Deck Construction for Ranked Play

Building and piloting a deck constructed yourself from scratch is definitely one of most rewarding aspects of TCGs and CCGs.

The intent of this guide is to help others discover the joy of the deck construction process and win more games in ranked.

Selecting a leader
Select Leader

Select your favorite leader! The one consideration here is you should have a sizable collection of cards for your selection. Otherwise, you would just put the few cards you own into the deck, and nobody needs a guide for that :)

The Win Condition

The first cards we want to put into any deck, are the key cards you will build around to establish your win condition. These have to be powerful cards with a unique effect.

Examples include:
Elana's Prayer Elana's Prayer 3

Elana's Prayer makes every healing card in Haven much stronger. Multiple copies of this card in play will put a timer on your opponent as you snowball towards victory.

Bloody Mary Unevolved Bloody Mary 5

Bloody Mary adds value to almost half the Bloodcraft cards! Building a deck around this powerful effect means loading up on cards that damage ourselves.

A 6-mana with 7/12 in stats split among 5 followers. This card simply has insane value in terms of stats and belongs in every Swordcraft deck regardless of any strategy.

The Curve

The curve refers to the cost to play the cards in your deck. One of the best ways to win duels in any card game with incremental costs, is to play "on curve". This refers to playing a one cost card on turn 1, a two cost card on turn two, etc. Playing a three cost and a two cost card on turn 5 works as well, but if you do this too much you will run out of cards in your hand.

Mid-Range Forestcraft

This curve concept extends into our deck building in that we need to maximize the probability we can play on curve. Since each players draws at least one card each turn, we should have the most cards in the 2-cost category which will allow us to play on curve early and slowly draw into our higher cost cards. Of course each card game has their own quirks and in Shadowverse currently, there are two things we need to keep in mind:

1. Skipping your first turn is okay

One cost cards are usually only found in a deck when they bring significant value or belong in a special strategy. This means for some decks, our curve will start at 2.

Elf Child May Unevolved Elf Child May 1
Quickblader Unevolved Quickblader 1

2. High-cost cards (6+) tend to suddenly gain extremely strong effects that can win the game on their own.

Therefore we should try to make sure the tail end of our curve contains at least a few of these cards.

The Meta
The meta, or metagame, in the context of competitive video games refers to the popular winning strategies. Once these strategies peak in popularity, they will typically see nerfs, decreasing its power which allows the meta to "evolve" to a new or more balanced state.

We need to keep the meta in mind while constructing a deck, with the goal of being able to beat these strategies at least 50% of the time since we'll be seeing them a lot. Using Shadowverse as an example; Forestcraft could be said to be defining the metagame as of the Darkness Evolved set.
Execution Execution 5

When only the base Standard set was available, we saw Path to Purgatory Forestcraft changing the way people built decks to deal with the amulet. This involved adding amulet removal (Execution) or using followers with the "Storm" ability. Eventually Forestcraft saw nerfs to both Harvest Festival and Homecoming due to this.

Crystalia Tia Unevolved Crystalia Tia 5

After the release of Darkness Evolved, Midrange Forestcraft rose to prominence fueled by the power of Crystalia Tia and Elf Knight Cynthia.


Nobody will build the perfect deck on their first try. Just like a metal, a deck will need to undergo refinement to remove impurities. In this case, we have to lose!

Most importantly, after each loss we should take a moment and reflect on the game:

  • Why did I lose?
  • Could I have played differently?
  • What cards could have helped me?
  • Did they play something unexpected?

IE. Dying too fast? Try replacing 2-cost cards in your deck with:

Once we answer these questions, we can go back into the deck editor and change it up by replacing one card with another. Repeat until we win more than we lose.

An easy way to keep track is to ask yourself if your Score increased or decreased after playing for the day. If it decreased, you probably need to refine your deck unless you're already high Master ranked.

Putting it all together
Putting it all together

Now that we know all of the steps and things to consider when constructing a deck, lets go through and use that knowledge to build a great deck from scratch!

When I select my leader, all I want is to win. So lets analyze the current meta (~1 week since release of Darkness evolved). Right now when I play in constructed in Master rank, the top 3 decks I see are:

Aggro Bat and Midrange Forest work somewhat similarly in that they will flood the board with 1/1 followers. So we probably want to have cards to deal with that reasonably early. Fire Chains are a bit unreliable and I do not consider it a good counter.

Solid AoE cards include:

Looking at this list, we can narrow down our leader selection a bit. Next we'll want some efficient removal to deal with big creatures such as Crystalia Tia and Curate. Some cards that come to mind:

Looks like we've narrowed our choices down to Dragon and Shadow! Finally, we'll also want some cards to deal with the burst combos found in the meta Bloodcraft and Forestcraft decks:

The Vampiric Fortress + Vania Evolution combo can deal 2 direct damage, and gain 6/6 in stats. Next turn you will get an additional 1/1 in stats and deal 3-4 direct damage when Vampiric Fortress destroys itself. All of this for 4 mana is insane value and can take someone out before they can even react.

Rhinoceroach Unevolved Rhinoceroach 2

The Rhinoceroach + Nature's Guidance combo needs no introduction. With just one of each at 10 play points, 14 direct damage (16 with evolution) can be dealt starting with nothing in play. Two Rhinoceroach in hand? You can deal 19 damage!

To counter this burst damage, we will want cards that can heal and/or have ward:

Looking at all of these cards as a whole, it looks like Dragoncraft has better cards represented here, so we'll choose to build a ward-heavy dragon deck.

Next we need to determine what key card to build around as our win condition. Looking at the cards again, Fafnir is a great threat at 8 damage, and wipes the board too. So lets run three as our win condition.

With that decision made, lets throw all of these cards together into the deck...

Each craft has their own unique strengths / effects, and in Dragoncraft that would be play point ramping / acceleration. So we should definitely make use of our class specialty, otherwise we may as well play another leader! Lets add those cards in:

Dragon Oracle Dragon Oracle 2

Now lets try to fill out our curve. We only have three 4-cost cards and three 5-cost cards. Looking at the 5-cost cards, we come to the sudden realization that Dragoncraft doesn't have anything good to play except for Goblinmount Demon! Wind God? Phoenix Roost? I don't think so. For the 4-cost slot we can sprinkle in Dragon Warrior since it fits our theme of efficient removal.

Now we have 38/40 cards, what are we missing? A quick look and I see that we don't have any card draw! Both Bellringer Angel and Dragon Oracle are 1 for 1, which means our hand size is net zero. If we draw all of our early game cards, we don't have anything to play late game. Also, if Havencraft drags the game out, we may also run out of cards. Lets add in some card draw now:

Now it's time for playtesting... and we quickly find that Bellringer Angel isn't useful at all! We're still getting rushed down by faeries when we don't get our Dragon Wings early. What card can we replace the Bellringer Angels with? Lets look at some defensive 2-cost cards...

After some playing testing with the above cards, Sandstorm Dragon seems to have the biggest impact. So we'll replace the Bellringer Angels with those and that's the final deck! As the meta changes, some further modifications for consideration:

Are enemies frequently surviving with 1HP?
Replace Unica for Fire Lizard

Drawing too many Dragon Wings?
Replace one Dragon Wings for one Wild Hunt

Running out of cards in hand?
Replace one Imprisoned Dragon for one Shenlong

We continue this tweaking process until we win more than we lose and we feel comfortable playing the deck.


The meta is constantly changing, and will be different depending on your current rank. So netdecking won't always be the best option for your win rate. You also lose out on a lot of fun theorycrafting new deck ideas.

So hopefully readers can consider the meta at their current rank, and build the appropriate decks to counter them. How do we know what counters those decks? The best way is to play those decks yourself. If you win 100% of the time, then the deck is probably busted and about to be nerfed. Otherwise, analyze your losses and take advantage of those weaknesses in the decks you make.

Good luck!