Deck Archetypes

Foreword

Decks in card games generally fall into a few broad archetypes: Aggro, Midrange, Control, and Combo. In this article I explain the intricacies of these archetypes specific to Epic.

For historical context, I have included links to similar articles for 10 different card games – Magic: the Gathering, Hearthstone, Eternal, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Shadowverse, Game of Thrones, Star Wars: Destiny, Solforge, Duelyst, and Android Netrunner.

Magic is the originating game. Hearthstone is the new juggernaut. Eternal has a particularly well-written article. If anyone has a link to a similar article to an unrepresented game, like Spoils, let me know, and I’ll add it.

 Overview

“Aggro” decks are aggressive, try to win early, and focus on converting their gold to damage.

“Control” decks are defensive, try to win late, and focus on making their cards and gold worth more than their opponent’s.

“Midrange” decks are persistent, try to win in the mid game, and focus on applying consistent pressure.

“Combo” decks are ticking-time-bombs, try to win when precise conditions are met, and focus on exploiting explosive synergy between cards.

These archetypes are high level descriptions, and many decks fall somewhere between two or more.

Aggro

If you reduce your opponent to 0 health, you win.

Aggro decks attempt to take the quickest and most direct path to victory, reduce your opponent to 0 by any means possible, regardless of what else happens. To achieve this, aggro decks tend to favor hard to answer blitz champions or cards that do direct damage. The quicker an aggro deck can kill an opponent, the less time the opponent has to build up to kill the aggro deck or draw efficient answers like Drain Essence.

Burn is a subset of aggro decks that try to win primarily through direct damage, such as Flame Strike.

Control

If you safely run your opponent out of resources, you will inevitably win.

Control Decks in Epic focus on doing everything possible to not lose until they eventually win. To achieve this, control decks tend to favor removal with extra effects, off-turn board clears, low-board-impact high-card-advantage cards, and health gain. The longer the game goes, the more opportunities control decks have to slip attacks through or build to their potential alternate win-condition, such as Kark.

In general, control relies on cards that can gain multiple gold/cards worth of value.

Midrange

If you consistently apply pressure, while preventing your opponent from winning, you will eventually win.

Epic Midrange decks focus on aggressively controlling the board (champions in play), in order to create and exploit unopposed gold-opportunities (turns where your opponent spends their gold first), to establish and maintain immediate/recurring sources of champion-based damage.

To achieve this, midrange decks tend to favor cards that have 3 of 5 primary functions: 6+ toughness champion, fast (event/ambush champion), draw a card, blitz, and/or removal (secondary functions: make tokens, deal direct damage, gain health, discard pile removal, airborne). Midrange decks win when they exploit X gold-opportunities (X depends on opponent’s deck); this involves surviving against aggro or maintaining handsize with board pressure against control.

Combo

If you combine cards a, b, c, and d with specific game state x, you essentially win.

The “purest” form of combo works by surviving until it assembles multiple key cards and crafts an acceptable Game State to use them. (Game State refers to exactly what is happening at a specific time: such as champions in play, cards in discard piles, players’ current health, etc). Then, the combo deck uses those key cards with the crafted Game State to immediately win, usually by reducing an opponent directly from their full starting health (30) to 0.

For example, you survive until you draw Zombie Apocalypse, Drinker of Blood, and Wither. In addition, you wait until both discard piles have a combined champion count of at least 15. Then, on your opponent’s turn you play Zombie Apocalypse, putting 15 zombie tokens into play. On your turn, you play Drinker of Blood followed immediately by Wither. This breaks all 15 zombies, creates 15 Drinker of Blood triggers, deals 30 damage to your opponent, and wins you the game.

While flashy One-Turn-Kills (OTKs) are the hallmark of combo decks, any deck that combines 3+ cards for one incredibly powerful effect can be considered to have a combo aspect. Combo decks are generally built around supporting/enabling one (or more) of those combination(s). Due to this, combo decks vary widely in how they are constructed and when/how they try to win.

 

Conclusion

Understanding the basics of deck archetypes (how specific decks try to win and why they use specific cards) helps both when building your own decks and deducing what other cards your opponent might have in theirs. That being said, almost no deck is a “pure” representation of a single archetype. Some aggro decks lean midrange and vice versa; all combo decks have a secondary archetype attached, etc. This is merely a guide. Build what you want, and expect to see some crazy stuff.

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