In 2020, after a period of adopting an “LCG-style” format with Dice Masters, Wizkids shifted their distribution model for the game’s product back to a “blind” model, specifically the Draft Pack style of line. We’re now about to see the second Dice Masters set following the change (Dark Phoenix Saga, sometime… soon?) AND have just seen announced a number of new Dice Masters releases for 2021 that are advertised as Draft Packs too (Not familiar with the new release announcements? We broke the news on this article here: Wizkids Releasing New Dice Masters sets in 2021)
The different Dice Masters distribution formats is a bit polarising when it comes to community opinion, and the discussion has been brought to the fore once again with the announcement that 2021’s releases are primarily in the draft pack format too. Here’s a bit of a rundown of some of my thoughts about the Draft Packs model, and a look at some of the pros & cons being expressed across the community…
It Will Bring the Dice Masters Draft Fans Back…
There’s a piece of Infinity Gauntlet marketing material out there (I forget specifically where) that has something like this on it…
“Dice Masters, now in Draft Pack, because the fans demanded it”
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. I bring it up because the fans that “demanded it”, to my knowledge at least, were the fans of drafting Dice Masters.
The Campaign box model did not make drafting a clean & easy process. There were ways & means of course (many of us got something going) but it wasn’t as straight forward as pitching in 9 quid, getting your draft pack, and starting up. The Campaign Boxes definitely caused the Draft-base to drift away, some of whom were vocal, high-profile proponents that it was the best way to play Dice Masters and needs to be brought back. It stands to reason then that by bringing back a popular format it might attract players (Old AND new) to the game, which can only be a good thing.
AND this will certainly be popular with FLGS’. Current Worldwide pandemic aside, a whole countertop display going through the till for an 8 person draft means sales, and sales means store support. If anything; it could be argued that this was the real missing piece as reports across the community of dwindling interest from Local Game Stores increased through the Draft Pack Period.
So… despite the fact that we haven’t all been able to meet up for a while, the draft format has historically been a popular one with some players and may just entice some retired players back to the fold.
You Need to Chase the Full Set…
The other day I was building a team on the Dice Coalition Team Builder. I’d had a little idea for a team I was going to use on the Ministry of Dice live stream. It was a glorious example of some wombo combo jank and I was very excited to give it a try, especially because it was using some newer Dice Masters card releases from the Infinity Gauntlet set.
The whole idea came crumbling down when I went to my binder to discovered that the Infinity Gauntlet card that was the cornerstone of the whole combo was not in my collection. It was a little frustrating.
I know that there are some out there who enjoy collecting, chasing & trading sets, but I definitely lean towards the camp that preferred the sealed products, and this view has been expressed from others across the community.
In the first instance its a question of budget. I’m now 3 counter-top displays into Infinity Gauntlet and I’m still a handful of uncommons short, let alone the rares and super-rares I’m missing. I’m sure I’m not alone with this challenge. That’s not a financial investment many of us can sustain, if even make at all.
The counterpoint is to trade for the gaps, and there is something to the joy of trading that must be acknowledged. It’s a fair point, but one that is hindered right now; trade activity around & about just isn’t as lively as it has been in the past. With local groups not meeting up and internet trading relatively quiet it’s hard to source the cards to fill binder gaps. It was tricky to lay hands on a prestigious Super-Rare before, but getting a Thor right now is like trying to stumble across a doorway to Narnia.
From another view – it’s good for business. The word is that the sales of Infinity Gauntlet have been doing better than expected, and this can only be a positive sign for the continued growth of the game. (If only these people were trading their Thors LOL) I can only assume that sales are up because committed collectors in the Dice Masters community are “on the chase” for the gaps in their collections. More money for Wizkids ensures future Dice Masters sets get developed & released for us to play with, continuing to introduce new players to the game and keeping it going for the foreseeable future. That’s clearly a good thing for those of us who are passionate about the game.
Ultimately though it can become a pressure on your budget. If you love the game, want to play particular cards & strategies, and have the compulsive collector gene then you’ve got to be willing to chase the cards you want, and that means having the cash to do so.
I suppose it isn’t Magic the Gathering money though LOL
Creative Team Building
On the other hand having an incomplete collection can be argued as a good thing because it promotes more creative team building.
With the LCG-style model all players have access to all the same cards, which creates a breeding ground for the “net-deck” approach of creating teams or falling into core strategies that are somewhat laid out by the structure of set’s design.
A blind-style model creates a little more flexibility and more need for some team building ingenuity: if you’re missing a card from your collection that can serve a particular purpose for the team then you are left with two choices: don’t play the team OR find another way of getting the thing you want done.
I’m not sure I entirely agree with it, not having a card for a team can be frustrating (see my story above) so having a full set out of the box can be empowering for some who do wish to engage with the most proven of strong cards, but I know local players who do not let this prevent them from playing the game and just dive in with alternative strategies to make their teams work, and find joy in the process of exploring whether the alternative works or doesn’t.
I suppose at this point it becomes a question of game design; if the LCG-style format has a varied enough selection of cards for use then creative team building will exist without the aggravation of missing cards to make a combo work.
AND let’s not discount the fact that there are simply cards that are the best at what they do, and there has been quite a few of these that are at the Rare or Super Rare distribution point in the game of Dice Masters. The innovative team building is one thing, but the efficient, high-power option is always going to better. At least the campaign box model meant all players down your FLGS were on a level playing field.
This leads to the next point of discussion in the community…
There are, without a doubt, some cards that are competitively more powerful than others, and have a-list support that can be viewed as a best fit for those power cards. It’s all nice n’all to have the blind model promote creative team building, but when there’s a clear winning card, with obvious cards to support it in terms of synergy, then you can very easily find yourself in the dark and having a miserable time if you want to compete.
That’s not too much of a major issue right now: we’ve got three win conditions currently that are considered to be the top tier of competitive builds and two of those cards are accessible to everyone because they appeared in Campaign Boxes, BUT come the time these rotate out and the card pool for competitive Modern becomes just the blind product this may become an issue for some players.
What we have seen in the past is that with some of the most powerful & popular competitive cards being Rare or Super-Rare in the distribution, there is “pay to play” concerns that crop up. If you’re without the budget to buy lots of packs or pick up the card at the inflated secondary market price as a sought after card, then you’re going to struggle to make the best teams to compete, and in turn may question whether you would want to compete in the first place.
This has a far reaching effect – you need a competitive scene that has a little room for the centre & bottom of the curve to discern some enjoyment from it too, and certainly ones that are won by the best player, not the one with the most expensive collection.
New Player Accessibility
A comment by a new player on Reddit the other day highlighted how over-whelming, and sometimes confusing, blind product can be for a new player to start up with the game.
Dice Masters can be especially confuddling, with a high-rate of releases in its lifetime and a number of product types throughout that history. One thing is for sure though: the current Draft Pack model in Dice Masters could be considered NOT as accessible for new players.
One thing we observed happening here in the UK (and have heard tale told of this in other worldwide locations) was new players joining the game through the Campaign box period who tabletop gamed as a family, or were part of a 2 person play group. The self-contained nature of the Campaign boxes, and somewhat thematic focus gave them an in road. Blind product doesn’t give a new player the “out of the box” set up offered by the non-blind product.
That may well be mitigated by the upcoming release of the Marvel Dice Masters: Fantastic Four Vs Galactus play set (Announced for release in 2021) , which comes with the requisite starter gear (sidekick dice etc) and an intriguing “Solo Play” variant in it.
On the other hand – there is no doubt that there are a population of gamers who are always on the look out for a new collectible game that will not have the same new player reservations about accessibility and are happy to dive straight in for the aforementioned thrill of drafting, collecting & trading that the draft pack format puts front & centre.
After reading this post you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m pretty down on draft pack blind product, but I’m actually pretty indifferent to some degree. I’m not a fan of “the chase” particularly but believe there are much more financially intense collectible games around and have not had to splash too much on the secondary market over the years. Bottom line is – I love Dice Masters, and am really forgiving, so will collect it either way.
Given the worldwide circumstances, and the fact there’s only been one set so far on the draft pack model post-Campaign Box, it’s too soon to tell if the Draft Pack approach is going to boost the Dice Masters player base through attracting noobs or by catching the eye of the “retired” players.
I’d love to know your thoughts, so get in touch. Drop a comment below or send me a mail – which is your preference? Have you seen a renewed interest from ex-players? Which do you think is more attractive to a potential Dice Masters player?