Dr. Netdeck: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet.

Netdecking is the process whereby a player replicates a (usually) tournament winning decklist in a competitive card game, it implies a lack of creativity in a player who simply wants to grind out wins, be that on ladder or otherwise. Netdecking is often openly frowned upon and far less often defended. I’m here to tell you why Netdecking is probably the best tool you have in Eternal and how to do in the most effective manner.

Why should I start netdecking?

Let’s face it, EternalWarcry is probably your first port of call when you’re looking for a new deck to try out on ladder after a 6 loss streak, or need to gain 40 Primal/Time influence for a quest and have suddenly realised why nobody is playing Elysian Mid right now.

If it isn’t, it absolutely should be and here’s why. Netdecking makes you better at the game. Let’s begin with ladder play and the obvious. Having a good idea of what cards your opponent is playing in their deck will make your cards stronger and your decisions better. “Oh my opponent is playing Argenport, I should probably keep this hard removal until turn 5 in case of a Makto or Tavrod” is probably a very familiar situation for all of us. We can make these calls by having a knowledge of the archetype and we can gain a knowledge of the different archetypes by netdecking them, playing with them, and understanding their advantages and disadvantages. I would happily wager that most competitively ranked players could list out every card in every competitive archetype with 80+% accuracy. This let’s them predict what cards their opponent may be holding in hand and allows them to respond to the meta by choosing decks with favourable matchups to those they expect to see. Power comes from knowledge, and in the case of digital card games, knowledge comes from netdecking.

Secondly, and perhaps slightly less obvious, netdecking vastly improves your own deck tuning and brewing skills. Think back to when you first started playing Eternal, be that in closed beta or last week. You probably started out by jamming cards that seemed interesting and/or synergistic into a deck and bravely leaping into a ranked game. If your experience was like mine, you also probably lost quite a few more of those first ranked games than you won. Then you may have googled a bit and found a netdecking site or perhaps stumbled across a tier list somewhere and picked the most popular deck there. Now here’s where that deck becomes more interesting. After playing your selected archetype for a while, or expanding collection you were then also likely in a position to make a decision to cut a few cards here and add a few there. Perhaps to combat a particular card that was wrecking your day, or maybe simply because you felt that new card was a better fit in place of the old one. This is deck tuning and is, I believe the most important skill to have in a card game. To reiterate, there is no shame in simply taking another players deck, observing it’s weaknesses, making it better, and then unleashing absolute unadulterated obliteration upon your enemies with it.

How to Netdeck effectively, the golden egg of digital card games…

This is where Netdecking get’s a little trickier. At time of writing, there are currently 7339 decks on EternalWarcry. How are we to know which of these decks are worth our time and which aren’t? Answering this question is by far the hardest aspect of the process for a new player but hopefully, the tips listed below will aid anyone reading this article to start looking for an answer;

  • Has the deck been played at tournament level? EternalWarcry allows you to filter decks by whether or not they have Top 8’d at a tournament event. If they have, you can almost guarantee someone has taken the time to thoroughly test the deck and subsequently taken it through it’s paces it’s a 6+ round swiss tournament and a subsequent Top 8 knockout bracket.
  • Has the uploader of the deck commented on card choices or playstyles? Again, if they have, this is a good indication that the creator has spent a lot of time working on each card slot decision and is confident they have made the right choices for those respective slots.
  • Has the uploader of the deck uploaded other decks across a long timeframe? Personally, I will always tend to gravitate towards an uploader with evident experience in the game, and seeing a long list of decks dating back a year is a fairly good sign.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules, welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Ms. Turner. In seriousness though, don’t disregard a deck you think could be sweet, just because it doesn’t fall into the above categories! Play what looks interesting and try to make it work before dismissing it.

With the above in mind, the last part of the puzzle is recognising the decks shell. The shell of a deck roughly translates to which cards make up the core of this decks goal and should only be removed if being replaced with a card at a similar powerlevel. In order to illustrate what I mean by this, let’s take a look at the list(which is itself a netdecked list from BruisedByGod’s Mar 10 ETS Top 8 result, do you see how this works?) played by heywhyyou for a 2nd place finisher in the Season 1 Invitational and my favourite archetype, which can be exported from here. (For the purpose of this article, I’ll ignore the tournament sideboard)

20180323032534_1

So our first step here is figuring out if this deck was built as a targeted response to what were expected opponentst in the meta, or if it was built as heywhyyou’s interpretation of the best possible version of Argenport Midrange with no specific target in mind. Looking at the low curve and lack of hate cards I think we can safely assume it’s the latter and so is a prime candidate for netdecking with minimum changes to bring to ladder.

Now to understand the shell, we need to know how this deck wants to win. As a low curve Midrange Deck, Argenport wants to start playing good cards on turn 2 and then preferably play 1 more good card every turn for the rest of the game until it wins around turn 8. To effectively netdeck this list we need to assess if heywhyyou has made the best decisions for each slot, why he may have made those decisions and if those decisions fall in line with what we see in our ladder experience.

We can group these cards into 4 sections:

  • Removal Suite(Slay, Vanquish, Annihilate); Used to kill big threats or clear the way for our attackers to get in damage. This is one of the most flexible parts of the deck which we can tailor for ladder extremely effectively. Seeing a lot of aggro? Take out Vanquish or Slays and pop a few Suffocates in. A lot of unitless control on ladder? Take out removal for protects!
  • Protection Suite(Sabotage); These are cards we use to protect our threats from our opponents removal suite. Personally, I am always a fan of having some way to protect our cards, however if you find you’re playing a lot of cards with abilities like Aegis, Revenge, or you have void recursion, this becomes far less necessary.
  • Aggression Suite(All Units and Weapons); This is the body of the deck which we use to take out our opponent out with. For this archetype we like to hover around the 35 mark of units/weapons combined as we have classically played a low protection count with no recursion or protective abilities.
  • Power Base(Vara’s Favour, all Power cards); This section is a whole article in itself so I won’t go too deep, but these are the cards that provide power to play our interactive cards.

Now that we understand the makeup of the deck we can start assessing the card choices and best locate the slots we can change to match our ladder experience. A great way to do this is if you’re a new player who may not be familiar with all of your collection is to look at other Argenport Midrange decks and their card choices. As I said before, power comes from knowledge and knowledge comes from netdecking!

The whole purpose of this article is to assist people in making better decisions when tuning decks they’ve found online and encouraging them to do so. To that end, I’ve decided not to do that myself here but instead, to list a number of cards that you might look at including in this list yourselves, which can be found below.

I believe there is a strong argument for each of these cards taking a slot in the deck in many circumstances and hope you have fun playing around with them. It is important to recognise though that the initial list will have synergies you do not necessarily want to tamper with. In the above example, not having enough Minotaurs or Weapons limits Tavrods on attack ability significantly, the more units with 2 abilities, the more work Unseen Commando can put in for you, and finally, Warcry in the early game feels really really nice when you draw an Auric Interrogator!

With all that said, I hope this article has given you some insight on how to recognise the benefits of looking at other peoples decks, and the first steps in fine tuning those decks to suit your own experience. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you’ll stick around to check out the other content on this site, written by people who are far more articulate than I am!

tldr: If I can see farther than you, it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of Top 8 finishers!

-chPIG

Title Image from Cardboard Crack, be sure to check them out if you enjoy card games and comics!

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