How “The Ancient Mew Effect” Weakens Card Games

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Hello to you loyal readers! Today we would like to tell you a little bit about “The Ancient Mew” effect and how it decreases the enthusiasm of many players towards card games. In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what this means and why it has gone from a strict novelty to a strict negative in established card games.

The artwork for Ancient Mew, from the first iteration of the Pokémon Trading Card Game.

The Ancient Mew effect is not a new phenomenon at all, but we here at Cool bleeding want to strike here and now, if we can.

The story is as follows: in the early days of Pokémon Trading Card Game, while still being published by Wizards of the Coast, a map was made public thanks to an extremely rare promotion. The card was called “Ancient Mew”, and it was almost unreadable due to having complex numbers and symbols very unlike any other Pokémon Trading Card Game card at the time. The goal of deciphering the text on Ancient Mew so that it could be used became a major task for gamers, and so the trend began.

Ancient Mew, a promotional card from the Pokémon trading card game known to be relatively impossible to decipher.
Ancient Mew, a promotional card from Pokémon Trading Card Game known to be relatively impossible to decipher.

However, as time went on and card games, in particular, gained in complexity (both in terms of style creep and power creep), the Ancient Mew effect became less of a novelty and more of a nuisance. Looking at the Summoning of Magic: The Gathering As a typical example, there are various cards in this series that are notoriously difficult to look at, and some might go so far as to qualify them as relatively ugly.

The Omniscience Summon from Hour of Devastation, an expansion for Magic: The Gathering.
The Omniscience Invocation of Hour of devastation, an extension set for Magic: The Gathering.

Let’s take a quick look: Omniscience, for example, is a great card to show if you want to highlight issues with summons. This card hardly looks like a blue card, other than its mana cost (which doesn’t look blue outside of the symbols) and the few small marks on the sides of the card. Summons are so rare that blue marks may even seem standard to all, to be frank. Add to that the illegibility of the name and type lines, and you’ve got yourself a card that’s more of a pain than a toy. Beyond that, Josh HassThe art of is beautiful, but we don’t see it well enough beyond the garish, Amonkheti-Egyptian styles, as well as the overall size of the map. Besides, there is only a limited amount of Nicol Bolas that we can really support in this series of cards.

The Summoning series covers over 50 cards in total, but the money doesn’t end there. If you can’t read a card, it’s hard to play a card! Aside from language barriers (as this will always be evident in Magic: The Gathering, especially in professional circuits), it is valid. The Ancient Mew effect is difficult for any player to manage.

This does not only apply to Magic, although. Look at these three Yu Gi Oh ! cards and, from memory, tell me what they do.

The Egyptian God Cards from Yu-Gi-Oh!  by Konami.
The cards of the Egyptian god of Yu Gi Oh ! by Konami.

If you could recite the actual effects of these three cards by heart, or even one of them, then you are probably a die-hard fan of the Yu Gi Oh ! collectible card game or animated series. But most people can’t do that. Text is difficult to convey even on cards with their mechanical text due to the font size. Imagine that you did not have these skills to read straight away. This would drag a player into the deep end.

Either way, the in-game components need to be easier to read than the novelty of the Ancient Mew effect would warrant. If more game designers saw this, the gaming industry would be in a slightly better position. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast (among others) have since decided not to be so innovative with the visual design of their cards. It’s a good thing, that’s for sure. Let’s keep that!

Posted in: Card games, Games, Games, Magic: The Gathering, Opinion, Pokémon TCG, Tabletop, Wizards of the Coast, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Tagged: Ancient Mew, Konami. Mew, magic, Magic: The Gathering, MTG, review, Pokemon TCG, PTCG, Wizards of the Coast, WotC, YGO, YGOTCG, yu gi oh!

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