Hey guys! Over the course of the summer I (Luke) am planning on writing a few articles about perhaps my favorite part of Destiny: deck building. I spend a lot of time theory crafting and building all kinds of decks, and over the course of many failures and successes I have developed some rules that help me to create decks that run smoothly right off the bat. This is important to me, because with so many different combinations to try out 4 sets into the game, I’d like to be able to get a good feel for the likely success of a deck only a few games into playing it. This is not possible if the decklists are always subpar when first built. So for this first article, I’m going to give a big picture view of what a deck should look like, and talk about deck balance: what kind of cards do you want in your deck, and how many of them do you want?
The Bad Hand and the Perfect Hand
How many of you have had a scenario where you draw your opening hand and don’t have any upgrades/supports? Or how many of you have entered a late game hand with 4 upgrades that you don’t want and no removal options? These situations feel terrible, and at some level they are unavoidable. Card draw matters, and card draw is random. However, we can start to avoid these scenarios by building our decks with the right composition of cards, a composition that maximizes our chances of drawing the types of cards we need throughout the game, while minimizing the odds of drawing bad hands in critical moments.
Ok, let’s go through a little thought exercise. If you were to draw a 5 card hand, without any knowledge of what part of the game you are in, what kinds of cards would you want? If it’s the beginning of the game, you definitely want an upgrade or support, maybe even 2 depending on how fast you’d like to ramp. But if it’s the end of the game, you may not even want 1 and definitely don’t want 2. What kind of removal would you like? If it’s the beginning of the game, you definitely want to see your 0 cost options, which allow you to use your resources to build your board state. But later in the game you may want to see more impactful removal options, cards that can hit multiple dice – those 0 cost removal events may not be impactful enough anymore. And what about offensive cards, such as die-fixing or damage events? You probably don’t want a lot those cards early in the game, because you are spending your resources to ramp out dice. But later in the game, these cards can dramatically increase your damage output and efficiency, and late game hands without any offensive events can be very sad. The bottom line is that what kind of cards you want in your hand varies throughout the game, and the best decks will be able to provide effective hands throughout the course of the game. So, to finish this thought experiment, without knowing anything about the game situation, what kind of cards would I want? In general, my opinion is that you want: 1-2 die cards, 1-2 defensive options, and 1-2 offensive cards.
So what does this mean for deck building? Well, if we carry those numbers out, it means that that we want our deck to follow these approximate parameters:
8-12 dice cards
8-12 defensive cards
8-12 offensive cards
Below, I will flesh out a little more of what this should look like.
Damage dice: 8-12
Getting dice onto the table is important, and in general you want to guarantee that you draw a playable damage die turn 1. At this point, there are so many good 2 drop upgrades that I recommend including at least 6 of them in your deck. This should give you fairly good odds of drawing a 2 drop upgrade/support turn 1 (assuming a full mulligan). Decks with good resource generation (especially vehicle decks that can roll out their characters to collect resources on turn 1, or decks that run Profitable Connections) can get away with having a lower percentage of 2 drop dice.
What about 3+ cost upgrades/supports? In general, these cards need to be highly impactful if you are going to include them in your deck, because they are often useless on turn 1. I would recommend against including more than 2-3 of these cards, although this is also dependent on your resource curve and the value you can get out of the 3 drops. (Vehicle decks, for example, have no problem including 5-6 of these cards, both because they have excellent resource generation, and because they have access to highly impactful 3 drops).
Should your deck be closer to 8 or 12 damage dice? This is mostly dependent on how good your starting character dice are, and how fast you need to ramp dice. If your character dice can do work by themselves and you don’t really need to add a die every turn, 8-9 damage dice is probably fine (Sabine/Ezra and Obi/Maz are good examples). If your deck can’t do much work with your character dice alone, you may want closer to 11-12 of these cards (HonestlySarcastic’s Ezra/Yoda/Rookie Pilot is a good example). In general, I think the sweet spot for most decks is 10 damage dice. This is almost always a good place to start.
Utility Dice: 0-4
This includes upgrades like Bartering and Dark Council, as well as supports like C-3PO and R2-D2. These cards can add a great amount of consistency to decks, and in general I think they are underrated. However, with the amount of good 2 cost upgrades available, most decks just aren’t going to want to include these cards, simply because it is difficult to play both a 2 cost upgrade and a 1 cost upgrade on round 1. Talzin decks and vehicle decks are the exception to this, because their resource curves work differently. These cards are also very useful in Trilogy format, because there are less 2 drop upgrades available, increasing the likelihood that you would play these cards on round 1.
Among defensive cards, I include: soft control (reroll/turn to blanks), hard control (removing dice), shields/blocking, healing effects, exhaust effects, and turn enders. Basically any card that’s primary purpose is to protect you from damage.
Why 8-12? As with Upgrades, my general opinion is that you always want at least 1, but you almost never want more than 2 (diminishing returns at that point). In general, exactly how many defensive cards you should include in a deck largely revolves around 2 factors:
- How good are your removal options? For example, Red/Yellow Hero or Blue/Yellow hero can easily include 10-12 great removal options, while Red/Yellow Villain can barely scrape together 8.
- How good are your offensive options? Cards like Bait-and-Switch, FILP and CQA are just so good that you have to include them if you can. The more of these you have available, the closer to 8 your number of removal cards is likely to get.
What types of defensive cards should you include? In general, these are my suggestions:
At least four 0 cost defensive options. Most decks want to play a 2 cost upgrade/support round one, making it difficult to play 1+ cost removal in round one. There are also a number of decks that can threaten to kill one of your characters round one if you don’t mess with their dice. For this reason, you need to be able to draw 0 cost removal events in your opening hand on a consistent basis. I’ve found 4 to be enough that I generally have 1 in my hand in the matches I need it. However, these cards are not quite impactful enough that I want a ton of them in my deck. Most of the decks I make have 4 of these cards.
As many 1 cost defensive events that affect/block multiple dice as you can. I’d include in this category the following cards: Force Misdirection, Defensive Position, Easy Pickings, Into the Garbage Chute, The Best Defense, Feel Your Anger, Witch Magic, Force Illusion, and Overconfidence. For their price, they can be some of the most game changing cards available in Destiny. So even though all of these cards have stipulations, I always try to include as many of them as I can. Sometimes they really don’t work in a deck (such as Defensive Position in a slow deck) or you have other cards you need to include, but in general I would start with the assumption that you will include these cards in your deck if able.
A couple 2+ cost blowout removal options can be good if the deck allows for it. In general, any time you can remove 2 or more of your opponents dice, you are significantly dropping their damage potential in a round. Most of these cards can do that, and they can be highly impactful if you are able to play them. I generally like to include 1-2 of these in my decks. However, because of the high cost I would rarely include more than 2 in a deck (unless you have a really high resource curve, such as Yoda/Hondo decks).
In general, I believe that most decks should have at least as many offensive cards as defensive cards. Why? Though you need to do both, it is generally better to ask questions than to give answers. Offensive cards ask questions of your opponent, while defensive cards give answers. Thus, my decks are usually heavy on the offensive cards, often containing 10+ of these cards. But before we get any further, let me clarify what I consider offensive, as this is the most nebulous category. Basically, I mean any card that promotes your game plan or attacks your opponent in some way. This includes:
Resource Generation: These cards are very important to increasing a decks ramp potential, and are especially impactful early in the game, when resources are tighter. Most decks should include at least 2 of these cards, but no deck should have more than 6. 2-4 is generally the sweet spot.
Die Fixing: These cards can dramatically improve the consistency of a deck, and can help produce damage spikes. They are more effective on dice with big or important sides (Obi 3, Ancient +3, Vibro +2, etc.), and when they are combined with other cards (Swiftness, Force Speed, RI). Good examples include: Concentrate, Bait and Switch, Alter, Never Tell Me the Odds.
Damage Events: These are cards that produce damage from your hand. Generally speaking, these cards are not the most efficient math-wise, but they can increase your reach dramatically. Out of hand damage that your opponent isn’t expecting is one the most effective ways to change the outlook of a game. I recommend including some of these if you can, but not a ton (due to the poor math). Good examples include: My Ally is the Force, Lightsaber Throw, Free for All, Riposte
Speed/Combo: This category includes cards that allow you to produce unmitigatable effects, generally by action cheating. These cards don’t belong in every deck, but in the right deck they can create some pretty spicy and effective plays, that are difficult for your opponent to respond to. I recommend including some of these if you can, as they are the primary enablers of “unfair” plays. I would also include draw effects in this slot, as they allow other types of combos (think OTK). Good examples include: Running Interference, Quick Draw, Impulsive, Boundless Ambition
Hand Control: These cards are quite effective, as they increase your offensive efficiency (by taking away their control options) and help on defense as well (taking away rerolls). Hand control is one of the best effects in the game, and I recommend including these cards as much as you can. Good examples include: Probe, Friends in Low Places, Close Quarters Assault, Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder.
Resource/Board control: These cards are similar to hand control, in that they also contribute to both offense and defense by limiting the amount and type of cards your opponent can play/use on a given turn; although they are generally less effective than hand control in this regard. Good examples include: Abandon All Hope, Salvage Stand, Vandalize, Rend
To end, I wanted to go through a few competitive decklists, to show how they follow these general rules. First up, the eObi/eMaz deck I took to worlds: decklist.
Upgrades – 10
Damage (8): Ancient Lightsaber x2, Shoto Lightsaber x2, Vibroknife x2, Heirloom Lightsaber x1, Hand Crafted Lightbow x1
Utility (2): Force Speed x2
Defense – 10
0 cost (4): Loth-Cat and Mouse x2, Guard x1, Hasty Exit x1
1 cost (4): Easy Pickings x2, Overconfidence x1, Force Illusion x1
2+ cost (2): Hyperspace Jump x2
Offense – 10
Resource Generation (4): Maz’s Vault x2, Truce x2
Hand Control (1): Friends in Low Places x1
Die Fixing (2): Concentrate x2
Damage (1): My Ally is the Force x1
Speed/Combo (2): Running Interference x2
A perfect 10/10/10 split. This results in a deck where almost every hand includes at least 1 upgrade, 1 defensive card, and 1 offensive card.
Next, let’s look at a different player’s decklist, to see if they follow the same pattern. Edwin Chen’s World’s winning deck: decklist
Upgrades – 10
Damage (10): Ancient Lightsaber x2, Shoto Lightsaber x2, Crossguard Lightsaber x2, Lightsaber Pull x2, Heirloom Lightsaber x1, Maul’s Lightsaber x1
Defense – 10
0 Cost (4): Doubt x2, Hidden Motive x2
1 Cost (5): Force Illusion x2, Overconfidence x2, Feel Your Anger x1
2+ Cost (1): Decisive Blow x1
Offense – 10
Resource Generation (4): It Binds All Things x2, Enrage x2
Hand Control (2): Close Quarters Assault x2
Damage (4): Intimidate x2, No Mercy x2
Again, we see a decklist with a perfect 10/10/10 split. Again, this even split of cards allows for maximum flexibility, and options for responding to almost any game circumstance.
To finish, let’s examine a deck that plays much differently than the above decks. Tacster’s 4-wide vehicle deck: decklist.
Supports – 11
Damage (8) – T-47 Airspeeder x2, Fang Fighter x2, Y-Wing x2, Resistance Bomber x1, ETA-2 Interceptor x1
Utility (3) – C-3PO x2, R2-D2 x1
Defense – 11
0 Cost (2) – Caution x2
1 Cost (8) – Easy Pickings x2, Into the Garbage Chute x2, Pinned Down x2, Flank x2
2 Cost (1) – Entangle x1
Offense – 8
Resource Generation (6) – Tech Team x2, Rally Aid x2, Aftermath x2
Hand Control (2) – Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder x2
Here we see a very different kind of deck – 4 wide vehicles – follow a very similar overall pattern: 11/11/8. The only one of our rules that was broken was having less than four 0 cost defensive options – but this makes sense, given the slightly different resource curve of vehicle decks.
So there you have it, Luke’s guide to deck composition. It is important to note that not all decks play the same, and as you play your decks more you may want to adjust them beyond the parameters mentioned above. This is especially true of characters or styles of play that require unusual deck builds (such as Mother Talzin and Mill). But in general, following these rules should help you create decks that function well from the first run through. I recommend using this guide on your initial decklists, and then adjusting them from there. I hope you found this helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!