Hello again, Aphelion here, owner of Team Rankstar. If you have been paying attention to the digital card game (DCG) world in the past few years, you have probably seen the growth of the culture quite a bit. I don’t think anyone expected Hearthstone to blow up as much as it did, but it really paved the way for the current DCG scene to bloom. Since the boom of Hearthstone, many other games have joined the ranks of "fun to play, relatively accessible financially, while still offering a big prize to work for." I would venture to say the vast majority of the player base for DCG’s falls into the “casual” category. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren't competitive, just that they likely will not compete in any events, play for 30 minutes to an hour or so each day, and do not focus too heavily on pushing for the highest ranks. While a fairly small percentage of players are actually working diligently, playing 3+ hours each day, pushing to be at the tip top of the competitive scene, and compete in tournaments. There are of course some folks who fall somewhere in the middle, could see themselves playing in a tournament if they have a free weekend, or even traveling to events on occasion, but for the sake of this article, we will focus mostly on the competitive scene.
This is by no means a deep dive in to each individual scene, for each game. My goal is simply to showcase some of the highlights of the games Team Rankstar works with, and list off some of the events that might attract competitive players to them. I won’t really be talking about mechanics, or what differentiates the games, simply the competitive atmosphere, and what to expect if you are considering jumping in. All prize pools will be listed as USD.
For a time, many DCG players affectionately referred to this game as “The Great Destroyer.” It was hyped and poised to take the DCG scene by storm, and knock some of the other competitors out of the running. While this may not have happened (yet), the game still has an incredibly active competitive scene. Despite Twitch or Steam numbers, there are new tournaments being announced almost weekly, some of which with some very impressive prize pools.
The Chronosphere Cup: https://lobby.gg/event/
NoControl and Nerd Street Gamers are hosting a pair of online qualifiers (one in February, and another which has not been announced yet), with a $2500 prize pool each, leading into a $10,000 LAN style event in Lakewood, Colorado this April.
Artifact BitCoin League: https://artifactcup.com/2019/
A free entry, single elimination draft league with a $2000 prize pool at the end of February.
Noxfire League: https://league.noxfire.net/
They just announced a combined $100,000 tournament, in conjunction with a CS:GO event. $30,000 will be allocated for Artifact.
StanCifka’s $5k+ series: https://www.reddit.com/r/
Stan is one of Artifacts most vocal supporters, and seems to exist only to push the future of the game. For regular updates, I would suggest following them on Twitter (https://twitter.com/StanCifka
Valve’s $1,000,000 tournament: https://artifact.game/news/
There is no official word on a lot of the details for this one, however we know it will happen. This was a huge part of their marketing push to get people into the game, and rightfully so. That’s a lot of money. We are still waiting on more details, which will likely come after some changes/updates are made to the game, possibly additional sets. Needless to say, this will grab a lot of competitive players focus, and is a great opportunity at glory.
Eternal is the Magic: The Gathering analogue for the digital era. If you like Magic, and not leaving your home to beat down scrubs, or don’t enjoy the standard format in MTG, this game might be for you. It was in Beta for a long time, but came out with a bang, and some very strong tournament support:
The Eternal Tournament Series: https://rngeternal.com/
RNGEternal has been holding the competitive scene down in Eternal since it’s inception. Their name is synonymous with “tournaments” in Eternal, and their team has put in a ton of work to keep the interest alive for some time. Their structure offers a point system that allows you to push toward seasonal and annual events, which can be very rewarding for a spike.
The Eternal Community League: http://eternaltournaments.com/
The nice folks at The Great Parliament have been chugging away with weekly events, ranging from more casually focused, to more competitively focused. They provide a nice platform for new players to get their feet wet, and veteran players to hone their skills.
Eternal World Championship: https://www.direwolfdigital.
Eternal now boasts a whopping $100,000, tournament coming up later this year, which has the attention of many. The game hung out in beta for the better part of two years, with no real indication of when something like this would happen, then BOOM, $100k tournament. Now is a great time to try out the game, if you are looking to win big.
Gwent was a standalone game, made from the popular “The Witcher” in game card game. Like Eternal, it hung out in beta for a while before any real news of release. Unlike Eternal, and basically any other game ever, when they decided to go for full release, they released an almost completely different game. Thematically the same as beta Gwent, Gwent: Homecoming plays very differently than its former self. This extreme makeover was initially seen as “bad” by the community. Change is hard, and the game was not what a lot of players had fallen in love with. However, with loads of communication since it’s launch, regular updates and new features coming out regularly, Gwent is re-positioning itself to be a major contender in the DCG race.
Gwent Masters: https://masters.playgwent.com/
For a game that was in beta, then shifted around a bunch, there is a very robust prize pool for the Masters series. There are Opens ($25,000 prize pool), that feed into Challengers ($100,000), that ultimately feed in to Masters ($250,000). Since the shift into Homecoming back in October, there has not been a ton of new news surrounding these events. Nothing seems to have changed since their beta tournaments, so there is no reason to believe this game will do anything but continue to grow. To top it off, the production value of their events is insane, with each event representing one of the factions in the game, and set in an immersive location with real life bards, village people (no, not the YMCA guys) and hawk trainers. Even if you do not like the game, their events are worth watching.
The grandfather of the digital card games has a long, and well known tournament history. Big prize pools, great production value, a whole circuit of online and LAN events for people to participate in, a well structured point system that allowed players to qualify for even bigger events, etc. They have since announced a major restructuring of how they are doing things, with many of the big events not being announced yet (https://playhearthstone.com/
They seem to only do these once per year, but they are a lot of fun. If you like Wild, have been playing for a long time and have a decent collection, these are a great way to get some use out of those old cards. A $30,000 prize pool too.
Magic The Gathering: Arena
MTG is the grandfather of ALL modern card games. It also has a well known tournament history, but since we are focusing on DCGs in this piece, I will be looking exclusively at MTG:A. MTG:A came out of beta not that long ago, and having the built in audience of MTG, it had a lot of popularity. As such, it will be a contender for the top spot in the DCG field very soon, if not already. While the momentum has not quite picked up to knock out Hearthstone, the game speaks for itself, and has a lot to offer a competitive player.
Mythic Invitational: https://magic.wizards.com/en/
Another $1,000,000 prize pool is up for grabs in the digital space. If you asked me a year ago, when Team Rankstar was getting started, if you had told me there would be multiple $1,000,000 prize pools on the line for DCGs in 2019, I would have laughed. Heartily. Alas, here we are. Wizards doesn’t really do anything without arousing some controversy, and a lot of paper players are very skeptical of the shift toward digital. The most notable aspect being that in paper MTG, you play a best of three, with the option to sideboard between games, giving you a chance to battle on different axis. MTG:A has more or less taken that away, at least for its ladder mode, and some players are not as excited about that. Wizards has addressed this by creating the “Duo-Standard” format, which allows players to bring two different decks, then pick one to start with, and play a best of three with those. Modern problems require modern solutions. One of the biggest boons in the competitive MTG world is that your paper skills translate to digital, and vice versa, making your ability to practice at home, out with friends, at local tournaments, etc very enticing for players who really like to immerse themselves in the games they love. A huge selling point for MTG:A.
I have to hand it to Cygames, they did what DCG players have been asking for for a long time: add an in game tournament mode. Eternal and Artifact have it now, but this is one key thing missing from the other games. The way they structure it, the way it seamlessly integrates into their whole eSports initiative, is actually quite impressive. From a competitive players perspective, they offer a ton of opportunities to play in cash tournaments, with as little effort as possible. The games primary demographic is Asian, however Cygames has really made a push to capture Western audiences. If you are able to enjoy the game for its mechanics, Shadowverse has a ton to offer.
World Grand Prix: https://shadowversewgp.com/en/
Okay so going in for another $1,000,000 annual event, and you can theoretically play the entire thing on your phone, what a time to be alive. The World Grand Prix just took place in December, brought a lot of great attention to the game, and showed the world that Shadowverse was a game to be reckoned with. Now, several of major teams, including Tempo Storm, Panda Global and Echofox, have put their hat in the ring, as they see the potential in Shadowverse.
Community Events: https://battlefy.com/
Shadowverse also has a really healthy community tournament scene for both of its formats (Rotation and Unlimited), many with cash prizes, that range in skill level. Just about every weekend there is an opportunity to win money playing the game, which is certainly something to be aware of as a spike. Cygames seems to put a good amount of marketing dollars into making these community events visible too, so that is promising.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends
Bethesda took a risk when they jumped into the DCG scene at the height of Hearthstone’s reign. They could either rise up, and be a recognizable name in the greater DCG community, or get cast down by the titans. Thankfully, they delivered. The Elder Scrolls: Legends (TESL) has a lot of unique features that differentiates itself from other DCGs, is available on mobile, and has a really passionate community that keeps the game going. While the history of the game is not without it’s blemishes, the new developers (Sparkypants) and the community manager (CVH) have been incredibly vocal about the future of the game, and very hands on in communication. This is pretty rare in the gaming industry, being able to directly interact with the movers and shakers of the game you love. Also, with design talent in the form of Josh Utter-Leyton, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Jason Ashley Hager, you can expect great things coming town the pike in this game.
Autamaton and friends over at WarpMeta have been single handedly carrying the competitive scene in TESL for a long time, similar to RNGEternal in Eternal. They feature weekly $150 tournaments, with no entry fee, they are just nice people. With the community being as passionate as it is about the game, its very easy to find resources and get started playing TESL competitively.
$50,000 prize pool and they fly you out if you win one of the qualifier events? Yes, please and thank you. Anyone who was anyone in the TESL community tried their hand at this, because why not? You have the change to go spend a fun weekend at a convention with the best of the best in the game that you love, all on Bethesda’s dime, and have guaranteed money even if you place dead last in the main event. Nothing has been announced for 2019 yet, but we also found about about the 2018 event just 9 days before the first qualifier, so I have feeling it might be a bit before we hear anything.
Team Rankstar Classic: https://teamrankstar.com/
Saving the best for last! Team Rankstar has been hard at work (mostly Lateralus) creating a tournament for the TESL community. The events have had amazing casting, production, custom artwork and administration, creating a very smooth series of events. It is really hard for me to talk about this objectively, but they are a lot of fun and you get to hang out with us all day. No entry fee, prize pools change based on scope of event, but the quarterly “Classic” events are $500 prize pool.
I hope this helps paint a picture of the competitive scene for some of the DCGs out there. The games are very different, and have a lot to offer a range of players, so I encourage you to at least try them all out at some point. Most of the ones listed offer a “free to play” model, that allows you to grind for cards over time, so you do not have to actually put any money into it. Or, you can drop ~$50 in just about any of them to get a top tier deck, and try your hand at playing what the best play.
Until next time,