Last time, we talked about the three fundamental features of a deck. Today, we’re looking at the first of those – your win condition. This is the deck’s game plan; the main strategy you will use to win, and though they can come in many forms, most are centred around a particular mechanic.
They’re also a good place to start – when I build a new deck, the first thing I do is pick the mechanic that will be my win condition. Then, I look for cards to support that win condition by pursuing a series of questions:
Let’s have a look at how this works in practice: I’ll build a deck from scratch, starting today with the win condition.
Step One: Find an Interesting Mechanic
First, we need to pick a win condition.
This really is as simple as it sounds. Almost anything can make a win condition, so my advice is this: just pick a mechanic that is somehow related to points—any mechanic you like—and try to build a deck around it. Here’s where I started with this deck: I found an interesting mechanic.
Greater Brothers can gain armour by spending coins or damaging itself. Iris: Shade strips all the armour off something and boosts herself by the armour removed. So, here’s the plan: we stack a whole bunch of armour on Greater Brothers, then use Iris: Shade to convert it to points.
Step Two: Identify Exploitable Features
This is where the questions come in. How can I exploit the features of these cards?
How does this mechanic work?
What features of this mechanic are exploitable?
What tools do I need to exploit these features?
Step Three: Find Cards for Your ‘Shortlist’
How can I get these tools?
At this stage we don’t care about deck size or provision budget—that will come later. For now, we’re just making a list of useful cards. If it seems useful to our win condition, it goes in the deck.
Let’s take a look at the options.
Tools: More Armour on Greater Brothers, Efficiently
A quick search for ‘armor’ returns 18 results among Syndicate and Neutral cards. Excluding cards which are already in the deck (Greater Brothers and Iris: Shade), cards used to remove armour, and a couple that only appeared because their name contains the word, we’re left with six cards that can give armour to Greater Brothers:
All of these go in the deck (for now, at least – remember, we’re just gathering a shortlist).
We’re on the lookout for other cards that work nicely with armour synergies as well. Looking through the results for ‘armor’ and ‘barricade,’ I find a few:
Tools: More Points on Greater Brothers, Efficiently
I search for ‘boost’ and look through the results. Most of the cards shown boost themselves, but a few could be efficient ways to boost Greater Brothers:
Boosting isn’t the only way to put points on a unit, however. Greater Brothers can damage itself with Insanity, so the ‘heal’ and ‘reset’ keywords may be useful as well.
Step Four: Assess Limitations
Remember earlier, when we noted that stacking points on Greater Brothers keeps them safe from tall removal, but only if we have last play?
Every win condition has weaknesses, limitations that we need to plan for and work around. By this point, we’ve assembled a preliminary shortlist of cards that seem useful to our win condition. This should be enough to give us an idea of how the win condition will work, and let us identify some problems.
Problem One: This win condition is single-use. We only have one copy of Greater Brothers, and one copy of Iris: Shade, which means we need some other way to get through the other rounds.
Problem Two: The Greater Brothers combo is poorly suited for Round One. Because all of our points are stored as armour, we have very few points actually on the board during the round. If we used the combo in Round One, our opponent could pass whenever they wished, and we’d still have to take another turn to play Iris: Shade and convert all that armour into points.
Problem Three, we’ve actually noted already: After converting the armour into points, we have one massively tall unit that’s horrifically vulnerable to tall removal and resets. If we don’t have last play, we’ll lose a lot of matches like this.
So, our combo needs to be played in the final round, and we want last play. That means we need either another strategy to reliably win Round One, or a way to gain card advantage.
We have a few options:
1. Put in another package that can reliably win Round One
2. Use armour-synergy cards like Dire Mutated Hound and Living Armor in Round One
In situations like this, if I’m not sure which option is best, I’ll often create incomplete decks for each of the options I like, then compare to see which I like more. In this case, I actually put together a number of decks using different Round One packages.
For this article, however, we’ll go with something between options one and two. Our Round One strategy will remain built around armour synergy with Dire Mutated Hound and/or Living Armour, but we may include some expensive non-armour powerplays as well.
Step Five: Refine Your Core Package
We have a collection of cards that might be useful, and a good idea of our win condition’s strengths and limitations. Now it’s time to refine that shortlist into a strong core package.
There's a few easy inclusions:
...and a few easy exclusions:
The rest of it is a bit trickier. Try not to agonise over these decisions too much when building your own decks – it's easy enough to remove a card or add one back in later.
I'm adding in a new card as well – Necromancy. Our Wagenburgs will be in high demand in all rounds of a match, so I'm more than willing to spend a few provisions for a third one. It's always worth keeping in mind cards like Necromancy, Renew, and Operator when deckbuilding – ask yourself: are any of these cards so useful in a deck that it's worth jumping through hoops for more of them? In this case, I think the answer is yes.
A good place to start when building a new deck is the win condition, as this is the basis that the rest of the deck is built around. Find a mechanic that you like, and it will lead you to the cards for your core package:
So, if we have a core package, what now? Well, if you recall the first article in this series, a deck needs a win condition, consistency, and versatility. We’ve just built the win condition, so next up is the rest of it: we need the consistency to ensure we have the cards we want, when we need them, and that they stay alive enough to be useful; and the versatility to handle whatever the opponent is doing.
Join me next time for Deckbuilding #3 – Supporting Your Win Condition.