Deck building in 40K CCG can be a bit daunting. While you don’t have to calculate land counts or mana curves like in Magic, you still have to manage:
- Flag units: How many do I need to reliably take sectors?
- Characters: How many is too many; I don’t want to see them all the time!
- Die rolls: How high (or low) is my deck capable of rolling?
- Tests: What numbers should I aim for to reliably pass my most common tests?
All About Flags
To answer the first two questions, let’s look at a rough baseline for a 60-card deck:
45 flag units (75%)
5 characters (8%)
10 non-flag units (16.67%)
I believe high flag counts are crucial to winning games. You need flags to take sectors. However, characters can provide much-needed support to your units, and some of the most powerful units in the game are non-flag units. Thus, balance is required. Let’s test a simple deployment model:
In a 6-card deployment hand with First Wave 1 (7 cards), you will see:
5.25 flag units
1.17 non-flag units
In a 6-card deployment hand with First Wave 2 (8 cards), you will see:
6 flag units
1.33 non-flag units
In a 6-card deployment hand with First Wave 3 (9 cards), you will see:
6.75 flag units
1.5 non-flag units
Obviously, the higher your First Wave, the more units you will see each deployment. The real takeaway is that it is crucial for decks with lower First Waves to ensure a high flag count each deployment. This may mean bumping your flag unit count to 50. It may mean relying more on infiltration strategies. Each deployment counts!
Chaos: Thanks to the Fleet Card ability for Chaos, they can see as many as 14 cards every deployment. This partially offsets the downsides of playing Greater Daemons (they shuffle into your deck on setup), but the additional benefits of this ability are massive. More than any other faction, Chaos can sculpt its deployment based on what they need on any given turn. Like Chaos needs the help!
Tyranids: Tyranids get to deploy 1 face down card at each sector at the beginning of the game. Plus, Tyranids don’t have any characters, so they can expect to see more flag units than usual. However, they only have a First Wave of 1, which means against opponents with greater First Wave numbers, the longer the game goes on, the more their numerical advantage shrinks. Some numbers to illustrate what I mean:
Tyranid average deployments per turn (ADPT) over a 1-turn game: 6 (5 face-down cards + 1 First Wave card)
Tyranid ADPT over a 2-turn game: 3.5 (5 face-down cards + 2 First Wave cards divided by 2)
Tyranid ADPT over a 3-turn game: 2.66 (5 face-down cards + 3 First Wave cards divided by 3)
Tyranid ADPT over a 4-turn game: 2.25 (5 face-down cards + 4 First Wave cards divided by 4)
Of course, you can always just use the Hive Fleet Kraken Fleet Card…
TL;DR: All the races function quite differently, so you will have to decide what’s right for you.
They See Me Rolling
As for die rolls and tests, most decks will want as high of a die average as possible – but that’s not always the case. For factions like Orks, for example, they may prefer a die roll of exactly 3 – as that keeps them safe from the consequences of Shoota Boyz or Looted Demolisha.
What’s important is identifying the most common tests in your deck, and being able to reliably pass them. If you’re an Imperial Guard player, you might just want to reliably pass 3+ tests for your Fire Support Squads or Basilisks.
That’s why I try as much as possible to stay away from 5+ and 6+ tests (unless I’m playing Eldar), especially if they’re on command lines. A functioning unit with a difficult test in its card box can still shoot, block and assault; a command line with a virtually unpassable test is a useless brick in your hand.
With that in mind, the average die roll for most of my decks will hover around 4.00. My Ork deck drops to 3.5, while my Eldar deck jumps to 4.2. Also remember the die manipulation cards available to your faction, and allow yourself some wiggle room if you decide to include them.
Too Lazy to do More Math
While I’m sure you can dive even deeper into the numerical, statistical side of deck building, I am a lazy person and I will leave the work to someone smarter than me. Hopefully though, this gives you a better idea of how to structure your decks to minimize the cruel hand of RNG and sway the odds a little more in your favour.
5 replies on “Deck Building for Dummies (by a dummy)”
Very informed and helpful article! Thanks!
The math gets tricky when comparing the two Tyranid fleet cards. Which do you prefer of the two?
I prefer the Hive Fleet Kraken fleet card because of the other advantages it offers. I also feel like being a fleet card printed in a later expansion, it was subject to some power creep compared to the original Tyranids fleet card.
Makes sense. How about vanilla Imperial Guard and Catachans? The Catachan card seems to be much more restrictive in terms of deck construction.
It seems like you’d need at least half your deck to be Catachan cards to get the extra deployment, but that means potentially playing suboptimal cards. I don’t know how good Catachan decks can be, but their cards seem to be mostly infantry. Many have pretty unimpressive stat lines, and a few have sector-specific abilities, which limits their usefulness. I’d personally play the vanilla fleet card to have more deckbuilding options.