One of the most important skills in any constructive deck-building game is designing and perfecting decks. It takes many people years to gain confidence in applying theory to build a strong decklist that they can begin testing. Without strong deck-building skills, it is difficult to understand why successful players make the choices they do. But on today's episode of DBGT, we will discuss a strategy to help you become more confident in your deck building approach. Playtesting is only as useful as the quality of play and quality of lists, and IIFYR is a philosophy to help you remain steadfast in your deckbuilding skills if initial playtesting is suggesting your deck may not be as positive as you expected.
While there are multiple deck-building methodologies, the method I have had the most success with throughout my card game playing career has been built around an idea I call If It Fits Your Ratios (IIFYR). Inspired by the nutrition concept of “If It Fits Your Macros”, IIFYR is a 3 step process to assist in deck building:
Step 1: Build based on ratios grounded in theory.
Step 2: Participate in Intentional Playtesting with the intent to learn, not to win.
Step 3: Edit and Adjust Ratios based on Playtesting.
To elaborate, “theory-grounded ratios” refers to this idea that if you have a set of rules that justify why you should run 1,2,3, or 4 copies of a card in your deck, it. The tool gives you an effective starting point as to what the outline of your deck should look like. While discussing how to playtest and edit ratios based on playtesting results is outside of the scope of this article, I will share the methodology I use to justify how many copies of a card I should run:
When to Run 4 Copies:
Many players gravitate towards running as many quadruples of cards in their list as possible in order to maintain consistency and minimize variation in cards they may draw. Characteristics of cards to seriously consider maxing out on are:
When you always want access to a copy of the card: An ideal card that warrants running four copies of is playable at all times of the game. In late game, the first couple turns of the game, or when the card has the ability to impact the game at
any point. I am reminded of cards like Boost Attack Piccolo, that even though you cannot use the cards effectively until you are at 4 life, the boost to your deck’s combo ability and free draw justifies playing four copies in virtually every deck. Understand this idea does not just refer to drawing cards, but when you want to be able to tutor cards from different places.
When you want to open the card and are comfortable seeing multiples: When you run four copies of a card, understand there if you are going second, there is a 9% chance of opening with two copies of a card before considering mulligans. In 24 games of a 8 round event, that means you are going to open two copies of that card you are running four of 2-3 times; and that’s if you only run one set of 4 copies! While the problem can be mitigated through charging copies of cards, it is a dangerous mentality to dismiss too many cards in your deck as “energy fodder’.
When the card is most powerful when played together: Cards like Whis’s Coercion is great because it gives you a second energy to interact with the board afterwards. One of the most frequent uses for this extra energy is to play additional copies of Coercion to be able to negate every attack for a turn. If your cards interact with themselves in a similar fashion, you should consider running four.
When another card or card engine demands you run the maximum amount of copies to reliably achieve desired results: When you think about cards like Avenging Frieza that search the top of the deck for specific cards, it’s mandatory
that you run a certain number of cards to reliably resolve those abilities; the targets of those cards often demand consideration for being ran at the maximum 4 copies. You can use hypergeometric calculations to calculate how many targets you need for a particular ability.
By the same concept, you should consider “card sequencing” whenever you are considering how many copies of a card to run. For example, if a deck runs both Bulma, Supporter of the Future and Full Power Trunks, it would not make sense to run more copies of Full Power Trunks than Bulma, because the player wants to open Bulma to tutor the Trunks, otherwise copies of Bulma will be dead later. In this specific example, it is frequently okay to run the same number of copies of both, because it is unlikely you will draw all your Trunks before you Bulmas, keeping them alive for a longer portion of the game.
When to Run 3 Copies:
In general, the criteria for running 3-of’s are similar to maxing copies, with the following two exceptions:
When you want to see the card every game, but do not want to open multiples:
As discussed earlier, it is dangerous to attribute too many dead cards in your hand to being energy fodder- consider cutting some of those cards to 3-of’s.
When a card is not in integral part of your strategy, but supports it or covers it’s weaknesses: In a deck focused on resolving strong combos or having a consistent curve, those cards are often played at 4. I’m reminded of cards like Hidden Awakening Kale when I think of 3-of’s. Few decks are built around the idea of playing Kale on turn 4 every single game, but you often play Kale to counter decks that play many Battle cards quickly in the first few turns of the game.
When to Run 2 Copies:
When you do not want to open with the card: High end cards that cost 6 and 7 can be concerning to run in large quantities. If your deck is built around always playing a high-costed card, you should prioritizing minimizing the number of other cards that will frequently be charged for energy.
When you don’t need to resolve the card every game to execute your win condition: While sidedecks alleviate some of this need, there will be cards that you will probably run in your main deck for certain matchups, and end up not playing in others. Most would encourage you to limit the number of copies you play to around 2.
When your deck cannot afford to play more than one copy, but you want to play the card most games: A perfect example of this idea can be found in Result of
Training. You will frequently want to cast RoT at least once during the course of a game, but any additional copies you see will be dead. For many decks, RoT is an excellent card to run two copies of.
When a card you want to play most games has a tutor: If you run copies of high-costed cards or cards you generally only want to cast once per game, like Whis, Resting Attendant, having Bulma, God Temper in your deck alleviates the need to run all four copies.
When to Run 1 Copy:
While of course, cards like Ultimate Force SSB Vegito makes it easy to decide to run one copy based on the rules saying so,
When your deck cannot afford to cast more than one copy:
Cards like Bad Ring Laser and Lightning Speed Vegeta can have expensive costs tied to their effects that make resolving these powerful effects difficult. Cards that fit this category should often be relegated to 1-2 ofs.
When the impact of a card is greatly diminished after the opponent knows you run a copy of the card:
In a tournament setting, some games can be won by surprises alone. When I expect my opponent to simply cast a Whis’s Coercion, and they end up using a Pilaf or a Mafuba, they could throw my whole plan off kilter. Cards that work best because they are a surprise should either be ran in fewer copies, or frequently placed into the sideboard for later games. Cards like Vados's Assistance and
Zarbon, the Emperor's Attendant would be other examples of cards that have a high impact when they go unexpected, punishing your opponent for not considering the cards when debating the sequence of their attacks
When a card can be tutored for niche situations:
When we think about decks like RBG Cell that generally run a very light blue package, we see them frequently choosing the blue Son Gotens and child Trunks cards, only so they can search a blue card to play their Senzu Beans later. Cards like Frieza’s Call tutoring a Cui can be huge against Vegeta decks trying to hit with a 10,000 power Critical Leader. If your card fills a niche situation like the above, it probably only deserves a single slot in your list.
To imitate an additional copy of a card you already run 4-of: When you compare cards like Unyielding Trunks to Zen-Oh Button, that fulfill similar roles of protecting a player after a turn they use all their energy, the cards are functionally very similar. Playing a spread like 4 Unyielding Trunks and 1 Zen-Oh button effectively gives you a 5th copy of Unyielding Trunks. The difference between 4 and 5 copies is significant, as when going second, you have over a 50% chance of opening with a card you effectively run five copies of.
How does IIFYR Work?
The application is pretty straightforward - simply think about the context of the card you are playing, consider which rules apply most accurately to the purpose of the card you are playing, and start deckbuilding and tested using the most applicable number. Let’s show it in application by reviewing a deck from the recent ARG Las Vegas event!
Leader: SSGSS Son Goku, The Soul Striker
4 Energy Boosted Majin Buu
3 Bulma, Supporter of the Future
4 Boost Attack Picollo
3 Bundle of Curiosity Son Goku
3 Raging Spirit Son Gohan
1 Light of Hope Trunks
4 Hidden Awakening Kale
4 Energy Boosted Beerus
3 Raging Attacker Vegeta
2 Determined Super Sayian Son Gohan
2 Full Power Trunks
4 Super Sayian Gotenks
3 Whis’s Coercion
3 Senzu Bean
3 Result of Training
Let’s explore a couple of his specific card choices:
1x Light of Hope Trunks:
-Not useful before turn 5; the deck aims to end the game around turn 6-7
-Can be tutored by Bulma, Supporter of the Future
-Fills a niche of being a blue card that is searchable by Bulma if needed to ensure the player has a blue energy to charge next turn.
-Not a card that is useful in matchups against faster decks
-Is a card that can be useful in multiples to stack on top of a powerful leader, albeit a situational play
-The deck plays 3 copies of Bulma, Supporter of the Future, so it makes little sense based on sequencing to run less than 3 Trunks total.
Verdict: Light of Hope Trunks makes a lot of sense as a 1-of in my book given the goal of the deck and the times it will be useful. There is some evidence that the card would be useful as a 2-of given the concern of opening with the single copy, having dead Bulmas in the late game, or it being stuck in Life, but I would probably start by testing one in here, as well.
2x Determined Super Sayian Son Gohan:
-Gives the player a 4 drop to play during the deck’s big turn 6 plays of <play 4
drop>, <attack with leader>, <play second 4 drop>. To reliably resolve this play, the first 4 drop often needs to be a blue Battle card, so over-saturating the deck with green late-game cards is a legitimate concern.
-Low attack power limits it’s usefulness in closing out games.
-Fills an important role on destroying Perfect Form Cell if they play it on turn 3 or 4.
-Particularly weak against Cold Bloodlust
-Is very useful against decks that struggle to awaken.
Verdict: 2 copies of the card makes a lot of sense to me! The deck is tight for space in a lot of ways, but DSS Gohan fills an important niche of being able to help the deck against a strong Android or Cell deck that discard the player’s hand early. At the same time, there will be games against Mecha Frieza or Captain Ginyu decks that Kale or Beerus will play a similar role better. The card does support the deck’s weaknesses without being necessary in every match up however, and I do think a third copy of the card would be very justified. You would never want to see multiple copies of Gohan in your opening hand however, and I think that justifies never playing 3 copies in and of itself.
3x Raging Spirit Son Gohan:
-The leader will often have one extra Energy at the end of turns due to it’s effect, allowing for easy resolution.
-Allows the player to quickly play a Battle Card to be sacrificed for Hidden Awakening Kale’s effect later on.
- Is useful against decks that play very aggressively
- Is a strong follow-up after using Whis’s Coercion to negate an attack.
3x Raging Spirit Son Gohan is one of the more questionable decisions in this deck list to me. On one end, I don’t mind opening with multiple copies in most matchups, or opening with the card. At the same time, I always want access to the card during aggressive matchups like RB Vegeta.
I suspected a big reason for Noe playing Raging Spirit here is for the support for his full playset of HIdden Awakening Kale’s he chose to use. While the card will probably test essential in some matchups, the purpose of the card is to support his other cards more so than to win the game itself - that earns the 3x spot for me. It is worth noting Noe sides the fourth copy, illustrating that the card certainly fits a lot of the criteria to be played in fours.
-Allows the player to get to 5 Energy quicker, activating Result of Training and ensuring the deck can awaken.
-Is a card the player always wants to open with.
-Is not a card player wants to see in multiples later in the game.
-Has unique combos in the early game using the Leader ability to play two Objections on turn 2.
Verdict: 3 copies versus 4 copies of Objection is one of the most heated conversations among high level players. On one end, the card rarely does anything once the player has 5 or 6 Energy. At the same time, most decks really rely on playing Objection on turn 2 or 3 in order to keep up with other decks playing Objection. One of the criteria of playing four copies of a card is that ‘you like opening with multiple copies’, and I am a huge fan of opening with multiple copies of Objection, just so I can charge the second Objection through the effect of the first. While in general, I believe Objection fits the criteria for playing four copies of in most decks, The Soul Striker deck gets bonus points for being able to use the Leader effect to play both copies on turn 2 if the player opens appropriately. I think four copies is the right answer in this deck, but testing 3 copies versus 4 copies would be one of the first changes I would explore.
Remember: None of these “rules” should be followed unconditionally. Many cards throughout your playtesting may fit into multiple (or all!) of these criteria. Perfect Form Cell is a card I almost never want to draw, but is a card I almost always want to be in my deck so my Evolving Evil Lifeform Cell has a strong target. Those ideals strongly conflict with the IIFYR model, but as you consider how integral of a card the deck is to many strategies and how it is needed when considering card sequencing, the scale often tips to the card deserving a slot as a 3-4 of in decks built around it.
Once IIFYR helps you build your deck outline, playtest and adjust to fine-tune your ratios and to perfect a deck you can be proud of!