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Turning an idea into a Scrolls deck - a step-by-step guide
Author: Sysp
Date: Fri 31 May, 2013 3:37 PM Views: 25347

Turning an idea into a Scrolls deck - a step-by-step guide

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I have a confession to make, I really like playing trading card games. (*shocker*) But I LOVE building decks, be it for a constructed format, a draft or a sealed deck tournament. This is what has kept me interested in trading card games for almost 20 years now.

Over the years I've crafted many decks for many TCGs and over time developed an fairly structured method for taking a deck idea and turning into a tuned deck that can actually win games, often with goal of entering a tournament to really test it vs the best opposition.

There are other ways of creating decks that we can explore in later posts, but this is the method I most often use and it should serve you well in most cases.



Seven steps to turn a great idea into a great deck

1) Define your deck idea or concept
You should start by defining the idea behind the deck. Ask yourself why you are creating a new deck in the first place. Maybe there is a dominating deck in the metagame that you want to create a counter against. Maybe you've found a good combination of scrolls that you want to try out.

2) Add core scrolls that directly support the concept of the deck
Now that you know your idea, add scrolls that directly support that concept. If you haven't before, this is where you need to start looking into the available scrolls for options and start deciding on what resource or combination of resources you want the deck to be based on.

3) "Complete" the deck
A deck with enchantments and no creatures to put them on won't win any games. Similiarly, a deck all about removing your opponent's creatures still needs a few of its own. So in this step, we add scrolls to make sure that we can actually win games (this usually means creatures). The deck doesn't need to hit 50 scrolls at this point (and it really shouldn't), but we need to add scrolls that work well with the deck's theme.

4) Add redundancy for the deck's strong points
Next, we add more scrolls that has similiar effects as the deck's core scrolls to make sure we get more consistent draws. Now, these are probably slightly worse than the main stars of the deck but they should be able to perform similiar tasks in most situations.

5) Fill out the deck by addressing weaknesses
If your deck has no creature removal at this point, you might want to think about if it needs any (not all decks need that, but most of them do). But how about structure removal, is that important to your plan? Does the deck need to be able to deal with enchantments? Do you need some draw spells to get to your good stuff faster?

It is ok to make a conscious choice of not addressing certain weaknesses of the deck at this point. This is especially true if you are trying to create a good matchup vs a certain deck, in that case you can live with not dealing with some other decks that well. If you know that you are going to face 80% GO Draw decks at a tournament, it might be best to optimize your deck to beat that and not worry too hard about Mono Energy. This is a powerful deck building strategy but it requires you to be able to read the metagame well and be able to carry through some of your worse deck matchups by superior playing skills and the overall robustness of the deck even though it is a less favored matchup for you.

6) TEST IT!
Very important. Try it out vs the AI and see how it draws. Analyze which scrolls you are using and why. What is sitting in your hand useless or consistently getting sacced for scrolls / resources? Which scrolls are you excited about drawing?

If you had a deck in mind that you wanted to beat, try to test your deck vs a competitive version of that as soon as possible. Theorycrafting is one thing, but playtesting will tell you if your idea has any promise in practice.

7) Tweak the deck and test again
Based on your testing, make some changes and test again. Repeat ad nauseam. Congratulate yourself on building a good deck or throw it into the bin and start all over again.

As I said, this is just one way to create decks but it has been a very rewarding and successful one for me over the years with different CCGs so try it out and see if it works for you too.




Example deck building: Bear Gunner

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All this might be a little hard to grok at first so why not go through this process to show how it works in practice? We'll even construct a entirely new deck as we go along, how awesome is that? :)

1) Define the deck idea or concept
As I'm writing this, Scrolls is about to go into Beta and one of the best (if not the best) decks out there is Mono Order. A lot of things are good about Mono Order but one particularly annoying thing are the spearmen with their Spiky ability that deal damage to non-Ranged attackers as they charge into them. There are plenty of Ranged attackers in Energy though, but they are either pretty costly (Cannon Automaton and Gravelock Elder) or a bit fragile (Gun Automaton and Scattergunner). Energy doesn't really have any way of boosting their Health either.

So what if we used Energy's Ranged units and combined this with Growth's Health boosting enchantments? Sounds interesting, let's make that the focus of our deck.

As an added goal, let's make this deck fairly aggressive and fast so we can put pressure on early since Order's lategame is really strong (mostly due to Honorable General and Imperial Resources) and we would prefer to win before that or enter the lategame with a good board position.

2) Add core scrolls that directly support the concept of the deck

3x Gun Automaton
3x Scattergunner
3x Dryadic Power
3x Bear Paw


Since we are aiming to be fast and the spears usually come down on turn 3 or 4, let's only go with the two cheaper Ranged units so we can match their speed. The two best enchantments for boosting Health and also bolstering the Attack (especially important on Gun Automaton since 2 Attack won't be enough to kill a spearman) are Dryadic Power and Bear Paw so they go into the deck as well.

3) "Complete" the deck
Since we have at least some creatures, we can technically win the game and can go on to the next step. This step is really most important for decks that start from another angle than creatures (a spell-based combo or structures for instance) which needs to puts in a way to win the game.

4) Add redundancy for the deck's strong points

3x Kinfolk Brave
Since we are playing at least 6 creature enchantments, we might need a few more creatures in here to avoid draws with only enchantments and creatures to cast them on. Kinfolk Brave is a really aggressive creature that can kill spears in one hit with one of our creature enchantments on, so it goes into the deck as it fits both goals well.

3x Copper Automaton
Since the deck badly wants to kill spearmen that have a maximum Health of 4 (barring enchantments which Order doesn't usually play), Copper Automaton seems like a really efficient way of dealing with them.

3x Leeching Ring
The healing from Leeching Ring gets applied before the damage from Spiky. That means that a creature with 1 Health, 2 Countdown and a Leeching Ring will survive attacking into a spear. So Leeching Ring is in. It isn't as powerful as Bear Paw or Dryadic Power, but it should get the same job done in a lot of situations, and this bring predictability and redundancy to the deck.

3x Potion of Resistance
Another way of taking less damage from spears, Potion of Resistance is a good bargain for only one Energy so we'll try that one as well.

3x Vaettr of the Wild
We might want a couple of more creatures so we add Vaettr of the Wild to quickly boost our Growth to a point where we can play two cheap Growth scrolls per turn.

3x Gravehawk
3x Gravelock Raider

Gravehawk and Gravelock Raider are two cheap creatures that both have Relentless which is great together with our Attack boosting enchantments and are good alternatives if we can't find a Ranged attacker.

3x Crimson Bull
3x Ragged Wolf

We also add Crimson Bull since it is one of the most aggressive scrolls in the game to inflict damage if you are playing smaller creatures, which we are starting to have a lot of in the deck. Ragged Wolf is an excellent play together with Crimson Bull and fits the aggressive theme of the deck so it goes in as well.

3x Redesign
A fun scroll that I've wanted to try out for a while, Redesign gets added as another way to get a Gun Automaton to 3 Power so it can deal with a Royal Spearman. It also lowers the Health of a Ducal Spearman to 1 which should make it easy to deal with. This could be trashy, but it seems interesting enough that I want to at least try it before dismissing it.

5) Fill out the deck by addressing weaknesses

3x Spark
3x Ranger's Bane
So far, the only answers to creatures and structures in the deck is attacking them. To be able to clear out problem creatures quickly, we add a cheap removal package in Spark and Ranger's Bane for inflicting the final points if necessary. We could add Burn but that would mean going up to 4 Energy and we only have Scattergunner that costs 3 or more at the moment so I'll skip on Burn this time even though it is an excellent spell.

2x Tick Bomb
Looking at the list, I get a feeling it would do rather poorly vs good defensive structures such as Waking Stones or Hellspitter Mortar so we'll add two Tick Bombs to get rid of them so we can reach the juicier targets they were protecting.

And there we have it - 50 scrolls!

6) TEST IT!
7) Tweak the deck and test again

Now it is time for step 6 and 7, let's get the deck built and test it out in the game.

I usually start by playing a few games vs the Hard AI - if I have problems winning there, it usually mean that deck is really inconsistent. I usually tweak the deck until it can reliably beat the Hard AI and address glaring problems before testing vs human opponents. In this case, I would pay extra attention to how the enchantment vs creature ratio worked - did I draw a lot of enchantments with no creatures to cast them on?

And there you have it folks, a first draft of a completely new deck.

Here's the decklist if you are interested in taking it out for a spin yourself:
http://www.scrollsguide.com/deckbuilder/?d=790



Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or want feedback on your decks, comment below or hit me up in the game lobby - I am always up for a nice deck construction discussion.

Best of luck and may most of your decks be glorious (we all have a few duds now and then)!
Comments
NiaumFri 31 May, 2013 3:55 PM
Excellent post =o
It's been a long time since I've played a CCG that involves proper deck building, so I expect I'll be quite bad at it :P
It's really interesting to see other player's processes for making their decks.
SerathFri 31 May, 2013 4:00 PM
Hey buddy,

Like you I have been playing tcg's for a while and the consistent changes in meta games are what I find most interesting about them, and I like building strong decks and decks to counter others once all the new meta play testing is complete. I think your deck building guide is great and will help new and older players alike as this is a game with no graveyard, so it will need a slightly different view than Magic.

I go through the same sort of process and it really helps me to make notes on a pad of paper while I play games and note down what the deck has weeknesses too and what scrolls I'm not useing ;)

Great post, hope to read more of your insites in the future

Serath
GrumpCatFri 31 May, 2013 4:07 PM
This should be in featured - stunning work Sysp !

I've always been bad at the deck building side of things as I don't have much experience with it. This will definitely help a lot of people, especially after the reset when we're all starting from scratch !
BlinkyFri 31 May, 2013 5:59 PM
Nice post, guess I will have to start again on my article :(
SyspFri 31 May, 2013 6:18 PM
Blinky wrote:
Nice post, guess I will have to start again on my article :(

:( That blows.

We need to coordinate these ones better Blinky. I'll write my next one about horticulture and Scrolls, you don't have that one drafted, right?
AzurykFri 31 May, 2013 6:23 PM
Blinky wrote:
Nice post, guess I will have to start again on my article :(


As long as it is a different read, go ahead and release yours. Different perspectives on the same subject is always a good thing!
BlinkyFri 31 May, 2013 6:40 PM
Sysp wrote:
Blinky wrote:
Nice post, guess I will have to start again on my article :(

:( That blows.

We need to coordinate these ones better Blinky. I'll write my next one about horticulture and Scrolls, you don't have that one drafted, right?


Its okay :) doing myn on everything else that I didnt mention last time, all secrets shall be out there. Just cant teach common sense.
MansOlsonFri 31 May, 2013 9:16 PM
This is great - nicely written and formatted, and an interesting deck. How does it play? :)
JandusfrenskisFri 31 May, 2013 9:25 PM
I've played several CCG before, but I was never any good at constructing decks, I always bought precons and used them, but this has inspired me to try it out. I loved the example you used constructing a deck applying the steps you had established, helped me understand it much better.
thanks for the tips and keep these coming!
SyspFri 31 May, 2013 11:21 PM
Thanks for all the kind words peeps, glad you liked it and found it useful!

Måns - since the last Alpha reset, I don't have access to all the scrolls necessary, hence why I've left the actual testing section a bit vague. :) I'll give it a spin after I've accumulated enough scrolls to make the deck.
carvine1Sat 1 Jun, 2013 12:00 AM
Thanks for the insight, easy to understand.
ArithmosSat 1 Jun, 2013 5:48 AM
This was just perfect! Seriously well done!
Spooky2Sat 1 Jun, 2013 10:54 PM
I enjoyed reading your breakdown of the deck building process. I always enjoyed coming up with deck ideas and then building them, followed by testing & tweaking. It explains how I have so many Magic decks in my closet. :)

I look forward to creating some decks in the Scrolls universe soon!

One factor I consider in Magic deck building that could be applied to Scrolls deck building: The mana curve/resource curve.

Since both games limit you to gaining only 1 mana/resource per turn (exception: resource boosting cards), stacking a deck full of cards that cost 6+ means you'll probably lose before playing much. So you want a decent mix of cards that go from cheap to moderate to expensive to cast. This means that when you draw cards, the odds of drawing something you can play in the early game is still reasonable while working up to more expensive late game bombs.

Some decks are built with a low curve, where the majority of the deck costs 1-3 resources, but plays very fast. Other decks are designed with more expensive cards for their win condition, but still need cheaper defensive/removal cards to keep them in the game.
SyspMon 3 Jun, 2013 1:57 PM
Spooky2 wrote:
One factor I consider in Magic deck building that could be applied to Scrolls deck building: The mana curve/resource curve.

Since both games limit you to gaining only 1 mana/resource per turn (exception: resource boosting cards), stacking a deck full of cards that cost 6+ means you'll probably lose before playing much. So you want a decent mix of cards that go from cheap to moderate to expensive to cast. This means that when you draw cards, the odds of drawing something you can play in the early game is still reasonable while working up to more expensive late game bombs.

Some decks are built with a low curve, where the majority of the deck costs 1-3 resources, but plays very fast. Other decks are designed with more expensive cards for their win condition, but still need cheaper defensive/removal cards to keep them in the game.


Absolutely spot on, the resource curve is a important concept in Scrolls as well. For instance, the drop in cost for Vaettr of the Wild in Growth from 2G to 1G made that curve much smoother. Growth is now only a couple of solid drops at 3G for being a real powerhouse when it comes to a solid resource curve.

I have a Mono Growth deck that even run 3 Beast Rats (after I've filled up with Vaettr and Ragged Wolf of course) just so it can reliably play a 1G creature on turn 1, a 2G creature on turn etc. There is a shortage of reliable early drops though in the game, most creatures tend to be middle of the road costed (3-5). I think that the Vaettr buff made early drops more important to the game as a whole though, as Energy I really want a turn 2 kill spell for a Vaettr now if I am on the play otherwise I'll run into turn 3 Brother of the Wolf / turn 4 Veteran way too often. Just look this common scenario:

Growth T1: Vaettr
Energy T1: No play
Growth T2: No play
Energy T2: Gun Automaton
Growth T3: Brother of the Wolf
Energy T3: Scattergunner
Growth T4: Kinfolk Veteran

Not a fun position for Energy to be in, if Growth dropped a Kinfolk Brave on turn 2 as well, it is even worse. Compare that too (given same starting hands with one key difference):

Growth T1: Vaettr
Energy T1: No play
Growth T2: No play
Energy T2: Spark on Vaettr
Growth T3: ... No play
Energy T3: Scattergunner
Growth T4: Brother of the Wolf

If Vaettr sees a lot of play, this might make Desperation more viable (after the full complement of Shock / Inferno Blast of course) and makes Kabonk and Decimation more important as well. There is a hole in the resource curve for Growth at 3 at the moment, and decks should be able to exploit this until it get plugged (Frostbeard is pretty atrocious).

I'll probably do an article on the resource curve soon enough, there is enough in there for a good discussion about it.