Wow, it’s been awhile since I got a piece up here. If you read the past couple articles, that is probably giving you a strong sense of déjà vu, and I’ll touch on some of the reasons for that. In any case, we blew by the site’s one year anniversary a week ago, and while I’d have liked to have had a piece up for the occasion, it clearly didn’t come together. Maybe I’ll try to get something up in the vein if I can do it in a time frame that makes sense, but in case that doesn’t happen, I do want to note that, the past couple of months notwithstanding, I’m relatively happy with the volume of content I put out in year one. I wrote 69 (nice!) articles here and another 14 over at the Rathe Times. All together that was over 150,000 words of content (about the length of The Two Towers), which makes me feel marginally better about not completing some of my other writing projects in that window. Today is a bit of a split topic, I want to talk a little about the lack of updates generally, which is the boring part of the article (and feel free to skip it) and then we’ll get into my initial reactions to the Everfest announcement, aka the important part.
State of the Site
As noted, I haven’t really been updating the site much lately, and I mainly want to give people some explanation for that because when I’m quite for a protracted period, I usually end up with people messaging me to ask if I’ve lost confidence in the game, which is not something I want to project. I’d love to have a really compelling reason to explain the drop off in content, but there isn’t one. I’ve just been generally burnt out as of late, not with FAB in particular or even writing broadly. It’s more of an across the board thing. Part of it is due to the pandemic, which I think I’ve weathered relatively well overall. However, I work from home and haven’t been in the office since the first week of 2019. While I’m certainly fortunate not to be in a position that exposes me to potential infection, it’s been about two years now of rarely seeing anyone.
My state has the highest percentage of people with at least one vaccine dose in the US, but we also maintain relatively strict policies (masks are still required in all businesses and any sort of event from a movie to a concert to playing a CCG usually requires proof of vaccination). So, while I feel OK going out to events (I caught a Wolf Alice show two weeks and a Zeal & Ardor, Opeth, and Mastodon concert this week), I have this sort of pervasive background anxiety because things aren’t normal. I’m sure everyone else is and has been dealing with this to varying degrees in their own way, but I’m personally at a point where I’m worn down. If I had the vacation days, I’d take some time off work and collect myself, but I don’t, so I’m just sort of dragging myself onward. On that note, this is also one of the worst times of the year for me at work as we head into the holiday code freeze, so my days have been filled with an endless stream of priority requests as everyone tries to get the things they need before broad swathes of our workflows get locked down.
I’ve still got a ton of things I’d like to write about (mandatory reference to the Briar article that’s been sitting at 75% complete since mid-September –fuck that’s depressing to write), I just haven’t been able to get myself to actually do the writing. At this point, the lack of posting has itself become a source of generalized background stress, which is frustrating because it’s precisely the sort of thing I was hoping to avoid by not monetizing my content in any way. I sort of assumed that if I wasn’t taking people’s money I would feel less bad about the times when I wasn’t as productive, but that turns out not to be the case. To close this out. I know that this sort of discussion often prompts an audience to console the content creator (I support enough Patreons for content creators who constantly fret over gaps, that I see this all the time), and I appreciate the sentiment that might make people want to do the same for me. However, you really don’t need to reach out on that front, it just funnels into my feelings of failing my audience (yes, I know I’m difficult). Anyway, thanks for being a reader and sticking around through the down period; now let’s put a pin in the “woe-is-me” section and get onto the cool shit.
Let’s kick this off with some positivity. I’ll go over the things that I like and the things I’m optimistic about, a brief dip into finance land, and then we’ll get into my concerns. Normally, I’d save the upbeat stuff to close on, but after the previous section, we could do for some jollity. Everfest is, I’m certain, a subject that I’ll be revisiting as we get more information, but for now, I’m primarily working of the LSS set announcement.
I loved the aesthetics of Tales of Aria, so I’m personally excited to get to spend another expansion in that setting. I’m sure we’ll be back into the grim darkness of horrible death and mutilation when the next full set rolls out, so let’s all enjoy the whimsy while we’ve got it. And speaking of whimsy, I adore the booster box/wrapper design
Tales of Aria is probably still my favorite box design, but I think these boosters packs themselves might be my new favorites. The font, color scheme, even the circus tent design of the boxes foldout tab and the little posters and signs on the side of the box all contribute to a cohesive aesthetic. Anyone with any reference to real world circuses will immedaitly make the connection. I find it all very charming, and I’m excited to see some card art as we get closer.
I’m also honestly excited about the shift to sustainable packaging. As someone who opens a lot of product, it always feels a little gross to throw out a garbage bag of booster wrappers whenever a new set comes out. After a year or so of watching Wizards of the Coast take two steps forward with things like significantly slimmer secret lair packaging before taking a step back (giant plastic displays and optional environmentally-friendly packaging that no one stocks because they put no effort into it), it’s nice to see LSS just come out ahead of the industry leviathan and do some trailblazing with across-the-line recyclable packaging.
In terms of the set itself, all indications are that we’ll see at least one key reprint in Arcanite Skullcap given the image that was teased at the unlimited ARC out of print announcement.
Since we know the set has some quantity of reprints, I hold out hope that LSS is going to use this as an opportunity to finally get Command and Conqueror and Enlightened Strike (at a minimum) printed at something a bit closer to the modern Majestic rate. Getting the price of the cheapest play copy of C&C into a reasonable range would benefit the game immensely and lighten the burden on new players.
We also know that every hero is getting something. That’s a little ambiguous in that we don’t know if that means every specific class or just the parent classes –does Levia get Shadow Brute cards, or is she covered by Brute cards generally? What about classes that are currently Young hero-only like Shapeshifter and Merchant? However that shakes out, I’m glad to see all the classes get new toys, particularly after watching friends who main classes like Ninja be mostly shut out of new tech for the past year. I know LSS’ plan was supposed to be two main sets a year and one supplemental, but if players are supposed to identify with classes, the gaps honestly seem a bit too long. I’ve written previously about how I don’t think you can actually just pick a class and focus on it in FAB and be successful competitively, but it’s still how a lot of people regard the game, so getting them new cards more frequently is important, and powerful generics tend to be a bad solution (assuming you don’t like games to have very expensive staples).
One minor change is that the MSRP has gone up slightly on a booster box (to $99.90 US). While I’m sure everyone would prefer to not pay more money for cards, I’m neutral on this. Global logistics costs have gone up considerably in the past two years, especially in the board and card game market. It’s also entirely possible that there are some marginally higher costs associated with sustainable packaging. The amount of the increase isn’t that much, though I could see how some people might feel that it stings a little that it arrives with a supplemental set where you’re getting fewer cards per pack. Still, as long as the next full-sized set doesn’t have an even higher price point, I think this is a change that we’ll all be able to live with.
What I Don’t Like
This set has three Legendarys. Unless LSS has changed their distribution model for Legendarys, this means you’re going to need to open a bit over 6.5 boxes on average before you see one. That sucks. I cannot not emphasize how much I hate the pull rate of Legendarys in supplemental sets. (From a play perspective, I think it’s honestly too low in 6 Legendary sets, but that’s a different article.) The pull rate sucked when Crucible of War did it with two Legendarys, and it’s still going to suck when Everfest does it with three. Have I mentioned that is sucks? Moreover, when you combine reprint Legendarys (which are absolutely necessary) with new ones, the reprints tend to end up being bad hits as they aren’t cold foil. So, you could very easily open two cases and hit zero Legendary’s or just a Skullcap reprint, which will be headed down meaningfully in price as soon as Everfest lands. With first edition pricing coming back down to Earth post-Monarch, we saw that TOA was easily a negative EV case if you failed to open a Legendary, and, I suspect that this is going to be the case for Everfest unless A.) LSS changes the distribution model for higher rarity cold foils or B.) Injects more chase cards into the product (which could potentially create additional problems depending on how it’s implemented). Maybe the “carnival” slots will be a stab at a solution, but we don’t have any real info on them at this time.
While we’re on the topic of value, I should say right now that, given the currently available information, I absolutely recommend that no one pre-order first edition Everfest for over MSRP. I would not be at all surprised if we see boxes freely available at MSRP (or even less) on release day, and you do not want to tie up money months in advance. Again, maybe LSS will release new information that makes us reevaluate this, but caution is the prudent approach here. My personal plan is to keep my Team Covenant subscription rolling because of their exclusive promos, but I have no intention to order any additional Everfest, particularly from merchants who expect me to pay in advance. Similarly, as with TOA (and, as ever, assuming no changes to the distribution model), I expect to open fewer cases than I did of sets from WTR through MON and focus more on buying singles after the market settles. I enjoy gambling in moderation, and opening Fables is fun, but the odds on TOA weren’t that exciting, and supplemental sets make me even more nervous. I still maintain that, had the game not blown up far overtaxing supply, CRU would be regarded as a bad set because of the relatively low EV of a box. CRU unlimited only managed to avoid being a mess because of the tighter constraints LSS (wisely) put on the supply.
As a mitigating factor to consider with Everfest, there are more distinct Majestics than we saw with CRU (45 vs 36) despite the overall set sizes being about the same (195 EVR vs 198 for CRU). What that means is that any given Majestic will appear less frequently in Everfest. So, if you thought you were drowning in excess commons and rares with CRU, Everfest is going to be even worse in that you’d need to open even more cases to complete your playsets. Given that, almost all of us will be buying singles to finish playsets. This should increase the price of the best Majestics as singles, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on what you think a Majestic should cost. The weird byproduct here is that, despite the interest in conservation and sustainability on packaging, this set itself is going to produce an absurd amount of cards that will, eventually, end up in the trash or recycling. I have a feeling you’re not going to be able to give commons away by the time the first edition print wave is done. Speaking of editions, we don’t have a projection for Everfest unlimited, which makes me think we’ll get a pretty sizeable first edition print run.
I’m excited about the product from a theme end. The aesthetics are good, and I’m very excited about more “fun times in Rathe” art. The product packaging changes are a welcome move and hopefully one the rest of the industry will follow suit on. The reprinting of Skullcap is a good thing for players and shows that LSS is still actively thinking about cost as a barrier to entry (though, as noted, I still think it’s problem for prospective competitive players). The financial end of things is where I’m less enthusiastic. I don’t think we’re in any danger of the game dying or things going to zero, but we are in an era where I’m struggling to see a lot of short term value. I still plan to continue to buy cases of each first edition product, which I believe will accrue long term value well, but we’re talking 3-5 years plus. In the singles game, I’ve largely stopped buying new cards to hold outside of those for my own personal collection. I feel very little urgency on that front (I still haven’t gotten around to grabbing the few CFs I need from TOA because I see prices going down or staying flat for a while yet). I don’t think this is a problem for the game. FAB is a game people actually play as opposed to being either a straight collectable or speculative asset (like some other popular CCGS). If you’re a player, especially one who buys singles as their main way of getting cards, Everfest news-to-date is pretty much all stuff you can be excited about. If you’re here for the financial end, I think you’ve got to be pretty focused on that carnival slot, because if there’s a way for LSS to energize the financial end of the game, that’s probably where it’s going to be.
*Header Image- Everfest reveal image from FABtcg.com uncredited at time of writing