Level 0 – Building a Deck

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Welcome to the third installment of Level 0 – the column that explores the basics of strategy in Weiss Schwarz!

Next Article: [TBD]

Previous Article: Card Advantage

Author’s Note: This article is significantly longer than its previous counterparts because the topic of building a deck in WS is so broad. It is intended to be a general guide, but it contains reasons for why decks may be built the way they are, ranging from “waifu” to “super competitive”. There most likely will be things missing, and we intend to add on as other points are brought up!

Weiss Schwarz, like other trading card games, is a game of two parts: deck building and game play. When starting out, building a deck can be a daunting task.

It’s been said before that knowing your cards is the first step to understanding strategy in Weiss Schwarz. If we already know the cards and know what they can do, how can we translate that to making a deck?

This brings us to the first major questions about deck building:

What makes a good deck? What makes a competitive deck? What is an optimal list? Aren’t they all the same thing?

The answer to the last question is, “Not always.” A competitive deck will always be “good”, but not all “good” decks will be competitive. A deck can also be “good” while being neither competitive nor optimal.

Asking if a deck is “good” or not can be as simple as asking it a yes/no question: “Does this deck do what I want it to do?” If the answer to the question is “Yes”, then the deck is good.

For instance, if you build a deck that aims to Heal, if that deck does indeed let the user Heal a lot, then it is a good deck because it does what it was built to do. However, this does not necessarily mean that the deck is competitive. A “good” deck will always be “good” in a vacuum, but a competitive deck can change based on a number of factors, including the metagame (local and at large), and new card releases.

Finding out if a deck is competitive is a much more difficult endeavor. It’s even more difficult to pinpoint than if a deck can be called “good” or not because a deck’s competitiveness is highly contextual.

Take for example Kantai Collection, which is a set known for having some of the game’s strongest Heal tax and anti-salvage abilities. Let’s also take two players, Player A and Player B. Player A is in an area where the players tend to use neither Heal nor Salvage abilities, and Player B is in an area where players tend to use tons of Heal and Salvage abilities. Player A is likely to think that Kantai Collection is a mediocre set. Player B on the other hand, is more likely to think that Kantai Collection is the best thing since sliced bread.

In a vacuum though, a deck that is both “good” and “optimal” can be considered “competitive”.

A deck’s optimization is a contributing factor to it being good and/or competitive. A “good” deck can be considered optimal if it does what it is designed to do with great consistency, or if it explores and represents the highest possible potential of a given set. If the deck does either or both of these things, it can usually be considered “competitive”.

Why does this matter?

Knowing that there is a difference between a “good” deck and a “competitive” deck matters, because it can clarify what you want to get out of a deck.  It also get set straight what kind of approach you want to take.

Some players believe that the only good decks are the ones that are competitive, and some players just want to showcase their favorite character.  Even outside Weiss Schwarz, this can be a source of much misunderstanding, especially when players seek help from others to build a deck. So to preface how to break down a set and build a deck, there are some points to keep in mind.

Before building a deck, ask yourself this question:

“Do I want to make the best possible deck from the set’s card pool?”

If the answer is “No”, as long as the deck accomplishes what the designer has set out to do as much as it can and as often as it can, it’s good.

Wait a minute! That doesn’t really help if I’m trying to build [this fun deck] or [my waifu is #1 deck]! And isn’t there some hard and fast rule about how many characters to use at level X?

Just because more questions may be asked of a deck that aims to be competitive does not necessarily mean that the same questions asked of a different deck will be not applicable. However, a deck that does not aim to be competitive will be, at times, unable to answer the questions in the same way.

Guides have already been made for how to break down a deck by the numbers in general. However, blindly applying a deck building “rule of thumb” to just any series can be restricting, and sometimes can miss the point of the series altogether.

Due to player preference, one might not always want to ask the following questions of his or her waifu and/or casual and/or non-competitive deck. So if the answer to the previous question was “Yes”, ask yourself these questions:

How powerful do I want the deck to be? // How greedy do I want to be?

Each deck has to use a minimum of one color. Depending on the set in question, a deck can be very well-supported with one color (e.g. SAO Yellow), and it can also be very underpowered (e.g. Madoka Yellow, sorry Mami). Sometimes a set will have no choice but to use one or two colors (hi Wooser!) but that simplifies things more than it complicates them.

Because of the unique effects that the colors in the game tend to give to a deck, more colors will very often translate to more power in a deck. However, potential power comes at the cost of consistency.

A single (mono) color deck will have no problems using its cards outside of paying stock. Its minimum power will be fairly high, but its maximum potential power will (most likely) not be. A four-color deck can and probably will run into problems playing all of its cards. Its minimum power will be atrocious (worst case scenario, it’s unable to play anything after level 0, including its own CXs), but its maximum potential power will (most likely) be incredible.

Quick note: A question like “How many [color] cards should I run to support [this card]?” may come up, but the number can and will change based on the series. For example, SAO can support “splashing” Leafa’s Pure Wish with it being the only green card in a deck because the series is able to search its deck for characters a lot. [email protected], before bans and choose-one, was similarly able to support a range of characters. So for those asking about how many cards of a certain color they should run to support a card in their deck, sorry! It is simply impractical to try to give a general number because any number that is given will be changed by the cards used in a given deck, and the cards in that series.

How consistent do I want the deck to be? // How versatile do I want the deck to be?

Making a deck full of single copies of cards is usually a bad idea. Making a deck that is 4-colors and contains only single copies of cards is probably one of the worst (or hilarious) ways one could approach building a competitive deck from a set. However,  a deck that has nothing but 4-ofs of various cards can also be restricted in its power, colors notwithstanding.

The questions of what colors and what numbers to use in a deck can be refined further when you have looked into a series as a whole. Remember the point from the Strategy article: knowing your cards is the first step!


 

Aside: For creating a waifu deck, the questions are a bit different: (For husbando decks etc, simply switch and replace the appropriate term)

I can take them all

Is [my waifu] best girl? (The answer is always yes.)

Does this card have my waifu on it? If so, why is it not in the deck? (One can never have enough [best girl])

How many cards in the series contain my waifu? Can I fit them all? (Again, one can never have enough [best girl])

How many times will I need to beat my opponent with [card] to get across that [my waifu] is best girl? (As many times as it takes)


 

After you know the cards of a set/series, the questions of what to do with the cards themselves become more specific and difficult to answer:

How do I win the game with this deck? What are the mechanics of the set that are prominently featured that would work well in a deck?

What are the best cards that the set has to offer at level 3? Level 2? Level 1? Level 0?

Once you’ve answered the questions of what the best cards and effects are at a given level, it’s up to you, the deck builder to determine how consistent or greedy you want the deck to be. Note that decks that are very powerful may also need that much more practice to play well; very consistent decks will require less practice to play optimally.

What are the best effects to include in a deck?

Effects that promote card advantage, such as searching, Salvaging, and drawing are all good effects to include in decks in general. That doesn’t mean that it is correct for every deck, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

Effects that deal with damage, such as Heal and Burn are also very solid effects to include in a deck. Heal, as the presence of Heal tax has shown us, is one of the best mechanics in the game, mathematically speaking.  (You can check out what kind of impact a Heal effect can have on a game here.Burn may not have the same impact per se, but it is still a way to deal more damage and get around the standard rule of “up to 3 attacks per turn”.

Characters can also have very unique effects that do not fall under either category. So long as in some way they promote card advantage (overwhelming power, Backup denial, encore denial, etc), they are worth considering for inclusion.

Brainstorm is a mechanic that is present in nearly every set in the game. Having access to this ability is very important, because it can save you from losing a game prematurely due to a well-timed soul rush, among other things.

Remember: This is not a comprehensive list, as many unique effects exist in the game. Use the list as a starting point!

At level 0, you’ll want to include a good number of characters. Because it is incredibly difficult to win at level 0 (effectively impossible), the focus should generally be to build stock and gain card advantage by reversing characters and drawing cards.

Players tend to use 15-18 cards at level 0, but 16 is the generally accepted “normal” number.

For level 1, the diversity of effects that one can find in a given series really explodes. It’s difficult to win at level 1, but it marks a very critical turning point in a game because cards at level 1 tend to be better at generating card advantage than cards at level 0.

Players tend to use 10-15 cards at level 1. 13 is a very stable number, but the “optimal” number depends entirely on the set.

Level 2 is a very odd place for a lot of cards. Even though level 3 is where the game’s most powerful cards tend to be played, there are times where level 2 “bleeds” into level 3. For example, there are some level 3 characters that, under the fulfillment of certain conditions, get -1 level in hand. Characters that Change (especially in the same turn that they are played) into level 3 characters are also a contributing factor.

This overlap is one of the reasons that the number of level 2 cards in a deck tends to be much lower than the number of level 1 cards. Other contributing factors include:

Cost overlap; level 2 and level 3 cards can both require 2 stock to play, and –

Power disparity; level 2 characters tend to be barely more powerful than level 1 characters, and will often struggle to take down level 3 characters.

Players sometimes cut out level 2 from decks altogether, and some will make it the deck’s endgame. If a deck from a series has an incredible level 3 game, making room for only the best effects among cards at level 2 makes sense. If a card is a level 3 but can be played earlier under certain conditions, it can be effectively considered a level 2 (again because there is no hard and fast rule about how many of a card to have at the certain levels).

However, because decks tend to be focused on dominating at levels 1 and 3, a deck with a very good level 2 game can still have very good chances. Using level 2 characters can allow a deck to have decent comeback potential, should it be soul rushed or very unlucky.

Set knowledge trumps any arbitrary number recommended for level 2, so the number can be as low as 0, and as high as 10 (sometimes higher!). It is arguably the most volatile number among decks in the whole game, and is more subject to player preference than any other level.

Level 3 is the make and break time for a deck. Cards at level 3 will (99% of the time) have access to the game’s most powerful effects. Among them are effects such as HealBurn, and Shrink (e.g. -1 soul). While there are more, Heal is the most common effect at level 3, and is among the most powerful. The aim of a deck’s level 3 should be to exploit as many powerful effects as possible, and also end a game.

Level 3 characters tend to be unable to encore themselves on the cheap, in contrast to level 1 and 2 characters (in general). Power is something to keep in mind as well on top of all the effects, though it’s rare to see a level 3 character meant for attacking that has less than 9500 power.

Players tend to use 4-12 cards at level 3. The number is greatly dependent on how large the deck’s level 2 is, but decks (again, generally) tend to use more level 3 cards than level 2 cards.

Could we get a tl;dr?

Cards – 50

Level 0 – ~16

Level 1 – ~13

Level 2 – 0+

Level 3 – 4+

CX – 8

 

Last point: Remember, this is just a starting point. There are a multitude of points to consider and this is by no means a complete guide. If there’s a point you’d like mentioned or if you want to contribute to this article, be sure to send a message to us via email or Facebook, and if you’re okay with it, we’ll mention your name and level of experience with WS when we add on to the article.

Questions? Comments? Want to add to this article? Send us a message on Facebook or send us an email at theninthcx AT gmail DOT com! Be sure to enter the monthly giveaway, and thanks for reading!

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