Making Epic Decks Part 1 of 3

With many new folks joining the Epic Duels deck-making community over just the past couple of years, I thought it might be worth a refresher on deck-building.

Although volumes have been written on this topic over the past 10 years, I wouldn’t know where to find much of that written right now.  Furthermore, most of it was written closer to 10 years ago, so anyone joining up the past 5 years or so might never have been exposed to that.  Finally, my own thinking on deck-making has evolved over the years, so not all of the old stuff would apply.

So for anyone new or old to Epic Duels deck-making, here are some guidelines on building good decks, based upon what I’ve seen work:

1. Start with why:  Why make the deck that you’re making?  Why does Epic Duels need it?  “Because I like the character” is a good start, but what about that character needs to be represented in Epic Duels?  What will this deck uniquely DO to win games?  Think of a combination of card effects that represents how that character will win a duel.

As an example, why make a Darth Vader, Jedi Hunter deck?  Because we weren’t satisfied with the Vader from the original, nor any of our attempts to tweak him.  To get the Vader we wanted, we had come up with a new deck, one that would represent him as a very powerful, fearsome melee combatant.

Another example is Bultar Swan, why create a deck for her?  Because we think she’s interesting in her dueling approach, to remain very still, then strike in a blaze of motion, and think we could capture that in a deck.  Shaak Ti crowd fights, plus has some interesting tricks.  Ki-Adi-Mundi leads clones into battle.  Director Krennic sets up his one big attack.

2. Path to victory:  Before thinking about defense and movement and healing and card draws, make sure your character has enough offense to beat the other guy.  Offense can be in the form of power attacks (typically) or direct damage, but also forcing discards, the way Emperor Palpatine and Yoda do.

It’s nice when you get get a several card combination and have your deck sort of revolve around that.  A couple of classic examples are Anakin and Palpatine.  Anakin’s deck has other things it can do, for sure, but the heart of the deck is ANGER-CALM.  Even without Padme, Anakin can defeat a lot of enemies by using that combo effectively.  He’s probably not going to beat you outright with 2 ANGER attacks, but drawing 5 cards can be such a big advantage.  If he does ANGER-CALM multiple times, he can cycle through his deck quickly for more ANGER cards.

Palpatine is best known for the YOU WILL DIE – MEDITATION combo, but what makes him so good is that he has a full 9-card set of card-denial cards that support that combo, and even FUTURE FORESEEN helps set it up.

Decks can also have the path to victory rely upon interplay between the major and minor.  The obvious example is Han & Chewie, but also Luke & Leia.  Mike Maloney’s Qui-Gon & Jar-Jar deck is one of the best fan-made versions of this dynamic.

Not every deck is going to have a key combination like those decks have, but you want to make sure the deck has a way of delivering enough damage to knock out the other guy.  Take Yoda for an example.  He’s offensively challenged, but you can still see how 3x FORCE LIFT plus the 2x INSIGHT set up the 2x A6 and an A4 for 16 damage, plus 2x FORCE PUSH give him 22 total.  It might not be enough to defeat every opponent without going through the deck more than once, and Yoda is fairly unique in that regard, since most decks have more damage output and less defense.

For all of Obi-Wan’s might, he really has to beat you with 3x JEDI ATTACK and 2x FORCE CONTROL, but the 5 cards are enough to get through 18 points of damage or so.  He can retrieve one of the A7s from the discard pile if he needs a little more.  He and Yoda are some of the lightest on offense.

Dooku is a little different, but he has 4x A7, and lots of draw power to cycle through all 4 A7s and get to them quickly.  His entire deck is basically to set him up to get those A7s, and against most opponents, that’s enough to do 20 damage or more.  Still, if you replaced Dooku’s strong minors with weak ones, he’d be lacking in offense the way that Yoda does.

Darth Vader JH has a little bit less obvious path to victory.  He might appear very powerful but his path to victory involves not only combos like BATTLE RAGE and MASTER OF EVIL, but also playing a low-card game.

Bultar Swan, who actually has a lot of direct damage and some A6s to go with her 2x A8.  If she had more hit points, she’d be really tough.  Quinlan Vos is another good example of a path to victory:  He does some no-action attacks, takes damage, which powers up his own BRINK card to be a killing blow.  The rest was just sort of filled in.  Kylo Ren has almost of all of his cards forcing discards and creating an advantage for him.  Our Plo Koon deck is more of a steady, wear-you-down deck, but it has some big attacks and enough direct damage to supplement that.

One lesson I learned in creating the Saesee & Agen deck was that you really need to make sure your character can kill the other guy first, before worrying about defense or movement or anything else.  At one point, Saesee had a couple of power D cards, but if Agen went down, he simply didn’t have enough to win the game on his own.  Out went the power D, in came his A5 CONVICTION cards, and while you might think that defense is more desirable and balances the deck better, the deck works much better with those A5s than it did with D5s.  Defense is nice, in fact it’s very powerful, but the first order of business is making sure your deck can kill the other guy.

As you think about this winning combo and path to victory, a deck sometimes just comes together.  One I like to point to is Eomer from LOTRED, a deck that I like so much, I gave it to Enfys Nest to bring it to Star Wars.  Sort of the “why” behind his deck was the OATHS FULFILLED card where he and his horses ride over you for direct damage and action loss.  Then, CHARGING ATTACK and FLANKING MANEUVER all sort of came together around it, and I had an interesting, 6-card combo that Eomer can basically win the game with.  As for Enfys Nest, the “why” is I wanted to capture the marauder from the train robbing scene in the Solo movie, and felt that the Eomer deck had enough of what I wanted to use for that.  I may find more Enfys-y card ideas for the deck over time, but this is where I currently am with it.

There’s definitely more to making a good deck, but I’m going to stop here for now because these are the most important parts of making a deck:  Know why you’re doing the deck, what it does in Epic Duels to make it unique, and how that’s represented by a group of cards that results in that deck winning the game or having a big advantage over the other decks.  Figure that out, and the hardest and most important part of deck-making is done.

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