My Little Pony CCG Review (Part 2)

Back in the Saddle

Aug 17, 2015
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My Little Pony: Collectible Card Game

Publisher: Enterplay
Format: Card Game
Number of Players: 2
Play Time: 20 Minutes

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed what caught my attention about the My Little Pony CCG and gave an overview of how it's played. Part 2 is devoted to my personal experience with this game, both at casual and competitive levels, and a brief look at what the future may hold.

Time to jump back in, since it seems that this card game has some staying power. There's a new set coming out, and I'm hoping to convince a few of you all to give this unique game a try.

As I said in part one, I first learned to play the MLP CCG and got hooked on it back at PAX East 2014. I wanted to try it because it was a franchise that I already loved, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good the game actually was. I played some demo games with the lovely people of Pandemonium Books and Games, and ended up buying a couple of starter decks. They were even nice enough to let me borrow (and later buy) a bunch of rares so that I'd have a fighting chance at the Harmony event the next day.

...They must have really known what they were doing, because I won the whole thing.

After PAX East, I returned to the real world, where I discovered - unsurprisingly but disappointingly - that not many people shared my passion for making colorful horses solve Problems. Nonetheless, I managed to put together a small local group for casual play. As this group consisted largely of broke college students, I found myself building and supplying most of the decks for it, which was totally fine with me. As far as I'm concerned, half the fun is in the deck-building.

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The Mane Character I used at PAX East 2014.Super-ultra-extreme-awesome-mazing indeed.

It was around this time that Canterlot Nights and the Rock and Rave starter decks were released. We had a blast playing around with the new characters and game mechanics, but we didn't realize quite how much the game had just changed.

Skip ahead to PAX East 2015, where I walked into the Harmony event with a swollen head and a Blue/Yellow aggro deck that was largely unchanged from the year before. Sure, I hadn't been following the game all that closely, but I'd won last year on my second day playing the game! Now my cards were fine-tuned and I was a whole lot more experienced, and I was promptly and thoroughly stomped. What I saw there, and in later reports from GenCon and Bronycon 2015, painted a pretty clear picture of the state of the game at the competitive level.

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Meet the top-tier Manes.

Plain and simple, Rock and Rave rocks. Out of the top 16 at the continental championship held at GenCon, and the top 8 of the Harmony event at Bronycon, there were exactly 2 decks that did not run one of the Rock and Rave Mane Characters. 22 out of those 24 decks were some variety of Maud Pie troublemaker farming or DJ Pon-3 combo play, such as Pile of Presents and the now-infamous Screw Shot. The remaining two only made top 8 at the much smaller Bronycon event. Alas, my beloved RDW (Rainbow Dash Wins) simply wasn't viable anymore.

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Seen here: an artist's rendering of my performance at PAX East 2015

Well, I set out to write a review of the MLP CCG, and I've now managed to avoid doing that for an article and a half. With the overview and my personal experiences out of the way, let's get to wrapping this up:

This is a great game. It's got a unique concept that stays true to the franchise's morals of friendship and harmony, and a solid execution that manages to make a totally nonviolent encounter seem tense and exciting. There's a ton to play around with at the casual level, and a surprising amount of detail goes into building and playing a deck.

Deck construction is a lot more than just picking the right Mane and Friends. You have to consider which Problems you want to use, comparing bonus value against difficulty to confront and taking any effects they have into account. You have to decide which, if any, Troublemakers you want to throw in your opponent's way (or your own), again balancing bonus value against strength and effects. You even need to consider flip values, as that can make or break a faceoff for you. Deck building is half the fun, and there's a lot of fun to be had here.

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Do you have a favorite character? A preferred play style? Do you just think the art on something looks funny?

Even competitive play, although thoroughly dominated by Maud and DJ Pon-3, has a surprising amount of diversity. In the top 16 list from GenCon you can see Maud paired with a variety of colors, and two different takes on Pon-3 combo decks. While it would be nice to see the meta shaken up a little, and hopefully Equestrian Odysseys will do just that, we certainly aren't at Yu-Gi-Oh Invasion of Chaos levels here.

(For those who aren't familiar with it, the time between the release of the Invasion of Chaos set and the first banned card list was pretty bleak. Either you were running a Chaos deck with all the staple cards or you were losing miserably.)

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Speaking of Equestrian Odysseys, I am pretty excited for the future of this game. Enterplay has announced that they will be introducing a Block format, in addition to the current Harmony format. Block format will be reminiscent of Magic: the Gathering's Standard format, where only certain sets are legal and those cycle out as new ones are released. Equestrian Odysseys is the start of a new block, which means that we will see entirely fresh and new decks coming into the spotlight. For those who prefer it, Harmony format will remain the same, meaning that anything goes aside from a few specifically banned cards.

On the negative side, this game doesn't suffer from power creep so much as power slide. At first there was just one friend (Twilight Sparkle, Ursa Vanquisher) who had a power higher than her cost, and a few sets later, that was the norm. Orange and Pink used to be considered under-powered, and just look at the competitive scene now. This can certainly be frustrating for casual players who don't want to keep spending the money to update their decks. While such power creep is common in most CCGs, My Little Pony does seem to be rather egregious with it. Part of it might be that the game is is still pretty much a baby in comparison to some of the bigger named CCGs out there, and is still finding its stride. Equestrian Odysseys is going to be the next step forward, and I'm hopeful.

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It's gonna cost more than that, Dash.

Is the MLP CCG as good overall as, say, Magic: the Gathering? Frankly, no, but bear in mind that it's been out for a much shorter time. There are still wrinkles being ironed out of the rules and they haven't quite found their balance yet. However, for what it doesn't yet have in polish, it makes up for in originality, and a fresh take on card games. For myself, I'll take the time to keep playing, keep enjoying, and watch as the game grows to its full potential.

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Eric Henn

Head Writer