MetaZoo – Why I’m Skeptical

Don’t buy into the hype without reading this first.

I wasn’t quite sure what to title this article. I’m still not sure even as I write it. In any case, the general purpose of this article is mostly to warn anyone who, like myself, has found themselves curious about buying into MetaZoo.

So for starters, let’s quickly define what MetaZoo is. This is a bit difficult, because MetaZoo wants to be a lot of things, but its core is a TCG (Trading Card Game), named, unsurprisingly, Metazoo. It’s this TCG and the elements around it that currently make me nervous about wanting to get involved or buy anything MetaZoo related.

If nothing else, there’s a single massive factor that has turned me off of MetaZoo so far: the several times I’ve actually sat down and tried to play the game, I didn’t actually have very much fun. And I consider that a really bad sign, because I really like card games and trading card games. I’ve played a ridiculous amount of Magic, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh, both in paper and in those games’ digital equivalents. And even when I’ve gotten stomped, even when things have gone wrong, I’ve still had fun. MetaZoo hasn’t been fun.

(A brief aside: MetaZoo, generally speaking, plays like a combo of Pokémon and Magic, using parts of Pokémon’s attack based combat, and Magic’s resource system and life points.)

This is the root of my skepticism of the game. From there, my skepticism grows when I start to look at everything else around the game’s ecosystem. Right now MetaZoo feels like it cares more about making as much money as feasibly possible than trying to grow and become a fun game.

There are a lot of examples of this, and so I’m just going to go through them in no particular order.

The MetaZoo NFT

There’s an official MetaZoo NFT. Because of course there is. Here’s the link to the OpenSea page. And here’s the link to the page the token was sold on. The long and short of it seems to be, “There’s a plan in the future to use these to give exclusive access to discounts and presales on future products!” For reference, each of these tokens cost a minimum of 0.3 ETH to mint, and CoinBase has Eth listed at about $4,500 for the date this was going on. But if you bought during the presale, “During the minting process, certain errors occurred! These error tokens include a damaged Jersey Devil Purple token, a double stamped Mothman Gold token, and other eccentricities that are significantly rarer than their properly minted counterparts. These error tokens will only be circulated during the presale event.” So, lets be clear: A MINIMUM of $1500 for the potential future ability to… purchase a blind box T-Shirt at presale. And maybe other undetermined benefits!

What incredible fucking value. They sold 2300-ish of these things.

Blind Box… Everything

You know those blind box T-shirts that the token above got you presale access to? Yeah, so, those are $50 a box. Each box contains… 1 T-shirt and a Promo card. I could almost understand getting a specific T-shirt and random Promo, but why would I buy a random T-shirt I don’t even want? And a single promo card? They also had blind box pins and promo cards available at one point. Oh, and “1 out of every 40 boxes contains a Super Rare T-shirt and promo card featuring the Nightcrawler and all 6 iconic MetaZoo characters!” You may be starting to see a pattern here: limited exclusivity everything, with lots of hidden and random promos, at ridiculous prices… but if you don’t buy now, they might sell out!

Playing Card Kickstarter

So, with the world in the absolute shitter, and supply lines being what they are, if you actually want to play MetaZoo, it’s a bit difficult. The first MetaZoo Kickstarter raised about $18,000 to do the print run of the cards. So the MetaZoo team recently ran a second fundraising campaign to… print playing cards.

It has raised, at time of writing… $1,520,596. Let’s be clear: this isn’t for copies of the actual TCG cards, it’s for decks of normal playing cards with art from the MetaZoo game/franchise on them. Of course, these decks also come with special blind box boosters, and if you pledge at the $1150 tier, you’ll get a special promo, one of only 250!

You can’t though, because all those slots are already taken.

Other Concerns

Rapid fire mode:

Ebay partnership promos for buying certified cards through eBay. Channel Fireball unique promos. Convention promos for exclusive convention plushies. A twitter account that seems to mostly retweet box breaks, giveaways, pulls and stats about card grading.

The point I’m trying to make here is that this company and community currently seems more interested in capitalizing on fear of missing out, impulsive collectors, and maintaining hype in the secondary market than their actual card game.

The Actual Game

Okay, so that’s enough about MetaZoo for now. Let’s talk about Magic: The Gathering for a moment, and some of the worst designed Magic cards ever printed. Specifically, the set of cards known as the Power Nine. These 9 cards are banned in virtually every format, and the only format that they can be played in, Vintage, only allows you to use a single copy of ONE of them in your deck. They are obscenely powerful with no downside, and have massive format warping potential. It’s actively admitted that it was a “Mistake” to print cards at this power level by the game’s designers.

Because of this, these cards have never been reprinted, exist in fairly small amounts, and are also some of the most expensive magic cards ever. For reference, at time of writing, the “Cheapest” Black Lotus on eBay is about $15,000. (Interestingly, a brief look at some older price guides show how much the cost has gone up. One price guide from 2002 has it at $300 at the time.)

In short, the Power Nine are incredibly valuable, while being toxic to the game of Magic if ever used in play. They are the poster child of “Cards you do not print” while designing a Magic-like card game. Of those 9 cards, 6 are mana rocks. These are the Moxes, and Black Lotus.

So why am I harping on about poorly designed early Magic cards in a article about MetaZoo?

This is why.

I mentioned up above that MetaZoo in many ways plays like a combination of Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. And one of the things it takes from Magic is Magic’s resource system. You can play one “Aura” card per turn, you “fatigue” it to generate resources, and you “unfatigue” it at the start of your turn, just like Magic’s lands.

MetaZoo has a cycle of zero-cost cards for each element that look like this.

There’s one of these for each “Color” that can be played in MetaZoo, but they all function the same. A zero cost card that taps for 2 Aura.

Now, if you’re looking at this, and going “Wait a minute, that’s more or less just a cycle of strictly better Moxes,” then you’re thinking the same thing that I was when I when first saw them.

And this is another major reason I’m skeptical of the intentions of the MetaZoo team. Magic is close to 30 years old, and in those 30 years, the Power Nine have not been reprinted. While you could argue this is because of collectors, or fears of sullying the market, I’d argue that the core reason is different: the Power Nine ruin the game.

So if you’re making a brand new card game, why would you create more powerful versions of some of the worst designed TCG cards ever made? I can think of two reasons. Reason one is because you’ve never played another collectible card game before.

Reason two is because as you release your brand new card game, you want to immediately invoke FOMO by referencing the most infamous and expensive cards from the world’s most popular TCG.

From what I’ve written in the rest of the article, you can likely see which one I think is more likely. (Although neither are confidence inspiring)

This the vibe that seems to permeate MetaZoo for me. Underneath the wonderful artwork and 90’s video game box art vibe there’s a persistent drumbeat of “Fear of Missing Out,” “It only goes up,” and “Buy now! Limited edition!” This doesn’t feel the work of a team trying to create the most fun game that they can. It feels like someone trying to create a new version of the Beanie Baby craze, or Pokemon that they can cash in on.

And it’s why I’m currently very hesitant of engaging any further with the game or brand. If you’re looking at MetaZoo and going “Huh, that seems neat, I wonder if I can get some boosters,” I urge you to reconsider.

MTG Arena – Historic Brawl Best Cards

The best cards until Wizard prints better ones, or half the list gets banned from the format.

Ah, Monday. The first and worst day of the week, when you realize that you really should have been productive over the weekend, and instead spent the entire thing playing games, lazing about, eating jalapeno naan, then chugging milk to try to stop the burning.

Maybe that’s just me.

In any case, you get to Monday, you realize you haven’t written an article for the week, so you end up trying to throw together some Buzzfeed-esque listicle to stall for time. Look on the bright side though: this article has no ads, and isn’t click-arbitraging!

  1. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Ugin gets the #1 spot on this list for a very simple reason: He’s a colorless boardwipe. In a format with a limited amount of control and board wipes, he gives every single deck access to a powerful amount of control, and every single other one of his abilities is strong as well. He’s also not banned in every other format, unlike a large majority of this list.

  1. Command Tower/Arcane Signet
    I’m putting these here as a pair, because they’re effectively the exact same thing: mana production in your commander’s colors. The only reason to not run both of them is because your deck is mono-color.
  1. Solemn Simulacrum
    Colorless land ramp, card draw, and a 2/2, all for 4 mana. Like Ugin, Solemn Simulacrum gets its spot on the list because it slots into pretty much any Historic Brawl deck.
  1. Field of the Dead
    Banned in Historic. Banned in Brawl. Banned in Standard. In theory, a card that makes you a 2/2 zombie every time you put a land into play while you control 7 differently named lands isn’t this good. But with the length of Brawl games, it’s just a powerhouse. Of cards on this list, I’d hold off on crafting this one primarily because I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets banned from Historic Brawl.
  1. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
    Golos is an entirely reasonable card in every other format. In Historic Brawl, he’s one of only 9 five color commanders, and one of two colorless five color commanders. Combine this with his land fetching, and his activated ability, and you have arguably the single best five-color commander in the format. Golos is a Solemn Simulacrum on crack. It’s worth keeping in mind that Golos was banned in Brawl, so you may want to wait on crafting him. Or maybe craft him now before he gets banned. Regardless, arguably one of the best commanders.
  1. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
    I’d like to think the creation process for Uro went something like this:
    MTG Designer A: All right, so growth spiral is a perfectly reasonable card.
    MTG Designer B: Sure.
    MTG Designer A: But what if it was also a 6/6 Creature that triggered it’s ability each time it entered the battlefield, or attacked?
    MTG Designer B: Wow. That seems like it might be too powerful. We better increase its mana cost by 1 and make it sorcery speed.
    MTG Designer A: Sure. But because it costs so much, you should be able to cast it from the graveyard, and maybe it isn’t a creature unless you do? And maybe it should give you life?
    MTG Designer B: Sounds good to me! Let’s get lunch.
    The end result is this absolute unit.
  1. Wilderness Reclamation
    It turns out untapping all your lands at the end of your turn in addition to the start of your turn is pretty good.
  1. Omnath, Locus of Creation
    I was gonna say that Omnath, Locus of Creation falls into the same space as Golos, but then I went and actually checked, and he really falls into more the same space as Uro, which is “Format warping god-emperor.” Seriously, this motherfucker got banned everywhere. Except Historic Brawl apparently. So enjoy him while he lasts I guess?

I honestly can’t think of anything else to add to this list at the moment, so yeah. Here’s some weekly content. Now go yell at me on Twitter about how I clearly missed Stormcrow, and Golos is trash because he dies to removal.

The Pokemon Card Kerfuffle

Right now, something very interesting is happening. So what am I talking about? Is it the global pandemic? The fact that we’re finally making progress with immunizations? The massive change in working remote or working from home? Or perhaps it’s the new presidental administration.

Well, no. Those things are all happening, but I’m talking about the fact that the cost of buying sealed packages of Pokemon cards has almost doubled or trippled in price. In this writing/video/whatever, I’m going to talk about why I think that is, and why I think a lot of people have the wrong idea. For those already familar with the Pokemon Trading Card Game, or TCG as it’s often shortened to, skip ahead a bit to the reasons. For everyone else, I want to provide a little bit of quick background.

Background on the Pokemon Trading Card Game
Pokemon, for those who might not know is a global media franchise that started as a video game, and at this point has branched out into almost every conceivable product you could imagine. In terms of popularity, Pokemon is often quoted as the most profitable franchise in the world, above things like Star Wars, or Marvel, or Micky Mouse.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game is a collectible card game. For the purpose of this discussion, it’s not important to know too much about it, except for two brief things.

The first is that cards are released in “Sets”. You can think of them like seasons of a TV show. Each set has a specific number of different cards in it, at various rarities. The second thing to know is that a single “Set” may contain multiple copies of cards that are mechanically identical, which is to say when used as part of game, they function exactly the same, but they have different artwork. Here’s an example, with a card named Charizard V. The first image is the normal version, the second is the full art version. The full art version is much rarer. Finally, there’s a shiny version, the one that’s black. It’s actually from a different set, but we’ll talk about that later. The key point here is that from a gameplay standpoint, all of these cards are identical, and there is no in game advantage to using one over the other.

And finally, a little bit of background on pricing. Generally speaking, a Pack of Pokemon Cards retails at $4.00 MSRP(Mass Suggested Retail Price, IE, what a Target/Walmart will sell the product for on release.) for a single booster. A booster box, a collection of 36 boosters, retails at about $140 dollars, but generally speaking, when a set releases, it’s not hard to find a booster box for $90 to $100 dollars on either eBay or Amazon. There are also Fat Packs. These tend to retail at $30 to $40, and contain 10 booster packs.

One other quick thing to note: Buying products at MSRP for those of us who are addicts enthusiasts is fairly rare. We usually have connections, either with stores, or online distributors that, as mentioned above, sell below MSRP.

End of Background

All right, so with that background out of the way, lets get into the current state of things, by looking at how much booster boxes cost for several of the last few sets of cards.

NamePrice – USD
Battle Styles (Not released at time of writing)$147 eBay, $160 Amazon
Vivid Voltage$197 eBay, $208 Amazon
Rebel Clash$150 eBay, 190 Amazon
Darkness Ablaze$172 eBay, $180 Amazon
Sword and Shield$200 eBay, $190 Amazon

Keep in mind, these are all products with an MSRP of $140, and that generally speaking only ever cost $80-$90 dollars in reality.

Now, people who already follow the scene might notice something missing here, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

NamePrice – USD
Shining Fates Fat Pack (10 Packs) $100 to $150 eBay, $123 Amazon
Champions Path Fat Pack (10 Packs) $100 on Amazon, $95 on eBay

Now for anyone who plays the Pokemon Trading card game, I’d like to make a brief note: I bought a playset of all non-reprint cards in Champions Path. It cost me $133. That’s 4 copies of every single card in the set, that hadn’t printed before.

So, whats going on here? Why are these booster packs so expensive? What happened?

And for anyone who thinks “Well, thats just capitalism” here’s the offical statement from So clearly, they’re not in love with this either.

Ed Note: And why would they be? As they’re the publisher/distributor, they don’t make extra money if the price people are willing to pay goes up, if they’re not the one setting the price.

I have two general guesses here, one for the first set of cards, and one for the second. They overlap a bit, but lets start with the ones above.

So, lets talk about the dates here. While the official announcement on the site has been updated since then, articles about the announcement start showing up on Feb 11th.

So why is this date important? Well, because Feb 11th is the day right before the start of Chinese New Year.

For anyone who hasn’t had things manufactured in China, Chinese New Year is effectively a full shutdown period. And this year, it won’t be over until Febuary 22nd. It’s a public holiday, and a very big one, and you can expect factory shutdowns for approximately two weeks. So, what that actually means is that factories will likely be shutdown until February 26th, the day I’m writing this article.

Now, despite what we might believe, even global megacorporation’s are limited by the laws of reality, including the fact that if you want to ship this stuff via boat from China where it’s printed, to the rest of the world, you’re going to be looking at a timeline of about 3 months.

With this info, we can start to make some guesses about what’s going on here, and to make some predictions involving future timelines. But before we get into that, lets talk about three more parts of this perfect storm.

Charizard, Coronavirus, and the 25th Anniversary

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Pokemon Franchise. As part of this, there’s been a general marketing push with things like a Post-Malone concert, Katy Perry, and other things that I think might have pushed Pokemon a little bit more into the limelight then it might have been otherwise. I don’t think it would have been hugely noticed if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re all stuck at home, with no ability to go anywhere or do anything. But a large portion of this push has probally pulled up a bit of nostalgia.

And this brings us Charizard. Charizard is a large fire dragon Pokemon. It tends to be one of the more visible and identifiable members of the franchise, and it also has the interesting distinction of being one of, if not, the most valuable mass market card ever available. Currently, base set shadow-less Charizard’s go for $5000 to $10000. And perfect ones can go for over $200,000. And currently, many of these sets that have just released feature Charizard’s new form, Charizard VMAX. This is the first time this Pokemon has been featured on a card.

And finally, we have coronavirus. Parents are staying home from work, and trying to entertain kids. Large numbers of people are on unemployment or furloughed, looking desperately for anything they can use to get a bit of extra money or scrape by. And we’ve had a wave of publicity about how profitable scalping can be recently with things like graphics cards and game consoles.

Oh, and one more thing.

Most Pokemon Cards are effectively worthless.

You won’t hear most collectors say this, and you won’t hear it brought up often, but it’s a simple fact that should be acknowledged. When you buy a sealed pack of Pokemon cards, odds are that the price of buying the cards in the booster pack are lower then the price of buying the cards individually. Even for the most recent sets, commanding ridiculous prices, the common/uncommon/rare cards in those sets go for 5 to 20 cents. It’s why I was able to buy a full playset of these cards for $133. The only cards worth over a few dollars are the hyper-rares, cards that present in less then 1-3 sealed packs, and of those, only the full arts and alt arts are really worth cash, and those tend to be present at about 1 in 36 rates, and NOT EVEN ALL OF THOSE ARE EXPENSIVE.

Buying sealed Pokemon Cards is a gamble, and statistically you will not get your value back. For kids, to whom every card is special, this isn’t a huge problem. For adults, who can just buy the cards they want, this shouldn’t be a problem, unless you really like gambling, and opening boosters.

Which a lot of folks do.

Lets put these pieces together, and see what happened.

So here’s what I think might have actually happened, based on the things I’ve laid out above. From this point onward, we’re venturing into purely speculation. Pretty much everything I’ve put above is a verifiable fact, and I’m more then happy to fix them if folks find errors.

  1. Coronavirus and Shipping Delays result is less cards being generally available then usual, in addition to smaller game stores suffering heavily from the lack of foot traffic, leading to less orders of product in general.
  2. Hype around the 25th anniversary of Pokemon leads to a higher level of brand awareness, along with the fairly lucrative scalping that we’ve seen previously last year and this year.
  3. A set of cards is printed at a very high rarity, of a Pokemon with a history of being fairly collectible, and commanding obscenely high prices, and knowledge of this begins to leak out.
  4. The incredibly low rate of actually getting this card leads to everyone involved who wants the card, from scalpers to collectors buying up as much of the product as possible for a chance of getting it.
  5. This becomes public knowledge, and now even folks who weren’t interested are getting involved in the hype, or trying to get stuff before it sells out. Effectively, what we saw with toilet paper before.
  6. The simple realities of production in China, combined with Chinese New Year, international lockdowns, and all of the above means that there is no easy way to rapidly increase supply of product on a quick timescale.

So where does that leave us? Well, I started writing this article on the 26th, and it’s now the 15th. The prices of most sealed products show no sign of slowing down. And the simple reality of what it takes to manufacture more cards mean that we’re still likely several months out from increased supply. If we assume that TPCI (The Pokemon Company International) decided to try to increase supply as of the date that they made the official announcement of being aware that consumers were being hit by shortages, they still wouldn’t have started production until 2/26.

And since boats can only go so fast, we likely won’t see any difference in supply for at least the next three months, meaning that speculation, hoarding, and other junk will likely continue until June/July, as just having something showing up at port doesn’t mean it’s available to buy.

This is my personal theory. I don’t think YouTube personalities opening cards, or folks posting on Twitter caused this. I think it’s a combo of a heavily impacted supply chain, hype, and chaos.

So until that time, enjoy, and buy singles if you’re gonna buy at all.