In this article I explain my Epic constructed deck building process. I start with an idea, gather the cards, apply my distribution quotas for tuning (the meat of the article), and then repeatedly playtest to tweak. In anticipation of the Core-Set-only alpha for Epic Digital, I will be focusing (primarily) on Core Set cards.
I am a midrange player that likes to build a balanced deck in an unbalanced shell.
I build a lot of decks because I love to experiment. Most of my decks are built around a specific idea that I want to exploit:
- Build a Good Alignment deck: Combative Humans
- Build a Demon deck: Uprising Demons
- Build a human token deck: Human Token Swarm *outdated*
- Build a deck with champions that can’t be broken by Drain Essence: Brute Force
- Build a deck with an overwhelming amount of champions that can be broken by Wither and similar effects: My World’s Pyrosaur Deck (and multiple others)
- Build a deck that plays “draw 2 and” champions on my turn and plays threats off-turn: 4 Color Army
- Build a deck that abuses Hunting Pack: Ankle Biters and Wolf Control (neither posted yet)
- Build a deck that abuses Dark Offering: Dark Offering 1.0, Dark Offering 2.0, Silver Dragon Dark Offering (none posted yet)
- Build my version of a big blitz deck: Sage Blitz (not posted yet)
- Combine a bunch of tested ideas with new concepts: Elara’s White Dragons (not posted yet)
- Build a deck based on unbreakable on my turn champions and board clears (couldn’t make it work how I wanted)
- Make single alignment focused decks for each alignment for Digital alpha: Core Evil Tokens, Core Incremental Targeted Removal (Good), Core Sage Army, Core Wild Champion Overload (coming soon)
Once I settle on an idea, I’ll know at least 15 of the cards I want to include for sure. I put those cards in a list. Then, I go through all of the cards in the game (Card Gallery + Cards not added to gallery yet), and throw any cards that might fit into a second list.
From there, I will be able to determine the bulk of the cards I want to include for the individual deck idea (possibly going over 60). At this point, I want to make sure my deck contains enough of specific effects to make it function smoothly.
All of my decks want 10 effects in certain amounts:
- 30+ cards that can draw/recycle/recall/etc.
- 20 0-cost cards (the max)
- 20- slow cards/cards I only want to play on my turn
- 33+ cards of an alignment in which I have Loyalty 2 effects
- 3-9+ On-turn Gold-Punishers
- 3-9+ Off-turn Gold-Punishers
- 1+ Mass Discard Pile Banishes
- 3 Drain Essences (the max) or comparable, deck-synergistic health gain
- 3-9+ Muse/Thought Plucker 0-cost answers
- A plan for beating Sea Titan/Bounce effects
A decent amount of these requirements are already filled naturally by cards I want to include anyway. In addition, individual cards can fulfill multiple roles.
30+ Cards that can Draw/Recycle/Recall/Etc.
In order to ensure that I can spend my gold every turn (my turn and my opponent’s turn), I want at least half of my cards to be able to either draw, recycle, recall, or similar.
The most reliable types of cards for this distribution are:
- “Draw 2 and” cards
- “Or Draw 2” cards
- Recycle Cards
- Tribute -> Draw a card
- Loyalty 2 -> Draw a card (in an alignment with at least 33 cards in deck)
- Break this card: Draw 2 cards
Apocalypse, Army of the Apocalypse, Bitten, Corpse Taker, Final Task, Inner Demon, Plague, Plentiful Dead, Succubus, Word of Summoning, Zombie Apocalypse, Banishment, Ceasefire, Divine Judgement, Faithful Pegasus, Feint, Inheritance of the Meek, Noble Unicorn, Priestess of Angeline, Resurrection, Secret Legion, Watchful Gargoyle, White Dragon, White Knight, Amnesia, Ancient Chant, Blue Dragon, Crystal Golem, Deadly Raid, Djinn of the Sands, Erase, Hasty Retreat, Juggernaut, Keeper of Secrets, Lying in Wait, Memory Spirit, Ogre Mercenary, Spike Trap, Stand Alone, Thought Plucker, Transform, Warrior Golem, Wave of Transformation, Winter Fairy, Flash Fire, Hurricane, Jungle Queen, Mighty Blow, Rage, Raging T-Rex, Rain of Fire, Sea Hydra, Surprise Attack, and Triceratops
Raxxa’s Displeasure, Dark Offering, Heinous Feast, Raxxa’s Curse, The Gudgeon, Zealous Necromancer, No Escape, Demonic Rising, Blind Faith, Forced Exile, Markus Watch Captain, Revolt, Second Wind, Urgent Messengers, Silver Dragon, Justice Prevails, Arcane Research, Helion’s Fury, Knight of Shadows, Lesson Learned, Temporal Shift, Vanishing, Fumble, Citadel Raven, Knight of Elara, Citadel Scholar, Erratic Research, Force Field, Reset, Reusable Knowledge, Frantic Digging, Siren’s Song, Lightning Strike, Ankylosaurus, Battle Cry, Draka’s Enforcer, Draka’s Fire, Feeding Frenzy, Fire Spirit, Smash and Burn, Wolf’s Bite, Mythic Monster, Savage Uprising, Fires of Rebellion, Flame Spike, and Go Wild
Ideally, the deck will contain 30+ of these reliable draw cards specifically (any 10 unique cards x 3, approximately). If you don’t want 30+ of these cards, other unreliable draw cards can take their place. These are cards that aren’t guaranteed to draw you additional cards:
- Non-Plentiful Dead Recall Cards (they could get banished from your discard pile before you can recall them)
- Necromancer Lord, Angel of Mercy, etc (cards that can bring back champions that can draw cards)
- Pyromancer (cards with a way to spend extra gold)
- Muse (cards that can draw cards if not immediately removed)
Demon Breach, Necromancer Lord -> (Crystal Golem, Triceratops, etc.), Angel of Mercy -> (Noble Unicorn, White Knight, etc.), Inner Peace, Rally the People, Vital Mission, Muse, Psionic Assault, Bellowing Minotaur, Cave Troll, Lash, Lightning Storm, Pyromancer, and Wolf Companion
Quell, Bodyguard and Mist Guide Herald -> (card draw champion)
If I do decide to rely on unreliable draw cards, I generally would want more than 30 reliable/unreliable cards. 27 reliable and 6 unreliable would be fine for example.
- Use it to draw 2, then recycle it and draw another card off the “leaves your discard pile” trigger (draw 3)
- Discard it to Thought Plucker, then recycle it
- Recall it to draw a card and return Ancient Chant to hand for a rate of 1 gold/net +2 cards in hand. This is a better rate than standard draw 2 cards because they only net +1 card in hand. (-1 card in hand to play the draw 2, then +2 drawn cards = net +1 card in hand)
- Play Lesson Learned targeting Ancient Chant in your discard pile to draw 4 (click for an explanation about why this works)
For all of these reasons, whenever I am worried about my deck’s card draw capability, I consider Ancient Chant. Even as essentially just a draw 3, it is great for enabling you to supply a consistent stream of pressure.
20 0-cost cards (the max)
Part of the reason I insist on 30+ cards that can draw is the fact that I want to run 20 0-cost cards. While 0-cost cards are significantly less powerful than 1-cost cards, timely 0-cost cards can (and frequently do) win games. Being able to play more than 1 card a turn is incredibly powerful.
Due to the pivotal nature of 0-cost cards, a lot of consideration should go into choosing exactly which 0-cost cards you want to bring. In addition, running 20 0-cost cards means you need to be very deliberate in which 1-cost cards you bring, in order to get access to the 0-cost cards you want.
Many people pick their 0-cost cards first before choosing their 1-cost cards. I do a bit of both. When determining core cards, I look at both 1-cost and 0-cost cards, and then I fill in the gaps as I go.
20- On My Turn Cards
On my turn cards are non-ambush champions and select events that almost exclusively want to be played on my turn. (I do not include symmetrical board clears like Apocalypse in this because I use the “or draw 2” option more than I use the “if it is your turn” option, for most decks.)
While Epic Card Game has no resource screw (mana screw/flood, curve screw, etc.), it can have Slow Card flood. If you can’t spend your gold on your opponent’s turn because your hand filled up with cards you can’t (or don’t want to) play on your opponent’s turn, you will quickly fall behind. I have found 20 to be a good top end for slow cards to largely prevent this from happening.
33+ Primary Alignment Cards
Loyalty 2 cards are incredibly powerful. Basically all decks want to include some amount of Loyalty 2 cards. Due to their inclusion, decks want to run a sufficient amount of cards of the same alignment to be able to get the Loyalty 2 effect. Personally, if I run a card with a Loyalty 2 effect, I want at least 33 cards of that alignment in my deck. (36+ is preferable though.)
Yes, this means that I do not like decks with Loyalty 2 effects in multiple alignments. While gaining access to multiple alignments’ Loyalty 2 effects is quite powerful in theory, the deck’s inconsistency can (and will) straight up lose you games. When you draw perfectly, these decks can be great. But, when you don’t draw perfectly, they can fall apart, even more so than other decks.
However, this is definitely not a consensus view. Multiple other Worlds players disagree with me. Some think that Loyalty 2 cards can be included with less than 33+ cards of that alignment and do run Loyalty 2 effects in multiple alignments.
One nice thing about 33 is that it allows you to bring 9 cards of each other faction (3 0-cost cards and 6 1-cost cards per faction). Other distributions work as well.
3-9+ On-Turn Gold-Punishers
I firmly believe in my Get Ahead, Stay Ahead Epic philosophy. One key aspect of that philosophy is: if you can get your opponent to spend their gold before you on your turn, punish them for it.
The most common way to punish them is to play a 1-cost blitz champion and attack. Without their gold, they are significantly less likely to be able to stop your blitz champion from hitting them in the face. This is a great way to push damage through to your opponent.
In addition, this is a critical aspect for defeating control decks. Many control decks rely on generating significant value by using board clears to remove multiple champions at once. If you have no way to push damage after they use a board clear on your turn, you will have an incredibly difficult time dealing enough damage to win.
In addition to blitz champions here is a list of Core Set on-turn gold-punishers:
Army of the Apocalypse, Final Task, The Risen, Courageous Soul + Secret Legion, Deadly Raid (with non-deploying champions in play), Psionic Assault (alternate punish), Turn, Mighty Blow (with at least 1 non-deploying champion), and Wolf’s Call
Demonic Rising (solid punish after a Zombie Apocalypse/Wave of Transformation/Martial Law), Plague Zombies, Insurgency, Revolt, Helion the Dominator, Battle Cry (with non-deploying champions in play), Winds of Change (with non-deploying champions in play)
3-9+ Off-turn Gold-Punishers
Another aspect of my Get Ahead, Stay Ahead Epic philosophy is: when your opponent spends their gold before you on their turn, punish them for it. While using this opportunity to draw 2, gain health, or something similar is not bad (especially if you are already ahead on the board), slamming an ambush champion or off-turn board clear can be incredibly powerful.
Your opponent was forced to board clear on their turn. Play your Angel of Mercy and start next turn with a 4/5 airborne champion and your best Good champion from your discard pile. Pretty nice.
Admittedly, this isn’t a distribution I watch too much; however, that is largely due to the fact that I naturally include a plethora of off-turn punishers, since they are generically powerful. Off-turn punishers are primarily ambush champions and off-turn board clears, but Fast targeted removal and other Fast effects work too.
1+ Mass Discard Pile Banishes
In constructed your opponent is not going to deck out, almost certainly. That being said, I still like the safety of having 1 Mass-Discard Pile Banish card in my deck. You won’t draw it in many games, but you should eventually get to it in any game where you need it. If you do need it, be sure to recycle it as soon as possible after you use it (even though it is even less likely you’ll need to use it a second time).
Thankfully, these are powerful cards in general (turning off recycle/Army of the Apocalypse/etc.). Cutting it wouldn’t be the end of the world though, especially if you run cards like Guilt Demon. I love Guilt Demon.
Meta Acknowledgment Cards
Some cards/decks are so powerful and/or prevalent that I include specific answers to them in all of my decks. At the very least, I design my decks to not be locked out by these cards/decks.
3 Drain Essences (Or Comparable Health Gain)
Decks that rely on burn cards like Flame Strike or Lightning Storm are common. Without any health gain, they can kill you quickly with little chance of losing. While there are multiple ways to attack this strategy (out-race them, make them discard, negate their champions, etc.), Drain Essence is one of the most efficient.
9 damage is enough to break a large number of champions. Burn decks specifically run multiple champions that Drain Essence can break (Strafing Dragon, Hunting Raptors, etc.). In addition, this is Fast removal that gives your opponent nothing if you play it on their turn!
Being able to break their champion, off-turn, and gain 9 health is frequently enough to slow them down enough for you to win. This was the most played card at Worlds 2016 for a reason.
For some decks, particularly Good decks, this card can be cut if you are already running significant health gain (Angel of Light, Inner Peace, etc.). However, even in that situation, this is still strong enough removal that you might still want it, unless you absolutely can’t afford the Evil slots.
3-9+ Muse/Thought Plucker 0-Cost Answers
Unanswered Muses and Thought Pluckers are 2 of the strongest cards in the game. Muse is a 0-cost card that draws a card at the start of each of your turns. Thought Plucker immediately draws you a card, forces your opponent to discard, and threatens to do this again on each of your turns. Both of them also have ambush so they are more likely to trigger their effects.
The most important part about these cards is the fact that they are incredibly difficult to efficiently stop, unless you specifically include cards for that purpose. Muse is a 0-cost card that never needs to attack to give a card draw each turn (shouldn’t be removed in combat). Thought Plucker is unblockable so it also shouldn’t be removed in combat. And, if a 1-cost card is used to remove either Muse or Thought Plucker after their effect triggers, those cards have already more than paid for themselves. (Final Task on Thought Plucker can be brutal.)
In addition, since neither rely on Loyalty or Ally triggers, they are easy to include in any deck. Many people do (or at least did). It’s no coincidence “Pluck You” is the name of a team that sent a player to top 8 at Worlds.
Unless you have one of these specific answers in hand when either card is played, you will be in trouble:
You may have noticed that Good has no way to deal with either of them efficiently in the core set. Good thing you can splash easily.
Muse/Thought Plucker’s Weaknesses
It is well-known that these are two of the strongest cards in the game, and I am not the only person that specifically builds decks to counter them. Due to this meta shift, they are frequently less effective than they can be.
If you remove Muse immediately with a 0-cost answer before it can draw a card, at worst it is a 1 for 1 trade. If Forcemage Apprentice or the Expansion cards Wolf’s Bite, Flame Spike, Raxxa’s Curse, or Siren’s Song are used, the Muse player ends up on the bad end of the trade. In addition, if the Muse player was relying on Muse to draw cards, they might run out of resources if all of their Muses are immediately removed.
Thought Plucker’s Weaknesses
In addition to the possibility of a quick removal of the 1-cost Thought Plucker to a 0-cost card that might generate more resources, Thought Plucker can be countered by including cards that want to/don’t care if they are discarded.
Soul Hunter is the all-star in this role. “Oh, you’re going to force me to discard? I’ll just throw Soul Hunter in the discard then. No discard pile banish? Oh, too bad. Thanks for the free 1-cost champion in play on my turn though!”
Ally -> Recall cards are also not too much of a problem to discard either, since you can potentially get them back for free with the next card you play. Other core cards that might benefit from a forced discard: Army of the Apocalypse, Final Task, Necromancer Lord, Angel of Mercy, Ancient Chant, Warrior Golem.
To attempt to counter this trend, Thought Plucker decks do frequently run a lot of ways to banish cards in discard piles. But, forcing them to use extra resources to enable their resource generating cards is not bad.
With the success that non-Muse, non-Thought Plucker Chamberlain Kark decks had at Worlds, it is possible we are starting to see the shift away from Thought Plucker and Muse (when playing with the expansions). If it continues to trend this way, I may eventually remove (or at least lessen) my amount of mandatory Muse/Thought Plucker answers. However, in the Core-Set-only Epic Digital alpha, I expect to see a lot, a lot a lot, of Muse and Thought Plucker.
Anti-Sea Titan/Bounce Plan
Ridiculous card. 11/14 is a big body. Untargetable makes it even harder to remove. The fact that it returns a champion to hand when it enters play make this one of the strongest tempo plays in the game. It is also one of the strongest control champions in the game. If you rely on attacking with non-airborne champions to win the game, you will need a plan to beat Sea Titan. Even though it isn’t as popular as Muse/Thought Plucker, it still sees significant play and can lock out the unprepared.
Sea Titan’s Weaknesses
Offensively, you can use airborne champions to get around the big blocker too. Champions with powerful Loyalty and Tribute effects are an effective bounce (return to hand) disincentive as well.
In other words, Sea Titan is a powerful card, but due to the meta shift towards powerful Loyalty and Tribute champions, it is less effective than it can be. Still, making sure it can’t lock you out is worthwhile for those decks that do run it.
Distributions Wrap Up
Meeting all of my distributions generally isn’t too difficult, and it leads to decks I enjoy playing. I like being able to apply pressure consistently, maintain a large handsize, and aggressively punish my opponent for spending their gold first on any turn. These distributions work toward these goals.
If you are looking to play a more control or combo oriented deck, on-turn/off-turn gold punishers are less important. Aggro decks don’t necessarily need as much card draw. Most people don’t build quite as heavily against Muse as I do. etc. etc. etc. In other words, this works for me, find what works for you, and I’d be happy to discuss it in the comments.
Playtest and Tweak
Once you’ve completed your prototype deck, test it and tweak it a lot. My World’s Pyrosaur deck looked very different in its original Citadel Raven form. Don’t be afraid to make changes and potentially even drift away from your original idea. Most of my decks generally pull back from my initial extremes.
Two of my favorite decks do maintain their all-in on anti-Drain Essence and anti-Wither plans though. One is skewed to be all 10+ defense champions to make my opponent’s Drain Essences largely worthless. The other is screwed to a ton of 3 defense champions to exhaust their supply of efficient answers. Both are packed with answers to a wide range of potential strategies.
I love me my balanced decks in unbalanced shells.
In my next article I plan on discussing which cards/strategies I expect to see the most play in the Epic Digital alpha. From there, I plan on talking about my 4 mono-loyalty alignment decks.
Let me know in the comments below if this article raised any questions. I’m also always interested in hearing disagreements (and also having people agree with me). If there is anything specific you would like me to cover, let me know.