• Level Up: Concerning Deckbuilding

    This article is part of a series of topics intended to focus on high-level technical play and, in general, improving your playing skills. "Level up" topics go deep on a timeless aspect of the game, concepts that are unlikely to change even as cards do. Sometimes external, sometimes internal, but always about making your Dice Masters play better.

    I've talked a lot before about what I think the core template for building a deck in Dice Masters is. It isn't foolproof, but I think if you look at a lot of successful decks in the game, you'll see these same pieces. That's not to say that every card that could fill a slot was created equal, but they are elements that top decks have in common with one another, so you should probably make sure that yours have the same.

    Now that we're moving into new territory, with the new format system impacting what we can play at the biggest tournaments of the year, it is a good time to revisit this idea as we all start to theorycraft for Origins 2017. It can be intimidating to know where to begin when building decks, and there's the temptation to feel like what you put together must be the final answer, that you have to get it correct immediately. Of course, that's never actually the case. Still, the task can seem daunting so it is helpful to know how to take that first step so that you can start your journey of 1,000 miles.

    These core tenants are:

    1) A win condition, comprised of two to three cards.

    Why just a few cards? Because the narrower your win requirement is, the easier it is to hit it. More cards means more dice means more rolls required in order to win, especially when you need specific abilities to activate in the right order.

    2) Another two or three cards that enable your win condition to be more efficient.

    These could be ramp pieces like Villainous Pact, things that give you a critical reroll like Parallax, or just things that help you roll what you want more consistently like Rip Hunter's Chalkboard. Whatever they are, they help you move through your dice and/or reduce variance. This is critical because the player that controls variance better is often the one that will win. Remember that Dice Masters is a constant push for the center. Variance pulls us away, and efficiency pieces make it easier to come back to the middle.

    3) Finally, the remainder of cards helping to protect your win condition.

    You generally can't stop your opponent from doing everything. Simply look at the cards that you have and ask yourself what your opponent could do that would hurt you from being able to use it. It may turn out that there are too many things, which may mean that you should start over - but it could also mean that you're thinking of too many possible counters. Try not to be influenced too heavily by cards that could hurt you but are so niche that they are unlikely to see play.

    Note also that there can be crossover between these. For example, Medusa can protect your team by providing additional blocks and getting them off the board, but also combos with Black Bolt to provide a way around blockers to win.

    [top]Real-World Examples


    This isn't just me blowing smoke. Consider some of the top teams from various stages of the meta and how they seem to follow the template.

    Recent Bard Toolbox builds favored by @memmek2k and myself include the win condition of Bard and Imprisoned, supported primarily by Rip Hunter's Chalkboard, Clay Golem, and, to an extent, Elf Thief, and protected by things like Gnome Ranger and Constantine. Magic Missile (or in my case Wasp) plays a switch-hitter role. Oracle has a unique place on these teams because she is not just a control piece, though she is often labeled as such. What Oracle offers is an opportunity for you to be more efficient than your opponent, but by curtailing their opportunities rather than supporting yours. In that way, Oracle is more an efficiency piece than protection.

    How about a blast from the past? The Poly Jinzo/Hulk team sure fit this. The win condition was a combination of Hulk and Jinzo wtih Magic Missile. This was supported by Professor X and Polymorph, and protected by Mera, Constantine, Paladin, Zombie Magneto and Doomcaliber Knight.

    The 2015 Worlds winning team did this, too. It won with Gobby, Hulk, and Johnny Storm; it was made efficient through Blue Eyes-White Dragon. It was protected by Solomon Grundy, Storm, Constantine, and Deadpool.

    I won't continue to list teams; the history is sufficient. Whether or not it was done knowingly, top-tier teams that have appeared at all stages of the game have taken shape in this way even as the game has become better understood and different tools have become available to us. I don't believe that this is any kind of coincidence.

    [top]A word of caution, though


    None of this, however, says that just putting pieces like these in a blender and letting it go will give you a viable team. You need to know that your win condition is actually feasible first, and that threats to it aren't so commonplace that you can't allow it to go. You also need to correctly diagnose those threats, something that can be challenging, especially with a more open field.

    As I said in an article nearly two years old, "You can't predict everything. You can't protect from everything. Cards that are mildly annoying but not debilitating shouldn't be a concern, not unless you've maximized consistency and win condition protection and still have a slot. Don't worry about broad-based responses unless you have absolutely nothing else to use as a response - they tend to be too complex. "

    One thing that you may need to consider moving forward, especially with a relatively unknown metagame, is that some matchups might just be bad for you. You can't cover every eventuality, after all, and you may make a bad read and include the wrong tech or expect the wrong set of threats. That can happen, and while it doesn't feel great, you need to enter a tournament expecting that possibility. That isn't a failing of yours, so long as the decision that you made to include what you did was sound. To feel otherwise would be falling into the results-oriented thinking trap. Don't be ROTty.

    You stand a better chance avoiding that, however, if you focus your tech pieces on what could hurt you the most instead of planning to stop every other possible team.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. cnhiggins's Avatar
      cnhiggins -
      Thanks for this! Have a copy of your old article in my Dice Masters toolbox as a reminder of the important pieces I need to include on a team. I have one question for you: How risky are two-energy type teams? I am running the Black Bolt/Medusa combo and only have other masks and shields, which naturally means that Chalkboard is on the team too. Nobody really constructs a team to stifle one-two energy types specifically do they?
    1. SirFrankus's Avatar
      SirFrankus -
      Quote Originally Posted by cnhiggins View Post
      Thanks for this! Have a copy of your old article in my Dice Masters toolbox as a reminder of the important pieces I need to include on a team. I have one question for you: How risky are two-energy type teams? I am running the Black Bolt/Medusa combo and only have other masks and shields, which naturally means that Chalkboard is on the team too. Nobody really constructs a team to stifle one-two energy types specifically do they?
      If Dave doesn't jump on this, I'll provide an answer in the meantime.

      I'd say you don't have anything to worry about.
      There are 4 energy types, and any card that hurts 1 energy type is only an answer for approximately 1/4 of the card pool. Most competitive players don't use up a card slot for that, mostly because there a plenty of other cards that provide a more wide-spread answer (like Dwarf Wizard or Cold Gun, for example).
    1. memmek2k's Avatar
      memmek2k -
      Quote Originally Posted by cnhiggins View Post
      Thanks for this! Have a copy of your old article in my Dice Masters toolbox as a reminder of the important pieces I need to include on a team. I have one question for you: How risky are two-energy type teams? I am running the Black Bolt/Medusa combo and only have other masks and shields, which naturally means that Chalkboard is on the team too. Nobody really constructs a team to stifle one-two energy types specifically do they?
      Piggybacking off of @SirFrankus , there's only a couple cards in Modern/Prime that you'd need to worry about with a mono-energy team. There's:

      You've Been Chosen: Basic Action Card
      Play only during your Main Step. Choose an energy type. All characters of that type must attack during their next Attack Step, and deal no combat damage. If these characters are unblocked, return them to the Field Zone instead of the Used Pile.
      and Loki: Master of Delusion (in the upcoming Defenders team pack)
      When fielded, name an energy time, replacing all previous choices. While Loki is active, dice of that energy type cost 1 more to purchase and field.
      I don't think you'd need to address either specifically unless they start to become popular. Even then, Loki is easy to stop with any blanking or targeted removal ability, and You've Been Chosen can be played around.

      Since you're running a dual-energy build, there's definitely no concern here.

      Otherwise, the greatest risk in restricted energy type builds is what you'll do if you only roll energy you don't need. For you, what do you do if you only roll fists and bolts? Usually, purchasing your BACs here is a decent idea.
    1. cnhiggins's Avatar
      cnhiggins -
      Quote Originally Posted by memmek2k View Post
      Otherwise, the greatest risk in restricted energy type builds is what you'll do if you only roll energy you don't need. For you, what do you do if you only roll fists and bolts? Usually, purchasing your BACs here is a decent idea.
      Exactly! Honestly, I really only focus on getting Transfer Power early so I can hit my combo. The other Basic Action, Feedback, doesn't need to come out until the combo is set up.
    1. archivist's Avatar
      archivist -
      Completing what @memmek2k started, the following cards also affect opposing mono-energy team builds in Modern:




      In the Golden format, there are:

    1. SirFrankus's Avatar
      SirFrankus -
      So, including golden, like 9 cards you'd need to be worried about. Which pretty much means "don't worry". That Lex may see play in Prime, but I doubt it really, and even if you did see it across the table you have 2 energy types so you'd just focus on the other one.
    1. cnhiggins's Avatar
      cnhiggins -
      Great! Thanks for the info! Will see how the team plays at the end of this month in an event at my local store.
    1. Yort's Avatar
      Yort -
      I don't remember who I originally heard it from, but I like the concept of starting with your win-con and maybe a few support cards, and just play with that a few times (i.e., don't worry about having a full team of 8). Then you can look back and think "what did I wish I have," find something that fits, and then try that out.
    1. Jthomash2's Avatar
      Jthomash2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yort View Post
      I don't remember who I originally heard it from, but I like the concept of starting with your win-con and maybe a few support cards, and just play with that a few times (i.e., don't worry about having a full team of 8). Then you can look back and think "what did I wish I have," find something that fits, and then try that out.
      I'm sure many folks do this, but @Randy is someone I know loves this form of brewing and he introduced me to it.