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Balanced Decks


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     What are some of the factors you look for in order to build a set of decks balanced against one another? I picked up Shadespire, plus two war bands, when it first came out to play it with my kids. After reading the rules I decided the game wouldn’t work for us as we would be playing 3-4 player games (I did not want duplicate war bands so didn’t want to buy another boxed set).

     Now that Nightvault has been released I have the required boards for us to play together but need to build some premade decks for each of the eight factions I (currently) own. This will be one of our pick-up games here at home, so we don’t want to spend a lot of time (waste our time) building decks every game. We will also be playing using blind draws for warband, so each faction’s deck MUST be fairly well balanced against each other. Winning should come down to good decisions and luck of the draw/roll not who has the “better” cards.

     Some of the things I want and need in these decks are:

   1) Balanced against one another, even if they are not “optimized”, these are for family games (So please, no suggestions about competitive or tournament style decks/play).

   2) Each deck should play to that faction’s playstyle(s) and strengths. Possibly by having a minimum faction card quota.

   3) Each deck would optimally allow the faction to play/score more than one way (or have two or more decks per faction to allow multiple playstyles per warband).

     I (currently) own both starter boxes, Skaven, Fyreslayers, Farstriders, and Blood Warrior teams. I’ve got a deck of leader cards and all of the remaining warbands all on order. I’ll be using some of these warbands in my AoS armies now so having duplicates of some warbands is no longer an issue either (specifically Stormcast and Khorne but will expand with Fyreslayers, non-skaven Chaos, and possibly Death down the road). This leaves me with plenty of options/cards for deck building.

     This post ended up way longer than I intended it to be, sorry for the wall of words. If anyone has some advice or insight please feel free to share. 


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     Addendum: An idea I’d had to prevent any specific faction from becoming too monotonous to play with/against was to build only partial decks (say half decks). With each faction having three to four of these partial decks. The first one being a base deck of cards that work well for multiple play styles then each remaining deck being geared towards a specific strategy or playstyle. Since we’ll be playing with premade decks and blind draws for warbands this would allow us to still have some flexibility and customization on how to play the group without having to go through deck building every time (just trust me on this, you’d have to know my kids and how slow they can play sometimes; a game of Clue can last so long you’d think we’re playing Monopoly). My concern with this is that it may be impossible to maintain balanced decks using this idea and having every deck balanced is more important at the moment.

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Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to this question. No matter what decks anyone might suggest, there's no way to tell whether they're balanced without a very large amount of playtesting. There are simply too many variables involved, including your deck pool, the available warbands, and the skill levels of the players. In addition, the problem of overlap—in other words, of two warbands wanting the same cards without any duplicates to use—becomes worse if you try to  build more than one deck for each warband.

But I came here to help, not to be a killjoy, so here are my recommendations:

  1. Build a partial list of cards that will serve as the base for each warband's deck. These cards should be pulled primarily from the warband's faction-specific cards, and they should reinforce the warband's normal play style (ranged attacks for Farstriders, getting on objectives for the Axes, etc.). You can then use other cards to tailor the warband to a particular play style (e.g., aggro Guard versus objective-focus Guard).
  2. Don't let any one warband select more than one or two of the best cards. If you peruse the tournament lists at underworldsdb.com, you'll quickly discover a large collection of go-to cards, including Time Trap, Quick Thinker, Hidden Paths, Illusory Fighter, Great Concussion, Twist the Knife, and Trap. Don't let anyone take more than one of these cards unless you have enough of them for everyone to take two.
  3. Be prepared to change cards. For example, if nearly every warband is not packing Great Concussion or Earthquake, then Supremacy-style decks are going to be more powerful than they are in the current meta. If objective-focused play is winning on a consistent basis, you'll have to try something else, whether it's drafting from among a handful of power cards designed to stop such play, customizing decks a day or two beforehand after a match-up has been identified, or a different approach entirely.
  4. Be prepared to change the setup of your "league." No matter how much you try, you might find that games between even partially constructed Farstriders and Fiends always turn out a certain way. If that's not working for your group, mix things up if you think the group can handle it. For example, you could draw a match-up on Friday night and allow each player to design a deck by Saturday. Maybe you'll need some restrictions; maybe you won't. Be open to tinkering if it makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

OK! That said, I'm going to take a stab at point #1. Here are some broad archetypes for your warbands:

  • Steelhearts's Champions can be played aggressively or defensively. Because turtle play is boring as hell, and because you aren't optimizing your decks, a purely defensive play style probably won't work, but it might be acceptable if you wanted to give them two play styles.
  • Garrek's Reavers are all about aggression, killing, dying, and gaining glory for all of it.
  • Similarly, Magore's Fiends are all about combat, with a focus on Riptooth and Magore. They're rather slow, so they probably want some speed options, too (Spectral Wings, Hidden Paths, etc.).
  • The Farstriders are going to focus on ranged combat, at least for the early rounds. Accordingly, their base deck is going to focus on range. 
  • Spiteclaw's Swarm needs a large number of "choose" ploys. They can easily be built to focus on Skritch or to focus on objective play. Regardless, they should probably be sneaky.
  • The Chosen Axes need a large number of cards focused on getting to objectives so that they can inspire. Aside from that, they really need speed boosts.
  • Because of Varclav's push ability, the Thorns of the Briar Queen can go down a combat road, an objective road, or both. I'm not very familiar with the Nightvault core set, so you're on your own here.
  • Stormsire's Cursebreakers need to be played a little bit defensively. (Again, no objectives.)

I suggest you start by looking at the following threads:




As you can see, this is a popular topic with no concrete solution. Good luck, though!

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     @Tutenkharnage Thanks for the ideas, While I’d read the forum posts here on TGA I’d failed to check the BGG forums so thanks for the reminder (since you can no longer post files for GW games there I never check it for their titles). All google gave me was tournament lists and munchkin decks, but if I wanted to play tournament style I’d buy a complete second set of all components just for that style of gaming which would still leave me trying to balance decks for family game nights.

Edit: In particular the thread by @Mortarch_of_Night was useful (I’ve already gone through it at least three times checking his decks) but whereas he was fairly stringent about not allowing duplicates I’m more flexible on that point. 

Edited by Lior'Lec
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On 10/7/2018 at 12:58 AM, Lior'Lec said:

Edit: In particular the thread by @Mortarch_of_Night was useful (I’ve already gone through it at least three times checking his decks) but whereas he was fairly stringent about not allowing duplicates I’m more flexible on that point. 

I love that thread, some great work by Montarch.

The only issue I have with this approach is that you know what is not in any given deck you play against. Opponents happily rush in against any of my warbands except Farstriders because they know that Quick Thinker is in that deck and they have to take it into account. When you settle on these sorts of deckbuilding projects and ou stay within a closed group, it can mold your playstyle around how you built that faction. Go outside the group and you get a lot of surprises when the guard player opposite you starts attacking instead of just doing objective control (or similar change in tactics).

When you get to a point that it becomes stale, I recommend something with turned out to be a lot of fun: Draft all the universal cards. We dumped a copy of every universal card we had onto the table face-up and drafted them one after the other. It meant that all the power cards didn't end up in one particuliar deck, but also that players had to decide how much they wanted a generic card like "Incredible Strength" over a more specific card. When the Steelheart player started drafting a very aggressive deck right away, it meant that there was a lot less of those types of cards for the Magore's Fiends / Oruks deck and they had to be more creative in how they built.



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