TCG Deck Construction Theory and its Application to Duel Links
To preface this writing, it must be known that this theory is based on Patrick Hoban's Ideal Deck Curve Theory, which is talked about at length in his book, Road of the King. I will be adopting some ideas from it here, such as the ideal deck curve which is not one of my own findings. It is important to note that much of Road of the King is not applicable to the TCG anymore, and especially not applicable to Duel Links because of the inclusion of skills and the changing card roles. What I will be contributing to here instead is applying these theories and concepts to Duel Links in a manner that traverses formats.
First, I will explain the deck curve theory. The concept involves the theory that there is a specific range of card roles that are accepted in a “perfect deck.” The idea of a perfect deck can only be achieved in a vacuum as there is a perfect deck for every tournament, but this theory can get us as close to it in a vacuum as possible. Using these rules of thumb, we can create a deck with the ideal level of balance between each of our cards. When a deck is referred to as being unbalanced or built poorly, we can compare the list in question with these general guidelines. The decision on whether the curve is balanced or not is based on our game plan, the card roles to achieve that game plan, and the fluff we include in between.
Next, let’s discuss card roles. This, in my opinion, is by far the most important concept to understand when it comes to deck building theories. Every single card in your deck will adhere to one of the following roles: starter, extender, defensive, bomb, removal, and engine requirement. These are the roles that are present in Duel Links. Let’s define them so we have a greater understanding.
- Starter: the best cards in your deck that allow you to push forward towards your game plan, either alone or with non-specific cards
- Extender: the cards that support your starters to move forward towards your game plan, but rely on you or your opponent to make other plays before they become useful
- Defensive: cards that exist solely to lower your opponent’s power ceiling
- Bomb: a card that can be potentially game-ending on its own, sometimes high-cost or usable late game
- Removal: cards that eliminate specific threats
Every card in Duel Links will fall under one, or often times many, of these categories. If a card fulfills multiple roles then it eliminates the need to have as many of those roles, but every card is primarily one role in regards to the game plan of the deck. Let’s take the stock KC Cup Elementsabers deck list in the game to use as an example for how to classify the card roles.
Main Deck: 20 Cards
- Starters: 9
- Extenders: 9
- Defensive: 2
Our starter cards here are the game plan. They work without needing to open another specific card. Our extenders may seem like they don’t belong in that role because they are mostly monsters, but we rely on those monsters to already exist before we use Loading... , and they are necessary for us to “extend” our plays. Take note of the fact that there are no removal cards and no bombs. In any other deck, Loading... would be removal, however, it’s primary role here thanks to the skill is to allow us to draw Loading... , the most important card in our deck. Take note that Loading... would also both fall under Extender and Defensive, but it’s role is primarily Extender. A bomb does not exist for this deck because we have delegated that role to Loading... . Any time that we can, we should always dedicate a role to the Extra Deck if it’s possible without compromising on our list. Any card in the Extra Deck is searchable and that’s ideal. An example of a bomb card in the current meta game would be Loading... . Eye is a card that is great late game and can potentially end the game in an instant, but it’s difficult to always use and not ideal when you aren’t ending the game so the Dark Magician deck doesn’t play too many of them.