Even with mono-sphere decks on the rise, resource management remains vital to successful deck design. Whether you are building a Rohan quest-rush deck, a Gondorian Ranger deck with traps and staging area tricks, or a deck featuring the power of Elrond and Vilya; resources are the engine which drives these decks.
Building a deck is a multi-faceted discipline, and depending on the specific goals of your deck, you will need to balance several different factors. As we discussed in our deck building articles for Beorn’s Path, choosing heroes is one of the first and most important decisions that will make when building a new deck. Once you have the heroes picked out, you will know your resource ratios. In a mono-sphere deck, this is simple: almost all of your cards will be of the chosen sphere. With the exception of neutral cards, and out-of-sphere cards if you are using Songs or other similar options, most of the cards in your deck will need to match the spheres of your heroes.
While this concept is simple with mono-sphere decks, it can get a bit more complicated with multi-sphere decks. In the Leadership/Lore deck in Beorn’s Path, we used two Leadership heroes in Aragorn and Theodred, and one Lore hero in the form of Denethor. In this case, our resource ratio is 2:1. In other words, because we have two Leadership heroes, we should have about twice as many leadership cards in our deck as Lore cards. While a 2 to 1 ratio is a helpful guideline, this is by no means an absolute rule.
Indeed, we deviate from this ratio considerably in some of our incarnations of the Leadership/Lore deck for Beorn’s Path. The reason we can break this guideline underscores another important facet of deck-building: resource acceleration. Because the deck includes Theodred as a hero and Steward of Gondor as an attachment, it possesses multiple means of accelerating the hero’s resources. In the case of that deck, we included about a 1 to 1 ratio of Leadership to Lore cards because we could attach Steward of Gondor to Denethor. Between Theodred and Steward of Gondor, that deck could often provide 3 resources for each sphere, which makes a 1 to 1 ratio a good match.
A deck with heroes that belong to three different spheres is even trickier. For three-sphere decks, it is strongly recommended to include a hero from the Leadership sphere. While it is possible to make a deck with one Tactics hero, one Spirit, and one Lore hero, such a deck will probably struggle without the resource acceleration that Leadership provides. In three-sphere decks, the ratio guideline becomes that much more important. Skew your deck too far by including an excessive number of cards for on sphere, and you risk getting stuck with a hand full of cards, and no resources to spare.
It is also worth noting, some heroes and card combinations completely break these rules. Elrond and Vilya, for example, make it easy to play expensive cards from any sphere. While this combination is undeniably powerful, it is not the best example to serve as a lesson for proper deck-building techniques. In fact, one of the aspects which makes an Elrond/Vilya deck so powerful is precisely that it can flaunt normal resource constraints. These decks are the exception, this article is going to set them aside for the moment, and talk about the rules.
Once you have your ratios figured out, the next step is to work out what your resource curves will be for each sphere. With any deck-building based card game, the number of combinations of cards is too great to even conceive, much less predict over the course of a full game. The idea behind a resource curve is not to know exactly which cards you will play at what times, there is too much randomness to ever make that realistic. Rather, a resource curve is a way of creating cost slots, and distributing cards into these slots to ensure that you will be able to be able to play cards effectively in each stage of the game.
As we’ve covered previously, the timing of a card is a very important criteria for judging the value of that card. A simple, and useful way of thinking of a resource curve is as a tool for balancing your early game, middle game and late game cards while tracking their cost distribution. This might sound complicated, but as you will see it is actually quite simple. Rather than waste more words on talking about what a resource curve is, let’s go ahead and create one for an existing deck.
For the recent episode of The Grey Company Podcast, I create four mono-sphere decks. One of my favorites of the group was the mono-Leadership deck Boromir Leads the Charge!. Since this is a mono-sphere deck, we will only need to create a single resource curve. The deck does include some neutral cards, but we will include these on the Leadership curve, since they aren’t any easier to play in this deck. Obviously, in a multi-sphere deck, including neutral cards is a good way to avoid dead cards. Not matter what resources you have available when you draw a neutral card, you will be able to play it.
This first curve will represent all of the cards in the deck, regardless of type, in ascending order of cost.
|0 cost||1 cost||2 cost||3 cost||4 cost||5 cost|
|8 cards||14 cards||20 cards||2 cards||3 cards||3 cost|
Before we dive into the numbers, there are a couple of notes to make about where certain cards were classified, in terms of their cost. Technically, Citadel Custodian has a printed cost of 5 resources. Realistically, his average cost in this deck is about 2 resources, and you will often be able to play him for absolutely no cost. Because the custodian does not actually cost 5 resources, I chose to categorize him with his average cost of 2. Likewise, the printed cost of Gaining Strength is 0, but because you have to have 2 resource available on a single hero in order for it to function, I went ahead and categorized it as costing 2 as well. Lastly, Envoy of Pelargir always returns a resource to a Noble hero after it is played (in the case of this deck, Boromir), so it was counted as costing 1 resource.
These decisions are not science, I am going with my instincts after having played the deck several times. No model is ever perfect – the value of a model is that it is accurate enough to serve its intended purpose. In this case, the purpose of these graphs is to get a general sense of how easily we will be able to play a given hand from this deck. The important thing to think about is not the cost on a printed card. We are interested rather, in how likely we will be able to play a given card, in some combination with other cards in our hand and in play, when we draw it.
In the case of this deck, we can see that the curve skews towards the inexpensive end. In fact, outside of three copies each of Faramir and Gandalf, everything in the deck costs 3 resources or less. Ordinarily, a deck with as much resource generation as this deck includes would want to skew a bit higher in the resource cost. Indeed, you could safely swap out a few of the cheap allies in this deck for more expensive ones, and it would still perform quite well in most games. The reason why this deck was designed the way it was has to do with the particular cards involved, and is at the heart of more advanced deck-building concepts. This deck is built upon a strategy of numerical superiority.
Cards like Visionary Leadership and Strength of Arms, along with the abilities of brothers Faramir and Boromir, all allow us to transform a ragged band of mostly mediocre allies into a powerful Gondorian army. One other important factor to consider is that this strategy requires us to leave some resources in reserve. Both Visionary Leadership and our General Boromir add nothing to this deck when we spend all of our resources each round. With that in mind, the strategy of this deck is to draw and play as many cheap Gondorian allies as we can, while leaving at least one extra resource on Boromir to drive our global effects. The power of an individual ally is far less important than the power of the army as a whole – quite thematica for an army of Gondor, as I see it.
This brings up one other fundamental requirement in effective deck design: card draw. With so many inexpensive allies, this deck would be woefully ineffective without some mechanisms for drawing more cards. After the first couple of rounds, you would easily play most of the allies in your hard, and you would find yourself with no cards left, and a growing mountain of resources with nothing else to play. This is why I chose to take thematic license, and include King Under the Mountain. With this card, and occasional support from a sneaky Gandalf, we can continue to draw a steady stream of allies to fill the battlefield. In a deck without a truly excellent defender (Boromir and Balin are decent), this is also important to replace allies that have to be sacrificed for the greater good (chump blocking for fun and profit!).
The other main aspect of a resource curve that we mentioned was the timing. Lets rework these numbers and see how many of our cards are early game, middle game and late game.
|Early Game||Middle Game||Late Game|
|25 cards||15 cards||10 cards|
To provide a bit more detail, here are the categories (with some explanations) for each card:
Early Game: 25
Errand-rider x3, Squire of the Citadel x3, Envoy of Pelargir x3, Pelargir Ship Captain x3, Guard of the Citadel x2, Steward of Gondor x3, King Under the Mountain x3, Wealth of Gondor x3, We Are Not Idle x2
Middle Game: 15
White Tower Watchman x2, Visionary Leadership x3 (can be used early, but really needed by the Middle Game), Dunedain Warning x2 (we chump block before this card comes into play), A Very Good Tale x3 (difficult to pull off optimally in the early game), Gaining Strength x2 (could arguably be early game), Sneak Attack x3 (wait for Gandalf in hand)
Late Game: 10
Faramir x3 (can be middle game as well), Gandalf x3 (can be any time with Sneak Attack), Citadel Custodian x2 (you will often wait to pay less for this ally), Strength of Arms x2 (often a game-ending play).
Again, you can see a definite descending curve, where the early game is emphasized, with a healthy number of middle game cards to bolster the decks development. Finally, a few very powerful late game cards help provide the knockout punch that this deck needs to complete most scenarios. Obviously, the categorizations of what constitutes an early, middle, or late game card are somewhat subjective, particularly in a deck with so much resource acceleration.
The point of these tools is not exact classification, it is to provide an impetus to think about the deeper workings of a deck. I say somewhat subjective because there are some very clear observations that we most certainly can make about these cards. Strength of Arms is a poor first turn play, just as a late game Squire of the Citadel will likely do little to alter the outcome of a battle.
In the middle however, there is a vast gray area of cards that can be good in some circumstances, and useless in others. For those who enjoy these sorts of puzzles, this is real the fun of deck-building. Whether you are deciding which cards will shield a decks weaknesses, using cards with high affinity to create amazingly powerful synergies, or you just want to design the ultimate support deck to play with a friend; the incredible variety of this game allows for any deck you can imagine.
So don’t think of the concept of resource curves as a constraint to prevent you from building your favorite deck, think of it more as a friendly guideline, to help you improve a deck that might not be performing as well as you would hope. Like all of the other key concepts on this site, these ideas only become real when you put them to the test. Playing a deck will always be the best way to get an idea of what is does well, and where it can be improved.