosewater goes on about restrictions breeding creativity, and I can see that with collection sizes.  I felt much more creative and passionate about decks I designed when I had to struggle to figure out how to compete.  I put this down to thinking way more about each card when:  I had less of them to think about; I couldn’t just play a better card all of the time.  Then, the more thought put into a deck, the more I care about a deck, so the more I’m likely to enjoy a deck.

I frequently restrict myself when it comes to deck construction.  It’s not just because of house rules for play groups I might play with or even laziness.  Nor is it something I do just for V:TES.  I built rareless decks for B5.  I wrote a Scrye article on a rareless, promoless deck for Wheel of Time, a game chock full of power rares/promos.  Likely, it has something to do with Ultimate Combat! being my first CCG and how that CCG restricts deck construction by rarity.  I built iceless corp decks for Netrunner.  Minionless V:TES tournament deck … that got the edge twice in one round.  An all ax kick deck for UC!.  And, so on and so forth.

There’s just something stimulating about limitations.  When I look at V:TES, B5, WoT, or UC!, I can almost build any deck possible.  That tends to inflict me with an ennui.  Why?  Too many options.  Lack of focus.  I can easily put together 20 decks; how am I ever going to be as emotionally invested in 20 decks as I would have been for the 1-2 I had to put real effort into?

Anyway, it’s all great to talk about my own interests, but how does this relate to someone trying to compete in V:TES?

Unlike most CCGs, I don’t see where someone needs much to compete with a reasonable variety of decks in V:TES.  This isn’t Magic, where multilands are essential to multicolor decks.  This isn’t WoT, where even Light decks wanted ultrarare recruitable Forsaken cards for their discard effects.  This isn’t Dragonball Z, Star Wars, or a multitude of other CCGs with similar ultrarare issues.

The more cards you have, obviously, the more options you have.  But, not having every option is supposed to be a feature of CCGs.  It would suck if the only deck someone with under 5,000 cards could build for V:TES that could compete is Malk SB.  But, that’s also not the case.

What is the case?  Again, I can’t really put myself into other people’s shoes.  This most commonly comes up when trying to think of how to recruit new players to games that I’ve been invested in for years.  But, that’s another topic.

If I were limited to around a thousand cards, which is like some starters and two booster boxes, what could I do?  I’d imagine there would be a lot of problems with V:TES at that level, mostly because of the need for wake effects, pool gain (blood conversion if you are reading Darby’s latest offerings over at Inferior Babble), and certain staples that might not come in the particular precons I started with (or I was using starters from the pre-precon sets).

By the way, the starter box + x2 booster box level is the level of investment that I think of when I think of the concept of when I enjoy a CCG most.

V:TES is hard on new players due to no card limits – a primary reason why I would always have card limits, in fact prefer 3cl in my CCGs.  At the same time, it’s a game where a lot of decks can win.

How many?

I’m curious.  There’s probably a tool out there to do simulated booster packs for this game, but I don’t have it.  Precons are easy, I even have a bunch unopened, nevermind how easy it is to rebuild them.  However, precons have largely been missing far too many essential cards, being light on the most important things of quality masters and wakes, while also often having bizarrely unplayable crypts.

In reality, I have enough unopened product or unorganized product (never sorted boosters I opened) that I can run a number of experiments on what it’s like to have a modest collection.

So, I guess I should.

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3 Responses to Less Is More

  1. iclee says:

    Because of the crazy distributions of Third Edition, I actually have my quantities down to the common level for each card from my first six boxes. So, while I thought I might have a bunch of unsorted 3e in some random box, which I haven’t been able to find, I don’t need to worry about that. I can just pull cards to rebuild precons and boxes worth of boosters. First experiment, I guess, is one of each precon and one box of boosters to see whether I can make reasonable decks. Very likely go to a second box of boosters, maybe a box of starters.

  2. Brandon says:

    It might be good to stick with sets that are available right now. Here’s what Potomac has these days:

    http://www.potomacdist.com/list.asp?code=1640

    They are raising their prices significantly….

    There are other sources for cards, but maybe a $150-$200 investment would be a good imagined starting point.

    • iclee says:

      By far the most available cards are Jyhad cards. They just aren’t the most available unopened.

      Potomac hasn’t really been interesting to me pricewise for quite some time. But, looking over what they have, the most reasonable option for a new player is Third Edition, which is where I thought to start already.

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