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From the Deck: A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Deck

So, you’ve played Limited Hex long enough that you’ve built up quite a collection of cards. You can see that the Constructed events have fewer people in them, and therefore you might have a better chance at doing well in them, as you don’t need to get past as many players. The problem is, the only “constructed” deck you have is your Starter, and that’s not going to see you through to the top of any serious tournament. (Of course, there have been more than one starter deck that 4-0’ed a VIP back in the day, so I’m already starting this off poorly, see Step 5).

First off, I hope you are checking out the decks over at HexMeta.com, which compiles the winning decklists given out by Cryptozoic and shows you what is doing best. Whatever deck you make, you want to make sure it deals with the top three, or better yet four, decks over there.

Step 1: What’s My WinCon?

Your win condition is the key to any deck you build. What card, or combination of cards is going to win you the game? Is it going to be an evasion troop that can deal damage turn after turn? Is it going to be a monster troop dealing damage when it comes into play and then slamming into your opponent that same turn? Or it might even be simply to outlast your opponent until they have no more tricks yet to play. Whatever it is, make sure you add the card or cards needed to make that win condition happen. If your deck is nothing but answers to the current meta, then you’re going to have a hard time actually pulling out the win, as eventually you’ll run out of answers and your opponent will have an easy time of you.

Step 2: How does this deal with the current Meta?

This is absolutely going to change over time, but your deck needs to deal with the win cons of the top decks in the meta at the moment. If the top decks are running Arborean Rootfathers with the Direct Damage gem, then make sure you have an answer for it. Martyr and Shardward are great answers in Diamond for surprise Rootfathers, and other shards have other ways to deal with it. Just make sure you are looking at the top decks, seeing their win con and putting in a handful of cards with the express purpose of dealing with it.

Now, if you have an aggro deck or a really fast ramp, then you might be able to get away with putting your answer cards in the Reserves. This way if you find yourself not winning outright in a fast manner you can have some targeted answers coming in for games two and three.

Step 3: What can I do to increase my chance of hitting my WinCon?

This is where cards that give card draw are huge. Archmage Wrenlocke might seem “ok” but when he’s drawing you a card every time you answer a win con from your opponent, you’ll find yourself hitting your win con more often. Card advantage is seeing and being able to play more of your deck than your opponent over the course of the game. Card advantage helps you hit your win cons like nobody’s business.

Another avenue to take here is the alternative win con. Yes, this is a legitimate strategy when building your deck. You might be relying on your Vampire Kings to fly over to your opponent and chew up his in-hand Troops, but there’s the chance that your opponent might be running enough Turbulence to ruin your day. This is where having a card like Life Siphon can really come in handy. It’s a secondary win con that can help you win if you don’t find your primary win con, or your opponent was ready for it.

Step 4: Your Shard Base

Ok, we’re going to take this really easy to start. You want 24 resources and 36 other cards. This is what you build your deck around to start. If you are mono-shard, you need to look at your thresholds. If your win con is triple threshold cards, then you probably shouldn’t be running resources like Crackling Vortex or Starsphere. If it’s just double threshold, then you can probably do with a playset of one or the other to supplement your resources.

If you are running a two-shard deck, then you want to start with ten of each shard and four of the dual-shard for your particular combination. If your second shard is more of a splash for some key cards, you can go to a breakdown of 12/8 or 14/6, but you have to be careful that you can still get your win con out if you miss your lesser threshold.

I know a lot of you are probably screaming that you don’t need 24 resources in an aggro deck, or you might need more in a ramp deck that can’t afford to ever miss playing a resource in the early game. Don’t worry, we’re dealing with that in the next step.

Step 5: Play the Deck. Over and Over.

If you have friends who got you into Hex, arrange a time to play them in the proving grounds with your new deck. If you found Hex on your own, just queue up for the “Play Random Opponent” and play against all sorts of decks. If all else fails, play the Arena or vs. the AI. No matter what, play your deck.

Playing your deck will quickly tell you if your shard base is off (you need more or less resources, need more of a threshold, etc.) This is the first thing you should be tweaking in the deck. Once you are comfortable with your resources, start looking at the cards you are playing. Are they doing what you want? Are you drawing cards early on that you wish were not in your deck? Are you drawing cards in the late game that lose you the game?

Finally, do NOT get discouraged in the first couple games that things are not working out. Hex is a game of MASSIVE amounts of randomness and variance, and there are exactly 0 decks out there that win 100% of the time. Your job is to get as close to 100% as possible, while still understanding the laws of entropy. Don’t get mad that you lost to a Rootfather that you were just a draw away from being able to deal with. Losses happen. Tweak the deck and try and try again.

Matt Miller, known as DeckOfManyThings in-game, is a professional MMO designer by day, and a Hex Kickstarter backer by night. He's been playing TCG's since being taught by Peter Adkinson how to play Magic: the Gathering with Alpha cards, and is now devoting a lion's share of his free time to playing and improving his skills at Hex. Find him at @ManyThingsDeck on twitter or /u/ManyThingsDeck on reddit.

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