Welcome to a new series here at Land of Redemption. Many of you will probably be familiar with my work. My best man, Andrew Wester, and I used to run the Redemption Metagaming youtube channel and blog for about a year until life got in the way of Redemption. If you remember my work, you know I did a lot of abstract pieces about theories behind your decks.
The thing most interesting to me about these cards has always been deck building – what 50 cards should I play? Should I even be playing only 50 cards? These choices of resource allocation are so interesting to me that I completed a college degree based on similar concepts (Economics). That’s why, now that I’ve returned to attempting to play Redemption, I decided my first set of writing should go back to my natural state – abstract musings full of small nuggets that astute readers will use to make minute improvements to existing decks and concepts. I’ve never been the best at making new decks – but I do think I am good at seeing small things to make good decks better.
This series will be based around deck building concepts. The goal of this series (of undetermined length) is to answer – or more accurately explore – the question of “How should I build my deck?”. Obviously this is a very complex question that will require a lot of thought and consideration. It doesn’t have a right answer, but it does have a right process that I hope to get to by answering smaller questions such as:
- What is consistency and why does it matter?
- What is synergy?
- Is there an ideal deck size?
By tackling these topics in the form of questions, I hope to elucidate misconceptions we have as players and begin to dissect what exactly makes the best Redemption decks tick from a theoretical perspective. Armed with this knowledge, we can then apply our deck building principles to constructing new decks.
To start our series, we are going to discuss the first question I always ask when beginning to conceive of a deck: how am I going to win the game?
This might sound trite, but you’d be surprised how many decks are built without intimate knowledge of how that deck desires to win the game. Without a clearly defined win condition, many decks veer all around the world to include cards totally unhelpful and at times even in contradiction to the decks primary way to win.
Redemption at its core has only a few ways to win. You can win by winning before you lose (speed/aggression), you can prevent the opponent from winning (turtle/lock), or you can try to outlast your opponent through resource management (midrange/balanced). These three distinct win conditions are primarily created because deck space is a limited resource – even with an infinite number of cards, you can only place so many of them in your deck. The choices you must make between cards are created due to a concept known as opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the idea that for each card you select to play, you have lost the chance to play the next best card. For example, suppose you choose to play Mustering for War – certainly an ok card. Suppose the next card you would have played was A Soldier’s Prayer – probably a better card in most decks. Thus, the opportunity cost of Mustering for War was A Soldier’s Prayer.
Sounds abstract right? Let’s try it with numbers by considering an idea (again stolen from economic study) known as expected value of souls. Each card in the game within the vacuum of the deck it is played produces momentum towards rescuing a lost soul (or blocking a rescue attempt). This momentum could be quantified in a number called expected value of souls (EVS) – meaning a card with .3 EVS would put you .3 redeemed souls closer to winning. This number would change due to numerous things – primarily it is affected by other cards used in the deck, the cards played by your opponent, and the gamestate at the moment the card’s ability takes effect.
Let’s consider three cards that we have one spot for in our deck. Card 1 has an EVS of .1, Card 2 has an EVS of 1, and Card 3 has an EVS of .25. What card should be played?
If the answer is obvious to you, it should be – Card 2 produces the most EVS, and thus we should play that card. Consequently, in a vacuum, if one wanted to truly define numbers to each card, an EVS of 1 can only be produced by one card, Son of God – it’s the only card that will always rescue a soul regardless of game conditions. Adding number to the example begs the question though – I’m sure you are all thinking “This is dumb, obviously you want to play the better card”. The thing is, we often don’t play the better card at all. Because of our inability to pick about the complexity surrounding deck building and gameplay, we often select inferior cards that are detrimental to our goal of winning the game.
You might ask “Well why doesn’t someone just do a bunch of math and win games?”. Well, that’s easier said than done. Literal numbers for abilities without direct correlations to rescued souls (such as drawing cards, etc) are basically impossible to determine without a genius intellect and a lot of time to run “trials” – aka play a ton of games in a ton of different controlled conditions. EVS is more valuable as a theoretical idea to consider.
So why did I just waste all that time talking about something we can’t even use in a practical sense? Thinking in economic terms helps us to evaluate each card in more distant ways – by considering its use in a vacuum, we help to eliminate bias caused by that really awesome way we once won a game with that card we probably shouldn’t be using. Economic thinking and deck building isn’t just about the cards you use – it’s about the cards you could be using.
To bring this back around to the concept of win conditions, I mentioned that I find there to be three major win conditions in Redemption. Let’s evaluate common ways that people work against themselves in building decks geared toward two of the previously mentioned win conditions.
The most basic win condition (and the most successful) in Redemption is simply to win before you lose. The goal of this win condition is to use powerful offensive, soul rescuing cards to overwhelm your opponent before you yourself are overwhelmed. This win condition typically produces decks with little space for defensive cards. Ironically, those cards are where I want to focus. In many decks, players focus on stuffing as many blocks into these cards as possible. While this seems good in theory, I’d argue that the most EVS is actually generated by discovering cards that block your opponent in addition to aiding your offense. There’s a lot of reasons why some of the most successful aggro decks utilize cards like The Amalekites’ Slave and Malchus to generate souls to ensure each turn is a rescue attempt, or why good players realize Haman’s Plot is an offensive card that can cripple defensive. Using your defense to bust open your offense can be a key separator in good decks and great decks. Good players recognize that in speed and aggro decks, your win condition isn’t stopping your opponent’s offense, it is making sure that yours can’t be stopped.
Turtle decks designed to simply create a game state where the opponent can not win make some similarly interesting choices. I’ve always questioned using New Jerusalem in lock decks. If the goal is to prevent my opponent from winning, there’s almost always a dominant I’d rather have than New Jerusalem. If my lock deck is working, the extra turn rarely matters – I’m going to win anyway. My win condition has nothing to do with actually rescuing souls. It has everything to do with making sure my opponent can’t.
While I realize parts of those two paragraphs may be controversial, I hope you all can realize the thought behind them. While you may not totally agree, I hope you see the value in thinking through this economic lens during your deck building process. During my next article, I hope to elucidate a very similar concept – the idea of consistency in decks. If you read the boards regularly, you’ve probably seen myself, Westy, or John Earley toss that word around a lot to describe our decks and our thought processes, but rarely has anyone really explained what it means in deck building.
I hope this has been helpful in creating new thoughts to add to your deck building process. Until next time,
Redemption Metagaming @ Land of Redemption
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