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Busting that First Box

By Scott Gerhardt

        You know, it seems like pulling teeth to get me to write an article over anything these days.  Why is that?  Well, it seems everything Iím writing about has already been written about by a hundred people before me, not to mention a lack of time.  So, what did I need?  A topic that hasnít been beaten into the ground about a subject the interests me enough to write about it.

            Introduce Neopets, the TCG.  First of all let me tell anyone who has any question about this game this Ė itís good.  Itís very good.  I really hope this game catches on in the TCG community because it was well designed and is a blast to play.  That, though, is not the conversation of this article.  Thatís for another one. J

            The other day I had an opportunity to bust a box of Neopets.  I have what seems like a billion things to say about this.  Things that struck me as funny, strange, cool, or what have you.  These are mostly my meanderings from a guy that has been playing TCGs now for close to 9 years.

            First of all, I get to do something I have not done in a very long time Ė bash Wizards of the Coast.  I call them like I see them.  On the Magic side of things, Wizards has done very well lately.  The first thing I saw out of Neopets is what initially upset me Ė the price.  For quite some time now, Wizards has stuck at a $3.29 retail for itís booster packs.  This is up from the $2.99 it used to be.  This is up from the $2.49 it was before then.  Yes, itís been a steady increase Ė kinda like a stamp at the Post Office.  Itís not a matter of if the product is going to go up, but when.  Apparently, theyíve decided to make their move with Neopets.  Thatís fine Ė I can handle an increased retail on a 15 card booster pack.  Wait a minute Ė gripe number 2.  For my $3.49, I am not getting 15 cards, but rather a mere 8.  Okay.  That REALLY sucks.  I feel very gypped simply opening a booster pack, but then again, what are you going to do?  If you want to play the game, youíll play by their rules, or you wonít play.

            After opening, I realized the distribution was a little strange amongst packs.  I found this quite odd, but after watching it for a while, realized what was going on.  Allow me to tell everyone the ďanatomyĒ of a pack of Neopets.  When you open a pack, you will get the following 8 slots:

3 Commons
2 Uncommons
1 Rare
1 Basic Neopet
1 Possibly Holo Slot

This is quite strange, so I will elaborate.  First, the Basic Neopet.  These come in 2 varieties Ė rare and common.  I have found a ratio of approximately 1 in 10 as far as getting a rare one.  The first box I opened had 3, the second had 4 total.  Whether or not this is rare has no impact on the rest of the pack.

            The other strange slot is the ďPossibly HoloĒ slot.  The packs I opened, if they had a holo rare, had one as the first card staring back at you.  In both boxes I opened, I got 12 holos, so a ratio of 1 in 3.  If the pack did not have a holo, there would be another common in the common slot. 

            So, the best case scenario was a rare basic neopet, a holo rare, a regular rare, 2 uncommons, and 3 commons.  You get 3 rares in this pack.  I think I saw it happen twice.  The worse case scenario is no holo and common neopet.  You get 1 rare, 2 uncommons, and 5 commons.  I saw this a LOT.

            One of the next issues is distribution.  Now while I blast Wizards for being cheap on their card count, I commend them on this issue.  In the first box (the one I really analyzed), I got at least 1 of every single uncommon, and no more than 2 of any one.  I got anywhere from 1-3 of any common, missing none.  None of the rares repeated themselves, as did no foils.  I know this was also true for the second box I opened.  It looks like Wizards made a concerted effort to make sure that a box would yield a specific number of the cards for play, making it so players were not left wanting.

            Unfortunately, that brings me to my next point.  This set is huge.  There are 30 holo rare, 63 regular rares, and approximately 60 uncommons (I didnít count this one for sure).  Since you can have up to 3 of any card in a deck, you will open a box and be painfully short of building any quality decks.  Having 1-2 of a card when you need 3 is rough.  I have a general guide to deckbuilding and  booster box busting, and itís in the uncommon slot.  To have enough general cards to build decks, you should bust enough packs so that you have enough uncommons to be able to play up the the max of any of them.  Obviously, this wonít always work perfectly, but you should open about that much.  With this, being able to build 1 1/5 uncommon sets per box, you will need to open 2 Ĺ boxes of Neopets to be able to reach that number.  This also, coincidentally, is the number of boxes you would have to open to obtain 1 of every holo (provided you did not get a single duplicate Ė highly unlikely).  This number also gets you to approximately 1 Ĺ sets of rares.  Letís assume the average person could obtain a box of Neopets for $90 (I donít honestly know if thatís right, but I think itís close Ė most people should be able to find it for around this price somewhere on the Internet), then 2 Ĺ boxes would run you $225, and that is just for the BARE minimums to build a deck.  Youíll probably have to trade and/or purchase more singles just to get stuff you need for a deck.  For a game geared toward a younger audience, that is a LOT of money.  You can buy a game console system plus a couple games for that, and this is just cardboard.  I think Wizards should have found a way to get this number a little lower Ė at least under $200.

            Well, I think this is about all I can rant over this subject.  The set certainly has itís positives and negatives from this perspective.  Feel free to bust a box yourself and see if your feeling and discoveries are consistent with mine.  In the future, I will attempt to (time permitting) write an article or two about more strategy-oriented aspects of this game.  I think the game is fascinating and people who play it will like it as well.

            In the meanwhile, if youíre looking for anything Neopets TCG oriented, I encourage you to write me at scott@shufflandcutgames.com.  Our company is toying with the idea of dealing in the singles for Neopets and weíre interested to see what kind of response the game will have and what kind of demand for singles there is.

            Thanks for listening to my ramblings.  Until next time, keep playing!


 

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