Putting aside actually pulling the cards, making sure they are sleeved correctly, and the other logistical aspects of deckbuilding, I find deckbuilding easy. Not everyone does. There are various reasons, including the possibility that others have the same issue I do with actually assembling a physical deck but, unlike me, don’t write out decklists. This post is just going to focus on generating ideas.
Act On It!
I’d have hundreds more decks written out if I spent just a little bit of time writing down deck ideas whenever I play. Note that the more you play, the more ideas you should have, and the more decks you should have. Unfortunately, it works the other way, too. Sometimes, I do write down ideas, and … it helps – a lot. Just creating that note is action that will lead to more decks. Of course, there are other actions that will lead to more decks.
Like, looking at cards. Not glancing at a pack of this, a box of that, some loose pile here, boxed bunch there, or scanning decks that get posted online but actually just studying one card, whether through a deckbuilder or a physical card. Of course, there’s a subsequent action which needs to take place, namely taking that physical/electronic card and taking a lot of other physical/electronic cards and adding them to that card. Yes, building a deck is by definition deckbuilding, but the inducing action was to just focus on that one card. “Card of the Week” threads, like those that can be found on http://www.thepathofblood.com for V:TES or many places for Magic, are a good way to increase the amount of brainstorming that can be done on how to make use of a card, as can talking with other players. But, anyone who has the mentality to play CCGs regularly shouldn’t have any problem considering enough possibilities for how to use a card to where at least one deck can be generated.
One way of generating ideas has already been mentioned – looking at a specific card. I spent a lot of time, if not really a lot of years, playtesting CCGs. Obviously, reading and thinking about each card was essential to playtesting. Playtesting even involved building decks!! Though, it’s kind of scary how much playtesting for CCGs is throwing out opinions in the absence of actual play-testing, well whatever.
But, there’s lots of cards. What speeds up picking cards that are productive for making decks? Again, playtesting needs point out a useful (and obvious) answer – look at cards you haven’t played before. Even those who aren’t into taking advantage of the ludicrous amounts of variety CCGs offer benefit from playing with cards they haven’t played with before. Even in a CCG like V:TES where sets often have a minor impact on whatever metagame a player may be concerned with, something within any set should have a competitive impact.
In many cases, the set one should be examining card by card is the most recent one. If the set has been out for a while, there might be little left that will be that inspiring. Whether for this reason or for other reasons, it’s often the right call to look at older sets. As new cards get added to the card pool, older cards change in value and ability to interact with other cards (or so one hopes). For example, with V:TES, I have been looking at Heirs to the Blood cards but am also looking at Dark Sovereigns and Ancient Hearts cards. I should really be looking at Kindred Most Wanted, a set I never felt I explored as deeply, also a set which wasn’t as linear* as others, even with the trophy mechanic.
* Linear mechanics, as explained by Mark Rosewater, are mechanics that want the deckbuilder to play more cards with the mechanics as they synergize with each other. In other words, rather than cards with the mechanic competing in function, they reinforce each other. Black Hand, anarchdom, Prince/Justicar, trophy, etc. are not linear in the sense that many Magic mechanics are linear, but for V:TES, they are relatively so.
Okay, so have picked a set, removed cards that are familiar, now what? Cards with more text are often less understood. Then, it’s fairly easy to remove cards that have effects that are common. What shouldn’t be immediately removed from consideration are cards that seem overly narrow, including hosers. While most hosers should never see play, it’s possible that a hoser can have some odd effect that can be exploited. I built a deck around Jackal and talked of other concepts around Jackal. Was the deck insipid? Well, only if you think that Stanislava bleeding at stealth is easy to do without Jackal.
By the way, I find that it’s incredibly common for a deck I build around a particular card leads me to put in other cards I either haven’t played or have played only minimally.
Moving on, CCGs aren’t just about individual cards. They have categories, mechanics, whatever that provide structure to the game. V:TES decks are most often built around either clans, disciplines, or both.
With 30+ clans and 30+ disciplines, it’s easy to pick one that I haven’t played in a while. For some people, there’s picking one they haven’t played ever. I’ve been considering Ahrimanes ideas recently since I haven’t played them in quite a while (because they tend to be boring). I was just looking at Kiev Circle Blood Brothers today both for the clan (the most boring clan in the game) and for Sanguinus as a discipline that I haven’t played with in quite some time.
Then, there’s sects. I may have thrown together a decklist for a Sabbat oriented deck recently, but I haven’t played a deck that depended upon Sabbatness in recent memory. As a subsect, I haven’t built a Black Hand deck in a while, so I’ve been ruminating about what I could do that would be different.
And, titles. Actually, I have at least two decks written that I haven’t physically built that rely on Sabbat titles. I eschew Prince/Justicar decks for the most part because of how common they are, but I think there are some things I’d be interested in trying, and I may have a First Tradition deck written up that I never put together.
Or, card types. I’m actually a big fan of allies. There are bunches of allies I haven’t played with in a while.
Still at a dead end? Mix and match. Take two disciplines that have never been played together, two clans, or whatever. The best system for people who really have done a ton of different deck archetypes is to mix and match individual cards. One of our former players did it randomly, and it was as awesome as it sounds. I’m sure, these days, it’s easy to come up with a random way to determine cards that a deck must be built around, but if that’s too much effort, there’s always rough randomization that can be done. For instance, maybe roll a 20 sider to find out what set to use (can decide not to include 3 sets for V:TES pretty easily, I’m sure), a 20 sider for card type, a d6 for rarity, etc. until there’s an identifiable card.
Card of the …
Weak. Yeah, that’s a regular topic I should engage in. Maybe soon, maybe not.