In my first deck building article, when explaining why offensive cards are an important part of the deck, I mentioned briefly the importance of asking questions. But when I went to write this article, I had difficulty explaining exactly what exactly it means for a card to ask a question, or for a deck to ask questions. So I decided to start with a tangible example, a case study if you will. I’ll be comparing an early season Obi/Maz deck with a late season Obi/Maz deck, and showing how it adapted to ask better questions.
This is the Obi/Maz deck that went 7-1 at the Madison regional, making it into the Top 8 cut as the #1 seed. Obviously, this is a good deck. It has good characters, good upgrades, good removal, and a nice suite of damage events. There’s a reason this deck performed well early in the season. But this deck doesn’t have a lot that scares me. It’s got a few sneaky ways to deal 2-3 damage (Synchronicity, Riposte, Ataru Strike), but by and large what you see is what you get, and there’s not a whole lot I have to play around. This is a great example of a solid deck, but one that fails to ask difficult questions of the opponent.
This is the Obi/Maz list I took to worlds. (A quick note that most of the innovations in the deck did not come from me. This is a deck that has been adapted by many in the community, and this is one of the reasons it has become such a strong player in the meta). One of the reasons I love the deck is that there are so many cards that make your opponent sweat. Let’s highlight a few of the additions that make the deck scary:
Hyperspace Jump – this is one of those cards that completely screws slow decks. Just by having it in the deck, slower opponent’s have to play sub-optimally or risk getting roasted by a good ole jump to lightspeed.
Force Speed – this is one of those cards that just gives you so many options. Any time I have a force speed special in the pool, there are so many possible plays that my opponent has to consider. This gets amplified by Maz’s ability to action cheat as well.
Concentrate/My All is the Force – with all of the threes in the deck, these cards can be absolutely deadly, especially when combined with Force Speed or Running Interference. Bursts of 9+ damage here we come!
What is the result of having these cards in the deck? At any point in the game, I could burst for 9+ damage out of nowhere, and/or leave my opponent sitting in the dust with a wasted turn. By building the deck around these types of cards, I am able to take the fight to my opponent. They have to constantly consider what plays could be coming at them, leading to defensive/sub-optimal play from the opponent. This is what you want from a deck.
What does it mean for a card to ask questions?
Essentially, cards that ask questions are ones that force your opponent to play suboptimally based on what you MIGHT be able to do. Events like Hyperspace Jump and Concentrate do this because of the potential impact they can have on the game. A card like Force Speed does this by increasing the amount of different plays a player can perform on a given turn, and by comboing well with other cards like Concentrate. Essentially, all powerful cards ask questions of the opponent, and these are the types of cards you want to build your decks around.
What does it mean for a deck to ask questions?
Decks can ask questions in a couple different ways, but all of the best decks ask questions of the opponent. Essentially, they have a cohesive plan for winning the game, a plan that puts pressure on the opponent. Let’s examine a few.
- Rey/Aayla does so by swarming the board with dice, making it impossible for your opponent to counter them all (ramp). Thus, we see the best Rey/Aayla decks containing great early ramp cards, such as Destiny and Reaping the Crystal. They supplement this with powerful events that also ask questions of the opponent (CQA, Force Misdirection).
- Obi-Maz does so by using powerful events to produce explosive plays (combo). They combine this with powerful innate abilities on both characters that add to deck consistency.
- Boba/Sister does so by threatening massive amounts of damage from the very start of the game, forcing an opponent to have answers or risk getting mauled (aggro). They supplement this with good hand control that complements the question they are asking quite nicely.
- Hero Vehicles does this by creating a board state that is almost impossible to counter by turn 4-5 (long-game). They supplement this with powerful removal cards (Easy Pickings, Into the Garbage Chute) that devastate the opponent’s turn (these are great examples of removal cards that ask questions: how are you going to kill me if I remove half of your dice?).
Conclusion: Building a Deck that Asks Questions
So how to you build a deck that asks questions?
Step 1 – Figure out what overall question your deck is asking. Part of good deck building is learning how to utilize your characters and the cards you have available to produce a deck that can execute a specific strategy. And these strategies don’t have to be complicated to work: see a deck like Aurra/Talzin (AKA, White Chicks), for which the basic strategy is to do maximum damage with character dice and keep those characters alive. A simple strategy like this works well if you have the right characters and event suite. But decks that can’t decide what they’re trying to do are rarely successful. Hopefully, the examples above give you an idea of how to craft a strategy for a deck.
Step 2 – Add as many cards as you can that ask questions of your opponent. Finding cards that your opponent is scared of and making them work is an essential part of building a great deck. At this point in the game’s life, we have a pretty good idea of which cards are the most powerful; include as many of these in your deck as you can. An expensive event like Hyperspace Jump, for example, doesn’t seem like a natural fit for Obi/Maz, because the pay side on Obi already stretches the decks resource curve. But the card is so powerful in fast decks, that finding a way to utilize it ends up being worth the cost. Adding cards like Maz’s Vault and playing less upgrades turn out to be good moves if you can pull off Hyperspace Jump consistently. Good deck builders will find ways to utilize these power cards in the decks they create.
Circling back to the Obi/Maz case study, it really is a great example of the path your decks should follow. Start simple, trying to get a good balance of cards so that the deck runs smoothly. From there, try to discover better ways to pressure your opponent and ask more difficult questions of them.