Solforge over the past few days. Solforge is an online collectible card game that is currently in it's early access phase via Steam. The game is a combination of build your deck as you play games such as Dominion and traditional deck building as seen in Magic the Gathering. It features asynchronous play in turns between two players who can play spells or creatures each turn while battling it out in five "lanes" on the playing board. Inside the industry this type of game is often referred to as a "laner". Solforge is a good game and I want to take a minute to help out any interested new players.
Currently. there is a limited number of cards in early access and there are two well known, completely broken decks that dominate a lot of games. However, what I'm about to talk about should apply later down the line when more cards are available to shake up the scene.
The first thought when building a deck is to decide on two factions as you can only pool cards from a max of two of the four factions in the game: Tempys, Utteran, Nekrium, and Alloyin. To compare them to Magic the Gathering colors and play styles:
Tempys = red = quick and direct damage and DRAGON
Utteran = green = lots of big meanies
Nekrium = black = lots of creature removal
Alloyin = white/artifacts = defense, defense, and buffs
This is just a general outline, but it holds pretty true for the set of cards we have as of today.
Popular combinations currently are Nekrium/Utteran, Tempys/Nekrium, Alloyin/Utteran, Tempys/Utteran.
The next step is to decide whether you want the deck to be more spell heavy or creature heavy. While it may be possible to go all spells, it is not recommended. At some point, creatures will be needed on the board. Really only the Nekrium/Tempys combination can get away with heavy spell usage.
Once a balance is decided between spells and creatures, the next step is to look at the three different versions of each card. Each comes in a level 1,2, and 3 version. Cards level up everytime they are played. Example: player A plays a level 1 Death Seeker. A level 2 Death Seeker is added to his discard pile. When he levels up to level 2 as a player after turn 4, the player now has a chance to draw the level 2 cards that they have leveled. Its an odd concept but it boils down to this: the cards you play determine your deck later on.
With this knowledge in hand, it is wise to look for combos that can be followed through the various levels. Some cards may not have an ability at level 1, but their level 2 version does. Some cards are not useful by themselves, but when combined with other cards they become key to victory. And really the combos are where the game is won so keep your eyes out for synergistic cards. A good example combo is Corpse Crawler and Death Seeker. Corpse Crawler comes into play and Death Seeker is sacrificed to pay for Corpse Crawler. This in turn triggers Death Seekers ability to return a 5/5 creature to the board in it's place. Add this into the Grimgaunt Devourer who receives + to attack and defense anytime a creature dies and a player can quickly build up a combo engine to dominate the field.
The end goal is build a deck around a solid combo engine. The over all deck size is 30 cards to start (which then goes up as level 2 and 3 versions of the cards get added in during play). At 30 cards total, it is very likely that in the first few turns the required cards for the engine will come up. After that engine is established it is all about support an escalation.
Due to the nature of the leveling of cards, Solforge matches quickly escalate into slug fests which brings games to a finish relatively quickly compared to other card games where stall tactics can be used to drag games out. With this tidbit to mull over, players need to consider what exterior cards from their core combo engine benefit the most from that engine as well as provide the late game strength needed to push for a victory. If a player finds themselves losing right as level 3 cards start to appear in hand, then chances are the deck lacks sufficient level 2 strength. If the deck ends up in a level 3 slug fest with multiple rounds of level 3 cards facing off, then chances are the deck lacks a finisher.
Play testing is key. There is no easy tip to give when a deck fails to even get to the level 3 cards. Evaluating how a deck played and where it struggled in the flow of the game is critical. Sometimes looking back on a game log shows where a wrong play was made or maybe where a creature was left on the board at 1 life and a slight deck adjustment may mean next time that creature won't be hanging around with 1 life. There are a lot of variables to consider so play a lot of games. Bad decks will generally fail at the same phase of play.
With all of this said, here is what I have been playtesting for over 7 hours of Solforge gameplay:
3x Cull the weak
3x Lightning Spark
3x Death Seeker
3x Ashuran Mystic
3x Uranti Bolt
3x Corpse Crawler
3x Magma Hound
3x Grimgaunt Devourer
The theme is control and the main combo engine is centered on feeding Grimgaunt Devourer plenty of deaths; both your own troops and your opponents. Complimenting this are plenty of removal cards that help keep the lanes clear for beefed up Grimgaunt's later in the game. I've also bred in some balance to handle a few unique situations that are popular in the current meta game. The deck so far is at about a 40% win rate (keep in mind, there are just flat out broken decks currently because of the limited card pool and they get played all.. the... freaking...time). Against the hard AI, I enjoy more around a 75% win rate (again losing to the problematic decks).