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Strategy Articles

The Road to Worlds: Winning Deck Analysis Wrap-Up

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

3rd July 2014

13 weeks and 19 regionals later, the Road to Worlds season is over. We looked at 18 winning decks (one regional was sealed format), and the winners each got an opportunity to speak about their creations. Let's see what we learned:


Deck Statistics


So, the big story here is New Arrivals. Born to enable sealed deck play, my understanding is that its ensuing popularity in complete constructed tournaments was a surprise to its designers. And, looking at the play engine portion of it, you can see why: most popular solvers plan to play 4+ cards per turn, and on paper New Arrivals limits you to two - your card play and a free play. Even taking into account a downloading play engine like Holodeck Door or Dominion War Efforts/Assign Support Personnel, that's still a maximum of 3 plays per turn when General Quarters hits the table.

In my opinion, what makes New Arrivals competitive is the seeded draw engine component. There are several other seedable draw engines (eg Duck Blind, Continuing Mission, Ancestral Vision, etc.), but they all have multiple, complicated strings attached to them; you have to be in a certain quadrant, protect certain personnel from combat, not use personnel who have skills, etc. New Arrivals has one string. It's a big one, to be sure, but it is uncomplicated. You don't have to be anywhere, you won't tie any of your personnel up with it, you can still use Temporal Micro-Wormhole for Dr. McCoy, and, perhaps most importantly, your opponent can't do anything about it. As long as you only play that one personnel for free each turn, you get to keep your draw.

You'll also notice something about the decks that use it: they tend to be interference or battle decks. You don't need to have an advantage in the rate that you're playing your personnel if you can effectively destroy your opponent's personnel. Interrrupts like What Does God Need With a Starship? have great synergy with New Arrivals - they don't cost your card play but aren't played "for free", so your extra draws stick around, and your armada grows.

Some other stats: The average percentage of a whole winning deck that can be played for free is 70%. Derrick Marsh won with the lowest percent of his deck being free (52%), while Robert Dawson and Enrico Evink both topped the list at 80% (I know that I listed Niall's deck at 95% in the article, but after going back and standardizing what I considered free for Borg the number dropped quite a bit). If you're just starting 1e deckbuilding, I'd recommend shooting for somewhere in the mid to low 70% range for free plays, as that's where the bulk of the winning decks from this series landed.

Bajoran Resistance Cell, when it appeared in winning decks this season, seems to have functioned as more of a support engine. On average, it accounted for only 14% of the free play cards for the decks it was in, while the average % of a deck that the average play engine covers is 21%. This is due in part to the fact that we didn't see any of the Chamber/Resistance/Son'a/Bar decks from last year win this time around (though very few were played overall) - instead, BRC was largely tacked on to Federation decks. Afterall, the treaty is seedable, you get personnel that play to any planet, and a draw engine too - at that rate, you've essentially saved yourself a seed card!

A note: while I did not include block decks in the sample for the dilemma popularity information below, I did include them for the play engine popularity. There were two block tournaments (both won by TNG Klingons) which adds some Attention All Hands and Continuing Mission presence to these graphs.

By and large, there's a lot of diversity to this field - the top play engine appeared in only 6 out of 18 decks, and the top two engines aren't tied to a specific affiliation. New Arrivals found itself paired with Admirals, Borg (x2), Kazon (x2), and Dominion across 6 decks. And while it and Handshake were the most popular draw engines, they only account for 6 decks of the 18 each (with, I believe, no overlap between the two).


Dilemma Popularity


So there are the 12 most popular dilemmas from the winning decks, and there aren't many surprises there. When only 2 of 16 decks don't include Dead End, I'm prepared to call it a staple.

Point denial has continued to be popular this year (to the joy of Borg players everywhere), despite a reduction in the overall number of two mission win decks this year. Non-Borg players seem to have adapted to these dilemmas by planning to do three missions, with some bonus-point support to off-set the losses from dilemmas. Non-mission point sources (like the Whales) were more popular this year, since they work around the Referee staple In the Zone by being scorable on non-solving turns.

Speaking of Borg, 4 of the top 5 dilemmas have no or little effect on them. In that crowd, Cytherians stands out as an excellent Borg-bane (while also being effective against most other affiliations). Cytherians is particularly rough on They Will Be Coming Borg: Delta Quadrant based decks can replay a Cube that was returned with Space-Time Portal, while TWBC Borg cannot and must rely on either scout ship drops or previously placed Transwarp Network Gateway.

The Access Denied/Ferengi Ingenuity combo was as popular as ever, appearing in 7 out of 16 decks. Interestingly, the most common follow-up, Dejaren, was slightly less popular, so someone followed Ingenuity with something else. (Head Writer's Note: It was Richard. He ran 1X copy of the standard Access Denied + Ferengi Ingenuity + Dejaren Combo and then 1X copy of my Access Denied + Ferengi Ingenuity + V'ger combo. Interesting, since that combo lost me Canadian Nationals to Richard earlier this year when his deck blitzed through said combo for a bonus 5 points.) I didn't catch it on the initial pass, and I'm not going back now, so, if that was you, do you mind telling us what you did?

Rounding out the list are the three most popular attribute walls: Hanonian Land Eel (Planet), Ferengi Infestation (Dual), and Gomtuu Shock Wave (Space). The Eel and Gomtuu both do mean things to any redshirt crew that hits the mission first, making them good general-purpose "bring a real crew already" cards. Once that real crew comes, well great, we have some Parasites for you. Enjoy.

You may have noticed that, for the OTF tournament winners, I tracked the number of dilemmas that were unique to that player's deck. Below is a chart of the the final standings. While these dilemmas were only used once in the 16 winning decks, remember, they were winning decks, and the element of surprise can be very useful when seeding.


Closing Thoughts


I would like to note that, as the season progressed, we saw more and more interactive/battle decks winning (or hybrids between the two, like Stefan Slaby's Cardassian/FC Feds deck). At any further major events this year, I do recommend being ready for battle in one form or another. Maybe download that Mulitplexor Drone before the Computer Crash gets flipped at the start of battle, or be ready to find some Hidden Fighters at the planets on which you've been stranded.

Actually, being able to land ships has been very powerful this season. Beyond simply being a way to avoid battle, it also is a way to get around the popular Transport Inhibitors that are being used offensively. For exhibit A, I'd like to point to Niall Matthew's game against Paddy Tye: Paddy had been hiding at his (shared) Bajor behind a Transport Inhibitor, thinking he was safe. However, Twelve of Thirteen granted Niall's Scout Vessels the ability to land despite the Inhibitor, assimilate the Homeworld, and all the Facilities there too. This devastating move brought to you by landed ships.

I did see a fair amout of experimenting with other people's deck designs. Now, while some people detest net-decking, I think it is important for the health of the game. Sometimes, in order to try something new, or even see what's so good about a build, you've got to just build it yourself and try it.

Even better, with one exception, none of the net-decked winning decks won again. That shows the degree to which player skill can triumph over deck crafting, which I also happen to think is good for the game. We are in an era of the game where anybody can net-deck anything, and just print out any cards they don't already have. If doing that alone could win you tournaments, that would probably be bad. But look at J's win with a net-decked creation: his choice of deck was obviously influenced by his read of the local metagame, correctly expecting the appearance of the Borg, and of speed solvers. Even then, to beat those types of decks requires experience. There are a huge number of decision points in First Edition, and at any one of them you can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory - at this stage of the game, the choice of deck is just one of many decision points.

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