Shadow Era TCG » Articles » Beginners Help: Deck Building and Strategy Considerations
For new players, especially those not familiar with CCGs (collectible card games), I compiled a couple of key strategy concepts to keep in mind when you build your deck, acquire new cards, and battle your opponents. Please feel free to leave comments, as the goal is to make this as useful as possible for new players.
Decks with multiple copies of the same card and smaller deck size generally work better than larger decks and/or those containing many cards with lower numbers of copies. This is due to the simple fact that having fewer different cards in your deck improves the odds of drawing a particular card. Higher odds of drawing specific cards will make your deck function more consistently. There are some excellent threads on the forums that go into more detail on the odds calculations.
As a rule of thumb, you want to include 4 copies of every card you play, except when you only want to see a single copy of a card during a game. The latter would be the case, for instance, with high casting-cost cards that will usually swing the game when you play them (such as The King's Pride). Of those, you can include 3 copies, or, if you have access to a lot of card drawing, 2 might work too.
Card Advantage and Board Control
A sure way to consistently win at Shadow Era (and other CCGs) is to make sure that you consistently have access to more cards than your opponent, which is called card advantage. It is for this reason that heroes like Majiya (her ability and Research) and Jericho Spellbane (Wizent's Staff) fare very well in the current metagame, as they can draw multiple cards each turn.
Why does card advantage win you the game? Having more cards in hand will allow you to more quickly build resources while still having cards left to actually play. Having more cards (or more intrinsic power) in play then your opponent means you have (more) board control, which means you can affect what happens on the playing field to a larger extent than your opponent.
Assume for a second that your opponent will need to play 1 card to get rid of 1 of your cards on the board. If you put 2 cards on the board, she will need 2 to get rid of yours. If she happens to have only 1 card in hand, and you can play 2, she can only get rid of 1 of the cards you play. You will be left with the other, which you can use to damage the opponent. Thus, card advantage (you having 2 cards vs your opponent having 1) leads to increased board control (your opponent can only remove only 1 threat of the 2 that you play, so you are left with 1 card more on the board).
This link between card advantage and board control is what makes certain cards very good to play. If you look at Lightning Strike (4: do 3 damage to up to 2 targets), for example, this is a card that will allow you to "2 for 1". In other words, you are able to remove 2 of your opponent's allies from the board, while only playing a single card. When you play Lightning Strike and remove 2 Puwen Bloodhelms, not only will your opponent be very disappointed, you will actually have gained +1 card advantage over her. This is because she had to draw and play 2 cards, that you remove by just playing a single card. Mass removal spells such as Tidal Wave and Supernova are other destruction cards that can generate card advantage (although they may cause you to lose board control!).
As mentioned, an easy way to get card advantage is by making sure you can draw multiple cards each turn. Another way to do this is by denying your opponent to draw. Currently, the only way to do this is by destroying the card drawing engines of your opponents. Hence, you want to include in your deck cards like Shriek of Vengeance or Destroy Arms, and use these to destroy cards like Research, Bazaar or Wizent's Staff.
Cards like Bazaar and Bad Santa deserve a word of caution. Although they allow you to draw more cards, they will also let your opponent draw. In addition, with Bazaar, your opponent gets to draw the first extra card. With symmetrically increased drawing, where your opponent gets the same benefit as you, there is no gain in card advantage, and Bazaar will actually shift tempo and card advantage to your opponent. Some heroes, however, have no access to better cards, and you're stuck with these. If that is the case, keep in mind that Bad Santa is best played when your opponent has a full hand (and gets to draw less than 3 cards). Bazaar works more to your advantage when your opponent already has a draw engine out: if your opponent currently draws 2 cards each turn, and you draw one, she is getting twice as many, but playing Bazaar lets your opponent get to draw 3 to your 2, thereby decreasing the difference in card advantage from 2 to a factor of 1.5.
Curve and Tempo
When you build your deck, take a good look at the casting costs of the cards in your deck. If all of your cards cost at least 4 to cast, you will have to wait until turn 4 before you can play your first card. Conversely, if all of your cards cost 1 or 2, you will have a lot of stuff to do on your first couple of turns, but then you will quickly run out of steam if you play multiple cards per turn. Hence, you want a nice curve for the casting costs of your cards.
If you include enough 1 or 2 cost cards, you will be able to play something on the early turns, so there is more chance of you establishing board control. If you also include higher cost cards, you can play these later on to have more powerful effects on the board, which you will likely need since your opponent's resources will usually be increasing in line with yours.
Take a look at some lists of the better decks and you will see that they have a nice curve to their casting costs. It is possible to play with only low-cost cards, but you will need to generate tremendous card advantage to maintain board control (basically by playing hoards of small cards), and Shadow Era's options in this regard are currently very limited. Conversely, you could play with mostly expensive cards, providing you had some way to get them on the board quickly; options to this end again are currently limited too.
Having a good curve will help you maintain good tempo. Tempo has been given various definitions, but generally boils down to how you play out your cards or deny your opponent plays, as a means to gain board control.
Consider this simple example: If, on your 3rd turn, you hold a 2-cost and a 3-cost card in your hand, plus another one worth sacrificing, you will almost always want to play the 3-cost card after getting to 3 resources. If you play the 2-cost card, one resource remains unused and you lose tempo, since 3-cost cards are more powerful, in general.
This concept is much more subjective than the others though, and certain other factors will play a role that may influence your choice. For example, if you know the 3-cost card will immediately be removed by your opponent whereas the 2-cost card will not, you're most likely better off playing the 2-cost card as you will not lose card advantage that way.
The concept of tempo, in my opinion, is currently only really important during the first 4 or 5 turns of Shadow Era, and plays much less of a role than it does in Magic: the Gathering. In fact, there are times you will want to go against what tempo dictates, and hold onto a card for a bit. When you are packing a lot of direct damage spells, for example, you don't want to go throwing those around just because you have some resources open. A Fireball or Lightning Strike is often best saved to see what else may hit the board. Another example could be that you are behind on the board (your opponent has more or stronger allies down than you), and you have one small guy in your hand. Even though you have the resources to play it, you will probably immediately lose it to your opponent's allies the next turn. In this case, I will usually hold on to that ally until I draw another one, so I can play two at the same time, which makes it harder for the opponent to get rid of both of them at the same time.
It should go without saying at this point that you should continuously check all the cards that are out on the playing field, so you will never lose to something that is in plain sight. This is something that (in Magic: the Gathering, at least) often goes wrong with beginners; they play something but forget that a certain effect was on the board that nullifies their play. Example: never forget that Aldon will boost your opponent's allies' power by 1 on their turn. If you forget things and make bad decisions, then you can end up losing tempo, board control and card advantage, so pay attention!
Intrinsic Power of Cards
A final skill to hone is the ability to determine a card's intrinsic strength. What effect will a card have on the game, and what casting cost is attached to that? Based on what we've covered so far, any card that will give you card advantage, helps you establish board control, or lets you gain tempo, is a good card, as long as you do not have to pay too much to cast it. For example, Puwen is a lot better than Dirk, as Puwen costs 2 for a 2/3 ally, whereas Dirk costs 3 for a 2/2; Dirk's advantage does not weigh up against its steeper price.
Cards that let you gain life are often tempting to beginners, but are generally not good cards. They basically just delay your loss, as they give you some extra life, but they do not usually change your board position (i.e., they do not affect who is in control of the board), and hence lead to card advantage for your opponent because you spent a card without actually changing something about the board.
The same is true in a way for cards like Engulfing Flames and Poison Gas; they cost 4 to cast, but have no influence on the board (unless you cast them on a 1-life ally) and you will be down a card. That said, life gain can be a game-swinger sometimes, especially when playing against 30-card decks that simply do not pack enough punch to deal with that many life. Generally, however, cards that do damage are quicker than cards that heal, and you will not often see me play cards that let you gain life .
I hope this was helpful to people. Please let me know what you think, what additions / comments you have, etc!
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