• Deck Building vs. Deck Building

    This is a continuation of a series geared towards players of all kinds who want to play the game better. Whether you are a kitchen table player or desire to play the game competitively, the concepts in these articles are applicable to you. Your fun thematic team that you put together isnít as fun if you canít make it work well. These work no matter what or how youíre playing. Good decision making is a part of the game regardless of your desired mode of play. Thatís what weíre promoting here - making good choices for good reasons. Enjoy!

    When it comes to this game, there is deck building and there is deck building. Believe it or not, Iím talking about two different things here.

    We all build decks. There are sites dedicated to it. We have forums dedicated to it. We talk about what we do, we talk about how we do it, and we talk about how we got where we got. We talk about how we do it in draft vs. constructed, and what we might try if weíre playing hybrid. No matter what our mode of play, itís there.

    Itís perhaps the most discussed aspect of the game, and if youíve come from another CCG, itís certainly the most familiar one.

    But thereís another type of deck building that isnít discussed as heavily, and this one is at least as - if not more - important. The first kind, the kind that I just talked about above, is the kind that describes dice that you might use. The second one is about the dice that you will use.

    What We Bring

    No matter what weíre doing, weíre focused on up to eight characters, up to twenty dice. This is excellent and something that takes a lot of thought. The problem is that deck lists are an imperfect analogue for what actually happens in the game. I said this on the first episode of The Attack Zone, and it will be said again here and elsewhere: Deck lists have nothing to do with the game itself.

    I will reiterate this on the next episode of The Attack Zone, but no one ever won a tournament with a deck list. No one ever made a good play with a deck list, and it takes us about the same amount of space and effort to write that we're bringing four Black Widow dice as it does to say that we're bringing one - even though there is an enormous difference between the two.

    Nonetheless, it is where we start: Eight and Twenty.

    We often see deck lists appear where someone explains it by describing a plan to buy at least one of everything during the course of the game. But real games arenít like that, and if we really do some visualization and consider what place each card has on the team, and how that relates to other cards on the team, and how that relates to our deck overall, then we know that some dice weíre just not buying. We donít need to buy them. Not in every game, anyway.


    If thereís been a theme to this article series, itís that this is an economic euro game with roots in Dominion. If youíre not familiar with Dominion, itís basically the card version of this, minus combat and direct interaction. Players spend resources to take actions and buy cards from a shared pool in the middle. They do it to maximize efficiency and try to build an engine, build toward something.

    In a game like Dominion, you identify the cards from the pool available that will be the most beneficial to you. You see what can be a one-of, what might require multiples, and in what order youíre buying it. Moreover, this plan may change as you see what your opponent is doing - it might block you or he might just do what heís doing better than you can do what youíre doing. You need ideas and options.

    This is where the second part of deck building comes in: What dice will we use in this game?

    Itís very similar to having a plan, except that your plan could be different from game to game. It could be impacted from a ďwhoís the beatdownĒ standpoint as well.

    So just think about a normal game. What dice are you planning to buy? What dice are a contingency? What dice are just there for the global abilities offered by their card? That takes us to the next level - recognizing that there are really four maybe five dice that we're actually buying and using, and that those dice are different depending on what we see on the other side.

    Letís take, for example, the DC Rainbow Draft team that I put together.

    As you see, we have a lot of bolt characters. But notice two things: First, my plan didnít revolve around buying every bolt character. Second, I had peripheral characters around in case I couldnít get my rolls, in this case Katana and Manta.

    Letís deal with point two first. We already know that mono-energy teams are just a bad idea. One or two turns without the energy that you need and youíre sunk. You need at least one other energy type that youíre ok with buying. In this case, I went with Katana, due to her possibility as an wary game buy, and Black Manta, because of the likelihood that Iíll see villains.

    Now to point one. My plan was T1 Cheetah, T2 Red Tornado, T3 Firestorm or Hawkman, T4 Firestorm if I couldnít get him on T3. Keep fielding things, getting things knocked out, and just let the game go into my favor.

    So why did I have Captain Cold? Why did I have Blue Beetle? Both are bolt characters, so they fit the team. Blue Beetle gave me another means of doing damage with my Cheetah, and would be an even bigger piece if going against a villain team. Captain Cold was another villain, so he fit with a possible Blue Beetle buy. He also has the attack step tax.

    The point is that you need to recognize when buying something beyond what youíve identified as your normal purchase order is prudent. Going against a Black Manta Retaliation team? Blue Beetle becomes a key early buy instead of a late sometimes-buy.

    As the meta broadens and we find ourselves in a rock-paper-scissors situation, identifying what is on the other side of the board from you and understanding what that means for your team is critical. It may not take you from a definite loss to a definite win based on the matchup, but it will help you maximize your equity against the team.
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. SarkhanMad's Avatar
      SarkhanMad -
      I don't have permission to view that link?
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      It just goes to an existing forum post. Can't imagine why you wouldn't.

      EDIT: Just looked at the timestamp on your post. Yeah, that's because I had this published for like a second yesterday by mistake and took it down that fast. You saw what you shouldn't have seen! Lol
    1. Chris's Avatar
      Chris -
      Another great entry in a great series. Keep 'em coming!