A primer on deckbuilding in Standard Warband

Warband is fun, accessible and cheap, whilst still allowing for rich and complex game-play. This is, in large part, due to the rules for deck construction in Warband: The restrictions place a significant cap on max-price (when compared to ordinary 60-card deck construction), encourage the use of a much broader card-pool and yet still allow for highly synergistic and powerful decks.

Goreclaw

Slash cost – not fun! “Goreclaw, Terror of Qual Sisma” by Svetlin Velinov

If you are making the move from ordinary 60 card Standard to Warband Standard the main differences to keep in mind are: the smaller deck-size, the singleton aspect and the restrictions on rarity. Each of these aspects influence game-play and deck building and must be addressed in turn.

As an example deck for this post we’ll be looking at a rotation-proof red/green Dinosaur Ramp deck:

Captains (3)
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Carnage Tyrant
Tilonalli's Skinshifter

Lieutenants (9)
Raging Swordtooth
Forerunner of the Empire
Otepec Huntmaster
Thundering Spineback
Charging Monstrosaur
Dryad Greenseeker
Fight With Fire
Savage Stomp
Dinosaur Stampede

Commons (11)
Colossal Dreadmaw
Llanowar Elves
Sun-Crowned HUnters
Druid of the Cowl
Grazing Whiptail
Lightning Strike
Crushing Canopy
Shock
Shivan Fire
Commune with Dinosaurs
Rabid Bite
Lands (17)
Timber Gorge
Forest
Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Verdant Sun's Avatar
Burning Sun's Avatar
Runic Armasaur
Adventurous Impulse
Plummet
Nature's Spiral
Pounce
Naturalize
Colossal Majesty
Radiating Lightning
Gaea's Blessing
Demolish
Dual Shot
Electrify
Firecannon Blast

Restrictions on Rarity

When putting together your Warband (your deck), the restrictions on rarity lay the greatest constraint on your deck-building process with slots for higher-rarity cards being at a premium.

A great starting point is to consider what your three captains will be (the mythics/rares in your main deck). These are usually impactful enough that they shape the rest of the Warband around them!

A good approach might be to consider where your Warband falls on a scale of “top-down” or “bottom-up”. In a “bottom-up” deck the commons and uncommons are there to support and enable your captains. Once you get your captains out, the game (is hopefully) yours. In the “top-down” deck your captains provide powerful utility features that support and empower the lower tiers of your deck.

The “Dinosaur Ramp” Warband above falls somewhat in the middle of the scale (perhaps leaning toward top-down). Goreclaw, Terror of Qual Sisma is certainly a quite powerful creature in itself. However in this deck it is much more important as an enabler for getting the other dinos on the board (like the Charging Monstrosaur) and supporting them once there!

Likevise Tilonalli’s Skinshifter is a highly conditional card that, nontheless, has a lot of great synergies with the other dinos. Casting him and swinging in on the same turn whilst copying a Thundering Spineback or a Colossal Dreadmaw will win you games out of nowhere. Another great play is to use it to copy Otepec Huntmaster to get an additional mana-discount on your bigger dinos.

Keeping with the theme of building you Warband with the rarest cards first, the (up to) nine lieutenants (uncommon cards) are next in line. This is where you’ll flesh out your deck! Do you have access to enough powerful uncommons to reinforce and support the deck-concept? If so – great! If not, you might want to reconsider the concept.

For the “Dinosaur Ramp” Warband the idea was simply to get a lot of big dinos out and swing for lots of damage before my opponent could get their bearings. Fortunately there’s a lot of good options in uncommon that provide both big offensive creatures (Charging Monstrosaur), great support (Thundering Spineback) and ramp (Otepec Huntmaster and Dryad Greenseeker)

Finally the commons are where your fill in all the gaps and round out your deck. Typically this is where you’ll stick niche support cards (Crushing Canopy) and add bulk cards like removal and more creatures. Finally, in most Warbands, this is where you’ll find room for mana fixing (Timber Gorge). Keep in mind that there is no upper limit to the number of commons your deck may contain.

Check out our Rarity Check tool to help you find the correct card rarity.

“Charging Monstrosaur” by Zack Stella

Singleton Format

In a singleton format (a format allowing only one copy of each card) certain cards and strategies perform differently from a 60 card format.

In general, standard decks become somewhat slower as the access to powerful 1- and 2-drops is much lower. For instance red aggro quickly suffers a performance drop as the availability of good direct-damage spells drop. A common 60-card red aggro deck might contain playsets of Shock, Lightning Strike and Wizard’s Lightning. Needless to say it’s not possible to find 12 individual comparable spells in standard.

Instead part of the fun and challenge of Warband is finding “clusters”: cards with comparable or synergistic function that go well with the theme of the current deck. This is, in fact, one of the most important tips to making a good Warband: Make sure as many cards as possible have strong synergies with as many other cards as possible in your Warband. This will mitigate the singleton-restriction by maximizing your chance of always drawing relevant cards. Of course this can be said of any format but it’s doubly true in Warband!

Another strategy to increase your warband’s consistency is to include cards that clone or copy other cards. The obvious example above is Tilonalli’s Skinshifter. Cards like this basically allows you to play two-offs of your most important cards. Furthermore graveyard recursion might be a good idea as it will allow you to recover critical cards from your graveyard. Since the dino-warband is fairly broad in it’s strategy I have settled for including a Nature’s Spiral and a Gaea’s Blessing in the sideboard to allow me to recover some of my big dinos in case of removal and against mill strategies.

Finally, tutors are always a great way of getting your key-cards out in time. This makes cards like Forerunner of the Empire a must have inclusion. Furthermore, since Warbands are around 40 cards, cards like Commune With Dinosaurs have a pretty good chance of drawing you a relevant card – even in a singleton deck.

“Dryad Greenseeker” by Greg Opalinski

Deck-Size

In general you’ll do well to keep your warband as small as possible – preferably at 40 cards. This means that you’ll draw your best cards as often and early as possible.

With it’s small deck-sizes Warband decks are more vulnerable to milling. This means that you should, for instance de careful when designing control-decks with a lot of card-draw. If your win-conditions end up in your graveyard and your have drawn twice as many cards as your opponent, self-milling might become a legit issue.

On the other hand, milling your opponent also becomes a very appealing strategy with 40-card decks. In particular, with cards like Psychic Corrosion and Millstone being in standard (at the time of writing).

Furthermore, consider the tactical aspect that in singleton formats any card in the graveyard is a card you can be 100% certain won’t be found anywhere else (baring any graveyard recursion). 

 

Mana Base

Mana bases in Warband has a lot in common with mana bases in limited. In general, you won’t go wrong with around 17 lands. For more on constructing limited mana bases check out this episode of Tolarian Tutor.

 

The Sideboard

A separate article on building your sideboard is coming up down the line. But for now, let’s point out a few important aspects of the Warband sideboard:

The sideboard in warband is almost as big at the main-board (minus lands). This means that you have a lot of flexibility in reconfiguring your deck between rounds. Use this to your advantage.

Also make sure to keep in mind that to have a robust sideboard response to threats you might need to include “clusters” of similar cards. To facilitate this, consider choosing flexible and modal cards. Naturalize, Demolish and Crushing Canopy provide the dino-Warband a pretty flexible suite of protection whilst taking up a relative narrow amount of card space. And whilst some of these cards might seem a bit pricey at first the payoff when you use them to take out one of your opponents key cards (Psychic Corrosion) is pretty sweet.

 

That’s it

That’s all for now! Hopefully you’ll feel inspired to grab some of your favourite cards and start brewing! Because that’s what Warband is about: Being able to play with the cards you already own!

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