Hello there, Shadowverse fans! This article aims to get you to the right place when considering deck building for more competitive play. These fundamentals will help you get ready for the ladder or for the next big tournament coming up!
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This article assumes you have the vials you need, and are ready to get started. So, let’s get into it!
This section aims to give you a better grasp of the core terms that you will see in the following article. These concepts will be key to optimizing a deck so that it can compete against other players. Skip this section if you already have the core fundamentals under your belt.
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 one, a two-cost card on turn two, etc. Playing a three cost and a two-cost card on turn 5 works as well, but this requires more cards out of hand. You want to have the option to play a card every turn of the game.
Unused play points on a turn usually means you are doing something less powerful then your opponent if they have used all their play points on a turn. A good curve when looking at your deck will usually look like a downward slope with more options to play early (because you can play multiples on later turns) and less options on the higher end as you do not want to be stuck with a starting hand of all high-cost cards.
There are two main considerations when thinking about your curve. Proactive and Reactive plays:
- Proactive plays simply mean you want to establish board presence turn after turn to make your opponent react to you. This is a strategy used by aggressive decks and mid-range decks to keep the initiative of the game in their favor. If your opponent is always on the back foot they must have the specific answers to your cards or fall behind!
- Reactive plays refer to having "the answer" for what you expect your opponent to play on their respective turn. Instead of using board presence to your advantage, you choose to keep your opponent at bay while setting up for your specific game plan. This includes spells that destroy your opponent’s threats and followers with ward to halt their aggression. This is a strategy usually employed by mid-range, control, and combo decks.
The meta, or metagame, in the context of competitive cards games refers to the popular winning strategies at any given time. Once these strategies peak in popularity, decks will rise to counter those decks, and so on and so forth. The meta is a constantly evolving state of balance as players learn more about a format and what people are playing. Some decks become so powerful that they define a current metagame, and sometimes a true counter never emerges. It is important to keep the meta in mind when crafting your deck so you know which cards on each respective play point will impact the game in the most meaningful way.
Having a game plan is the most important step in building your own deck for competitive play. It will decide which direction you aim to attack your opponents as well as being the deciding factor on the cards you choose to play.
One of the most fascinating things about building your own deck is that if you understand how YOU can win with your given game plan, you can find success on the ladder and in tournaments. This will hold true regardless of metagame because when you develop a game plan it will be with the meta in mind. So, what is a game plan?
Begin by asking a few questions about the deck you want to start building:
- Aggro - Do you want to attack your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0 in the fastest viable way?
- Mid-range - Do you want to control the board while dealing damage in a consistent way throughout the game?
- Control - Do you want to maintain control throughout the entire game and win by running your opponent out of cards?
- Combo - Do you want to ignore what your opponent is doing and assemble a combo that will kill your opponent in one fail swoop?
- Transitional - Do you want to do a mixture of a few of the options listed above?
So, you fancy yourself an aggressive player? You are the type of player that wants to end the game quickly, and let your opponent know that you will be the one setting the tone for the game that is about to be played. You are the type of player that understands how to navigate through all the brick walls your opponent will put forth to stop you. Awesome! Let’s go over a few quick notes to help you understand when and how aggro decks can be powerful.
- Aggro decks tend to be the most powerful after a new set release or a new balance change. This is because slower decks such as mid-range, control, and combo need to know what answers they need to provide to stop aggro’s game plan. There are so many ways to be proactive that most of the slower decks will need time to understand what threats are the most effective and how to stop them.
- Aggro decks can keep this power trend rolling if they adapt by presenting threats that popular slower decks do not have great answers to. This note is especially important if you want to continue playing aggro throughout a current meta. Change it up. If you do the same thing, or present the most popular avenue of attack – your opponent will more than likely be prepared for it.
- Aggro decks tend to fare very well against combo decks and perform weaker against mid-range and control decks in the hierarchy of archetypes. This is because combo decks are electing to ignore their opponent’s game plan in favor of their own. Hard to ignore a player who won’t stop punching you in the face!
There are two ways to approach building an aggro deck. The first is at the beginning of a metagame or balance change, and the second is in a defined metagame.
At the beginning of a given metagame, the most important thing to consider is how to optimize your curve to kill your opponent in the fastest viable way. Put together a curve of threats that yields the most damage over time. Make sure you have a consistent curve as to not let a single turn pass by where you are not using all your play points to produce a powerful threat or multiple threats. I usually implement a baseline of six followers on each cost one through five to start with. This by no means is how the deck will end up, but it will give you thirty card starting point. After some playtesting, it might be that you end up with nine one-cost followers and three five-cost followers. Just maximize that damage potential!
Next, can you break through wards with your followers alone on turns 5 and beyond? Add in some hard removal if not. Do you have ways of beating your opponent once they establish board control? Add in some direct damage spells or followers with storm. Essentially, after the main game plan is set with the followers you want to run – round out that game plan with ways to break through defenses. Lastly, aggro decks tend to run out of cards quickly, so if you are making a choice between cards to put in your deck opt for the one that will be better if drawn off the top in a late-game situation. Drawing into multiple low-cost followers that do not deal damage immediately will net you losses in the late-game.
In a defined metagame, you know what answers other players are using to combat aggro decks. Outfit your deck with a curve that can bypass or push through those given answers. This will take time and practice, but once you get the feel of how you want an aggro deck to operate all that really stands in your way is understanding how others can stop you.
So, you have decided you want a deck that is mailable enough to operate throughout a given meta? You like controlling the state of the game, but still like punching your opponent in the face with big threats? Beautiful! Let’s go over a few points that cover why mid-range is a great option.
- Mid-range decks tend to be the one of the best overall strategies in any given metagame. This is because they have the answers to deal with the aggressive decks, and ways to close out the game fast enough against the slower control and combo decks.
- Mid-range decks are highly adaptable. This is because changing out answers and/or threats on the curve do not detract from the overall game plan.
- Mid-range decks do not have to sacrifice any of the winning features in a card game. Aggressive threats, removal, card draw, and powerful late-game threats can all be adopted into this style if wanted.
As with aggro, there are two ways to approach building a deck in this style. At the beginning and during a defined metagame. A theme emerges!
At the beginning of a metagame you want a good mix of proactive and reactive plays along the curve. I usually tend to start with six cards on each cost two through five. Three being proactive, and the other three being reactive. Followed by three cards of each cost six through seven, usually being followers. Again, this is just a guideline to get you started so you can get a feel for how you want the deck to playout.
The major goal for any mid-range deck is to be able to present a threat on any given turn if need be while also being able to answer a threat on any given turn if need be. Some play points can be skipped in a reactive sense if the followers you are putting in those costs can play the role of aggro or defense. The higher play point cost cards you choose to add to the deck are usually the big beaters you want to take over the game with. High-cost spells should be avoided unless they have a massive board changing effect. This is because usually with Shadowverse the threats presented at any given play point are usually better than an evenly costed spell in the late-game. This is subject to change, but is the rule of thumb for now. Also, when spending an entire mid to late-game turn on a spell, you usually aren’t also putting forth a threat. This gives the initiative back to your opponent.
Make sure your threats can win the game. This can be achieved with incremental damage over time with high value followers, or using effective late-game followers that can do the work on their own. Combinations of both usually lends itself to more winning strategies!
In a defined metagame, make sure you know what you need to answer along the curve. If the most potent aggro decks utilize storm or direct damage to finish you off – make sure you have wards or life gain to counter. If the control decks out there aim to out value you over time – make sure you have enough card draw to keep presenting threats throughout the entirety of the game. If the combo decks have a defined “win by this turn” make sure you have enough aggressive plays to end the game before that turn comes. In summation, make sure you have the cards that can allow you to shift t control or aggro given the nature of your opponent’s strategy. Finding this balance is the key to mid-range.
So, you are one of those players that likes to consistently say “no” to your opponent? You like to end the game with the biggest, boldest, and most feared monsters in Shadowverse? You are the type of player that likes to have five cards in hand, five cards in play, and your opponent with zero in each? Fantastic! Let’s cover what makes control a winning strategy.
- Control usually picks up steam over time, and defines the metagame near its end. This is because it is hard to know how to answer all the aggressive strategies at the beginning of a metagame, but once defined control is the hallmark of being able to handle pretty much anything thrown at it.
- Control can break the normal curve patterns because of how high-impact their cards can be. You might not play anything for the first three turns of a game, but you can catch up and pull ahead with more potent mid to late-game plays that push you to victory.
- Control decks can reach a point in the game where they simply cannot lose anymore. This is probably the utmost reason players who enjoy control play this archetype. This is because when the control player is at a healthy life total, has more cards in hand, and more cards in play it becomes almost impossible to break through in the late-game.
Unlike the last two archetypes, I do not recommend a control deck at the beginning of a metagame because of its chaotic nature, but I will briefly talk about what to have on your mind if you want to venture into those waters.
At the beginning of a metagame, if you think your class has all of the cards necessary to stop anything your opponents can do – dive in. Usually, it takes time to understand how aggro and mid-range decks want to execute their game plans. However, this does not mean control cannot come out of the gates swinging. Sometimes, as in all card games, there will be control cards presented along a curve that just feels right. If this is the case, go for it.
In every other case, do your research. For control, more so than mid-range, it is imperative to know exactly what other players are doing. This is because your aim is not to produce threats on a consistent basis along with answers, but to answer everything your opponent can do. This leads to an end-game where it really doesn’t matter what cards you can muster up to win with because your opponent will be out of them.
To reach a point in the game where this end-game is possible a few factors must be considered. Your deck needs to have enough card draw to consistently find answers to your opponents’ plays. You have a deck full of answers – you need to have the right ones at any given time. This means you need low-cost to high-cost answers that have a purpose for any threat or opposing board you will come across. Some classes lend themselves better to this strategy as they have more low-cost high impact cards to work with. Generally speaking, you want some sort of life gain. If the game goes long, you want to be out of range of whatever “off the top” card your opponent could draw to end the game. Lastly, if storm is an important thing in the given metagame you will want wards in your deck. It is the only effective way of stopping storm cards. You can only circumvent this if your life gain is high enough to take a few hits from these powerful followers.
To sum up, you want to get to a point in the game where your opponent is out of options. You can win with whatever followers are left over in hand while continuing to answer your opponents’ threats. You can win by playing an end-game follower that has few answers. You can win by assembling a combo that can win the game in a single turn. Realistically, if you have built your control deck right it doesn’t matter how it finishes. That part I leave to you!
So, you are the type of player that likes to ignore what your opponent is doing for the most part? You enjoy casting a multitude of cards on the same turn to win the game immediately? You are the type of player that likes to have an end game that your opponent cannot do anything about? Perfect! Let’s cover some of the strengths of combo.
- Combo usually has a set turn it can win by. If you manage to survive that long victory is all but assured!
- Combo is very hard to counter. Mid-range and control decks are prey to combo as they are generally too slow to end the game before you “go off”. The only real counter to combo is aggro as they can win before you have a chance to setup.
- Combo is a very technical archetype that rewards optimal play. If you can manage to spend every play point on every turn, maximize your value on every turn, you can usually pick up a win against anyone. Hard to master, fun to play, and feelsgoodman when you get there!
Combo, much like aggro, is good at the beginning of a metagame, and can be adapted throughout a metagame to remain competitive. This is because it has an inherent strength versus slower decks, and will always be ever present in the tournament scene because of this. Combo decks remain mostly unchanged throughout a metagame because it has a core set of cards that enable its game plan. This makes it easier to build and guide over time. Only changing cards in the reactive play arena depending on the given threats of a format.
The best way to show you how to build a combo deck is to cover some of the most prominent ones that have existed in Shadowverse to date.
First and foremost, a combo deck needs a way to win the game on the spot when all the pieces come together. For DShift, this is accomplished by coupling the deck’s namesake, Dimension Shift, with enough followers and burn to close out the game immediately. It’s early-game revolves around card draw and removal spells. Its mid-game revolves around card draw and removal spells – with a few followers it can play if need be to defend with evolution orbs. All while spellboosting the Dimension Shift(s) in hand to end the game around turn seven and beyond. The real key to being successful with this deck includes being outside of an aggro dominated metagame, and utilizing it in tournaments when the meta shifts to slower decks.
This deck aims to assemble enough low-cost cards in hand, a bounce spell, and/or enough Rhinoceroaches to push for fourteen plus damage in a single turn. This deck can easily break the twenty plus damage mark in later turns. Early-game it fights off with removal spells. Mid-game it uses its followers to both search for Rhinoceroach and to clear followers out with evolution orbs. Late-game it threatens to end the game on any turn where defenses are down, or it has reached its proper damage threshold. While these decks might not be around forever, rotations I’m looking at you, it is important to know why they worked.
Building a combo deck is as easy as understanding a combo exists, and then building a deck to maximize its efficiency. However, piloting a combo deck takes a great understanding of other decks in the meta as well as proper use of time management to execute your turns before the timer runs out. I can’t wait to see what you cook up!
So, tried and true methods aren’t your style, huh? You are the type of player that likes to keep your opponent guessing? Like living on the wild side? More power to ya! Let’s talk about some of the strengths of a transitional game plan.
- Hard to read. When you don’t have a singular focus, it can be very hard to intuit what to do against you.
- Can do things other decks cannot. Being able to shift from aggro to mid-range or mid-range to control gives you an edge on playing against a more open field. You simply can do more with the deck you are playing with than most other decks.
- Fun to build. Most sites, tournament results pages, and forums will not have an extensive list of compile transitional decks. You are on the forefront of a strategy all your own!
This section will be a bit less forthcoming than the others. This is because building a transitional deck takes exacting knowledge of how you want it to function against other decks in the meta. I can give you a few notes on what to think about when crafting these decks, but ultimately this is the type of deck you build yourself!
Aggro to Mid-Range. Your curve explodes in the early turns to maximize damage output, and then slows down to control the board in the mid to late-game. Finally, finishing off your opponents with incremental swings to end the game. This can be a potent strategy if you feel like your mid-range deck is too slow in combating the control/combo decks at the time, but you still want to have the edge against aggro decks.
Mid-Range to Control. This archetype really comes about as an offshoot to control. It generally means you have more mid-range followers in your deck than the average control deck because you want to end games a bit faster, but you still want to have the edge against other mid-range decks. The other way to look at this archetype is by building a mid-range deck that goes way further up the curve as a response to the meta slowing down a lot. It gets kind of messy up in this stratosphere because it comes down to what late-game cards you want to beat other late-game cards with.
Control to Combo. Same, but different, but still same. This is usually a control style deck built with a combo win that is not necessarily its primary win condition. This is more a preference to style of play than anything else, but it can be effective if used properly.
Everything else. You know what the game plans are now. You can mold a deck to do whatever you want it to now you pro you. Don’t let conventions hold you back!
Every deck is going to be less than optimal right out of the gate. Don’t let this discourage you. Play, play, then play some more. Find out what your deck does well – find out where its shortcomings are. Do not be afraid to take cards out and put new cards in on a regular or even game to game basis until it feels right. There are times where I change half of a deck from game to game. Other times, I change a few cards here and there. Sometimes I scrap a deck altogether and start over. Let the process be the fun! Here are some tips to maximize your efficiency.
- If you are making a deck for ladder, track your wins/losses against the different classes/archetypes. Ladder is different than tournaments in that your deck needs to beat the widest array of opposing decks. Find out where the bad matchups and good matchups are. Tune respectively.
- If you are making a deck for tournament play, do your research. Find out what the popular decks are, and then play against THOSE decks with friends/teammates. Ladder play doesn’t benefit you well when you are trying to beat specific decks.
- Make good guesses for tournament play. Rarely does the same set of deck archetypes win from week to week. Make an educated guess if the format will be slower or faster given what just won. Sometimes a deck is so strong it continues to do well, but counters emerge. Counter the counters!
- Have fun. If you aren’t having fun or struggling with your deck building take a break. There are plenty of resources to get decks from, and plenty of popular discord channels to discuss all the above with.
To conclude, deck building is an exciting challenge. Sometimes your deck will fail. Other times, your deck will feel unstoppable. The constant ebb and flow of the meta keeps it fresh and interesting. The players who demonstrate the best knowledge over deck building tend to be the most successful competitive players in the scene. Keep at it, and enjoy!
Make sure to make good use of the resources listed below, and please leave any feedback if there are any questions that this article didn’t cover!