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As a long time TCG player (magic for ~20 years and Star Wars before that), I hope that I can shed some light on what I think can make a card game successful and perhaps what Panini can do to keep this game going for many years to come.

Formats:

In a TCG cards are released in expansions or sets. These sets are than often grouped into blocks (2-4 sets). These blocks can be grouped together to form formats. These formats are a limited cards pool from which decks are built to compete with other decks in the same format. But why, do you ask, would you want to limit the number of cards you can use to build decks?

-Limited card pools create more diversity (in decks) and not less. By having a limited cards pool, players are allowed to try more cards without being punished for not playing the most powerful cards. A limited card pool often leads to limited number of “overpowered” cards and therefor a more diverse pool of decks to play with.

-Formats lead to decks changing over time. By having a format that changes as sets are release (new blocks come in and old blocks come out) the most powerful decks will change over time. You will no longer be able to play your crazy old deck but you can now look at the new cards and find the next format crushing deck. Much like magic, there should be many formats to allow players to be able to play their crazy decks built from all the cards release, but I feel having a more limited format leads to a more interesting and fun play experience.

-Having a format that changes over time allows for designers to be more creative. Formats help designers by allowing for: Limited competition among card design- since you don’t have to compete with all the old cards that have already been designed, Creative design of specific cards-you can re-release personalities or other cards in these new worlds (with new abilities and design), Be more thematic – put cards in different settings or worlds (start at dragon ball child Goku and move forward through the series), and even tell a new story with each new block.

-A limited card pool helps to prevent the dreaded power creep. In an open format, cards will always be compared to the entire pool of other cards that have been created. This leads to cards slowly becoming more powerful overtime and other cards slowly becoming useless overtime. A limited pool allows the designers to make cards that are interesting and cool without having to worry about if it is good enough to replace card x or y.

-The legacy effect. An unlimited cards pool often lead to decks that are so focused at what they do that they fundamentally break the game. Examples of this from the old DBZ are block everything decks that stall and stall and stall until the opponent is dead, and one turn kill decks that get just the right combination of cards to kill your opponent before they can do anything. These types of games can be un-interactive and frankly not fun. There are those that love these formats with there broken decks and broken card combos (and sometimes I do) but a format of have and have not (most money wins) can be very frustrating to the average player.

Looking at MTG as an example one of the most popular format is standard, which is made up of the last 2 of blocks and a core set. The core set includes cards that are staples and/or basic and can often be reprints of previous sets (not required to be reprints though). The blocks are often focused on specific stories/worlds and contain more interesting and complex cards. As new blocks/ core sets come old ones are replaced leading to an ever changing format. On the extreme other end in legacy which include all the MTG cards ever printed with a long ban list of certain cards.

Draft/Sealed:

Due to the way cards are release in DBZ sealed is the only “limited” that currently exists. These limited formats are an important addition to a TCG for several reasons.

-Cheap entry- Drafts in particular allow a player to get a fun competitive experience that can be much less money than building a constructed deck.

-Limited events allow players to experience new cards as soon as possible. Limited events are a common way of celebrating a new set allowing players to try out the new cards the night of the release.

-A different competitive experience. Limited events often lead to interesting combos and play experiences that just are not seen in a normal constructed environment. This is especially true with DBZ that only allows freestyle decks in limited formats.

I have no idea if draft could ever work for DBZ. Due to the deck building (pick a hero first) this may never work but perhaps Panini could focus on supporting the sealed format. Currently it can be quite costly but it seems like a very fun and interesting experience.

Card specific balance has been talked about by others in the past and I feel that Panini has done quite a good job trying to find a balance of interesting and good cards without making too many over the top. As many of you know the old DBZ slowly got overrun with card advantage and many many many combat stoppers. I hope that DBZ can remain a game that focuses on interesting combat and player interaction without falling off the power creep cliff.

Dustin

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