Over the year(s) that I’ve been blogging here I have come to believe that some large part of the entertainment value (if I may be so bold as to use that phrase for what I have done ’round these here parts) that folks derive from reading about my exploits has to do with something I think of as a blended mix of fascination and horror at the level of obsessive behavior I struggle with on a daily basis. “How can all that crap be done by the same person? And… his poor family!” is something like what I imagine people think when they expose themselves to my latest fascination.

I am opening in this way for a reason. I… I think I’m bracing myself for what I have to divulge next.

As you may know, I play a lot of games. There are, in fact, not all that many games that I haven’t played, in one form or another. If it’s got orcs and swords and magic and stuff in it, chances are I’ve at least picked it up and tried it. If it’s good, chances are I was obsessed with it for a while.

So it was with some trepidation that I read of the horrible alchemy of the (then-impending, and now readily available) World of Warcraft Trading Card Game.

Some of you may not have been exposed to the nightmarish world that is these collectible card games (CCGs, or, as the WoW game has apparently re-christened them, “trading card games”, or TCGs). If that is true, I can say with the sternest of faces and the most serious of voices: if you derive any joy from collecting stuff, and in particular from completing sets of things, stay the fuck away from these games. They will cost you thousands of dollars.

In brief, here’s how they work: there are hundreds of different cards (and sometimes, in a mature game, thousands), all of which are useful in some way. Some are ‘common’, some are ‘uncommon’, and some… some are the elusive prey known to the Card Hunter as ‘rare‘. What does this mean? You may ask… but only if you are strong of heart. God knows, I was not.

It means that they sell you these cards, these nefarious slices of demonic power, in “packs”, which come in various shapes and sizes. Usually, there’s something like 12 cards in a pack. Nine of these will be ‘common’. Feh. Three of these (say) will be ‘uncommon’. And one, and only one, will be ‘rare’.

$2.75 a pack, or sometimes as much as $4.00. Buy now!!

It’s the worst kind of evil: the kind of evil that steals hundreds, nay thousands of dollars, from children. Babies, mostly.

I can only imagine that Blizzard feels they have not managed to extract quite enough cash from their World of Warcraft franchise. They (I imagine) must feel the urge to keep up with the Joneses, and build their own skyscraper. Or, perhaps they want to use $1000 bills to wallpaper their studio. For, what other nefarious impulse would lead them to decide to enter into this horrendous fray? What would make them release their own trading card game??

Whatever else it is, it’s evil.

Now, you may at this point be imagining that I am going to reveal to you that I have fallen into this WoW:TCG hole. You may imagine that I am, at this moment, up to my eyeteeth in cards with names like “Sunder” and “Arcanite Reaper”. You might further imagine that I have emerged, penniless and broken, my life destroyed by this marketing juggernaut. Indeed, my past behavior would give you good reason to expect this outcome!

Aha!! Fear not, o fearless reader! I have, in fact, purposefully led you astray in this narrative. (Unkind, I know.) For, you see, although you may have come to believe that I am completely without self-control and willpower when it comes to my gaming obsessions, I can assure you: that is not. the. case.

No, friends. I am steel. I am made of iron.

I have been down this road before, and I know its evils. I knew what lay in store for me on the other side of that threshold, yes, friends!! I am strong!!

That’s right. I took one look at that damn card game Blizzard was getting ready to release upon a fragile and unsuspecting world, and said to myself, “Boy, that WoW game sounds kinda dumb. Hey, didn’t I used to play a different card game with vampires in it? I think I have a bunch of cards lying around somewhere… I wonder what they’ve done with that game since the last time I looked? Hey!! Wow!! Look at all the new expansions I’ve missed!! Holy crap! I don’t have any of these cards!! And look!! You can get ’em cheap on eBay!! Oooooo, they just released the third edition!! Where’s my credit card!!
I am not exaggerating when I say that the rest of my world has pretty much come to a full stop while I engage with this titan. By way of demonstration, let me describe a project that I just recently completed: White Wolf (the blessed publisher of said game, having retrieved the rights back from Wizards of the Coast some time ago) has on their site a .csv file that lists every card ever published for the game, all 3,000 or so of them. I didn’t like the way they had laid out the data in this file (it cramped my style, you see), and so I learned Python, wrote a parser, and completely rebuilt the file. Now, after several days of massaging and bug-fixing, I have an Excel file that allows me to…

…if you have small children with you, you might want to avert their eyes at this point…

…count and catalogue my entire 4000+ card collection, in minute detail, so that I can better determine what I’m missing and what I really should not get any more of. I am about 80% done with the counting as of this morning (in which I digested my collection of cards from the Dark Sovereigns expansion).

I… also have at home now two (soon to be three) new card boxes, in which my collection has been being filed. Alphabetically.

My friends are no help. In passing, I mentioned this recent fixation to a buddy of mine at work. “Oh, yeah!” he opined. “I played that! I have a bunch of cards at home! I’ll bring ’em in for ya!”


Apparently, the gaunt, hung-over, “I’ve been alphabetizing for three days” look had no impact on his empathic systems. Twenty hours later, this friend buried me under his collection, which had apparently been sitting in a back corner for years, mewling piteously, in search of its true master. And, apparently, that was to be me. So I (wonderously) got to add ~750 cards (including something like 50 of the elusive rare variety) to my collection. This, as you can imagine, did not do much to dim the fires of my obsession.

I’ll try to post some pictures later. I’ve been too busy counting and alphabetizing to take any pictures, you see.

p.s. For the love of all that is holy, does anyone have a Talbot’s Chainsaw??? It’s the only card of the first release that I don’t yet have. /cry!!!

p.p.s. I…

…also bought a case of boosters packs (36 in a case) and two starter decks for the WoW game.

But that’s it! I’m not getting any more!