Rarity Is Not Balance

I’ve seen an unfortunate trend start to pop up in collectible games recently: rarity indicating balance. Many collectible games are trying to establish the trend that more rare options (whether they are cards, heroes, or anything else) can, and sometimes even should, be more powerful than their more common counterparts. This is a damaging idea that I’d like to address. Rarity should be independent of balance.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to refer to the collectible component of the game as cards, as that is the most common media. However, realize that anything with a similar collectible component falls under the arguments I present. I’m also going to assume that there is some kind of competitive multiplayer component to the game, as almost every collectible game has such.

First, let’s break down exactly what rarity does in a game. The point of rarity is to provide that feeling of excitement to players when they acquire it. When you have a variation of rarity, you make it more exciting for rarer cards to be acquired. It also serves to artificially inflate the amount of resources that a player has to spend collecting cards in the game. These are good things, as they keep player interest longer. Even from a player’s perspective they can be good, as they keep the player excited and give them something more to strive for in your game.

However, what is also important is a healthy metagame. At the end of the day, multiplayer is one of (if not the) best option to provide a game with long life. Multiplayer will keep player interest far beyond what single player options will. In order for this multiplayer to retain players, it must be perceived as fair.

And therein lies the rub. If a game employs a collectible component, and the rarer components are simply more powerful, it breaks that core fairness component. Obviously this is a spectrum, rather than a simple yes/no flag. But the more powerful the rarer cards are, the more pay to win the game is going to be. The more dramatic the effect, the more damaging it will be to the game.

If it shouldn’t be related to balance, what should rarity do? Complexity. Cards that introduce new mechanics, or break core mechanics, are perfect candidates for being more rare. The more game-breaking (as in, different from the norm, not power) they are, the more rare they should be. This serves two purposes. One, it gates newer players away from more complicated mechanics. This provides a more natural learning curve for the players. Two, it provides an excitement to gain new mechanics as you collect more cards, giving you more options and breathing fresh life into the game.

Want to read more? See here. Extra Credits has also done a fantastic video on the topic here. What are your thoughts?

Solforge New Player Strategy Tips


Solforge is an exciting new digital collectible card game (DCCG) that is currently in open beta. It has a near dream team developing it – Richard Garfield, the creator of that little game named Magic: The Gathering, and Stoneblade, the creators of Ascension, one the best deck-building card games around. It’s attempting to push the boundaries for what is possible for a DCCG with mechanics difficult or impossible to replicate in physical form. However, these same mechanics make it difficult for new and veteran players alike to understand all of the nuances of Solforge’s strategy, so I have made this guide of Solforge new player strategy tips.

Continue reading

Solforge Forgewatch Invitational Top 8 Statistics


Curiously following the Solforge Forgewatch Invitational, I decided to calculate some statistics about the Top 8’s card choices and deck types. I found the results rather interesting and some of them concerning. Important note: These numbers come from a small sample size (one tournament, eight players), are for a developing game with many new cards recently added, and are calculated with quick and dirty math. Thus, the math below is more useful for observing trends (Uterra is really popular!) rather than exact calculations (Deathweaver had 20.3% more representation than it should have!). With that being said, let’s get on with it!

Continue reading

Why Echowisp is too Strong

Echoing Wisp

Echowisp is one of the dominant legendaries in the current metagame. It’s seen in both Uterra rush and Nekrum\Uterra Deathweaver abuse, among many other popular decktypes. This discussion isn’t new – it’s come up before in the vein of echowisp is much too good,  sorry I leave when echowisp is played, and why are echowisps so op, just to name a few. But I think that as the meta has matured and new cards have been added (looking at you, Mr. Deathweaver), Echowisp is (and may have always been) too strong.

Continue reading

Most Cost-Efficient Ascension Cards


As with many card-drafting, competitive deck-building games, Ascension places a heavy focus on maximizing your resource efficiency on every turn. This week, I will analyze the card set and identify which are the most cost-efficient Ascension cards. Note I am limiting myself to the first cycle here (Chronicle of the Godslayer and Return of the Fallen.)

Continue reading

Ascension Strategy


Having been a strong fan of Ascension for over a year now, it seems like this blog is overdue for an Ascension strategy article.  This week I’ll start with some basic math about starting hands.  Note that these probabilities will still apply even with the newest base set, as the energy shard allows you to draw a card when you play it.

Continue reading