I actually came up with the idea of this article after reading Christian Van Hoose's article, which can be found right here on Alter Reality Games. His article goes into the topic of "netdecking", which I will leave up to you to read on your own.
In order for something such as netdecking to exist, we need two things. Since you're already reading this article, I can only assume you understand what the internet is, so I'm going to go a bit more in depth with the other half. Before the beginning of Kaijudo Champs in Texas last month, I told my team mate Dave Pendergrass that I would be happier if a deck I designed won the tournament with someone else piloting it than if I played a deck someone else designed and won. Now, I realize that this may seem crazy to a ton of people, but that is where I (and a number of other players) get satisfaction from and why I enjoy competitive card games. That's sort of what makes the world go 'round.
So, you want to learn how to become a better deck builder, huh? Lucky for you I've got my general guidelines for building a successful Kaijudo deck (and, really, almost any other card game these can apply to). Most of these principles apply to competitive deck building, however if you just want to build a deck for fun, a lot of the following will help you as well.
Make Sure You Have a Plan
Usually one of the first questions I will ask someone when they come to me for deck building advice is, "What are you trying to accomplish with this deck? What is your plan?" Having focus for a deck's strategy is key to its success. For example, typically, you're not going to have both Blaze Belcher and Eternal Haven in the same deck. Why is that? Well, a deck with Blaze Belcher in it is going to want to destroy their opponent's shields as quickly as possible, whereas a deck with Eternal Haven is likely to want to stall out the early and mid game and then win the late game.
There are a number of different plans and strategies a deck can have. For example, the plan for the LD Kalima deck I designed for Champs was to deny my opponent's resources via cards like Mesmerize and Spire Puppet, control the mid game with shield blasts like Terror Pit and creatures like Serpens and Megaria, and then shut down my opponent by dropping an Andromeda or Queen Kalima. I understood what role each card played in my deck, and shifted the number of cards that helped me achieved each plan to the point where I felt comfortable at any point in the game.
Now, this obviously sounds like the easiest possible plan, "Just win every stage of the game". However, the deck did have a weakness to decks that had more late game threats and "went bigger". Unfortunately, you can't have it all, and every deck is going to have its weaknesses, but it's a matter of trying to mitigate those as much as possible. That's why I believe General Finbarr and Andromeda of the Citadel are two of the best cards in the game right now. Aggressive decks have problems with getting blockers/bigger creatures out of the way and also running out of gas. General Finbarr solves both of those problems in a single card. Control and midrange decks can have problems getting to the late game because they just get overrun by creatures from aggressive strategies and have no shields before they know it. Andromeda gives you two more shields and also cuts your opponents attackers in half.
Going to the next level of having a plan is identifying the types of decks you plan on playing against (also known as the meta game) and deciding how you want to attack these decks. Say you are preparing for a Duel Days at your local store and a lot of the players run slow control decks with early blockers and shield blasts to help them bridge to the late game. A good way to counter this strategy is to play cards like Cyber Scamp and Keeper of Laws to try to "stay even" with your opponent's shield blasts, and playing cards that get rid of blockers such as Comet Missile and the aforementioned General Finbarr. Kaijudo is a game that is oozing with interactivity, so I won't go into strategies that involve entirely ignoring what your opponent is doing and not interact with them, which some card games have as strategies.
Actually Play Games!
Without naming names, I know a good handful of players in the game right now have been relying entirely on theory crafting their decks and just showing up to tournaments. While these players have actually been fairly successful in doing so thus far, I believe this will begin to change in Kaijudo. The game is growing and so are its players. People are getting better at the game and better at building decks. What is the easiest way to gain the edge against other highly skilled players? Having more experience with the deck you are playing.
A number of people have asked me what deck they should play in a KMC they have coming up. My answer each time has been to play what they feel the most comfortable with and have played the most games with. With what the size of the majority of KMCs have been this past season, I believe that almost every single person that enters the tournament has a chance to get an invite. In comparison, a Pro Tour Qualifier for Magic in the North East where I live is usually around 150-200 players, and maybe only 30-40 of those people actually have a chance to win the single invite from getting first place. If you know the ins and outs of your deck as well as what cards are important in what match ups, you have a significant advantage over someone who does not have the same information. The only way to truly understand all of that is to actually play games with the deck you have against multiple matchups.
I don't personally know Bobby Brake, but he has won two Championships in a row. Not only is he a great player, but I bet you that his match in round 1 in Texas was far from the first time he had played his deck. Dave and I played a ton of games against multiple match ups and discussed what cards we felt were important in those match ups, and he'll be the first person to tell you that it was a large part of his success in his road to the top 8.
The other positive of playing games with your deck is finding out if there are cards that are underwhelming, as well as if there is something lacking. Recently, I was testing a LWFN Tempo deck (deck list is below in the bonus deck list section), and realized after playing a few games that I always felt like I wanted to top deck a fast attacker, and also felt a little short on red mana. Luckily, there is a wonderful card called Jump Jets that filled both criteria for another card I wanted for the deck, since it also did not enter my mana zone tapped. If I just looked at the deck as it was and never played any games with it, I probably would have never figured that out until the first tournament I played with it, which might have been too late if that tournament was something like a KMC.
Consistency Over Power
Back in Season 1, I was blown away by the number of decks that were being played that had more than 40 cards in it. I understand that most control decks cannot afford to play 40 cards due to their ability to fly through their deck with draw spells like Reverberate, placing multiple shields down from Andromeda, and putting cards into their graveyard via cards like Queen Kalima. However, I was watching mid-range strategies and even RUSH DECKS playing well over 40 cards, which made absolutely no sense to me. Only in the last few months have players begun to realize that consistency is king when it comes to deck building, and this moment of realization could not have come sooner.
Not all cards are created equally. Any person who has even the slightest ability to evaluate a card knows this. When you're building a deck, you obviously want to have some very good cards that help you win the game, along with other cards that are still good, but might not be equally as powerful or impactful. If you can choose between drawing your best cards every game or drawing your good cards, you're going to want to draw your best cards, right?
The answer to that question should be yes, and in order to achieve that goal, you want to be playing 40 cards. This ends up being basic math that you have a higher probability to draw a certain card throughout the game if you have fewer cards in your deck. If you're playing a mono light deck and want to be drawing your Sparkblade Protector every game by turn 4, you're going to have the best chance of doing so by playing the least amount of cards possible in your deck. To most people, this may seem obvious, but to newer deck builders it's not quite as obvious.
This also ties in a bit with playing games, as sometimes you'll notice that you always want to draw a certain card that you might only be running 1 or 2 copies of. The opposite can also be true, in which you draw a card quite frequently that you feel like either you never play or just goes to mana, and maybe you want to trim down the number of copies of that card you are playing.
Another piece of consistency comes from the "curve" of your deck. Your curve comes from looking at the number of cards you have at each level. Let's take an aggressive strategy such as the LWN deck that Carl Miciotto played to a second-place finish in Texas. Ideally, you would like to play a creature on turn 2, another creature on turn 3, another on turn 4 and so on to continually keep pressure on the board. If you build a deck with a bunch of level 4 creatures, and only 3 level 3 creatures and 3 level 2 creatures, it's going to be very difficult to have a strong "progression". A progression, in short, details which cards you played on what sequential turns. Make sure you have a good mix of different creatures at different levels and are not too bottle necked at a certain level.
For more controlling strategies, making sure your deck isn't too top-heavy needs to be taken into consideration. Your deck needs ways to get past the early game of aggressive decks, and needs what I call "bridge cards". Despite common knowledge, I believe the mid-game is the most difficult for most control decks, as their early blockers and shield blasts tend to slow down aggressive decks, but getting past that first wave of attacks and into their large finishers is the most difficult. That is why we chose to play cards like Ripper Reaper, Serpens, Lyra the Blazing Sun, and Megaria the Deceiver. We needed a way for us to get from our early blockers and discard to Andromeda and Queen Kalima. Most of our cards were dedicated to the early game, and then we played less and less cards that were more expensive, since we felt we only needed to draw 1 or 2 of them to be able to close out a game.
The last piece regarding consistency comes to multi-civilization card counts. The great Majin Vu swears by a <23% multi-civ count, while others (such as myself) believe that anything above 25% becomes very dangerous. Our Kalima deck played 48 cards and 10 of them were multi-civs (about 20.5%). For decks that want to curve out and have consistent progressions, this is even more important, as you always want to be able to play spells when you want them. Whenever a mana coming into play tapped stops you from doing so, it can feel pretty bad, or worse, possibly lose you the game.
Don't Play a Bad Version of Something Else
This is one of my own personal rules. If there is already an established archetype in the meta game, I'll always try to see if there is something I can do to improve it. However, if I find that the version of the deck I am playing is strictly worse than the original version, I either just play the original version or move onto something else. Sort of straight forward guideline, but I see a number of players struggle with playing bad versions of better decks (even though they had access to the "better" version).
Consult Your Friends and Other Players
This is the easiest way to improve the deck that you are playing - especially if the people you are talking with have more experience than you. I always show my decks to people and ask if there is anything missing I'm not thinking of. There are cards in this game I literally do not know what they do or that they even exist. It's a little bit silly, but it's true. That is why I'll talk to folks over the internet or at my Duel Days to see if there might be a card that fits into a deck I'm playing that I haven't thought of yet.
Be Prepared to Build Bad Decks (like, really bad decks)
For every 1 successful deck I've built in a card game, I've built dozens and dozens of really bad decks. I'd love to say that every deck I've built was perfect and I wouldn't change anything, but that is far from the case. It can be very frustrating at first when you're starting from scratch with a deck and if it struggles to win a single game. However, understanding why your deck isn't performing well and figuring out how to solve those problems is a great learning experience. Maybe you find yourself needing more blockers, or you notice that too many times your mana comes into play tapped and you can't play the spell or creature you wanted to. Practice makes perfect with so many other things in the world, and deck building is no different.
Deck building requires a ton of patience and time. Those that are willing to put the time and effort into building a successful deck will assuredly be rewarded, especially as this game continues to evolve. I hope that these tips and guidelines help you all in the future, and I wish you all the best of luck! Feel free to comment below if you do have any questions, and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner. PEACH!
BONUS DECK LIST
As promised, I have the bonus deck list below of the LWFN Tempo list I played at my Duel Days this past weekend and ended up splitting the finals with.
2x Jump Jets
3x Cyber Scamp
3x Weaponized Razorcat
2x Tricky Turnip
2x Aqua Seneschal
3x Sword Horned
3x Keeper of Laws
3x Rusalka, Aqua Chaser
3x Gilaflame the Assaulter
3x Piercing Judgment
3x Major Ao
3x Stormspark Blast
3x General Finbarr
3x Lyra, the Blazing Sun
3x Root Trap
The deck as it is stands at 42 cards and about 26% multi-civs, which does go against what I just mentioned in my article, but I found it difficult to not do so in a 4 civ deck. Surprisingly, the deck was very consistent, and the Jump Jets I added were great. There is a possibility you could go to just 3 civs, but the deck is playing most of the best cards in the game. Some of the numbers might be changed around, like possibly playing another Tricky Turnip and cutting a Keeper of Laws, as I felt like there might need to be an additional Nature card in the deck and possibly 1 less Light card and/or 4-drop. I've also been considering cutting one of the Weaponized Razorcats for a Manapod Beetle, just to lower the multi-civ count a bit. There was a video recorded of the first round where I played this deck, so I'll make sure to post the link either on Facebook or on Twitter. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @BlazerBelcher and I am Corey G Kaijudo on Facebook.