There are a lot of collectible card games coming out lately. Magic is still going strong, Hearthstone is huge, Bethesda brought out Legends, Gwent is lots of fun, and more (DOTA 2!) are on the way. But many of these games seem intent on mimicking Hearthstone’s spectacle-targetting randomness. Let’s poke fun at a few of the more ridiculous cards.
I don’t begrudge any Hearthstone players their fun. They know what they’re getting into, they play anyway, and that’s fine. But I’m a little disappointed that more games haven’t chosen randomness as a point of differentiation, thereby giving us an option for a less random game instead of just copying the genre leader. Even Gwent, as different as it is, isn’t something I’d ever play competitively because of potentially game-deciding die rolls.
Ah, Unstable Portal. An oldy but a goodie. Ol’ faithful. This one has been banging around in casino mage decks for a long, long time. Not a huge play, but a consistent one. It could’ve been a much more palatable card if it only dealt with creatures in your deck — effectively making it a sacrifice of planning in exchange for a reduced mana cost. But nope, they just had to make it out of a pool of every minion in the game. The same thing goes for Nexus-Champion Saraad, which gives you a random spell (out of all the spells) every time you cast your heroic ability.
And then Sneed’s Old Shredder is there to summon a random legendary minion when it dies. I actually like that they limit it to legendary, but still — the result of that die roll could decide the game, which is not okay.
But that’s nothing compared to…
Ah, Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End, the bane of people who like to pretend Hearthstone is an esport. Because nothing says “tournament ready” more than using the word “random” two times in your card description. This one has already caused controversies in high-profile Hearthstone tournaments, and it is absolutely possible to throw a Hail Mary with Yogg-Saron from a losing position to come out with a win.
I don’t even feel bad for making fun of Hearthstone, as its developers have repeatedly said Blizzard targetted randomness for a more exciting spectator experience. But other games have been following suit. Enter Legends…
Wabbajack is about as nuts as it gets in Legends. Theoretically, you’d be whacking either a low power friendly minion or a high power enemy minion with this, and statistically you’re more likely to end up with a minion that’s towards the middle of the bell curve. But practically, with all the keywords and special abilities in play, this can be a game-deciding moment.
Wisdom of Ancients is probable my least favourite kind of randomness in Legends. There are several cards with this function. Royal Sage, Mundus Stone, Echo of Akatosh, to name a few more. With a full board, this reaches almost Yogg-Saron levels of “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be big”.
Heroic Rebirth is not too dissimilar from an Unstable Portal, though you have to give up one of your creatures. I’m also not much of a fan of cards like Flesh Sculpture or Blackmail, which is based on card draw randomness, but there’s very little planning or strategy in the use of the card.
Not even Gwent is pure of RNG madness, and while the Monsters deck is the worst offender (randomness is part of its core system), it’s actually a neutral card that comes out on top.
Johnny is legitimately about as nuts as it gets in Gwent, which is… Not very nuts. I don’t like it, but most of the other random cards in the game are at least based around strategies that use that card. They’re meant to be used in a very specific way, with known odds, making it a bit more like Poker to contrast Hearthstone’s 52 Card Pickup.
I’ll say this about Gwent, too. It has a lot of random shenanigans in its Monsters deck, which even has randomness built into its special trait… But at least players can’t follow up on a random move with a cheesy one-two punch. After every move in Gwent, the opponent gets a chance to respond, which by nature makes the randomness a little bit more manageable.
Cards like Johnny are definitely on the wrong side of the line for me still, and I’m a bit disappointed in the level of randomness Gwent has. It can change the outcome of the game, and I groan every time a Monsters casino decks rolls up. But at least I get a chance to respond whenever something crazy happens.
There’s also a lot more segmentation in Gwent’s randomness. Often random cards will be selected out of a pool such as the same rarity, or the same monster type, or the same power. Not only does that limit the craziness, it also allows you to manage that randomness and target it, such as with spider decks and cards that summon random spiders.
Did I leave any out? Which random-ass card grinds your gears? Are there any CCGs I didn’t mention that eschew randomness? Let everyone know in the comments below!
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