Hey everyone! This week I’m going to be talking about what should make you use one copy of a card, two copies of a card, or a full three copies of a card in your deck. I think this is one of the harder deck building concepts as often times even the decks that do very well seem to make these choices arbitrarily. Why did you play two [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd]s instead of a full set? If all you’re looking at is a deck list, it can be very difficult to understand. An important thing to keep in mind is that even though someone has success with some number of a card, it does not mean that that is the optimal number. Today I’m going to be giving you a brief set of guidelines to follow when building decks to clarify how many copies of each card you should play.
What is a three of? For a lot of less experienced players, it’s a card they think has uses and is not limited. If it meets those qualifications, it’s a three of! Unfortunately it’s not that simple.
Good When Losing – Why are you going to want to play three of a card (something you’ll see more often than any other card) when it’s only good when you’re already winning? Let’s take [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] for example. While it is currently at 1, there was a long time where you could play three of it. If you were to draw Bottomless to an opposing field, it’d be bad. It’s good when you’re winning, good when neither player are winning (both clear fields), but bad when your opponent has a field. These are not the kind of cards you play at three.
Good in Multiples – You don’t want to play three of a card if you never want to see two of them together. It’s not hard to see that you’ll draw two of a card you play three of more often than you will draw two of a card you only play two of. Let’s go back to a time where [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd] was at three and before Dragon Rulers were ever printed. Believe it or not, Sarcophagus used to be used to get real cards. In such a case, it would still not be a card you would play three of because if you draw two together, you’re going to be at a big disadvantage for two turns.
The Core Engine of your Deck – I say core because simply being part of your engine does not qualify you as a three of. For example, I do not think Megalo should be played at three because you don’t want to see multiples, it’s searchable (let’s say you’ve got 1 Dragoons, 2 Megalo, and 3 Undine. You’re essentially playing 6 Megalo when you want it in your hand and only 2 when you don’t which makes 3 unnecessary) and it’s a high risk card. When I say core engine I mean things like playing three Tempest or three Snoww. Other parts of the engine are subject to higher scrutiny.
Good Against all the Top Decks – In baby Dragon format, I saw [ccProd]Droll & Lock Bird[/ccProd] being played at three more than I care to remember. The idea was that it gave Dragons a fighting chance against Spellbooks game 1. Sure, it had applications in the Dragon mirror as well, but take a look back at the qualification. Good. Not being dead in every situation that you can possibly imagine is not what I would consider good. To meet this qualification, it must actually be good.
Good at All Stages of the Game – Some cards are good first turn only like [ccProd]Spellbook of Crescent[/ccProd] and some cards are good only in the later stages of the game such as [ccProd]Hysteric Party[/ccProd]. Three ofs are cards that you want at all stages of the game. The best example I can think of is [ccProd]Sacred Sword of Seven Stars[/ccProd]. You’ll want it literally any turn you draw it.
Now the above probably had you questioning how valid what I’m saying is. Would I really not play 3 Spellbook of Crescent in Prophecy or 3 Hysteric Party in Harpies? Crescent is one of several problems Spellbooks have and the reason I do not think they can be the best deck. It attempts to defy these rules by maxing out on 3 Crescent out of necessity, for if it followed them it would have trouble getting out of the early game. When the core of the deck attempts to break these standards, the deck has a ceiling built in that you probably can’t break through. This usually results in decks being not optimal.
Too High of a Power Level – If you notice, I didn’t answer my own question about playing 3 Parties. The reason is because it gets me into my next point of what a three of should be. Sometimes there are cards that are too powerful such as [ccProd]Return from the Different Dimension[/ccProd]. Hysteric Party almost certainly falls into this category. Something that’s important to do is not take these guidelines to carry equal weight. What I mean by that is that something might say not to run 3 of a card, but another thing says to run 3 of a card. Sometimes one of those will outweigh the other. This is where play testing comes in to make that determination. While Hysteric Party may not be good early game, it’s probably offset by the fact that it’s super powerful. Continuing with Crescent, it’s power level was too high when [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] was at 3 to not run 3. It was worth a slightly worse late game to have a super consistent and powerful first turn. In this case, I think it was correct to run 3 Spellbook of Crescents. Now, the necessity of the card for consistency is just an inherent problem of the deck.
One ofs are pretty simple because they’re usually the exact opposite of what a 3 of is.
Bad When Losing – Let’s look at [ccProd]Castle of Dragon’s Souls[/ccProd]. If I were to play the card, I wouldn’t play more than a single copy of it. If they have a field, it’s bad. I can reduce the number of times this will happen by just playing 1.
Bad in Multiples - Castle of Dragon Souls is another card I wouldn’t want to see in multiples. Even if it were good, one would get the job done. It also makes you weaker to them destroying your monster in a way other than attacking it. If that happens, you now have two cards that don’t do anything.
Cards You Don’t Want to Draw, but are a Necessity – Tytannial in Plants, Undine in Mermails (Mermails need to defy this is a limiting factor of the deck and one of its inherent weaknesses), normals in Hieratics, the list goes on. There are lots of cards you don’t want to draw, but have to be played to make your deck work. This is the reason I only played 1 Blue-Eyes in Dragons last format.
Flexibility – You get a lot more flexibility when there are several cards that are potentially good, but all have their weaknesses. For instance, [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] might be bad against Spellbooks, but great against Fire. [ccProd]Phoenix Wing Wind Blast[/ccProd] might be good against Spellbooks, but subpar against Fire. Instead of playing multiples of just one of them, you can play 1 of each and give yourself greater flexibility. This makes it so that situations where Wing Blast would be bad occur less often.
Two ofs are probably what I use the least nowadays, but they still have an important role.
Good in Most Situations and Most Matchups – Let’s take a look at [ccProd]Skill Drain[/ccProd]. It is good against Fire and has uses against Spellbooks, but isn’t ideal as World is still big. This is the kind of card I would play at 2.
Restrictive Conditions – Continuing to look at Skill Drain, there are plenty of times where I wouldn’t mind flipping it before I have set up, but it would be more ideal if I could use my effects and then have it once I have established a board. Having applications before I am winning makes It not a 1 of, but them not being ideal makes it not a 3 of.
These are the guidelines that I follow when building my decks. I have found them to be very effective and think you should implement them in your own decks. I might do a follow up article on number of copies of a card in the side deck, because while they follow many of the same general rules, there is a whole other rule set that they must follow as well. Let me know if you guys liked this article and let me know if you build your decks any differently. Until next time, play hard or go home! The Circuit Series makes its next stop in Nashville, TN this weekend January 18-19!