Disney Lorcana brings a nostalgic, wholesome magic to TCGs

Posted on June 20, 2024

The TCG space is more competitive now than it’s ever been, so the idea of another new player entering the fray is bold, to say the least. While classics like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon have been around for decades, we’ve recently seen light-sabers and wookies in Star Wars: Unlimited, and now, the gorgeous, nostalgic Disney Lorcana.

Launching late last year in other regions but only just heading Down Under this month for the first time, the competitive TCG featuring Disney IP from an incredibly long history has a lot to love about it. The first two sets, The First Chapter and Rise of the Floodborn, offer a solid glimpse into what the future of Disney Lorcana could be like, with your favourite characters – and some neat riffs on those characters – battling it out in a game that is far more approachable than almost anything else on the market.

The gameplay of Disney Lorcana will be familiar to anybody who has played MTG or other card games before, but with enough twists to make it feel like its own thing. Where other TCGs are focused on damaging your opponent to the point of knocking them out, Disney Lorcana has you collecting ‘Lore’, with the first player reaching 20 declared the victor. You do this by playing a variety of character cards that you can send on ‘Quests’ in order to add points to your tally.

That’s not to say that there aren’t battles in Disney Lorcana. If you let your opponent build up their character pool too much, they’ll easily be able to send them on Quests and win the match, so you have to use your own characters to challenge them, intending to cause enough damage to banish them from the game. If you send your characters on Quests, that leaves them vulnerable to being challenged and banished next turn. This makes for a smart push-and-pull, where you’ll be focused on playing cards with a high Lore Value to earn points while ensuring your opponent doesn’t manage to do the same. So far, I prefer Disney Lorcana’s approach to earning victory, as it’s not simply focused on overwhelming your opponent with damage.

“There’s a logic and a connection to the characters, items, actions and songs that bring Disney’s iconic style and history to life.”

To play cards in the first place, you’ll need Ink, so every turn allows you the opportunity to place a card into your Inkwell face down to build up your supply and inevitably play stronger cards. This works similarly in concept to playing Mana or Land in MTG, except Ink works universally across all cards as the main requirement, so you won’t have to wait for certain types to come out, meaning a match of Disney Lorcana tends to move faster. That said, not all cards can be turned into Ink, so you’ll have to balance your deck accordingly.

Of course, character cards have a range of abilities and effects, some that are instant and others persistent, that add a lot of flavour to each game. Smartly, they all lean heavily on where in the Disney universe they’ve come from. For example, the Wayward Sorcerer version of Mickey Mouse allows you to pay one less Ink to play Broom characters. If a Broom is banished in a challenge, you can return that card to your hand, harkening back to the endlessly respawning bucket-carrying brooms from Fantasia.

Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) is more aggressive with damage, while Seven Dwarfs characters can link up with one another to earn bonuses. There’s a logic and a connection to the characters, items, actions and songs (a very Disney-specific additional action type) that bring Disney’s iconic style and history to life. Oh, and Ariel, with her On Human Legs variant, has no voice and so can’t be used to sing songs. Makes sense, right?

With the second set, Rise of the Floodborn, a new mechanic is already introduced, called ‘Shift’. Using a Shift ability, if you have a character with the same name in play, you can pay the Shift cost instead of their ink cost and cover the original card with the new one. The shifted character has its own rules but maintains damage and effects from the previously covered card.

For example, Cogsworth (Talking Clock) has a strength (attack) of 2, willpower (defense) of 3 and lore of 1, with the ability to gain additional lore with certain characters. The Floodborn version of Cogsworth (Grandfather Clock) is a strength 2, willpower 5, lore 2, and adds an additional willpower to all of your other characters (using Resist, a new ability in this set). The idea of stacking character cards with different abilities allows for some creative plays, and clever players will find ways to use them as combos for large gains, which could turn the tide in a close game. As more interesting mechanics are introduced in the future, it’s tantalising to think about the possibilities of more competitive battles down the line.

I can show you the world…

Where Disney Lorcana will appeal to many from the jump is with its many references to the incredibly loved universe from which it was created. In my first match, using the provided Starter decks and jumping in without much hesitation, I found myself gasping with excitement constantly as characters I adore and specific references to their stories entered my hand. Items like the Croquet Mallet from Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan’s dagger sit alongside Snow White, Mulan and Daisy Duck.

Featuring designs from a number of artists, the sets are just gorgeous, with an incredible amount of detail. But while the classic styles you’d expect are there, it’s the variants that Disney has allowed to get a little weird which are some of the most interesting to look at. Dreamborn and Floodborn variants offer spins on existing characters, as if they’ve taken a slightly wrong turn when being summoned onto the battlefield, in the coolest of ways. Goofy could become a Knight known as Sir Goofy, Cruella De Vil finds as much style as Emma Stone as a Fashionable Cruiser riding in vintage wheels, while villainous Jafar looks more evil than ever in giant Cobra form. It’s delightful to see characters I grew up with in entirely new forms, and it allows for a lot of depth and creativity in their design.

While only the first two sets are available in ANZ for now, Into the Inklands (Set 3) is dropping on June 29, while Ursula’s Return (Set 4), a more co-op-focused set, releases on July 13, which catches us up to the rest of the world. From there, Shimmering Skies, (Set 5) in August and all future sets will launch globally simultaneously. Already, cards are difficult to find in the wild, so hopefully more stock comes Down Under sooner rather than later, as they’re proving to be very popular.

It’s early days, but Disney Lorcana has already firmly established itself as a serious player in the TCG space. For a Disney nerd, it’s incredibly easy to see the appeal, and the beautiful cards go a long way in setting the tone in an approachable game that will only continue to evolve in the future. It’s exciting to be on that journey right from the start.

Disney Lorcana: The First Chapter and Rise of the Floodborn is available now in retailers.

Thanks to Disney ANZ for providing us with Starter Decks and Boosters to provide this coverage.