Power Creep is a term used to describe the phenomenon that happens in card games. It’s when the card company releases cards that, while not overly stronger then previous prints, have an element to them to draw players into wanting those cards. This usually happens very gradually to the point that it isn’t overly apparent from one set to the next. Usually you won’t even realize that the Power Creep has happened until you look back on the cards that were printed at the beginning and compare them to the cards that are available now. This happens in every card game and is generally inevitable.
The reason that Power Creep is considered an inevitable part of any card game is due to how the different companies need to market their cards. If they released cards that were always equal in power or similar in ability to their predecessors, they would have a hard time selling the cards. Keeping up to date in any card game is an expensive thing to do, and if the player was able to always be at the same level as everyone else, while using a deck that required them to never buy new cards, you can be sure that that is exactly what they would do. The recent restriction list reflects this, as every card that was limited was printed in sets 1-5. Bushiroad realized that people were not feeling compelled to attempt to build new decks, as they could perform better playing with these older decks. They needed players to move forward and try to play different, new decks. This keeps the game fresh, while at the same time provides them with a steady cash flow so they can continue printing new sets.
That is not to say that Power Creep in a card game is necessarily a bad thing. What you need to realize is that while decks get stronger and stronger, which makes them seem like they may be overly powerful, other decks are also getting stronger, meaning that they end up balancing each other out. Also, Power Creep is exactly what it sounds like. It is a slow process that takes a long time before it begins to truly see the effects on the previous cards. It happens in every set, where cards stronger than their predecessors are released, yet it just means that the deck gets slightly stronger by using the newer card. This allows the game to progress and evolve, without being stuck on cards printed in the past. It is true that these past cards should never be overlooked and generally companies attempt to not print straight up stronger versions of the same card.
Power Creep is also not limited in anyway to Vanguard. This happened in Yu-gi-oh and Magic as well. At one time in Yu-gi-oh, you would need to choose between power or effects; you wouldn’t get both in one card. Slowly but surely this began to change, as the cards were given powerful effects, and even monsters that at one time had too high of an attack value to have an effect, got one. When you think about how the game used to be played and how it is played now, it is a completely different game. Magic itself has an extraordinary Power Creep. If you compare cards that were printed at the beginning of the game, compared to cards now, it is a truly incredible difference. Cardfight Vanguard has also begun to see some of these effects, although to a much lesser degree. They are releasing cards that are slightly more powerful the previous generations, or cards that are meant to compete with the previous generation of cards, creating a slight creep. They have been keeping it in hand for the most part, with only slight increases at any given time.
Now, with Power Creep, one of the dangers is how the newer, stronger cards will interact with the previous generation of cards. Players are extremely smart, and will always find the different combinations that a deck can create. Each game has come up with ways to limit the extremes that players can go, effectively limiting how Power Creep will effect their individual games. Yu-gi-oh created the Banlist, allowing them to limit the number of each card played, giving them direct control of the powers of different decks and eliminating devastating combos at their source. Magic created the Rotating Constructed Format, allowing them to rotate out old sets in the general tournament setting, allowing complete control of all combos. This made it so they only needed to worry about how the current sets interact with each other, rather then how all of the sets interact with each other. The way that Bushiroad seems to be attempting to control it is actually by placing restrictions on the cards themselves. They have introduced one effect called Lord on some of their cards. What Lord does is make it so that when a rearguard is not the same clan as the Vanguard with the Lord effect, the Vanguard cannot attack. They have also started to create sub-archetypes of each clan, such as Liberators and Eradicators. Each of these sub-archetypes are mostly made up of cards that can only interact with cards of the same sub-archetype. Through use of the Lord mechanic and the different sub-archetypes, they make it so it is impossible for cross clan interaction to be unexpectedly used, as well as even preventing unexpected interactions within the clan itself.
Overall, Power Creep is inevitable in any card game, and is generally not nearly as bad as many people make it seem. We need to remember that the main reason for Power Creep is the continued efforts by the company to keep the game interesting and fresh. They don’t do it just for the sake of making stronger cards, but to make a stronger game overall. One of the many reasons us players in the English scene are seeing these cards and worrying, is due to the fact that we are seeing cards being released upwards of four sets ahead of what we currently have. The cards released are only slightly stronger than what is currently available in Japan, making the Creep almost unnoticeable to them. Bushiroad right now is taking the proper precautions to avoid unexpected repercussions from their cards, while also taking steps to release fresh and interesting archetypes. I, for one, am looking extremely forward to set 10 as it is right now, as it looks like one of the most interesting sets announced in a long time.