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CCG Importance Dissonance

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"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?"

So they've made a Collectible 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.

In many games, this is also commonly a result of Power Creep. Obviously, the "main characters" have to show up in the first set, so this means that non-main characters fill out the later sets. However, the early sets tend to happen when the designers haven't really figured out the game's meta and limits yet, which means they're more likely to be bad or poorly-designed, and the designers also want fans to buy the new cards, so they either ramp up their power or develop new mechanics. Naturally, this means the main characters are most likely to get the worst cards, while the latecomers get the best ones. A common means of averting this is to give main characters additional cards, which often serve to put them on par with the new stuff.

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. For the video game equivalents, see Overrated and Underleveled and Underrated and Overleveled.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard usually averts the trope because the most powerful cards are also those depicting major lore characters. Perhaps the most notable exception is Harmonics Messiah, a being of incredible power which converted a chunk of the invading Link Joker clan into non-hostile inhabitants of the planet Cray and is treated in near-deific terms by the lore, yet in game is a promo Stride with no effect.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Tapkar is a gag character during the World Games Saga whose in-show stint consisted of running around the ring really quickly and then getting tired, but in Score's original Dragon Ball Z card game his card powers are so overpowered 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, is far superior to all the older strategies.
  • 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.
  • 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 later sets have introduced multiple filler ninjas in order to try and give the decks more variety in what ninjas they can play.
  • Inverted by the Ultimate Muscle Battle Card Game, where Legendary characters like Ramenman or Buffaloman were nearly impossible to beat with the common wrestlers like Gorgeousman. While the English release of the game nerfed some stronger cards compared to the Japanese version to try making the game more balanced, this wasn't enough.
  • 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 variations 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). Then again, it wouldn't really be Fate if Saber didn't get nine different variations.
    • 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.
    • Silica is another example of this. While in the anime she barely appeared for more than a few episodes and only appearing as one of Kirito's possible love interests, there's a whole entire set of her in both volumes of the series' respective boosters, which has been shown in tournaments to be a Game-Breaker sometimes. Her signed card is surprisingly expensive for a Level 0 variant.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has countless examples of this trope; so many that listing them all might double the size of this page. In general, the game has a habit of vastly buffing anime cards, vastly nerfing anime cards, or leaving anime cards the same without accounting for lack of The Heart of the Cards making them useless or leading to players abusing what seemed to be innocuous effects. This frequently leads to a meta that barely resembles that of the anime. Even Kazuki Takahashi joked about how the cards in the anime and manga were designed to create drama and get the characters out of jams, not be playable in a real-world context. Much of the issue comes down to the fact that, in the anime, many of these super-cards are considered incredibly rare: as in, probably a single-digit number of real copies in the world, if not outright unique.note  These concerns become much clearer when you have to account for anyone being able to potentially obtain a copy.
    • Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Red-Eyes Black Dragon, and Dark Magician, the principle ace cards of the main characters of the original series, were perceived as Awesome, but Impractical at best for a long time, being outclassed by less-costly cards like Summoned Skull and Jinzo. Much of this was down to the game adding a "Tribute Summon" mechanic that meant playing high-level cards required a player to give up multiple monsters, which invariably made them vulnerable to removal (there was a brief period in the OCG where it didn't exist, and Blue-Eyes was predictably completely overpowered). Summoned Skull and Jinzo were in fact buffed from the manga where they required two Tributes like the others, but only required one in the anime and physical card game, making Skull a case of Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole since Dark Magician was strictly better in the manga. Later on, this would be averted, as a large swathe of support was released for the three that made them actually playable, albeit usually more as the central piece of a large number of cards.
    • The Egyptian Gods suffered colossal nerfs in the process of appearing in the real game, going from Story-Breaker Power to utterly unremarkable—Obelisk at least kept some level of its protection, which made it a niche pick, but the other two saw no real tournament play at all, with Ra, the strongest of the three in the manga, being regarded as nigh-useless. Like the above, whole waves of support have been dedicated to trying to recapture a fraction of their anime glory, with mixed results. Ironically, one of Ra's support cards, Ra Sphere Mode, saw actual use on its own, which is doubly funny when Sphere Mode in the anime was meant to be completely useless.
    • Despite being one of the shows that was most involved with the game, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was somewhat notorious for cranking out cards that regularly cropped up in the anime but were barely playable at launch: the original Elemental HEROes, the Neo-Spacians, the Cyberdarks, the Vehicroids, the Arcana Force, the Crystal Beasts, and the Sacred Beasts are all notable examples, with the only ones to truly defy this being Cyber Dragons, Destiny Heroes, and arguably Volcanics. Many of them would need future waves of support just to function properly.
    • Later shows from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds onward tend to downplay or zigzag this, with the "main" cards of the cast usually being Boring, but Practical cards that most people would at least consider using at the time of release (i.e. Stardust Dragon, Utopia, Odd-Eyes), with a standout example being Firewall Dragon, which was actually banned and errataed for being too good. That said, the idea of them as legendary ace cards and finishers can still be somewhat difficult to swallow, and some (i.e. Black-Winged Dragon) are simply considered bad.
    • Several cards see nerfs because they simply wouldn't mechanically work in the real game, or would create countless ruling nightmares. Famous examples include the Legendary Dragons (could fuse with anything of a certain category to create a new monster with varied effects), Neo Galaxy-Eyes Tachyon Dragon (could "time travel" by reverting the gamestate), The Seal of Orichalcos (allows a player to put Monsters in the Spell/Trap Zone), Supreme King Z-Arc (counted as Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, and Pendulum simultaneously), and the Meklord Emperors (consisted of five monsters summoned simultaneously to make a whole); all had their strangeness toned down significantly.
    • Curiously, the process of some cards not being initially adapted due to lack of prominence can result in Power Creep causing them to abruptly become far stronger than their peers when they do get released. This is especially the case if the card originally lacked effects; the manga version of Masked HERO Dark Law was effect-less, but its real-game equivalent years down the line became a staple in HERO decks.
    • In general, the anime duel plotting tends to feature cards that block damage being much weaker (i.e. costing LP or resources, not blocking all damage, or not preventing destruction) and cards that draw cards being much stronger (i.e. "draw a card for each [X] monster on the field"). The real game places very harsh limits on draw power (anything above drawing one card is probably going to have heavy costs or restrictions or be banned entirely), while cards that can completely block damage and destruction at no cost for an entire turn are downright common and often barely see play outside of dedicated stall decks.

    Collectible Card Game 
  • 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.
  • Magic: The Gathering gets this at times:
    • Magic: The Gathering novels don't always reflect the in-game properties of the cards they represent, especially the pre-revision novels. In Arena, an Ironclaw Orc blocks a Grizzly Bear. The cards are Grizzly Bears and Ironclaw Orcs, both are two power and two toughness; the card of Ironclaw Orcs explicitly cannot block creatures of power greater than one. Benalish Hero, a common card with a weak one power and one toughness, is described in the story as one of the best, most elite fighters out there, having undergone some elite training, without explaining how this character would survive against opponents that are stronger in the game, which includes forest animals. The promotional "Sewers of Estark" card is an instant granting unblockability to an attacker or no damage to attackers if blocking, while the in-story location has nothing to do with blocking and would be better suited as a land card. In Shattered Chains, Dingus Egg and Nova Pentacle are used for teleportation, while the cards are about dealing and redirecting damage. There is also the Stone Brain, an artifact unique to the story that can take away one's spellcasting ability, described as a Living Artifact mistaken for a Mana Vault, which neither have the ability to do in the game. In Final Sacrifice, the Dragon Engine is a massive siege weapon, while the card has only three toughness. The Lord of Atlantis is an elemental sea god while the card is a merfolk. The Keldon Warlord in the story has power based on rage, while the card has power and toughness based on the number of creatures the player controls. Force of Nature is a nature based spell, giving greater mana and godlike power to the caster, while the card is a creature known for its high power and toughness, and instead of giving mana, costs more mana due a high casting cost and high upkeep cost.
    • 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 first 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. However, he later received a new card which is more useful.
    • 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.
    • The gods of Theros are tremendously powerful semi-physical incarnation of concepts that can be truly killed only by a mystical weapon forged by Purphoros. In game deicide is surprisingly trivial.
    • On the flip side, Theros also introduced the Traveling Philosopher, who has no philosophical ability whatsoever, but can kill a grizzly bear with her bare hands. Fans noticed and it became a minor meme.
    • Ludevic is a Mad Scientist famous for the power and variation of his created monstrosities, but many were disappointed when after years of showing up through flavor text and his creations he appeared in person. Unexpectedly Blue/Red, he allows players to draw a card at the end of their turn if they've hurt someone other than you. The flavor connection is weak, most were hoping that Innistrad's most famous necro-alchemist would feature necro-alchemy in a clear fashion, and mechanically it's very underwhelming; not effective as an incentive not to attack you, and its ability is often easier for your enemies to exploit, as they can trigger it using any number of beneficial self-damaging cards while you have to be more aggressive.
    • The Tarkir block gives us two versions of the character Zurgo, one a powerful warlord and one just some guy who rings a bell. The warlord is a mythic rare logically enough, but the version who's explicitly a nobody is still a rare. Just to pile on the Warlord is not a very good card, while the nobody became a red staple for as long as it was in standard.
    • For years, perhaps the most prominent Big Bad, namely Yawgmoth, the god of Phyrexia, had never gotten his own card, save for the two powerful banned/restricted cards Yawgmoth's Will and Yawgmoth's Bargain. This was due to the perception that Yawgmoth was so insanely overpowered that no card could accurately reflect him; the issue with Planeswalkers being unusable was even worse with a character who was far stronger than any Planeswalker. However, he finally got his own card in the Modern Horizon set, albeit one that depicts him prior to his ascension to godhood.
  • As it turns out this also becomes inevitable to Shadowverse thanks to the hundreds of available cards, and if you would also count Gameplay and Story Integration for cards and expansions derived from other games' lore.
    • Some players had been wondering why the basic Goblin card has 2 defense compared to an armor-wearing Quickblader who has only 1 Defense.
    • Some Granblue characters who start out having a rarity of SSR (highest rarity, denoted by a Gold border) from the RPG game became a Silver-rarity card in Shadowverse. One such example is Charlotta.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 getting weak when damaged gains mind control.
    • 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.
    • For a time, one of the top figures was the Iron Pharaoh. An Ancient Egyptian version of Iron Man that never actually appears in any comic, just on one variant cover, once.
  • MARVEL SNAP: Some of Marvel's most famous heroes are... not actually great cards in this game. Captain America's effect is too minor, Spider-Man's effect is too niche, the Hulk is too inflexible, ect. Many top-tier decks are built around more obscure characters like Angela, Devil Dinosaur, and Dracula.
  • 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. This overlaps with Random Power Ranking.

  • 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."
  • While the 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 Nazgûls 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.
    • An interesting example comes from Glorfindel. He's a character who doesn't even show up in the film, as most of his plot importance was given to Arwen, but in the source material, he was actually excluded from the Fellowship for being too badass. In the TCG, which is explicitly based on the films, he's one of the most powerful characters in the pre-Power Creep game.
  • 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 Call of Cthulhu LCG lets you play Cthulhu himself, and he can be killed. Granted, it's very hard, 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 Harry Potter CCG mostly avoided this in terms of human characters—Character cards were almost always people who had a significant role, as opposed to people like Susan Bones or Blaise Zabini that were "just names" at the time of the game's printing. On the other hand, some of the most iconic creatures in the stories were rare or nonexistent cards, while the most common Creature cards were just generic animals. Playing the game you could easily come away with the impression that there were a lot of Savage Wolves in Harry Potter.
  • 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 Nazgûl were especially demoralizing. (Who wants to admit to playing a card named "Dwar of Waw"?) This is made even more galling because the Nazgûl'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 

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 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 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.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons board game, the seventh quest is to recover the legendary Cloak of Boccob from the shrine of a fallen warrior. The heroes fight through the largest single horde of monsters the game has thrown at them yet... and find an item that usually blocks one damage point, then has a fifty-fifty chance of being discarded every time it's used. It's a less powerful version of the Barkskin Cloak, a starting-level item card that you could randomly find in the first chest in the game.
  • The Horus Heresy CCG, one of several set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, tends to avert this. The more common cards are line infantry or support weapons, the uncommons are squads who play a named role in the backstory (including ones subsequently featured in the series of novels), the rares are either infamous and power units or named and often pivotal characters and the very rares are Primarchs, Titans and the actions of Horus or The Emperor. Similar to the Yawgmoth example for Magic: The Gathering, actually having cards for these two characters would be impossible to do so without breaking game balance.
  • The Mechwarrior: Dark Age game suffered badly from this in the first few sets. Battlemechs were supposed to be kings of the battlefield, but most of them wound up being fairly weak. A few squads of infantry or a vehicle or two could take down most mechs pretty quickly, even ones that were supposed to be quite powerful. This was because the stats of most units were generally done randomly instead of following some sort of attempt to convert them over from the original game. This also led to mechs being armed with long range weapons that had short range values, and thirty ton mechs that could easily take more damage than mechs more than twice their size.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • In the backstory for the TTRPG, Revenant is a fairly important villain, as the CEO of the ominous RevoCorp (which has a hand in numerous heroes' and villains' backstories) who has decided to take on superheroes directly in a robotic suit. In game, he's...a slightly-more important minion in another, bigger villain's deck. Zhu Long is similar, with a ton of backstory significance but no villain appearance save a minion card, although he at least got his own environment deck.
    • The Matriarch is one of the few difficulty 4 villains, an enemy on par with the likes of Progeny, whose attack redefined the setting, or the Chairman, the guy who made Rook City a Wretched Hive. In the Sentinel Comics universe, she had a fairly brief career as a bad guy before reforming and joining the Dark Watch.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy Record Keeper:
    • To avoid confusing players, the developers usually try to use weapons without shared names for Soul Break relics. This sometimes results in unremarkable items in the original games becoming valuable items in this game. Most prominent is Hope's Ninurta: in FFXIII, it's a first-tier (out of three) weapon and widely considered to be one of his worst boomerangs—and it's his Burst Soul Break weapon!
      • It happened again with Lightning. Her Burst Soul Break weapon was Overture, her iconic gunblade from FFXIII-2. Her Overflow Soul Break weapon? Gladius, another first-tier weapon and a wholly-unremarkable one for Lightning on top of that.
      • Krile's Fire Lash, which was almost useless in FFV, contains the best magic buff in the game.
    • Echo got hit with this; despite being a Fairy Companion to the main character of a Final Fantasy mobile spin-off, she got a Relic that endowed upon her a Soul Break that gave the entire party DEF and RES boosts and Hastega. Not to mention this ability could be stacked on top of pre-existing Soul Breaks such as Sentinel Grimoire, which had players scratching their heads at why a basically-unknown side character got one of the best Soul Breaks in the game. This was later rectified pre-release with a quick change that made the buff to be explicitly anti-MAG only, vastly reducing its viability.
    • Danjuro, the strongest dagger in FFXII, is one of the weakest weapons in this game. It was released as one of the first 5*s and is now an obsolete off-banner relic. Meanwhile, the Orichalcum Dirk, a middle-of-the-pack dagger, contains Vaan's Burst Soul Break, widely considered the best in the game.
    • Averted in some cases. Sephiroth's Masamune is weak and obsolete, but this was changed by the release of the Masamune-Shinuchu. It's the same sword, except with a Burst Soul Break and blood on its hilt.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics, Platinum Sword is an unremarkable sword that comes in an awkward time and gets outpaced by Power Creep. Heck, if you're leveled up, you can skip it. In this game, it gives Ramza the infamous Shout SB, which singlehandedly obsoleted every other damage buff ability in the game and is thus one of the most sought-after weapons.
  • This is a big issue in Fire Emblem Heroes as well. The main characters were typically introduced early, at the very beginning of powercreep and before the devs fully understood the meta, meaning that some characters who are both very important and very powerful in their home game (such as Seth or Titania) are all but worthless in this game. Seasonal units also provide some weird Fridge Logic in which characters can become inexplicably more powerful by putting on a bikini or de-aging back to when they were children. The game tries to avert this with its special units, particularly Legendaries and Ascended Heroes, which are intentionally made more powerful than regular units and are usually based on the end-game promoted versions of the leading characters. However, even that isn't a sure thing - some Legendaries (such as Roy and Seliph) are still considered underwhelming, and it gives no help to the shafted heroes who aren't main characters. On the other hand, then there are heroes who weren't especially powerful or plot-important in their home games but are extremely meta-relevant here, such as Karla or Flayn. Most (in)famous of all is Thracia 776's Reinhardt, a one-map-wonder NPC boss from argubaly the most obscure game, who ended up becoming a symbol of the entire Fire Emblem Heroes mobile game due to being an unintended Game-Breaker early on.
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft generally follows the lore of the franchise, with many of the most powerful cards in the game being very well-known characters such as Sylvanas Windrunner, Alexstrasza and Tirion Fordring. Many of the most powerful and famous characters aren't represented on a card, but instead represent a character class (Medivh, Garrosh Hellscream, Anduin Wrynn, etc.) However, there are several cards that have power way above or below the level that lore would appoint them. Some examples:
    • Illidan Stormrage, one of the most powerful characters in all of Warcraft lore; rogue Demon Hunter who went toe-to-toe with Death Knight Arthas at full power and fought him to a standstill. In-game, his card is hilariously nonthreatening, and generally just makes a couple of tiny chump tokens before getting effortlessly killed. His original design was actually a lot more powerful and disruptive, but he turned out to be *too* good, so he was changed to his current form before the start of the Beta test. Eventually his minion was removed from the game entirely and replaced with the mechanically identical but more lore-appropriate Xavius. Illidan himself was Promoted to Playable as the representative for the new Demon Hunter class.
    • Leeroy Jenkins, a goofy joke character from a viral video. For a long time he was one of the most dreaded finishers in the game, despite not even being a real character in the lore. He was actually so brutal that he received a nerf and was eventually banned from Standard format.
    • Dr. Boom, a pop-culture parody character of Marvel Comics' Dr. Doom. In World of Warcraft he's a very easy joke boss that the player handles solo during some quests in a remote corner of the world. In Hearthstone, on the other hand, he's considered one of the most powerful and desirable cards in the whole game, since he has excellent value for his stats, is hard to cleanly remove and can easily go into almost any deck. For awhile it was just about guaranteed that your opponent was packing one of these bad boys. In fact, he was so infamous for his brokenness that he reached Ascended Extra status and got to be the star of his own expansion. Which included a nicely powerful Hero Card for you swap to playing as him during the round. And a couple expansions after that, he appears again, as part of League of Evil, represented by another new legendary card. Although the last one wasn't generally as good as the first two, that still counts up to potentially having three variants of Boom in your deck.
    • Poor, poor Bolvar Fordragon. In the lore he's one of the strongest paladins of all time. Regent of Stormwind, commander of the forces that stormed Northrend, and so noble that he willingly chose to endure an eternity as the Lich King's vessel just to hold its evil in check. His card is hilariously bad, albeit very flavorful. He got a second chance in Knights of the Frozen Throne... and isn't much better there.
    • Deathwing, the most powerful dragon in Warcraft lore, is a card with excellent stats... but discards your whole hand, leaving you without resources on your next turn. Considering how easily minions can be removed or killed in Hearthstone, this is generally considered a very bad deal.
      • Incidentally, the Whispers of the Old Gods set contains new versions of some of the most iconic characters, including Deathwing, which is much better than the original. He also got a third card printed in Descent of Dragons that isn't half bad and was Promoted to Playable as an alternate Warrior hero. Suffice to say, he got off better than most characters here.
    • A lot of the Legendary weapons from Kobolds & Catacombs fall into this trap. For example, the Dragon Soul is one of the most powerful MacGuffins in Warcraft, being an artifact that contained the power of four of the Dragon Aspects. In Hearthstone, it's an unimpressive Priest weapon that summons a 5/5 Dragon after a stingy requirement. Meanwhile, Kingsbane is a pretty unremarkable dagger in WoW (and after a Retcon, literally has no lore), but is arguably the best Legendary weapon of the set.
    • Hearthstone even messes this up with Original Generation characters. In The League of Explorers, Archthief Rafaam is a invokedMagnificent Bastard who defeats the team by himself while Reno Jackson is a bumbling and somewhat selfish Badass Normal archaeologist. Their effects and meta impact were basically the exact opposite: Rafaam has bad stats for his cost and lets you Discover an underwhelming 10-mana artifact, seeing next to no play, while Reno has a game-warping Battlecry that heals your hero to full health so long as your deck has no duplicate cards, redefining how Control decks were built for the entire time he was in Standard.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2es:
    • In-story, More is up there with the main characters, and is one of the three starting core members of the Darker Busters. In gameplay, More is the weakest Weaponoid in the game, handed to you for free and possessing a piddling attack buff with regen bonus.
    • Aurora, in-story, is a Photoner, AKA the almighty precursors to the ARKS and who founded their existence, and becomes a Genesis Weapon, one of the strongest weapons in the story. Her Chip? A 12★ that adds a whole +20% to your damage, and for every three standard attacks you land, your damage goes up... by 500. Not 500%, just 500. She easily beats pre-balance Salus Punisher as the worst 12★ to ever exist.
    • Until Yamigarasu was introduced, no endgame player would be caught dead without Saga, whose status damage made him a staple in many endgame decks. In PSO2, Saga is a side character who exists as Katori's straight man and has zero plot relevance.
    • Segami has more utility than Purple Heartnote . This is despite the fact that Neptune/Purple Heart is the main character of the franchise, and Segami is from a crossover spinoff. Nepgear provides better damage than Neptune, and she's Neptune's younger sister!note 
    • Arguably, Hatsune Miku was marginally less useful than Luka, back when Yamigarasu didn't existnote . Nowadays, Luka is useless due to Yamigarasu obsoleting status affliction Chips.
    • Rina is a Game Breaker 12★, but in the anime, she's more or less a love interest who spends half of her important scenes as a Damsel in Distress. Itsuki, who is The Protagonist, and Aika, who is a secret agent from Oracle and Itsuki's connection to ARKS, don't hold a candle to Rina's Chip in es.
  • Pokémon CCG:
    • In the video games and anime, Mewtwo was absurdly overpowered compared to every other Pokémon at the time (apart from Mew). Its first card was terrible, to the point its only real use was in a gimmick deck that tries to stall until your opponent runs out of cards.
    • The evolution mechanic was too difficult to pull off in many cases meaning basic Pokémon 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 Pokémon 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 Pokémon 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 one of only three cards ever to be banned in the West for being overpowered (three others were banned for non-overpowered reasons, one for a translation error, one for being in hieroglyphics, and one that was more powerful on the user's birthday).
    • 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 Pokémon with pitiful stats in-game. The TCG version had an attack that let you completely 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 video game players.
    • 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 is, in the 5th generation, an aversion to this trope.

    Web Comics 
  • Killer Robot Games' Legendary Showdown is a card game which draws material from three webcomics: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Girl Genius, and Gunnerkrigg Court. While the Dr. McNinja cards are relatively accurate in terms of their relative power, the second edition cards (GG and GK) are much less consistent with their source material.
    • For example: Maxim, Oggie, and Dimo are all 5 point cards on a 0-10 pt scale (except for two 12-pt cards) despite being members of the super soldier race of Jaegars and shown to be much more dangerous than nearly every other Girl Genius character featured in the game.
    • Meanwhile, Antimony Carver is a 9 point card, despite the fact that she is pretty weak compared to most other GK characters in the game as she is a rather thin teenage girl with little to no mundane combat training or experience using her fire powers in combat. She is very commonly shown to be outmatched when a fight breaks out in the comic.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • The short-lived Avatar: The Last Airbender trading card game did this by flat-out inventing four different characters and then basing whole decks around them. Afiko, who betrayed the Airbenders in Aang's time, Malu, one of the last survivors of the Airbender purge, Kinto, a Waterbender who was banished for cruel pranks, and an earthbending bandit named Jojo were all created by Upper Deck and never appeared in any other media, despite early promotional material hinting they would show up in the TV series. All four have since been considered non-canon. In Upper Deck's defense, the card game was developed in the show's infancy and never went past season one, meaning some of the most popular characters never got introduced in time to make it into card form.
  • Chaotic was absolutely lousy about this for its own TCG, especially in regards to cards from the first set. For a few examples:
    • Both Intress and Tangath Toborn are depicted in the show as two of the toughest and mightiest Overworlders. In the card game? Their stats are poor even by Dawn of Perim's standards.
    • The Mugic Fortissimo is depicted in the show as a very potent mugic that can make creatures grow to gigantic size. In the actual game? It only gives a creature a paltry boost of 5 in every discipline, which even compared to other early stat boosting cards in the game was absolutely pathetic.
      • The same applies to the Mugic Diminuendo, which in the episode "Fallen Hero" shrunk creatures to a diminutive size. However when the card finally became real in Alliance Unraveled (one of the last sets in the game) its effect merely reduced a creatures energy and disciplines by 5 each.
    • Kiru also draws scorn for many players because of the vast difference in how he is depicted in the show and card game. On the surface his ability to give 10 energy to every other creature whenever he wins combat is very good, but examining closer shows that it's very weak compared to other creatures and cards that can do this for smaller costs. The effect doesn't even apply to Kiru himself! It probably wouldn't be such a big deal if Kiru wasn't such an important figure in the series lore being given such an underwhelming card.
    • The Mugic Decomposition in comparison to how dangerous and potentially lethal it was in the show is far weaker in the card game. In the series, Decomposition is an ancient and extremely rare Mugic that slowly drains a creature of its disciplines one by one until they die. Those drained attributes are placed into a Colstone to be absorbed by any creature that breaks it. In the card game? Decomposition just makes it so a creature fails any discipline checks on attacks it plays.
  • Dragon Booster had a CCG, among a ton of 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 Six 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.