TaKtiX: Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer is a lead playtester for Warlord, has been UK Champion in both Open and Campaign formats at the same time; he placed 2nd overall at his first KoHIT (2004) and highly in the second KoHIT (2005).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Deckbuilding 101

I was chatting to Mat over the weekend and he mentioned that we didn't have an article about the basics of deckbuilding up yet. So here it is. If you're already an accomplished deckbuilder then skip this one and move on. If you're starting out, or struggling to build solid decks then read on.

First off, there's a couple of articles that cover this elsewhere on this site. Pete has an old article here about decksize that is well worth a perusal, and Malexin's guide to tournament calibre play has some decent tips as well.

That dealt with, here are a series of logical steps to building decent decks.

1. 50 Cards

As a rule, your deck should contain 50 cards. No more. Think about it like this. You want your deck to contain the best cards it can. So, for your deck, you choose the best 50 cards that you can get your hands on. Now imagine you were building the same deck, but 60 cards instead. The extra ten cards you've added in to your deck are not as good as the fifty original cards. They're flat out worse. If they are as good as the cards in your deck then put them in and replace them with the worst cards in your deck.

2. 25 Characters

This is the second basic rule. With a couple of exceptions all decks should be 50% characters. (Again, Pete has a very good old article on this point here.) Characters win you games. They guarantee you srikes and they give your opponent something to hit apart from your Warlord. Characters are the most useful card type in the game and to reflect that alsmost all top decks play half characters.

3. What Characters?

So, what should should those characters be? Six of them are your starting line up. I give some advice about choosing this here, so I'm not going to retype it all. To summarise, look for a solid Atk and AC for your rank 1 characters, and ranged strikes or other effects that reach two ranks for your rank 2 characters. That alone should give you a decent start.

What about the other nineteen characters? First of all, you need to decide two things. One is what class the deck will be focusing on, and the other is what level characters you want.

3a. What Class?

Usually this will be the same class as your Warlord. For example, if you're playing Lord Gahid Rellion then you're probably going to be playing a deck focused on fighters. So, your characters should mainly be of your chosen class. It's okay to have some characters of other classes (for example, a lot of Gahid decks will play Xaros the Mist, a wizard) but make sure that the majority of your characters are right.

3b. What Level?

Now, a lot of this will depend on faction. For example, Devernians and Dwarfs have better high level characters than low level. For Free Kingdoms, Elves and Nothrogs the opposite is true. You should consider that before you choose what level characters your deck should play. Similar to the way you've chosen a class focus, choose characters with a suitable level. To continue the example above, let's say that in your Gahid deck you've decided to play level 3 fighters. Most of your characters should fit that description; it's okay to have some non fighters, and it's okay to have some level 2 or 4 characters.

Choose your characters mainly from your faction. If you're short of good characters then consider using Mercenaries, but be warned that in geeneral they won't fit in to the deck as well. Don't bother playing characters from any other faction: the cost of putting them in to play stunned is too expensive. How many of each character should you include? That leads me on the my next rule:

4. 3 of a Card

This should almost always apply to your characters. It's similar to the arguement about deck size. If a character is good enough to have one copy included in your deck then he should be good enough to have three copies; find two characters worse and take them off. The exception to this rules is Unique characters. A basic rule for them is only include one copy of each in your deck. The 3 of a card rule also applies to Actions, but it does not apply to Items: more on that later.

You should now have 25 characters chosen. The rest of the deck will be actions and items. Which of these are better? Hard to say really. Actions are generally more powerful but are one use only. Items are slower and less powerful but are useable every turn. Generally speaking, a healthy mix of the two should see you through.

5. What Items?

Almost every item in your deck should be for the class you chose to focus on. They should also be of an appropriate level: in our Gahid deck that we're building the items shouldn't be level 7 or higher because your level 3 fighters won't be able to equip them. Beyond those two baisc rules, there's a few more points to consider.

5a. One of a Kind

Characters can only have one weapon, armour, shield etc. With that in mind don't overload your deck with too many of one card. A good mixture of the different types of items will let you get bigger bonuses for your army.

5b. Not three of a card

The rules let you swap different items of the same type, as long as it hasn't got the same name. So you can swap a used Griffon of Misear for a War Horse, but not another Griffon. Bear that in mind. It effectively means that different items are better than lots of the same. As a rough rule I don't play more than two of any item in a deck.

6. Actions

All that's left for you to chose is your actions. Follow the same basic guidelines for items: choose actions of the same class as you're focusing on, and choose actions that your chosen characters can play. The only other advice here is not to go overboard on Spend Orders or Spend Reacts, because they might clog up your hand. More on that can be found here.

Right, that should leave you with a decent fifty card deck. There are a few more points, so bare with me.

7. Movement

Some warlords, especially fighters, need to move to the front to be good. Make sure your deck has enough movement cards in, whether they be steeds or actions. Relying on drawing one of three copies isn't going to work. The easy way to find out is to play a few games and see if you're getting stuck in rank 2 a lot.

8. How do I know what's a good card?

Er, good question. To be honest, you'll have to work this one out yourself. As a rule, if it has good stats then it's probably a good card. Other than that play some games and see how well it works. If it's not much good, try something else. Alternatively have a look round the net for top tournament decks and check out the cards in there. You'll become a better judge of what's good as time goes on.

9. You said X but in my deck Y

Rules are there to be broken. Everything I said above can be ignored in the right circumstances.

10. Play some games!

All my waffle here is no substitute for getting out there and building some decks and playing some games. That's the best way to gain understanding. So get to it!

Well done if you've read this far. I hope someone somewhere finds this helpful. Any questions or comments just leave me a note.

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