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Crafting a MECCG Deck

Copyright Nigel Buckle ©2002

Edited by Nigel Buckle for The Guild Companion

When I build a deck I usually follow a number of guidelines that I've developed the hard way by building losing decks. These guidelines are tailored to my playing style and the local meta-game in the UK, but hopefully you'll find them of some use.

I usually have around 40% of the resources in the deck as MP cards (12 in a normal 30 resource deck) and I always keep to a minimum deck size (30/30 resources/hazards with a minimum of additional characters added). Most of the MP cards are playable in the first turn if drawn in the opening hand. So if I was building a Southern Faction Deck (utilising the big MP factions like the Southrons and the Variags), I do not put the factions directly into the deck. If they get drawn early, I will have to hold them until I can move the company to the right part of Middle Earth. Instead I put those factions in the sideboard and include cards (like Long Bottom Leaf) to put them from the sideboard into the deck. If I'm doing this, I'd rate Long Bottom Leaf as a MP resource for my 40% rule as I know I'm going to use it to add more MP cards to the deck.

I try to limit the number of in-hand combo cards (both hazards and resources), as you often have to hold combo cards for a few turns before you can play them. Many cards in MECCG are combination cards, by which I mean they need other cards to be played, but some parts of the combination you can play immediately other combinations you have to hold cards in hand.

For example Sapling of the White Tree and The White Tree are a combo but you can play the sapling (it's a major item) at a number of sites, as soon as you draw it the White Tree you have to hold until you have a Sapling stored at Minas Tirith (and a sage present). One half of this combo is easily played (the Sapling), the other half isn't. For a deck using this combo I'd probably have two saplings in the deck and the White Tree in the sideboard. Hazard combos are things like Morgul Knife and a Nazgul or Summons From Long Sleep and a dragon or drake.

I try to avoid cards that force me to hold them for a number of turns before they can be played, and I certainly limit the number in the deck otherwise you end up either discarding them or reducing your effective hand to a few cards while you hold all the others waiting for an appropriate time to play them.

I also ensure my hazards don't conflict with my resources. Ideally both halves of the deck work together. For example having a resource deck that relies on Gates Of Morning is not going to work well with a hazard deck needing Doors Of Night, or a Coastal Deck (using the coastal Ruins & Lairs with undead auto attacks) and an Undead hazard strategy.

An example of a deck where the resources and hazards work together might be a Gates of Morning/Fog resource deck which turns most of the map into wilderness, and drakes as a hazard strategy (keyed to wilderness). Or an influence resource deck (for example Elrond with Vilya or Saruman and Wizard's Voice) and a hazard deck that attacks your opponents influence.

It seems obvious, but it's critical you know the deck. You should know which cards are in the deck and which are in the sideboard, as well as your ideal starting company and what you expect to do in the first few turns of the game (sites to move to, resources to play). It's also important to know which cards are critical to the deck and which can be discarded without too much concern. Also know the deck's weak spots both hazard strategies that make the resources struggle and also opposing resource strategies that your hazards can't touch. I use the sideboard for those "just in case" cards rather than the main deck and as a way of covering those weak spots.

Have a movement plan, and try to build the deck so all the sites used are within 4 regions of each other that way you don't waste time moving from site to site rather than playing resources and you won't have to hold cards in your hand for too many turns.

With the hazards, I try to use lots of permanent and long events or none at all. Most players include resources to remove permanent/long events in the deck (or the sideboard at least). If you only have a few, then the chances are they will all be targeted for removal during the game. If you have none, then those removal cards are wasted in your opponent's deck. If you have many, your opponent has to choose which cards are the most important to remove.

Similarly I try to use no environment cards or many for similar reasons. An exception to this is Twilight even if this doesn't make it into my deck, I usually put 3 copies in the sideboard for defence against an opposing environment deck (be it resource or hazard).

I endeavour to make my decks as consistent as possible. By this I mean reducing the variety of cards in the deck so I get the same sort of opening hand each game and draw the same sort of cards each turn. The idea behind this is similar to minimising combo cards if you know what cards you'll be drawing each turn you can plan, but if you have a deck with a wide variety of cards you never seem to get the right card at the right time. The designers of the game put a limit of 3 of each card (or 1 of unique cards) but you can increase the consistency of the deck by including similar cards (cards you use to do the same or similar things, such as Risky Blow and Dodge or Lucky Strike). Likewise you can help overcome the drawback of unique cards by including many that are similar, so 3 greater items (non hoard), rather than 2 majors and a greater is preferable - you know if you draw an item it will be a greater item and can plan which site to move to appropriately. The overall idea is to minimise the 'luck' of the shuffle. In my experience including one copy of a card "just in case" is a bad idea, often it never gets played, or worse a situation develops in the game where the card would be ideal but either you've discarded it or not drawn it yet.

If the deck is going to use specific enhancers (like Minions Stir, or Star of High Hope) I maximise the effect of the enhancers by mainly or only including appropriate races of hazard creature or character. That way I make the most use of the enhancer cards as possible. Alternatively if I'm not using enhancers then I prefer to use a spread of creatures, so maximising the chance I can benefit from enhancers played by my opponent. This might seem at odds with the ideal of maximising consistency! And I suppose to a certain extent it is, but you can have a spread of creature types that cover the same regions/sites/situations so if your opponent moves through deep (double) wilderness you might hit him with a Cave Drake on one turn and Hobgoblins on another by varying the creatures you keep your opponent guessing to the contents of your deck (and what he might face in later turns) but from a card playability point of view the 2 creatures help deck consistency.

I usually avoid resource long events as you can only play them in your long event phase, which means you often have to hold the cards for most of your turn and the whole of your opponent's turn before you can play them. I also try to limit the cards that need to be played in a particular phase (like the organisation phase) for the same reason.

For example Stealth is a powerful card, but I usually prefer to use concealment the latter can be played outside of the organisation phase, is not limited to company size and can also affect automatic attacks. Granted stealth is powerful and very effective in specific decks (such as 4 hobbits), but in general I'd go with the Concealment.

Finally recognise the way your deck works some resource strategies are fast collecting a steady stream of MPs each turn, others start slow and then grab lots of points late on (Fallen Wizard decks in particular are like this). You need to have an understanding of your deck and the MP total it potentially can build when playing the game. Similarly your hazard deck is likely to be either a speed bump deck or a knock out deck and general or specific. A knock out deck is designed to cripple your opponent at a particular point; the speed bump deck just slows your opponent enough for your resources to win the game. Both  types of deck can be general or specific, by which I mean either generally affect all opposing strategies no matter what they are or specific that is really effective if your opponent moves to a particular type of site but weak in other areas. I personally prefer speed bump decks, and rely on my resources to win the game as I have more control over the play of resources, hazards are pretty much totally dependant on your opponent. Saying that, I know a number of players who delight in building knock out decks especially when the deck 'works' and knocks out an opponent.

I hope this article has given a little insight into how my mind works when I'm deck building and a few of my suggestions prove useful to you.

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