by fill-in extraordinaire, Terence Jason Dorman
Like all of you, I want more Spoils cards. I want to tinker with new Constructed ideas and draft cards I have never seen before. I want to revel in the gorgeous new artwork and laugh at all the new flavor text. I want the Spoils “new set” experience and, thankfully, it is on the way. With Shade of the Devoured Emperor just around the corner, I am eagerly awaiting the 130 new cards and the fun that they will bring. This begs the question, though: is 130 new cards enough?
In short, yes, I think 130 new cards is enough. Now let me elaborate.
For the brief period of time I was involved with designing this game (primarily Seed 3 and extremely early stages of Shade), I was all for The Spoils returning to it’s roots with base sets off 220 cards and expansions of 165. Those numbers worked great for First Edition and I figured that getting back to those numbers would bring the glory days of Spoils back along with it.
I fought for those numbers, talking with Michael and Ken about why we should shoot for bigger sets and a return to form. For one, we knew that those numbers worked as far as rarity breakdowns and Limited play were concerned, so there wasn’t a need for “testing” those numbers. Second, we would be giving you, the players, more cards. Third, it would make The Spoils appear more like “those other games” and show that the game is back and alive.
Although my arguments were understood and agreed with, there were conditions outside of our ideals that caused Shade to be 130 cards instead of 220 (or some other number in between). Around the time this decision was made was when I chose to step down as Judge of Great Justice, so I can’t speak for the design of Shade beyond this point (other than what I’ve seen in preview cards, of course).
Despite my desire for Spoils to have bigger sets (a desire I’m sure most of you share), I’ve come to realize that 130 cards is an absolutely fantastic number.
First, it is bigger than Seed 2: Gloamspike’s Revenge, a set that I feel was warped by its small size. This already alleviates some of my worry about the set size as I know Seed 2 was studied and analyzed so the same mistakes would not be made with shade.
Second, the additional cards allows a proper rarity breakdown. Seed 2 had the extremely odd composition of sixty commons and fifty rares, creating strange Limited scenarios and causing a small set to be extremely hard to collect (and that’s before factoring in Party Clowns!). We already know that Shade brings back uncommons, which should make the set easier to collect than Seed 2 and balance Limited play.
As for Limited play, I can’t speak for how well the set will operate in Draft/Sealed as I am not part of the playtesting process, nor do I know what the actual breakdown of the set is. I am confident, though, that Ken and the other designers looked at prior sets to see what worked and what didn’t and did their best to replicate and improve on the good stuff.
Third, Shade is the start of a new block, so it needs to be a bit bigger so it can create a solid base. We need extra cards so that we can get a strong sense of the theme and style of the set, plus have enough of any new mechanics to get a feel for them properly. Add in the fact that Shade also starts a new part of the Spoils story and we will want to see as much of it as we can when it starts.
Fourth, the smaller set size allows The Spoils to grow as a game as it does with it’s player base, not flooding the market too quickly or overburdening its players. 130 cards should be more than enough to spark dozens of new deck ideas, which will keep the Constructed metagame healthy, while also satiating the players’ desire for more new cards.
Last, and certainly not least, the smaller set size allows Arcane Tinmen and its awesome design team to put more effort into each individual card and mechanic. The designers won’t be worried about churning out cards to make bigger sets and can instead focus on the quality of each card, be it rules text or artwork. This all will combine to make a fantastic high quality set that players will be able to enjoy right up to when “HH” is released.
I know some of you will still argue for more cards per set and I feel your pain (and probably agree with your position). For now, though, consider the points that I mentioned above and take solace in the fact that we are getting MORE Spoils cards, even if the number isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.