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Test, Test, Test
So, it's Saturday morning. You have nothing to do for a few hours and decide it's time to build that deck you've wanted to build for awhile. You know, the one that's going to revolutionize the online community, maybe the one you need to finally beat Ticomun on Alcyon III, or the one that uses some unusual cards you've wanted to experiment with. That deck. Whatever your reasons are for building a deck in Culdcept, the effort behind it can be a grueling and frustrating experience, especially when the deck you took so long to come up with just isn't working the way you wanted it to.
Hopefully, the following tips will help you in developing the absolute best deck you can. I won't tell you that this guide is the be-all, end-all of deck building - because it isn't. I just want to share some techniques that have worked for me in the past and may help you in the future.
Questions are very helpful in deck planning. What is your deck's focus? What method will your deck use to win? Is it going to be an aggressive deck that attacks your opponent's game plan? Will it use symbols often? Are you planning on using it in 1 vs. 1 or Free For All play? What kind of map are you most likely to play this deck on?
All of these questions are important when creating a new deck. By answering them you can get a far better idea of what will and won't work for your deck. This lets you exclude certain cards or include ones that normally wouldn't work with other concepts. Let's do a quick example of planning a deck:
What is my deck's purpose?
I want a deck using blue and yellow creatures primarily. I want it to be mainly defensive in nature. I know blue and yellow are generally slower decks because of a lack of Immediate creatures so, let's include some Influence to get my chains running faster. I don't want faster decks to outpace me so I'm including some Locust to slow them down.
Will I use it mainly for 1 vs. 1 or Free For All?
I'd like to use this deck against multiple opponents. I figure that I can fly under the radar while my opponents duke it out. That way, when my defenses are set, there will be no stopping me. Since it's a Free For All deck, I think I'll include Trespass because it's extremely useful with several people passing the castle for their lap bonus. I think I should include some Land Protection because several opponents will be attempting to destroy my key territories once I pull into the lead.
What type of map will I use this on?
Since it is a blue and yellow deck, I can be aggressive with yellow if I need to be and rake in major tolls with blue if they land on my territories. I think I'd best benefit from a linear, medium-sized map just for these purposes. Because it's a linear map, there's only one path and Kelpie's stopping abilities will guarantee the opponents will have to stop on my big territory with him out. I should include Chariot as well so I can invade neighboring territories easier with my yellow creatures.
The questions above can lay the foundation of your deck easily. They won't provide all of the answers, but they're a good place to start.
Now that we have the basic foundation down, let's get a little more specific on how we're going to streamline your deck. In the above example, we had a classic blue and yellow deck that was primarily defensive. I can accomplish this several ways. Each method can be categorized in one of three areas - Balanced, Focused and Utility.
This approach aims for the perfect blend of spells, creatures and items. It doesn't lean heavily toward any one category and will generally use every card in a complementing fashion. A few cards may be useless depending on the circumstances of the match, but rest assured, you put those cards there "just in case."
Strengths: Balance in a deck is a great thing. This approach ensures the card you need will be showing up sooner than later. It doesn't rely on specific cards to get the job done. The end result is because all the cards worked together to achieve it.
Weaknesses: There are few weaknesses for a truly balanced deck. However, they generally utilize more conventional strategies that will balk when certain strategies are used against them. Focused decks can put a severe hurt on balanced decks because they sometimes don't have enough answers to combat the focused strategy.
This approach uses specific cards and strategies to accomplish its goals. These strategies are often times brutal and one-dimensional. Poverty decks are a great example of a focused approach, being designed around keeping your opponent as broke as possible so they're unable to accomplish their goals.
Strengths: Focused gameplay is just what it sounds like. You have a clear idea of what you're doing and a deck designed to do it. A good focused strategy can allow you to dominate a match. This approach is the most brutal method of the three and can be viewed as abusive depending on what your focus is. Regardless of what method you focus on, it's an effective strategy for deck building and extremely effective in 1 vs. 1 matches.
Weaknesses: One of the main strengths of Culdcept Saga is the simple fact that no deck is the ultimate deck. There is an effective counter for nearly every strategy. Focused strategies tend to rely on specific factors to continue being effective. If your opponent is prepared for your strategy it can be very difficult to win. Several focused strategies fail to come up with a backup plan and when their primary plan is countered, the plan fails.
This approach is the Swiss army knife of deck building. It attempts to have an answer for everything. Where the focused strategy hones concepts to specific effects, the utility approach is broad and all-encompassing. These decks use a variety of spells, items and creatures that serve a number of purposes. Some examples include dual-use items that can be used both offensive and defensively (i.e. Magma Armor, Metamorphose Belt), creatures that can't be affected by direct Flash spells and are decent defenders (i.e. Cait Sith, Grimalkin), or spells that affect a broad range of creatures (i.e. Sculpture, Acid Rain).
Strengths: This approach can allow you to deal with any number of problems that arise. Sculpture is listed because it can answer the problem of Hive Workers, Idols, neutralizing defenders, etc. So, if an opponent's core strategy is getting out of hand, you can have a solution and bring yourself back into the competition. This style is very good for Free For All matches because it allows you to adapt to the scene as it unfolds in any number of ways.
Weaknesses: It's hard to describe a weakness for this approach. You can take the issues that are apparent with the balanced approach but amplify them. This approach is almost the polar opposite of the focused approach in that it can try to do too much at once. To combat this, you should prioritize your targets and don't forget the tools you have on the board when it comes to Territory Abilities. Another weakness in this is that you'll find a number of cards to be taking up room in your deck as dead weight when they don't apply to the current match.
A final word on utility: It is more of a pseudo-approach to deck building. I wanted to highlight it because it addresses an issue many newer players run into. They see a bright and shiny new creature, item or spell and want to use it right away. In the process, the core balance or focus can become diluted and less effective.
One of the most important aspects of deck building is card ratios. Most new players will look at card ratio and think it only applies to the very basic breakdown - that is, creatures to items to spells. However, it is far more than that. Look at creatures for example. Ratios can be further broken down into elements: Yellow to Blue to Multi-Colored. Pre-requisite creatures to non-prerequisite creatures. How about creatures with Territory Abilities to creatures with combat abilities? Items can be broken down to several categories, too - stat boosters to combat abilities, offensive to defensive. Spells can be broken down into any number of categories.
I'll touch on a few ratios I'd suggest paying attention to when building your deck. For those of you who are starting out fresh, I'd recommend the very basic 20/10/20 ratio. This translates to 20 creatures, 10 items and 20 spells. It's a balanced mix and works well most of the time.
Let's take this basic ratio and create a sample deck:
Creatures (20): 10 Blue, 10 Yellow.
Items (10): 5 Weapons, 5 Armor
Spells (20): 10 Enchantments, 10 Flash
This is a good example of a balanced approach deck. It has an equally blended variety of spell types, creature type and item types that will allow it to respond to most developments in a game. The types of creatures complement each other, being blue and yellow. The items are equally defensive and offensive. The spells are equally diverse in affecting both the short-term and long-term. More focused decks may rely on heavier spell sets, creatures of specific abilities, or forgo items altogether to ensure they have the cards included to make their strategy work.
I'll touch on one more very important ratio before moving onto another topic: creatures with elemental prerequisites to creatures with none. Elemental prerequisites, in case you didn't know, are elemental conditions that must be met before the card in question can be used. They mainly apply to creatures, though a few E-Cards have them as well. Seeing as E-cards are limited to one a deck and not really subject to ratios, I'll just move onto creatures.
The reason this ratio is vitally important is simple. If you have too many creatures requiring elemental prerequisites, you won't be able to acquire the land needed to summon them in the first place! Think of your creatures as an army. The prerequisite creatures are the specialists and officers while the creatures with no prerequisites are your grunts. The grunts lay the foundation required to attack in a strategic fashion.
This ratio should never be more than 60/40 with non-prerequisites having the majority. Certain cards like Spartoi and Goblin's Lair can help with obtaining the needed territories and allow for a few more prerequisites. My personal ideal ratio is 80/20, give or take 10% on either side.
The standard size of deck for online play and story mode play is 50. That means you have a 1-in-50 chance of drawing any one card in your deck. In a slower paced match, you'll cycle through your entire deck in about 45 rounds. So, if your star players are shuffled to the bottom of your deck, they could be late to the show or not show up at all! If you have a balanced or well-constructed deck with multiple game plans, your deck should be able to compensate, but… why compromise?
This is where lube comes in. I call it lube because every machine needs lubrication to run smoothly. You can speed up the flow in any number of ways. Brass Idol lets you draw an extra card each turn. This changes that 1-in-50 chance to 1-in-25. It helps your opponent, too, but that's neither here nor there. Gift gives you 50G and an extra card. Wind of Hope lets you draw two more cards on top of what you drew for that round. Reincarnation lets you draw an entirely new hand. This speeds up your deck significantly.
Think of it like this: If I have 4 Gift and 4 Wind of Hope in my deck, this drops the creature/item/spell cards from 50 to 42. Those eight cards are not counted because they provide extra drawing power. Each card of use is now much more likely to be drawn. You can save Wind of Hope to boost your hand during those moments when you overextend yourself laying the smack down with invasions, defenses or spell effects. They help you reach further into your deck and pull out that Counter Amulet you so desperately needed now that all of your items are gone from that Crusher Storm.
Reincarnation is a special card. If you're using this card, you have to be prepared to give up everything. Why? It discards your hand. There is one problem with this card, though - if there are fewer cards left in your deck than there are in your hand, you'll draw only that many cards. For example, if you have 4 cards in hand with only 1 left in your deck, you'll draw 1 card instead of the normal amount, 4. This is still an amazing card, though. You can essentially draw 1/10th of your deck in a single turn. That drops the draw chance from 1-in-50 to 1-in-5!!!
Cards like Foresight or Prophecy allow you to pick and choose your wants and needs. Foresight is a great card to plan out the next several turns as it shows you the top six cards of your deck. Prophecy lets you grab the first item, creature or spell that comes next in your deck. If you know via Foresight or as the victim of Poison Mind (a card that lets you destroy any one of your opponent's top six cards) that no items are coming for awhile, Prophecy lets you skip through your deck and get that elusive item.
Find is perhaps the most popular lube card of them all. It takes space up in your hand but it's worth it. For 20G, you can draw an extra card every turn. It's your own personal Brass Idol. It drastically speeds up your production while keeping your opponent from speeding up their own progress. If nothing else, you can use it when no other move seems appropriate, possibly upgrading your hand while speeding through your deck. Combined with Gift and Wind of Hope, Find lets you cycle through your deck with lightning speed.
This section is designed to give you some ideas for generalized deck themes. If you keep your theme in mind you can eliminate lots of unnecessary cards and keep your idea focused. We'll go over some of the strengths of these themes and some of the weaknesses as well.
Mono-colored decks are great for beginners. They allow you to focus on one color of territory for your chains and they have creatures that complement each other automatically. You can really ramp up the strengths of each color to great effect. Blue decks will provide naturally high defense, Green and red decks will provide fast chains with their Immediate creatures. Yellow will give you a plethora of Attacks First creatures. Unfortunately, thought, each color also has its own weakness. Generally speaking, blue and green will have less offensive firepower. Red and yellow creatures have difficulty defending territories. If you can overcome these weaknesses, mono decks can be truly terrifying.
Multi-Colored decks are the bread and butter of Culdcept. That doesn't mean you have to always use multi-colors, but the diversity inherent in using different colors is endless. Well-balanced, multi-colored decks have fluid plans of actions with several backup plans if one strategy or another isn't working. Some multi-colored decks focus more on the Territory Abilities of their creatures than they do on chaining lands. The most common multi-colored decks are Red/Green and Blue/Yellow because they complement each other naturally.
Deprivation is mean. This deck focus is used with the intent of depriving your opponent of the ability to execute their game plan. Whether it's through preventing them from keeping territory, to having no G to cast their spells, to even preventing them from summoning creatures or using items, deprivation is not a kind strategy. It won't make you any friends, but it is effective. The problem with most deprivation decks involves a breakdown in your game plan. If your focus is to keep them from having G, and they've planned appropriately and spent wisely, it can be difficult to lock them down. Deprivation is not recommended for Free For All matches. Types of deprivation include movement control, creature control, G control, among others.
Offensive-focused decks are out to hurt you. They're pretty cut-and-dried. They can and will take over territories at any moment during a game. The most dedicated offenses are relentless and nearly unstoppable. They use scrolls, weapons and creature combat abilities to great effect. Unfortunately, any war machine requires finances to keep rolling. Often these decks will stall out if the user overspends on a critical invasion. The other inherent weaknesses of these decks are their inability to hold onto territories. These types of decks thrive on smaller maps where you have far more opportunities to invade other territories. Try to offset the cost of your warpath with cards like Hunter's Song or Refuge. Other cards like Upheaval and Weathering set up primo targets for invasion by taking away your opponent's land bonus.
Defensive decks have one purpose: to keep land. They're difficult to overcome once they've established their foundation. Great defensive decks can be nearly insurmountable, laying out high toll land mines for you to land on. They know you can't beat them. Imagine playing Monopoly where your opponent has eight different Boardwalks with hotels on them. It's only a matter of time before you're going bankrupt. The problem with defensive-focused decks usually comes with their lack of offense. They're going to get a land and keep it at all costs, but if they can't get the lands they want or keep them long enough to make them impregnable fortresses of doom, it can be difficult to stay in a game. If you have the chance, grab high-value real estate right next to the castle or a fort. This will force your opponent to pass your land and potentially pay you. Linear maps are great for defensive decks. Movement cards, including Holy Word 0, Holy Word 1 and Backward are great for forcing tolls from your opponents. Hypno Sloth belongs in every defensive deck.
Money, money, money! That is the economy deck's goal. Get money any way possible! Land Transfer decks fall into this category. Tokebi is the MVP of economy decks. He essentially sweeps up higher leveled territories in a chain providing you with... money! You take the money and level up other lands to make more money! Another economy deck concept focuses on symbols. Invest your hard earned cash into symbols that you later increase the value of via leveling territories in that color or using cards like Aurora. Good economy decks make money fast, often leaving opponents with no clue they're about to lose until it's too late. Unfortunately, they run into issues I'll equate to a stock market crash. In land transfer (Tokebi) decks, key high-level territories being taken away by opponents can put a serious wrench in the gears. There are often vulnerable periods where copious amounts of money are open and available for opponents to use Drain Magic and Rouetsoleil to steal. Symbol decks can become crippled by a well-timed Zeromn or Pressure spell. Larger maps are ideal for economy decks because you can grab lands nobody else wants and remain relatively untouched while executing your plan of action. Suggested cards include Anti-Magic, Fame and Granite Idol.
A word on maps before we continue: I suggested in the paragraphs above that different map sizes suit different styles of decks. Certain styles complement certain maps naturally. Larger maps are there for epic games involving lots of space. Linear maps remove the ability to take multiple paths to victory. Some maps have temples to use in exploiting symbols. My point is, each map lends itself to certain strategies better than others. Take some time and consider where you'll be playing the deck you're building.
Idols are amazing creatures. They change the dynamic of a match in very dramatic fashion and can make or break certain strategies. If you decide to add idols to your deck, be sure they don't conflict with your desired game plan. Also, make sure to account for their presence in the event your opponent uses an effect against you. One example is Silver Idol. It gives every defending creature Attacks First ability. Accordingly, this idol has no place in a deck filled with Attacks First creatures. Also, in the event you're trying to invade territories, you may want to consider adding Living Rapier or other items that grant Attacks First to overcome the powered-up defenders. You may want to consider Granite Idol if you want people to leave you alone. Conversely, decks packed with Drain Magic, Crusher and other Flash spells and Territory Abilities may find Granite Idol unwelcome. Idols can make a scary deck terrifying. Find the one that works best with what you're trying to do.
Everybody loves Chariot! Telegnosis is great! Boomerang makes life difficult for every defender! But, there can be too much of a good thing. Realize when adding these cards to your deck that they recycle back into the remainder of your deck or hand. For example, drawing and using Chariot with 25 cards left in your deck gives you a 1 in 26 chance of redrawing Chariot. With 10 cards left, that becomes a 1 in 10 chance. Eventually, you will only draw Chariot and can continue to do so as long as you keep using it over and over. Limit these cards to two total tops. Any more and they become dead draws that will disrupt your flow.
A deck can look great on paper. It can look like a work of art. It can appear as a flawless creation to be feared, awed, admired and respected. Unfortunately, we're human. We make mistakes. We forget critical cards. We mess up the ratio. We add unneeded cards or fail to account for certain strategies. Every Hall of Fame deck here on the site has been finely honed. They're battle-tested both on and offline. Their creators took the time to see what works and what doesn't. Take your newly created deck for a test spin. Get a feel for it. It takes time and experience to become comfortable using certain strategies. Run a few tests to familiarize yourself with your creation. It will speak to you about what it needs or doesn't need.
So, by now, you've taken the time to establish a focus. You have a game plan in mind. You have a great balance of creatures and have tested your deck out extensively. It's ready to take on the world. You go online and take on the first person that comes along. Then the world ends. They've created a deck that perfectly counters everything you ever hoped to accomplish. The stomping is one for the ages and you're left with the feeling that this deck you worked so hard on is worthless. Don't lose hope. Culdcept is a very deep game. No deck is flawless and everything has a counter. Learn from the experience and evolve as you go. If a trio of idols destroyed your game plan, you may want to add Acid Rain to remove pesky Defensive creatures from the board. Likewise, if somebody is throwing down some serious mass damage, you may want to add a Mass Phantasm or two to prevent that from being effective. With time and experience, you'll begin building appropriate counters into your decks naturally. Every match is a learning opportunity. Don't be afraid to tweak your decks as you go in order to create something great.
This concludes my deck building guide. I hope the topics I talked about help you build better decks. They've worked for me and many other Culdcept Saga veterans. Take some time and look at the other guides and sections of this site to help you formulate new strategies and combos. Culdcept Saga is a deep game with endless strategies. Finding those strategies that work and playing them out against equally potent and enlightening strategies is what makes this game great. Good luck and may the power of the cards compel you!
Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 19:44