A Beginner’s Guide to Deck Building
Greetings friends! I posted a similar guide on the Paragon sub-reddit and was asked to bring it over here. I was going to copy-paste it but the formatting tools are much nicer here I decided to do it again from scratch.
Before we begin, the deck attached to this guide is my current Sparrow deck, I’ll be using it as an example. If you play Sparrow feel free to use it, it’s quite a fun deck, but the purpose of this guide is to show you how to built effective decks yourself for any hero and any play style.
This guide also assumes you are familiar with the way decks work in-game, how to buy equipment and apply upgrades etc.
So let’s get started!
- Making a New Deck
- Theory Crafting
- The Basics
- Core Items
- Flex Items
1. Making a New Deck
I’ll be safe and assume you’re as new as can be with deck building, so first let’s cover the deck UI.
Select the ‘Profile’ tab on the main menu, then ‘Decks’
This is your deck list, it’s not much but soon it will be filled with creative and cleverly-named decks!
Now, select ‘New Deck’ and select the hero you want to create a deck for, then hit ‘Save’. Don’t worry about importing cards from your starter deck, this guide will show you how to make your deck from absolutely nothing.
Before we get into building the deck, give it a name! You can edit the name in the top left of the deck building UI. As a general rule of thumb, I like to name mine with cheesy puns, but each to their own 🙂
2. Theory Crafting
I’m sure you’re eager to throw some cards into your deck, but be patient. First we need to get an idea of what our deck will be about.
- What role will you take in your team?
- Does your character scale with Physical or Energy damage?
- Does your character rely more on abilities or basic attacks?
- What core attribute is my deck going to focus on?
For our example Sparrow deck, the answers are as follows:
- An AR Carry, squishy and weak in the early game but scales damage exponentially in the mid-late game.
- Basic Attacks, most of Sparrow’s abilities are simply buffs for her Basic Attacks
- Physical Damage, Sparrow relies on being able to deal incredible amounts of damage for long periods of time
Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to begin building our deck.
3. The Basics
There are a few items that are present in almost every deck, that’s a good place to start building ours.
The Prime Helix
The Prime Helix is the card that activates when your team gets the OP (Orb Prime) buff. It’s incredibly powerful and can turn the tide of a game, or secure the victory for your team.
Choosing a Prime Helix is simple, there are only 3 to choose from
- The Archmagus (Energy Damage) – Choose this if you are focusing on dealing damage and your character scales with Energy Damage.
- The Warlord (Physical Damage) – Choose this if you are focusing on dealing damage and your character scales with Physical Damage.
- The Centurion (Health) – Choose this if you are focusing on taking damage, as an initiator or tank.
For our example Sparrow deck, I’ve chosen The Warlord. Sparrow scales with Physical Damage and I am focusing on dealing damage.
The Basic Items
There are a few items that are present in almost all decks, they are usually the first items you buy at the start of the game.
- Health Potion
- Mana Potion
These are in EVERY deck, never forget them, they are a cheap and valuable resource. The next cards are optional.
- Harvester’s Key
- Scout’s Ward
Take either of these depending on which is more useful. If you intend on jungling and building harvesters, even just a single harvester, take the Harvester’s Key. Otherwise take the Scout’s Ward.
4. Core Items
Now begins the fun stuff. The core items will define your deck, shape the way your build will work and how your character will play. These items will be used more often than any other equipment you put into your deck.
Remember the questions we asked during our Theory Crafting? This is where we put our theory into practise.
Before we choose our equipment, I’ll take some time to explain how equipment and upgrades work.
- Equipment can be bought at any time, they are placed on one of the 6 equipment slots in-game. Slots 1 to 4 are for active items (Items that can be used). Slots 5 and 6 are for passives (Items that have no usable ability). Note that you can place passives in slot 1 to 4, but no vice versa.
- Each Equipment (To my knowledge) has 3 slots for upgrades.
- Each Equipment has 1 or more Attribute bonuses. It may also have an Active Ability and a Fully Upgraded Bonus (A bonus that becomes active once 3 upgrades have been applied to it)
- Upgrades can only be bought when there’s equipment to apply it to, upgrades can not be placed on your equipment bar.
- Upgrades can only be applied to equipment with a mutual Attribute. For example, Windcarver Blade has bonuses to Physical Damage and Attack Speed, you can only apply Strike (Physical Damage) and Kinetic (Attack Speed) Upgrades to Windcarver Blade. You can not, for example, apply Chrono (Cooldown Reducation) Upgrades to it.
You will need 4 Core Equipment since there will be 4 spare slots after Potions have been bought. You might be asking “What about the Harvester’s Key or Scout’s Ward you told me to buy?”. Towards the end of a game you may want to discard these items for a 4th equipment. You may not, but it’s important to have the equipment in your deck anyway.
These equipment will have the Attribute bonuses you think will be most beneficial to your character. These are the perfect scenario, the ideal path to becoming a killing machine, or an unstoppable beast, in the end game.
Select the ‘Filter’ button at the top of the UI, here you can filter items by Attribute. Select your core Attribute, the one we decided on in the Theory Crafting section. For our example Sparrow deck, this will be Physical Damage.
Look through the Equipment that the UI has now filtered for you, ignore the cards marked ‘Upgrade’, those come later.
Find an Equipment that has a meaningful and relevant secondary Attribute bonus, Active ability or Fully Upgraded Bonus. For our example Sparrow deck, this will be Windcarver Blade (Physical Damage and Attack Speed).
So now we have some Damage and Attack Speed, what next? Well, basic attacks are no good without some Crit Chance, so let’s add a Spear of the Rifthunter to our example Sparrow deck.
Keep going in this fashion until you have a complete set of Core Equipment. For our example Sparrow deck I added a second Windcarver Blade and a Blade of Agora (Physical Damage, Crit Bonus on Fully Upgraded).
That’s our Core Equipment taken care of!
Equipment is no good on it’s own, the Attribute bonuses are pretty pathetic! So we need to get some upgrades to make them better.
Each of these Equipment needs 3 Upgrades, each of these Upgrades needs to be compatible with the Equipment (As described at the top of this section of the guide). Fear not, young Padawan, there’s a simple trick to this!
Click on your Equipment in the deck list to the left of the deck building UI and select ‘Filter By’. The cards will now be filtered to only show upgrades compatible with that equipment. Neat, huh?
Now, select 3 Upgrades per equipment, no more, no less. In our example Sparrow Deck we’ll upgrade our Windcarver Blade with a Major Kinetic and 2 Major Strikes, a little bit of Attack Speed and a lot of Physical Damage.
Note: Try to use mostly Advanced/Major versions of the Upgrades for now, add in some higher or lower cost versions if you don’t have enough Advanced/Major. We’ll discuss the use of different cost Upgrades in the Balancing Item Cost section later in the guide.
That’s our Core Build done! But we’re not finished yet.
5. Flex Items
Our deck so far is fine, we have enough Equipment and Upgrades to take us all the way to the end of the game. So why are we still talking? Well, our deck has a problem, there’s only 1 route we can go, what if we suddenly need a different Attribute bonus because the game has taken a different turn?
Maybe you’re dying too fast before you can get the damage in and need some more defense, or maybe that pesky Kallari keeps disappearing after 2 shots and you’d rather have more damage per shot than Attack Speed. This is where Flex Items come in.
Flex Equipment can be used to replace your Core Equipment when you require a slightly different set of Attribute Bonuses. These aren’t total overhauls of your Core Build, the Core Attribute that you built your deck around will still be the same, but you may need different secondary Attributes, or a certain Active Ability, depending on your opponent’s team composition or the state of the current game.
An example? Of course!
When playing our example Sparrow deck, I came across a problem in some games. If the enemy team are particularly tanky, or are very efficient with their escape, fights can go on longer than I’m prepared for, and I run out of mana!
So, I put a Fountain Spike (Physical Damage, Max Mana) in the deck that I can use the replace one of my Windcarver Blades with. Fountain Spike still has the Physical Damage, but I trade a bit of Attack Speed for some extra Mana. Problem solved! I can now sustain my damage and ability usage during those longer fights.
In another game, our team was losing and the enemy was pushing our core. I didn’t have the armour to defend properly and my zoning ability (Rain of Arrows) couldn’t be used often enough.
So let’s put a Lantern of Spring (Energy Pen, Physical Armour, Cooldown Reduction) in our deck, now we can defend like we were born to do it!
We’re going to handle our Upgrades slightly differently this time.
Since our Fountain Spike is going to replace our Windcarver Blade, we already have 2 spare Major Strikes in the deck, so there’s no need to add them again! We simply add an Advanced Mana to replace the Major Kinetic and we’re all done.
Adding Flex Upgrades in an efficient manner like this will give us more room for even more Flex Equipment. The more Flex Items you can add to a deck, the more situations your build is prepared for.
Lantern of Spring shares no Attributes with any of my Core Items. This item is a last effort to adapt myself to the game and prevent myself falling behind or simply losing the game. Therefore we need to add 3 more upgrades to the deck, I’m going to add an Advanced Chrono and 2 standard Chrono Upgrades.
That’s it! Your deck is built, keep playing games and finding situations your deck is not prepared for, then add new Flex Items so you’re ready next time!
That’s all she wrote, for now. Once you are comfortable with everything in this guide and would like to know more, I have written an Advanced Deck Building Guide that talks about Deck Structures and Optimizing for 60 card points, Build Orders and Timings, and Throw-Away Items; which you can find here.
I hope you found this guide useful, feel free to comment with any questions you have. I’ll make an FAQ at the end of this guide if some questions turn up often.
Best of luck to you all, I’ll see you on the battlefield,
Update 1: We reached 1000 views and this is now the top rated guide on the website! Thank you all so much, I’m glad my time and effort is appreciated. I will continue to write guides and help this community grow, if there’s anything you’d like to request I’d be happy to take a stab at it. I’ve just finished an Advanced Deck Building Guide and I’m working on a Sparrow Build Guide 🙂