Freelance Peacekeeping

Card Rarity

Bits and Bolts and Brewing - Custom TFTCG


Welcome to Bits and Bolts, a series intended to help folk with Transformers the Trading Card Game. Today, let's talk about brewing custom cards. Specifically, let's talk about deciding what rarity to put on your cards.

It feels a little odd to assign rarity to our cards. We're not packaging them in booster packs, and we're not planning for Turbo or Sealed tournaments. It's still important however to try and assign some concept of rarity to the cards; not only because the card databases are built around rarity, but because folk play rarity dependent tournaments using Junkion (Common) and Pauper (Common and Uncommon) formats.

Let's start by look at Stratagems. WotC gave us some written direction on their plans for stratagem rarity.

In Wave 5, a Common stratagem added value to a character in that wave. Typically that meant a Common character in the wave, but that was probably more for the random value of Limited play than it was a hard and fast rule. There were also two Common stratagems for Uncommon characters, and one for a Rare character.

Uncommons however, so we were told, were for specific teams. W5 was bad about that, offering us only two Stratagems that helped a team. Seven of the remaining Uncommons were for Super-Rare characters, while the last was for the Rare Head Clobber.

Lastly, Rare Stratagems were for helping characters not in W5. W5 also decided to break this a few times, providing the Rare Swap Heads stratagem.

Let's try to simplify this shall we?

    Stratagem Rarity

  1. Common Stratagems are stratagems that are released (and playtested!) with the character. It's available for use in any tournament the character is available in.
  2. Uncommon Stratagems are generally for a trait (be that tribe (Dinobot etc), vehicle mode (Car etc), or style (Ranged etc)). Trait-based Stratagems are expected to be less powerful than character specific stratagems because there are many options for that trait and it is harder to predict what interesting decks might make use of them.
  3. Rare Stratagems are released specifically for an older character. They were not play-tested with that character, and they make that character more powerful than was expected when that character was play-tested. They are not a balanced solution in Pauper/Junkion.

Next let's talk about Battle Card rarity.

Some aspect of the Battle Card rarity was due to Limited booster appeal. WotC wanted Primary Laser to show up easily in a game of Turbo, for example. There are however some definite trends with battle cards.

Common cards generally do not relate to traits. They may relate to Factions. Aside from a few cards, Common cards do not relate to traits, and they do not have trait hybrid battle icons. Common cards are never star cards. At a simple decision point, a Common card is always a fine card to play, but rarely a game-changer.

Uncommon cards are often more powerful than Common cards, though that may come with a limitation; for example being scrapped. Their play is more likely to be situational. Uncommon cards may refer to more general traits, such as vehicular and style, as well as Factions. If they relate to a tribe, then they are the weaker of the cards relating to the tribe. Uncommon cards are typically a valuable card to play, ignoring some very specific support cards like Enigmas. A sequence of Uncommon cards can be game-changers, and they are more likely to be kept in hand for the right time to be played.

Rare battle cards are often specific to a character, or the lynchpin support card for a tribe. They are often only of value in very specific decks, and were intended primarily for Constructed play. In some cases the cards are fairly generic, and are very powerful; for example Belligerence and End Hostilities, and they may 'cheat' the normal expectations of the game, for example Peace through Tyranny's extra turn or Daring Escape's alternative win condition.

    Battle Card Rarity

  1. Common battle cards may generally useful in any situation. They may be specific to Factions.
  2. Uncommon battle cards are more powerful, often with a limitation. They may refer to specific traits, such as vehicular or style, as well as factions. If they do relate to a tribe, they are the weaker of the cards relating to a tribe.
  3. Rare battle cards are often specific to a character or the lynchpin support card for a tribe. If they are generic, then they are often a very powerful game-changing card.

Most Star cards are Uncommons. Typically only Star cards received the more unusual battle icon combinations, such as [B][B][B], [W][O][U], and most [O][O] and [U][U] cards. By extension, we would expect only Star cards to receive [W][U] and [W][O] battle icons. Rare Star cards are more likely to refer to specific characters (Relentless Invasion, Blaster/Soundwave Star cards), or to provide high attack boosts.

This brings us to rarity for Character Cards.

There are a few general statements we can make about character card rarity. In the early waves; Vanilla characters (i.e. have no text on one or both of their sides) were most likely to be Common. As Vanillas were recognized to be less fun, this distinction went away. The higher star cards are Rare or Super-Rare; for example every card above 12 stars is a Rare or a Super-Rare, and many of the 12 star cards are Super-Rare.

It's also obvious that Set decisions determine character rarity. The micromaster patrols were all Common cards and Battlemasters were Uncommon. Four triple-changers were Common in Wave 4 to make up for their rarity in Wave 2. Titan Masters were Uncommon/Rare in Wave 5, while 'normal' characters were Common/Super-Rare for, presumably, printing reasons.

The best way to identify a more generalized ruling around character cards is to look at the tribes that had different rarities within them.


W1 Dinobots


Spy Patrol

This Spy Patrol relationships suggests that the Micromaster Lords (Tailwind, Powertrain etc.) should probably have been Uncommon cards.

Let's roll this together:

    Character Rarity

  1. A Common character is useful in any deck. It does not provide value to tribal colleagues, its effects are general and they are not game changing. They may be lower in stars.
  2. An Uncommon character is designed for a particular tribe. It has an effect that helps that tribe, either directly, or because the effect synergises well with another tribe effect.
  3. A Rare character goes beyond tribal effects and is a power in their own right. They have powerful game changing effects, and/or changes to expected run of play (for example, fetching cards from the scrap or playing extra cards).
  4. A Super-Rare character is a high-star level Rare card, probably chosen to drive sales. There were not enough low star cost Super-Rares for any clear patterns to emerge.

The point of this Bits and Bolts was to suggest some ideas for how to determine a card rarity. As it is done by broadly examining existing cards, it is an imperfect picture. That said, thank you for reading.