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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Keys to Large Deck Construction

    Why Should You Care What I Think?
    First of all, I'd like to say hat's off to the developers of this great CCG. I was the lead game designer for a line of tabletop CCGs for an unrelated company. When I say designer, I mean gameplay designer - not artist. So when I began playing Shadow Era I was intrigued by the amazing overall game play. This was nearly a year ago, and predated the Shattered Fates expansion. I started off with a Mage Deck (Nishaven) and being cheap, I had to work my way up without buying any crystals. This was time consuming, but because I played a lot I was soon able to construct competitive decks.

    I noticed that if I played defensively, I could often deplete an enemy's deck and cause them to die from attrition when they ran out of cards. This strategy (which is no longer effective with the release of SF because of all the new units with haste) led me to build 70 and 80 card decks. Nearly everyone who won a game against me told me a deck with that many cards could never work. Being always the contrarian, I cracked my knuckles and started to analyze the math involved in the game. Here were my conclusions.

    Pre-Shattered Fates Large Deck Construction
    Nishaven Defense Deck: Having started with Nishaven, I always had a soft spot in my heart for him, so I began by trying to perfect the Defense Deck with him at the helm. This deck would contain some 70-80 cards including all of the standard offensive spells and disable spells as well as the normal drawing engines (bazaar / tome of knowledge, etc.). This deck was light on allies and only had the mage allies in general. The idea was to control the board by wiping out the opponent's allies, and using the snowflake armor and the electric armor to fend off weapon attacks from warriors and rangers. With a little tweaking, I was able to get this deck to a 60-65% win ratio reliably. However, the weaknesses were blaring. Dark Claw, Zhanna Mist, Gwenneth Trusight, and Serena Thoughtripper would just devastate it. The addition of the Poor Quality cards and maxing out the Severed Ties (I orginally only had 2 in the deck) made Dark Class less of a problem, but the others were just difficult. A variation of this deck using Frostmire as the hero was also effective - though not quite to 65%.

    Elementalis Swarm Deck
    Prior to SF, I discovered that extremely large Elementalis decks could work VERY well. In other games I've played, this would have been called a Swarm Deck, but here I think it is referred to as a mill deck or a tower deck. At any rate, whatever you call it, I put together an Elementalis deck containing some 154 cards that that easily topped 65% win ratio - regardless of opponent. To understand why, you have to look at why people desire the smaller decks to begin with.

    Small Deck theory states that the number of draws between pivotal cards are so few that you are more likely to draw those important cards before the other guy. However, Elementalis can make nearly any ally card a key card, so by making a very large percentage of your cards allies, you can make your key cards essentially disposable. While raw, this theory had promise, so I pursued it. Of course, like any other Elemental deck you need 4 each of the Mind Control, Energy Discharge, Soul Reaper, and Infinity Core cards.

    There are a number of key combos in this deck including a healing combo where a small unit (say Brutalis) is buffed with Elemantalis's ability, attached with Life Infusion and then hit with Conversion). Voila - you have healed 12 points by spending 6 resource points. Another was keeping a Spark and Energy Discharge card in your hand as a precaution - just in case you lose control of the board. The most important thing to do with this deck (or any other deck) is play with restraint. Don't use Mind Control unless you absolutely have to. Take a little damage instead of buffing that lower level unit - but these things probably go without saying to most experienced players.

    I was riding high feeling confident of winning close to 70% of my games - but then Fates was released. Suddenly, Templars and Twilight allies were buffing each other. And because my ability had to wait on Shadow Energy, they were buffing each other more effectively than I could. My 154 card Elemental deck was rendered obsolete overnight. After hurling a few bitter comments to whoever would listed about the Fates cards being unbalanced, I got over it and started to look at all the new cards and see how to succeed with the large deck in the new paradigm.

    Post Shattered Fates Large Deck Construction
    I spent a lot of time wresting with a way to resurrect my Elementalis Swarm Deck concept in the post Fates world with mixed levels of success. Eventually I decided to abandon that project for another time and try to work with the new paradigm using the new cards available with a Mage deck. After doing a few mathmatical calculations, I determined that cards fall loosely into 3 categories. They are Allies, Offensive Spells / Abilities, and Defensive / Special cards. These categories are loose, but they allowed me a framework within which to work out an algorithm. After struggling with Nishaven and Frostmire for about a month I landed on the answer - at least for now.

    The Majiya Post-fates Large Deck Formula (Majiya Sward Deck)
    I will not post an actual card list here. However, once I contructed this deck, I tracked the first 23 games. It went 17 wins, 5 losses, and 1 tie (network error). In the end the formula was simple. Majiya allowed for 1 extra draw each 4 turns, and her ability also took an average of 1 enemy unit off the board each 6 turns. This meant that a good sward deck could work in almost exactly the opposite of the way that the Elementalis deck did.

    This deck concept that is currently winning 73.9% of its games has a whopping 180 cards. I know, that is unusual, but imagine that you are sticking your hand in a barrel full of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Are you excited when you pull out a diamond? Yes. Does it suck when you pull out a ruby or an emerald? No. That is how the deck works. One of my last two wins before posting this article was against a guy playing Vess Swifthands. He chat-posted, "No way are you getting those cards with that many cards in your deck, you hacker!" before he rage-quit on me. Now, I have no idea how one would hack an iPad, and if you know, don't tell me - I prefer to believe in the integrity of the game.

    The exact cards are not that important (strange to say, I know) but the categories are. In the end, the formula is very simple. Here it is:

    • 7 parts Allies
    • 2 parts offensive spells / abilities
    • 1 part Defense / Special cards
    • Repeat until out of ally cards
    • Add 3 Bazaar and 4 Tome of Knowledge


    For me, this makes a 180 card deck. Some opponents are frustrated by Dakrath, Grimjaw, or Ogloth - others are amazed when the Furrion Terrors come up and wipe out the field, or are shocked when I am willing to sacrifice a high powered Plasma Behemoth. The key is, because 70% of my cards are allies, I don't care when I lose one. I have discarded a Dakrath more than once because I had a Flameborn Defiler I wanted to play and I knew that there was a high chance of pulling another 5-7 level ally the next time I shot my Shadow Ability. This strategy works against ALMOST every opponent. Here are the exceptions - and the reasons.

    Weakness vs Jericho / Ember Deck: The ember deck is a gimmick. While it rips my deck apart, all you have to do to beat it is build a deck that does not play allies. Pick a Warrior, Ranger, Rogue, or Dark Claw and go to town. However, Jericho's Ember deck were two of the 5 losses in my test run - and neither one was close. I did manage to beat the Ember deck with this deck once, but it was dumb luck. I just happened to pull a bunch of spells in my initial draw that game. If you build a deck like this, expect to lose when Jericho shows up with the Embers.

    Weakness vs Zaladar: There is a slight weakness to Zaladar if his deck is constructed well. This is because he can beat you without allies. If he gets a couple of mind controls early, you could be in big trouble. This is not the case with the other Elemental heroes. Zaladar is special in that he can kill you before you get enough steam together to roll over him with allies. Assume 2 mind controls each doing 4 points of damage and 3 lightning blasts and you have already taken 17 points of damage. If he manages to get a couple of shots in with aliles in that first 12 turns, you could be done. This deck plays about 50-50 vs a good Zaladar deck.

    Vulnerability vs Banebow:: Banebow can hurt you to a lesser degree. His combination of traps and his special ability can keep the board clear long enough for him to kill you with weapons. This is not a weakness as much as it is a vulnerability. That is to say, this deck will win about 60% of the time against Banebow.

    Every other opponent falls into the 73.9% victim category against this deck. Feel free to message me any questions you have about this deck concept. I am going to pursue another mathematical large deck model with a warrior hero soon (probably Boris Skullcrusher or Amber Rain). I will post my findings when I do - but for now, I am having a lot of fun and success with the Majiya Swarm Deck.

    Jonathan Bjork
    Last edited by jlbjork; 07-24-2014 at 06:41 AM.

  2. #2
    DP Visionary Index's Avatar
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    So designers always prefer large decks?
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  3. #3
    Senior Member pjoe0211's Avatar
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    people state the craziest statistics when posting winrates...you realize if you win 70% of your games consistently that you will be rated like over 340 and if you do that with a 70 card deck consistently, you are the greatest SE player there is
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Vyz's Avatar
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    How about you take your formula except use only good cards this time. Then ditch the formula and make it playable. Then cut it to 30.

    ^ Easy formula for a good deck.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Daemon Rayge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Index View Post
    So designers always prefer large decks?
    Change one vowel in that statment lol
    I like my weapons how I like my music. Heavy and metal!
    -Mordekaiser

    Writer of Falseblood Cultist and Thriss Crucible flavor texts.

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    Your visit here has been too short, you left to be set free.
    But I believe we'll meet again, and together we will stay.
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  6. #6
    DP Visionary Index's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaos Dark View Post
    Change one vowel in that statment lol
    Please don't... That sounds horrible!
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  7. #7
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    I have been playing this deck for a days. We will see if the trend continues and prior to arriving at the formula did a lot of experimenting. Current rating is 203, but it started quite low during experimentation. I will continue playing it consistently for a week and see what happens. But the math works, and I expect the trend to continue.

  8. #8
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    Lightbulb For the Detractors...

    After posting last, I played a set of 11 games and recorded the results including opponent hero, card count, and result. My formula won 8 of 11. I was planning a 10 game set, but 1 of the losses was a Jericho Ember Deck, and I have already concluded that this design will lose to the Ember Deck, so I played another to get a win pct vs the field, and a separate win pct vs the field with Jericho's Ember Deck.

    Vs. the field as a whole, the session gives me a 72.7% win rate. If you exclude the Ember Deck the win rate is 80% for this session. Enclosed is the data I refer to. I had to take a picture of the excel spreadsheet, because it would not let me upload the excel.

    ld_alg_test1.xlsx.jpg

    This data can be checked very easily for those who doubt, by just searching my username jlbjork in the challenge section. I will continue to post further tests and the results. My math says that the deck should perform at 73.9% win rate overall if you factor out Jericho Ember Decks - so the 80% in this sample is outlying slightly high - but I expect the law of large numbers to correct for that at about 100 plays or so.

    Jonathan Bjork

  9. #9
    The Creator Kyle's Avatar
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    I do love my huge Zaladar "rolling pin" deck, but it's more like 20% win rate

  10. #10
    Senior Member jayceemp's Avatar
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    your rating is 203 and your win rate against decks with 41 or less cards is 50%. sounds like great deck

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