Deckbuilding is one of the major skills in WS. The game itself is generally quite simple to learn, and also quite simple to play, up to a certain point. However, a great deal of correct playing starts from the deck construction. Many decisions must be made based on what is left in your deck, and being supremely familiar with your deck is a pre-requisite for consistently placing in tournaments. The only way to do that is to build your deck yourself, then playtest it until you have tweaked it to exactly the way you want it.
This will be a relatively short primer on how to jump into an entirely-new set and build a functional playtesting deck to work from. This is not a guide on building a series you are already familiar with, or a guide on building around a certain card/character. It will use a single-release series as the example, mostly because it’s a lot simpler that way. That series will be Evangelion. It is completely possible that I will end up with a deck nothing like a refined Eva build. My personal playing biases will be prevalent throughout, and I will be talking about cards with a very high standard in mind. This is all pretty much unavoidable, so you’ll have to bear with me.
I’m gonna come clean straight up. I know jack-all about the Evangelion set, so this is a learning experience for me as well as you. I’m going to go through how I approach a set and build an initial deck, which should hopefully help aspiring deckbuilders, and also provide a resource for newbies who come in asking ‘how do i build a deck with mako-chan she’s the most kawaii’. First, you tell them that they’re wrong, and that Gamagoori is definitely the most kawaii, and then, if you aren’t feeling up to it, you can link them to this. It just might help them help themselves. Warning: Building an informed deck from a series you have absolutely no knowledge of will take time. Like, 1-2 hours minimum. There will be a lot of shorthand here, since I’m pretty much writing out my thought process. If there’s a term you don’t remember, just go along with the guide and read the translations I’m referring to. It’s for this same reason that I will not be linking every single card.
Step 1: Get a feel
The first thing to do is to go to your preferred translation site and pull up the TL. I use heartofthecards, because they have txt files. While I’m very much a visual learner, it’s just a lot easier to have all the information on one page. I personally just read the whole set, but with larger sets (eg. the 160-card behemoths of recent times), that can be daunting. Same deal with multi-series sets. Ergo, the first things you should check are:
- Level 3s
- Climax combos
No matter how bad they are, you want to at least keep them in mind, because some cards might actually have excellent support, elevating them from awful/mediocre status to a much better level. A more depressing possibility is that a bad card might still be the best option for the role it fills, but hopefully that doesn’t happen too often. First, the RRs. BSR is a TCG company, and therefore, the highest unique rarities they print will generally be the strongest cards. This encourages you to buy buy buy, because putting all the strong cards in an even distribution/at common rarity will inevitably lower the amount of boxes the serious players get. RRs are the highest rarity where there are still unique cards, so looking at them first will give you not only a sense of the set theme (if there is one), but also possible cards to build around. It’s a good place to start.
I’m not going to do the legwork for you. Go to heartofthecards.com, pull up the Eva booster decklist, and read things. Yeah, go on. Ctrl+T and pull up the text file. Not even gonna link you the site. The RRs are generally the first few cards in each colour, though there are exceptions (the Re:Edit boosters and probably some DC nonsense). The failsafe is using Ctrl+F and searching for ‘Rarity: RR’ – you pick up RRRs as well, but whatever, it works. For maximum effect, make your own conclusions on the Eva RRs, then read on. If you’re lazy or just want an Eva decklist, then whatever, not my place to judge.
Anyway, at this point in time the blue RRs are by far the best, but neither blue RR is something you can really build a deck around. The yellow lv3 is pretty good in terms of providing field presence – it’s basically like the Monogatari series’ Shinobu, just without the heal, and with a hand filter instead. Remember, when evaluating cards, check if they are changeable, whether they have a bond, or any other interactions with other cards. Do this with Ctrl+F and the card’s name. You cannot properly evaluate them otherwise. The 1/1 Shinji, however, leaves a lot to be desired. The green Level 1 Mari is actually pretty solid, but the 2/1 is lackluster. In the current meta, the 1/0 red RR and its change target isn’t worth the time of day, though you would probably run the RR level support for the sake of having a level support. We have gleaned almost literally nothing from this, aside from the fact that there’s a very good lv0 blue beater, blue and green are considerations at Level 1, and that yellow might be decent at Level 3. This is a pretty terrible spread of RRs by modern standards, and I promise you that looking at RRs in more modern sets is generally a lot more fruitful. In conclusion, these guys are looking pretty decent:
We’ve also learnt that there is an Experience subtheme, and that this is an era where 1/1 6ks with Encore are considered strong. However, we’re not nearly done yet. The Level 3s are the next thing to look at. These are integral to the current state of the game, in that decks need to have finishing pushes if possible, and failing that, some number of heals or beaters. You’ll generally play Level 3s anyway, because chances are you’ll hit Level 3 at some point, and when you do, you may as well play the best cards possible at that point in time. Additionally, many Level 3s can come down at Level 2, and are often the best Level 2 choice as well.
It’s pretty easy to find all the Level 3s for the set, just pull open every relevant tab (Eva TD, Eva booster, Schwarz promos) and Ctrl+F ‘Level: 3’. For the promo list, just Ctrl+F the set serial (in this case ‘EV/S12’) and skim.Yeah, go do it. I’ll be here waiting.
Of the Level 3s in the set, the ones you want to be considering first and foremost are the Red Asuka (because it’s just really good) and the changeable Level 3s (yellow EVA-01 and booster Rei). The changeable ones are important because that’s the best way to maintain the damage race against modern decks, almost all of which employ advance summons to put tanky 2-soul beaters on the field. As for the other Level 3s? These cards are worth consideration, but remember, we are making a deck pointed towards being optimal. If we wanted a Rei fandeck, we would just pick the two Rei Level 3s. If we wanted an Asuka fandeck, we’d do the same. If we wanted a Mari fandeck, then we’d need better taste and a visit to a mental asylum. Anyway, I’ve kept these candidates in mind:
Anyway, keep the ‘better’ Level 3s in mind, as we examine one last element of any given deck: the climax combos. You’re running 8 climaxes anyway. We should at least try and make them count. Climax combos are a bit harder to place, but no less worthwhile. I find that the best way is to find the climaxes and Ctrl+F their names individually, because you sometimes have curveballs that don’t actually use the Climax Border (in fact, there is one in this series, and if you’ve been following along, you probably noticed it). Go do your homework, I’m going to be writing as if you have. Anyway, most of the combos are desirable CCx with mediocre combos, or questionable CCx with relatively good combos. The one you would immediately slot in is the Level 3 Asuka 2k1s, because both the climax and the combo piece are strong. After that, there are a few options. Firstly, I personally would want a global soul buff. That’s just because having more options is a good thing. Of these, the best one would be the salvage trigger, or the book trigger, depending on how my local meta looked. Of these, the book ‘climax combo’ appeals more to me, but the selective salvage is honestly too delicious to pass up in preliminary testing.
And with that, I now have a good idea of what I want to run at Level 3, and I have a whole lotta holes to fill.
Step 2: Capitalism, Ho!
If you don’t get the reference, please stare at this image for about 3 hours.
You know what, even if you do get the reference, you get to stare at this image.
Anyway, yuyu-tei.jp is more than just a merchanting site. It’s a great tool for deckbuilders looking to jump into a series, especially less-well-decorated series that don’t have a wealth of topping decklists to look at. Basically, money matters. Japan pays more for cards that are good in decks, or at least for cards that were good in decks. The higher the price, the ‘better’ the card is. A general guide to what constitutes a high price at each rarity:
- RR: 400-3000+
- R: 200-2000+
- U/C: 100-400+
- CR/CC: 300+
Special rarities scale accordingly – anything 2k or more is generally quite playable, and anything 10k or more is probably quite good. There are a few things you should note. Some archetypal cards will always have relatively high prices. These include Level 0 suiciders, Level 0 beaters, anything with Brainstorm on it, and Level 3s that heal, close out the game, or have easy advance summon requirements. It’s the pricey cards outside these functional guys that should catch your eye more than anything.
For brand-new sets, keep in mind that inflation is huge, and that yuyu-tei is not great at gauging card values off the bat. Many cards will fluctuate immensely, and it is often wise to steer clear of buying until the dust has settled. This also makes investments quite possible if you are good enough – for example, Shimakaze, the standard 4-of in most Kantai Collection decks, was 780 at release, whereas it has surged to 1780 now.
I’m not going to do a whole guide on how to order from yuyu-tei.jp from overseas, but I will provide a very rough translation guide on how to get to the series of your choice. From the main page, click on one of these links. From there, navigate with this. Your destination is the first drop-down link, Singles by Series. From there, you get a wealth of titles, which you might not be able to translate. Fear not. Open this link and this link in new tabs, then use Ctrl+PgUp and Ctrl+PgDn to scroll between them until you’ve figured out which series you want. Find the Evangelion singles page, with or without the help of those pictures, and take a gander. This was written in late Dec 2014 so the prices will be from then.
The names are in Japanese, but you can usually tell which card is which by squinting at the level/cost and comparing it to what you read before. This is part of why I got you to read the set before coming to yuyu-tei.
This tells me a number of things. Firstly, the Yellow Level 3, Red level support and Blue Level 0 are all solid, as their prices are notably higher than the others. This also tells me the blue bond/scry 1/0 is viewed as bad by the Japanese, which means that there is a different colour dominant at Level 1, and that neither this card nor the bond target are good in the ‘meta’ build. Finally, the cut-price on the Level 3 yellow and Level 0 blue can mean that a) those cards used to be very popular, but recently got worse, b) yuyu-tei has far too much stock of them, or c) the series is aging/unpopular and nobody wants to play it. All of the cards have ample stock at the moment, which doesn’t really mean a thing. The ‘O’ sign means they have plenty in stock (more than 10, if I remember correctly).
That took all of my MS Paint skills to create. Anyway, this is the point where you start making mental notes of everything that you want to consider playing. Using yuyu-tei is essentially casting a wide net over the entire set and filtering out the core playables from the rest. Anything 200 yen or more is worth noting here, as that appears to be a good baseline. Seriously, mark out every single card worth 200 yen or more for reference, and look them up. If you can read Japanese, you can just click the card portrait to get a zoom-in and see what the card does there.
First, the 0/0 Mari. You can look up its effect by yourself. Just highlight, copy and paste the card name (with the rarity preceding it) into a Ctrl-F search on heartofhecards’ Eva page. The fact that this card is worth 300 yen tells us that this card is played, and that ‘meta’ Eva:
- Values beatdown
- Cares about the ‘Pilot’ trait
- Might care about Green
Neat. Anyway, next card. 0/0 Hikari is one of my personal favourite cards in the Eva set, and the 200 yen pricetag is warranted. You can think about why it’s so good, but basically, it has three modes, and all three modes are great. At this point, you’ll notice that Hikari bonds a card, implying that the bonded card is probably worth playing. This is not always the case, but look up the bonded card anyway. You can highlight the card text, which is conveniently located on the single’s page. Also note that this Hikari has an typo error, with its second effect noted as 3-cost (when it is actually 1-cost).
- Eva has good global handfixing through one of its bonds.
Next card is a 0/0 Asuka. It’s one of the archetypal cards I mentioned previously.
And now we come to what is currently the most expensive card in the rares section, and also a Level 1. This implies that it is pivotal to the deck’s Level 1 game, since we haven’t seen any other Level 1 with as remotely high a price. Hell, we’ve even seen a good Level 1 advantage engine, and it was a 50 yen RR. So, that would put this Asuka at the top of our deck candidates list. It’s honestly quite a good card. For now, we can default Level 1 to being red-dominated, and write this card in as a four-of.
The last card worth 200 or more is a 0/0 Rei. It’s extremely good, to be quite honest, and is probably the only card that makes a high Experience count at Level 1 desirable at all.
- Going for Experience is actually worthwhile because of this support.
Step 3: Construct the List
At this point, we should have a deck skeleton. Mine looks a bit like this:
Names are from HotC. Card numbers are all super high because this is a v0 list. 8 Level 3s is for Experience 3 by Level 1, everything else is based on what seems good and what Japan judged as good. Maxed Rei support is because I’m all in on Experience 3 by Level 1, and maxed 4k Rei is because I think it can probably do work at Level 1 in addition to at Level 0. It’s worth pushing the colour balance towards an unused colour for, in my opinion. I’m defaulting to gates because I’m boring. Japan’s recommendations make for a good starting list, regardless of what people may think. The only things left to fill in are Level 1s, and potentially Level 2 counters. This is where we move onto Uncommons/Commons, as well as Promos.
My first move is to jump towards the red section and Ctrl-F ‘Level: 1’. That will pull up the Level 1s in Red, which is hopefully what we will find. Failing that, moving onto either Yellow or Blue would be a good idea, followed by some tweaks to the Level 0 lineup to push the deck’s balance to a good place. Go on.
After scrolling through the booster, I found almost nothing. The only worthwhile additions in Red are a Level 1 bomb (which doesn’t have Pilot trait), and a 1/1 vanilla Asuka. There are more 1/0s, but I didn’t like any of them. Yellow has more to offer than Blue, with a 1/0 6k on your turn, and a 1/0 5.5k Encore. These all suck, honestly. Even worse, the trial deck exclusives manage to be in every single Level except 1. This is kind of annoying, but it could easily be worse. The one salvation is in the PR code. If you had scrolled down to the bottom of the yuyu-tei Eva singles page, you may have noticed one erroneously expensive PR. It’s a 1/0 Asuka, whose translation you can find in the Schwarz side PR translation. It’s very conducive to the whole ‘big on your turn’ deal that the 0/0 Experience Rei support has going, and it’s Red to boot. Slap 3 in, hell, slap 4 in if you really want. You should now finish up with some bells and whistles. And with that, we now have a coherent testing decklist.
I finish up with a mental checklist for any testing set, but that’s just me. I like to make sure my deck has as much of the following as is possible.
- Acceptable Level 3s
- Coherent Level 1 gameplan
- An endgame
- Discard outlets
- Contingency plans (eg. Brainstorms, reshufflers)
- Advantage engines (eg. Bonds, plussing brainstorms)
Step 4: Orientate Yourself
If you’ve followed this post so far, you may not really have an idea of what the deck is meant to do. That’s fine. You were probably new to Eva, just as I was. This is the fast and lazy way of building a deck, and therefore there was a lot of blind faith in Japan’s ability to be not-terrible. What you have to do now is work out what the deck wants to do, and what you want to do with it.
My personal take on the deck is simple. Firstly, what it does well.
- Trades fields extremely well from Level 1 onward
- Can fieldwipe very easily if need be – can quite easily hit 10k on one column and bomb a second
- Snowballs quite well if its Level 1 field stands unbroken
- Hikari bond seems pretty amazing
- Acceptable Level 2 and 3 game with a relatively low-cost finisher
- Acceptable raw hand advantage via suicider, Hikari and gates
As for what the deck does poorly?
- Very few utilities – lack of brainstorm is a huge reason I chose to run 4 of the 4k Rei
- Any failure to draw recursion/handfixers means you cannot reliably keep beaters up, even with bondable 2k counters
- Smallish field on the opponent’s turn means a vulnerability to sustainable fields, eg. clock encore
- Mediocre Level 2 game (read: continuation of Level 1 game) if Shinji change is not performed
Sitting down and writing a pros & cons list is often a great way to figure out what you want to do with a deck, and what its biggest weaknesses are. Don’t feel bad if you write out a pro/con and it doesn’t turn out to be true. That’s part of the learning process as well. From here, you can proxy out a deck and test against friends (don’t test against yourself unless you are desperate).
Step 5: Tweak and Learn
All that’s left to do is learn the cardpool in greater depth in an attempt to find gems that have escaped yuyu-tei’s not-so-discerning eye. There are many cards with playability greater than what their pricetags suggest, and it’s up to you to find them.You can find cards that fill roles that your deck is missing, and you can decide what to cut. If you don’t think Level 1 bombs are necessary, maybe the 1/1 Asuka vanilla is a suitable fit. Perhaps an advantage-based Blue Level 1 is actually a better idea in your competitive climate. Maybe the RR 1/1 Mari is what we should all be playing. Hell, maybe the RR 1/1 Shinji combo is your cup of tea.
I don’t have any personal interest in Eva other than not sounding stupid with the next tear list post, so that’s all you’re getting from me concerning this series. And now, I’m going to go watch Demolition D videos before they get taken down again.