Mickey Mouse Club #4 – Pixelborn

We’re almost there. Lorcana is starting to become at least somewhat more available and folks are -gasp- walking into Target and finding not only Rise of the Floodborn boosters, but also First Chapter boosters. Ravensburger may have burgered up the release of both sets, but at least they made good on their promise to move up the release of a Q1 2024 reprint for the holidays. But what if you are still out there, putting on your clown suit to make that death row walk to the TCG aisle only to find a handful of MetaZoo boosters and those boxes with the enormous Pokemon cards? What if, even worse, your idiot friends don’t understand the appeal of playing Mickey Mouse cards?

Friend, have I got a website for you. www.pixelborntcg.com.

From the Pixelborn Patreon page. But yeah, it’s actually Lorcana. Shh!

Pixelborn is a Patreon-supported “Fancy Simulator for TCGs” that is currently looking at over 1,500 members and pulling in over $7500 a month. The client is free, and it is available for PC, Mac OS, Android, and it is currently in early release through Testpilot on IOS. And it plays Lorcana. It’s brilliant. The interface and visual style is very reminiscent of Hearthstone and it features a full deckbuilding suite, stats tracking, simple matchmaking (with very limited comms, thank god), ranking, and a host of features for Patreon subscribers like special card backs and holiday playfields. You can import decks from Dreamborn or Lorcania, direct from the collection tool of your choice- but not Ravensburger’s official app, unfortunately.

Every card, including all of Floodborn, is in the game with full rules enforcement. This means that unlike Tabletop Simulator or similar apps, the client does all the rules-checking to make sure you aren’t double-inking or challenging an unexerted character. With every card at your disposal, all the drama over scalpers, queues destroyed by bots, waiting out at a Best Buy fours before opening and all of that just disappears. You make the deck you want to play for $0.00 or for just a little more than the cost of a booster pack if you contribute to the Patreon. This is all mostly the work of one person, Pavel Kolev, and he has been making some pretty big donations to some worthy causes from the proceeds he’s made from the app. So It’s worth tossing him a few bucks a month for sure.

This man may one day be looked back on as the savior of Lorcana through some very dark times of unavailability (from Pavel Kolev’s Twitter profile)

Now, of course we all know that the House of Mouse isn’t one to just let folks use images of Mr. Smee and Daisy Duck willy-nilly so similar to how you get the ROMS from a different site where you get the emulator, the images have to be installed into the client. The proprietary graphics are a little weird and generic. It’s an annoying process but necessary unless you want to play this game with Rickey Rouse and Ronald Ruck. The install isn’t exactly smooth and it took me a few tries both on Mac and IOS to get it to work correctly. It’s very touchy. But once you have the card images loaded up and a deck built, it’s no problem to run four Elsa, Spirt of Winters alongside four Maleficient, Monstrous Dragons. You can try out the new (and extremely annoying) meta-topping Pawpsicle deck. You can throw together a deck of 60 Wardrobes if you really want.

This degree of freedom is huge, but there is a cost- when you play on Pixelborn, you are also playing with others that have essentially a full playset of every card in the game and once you move up in the ranks you are naturally going to start running into very similar meta decks and some pretty damn sharky players. Some element of the TCG concept is lost when you aren’t, well, collecting the cards to play with them.

So you got what you wanted but you lost what you had. The net benefit is that you can really dig into the deeper, more complex aspects of the game without costly TCGPlayer.com singles orders. You can test ideas and see how they fare against the top archetypes. If only MTG had an app this expansive rather than expensive.

Scene from an early, streamed playtest (from the Pixelborn Patreon)

The client is frequently updated and maintained and it seems as if it will be so for the foreseeable future. Many in the community would like to see Ravensburger simply buy the client from the developers to use as a platform for its own inevitable digital game, but let’s be realistic. Anything they do is a) going to kill Pixelborn and b) be laden with microtransactions, “seasons” and other soul-destroying nonsense.There are also definitely some rough edges as this is, after all, not a professional product. Most are relatively minor- it can be a bit glitchy and some UI elements aren’t very polished such as dragging cards into the inkwell and selecting card effects. I mostly play on the Mac version and let me tell you, it is an incredible resource hog at least on my system. It chugs, and I find myself wondering if there were a way to turn off this stupid animated fog if it might let me squeeze at least a few more FPS out it. Cards will sometimes hang on the playing field. I’ve not seen any hard crashes in the middle of a game though, so as far as stability goes it’s solid.

So, if you want to see what Lorcana is all about or if you want to dig deeper into it after a few tabletop matches look no further. I’m always delighted to let folks know about Pixelborn and I’ve been surprised at League to find players that have never even heard of it. When I tell them everything I’ve just told you, their eyes light up and I usually get a “really?” out of them. So what are you waiting for, let’s play!

Next time- Inside my Emerald Steel deck.

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