I'd like to start off a bit lighthearted. While going through the 63 packs of cards I opened, I noticed a misprint so laughable it now has it's own entry on the MLP CCG Rules FAQ, and this is the card Marvelous Chapeau, or as I have been calling it “The Giant Hat of Win”, which reads “While this Friend is at an opponent's Problem, If you have at least 3(white) in play, you need 1(of any color) to confront that Problem” - It was supposed to read “-1(of any color)”.
Another homage I have to point out comes from the first CCG, Magic the Gathering, which I don't care much about, but in its Alpha series (the first release) there was a card known as “The Black Lotus” that allowed the player to have a significant advantage during the early part of the game by giving them extra temporary mana (the equivalent of action tokens in MLP). Today, that card is still valued as the rarest and most desirable card in MTG. The MLP CCG has Heart's Desire, which I recognized as a reference to that card by it's play, but the flavor text really tickled me. The fact that it too is an Ultra Rare, is probably part of the homage.
Well, now that I am done with the silly stuff, it's time to get a bit serious. I dug through the rules over and over, which eventually led me to the first link above to find the complete rules of the game, and reading them I am crushed. I consider myself a Twilight type in that I am a touch obsessive over checking details, so even though the wording for basically all of the Mane Six's abilities had to be explained in the rules, Fluttershy's and Twilight's abilities (Caretaker and Studious) do not stack. This is a big problem because all of the other abilities either stack or offer a greater bonus. I am not a competitive player for anything, but most purple cards have a higher cost and requirement than other colors, so it isn't hard to see that stacking this ability would offset the cost of those cards, and yellow is comprised of about five non-critters, only two of which have Caretaker, so for these two it's not so much a bonus mechanic, but a question of why didn't these characters just have one added to their normal power?
For those who don't know:
Caretaker is a keyword that gives +1 power to the character when there is a Critter Friend involved at that problem, but only receives one point regardless of the number of Critter Friends.
Studious gives an action point when winning a Faceoff, but only only one action point may be received during a Faceoff regardless of how many characters have this Keyword.
According to one youtuber, Twilight and the purple color cards are last choice for competitive play, and I have to agree that these mechanics do not seem balanced. One could say that the other cards of that color balance everything, but if that were the case, because all decks must be two colors, that just unbalances the rest of the game when a player chooses that color as a secondary color... Long story short, Caretaker and Studious Should stack, but don't.
Well~ As I said, I am a bit light Twilight, so I decided to take stock of the decks in order to gain an idea how to build them. Enterplay has been a little too predictable about this, because all of the decks except for Twilight's, which has 14/14 Friends, have this construction:
15 primary color Friends
13 secondary color Friends
Since the game is so new, it's hard to say how any deck should be built, and what it comes down to is how other players are building their decks anyway, so there isn't much that can be said about this.
Chatoyance suggested alternative rules can sometimes make a game work better, and even though I have not had the opportunity to get in more than just a few games, I do have some ideas that can round the rough edges left by Enter-play.
An Alternative Rule System for the MLP CCG
When using these rules, games will be played normally except for the changes described. Games are played without a Mane Character, instead, players are allowed to play Friends with a requirement of up to one of any color without actually having that color in play. A player may choose at anytime to designate one of their characters in play as a Mane Character. Once this choice has been made, it cannot be changed. This character now takes on the role of a Mane Character, and cannot become the target of cards that read “play on a Friend”. If any of the cards played on this character could not be played on a Mane Character, dismiss them.
Since some cards can dismiss Friends, there is a possibility that a player will end up without any characters in play. Being able to designate a Mane Character can prevent that, and allows rarer cards with nice abilities to surface with an even chance for both players. Strategically, waiting to designate a Mane Character can allow a player to shake off unwanted Resource cards played against that character, but opponents may still be able to use this to their advantage by loading down a particular character before the player has played their best character, in hopes of dismissing the better character should one come into play.
Seriously – The abilities Caretaker and Studious stack, nuff said.
A Sea of Troublemakers – A face down Troublemaker is not turned face up if there is already a face up Troublemaker on that problem, but instead stays in play face down until it can be turned face up. Only one face down Troublemaker may “wait” in this fashion. A player may still dismiss the active Troublemaker for the face down Troublemaker during their Troublemaker phase, but may not change the order of the Troublemaker “line”.
Cluster Cuss – During Faceoffs, not only do you add the power of your characters involved at problems, but also the power of your Resource cards played on that problem or to any Friends involved at that problem, including your cards played on opponent's characters involved in that Faceoff.
99 Problems – Play happens with one central problem deck, where two problems are dealt to either side. Both players only need to meet the any color side of the problem to confront it. With this rule, no player receives the bonus for being the first to successfully confront this problem, however, if a player is able to confront the specific requirements, they receive an additional point every time they successfully confront the problem this way.
High Standard – Play to 30 points instead of 15. Action token cap remains at 5... What? You expected something more?
I.B. Drafting *Snicker* - This game uses all of the Incredible Backgrounds rules above, so players involved should discuss the rules before play, and agree on any changes made to them. A draft can be played with eight players and six packs of cards. Each player will open a pack of cards, remove all problem cards placing them in a pile in the center of the table, take one card from the remaining cards in the pack, and pass the pack to the left until there are no more cards. This happens for each pack alternating the pass direction every pack. When this is finished, each players selects 45 cards to use as their deck. The other cards may be switched out between games. The problems are shuffled then divided into one deck for each pair of players. Players are randomly paired and play two out of three games with each opponent to determine the winner of that round. After each round, the Problem cards are collected and randomized again.
When the draft is completed, the problem cards are divided into eight face down stacks, and each player is chosen at random, then that player chooses a stack to keep. This is so that they know how many cards are in each stack, but not what cards.
Rewards for drafting can vary, collectors and starting players may opt to draft for no rewards other than expanding their card collection and having fun. More confident players may wish to play so that the winner of the draft gets an unopened pack of cards from each of the other players, or some other pony related reward that everypony helps buy. I say pony related reward, because any reward outside of MLP turns the game into a tool for gambling, and although I don't really have a problem with gambling itself, using non-MLP rewards will attract ruthless players only interested in winning for the reward and not for the sake of enjoying My Little Pony.
Because this plan for drafting requires a minimum of 48 packs of cards, I highly recommend that interested players split the cost of a booster box from a wholesaler. Booster boxes have 36 packs of cards, meaning 12 additional packs will still have to be purchased. One method to consider is to split the cost of two booster boxes and use the remaining packs as prizes: participants of the second round will each get a pack, participants of the third will each get three packs, and the two finalists each get seven packs.
At current prices, each player will have to spend about $21.25, however, due to buying in bulk and tax, this is slightly less than what a pony would expect to pay for six packs of cards from a retail store anyway. Canterlot Nights is about to be released, and I imagine drafting would be a great way to get a head start on anypony's collection, as well as keep the game fresh and exciting.