Friday, 13 February 2015

A Beginners Guide to Building a Collection and Tunning for a Meta

This guide is for all of those "Spikes" out there that want to know how to get the most bang for your buck, and start getting that crazy high win rate and even possibly winning the next WCQ.  I won't be touching on basic rules, as there are already a lot of very good videos and guides out there for that kind of thing, as well as some deck building and drafting guides for getting your feet wet. This is for the player that already has a bit of a feel for the game, and wants to be put on a path to advance your logical thinking and analysis well playing. This guide is primarily for players looking at playing in competitive constructed, with a little tips and tricks section at the end! Hope you enjoy.

Now naturally, there is of course no way for me to explain every single detail of the game, and I for one certainly don't proclaim myself to play perfectly and have my deck always perfectly tuned for every single meta game. As such, I will be talking about some more general topics. "Give a man a fish and he will eventually starve, teach a man to fish and he will be forever full" - the saying goes something like that. I will be attempting to show you how to fish.

Building a Collection

Just a quick note first if you think you want to spend some money and get a head start building your tier 1 decks.

First, if you want to be competitive right away you are going to need to drop some money on this game. Obviously you can eventually get a tier 1 deck without spending a dime, but for me personally I wanted all the cards right away. I am not sure of my money spent to date, but I am fairly confident you could get a tier 1 deck with a $20 investment baring some luck. Every time they release new cards they usually come with the release of some preconstructed decks that contain all the new cards. This is kind of how I spend my money, I have been buying the precons when they come out because I don't really like going through the hassle of trading for them. The option to craft them is also available, but at double the cost of normal legendaries for a month after release. There are ways to keep up with the cards, but obviously the easiest is to just buy them outright. Crafting would be my second option, then thirdly trading for them.

I want to briefly state how to build up a collection a bit, and the path you might want to take to start playing with a competitive deck. So if your building a collection, what is the best way to do so? First, the commons and rares are pretty much givens, they are very easy to both acquire through opening packs, as well as through crafting. Heroics are a bit more tricky, but most of the time you can share with other people to get these rather easily. What I personally did was spend $20, and do 4-5 drafts with gold. I do fully believe that competitive draft is the best way to initially build a collection. This would net me around 300k silver, plus cards and packs. I am not sure what the average is, but I would assume you get around an additional 40k silver worth of cards per draft (heroics are worth 3500, and legendaries are 32500). Since it is gold, this is doubled because you can share them, so another 80k silver nearly on average per draft you do from the cards alone. 

Now obviously with a brand new collection you won't be actually seeing this silver right away because you can't forge them yet. However, I had 0 cards from set 3/4 and about 40-45 legendaries from set 1/2, and now am only missing about 30 legendaries total, of which I had acquired nearly all of it after 2 weeks of playing (I spent a decent amount of money, and did lots of trading and crafting). Regardless, each draft should be netting you about 150k silver, even with only a record of 2-2. With some smart trading, and a bit of crafting, you can easily make a tier 1 deck, as lots of them only require around 6 to 8 legendaries. If you want to go for a complete set, well again you will have to spend some money. I personally have deck A.D.D. so I need to have all the cards, and right as they come out. However, through free daily rewards, elite tournaments (monthly tournaments bought in with elite tickets, that give 20k gold for 6-0), and lots and lots of grinding, you can get more cards eventually without spending more money, but at the rate they release new cards you would need to play about 100+ hours a week currently to keep up with new releases. For me personally, I love this game, so spending $20 to $30 here and there doesn't bug me to much, and if you only stick with one deck this will very seldom ever even be the case where you need to spend money.

That is it for building up and starting to get your tier 1 decks, onto some more important stuff! 

Deck Types and Building for a Meta

So this is really where most of the hard work come in. As of writing this, there are no stat sites on Solforge dissecting the meta game, so you have to distinguish what you expect to see yourself. This involves looking at forums, talking to other players, being on a team, and most importantly; playing tons of games in the queues. If you have come from other card game backgrounds, typically you are used to the terms aggro decks, mid-range decks, and control decks. These strategies aren't really the same in Solforge because there is no recourse accumulation. You play two cards per turn, and that is it. 

Stoneblade Entertainment (SBE) did a quite good job designing the game though. Cards that are good in the early levels tend to level rather poorly and be quite awful in the later levels. Tanglesprout is an excellent example of this. Generally though, you want some combination of poor level cards and good leveling cards, since you can play the poor level cards in later levels to help smooth out draws where you don't draw your leveled cards. Also, since you see 2/3rds of your deck every single player level, SBE believes there is room for "sideboard cards" in your main deck. These are silver bullets that really punish certain archetypes. I like to call them utility or flex cards, and every deck should dedicate some amount of slots to this. I usually go for 3-6. What you dedicate these slots to depends on the meta game of course, which is why we have this section ^_^

From build around me decks to decks that are completely off the walls, it is impossible to really list all the archetypes. However, I will briefly explain how the faction pairs typically play out and work together, then from that we can dissect and look at how to beat each pair.

U: Uterra, T: Tempys, N: Nekrium, A: Alloyin

U : The growth faction. Individually weaker cards that rely on strength in numbers, or being pumped up by powerful growth spells. 

N : The decay faction. Removal and creatures that wither your opponents creatures, as well as a powerful array of spells. Incremental advantages and trickery.

T : The burning faction. This faction has powerful big aggressive creatures and fiery spells that burn your opponent to death.

A : The mechanical faction. From the intelligent Metaminds to robot armies, this faction relies on strong creatures, synergy, and armor to defeat its enemies. 

U/T : A fairly underplayed archetype, but with the introduction of competitive dinosaur cards this is now a decent deck. Typically a mixture of grow wide, grow big, and aggresive, but leaning more towards an aggressive type strategy. Ator U/T decks also made a splash for a while, which is a strong deck but not quite as powerful as I would like for winning a large tournament.  This type of deck will be beaten by making large creatures, due to a lack of removal.

U/N : One of the most played archetypes in the game thanks to the strength of Dysian BroodQueen. This combo revolves around killing your opponents creatures and growing your own at the same time. This usually plays as grow wide, grow big, and control. This archetype has a lot of removal, a lot of good efficient threats that aren't focused on to much are how you will take down U/N.

U/A : Another underplayed archetype, mostly due to the fact that it can only really play as a grow big strategy, with a bit of mobility. Very easily countered by any control elements of other decks.

N/T : Another archetype not played as much, this faction combination is more of a tempo based strategy with good suite of removal spells and aggressive creatures. However, removal is not at its prime in this game, so that being one of the strengths is also one of its weaknesses. This deck also got a lot better with the addition of Duskmaw. This deck can be beaten by playing good removal and controlling the board. Damage will come incidentally.

N/A : This is mostly only played as a fun combination or for combo decks. Currently there are no good combo decks, and unfortunately all of their allied cards are very very poor. Some day a combo deck that is tier 1 competitive might exist, but as of right now I don't think this is the case. There are some very strong synergies here, but right now it I am undecided if they are strong enough. This deck can be beaten by just playing good tier 1 decks usually.

A/T : One of my favorite archetypes, A/T decks usually bolster 20+ powerful legendary cards. These decks have the strongest allied cards, and some of the strongest individual cards as well. The only thing stopping this from being easily the most powerful archetype is  a lack of hard removal to deal with out of control large creatures. Heavy mobility and strong individual cards is typically how A/T wins. This deck has fallen off a lot, and removal in the form of -/- and big creatures really hurt it.

Now, no single deck is limited to only one archetype. Actually, the best decks can change their game plans based on the match up. However, some archetypes are directly conflicting with each other. For example, a mobility deck couldn't really work with a grow wide deck, since if all your lanes are full you can't move your creatures. Although a grow big deck works really well with mobility, since you can move your giant creature around and do some very good things. 

Now, the meta changes pretty much whenever a new card is released, so you need to always be willing to admit when cards get outdated. Don't ever fall in love with cards, because they may not be good in a certain meta. 

Now I won't list off every single card in the game, but you should devote around 6 slots to meta. Opposite to this, you should take out cards that are bad in the current meta. Thundersaur used to be a key component of my deck, but the current meta has a huge amount of removal in it, so I cut them despite the card giving me many wins by itself in the past meta. The key is to remember to try things out, and tune tune tune!

 Playing Smart Tips and Tricks

These four things I labeled are buttons I click on A LOT.

1.) You can click here to see what is left in your deck. Very useful if you forgot what you leveled.

2.) You can click here to see what is in your graveyard. Useful to see what cards you have already leveled or if you have graveyard interaction!

3.) Click here to access the game log and see what you and your opponent have played.

4.) You can click on a card and discard it instead of playing it. This is useful against cards like Anvillion Arbiter. Opponent has an Anvillion Arbiter and Talisin, Bard of Abundance. You can play spell 1, discard spell 2, and still play spell 3.

5.) The lanes 1-5 are very important.  If your opponent is on a deck with mobility, it is usually better to play into the side lanes because it spreads them out so they can't utilize their mobility as much. This is unless you want to zone them out. People typically avoid blocking with mobility creatures, so playing in the center lane can zone them out allowing you to play your creatures you want to protect into the sidelanes. Always think a turn or two ahead, and make sure you properly place your creatures into their lanes!

6.) Always think in your opponents shoes. Remember, they can only play two things per turn. If you can play 2 threats, odds are they will not be able to deal with both of them, always remember this and use it to your advantage. Don't be afraid to go in on a creature if you have an equally important creature that needs to be dealt with. 

 7.) Plan a strategy for the match up and stick to it. You should at least have a plan, and try it out. This is the best way to learn and get better. If you just do whatever all the time, you won't know what works and what doesn't. Make a game plan for a certain match up and stick to your guns. If it doesn't work, revisit it, and if it does or feels like it is good then you just became a better player. For example, I had no idea what to do for one match up, so I told myself "these three cards are my priority to level" . Well, my thinking behind the plan worked, and playing my deck differently then in other match ups and with a game plan lead me to a very positive record in the mirror. You should do the same!

8.) Turkis told me remember to have fun and try new decks, but a good chunk of your games should be back to the basics. Have at least one deck you want to get very comfortable with, and make sure at least half of your games are with it. Other then that, experiment! Silver can always be accumulated, so don't be afraid to jump into a queue and try things out.

9.) If you don't understand why a card is in a deck, cut it for something else with your own reasoning. Don't just copy a list and play it how you like. Try to understand or think of why each card is in there, and if you can't, don't play it! If someone asked me why any card is in a deck I am playing, I can answer definitively for each one. Of course, if you have never played a deck before maybe give it a few tries first, but make the deck your own. You will do much better that way.

10.) Always take note of which cards you seem to never be playing. These are cards that are prime to cut for meta specific cards! 

11.) Always review why you lost. Sometimes it is certainly just to luck, but most of the time it is the cards you leveled, the way you played, or not playing around things that will blow you out. Try recording your games, and looking back to watch them! You will have a lot more of an enjoyable time if you look at each loss as a learning experience, rather then excuses of luck.

12.) Have fun! If the best deck is one you don't like, play the next best one. Winning is fun, but sometimes there is more to it then that.

I hope you all enjoyed and learned something from the guide. I originally had it set up to write a novel, and I apologize for not getting more in depth, but I want to move on to other things and this guide has been hard for me to write! I will see you all next time, and good luck playing :)

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