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CCG Importance Dissonance
It always bugged me that Magic would feature certain characters in flavor text, others in novels, and yet others on cards as legends. I distinctly remember opening Ice Age packs...I'd keep reading about how awesome Lim-Dul and Freyalise were, yet my legend cards were Marton Stromgald and the freakin' Skeleton Ship! What in the heck?
— Aaron Forsythe
(Magic: The Gathering
Developer), Preserving the Coolness of Legends
So they've made a Customizable Card Game about your favorite work of fiction, sweet! Now let's see what's in the first booster pack... huh? Weird, why is Crimson Cuirass
more powerful than Heroicus Maximus?
Why does that guy who was only there for like two scenes
get ten cards?
You've just run into CCG Importance Dissonance. This can crop up in other types of games, but it consists of an adaptation applying Power Creep, Power Seep
to the protagonists and extras to make the game balanced,
as well as giving just about everyone and everything on screen a card because they need a sizable amount of cards for a set. This can also manifest as De Powering
(or at times Nerfing
) main characters/ships/items into "okay" cards, while elevating several minor character in terms of power.
If the main characters are
more powerful than the extras
who managed to rate cards, expect them to be rare cards
, leading to a gaming community in which everyone has a dozen Bystander Lad
cards but most people have never even seen a Captain
Protagonist card. If on the other hand the protagonists are rare but useless, they're probably Junk Rares
If the story has an Expanded Universe
continuity, it may also draw cards from there or make card flavor text from it.
Anime & Manga
- In the Naruto CCG, there are various filler Ninjas that were once staples in some decks, such as Suien.
- For a long time in the game, the second most powerful card ever printed was the Third Hokage, often revered as perhaps the strongest ninja the leaf village ever produced, who dies in an epic battle by summoning the god of death to defeat his opponent,. The first? Ino Yamanaka, a low-level genin that does almost nothing in all of part 1.
- Many recent sets have introduced multiple filler ninjas in order to try and give the decks more variety in what ninjas they can play.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has countless examples of this trope. The famous Blue-Eyes White Dragon is a 3000 ATK monster that requires two Tributes (monsters removed from the field) and has no effect; in the manga, it was powerful enough that Seto Kaiba resorted to extortion and theft to collect every last one of them, but in the TCG that ensued, it's merely an expensive target. Likewise Yugi's signature card, the Dark Magician, which requires two Tributes but has only 2500 ATK; arguably, it's received more support cards in later years than even the Blue-Eyes White Dragon could ever hope for, but it too is a white (black?) elephant, even if you're dedicated enough to theme an entire deck around him. Not that all famous cards get this treatment, however; the very first duel featured in the manga included Summoned Skull, a powerful and incredibly playable card for many years (2500 ATK, like the Dark Magician, but it only needs one Tribute), and Monster Reborn, a powerful card that spent some time on the Forbidden List: it allows the player who uses it to bring back a monster from the Graveyard. Either player's Graveyard. Many of the most powerful cards, in fact, have either never appeared on the show or appeared only briefly. Nowadays it's not uncommon for each new expansion set to feature cards for an entire new deck archetype, which typically dominates the field for about 3-6 months before a new expansion renders it utterly moot: these archetypes are often based off of the decks of one-shot characters, or minor recurring ones, rather than the main protagonists.
- If you play the card game as they did in the show originally (meaning, no sacrifices unless the card specifically says so), then Blue-Eyes is ungodly powerful in terms of straight beatdown. The rules of the real game are based on the second half of the Duel Monsters-era comic, the Battle City Arc; there's a reason that Kaiba relies less on Blue-Eyes White Dragon than on Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon, Obelisk the Tormentor, or XYZ Dragon Cannon in that Arc, even though it's still his signature card and end-all-be-all answer to many duels.
- Many people, mainly kids, played liked that when the cards first came out. And the result? Everyone buying out Kaiba decks to spam 3 blue eyes. So even if you used magic, traps, high attack monsters or some good strategy - heck, even if you cheated a bit more than normal with a few cards - if you wiped out one blue eyes, your opponent would bring out another the next turn or revive it, and that makes you out of the game.
- Cards that make cameos from other Konami franchises, which in their respective series are usually the Big Bad or the hero, often find themselves dramatically underpowered. As an example, the Victory Viper XX03 from Gradius and its counterparts, each of which is capable in-game of taking down an entire army including several nigh-invincible warships IN A ROW, are reduced to poor to mediocre monsters with decent effects that require them to have been powered up in the first place to use. Given that the game also includes an archetype capable of dropping monsters just as powerful as the aforementioned Blue-Eyes White Dragon, which are also an insta-nuke to the rest of the field...
- Arguably subverted in recent years, as the star monsters of 5D's and ZEXAL tend to be incredibly powerful monsters even in the IRL game.
- Ultimate Muscle Battle Card Game inverted this trope. Even though the 'translator' (or guy who decided to make this playable and semi-balanced) nerfed a few of the cards, the Legendary characters like Ramenman or Buffaloman were nearly impossible to beat with the common wrestlers like Gorgeousman!
- The short-lived Initial D card game had a card for a car stereo system. In spite of the fact that stereo systems were never even mentioned in the original manga, anime, nor video game, and none of the characters are the type to ever give a crap about stereo systems.
- Not to mention IRL, a stereo system is detrimental to racing, as it adds dead weight to the car and serves no useful purpose whatsoever. Unless your trying to attract females.....
- Tapkar was a gag character during Dragon Ball Zs World Games Saga who's in show stint was as a Fragile Speedster, but in Score's original Dragon Ball Z card game his card powers were so over powered not only was he banned, they named a redemption after him.
- The still limping (maybe crawling?) game community (as of 2011) discovered the Supreme West Kai, who only shows up in a Flash Back, was far superior to all the older strategies.
- Weiss Schwarz is guilty of this in a narrativistic instead of mechanical way. This game runs on Rule of Cool versus Rule of Cute; it tries to replicate the awesome (or heartwarming, or sad) moment of the licensed anime in its cards. To do that, it allows itself to print several different version of the same characters, even if it's just a minor or situational variation. The downside of this, owing to the limit of cards in each expansion, is that characters whose appearances are few and far between gets less cards and decks built around them are less versatile (if building such deck is even possible)— even if they are far more capable in-story than the spotlight-hogging main characters.
- For example, Fate/Zero trial has 5 variation of Saber as Character and 1 Saber-related Climax card, while Rider gets 1 Character and 1 Climax. This is despite Rider being the frickin' Alexander the Great (and all around awesome dude) while Saber is King Arthur.
- The Nanako in a Yukata card is stronger than the 'Naoto' card. Except Nanako is the main character's 6-year-old cousin, whereas Naoto is a detective with a gun.
- Magic: The Gathering gets this at times:
- Planeswalkers used to fit this category almost by definition; since planeswalkers were near-gods and the players themselves were supposed to be planeswalkers, the designers felt it wasn't possible to represent them in-game at all. This had the unfortunate effect that a sufficiently-important character could not appear on a card at all, eventually leading to Wizards massively depowering all planeswalkers in the "Time Spiral" Story Arc. Between the depowering and the new "loyalty" mechanic (which allows for them to be driven away but not killed), it's generally expected that most sets will contain a planeswalker or two.
- And then there is Gerrard Capashen. Plot-wise, he is a pinnacle of ages-long eugenics plan formulated by Urza, a powerful and very intelligent Planeswalker. Gerrard was specially engineered as a "Super-Soldier", to fight the denizens of Phyrexia, also known as The Nine Hells. Gerrard also receives several whole sets of cards dedicated to his (and his skyship's) crew: Weatherlight Adventures (Which is the name of one of the expansions). His card? Utterly unremarkable. Bonus points for the card flat-out losing to every other card representing opponents that Gerrard defeated or overcame in the novels.
- Karona, False God, who emerges in Onslaught block as a physical manifestation of Dominaria's mana formed from the fusion of the powerful and iconic legends Phage the Untouchable and Akroma, Angel of Wrath, is far less useful than she has any right to be as well—so much so that head designer Mark Rosewater publicly apologized for how lame she was:
That card is an embarrassment to card design. I actually had zero to do with the card and I'm still embarrassed. We took two iconic beloved cool legends and combined them into a pile of, well a word I'm not allowed to use on this site. Of all the balls dropped with the design of legendary characters, this is one near the top of the list. My humblest apologies.
- A Dragon Engine is supposed to be a titanic siege weapon, Mishra's great weapons in the Brothers War. Its printed version can be easily destroyed by two Bear Cubs.
- The series' main villain of many years, Yawgmoth, also couldn't get a card printed depicting him because he was so powerful that a large group of old-style planeswalkers (mages powerful enough that they could create their own planes of existence if they wanted to—new-style planeswalkers are substantially weaker) armed with soul-powered nukes could only barely defeat him after hitting him with a weapon forged from Urza's thousands of years of planning on Urza's part. Several cards depicting aspects of Yawgmoth have been printed over the years, including Yawgmoth's Bargain and Yawgmoth's Will, which are well into Game Breaker territory. Given that Word of God states Yawgmoth is Deader than Dead, it's unlikely the game's most iconic villain will ever be rendered in card form, even if it wouldn't be the equivalent of having God as a Top Trumps card.
- In Legend of the Five Rings, minor, often useless characters can be major players in the game due to nothing more than raw fan popularity. Finding a faction with an Ascended Extra isn't the exception, but the rule. Toku and Bayushi Tangen were chump sacrificial characters when introduced. The former's daughter now leads the Scorpion Clan as a regent, and the latter's students now comprise the clan's Big Damn Heroes troops.
- In contrast, since storyline tournaments usually net storyline victory cards, balance demands Power Creep, Power Seep. It's not uncommon for these victory cards to be utterly useless, or better for someone else's clan, or for a clan's repeated victories leading directly to them being utterly useless in subsequent sets.
- Hero Clix has produced very many figures in various combinations of usefulness. Contrary to Popularity Power though, quite a few A tier heroes aren't as powerful as you'd hope, while a few B and C list heroes are pretty darn powerful and useful. Examples are first generation Controller, a no-name villain who starts out super strong, but rather than get weak when damaged gains mind control, and Fire Lord, a minor herald of Galactus who was super powerful and insanely cheap to play. At one point it was common to see teams composed of several big-name superheroes and a nameless Hydra Medic, or other cheap healer.
- Top Trump decks often demonstrate this trope, either for balance reasons or because of different interpretations of characters. For example, in one DC Comics deck, the Penguin and Harley Quinn have the highest Intelligence score in the game, and while they're certainly not stupid they shouldn't be beating Diabolical Mastermind Ra's al Ghul or Mad Scientists Scarecrow and Dr Sivana. Mystic hero Dr Fate has the highest Fighting Skills score, tying with Batman and putting him ahead of Batgirl. In turn, entirely-human characters like Batman, Batgirl, Green Arrow and even Robin can have higher Strength scores than superstrong characters like Fatality, Aquagirl or Starfire.
- There was a The Nightmare Before Christmas CCG, briefly. They had cards for every item and background character in the movie - even ones that didn't have names (which the CCG was mostly comprised of) such as "Gift-Wrapping Elf" and "Ghost on the Left".
- While the Lord of the Rings movies portray heroes such as Boromir or Gimli as capable of successfully defeating dozens of Orcs or Uruks in a single fight, in the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game most minions, including not only Nazgűls or Trolls, but about 98% of all "random nameless extra" Orcs, Uruks and Evil Men are stronger than the basic Fellowship members. Thus, the Fellowship has to arm itself with lots and lots of weapons and use various combat support to be able to win skirmishes. And even then, many wounds are taken.
- The game suffered from Power Creep, Power Seep as well. In the first year of the game Fellowship members (and Arwen) were the strongest companions in the game, while various "random nameless extra" Elves and Dwarves had significantly lower stats and were used for Heroic Sacrifice rather than combat. Over time the distinction blurred and the Extras started receiving the same stats as the Heroes, though the Heroes still came with better abilities. And further down the road there came characters who, while important figures in Middle-Earth, only had seconds of screen time and yet were stronger than Aragorn, Éomer, or Gandalf.
- The Star Wars Customizable Card Game not only has mooks but also gives cards and brief bios for very minor characters, such as those only seen in the Mos Eisley Cantina. It also averted the original Power Creep, Power Seep problem by issuing new versions of major characters, each with different situational talents. Farm Boy / Vanilla Luke was good at flying; "Commander Luke Skywalker" was adapted to life on Hoth; "Son Of Skywalker" got bonuses when undergoing Jedi training; etc. (Amusingly, Decipher decided to treat "Senator Palpatine" and "The Emperor" as two separate people, one working for the Light Side and the other Dark, so opposing players can each control a version. But the game was cancelled before they could figure out how to deal with Anakin.)
- The same goes for the Star Wars Miniatures game; for a while, the best character in the game was Aurra Sing, a Bounty Hunter who only made a brief cameo appearance in The Phantom Menace. Booster packs often tended to frustrate buyers because each pack only contains one rare figure, and all named characters are rare or very rare regardless of importance. You were very likely to get some random cantina alien rather than fan-favorite characters from the movies.
- The Middle Earth CCG was infamous for its "Kuduk Lore" — characters essentially created out of thin air by Iron Crown Enterprises to cover the apparent insufficiency of named characters. Many of these came from the Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game. Very few were anything to be proud of — the names they created for the Nazgűl were especially demoralizing. (Who wants to admit to playing a card named "Dwar of Waw"?) This is made even more galling because the Nazgűl's old names hardly mattered at all; they were little more than the will of Sauron by that point in the narrative. Their faceless malice was more terrifying than any of them could as named individuals. A card called Sixth of the Nine fits the theme and would be far scarier. note
- The Call of Cthulhu LCG lets you play Cthulhu himself, and he can be killed. Granted, it's very hard, but...it still feels wrong.
- Cthulhu is also available in Horrorclix as a chase "scenario" figure. A decent team can defeat him without too much trouble, yet still have trouble with a bunch of random serial killers.
- The Doctor Who Top Trumps (original series) was mocked because the historical characters had to be beefed up for play balance, so you ended up with Joan of Arc being able to defeat a Sea Devil or suchlike.
- The actual Doctor Who CCG kind of inverted this; virtually all common cards were absolute unplayable rubbish and uncommons weren't much better. Most recognizable characters were rares, and the Fourth Doctor — at the time the most recognizable and iconic version — was an ultra-rare.
- The latest incarnation — Doctor Who: Monster Invasion — has a number of oddities. It helps if you reflect that the "Loyalty" statistic doesn't specify who they're loyal to, so while it's surprising that Rory's is higher than Amy's, maybe it reflects his loyalty to her. The fact Amy has a "Bravery" stat of 300, more in line with the average panicky extra than Martha's 600 or Sarah Jane's 750, is harder to explain. And there are a lot of cards devoted to panicky extras.
- The Star Trek CCG by Decipher actually cycled into and out of this trope. At first players only used named characters since the no-name Starfleet Red Shirts had usually only one skill and mediocre stats. To balance this out, they made cards called "Lower Decks" and "Assign Mission Specialist" so that these cards would see use. Also, since the game was premised on all the Star Trek races competing, every on-screen Romulan, Klingon and several other characters eventually got cards with skills and high ability scores never demonstrated on screen so that their faction had a viable chance at solving missions. Oh, and Riker's card sucked. note
- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's unnamed cameo character is an ultra-rare card. There are about half a dozen ultra-rares in the entire game.
- The second edition of the game fixed this to some extent, leaning more on using multiple versions of main characters. Of course, it had four Trek series to draw from while the first edition kind of didn't.
- The Highlander CCG was a major offender here, as just about every Immortal from the films and TV series (except, High-Costing-Sean-Connery-Likeness-Rights-Required Ramirez) got a deck based around them over the life of the game. Many of the most powerful cards were one-shot wonder characters.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer CCG, two of the most frequently abused cards in the first set were an empty trunk and a random mausoleum.
- The strongest card in the Penny Arcade deckbuilding game (and one of the strongest in any deckbuilding game) is Bat-milk, based on a one-panel gag in this comic. It's a cheap card that lets you reveal the next two cards from your deck, adding them to your hand if they're green (cash) or trashing them if they're red (combat). Since it is itself a green card, a few of them will very quickly leave you with a green-only deck that draws itself every turn for massive profit. The only real way to compete with a Bat-milk deck is with another Bat-milk deck, and the game is likely to just come down to who buys more before they run out.
- In the same vein, in the first product ever released for the Universal Fighting System, the Penny-Arcade Battle Pack, Tycho overclassed Gabe by a mile as one of the strongest characters in the game, where Gabe is largely considered one of the worst.
- Dragon Booster had a CCG, among a ton of other merchandise which sunk. Every character was named-but only a few were ones from the actual show. The rest were mainly crew members who were made up to fill out the ranks of the various racing crews.
- Most of the powerful cards in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic CCG are the Mane 6 themselves, but a few background characters stand out as unusually prominent. Most notable is probably Lady Justice, the (implied) daughter of the Mayor of Ponyville, who appears for three seconds in one musical number, but is a prominent part of many, many powerful decks. It's also worth noting that Mr Beaverton Beaverteeth (a beaver) is evenly matched with either Princess Celestia or Princess Luna in a face-off (the closest thing the game has to combat), and Big Macintosh can usually defeat both of them simultaneously.
- Pokémon CCG:
- In the Video Game and Anime, Mewtwo is absurdly overpowered compared to most Pokemon. His first card was terrible.
- The evolution mechanic was too difficult to pull off in many cases meaning basic pokemon were often more valuable to put in a deck than their evolved counterparts. In the beginning they thought it was "balanced" to design cards that didn't have evolutions stronger because being able to evolve was an "advantage". The result was that Pokemon without evolutions were almost universally the strongest cards. Combine with the broken retreat mechanic and the colored energy and for a while Scyther of all cards was considered the strongest Pokemon since it had a decent colorless attack, good HP, and no retreat cost, making it an excellent card to simply throw into any deck. Eventually Sneasel came out even more broken, and despite being pretty unimportant in the source material it remains the only card ever to be banned in the West for being overpowered (three others were banned in total, one for a translation error, one for being in hieroglyphics, and one that was more powerful on the user's birthday). At the time, there was a Fan Nickname (that saw great play in a number of magazines such as Pojo) for this type of card, named for Hitmonchan (who was essentially a prototype version of the Scyther discussed above). That nickname? Haymaker.
- Competitive players could probably guess this sort of thing would happen with 649 total characters to choose from, but Smogon tiers and Pokemon most successful in any given VGC are often quite different from the best decks of a Pokemon TCG rotation. No respectable competitive player would use a Beedrill team, but several rotations ago, a certain Beedrill card had an attack that got more powerful the more Beedrill you had on the field. This made "Speedrill" decks that abused it tournament-worthy.
- If anyone tried to bring Delcatty to a video game competition, they would be fighting some major uphill battles. In the Trading Card Game, however, Delcatty has historically been the greatest Energy recycler in the game, allowing it to have entered wide tournament use at least three times.
- One of the most useful cards in the TCG was Cleffa, a baby Pokemon with pitiful stats in-game. The TCG version had an attack that let you completley refresh your hand for 1 Energy (or 0 Energy in the remade version), and was very difficult to actually damage due to the Baby Rule. It got to the point where most competitive decks included specific cards to counter Cleffa, an idea that's laughable to videogame players.
- Averted in terms of rarity. The super rare foil cards are usually legendary monsters like Mewtwo and Zekrom.
- And we go back full circle—the card to beat in the 2011-12 season was Mewtwo-EX. The Pokémon Black and White expansions seems to have made most Legendary Pokémon deliberately stronger and tougher, and the ones who didn't have been given competitive utility. For better or for worse, this means the Pokémon Trading Card Game, in the 5th generation, an aversion to this trope.