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Strategy Articles

Top 5 and the Not Quite Top 5 Decks

by Kevin Jaeger, Players' Representative

14th July 2009

The path to becoming World Champion is a long and difficult one, but every year, one good player makes the trek.  For that player, it must start somewhere, and that somewhere is always building a good deck that will excel within the meta.

Last year that player was me, and when I began my journey, it started by taking a long hard look at what decks were doing well and why: a meta analysis.  This year, it is currently unclear as to whether or not I will be able to go back and defend my title, but regardless, I felt like I would simply put out there my personal opinion as to what might work and what probably won't. This article contains links to decks that are either exactly the deck I refer to or are simply an example of what I mean without being any particular prediction.

You might be asking why I would do this.  Why tip my hand as to what I likely will and will not play?  To that I answer - because becoming World Champion isn't just about playing the right type of deck.  The exact specifics of your deck, and how well you play it, matter so much more.  So, I can talk about certain deck types without giving away anything.  In the end, it will be up to each player to have their deck honed perfectly and to play it perfectly.  My example would be my own deck - it was different from Day 1 to Day 2.  It had the same basic idea, but it played much differently the second day. So take whatever I say here with a grain of salt and make your own decisions. That being said, let's get to it right after I make this big disclaimer: I'm basing this list on versions of decks that I have actually seen, played or heard about.  If you have it in you to build (or have built) a better version that doesn't succumb to the problems I identify, then good for you.  Until then, I stand by my opinions. First off, I'll start with the decks that just aren't quite there yet.


  1. Goval Madness
  2. Goval starts this list out because, in my opinion, it's the biggest red-herring deck out there right now.  It's such a powerful deck that it is easy to forget that it has mega-glaring weaknesses; any opponent can toss counter cards into their deck and feel good about playing against Goval since the counter-tech is general use.  Surprise Amity, Uninvited, Machinations, Subliminal Signal, Stir Crazy, Unexpected Difficulties, Complications, and Endangered come to mind, just to name a few.  Then there is the counter-tech that most of the affiliations have within themselves.  Maquis have loads of options.  Romulans can use Far-Seeing Eyes to remove key pieces.  Cardassians can use Silaran Prin or Ensnared. Ferengi can use Brunt to target Exceed Engine Output, Tampering with Time, or Picking Up the Basics (whichever the deck is using).  The Original Series folks have a variety of tactics - they could use Josephs to pitch key resources off the deck, or they can use Coordinated Counterattack to prevent a Picking Up the basics transfer of skills, or they can use "Evil McCoy" to target Goval himself.  Bajorans can go Political Putsch and try to restrict the Goval deck's ability to put Exceed Engine Output on the table.  The Borg use Two of Nine like the Ferengi use Brunt.  The Dominion put infiltrators in key places to Founder Trap.

    This leads me to all the decks that Goval doesn't want to face based on the reality that each affiliation has things that will slow down the Goval deck.  Goval does not want to face assimilation, capture, or battle.  Goval does not want to face any deck packing three or more different dilemma manipulators.  Goval does not want to face any deck that attempts Aid Legendary Civilization.  He also doesn't want to face an opponent playing with Strange New Worlds.

    With all those counter-tech options, why take the risk?  Sure, you could possibly win enough games on Day 1 to make Day 2, but you won't win a 'best of three' four times in a row against four different opponents on Day 2.  Just ask Mr. van Breemen. (Sorry Mike :-))

  3. Wariness
  4. I like this deck.  The ability to avoid random selections, all random selections, is really good.  Not only can I avoid that Chula: the Chandra selection, but I can also avoid all the death selections for All-Out War (or some other good battle card) or even the selection to go under the deck by Survey New World.

    The problem with this deck is that it tends to move far too slowly.  The meta of Worlds is predominantly speed solvers carrying death prevention, and with their mission skills sufficiently covered.  So going the Far-Seeing Eyes skill-denial route is not reliable enough of a strategy either.  Face down a deck with both death prevention and adequate event destruction (via Brunt, for example) and you could be in lots of trouble.  Worse for the Wariness deck is the old motto - if you can't beat the champ, you don't deserve to be the champ.  Wariness loses horribly to my reigning World Champion deck.  Luther Sloan, the Enterprise-E, and all the dilemma avoidance it can muster spells doom for Wariness.  The important thing to take away from this is that any deck adequately prepared to prevent deaths or destroy events will be a handful for the Wariness deck.  You don't get to be World Champion by playing lots of games where the matchup is a handful for you.  You get to be World Champion by playing a deck with few bad matchups that are more specific than general.

  5. Big Borg AKA EuroBorg
  6. There is no denying that last year this was a powerful deck.  The ability to delay the opponent with repeated uses of Back to Basics and Tactical Disadvantage would give the deck all the time it needed to acquire a handful of cheaters in order to blow through most of what could be thrown at it.  It was that reality that caused me to build the deck I won with since Back to Basics was ineffective and Tactical Disadvantage was only marginally so.  With the release of Two of Two, Reyga, Telle, and Inversion Mystery, reliance on such a strategy would be dangerous.  Add onto that the new dilemmas that punish the Borg (Miner Revolt, Chula: Unfortunate Roll, He Wasn't Nice, Slightly Overbooked, Unfair Terms, Spatial Interphase, and Well-Prepared Defenses), Borg decks face an increasingly-uphill battle.  There are many good Borg decks out there, and Borg decks will win games, but there are too many variables in the meta right now to make the Euroborg deck reliable enough to hoist the crown.

  7. Delta Quadrant Klingons
  8. Now here's a deck I've come to love recently.  The version I put together to win the South Dakota regional utilized Worf (The Strongest Heart) and Relentless to push enough personnel through to complete two missions, then B'aht Qul for the win.  It's a good deck, and an opponent who hasn't seen it before will think he or she has more time than actually remaining.  It very much has a Voyager feel to it, akin to the Chuckles Brothers.  The problem with this deck, though, is essentially two sides of the same coin that the Chuckles deck doesn't have to deal with.

    The first side of the coin is that for it to really be effective (and beat other speed solvers) it probably needs to stay slim, which really limits your options for counter-tech like event destruction or that reserved for Goval.  The second problem is that to make sure it can handle whatever you play against, it can't really be slim.  Copies of Emergency Transport Unit, Grav-Plating Trap and Surprise Amity all take up valuable space -- space you need to make sure your personnel-to-event ratio is solid.

    So ultimately, you'll win quite a few games if you decide to just go straight-up stop prevention.  But unless you are absolutely sure you'll never face a single battle deck, Tragic Turn pile, Back to Basics/Tactical Disadvantage pile, Goval deck, or Far-Seeing Eyes deck, this good deck should be kept in your back pocket. I wouldn't risk your Day 2 on this one.  I'll repeat what I said about Goval: decks with glaring bad match-ups will not win you the World Championship.

  9. My World Champion Deck From Last Year.
  10. When played correctly, this deck works...but it won't work this year.  The meta has changed too much to run a copy of this deck.  There are a few more popular dilemmas out there now that work against micro-teams.  Full Complement, Miner Revolt and Occupational Hazards spring to mind.  Part of what made this deck so effective last year was just how often I would look at the top three dilemmas and see none that could be played.  Mot and his team did the rest.  So with that many more dilemmas that work against micro-teams, the probability of getting a free pass goes down.  The result?  A turn or two may get lost, and we all know that a turn can be all the difference.  Like all the above decks, this deck is not dead by any means, but unless someone comes up with a better version (which I might have already done *shifty eyes*), this one is probably a solid bet to get you into Day 2, but not necessarily any further.


  1. The 'Never Seen Before' Deck.
  2. I know it's a bit of a cop-out to just say something I don't know will win.  But really it's not a cop-out.  Of the World Champion decks, roughly half of them have been decks that really were not seen prior to the Worlds event.  The Pulsfort Brothers' AAI deck, my deck from last year, and Caleb's Cadets were all designs no one had seen before, and spent the four rounds of single eliminations racking up kills on decks that were, at the time, considered the decks to beat.

    Being the guy to bring the never-before-seen deck has several advantages.  First, is the surprise element.  Your opponent will not have spent time preparing his strategy for something he didn't know existed.  The second advantage is that you can keep it under wraps until Day 2.  You can spend Day 1 playing something more 'tried and true,' and then spring the new deck the next day, likely rendering all unprepared.  I would just recommend that you have this new deck thoroughly tested before you travel to Indianapolis, though.  I've never seen a first version of a deck succeed.  My champion deck from last year was being tested for two months before Worlds.

  3. DS9/Qo'noS K'mtar No-Win Situation
  4. The No-Win Situation deck did very well at North American Continentals.  The ability to download a powerful event like No-Win Situation, put it into play for cheap, and then have it slow down your opponent all game is good.  By combining it with the event protection of Deep Space 9, you've essentially covered your deck's biggest weakness.  An additional advantage is the versatility of the deck.  You can either go Deep Space 9 primary with just a K'mtar splash, or you could go Klingon primary with the Nog/Jadzia/Miles O'Brien splash.

    History is on the side of this deck, too.  Dual-Headquarters decks have won The Championship every time except last year.  So, statistically, a dual-HQ deck is the way to go.  From a logical perspective, it makes sense.  When you combine two headquarters, you can use each to cover the other's weaknesses while combining their strengths.  The first year, Matt Frid was able to tighten his skill matrix like none other.  The Pulsforts combined the Klingon ability to get events and kill people with the Romulan ability to suffocate an opponent's strategy.  Caleb Grace combined the best of Deep Space 9 with the best of Next Generation for what was essentially an all-star Feds deck.  The following year, he played Cadets and added the Ferengi event-destruction proficiency.  Even if No-Win Situation isn't the preferred strategy, I expect to see Klingon event download with Deep Space 9 event protection to make a big splash this year... especially because it, by its very nature, is versatile.  You can either download events that gain skills, get you more counters, prevent stops or kills or manipulate dilemma draws: whatever you need to deal with your current opponent.

  5. Voyager Chuckles Brothers
  6. The Chuckles Brothers have been a force for the last couple years.  The ability to have stop prevention and death prevention coupled together in near-perfect synergy is hard to pass up.  It frees you up to just sprinkle a little more in (like Emergency Transport Units and Vascular Pads) and keep your speed level up.  Voyager also comes with Seven of Nine (Efficient Analyst) and her ability to modulate your hand so that if your draws get a little repetitive or unusable, you can swap some of them for more useable stuff like Grav-Plating Trap, Surprise Amity or more Chuckles.  Add onto that the built-in Voyager ability to ignore some power dilemmas like Final Adventure, The Dal'rok and Unbelievable Emergency, and you've got a contender on your hands.

    There are some downsides to Voyager, which is why I don't place this deck higher.  Assimiliation and Capture both tend to hurt Voyager significantly, as does Kruge.  The former two, though, are not usually seen on Day 2, and a good Voyager player can outplay Kruge.  A bad opening draw can really sting and Voyager is one of the affiliations that has the hardest time with Goval.  Plus, as I mentioned above, history is on the side of dual HQ, and Voyager is by its nature a loner.  Still though, Voyager Chuckles has more going for it than against it, and I expect to see Voyager make a splash at Worlds this year.

  7. The Original Series Weenie Speed
  8. Weenies have a long history of doing well.  Caleb's Cadets are a prime example.  They are fast and the personnel selection is usually pretty good.  By mid-game you should be double teaming, which puts a lot of pressure on any dilemma pile, and really puts pressure on the opponent to keep up.  The Original Series has the best weenies around, because even though they cost low, they can cost more to get very useful abilities at just the right moment.  Then, of course, is the built-in Kirk factor, who's always a beast.  As a  Federation affiliation, they have access to the same set of awesome missions as the Next Generation folks, missions like Investigate Maquis Activity.  They have personnel with built-in event destruction, interrupt nullification, Dual-HQ hate, and dilemma pile hate.  They have cheap ships with eight Range.  Really, they have all the pieces of the puzzle.  Caleb Grace and I were talking last year, and he said he thought The Original Series decks would represent the faction to beat.  I can only assume he would feel that way again this year, now that Euroborg is down and Goval is up.

  9. Ferengi
  10. Here's my dark horse selection.  The Ferengi have a lot going for them, and are -- in my opinion -- the most underrated affiliation in the game.  They have the best event destroyer in the game, and their ability to manipulate card resources is second only to The Borg.  Rule of Acquisition #33 is one of the best cheaters in the game, and the Ferengi do have stop prevention in Ferengi Computer, something that is (I think) forgotten by most players.  Lurin can turn extra ship/equipment draws into more counters.  Then, of course, is the awesome Reyga who is still arguably better than Kirk.

    Assuming Ferengi did do the improbable, I don't know what kind of Ferengi deck would get it done, but my bet would be it would involve Ferengi Computer plus Gaila plus Par Lenor plus Rule 141 plus Morik to get obscene counters to spend early and mid-game.

So, there you have it!  Something for you to think about for the next few weeks.  Good luck to everyone who is able to attend worlds this year!


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