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Subject: CRACKING PACKS: A CCG true story rss

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Corbert de Ronde
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Listen closely, and pay careful attention. I'm going to tell you a story of a time not too long ago. Everything I'm about to tell you is true.



My interest in Collectible Card Games began, like many others in the early 90s. Competitive play didn't even exist. Some people just shuffled all their cards together and that was their deck. Others, myself included, purchased boxes of cards with a few friends and divided them between each other by colour. Most people didn't have a firm understanding of how to play, and it seemed like everywhere you went had their own house rules in effect.

That was the beginning, and it was fantastic fun. If you came up with a two card combo that made sense before your friends figured it out you were a king for a day. When deck designs finally began making sense they included cards of every cost from 1 to 7 at least. You just had to have something bigger to play every turn right! Eventually someone in your play group became the one to beat. Then something happened...



It began with the evolution of the comic store. A space was created to allow people to play games in the store. Sometimes against total strangers. It wasn't enough to be the best player in your group. Now you wanted to be the best player at your local store. This was the early beginnings of competitive play. Everywhere you went people were desperately trying to improve their decks, and their play skill. Suddenly certain cards were sought after because of their game changing effects. Every month every store would quickly sell out of Scrye magazine in case it contained a tidbit of information that could provide an advantage. Tournaments were organized at the store to see who really was the best. The decks got better, and soon players were divided between those that played aggressively, and those that played defensively. I was an aggressive player. Still am to some extent. I'm a very competitive person, and it wasn't enough to just beat the locals. My friends and I started taking day trips to neighbouring cities to test our skills against the best players there. This desire to be the best gave birth to the first large scale tournaments. Instead of being held at stores, they were held at banquet halls and hotels. After a while there was a few groups that stood out in Ontario. Hamilton, London, and Toronto had the best players. Each city vying to be the best. I grew up around Toronto so I had some strong ties to the players there, but during this period of competitive discovery I lived in London Ontario. In fact a good friend of mine and I opened our first Collectible Card store there called Gamepower. We could never have predicted it but within a year of opening it Gamepower became one of the centres of competitive Card gaming in Ontario.

What happened next was simply ground breaking. Tournaments being played, not for pride, but for money. This changed everything. What you need to remember is that Collectible Card Games are far from cheap. Especially if you are serious about being a competitive player. This is the one element that hasn't changed. So as Card Games progressed and competitive play became more prevalent the cost increased. In the beginning if you lost a tournament you simply said oh well better luck next time. When winning real money became the focus, losing was not acceptable. Tournament entry fees went up from $5-$10 to $25-$50 on average. When most competitive players were between the ages of 16 and 21, and are playing 4 to 8 tournaments a month it's easy to see how important it became to finish in the money. Personally I played an average of 3 tournaments a week in venues from Detroit to Ottawa. If you played competitive Card Games in the late 90s in Ontario I've probably played against you. I made enough money buying, trading, playing, and selling cards to eventually open my first store. It was the most enjoyable time I can remember playing Collectible Card games while still being very competitive. There was a sense of mystery, and excitement at every big tournament. Something sorely missing from the competitive scene these days. Unfortunately the introduction of professional level Collectible Card Gaming created it's own problems. Determining who qualifies as a true professional was the first, and believe me when I say opinions seriously differed. The second of which was of even greater concern. With the sudden increase in the value of the prizes being won. The urge to find ways to cheat was being felt by many. Some of the highest ranked players at the time were caught red-handed. I can remember how it felt when the change occurred. Where before you'd just play the game. Now a part of your focus had to always be on your opponent in order to keep them honest. It was at this point that playing CCGs began to lose it's lustre for me. Still the allure of creating something new, coming up with the next great combination of cards kept me going.

Which brings me to the final evolution of the Collectible Card Game. The Internet.

The Internet essentially ruined competitive Card gaming for me, and I'm not alone. I'm a great player, but I'm an even better deck designer. I was always searching for the next great combination of cards to defeat the masses. Everywhere I travelled I met others like myself. Testing out their most recent deck at a smaller local tournament. Working out the final tweaks before they enter that deck in a big money tournament. When that day came, and your opponent sat across from you. You had no idea what you could be facing, and neither did your opponent. The sheer excitement of facing the unknown was half the fun. If the tournament had 64 players. There could easily be 22 very different decks. When was the last time you were in a tournament with that much diversity? When was the last time anyone you played surprised you with a unique competitive deck? Was it in the last five years? I doubt it. You know why the surprise element is gone? The answer is the Internet. If a new deck design made top 8 at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany last Sunday. There's somebody playing it at a store in Toronto right now, and every other major city. I've played in tournaments where 5 of the 12 opponents I played against had the exact same deck. Out of the remaining 7 opponents there was only 3 more deck types, and one was just a variation of another. The real disappointment is knowing exactly what to expect from your opponent by turn 2. I could play a particular deck for months before I started to come across versions of my deck design in the 90s. Now it takes only one tournament and the cats out of the bag. I can remember a time when tournaments ended, the real camaraderie began. Total strangers would share deck ideas, debate the merits of certain card combinations, and discuss where they thought the game was going. Spoilers? Sneak peaks at cards yet to be released? Discussions about new game mechanics before the set that introduces it is for sale? Potential deck designs are posted on the Internet before the cards are even available for purchase. Gone are the days when you'd crack open a pack, read a potentially game changing card, and immediately start brainstorming a deck idea to incorporate it. It took me about an hour to crack open a booster box of cards on release day because I had no idea what I would find. Nowadays it takes me about 5 minutes.

So what keeps me going? Why, after so many of the things that made Collectible Card Games so fun, and addictive are gone do I keep playing? Every now and then I'll find a weakness in the current crop of tournament level decks and design something to exploit it. I'll playtest it with a few close friends. If my suspicions were correct I'll find the next available tournament, enter and finish top 8. For that one tournament I'm transported back to when Collectible Card Games were still new, and deck designs were awe-inspiring. Just the look on my opponents faces when their Tier 1 deck gets trounced by my "Rogue deck". That makes it worthwhile.



Is there more to this story?

There most certainly is...


Cobe
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Howell
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Welcome! Thanks for posting. I remember the good old days of Magic and all the other CCGs that came out at the same time.
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fightcitymayor
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Cobeness wrote:
Every month every store would quickly sell out of Scrye magazine in case it contained a tidbit of information that could provide an advantage.
Scrye and InQuest. Loved those magazines. Good times.
Cobeness wrote:
The Internet essentially ruined competitive Card gaming for me, and I'm not alone.
Agreed. Netdecking meant that a handful of top players set the tone (and the decks) for the entire meta no matter where you were. It homogenized strategies and made competitive games boring & predictable.

Did you know Panini released a new CCG just a few months ago?
Afterworld
http://www.afterworldgame.com/
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Jerry Martin
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You have to play some Commander. At least the people I play with have huge variety. I bet between us we have at least 50 different decks.
 
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Jason Walker
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It's odd that you went through the whole write up without naming a particular card game. While it's most likely that you mean Magic, I'll just assume you're talking about Sim City: The Card Game.
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Corbert de Ronde
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Nice one Walker.

Thanks for reading my article everyone.

Sim City definitely made the list. I left out naming particular Card Games because unfortunately netdecking wasn't limited to just Magic. I dealt with the slow demise of original deck design in a number of good CCGs. Magic the Gathering, VS system,and Legend of the Five Rings were all essentially nerfed by netdecking.

Scrye and Inquest, damn those were the days. I played high level competitive Magic at that time, and hoping to catch a tidbit about yourself, or one of the tournament decks you had built in one of those magazines was such a rush.

Even Commander gets the netdecking treatment to some extent, although there are still those (myself included)that can utilize the format to design something truly mind-blowing.

A couple of friends of mine and I have discussed some of the ways of getting past the netdecking conundrum. Of course there's limited formats like sealed deck and draft. You don't want to have to buy cards every time you feel like playing though. Then there's team variants but that again requires a steady group of players, and you ultimately still end up with people playing their netdecks. Not realizing that most tournament decks absolutely suck in a multiplayer format. The best idea we came up with is to create our own formats. If the group of people you normally play with meet up at a gaming store most Sundays. Then all of you decide on a set of guidelines that define the format, and you have a week to design a deck for it.

Of course there's another way... but more on that later.

Cobe
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Cobeness wrote:
A couple of friends of mine and I have discussed some of the ways of getting past the netdecking conundrum. ... The best idea we came up with is to create our own formats.

How about simply not looking decks up on the Net?

Seems like the obvious solution.
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Corbert de Ronde
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LOL, that's like telling a kid they can't open their gifts on Christmas. Originally our one source of information was through publications like Scrye and Inquest. All of us couldn't wait for the magazines to come out. The waiting is over, so the time for experimentation is effectively reduced to zero.

That's the unfortunate reality.
 
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Alison Mandible
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Cobeness wrote:
Of course there's another way... but more on that later.


Is there a sales pitch at the end of this road?
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Jason Walker
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Cobeness wrote:

A couple of friends of mine and I have discussed some of the ways of getting past the netdecking conundrum. Of course there's limited formats like sealed deck and draft. You don't want to have to buy cards every time you feel like playing though.


So... Cube, right?
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Cobeness wrote:
LOL, that's like telling a kid they can't open their gifts on Christmas. Originally our one source of information was through publications like Scrye and Inquest. All of us couldn't wait for the magazines to come out. The waiting is over, so the time for experimentation is effectively reduced to zero.

That's the unfortunate reality.

No, it's like telling a kid who received a Rubik's Cube for Christmas not to look up the solution before trying to find it herself.

I'm just like you. I also think that figuring out new combinations and facing decks you've never imagined, just like we all did back in the day, are the best parts of CCGs. The constant sense of mystery and discovery really was wonderful, wasn't it? So why deprive yourself of all that?

The solution here really is very simple.
 
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Corbert de Ronde
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Damn I wish you were in my play group.
 
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Corbert de Ronde
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As far as sales pitches go. This isn't the forum for that. I have a project in the works and you can read all about it in the relevant Forum, but I'd really like to see what others think of the current state of CCGs here.
 
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Timothy Young
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grasa_total wrote:
Cobeness wrote:
Of course there's another way... but more on that later.


Is there a sales pitch at the end of this road?


Yes.
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Corbert de Ronde
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So I popped in to one of the local card shops here in Toronto. After playing a few games of multiplayer Commander, and games of Head to Head Modern we got to talking. Of course I couldn't help myself and brought up the netdecking issue. The majority agreed, but there are still those that prefer to copy someone elses deck because the time it requires to design their own is too taxing.

I suggested they give my design a new format idea a go, and everyone agreed to try it. So we will all get together next week Saturday to see what we all came up with, and play a few games.

If it isn't obvious by now I actually love deck design so I'm already going through my boxes of cards to see what I can come up with. The modified rules we settled on were Modern legal cards but the deck has to be mono coloured and include cards from at least 6 different sets. Decks can include Artifacts, and activations costs do not have to be of the same colour.

Anyone that's interested in taking up the challenge can take the week to design a deck. We can compare each other's creations later.

Cobe
 
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Keith B
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Cobeness wrote:
So I popped in to one of the local card shops here in Toronto. After playing a few games of multiplayer Commander, and games of Head to Head Modern we got to talking. Of course I couldn't help myself and brought up the netdecking issue. The majority agreed, but there are still those that prefer to copy someone elses deck because the time it requires to design their own is too taxing.

I suggested they give my design a new format idea a go, and everyone agreed to try it. So we will all get together next week Saturday to see what we all came up with, and play a few games.

If it isn't obvious by now I actually love deck design so I'm already going through my boxes of cards to see what I can come up with. The modified rules we settled on were Modern legal cards but the deck has to be mono coloured and include cards from at least 6 different sets. Decks can include Artifacts, and activations costs do not have to be of the same colour.

Anyone that's interested in taking up the challenge can take the week to design a deck. We can compare each other's creations later.

Cobe


and.....are you just going to keep us all in limbo?
 
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Pete Lane
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Cobeness wrote:
So I popped in to one of the local card shops here in Toronto. After playing a few games of multiplayer Commander, and games of Head to Head Modern we got to talking. Of course I couldn't help myself and brought up the netdecking issue. The majority agreed, but there are still those that prefer to copy someone elses deck because the time it requires to design their own is too taxing.


You also need to factor in prizes. When you are aiming to do your best in any hobby for a tournament where quality prizes are on the line you practice, study, test, and sometimes upgrade some equipment.

Netdecking for some means "bringing the best deck for the meta" to the tournament to help chances of winning prizes. Those decks have already been tested, are likely tuned to have answers for a wide variety of threats, and have a proven track record. Sure there are plenty of high level players who will take that awareness of the metagame and try to brew up a deck against it... but if that strategy works they end up becoming someone else's netdeck a week later.

So really, as much as I like brewing my own decks sometimes it's just the smartest choice to netdeck depending on the level of tournament.
 
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