Clash Royale Deck Building Tips from Pros



Clash Royale Deck Building Tips from Pros by MWolverine63

The deck you take into battle is essential: it’s the core item that determines how you play. I would argue that skill is the most important factor in a match, and your deck gives you the tools to beat your opponent. We are presented with 66 unique cards with different attributes and abilities, and we have to select 8 to take into battle. There’s 2.32E14 different decks, and that number will only increase as more cards are released.

However, this assumes there are no constraints. Let’s specify that one card must be a direct damage spell (7 possibilities). This reduces the number of possible decks to 2.46E13, an order of magnitude smaller. This is an overestimate; this includes the case where 7 cards are direct damage spells (an unrealistic deck).

If we then place the limit that one card must be a win condition (Giant, Prince, Giant Skeleton, Hog, PEKKA, Lavahound, Miner, Golem, Elite Barbarians, Royal Giant, Mortar, and X-Bow), the number of possible decks drops to 4.53E12.

If we add the stipulation that one card must be anti-air (Archers, Musketeer, Baby Dragon, Witch, Spear Goblins, Goblin Hut, Minions, Rocket, Tesla, Minion Horde, Inferno Tower, Inferno Dragon, Fire Spirits, Furnace, Wizard, Ice Wizard, Mega Minion, 3 Musketeers, Electro Wizard, Princess, and Ice Spirit), the number of possible decks drops to 1.30E12. Of course, I’ve made some generalizations here, but this is simply to get a rough idea of how many potential “realistic” decks there are.

Even with three conditions:

  • At least 1 direct damage spell
  • At least 1 win condition
  • At least 1 anti-air card

The number of potential decks is 1,300 billion—that lets each person on Earth have 176 completely unique decks. That’s insane! It becomes clear that there can be no “best deck”. Because of the myriad of options, one deck will always counter some other deck, but this is a good thing. This allows each person to pick a deck uniquely suited to their individual skills or preferences. By building your own deck, you create a set of tools that favor your skill-set and increase your knowledge of card synergies. Deck building is an art, and each person should do it in their own way. A deck is an extension of you, and it should reflect your personality and how you approach a match.

In this guide, I’m going to cover the basics of deck building and share advice from experts on what they think about when making a deck. Please share with me what you think about when making a deck and how you build your decks!


TL;DR

The Component Method

  • Win Condition
  • Meta Response
  • Support

Building a Deck

  1. Build the Win Condition
  2. Build the Meta Response
  3. Build the Support
  4. Test it

Tips from the Experts

I asked 10 tournament experts the following questions:

  1. Where do you start when building a deck?
  2. What do you think about when you build a deck?
  3. How much do you consider the current meta?
  4. Do you ever include cards just because you like playing them?
  5. Do you test a deck before you consider it finished?
  6. What sort of synergies between cards or specific combinations do you try to build? Does this factor into your deck-building process?
  7. Do you have any tips for someone completely new to deck building? Where should they start?
  8. Do you believe there is a difference between a ladder deck and a challenge deck? If so, what are the differences?

The Component Method

I’m going to discuss the Component Method, which is a different way to look at deck building, without as many labels as my original Slot Method.

Let’s talk about the three basic components in any deck:

  • Win Condition
  • Meta Response
  • Support

I’ll expand each component in detail below. Each component in a deck is around 2-3 cards, in general.

Win Condition:

The win condition is the center of any deck, in my opinion. The win condition component is the part of your deck that lets you take out towers. Examples of this are Royal Giant, Giant, Elite Barbarians, Hog, Golem, etc. When we talk broadly about decks, we specify two things: the win condition card and the archetype (Beatdown, Cycle, Siege). For example, my current deck is Giant Beatdown (broadly) while someone else might run Mortar Siege or Hog Cycle.

The win condition component also includes win condition assistant cards. These are cards that specifically enable the win condition: such as Balloon in a GiLoon deck (which I would call Giant Beatdown) or Archers behind a Golem. It can also be a spell, such as Freeze in a Hog Cycle deck. Without these win condition assistants, the deck wouldn’t work as well because the win condition cards on their own can’t get the towers down. This is where synergy comes into play when building a deck.

When you select win condition assistants, you want to pick cards that reinforce your win condition. For example, Tornado works well with Giant Skeleton because it means more troops are destroyed by the death damage. Ice Golem is good with Elite Barbarians because it can explode a misplaced Skeleton Army. When a card has synergy with your win condition, it functions as a fantastic win condition assistant because both cards function even better together.

Meta Response:

The meta response component is the key defense for you deck. This allows you to stop any pushes from your opponent and setup a good counterpush. The reason I called this “meta response” is because you should select these cards based specifically on the current meta game. For example, much of the late summer and early fall was the Goison meta, where the win condition cards were Giant and Poison. This meant that Inferno Tower, Inferno Dragon, and Mini Pekka were seen very often because they weren’t as susceptible to Poison and could rapidly chew through an attacking tank. After the nerf, the meta moved toward Cycle decks, which led to the rise of Tombstone, Cannon, and Furnace. In recent weeks, the Elite Barbarian buff created an EBarb meta, which has resulted in more Skeleton Army and Tombstone. In order to select the appropriate meta response cards, you need to be aware of how the meta is changing.

In general, the meta game is changed by two things:

  • Balance changes
  • Innovative decks

When Supercell releases balance changes, the new stats mean that some cards are simply more powerful than others. This is also affected by which cards were recently nerfed or recently released, and all of these factors create certain cards that feel “better”. Because of this, those cards are seen much more often than statistically expected. This changes the meta most significantly.

However, the meta can change over time, even if balance changes are not released. After a specific meta has been established, players will begin to build innovative decks. Given enough time, decks will turn up that are really good against the current meta. As a result, more players will use the decks that counter the meta, and this shifts the meta in the direction of the new decks. It’s more subtle than after balancing changes, but there is a shift. This is especially obvious with large tournaments that are held on a weekly basis, such as the Super Magical Cup.

If you follow the balance changes, read the CR reddit, watch a Youtuber, etc, you can stay informed on the current meta. All you need is a general sense of what the meta is doing: which archetype is currently favored (Beatdown, Siege, or Cycle) and which win condition is currently favored. A great way to stay informed is to read the bi-weekly Card Popularity Snapshots (for ladder play) by Wwoody123 and the Tier List by ClydeCR (for tournament play).

With this information in hand, you can select the appropriate counters. Ask yourself what the favored win condition is weak to. For example, Hogs are weak to buildings but PEKKAs are weak to swarms. When Graveyard Cycle decks were common, Archers were seen all over because they were strong against Graveyard. Specific cards perform well against specific metas, and you’ll want to pick your meta response cards carefully. You should select at least 2 cards to specifically counter the meta; other cards in your deck should also be decent against the meta, but you don’t have to select more than 2 or 3 meta response cards.

This is the portion of your deck you should tweak. In general, I recommend not changing the core of your deck very often. Once you find something that works, it is likely to continue to work. Wait until you are ready to change your entire deck before changing things. With that being said, you can and should tweak your deck. You shouldn’t be changing your win condition or support cards, but the best thing to change is the meta response component. Notwithstanding balance changes, the interactions of your win condition and support cards don’t change over time. However, the meta does: which means your deck should be updated over time. You should periodically revisit the meta response cards in your deck and ask yourself if they are still effective. You want your deck to be familiar, which is why you shouldn’t change it all the time, but tweaking it can add some freshness to the deck as well as make it stronger in the current meta. If you like changing it up often, I’d suggest curating multiple decks to switch between, so you can still maintain familiarity.

Support:

These cards are the jacks-of-all-trades, the generalists, which aren’t chosen specifically as a win condition or as a meta response. Support cards can function on both offense and defense, and they’re also decent against the current meta. They can play into the win condition, and they’re generally cheaper cards that you can play if you get into a tight spot. Mega Minion is a great example of a support card.

Other cards you commonly see in this slot are Spear Goblins, Ice Spirit, The Log, Ice Golem, and Fire Spirits. I expect the upcoming Dart Goblin will also be a common support card (excuse me, a rare support card). These are all-around solid cards that don’t cost too much. Every deck needs them, but I’d suggest choosing these last. Once you’ve selected your win condition and meta response components, you can broadly look at your deck and go through a mental checklist. Do you have enough splash damage? Anti-air? Direct damage spells? Think about common match-ups (vs. Royal Giant, Hog, Lavahound, etc.) and imagine how your deck would perform. What cards do you want to handle those decks? Go through this mental process to select your support component.


Comparisons with the Slot Method

A few months ago, I published a guide about “The Slot Method“, which was a specific way to build a deck. Basically, I assigned each slot in the deck a function, and you select a card that fulfills that function. I would like to re-visit the slots now in order to illustrate the different components each slot fits into:

Original slots:

  • Win Condition
  • Win Condition 2
  • Win Condition Support
  • Main Defense
  • Defensive Support
  • The Runner
  • Versatile Response Card
  • Spell

Slots with component labels:

  • Win Condition Win Condition
  • Win Condition 2 Win Condition
  • Win Condition Support Win Condition
  • Main Defense Meta Response
  • Defensive Support Meta Response
  • The Runner Support
  • Versatile Response Card Support OR Meta Response
  • Spell Support

It’s interesting to see the overlap between these two methods: they’re both getting at the same ideas. I believe that the Component Method is better for the process of deck building, but the Slot Method is better for analyzing decks. The Component Method illustrates how I think when building a deck, but I’m sure there are people who would rather use the Slot Method when making a deck. (Let me know what you all think in the comments!) Both methods are valid, but they consider the deck-building process in different ways.


Building a Deck

I’m going to walk you guys through how I build a deck and explain my thought process along the way. I’m not an expert, but hopefully you can see how I think about building a deck and learn something from that.

1. Build the Win Condition

I always like to start my decks by selecting the Win Condition. This gives the deck a clear sense of purpose, and it gives me a focus for selecting the remaining cards. I like to know how my deck is trying to get towers down because that can influence the support cards I pick.

I start by deciding which archetype this deck will fit under—Beatdown, Cycle, or Siege. My preferred archetype is Beatdown, but I have gone with Cycle or Siege in the past. Selecting the archetype narrows the potential win condition cards considerably, and I can decide which specific one I want to play with. I think it’s important to pick a card you like, not just one that you can win with or have over-levelled. You want to enjoy yourself as you play, after all!

Once I’ve selected my main Win Condition card, I will select Win Condition assistants to help get that main card to the tower. You should be selecting 1-2 cards solely to help your Win Condition at this point.

2. Build the Meta Response

The next step I approach is building the Meta Response cards. You have up to 3 slots for this component, so you should use them wisely.

Think about the current meta, and make a shortlist of 4-5 cards that you could use to counter it effectively. Then, look at your Win Condition assistants—do any of them counter common meta cards? If they do, you’ll want to select Meta Response cards which counter the meta in a different way—for example, if one of your Win Condition Assistant cards is Bowler, that counters Elite Barbs by pushing them away from the tower. You might select Ice Spirit, as it freezes the EBarbs in place. Another example would be Minions as one of your Win Condition assistants. For your Meta Response, you’d generally want to select a ground response to the meta rather than another air response, to add to the variety in your deck.

Once you’ve evaluated how well your Win Condition assistants counter the meta, you can evaluate the shortlist you made earlier. Decide which combination of those cards counters the most cards in the meta and don’t overlap too much with your Win Condition assistants. Put those in your deck, and remember that you only get 2-3 cards for this component.

3. Build the Support

The last step is to round out the final 2-3 cards in your deck. This is the time for “big picture” thinking. Look at the general stats of your deck—how much splash damage do you have? how much anti-air? do you have a tank-breaker? do you have an offensive damage-dealer? This is where you should imagine some of the match-ups you could face and how you would want to respond to them.

Once you find holes in your deck, select cards to fill those. Support cards should offer responses to a variety of situations, but they can also help your offensive pushes. They’re general cards, allowing your deck to counter a variety of unique decks.

4. Test it

After you’ve built a deck, you simply have to test it. You’ll learn more about the deck playing it in a real match than you ever would looking at it. I’d suggest finding a clanmate around your trophy level and friendly battling them. Have them use a variety of different decks—some Beatdown, some Cycle, some Siege, so you can get a sense of how your deck performs in different situations.

After you’ve played a number of matches, evaluate where you won and where you lost. Think about if the issue could be solved by switching out cards, or if the deck you build is just weak to a certain type of deck. By evaluating this information early, you can continue to find and fix holes in your deck.

Bear in mind that this simulates a challenge match, and you may be building a ladder deck. You should get some general information from this, but don’t make big changes to a ladder deck based on a friendly battle. Test it on the ladder and then make changes.


This is how I build a deck, but you can re-arrange the order of steps. Some people like to start with the Meta Response component and then build their Win Condition. It’s really a matter of preference, and it all works as long as you get all three components built.

I wanted to share some advice from expert tournament players on how they build decks, as I thought that would be most useful in a deck building guide. I asked Woody, Bakalol, Apex, AwDaSea, marcel_p, DarthJarJar, Clyde, Rum Ham, Colton W, and Xhadian the following questions:

  1. Where do you start when building a deck?
  2. What do you think about when you build a deck?
  3. How much do you consider the current meta?
  4. Do you ever include cards just because you like playing them?
  5. Do you test a deck before you consider it finished?
  6. What sort of synergies between cards or specific combinations do you try to build? Does this factor into your deck-building process?
  7. Do you have any tips for someone completely new to deck building? Where should they start?
  8. Do you believe there is a difference between a ladder deck and a challenge deck? If so, what are the differences?

Here are their answers:

1. Where do you start when building a deck?

From Woody:

I start by considering which win condition works well in the current metagame. Every card in your deck should be selected for its ability to cheaply counter your opponent’s attacks while supporting your own win condition.

From Bakalol:

I usually have an idea what my deck needs to actually win games, so I will start off by adding the winconditions (for example golem/lavahound) and then include cards that I think complement the wincondition well while being very good one defense as well e.g. knight in a 3M deck or ice spirit.

From Apex:

I start building a deck just after balance changes have been announced in preparation for the meta ahead. I also start when I deck becomes very popular, and in order for me to win I need to be able to shut down that deck.

From AwDaSea:

When building a deck i usually start with either what i want to play (usually win condition) and work out the support troops appropriate for the current meta. Or i start with what i want to counter (depends on the popular decks in the meta) and go from there.

From Marcel:

First decision: is it a ladder deck or a tourney mode deck. Then I work from what kinds of decks I expect to face, and think about what cards best “counter” them. Obviously not all cards have hard counters, but you get what I mean. These counters may be win conditions or they may be supporting units. So basically I start with what cards will be best against what I expect to face, and work from there.

From Darth Jar Jar:

The most important thing to consider in deck building is how to counter the current most popular meta decks. There needs to be an answer in your deck for the most common pushes you will be saying, and a strategy to beat the most common archetypes.

From Xhadian:

I usually start with the support cards, basically cards that are strong and cover the meta cards – such as 2 spells (zap or log, fireball), then some air defense (musket or archers and minions or mega minion), then a tank as well, often ice golem in this meta, dps like ebarbs, skarmy or just cannon and the win condition spot is very viable because you can just replace the win condition with another one in this meta and it’ll work just fine (replacing hog with miner, graveyard, giant, golem even though there are very small adjustments then).

From Clyde:

I think you should start around a win condition. It’s the most important part of the deck cause well, it’s how you win. Your deck can be the best defensive deck ever, but you’re not going to win unless you have a win condition. This could be any card, ranging from cards like Miner to Rocket to Goblin Barrel, etc.

From Rum Ham:

I tend to think of two-card combos. Usually something like “Lava Hound + Miner is good, could Hog Rider work in place on miner?” and go from there. Usually its janky combos that don’t work out, and then I retreat to my trusty Giant-Poison deck to relearn the fundamentals.

From Colton:

I start by picking my archetype/win condition such as giant,golem,balloon, miner, whatever that may be.

What’s interesting here from the responses is there’s two methods to starting a deck. Some of these players prefer to start with their win condition, while others prefer to start with the Meta Response. Clearly, all of these players have built fantastic decks, which suggests that it truly doesn’t matter if you start your deck with a win condition or with Meta Response: it’s all up to how you want to build your deck and what you prefer.

2. What do you think about when you build a deck?

From Woody:

When building a deck, I think about the role each card plays in countering my opponent or supporting my own win condition. I think about the average elixir cost of the deck and seek to ensure that the cards I pick meet my goal. This could be to get high value from cards regardless of cost (e.g. Three Musketeers) or, on the other hand, to facilitate deck cycle (e.g. Ice Spirit).

From Bakalol:

I mostly think about making the deck a deck that doesnt rely on just having the perfect counter to each situation but that can also just make a move and force the opponent to counter it. But most of the time I still include 1-2 cards that counter the meta.

From Apex:

I think about the current meta, what support cards are good and then see if I can add a certain win condition to that. Another factor is enjoyment: I love playing mortar but I hate playing giant so I’ll build a mortar deck with right support instead of a deck I don’t like.

From AwDaSea:

When building a deck i usually am thinking about how my deck will play out, when it will be strongest, the current meta, how i counter certain cards/decks, elixir cost, etc. Some examples would be when running a golem or lavahound deck it would be strongest in double elixir so i would want good support troops that can counter and help me take minimal damage until i can create an advantage or abuse a mistake made by my opponent. In this same scenario most of my support troops would he 2 or 3 elixir so if i drop a golem/lh i have enough elixir to put up a defence on the other lane.

From Marcel:

Besides what I mentioned in the first step, I’d say the next most important thing is card synergy/balance. For example, if I decide I want to run Tesla to hard counter the air meta, then maybe I’ll give up Mega Minion for Minions. This way I get a great GY defense card in Minions over MM without having to worry that I won’t have a spell-resistant defense against LH/Loon (because I already have Tesla).

From Darth Jar Jar:

The most important thing to consider in deck building is how to counter the current most popular meta decks. There needs to be an answer in your deck for the most common pushes you will be saying, and a strategy to beat the most common archetypes.

From Xhadian:

When building a deck you should make sure that it does decent to well against the most meta decks or cards, currently ebarbs, graveyard, hog rider, balloon, giant/golem. I also think of starting hands and the cycle of the deck, also that it’s not too expensive.

From Clyde:

When building a deck, I take many factors into consideration, including: -What cards are being played in the meta -How do I stop the current strongest/most popular decks -What’s my win condition -Can I beat my deck’s counters -And many other things

From Rum Ham:

At first, simply making the ‘best possible situation’ happen. I remember one deck where I wanted to get Barbarians in with a Barbarian Hut wave. I was playing cards like Mirror to duplicate the Barbs and lots of cycle cards like Ice Spirit to really force this situation to see how effective it could be. Eventually I began to substitute the gimmick cards with better-fitting cards.

From Colton:

You should cards that compliment your first choice while also taking meta spells (meta is meta for a reason, they typically do their job best).

There’s a common thread here: these players think about how their deck will interact with the meta. By thinking about the deck’s interactions with meta cards, they’re putting the deck into the context with which they’ll play it. This lets them make better decisions while building the deck and hopefully save themselves work tweaking it later.

3. How much do you consider the current meta?

From Woody:

Considering the current metagame is crucial to building a successful deck. Predicting what cards your opponents are likely to play helps you construct a deck that counters most opponents while being tricky for them to counter. Decks need not be timeless–they only have to win you the 3-minute game you’re about to play.

From Bakalol:

Not that much, but I will adjust my deck later on if I’m facing too many ebarbs for example, so I might switch out that miner for a tombstone/ice golem for example.

From Apex:

I consider the meta as much as possible because in my opinion, right deck choices can’t win you matches, but it will make it a whole lot easier. Picking skeleton army in a poison meta for example, is I ticket to death.

From AwDaSea:

The current meta is one of the most important factors i consider when creating a deck. It will determine which win conditions can be the strongest at the moment and also which support troops are necessary. I like to build decks that counter the current meta and is the basis for a lot of my decks.

From Marcel:

I’d say considering the current meta is the most important thing when building a deck. The only time this might not be true is if we’re somehow in a meta where it’s incredibly diverse and pointless to try to predict even 2-3 cards that might be common in most decks. This rarely seems to be the case though.

From Darth Jar Jar:

The most important thing to consider in deck building is how to counter the current most popular meta decks. There needs to be an answer in your deck for the most common pushes you will be saying, and a strategy to beat the most common archetypes.

From Xhadian:

You should always consider the meta, you have to either use the meta and/or be able to counter it. If you have no answer to a popular card/win condition, you’re gonna struggle heavily. Also using some of the strongest cards, if they fit into the deck gives you a significant advantage such as ice golem. In this meta you have to be able to counter ebarbs, otherwise you’ll have a big problem.

From Clyde:

The current meta is extremely important when you’re building a deck. I like to build decks that counter the most popular deck in the meta. If a single deck is being played 50% of matches (like old Giant Poison), if my deck is a hard counter to that deck, I’m almost guaranteed to win like 80-90% of those matches. I would also make my deck consistent enough to go relatively even or better against the other 50% of decks I play with. That’s about another 25-30%. Overall, I’ll probably win about 65-75% of my matches, just by having a good deck! If you have decent skills on top of this, you’ll have an even higher win percentage.

From Rum Ham:

A lot. If your first thought is “oh man this deck would crush PEKKA/Witch” then it’s probably not worth building right now. Usually my inspiration starts at some play to counter a card that has been frustrating me which is naturally tilted towards the current meta. Right now I’m trying to figure out an elegant way to beat LavaLoon.

From Colton:

The current meta is sooooo important, whether it’: the support cards that you really need in a deck or whether it’s that you must account for countering meta cards such as graveyard and elite barbs.

The answer was nearly unanimous: you have to consider the current meta when building a deck. As I stated earlier, the best way to stay informed is to watch the reddit (Woody’s Popularity Snapshot and Clyde’s Tier List are great resources to figure out what the meta currently is), watch Youtubers, etc. As long as you’re paying attention to the meta, it isn’t hard to figure out.

4. Do you ever include cards just because you like playing them?

From Woody:

Yes, I play Mortar decks ‘just for fun’ but have not used them competitively for several months now.

From Bakalol:

Yeah, but as much as I like them, I like winning more so if I dont find a way to make this certain card work I will stop trying.

From Apex:

Definitely! I love miner and mortar so I try and include those cards in my deck. Another thing I try to do is play SLIGHTLY off meta and surprise my opponent as they might have faced a giant 100x but a mortar twice.

From AwDaSea:

A lot of times i do include cards just because i enjoy playing them, i will either build a deck around them (or with that card in mind) or they could be a good card already. You have to enjoy the game and in order to do so it is important to enjoy the deck you play. What happens sometimes though is after building the deck you test it out and may find the card not suitable or there is another card you can replace it with that is more versatile or better in the current meta.

From Marcel:

When playing on Ladder/Grand challenges, definitely yes. When playing for $ on the line or in any sort of tournament, I’ll almost always go with what I think is strongest over what I think is fun.

From Darth Jar Jar:

Yes, I enjoy building 3 musketeer decks especially.

From Xhadian:

If they fit into the deck and are good cards as well, yes.

From Clyde:

I try not to, but I usually end up doing it. Lava Hound was my first legendary so I try to always make it work, even when it was bad in the beginning. More recently, I’ve been playing the Lumberjack! Well not anymore since Elite Barbarians came out, but I was using LJ about a month ago, around the time of the King’s cup and I really liked it because it was so fun!

From Rum Ham:

Of course! If you are preparing for a big tournament, then put aside your preferences but for ladder or challenge decks if adding a card makes you happier then you are crazy to not add it. I played Prince a ton simply for enjoying the card.

From Colton:

Yes, I don’t take random stuff like sparky or bomb tower just because but I will take cards that I favor in the current meta like choosing between musket/archers or mega minion/minions.

Again, we have a nearly unanimous answer. It’s OK to take cards in your deck that aren’t necessarily OP if you enjoy playing them. Clash Royale can be a very frustrating game (and getting lots of ties can make it a grinder), and it’s important to enjoy yourself while you play matches. Picking cards you sincerely like playing is the best way to do that.

5. Do you test a deck before you consider it finished?

From Woody:

Absolutely. A deck has to work well in practice, not just seem right from theorycrafting.

From Bakalol:

Testing is crucial to any deckbuilding process. You can build a deck that is looking really solid but has lots of flaws that you didn’t notice before. I consider a deck “finished” if I manage to get to 11/12 wins in a challenge 2 times in a row and even then I’m looking out for better replacement for certain cards that often feel weak or that im not playing as much.

From Apex:

Yes, this is a very important aspect as some decks may look good in concept but when faced with real scenarios it can be as much of a success as a lead balloon.

From AwDaSea:

Yes of course! Every deck needs to be tested as there is a big difference between theory and practice. There is also always room for improvements and changes based on the shifting meta.

From Marcel:

Yes. This is where it helps to be part of a good clan with good players to test decks with. Challenges are a crap shoot and ladder is quite different if the deck youre building is for tourney mode. If you’re building a ladder deck, then sure, testing decks on ladder is a decent way to test. Just make sure you’re aware of anomalistic levels/decks that you face when testing.

From Darth Jar Jar:

Definitely, testing is a part of the process.

From Xhadian:

Sure, I just play games with it and see how it does, what’s the weaknesses of it and try to fix that, then play as well, until I do fine with it.

From Clyde:

I usually test decks with my friends and in ladder tournaments. I have to produce good results with it before I consider it finished.

From Rum Ham:

Hard to say if a deck is ever finished – any balance update likely upends a given 8-card list to be reconsidered. There are always 1-2 card substitutions that can alter how an archetype handles certain matchups (like Knight<>Ice Golem) while keep the deck largely similar. I guess short answer, no a deck is never finished no matter how much testing you do.

From Colton:

Of course, after I make a deck I constantly test and adjust it in friendly battles and challenges or ladder if it’s a ladder deck. Just make sure you watch replays and identify your mistakes rather than changing the deck constantly everytime you lose, you also need to master the deck and there’s such a thing as changing it too much.

This emphasizes how important it is to test your decks. I like my decks to feel good, to feel powerful, and you just can’t know how they feel without playing them in a match. You can analyze a deck for a long time, but you’ll learn much more by playing it in a real match.

6. What sort of synergies between cards or specific combinations do you try to build? Does this factor into your deck-building process?

From Woody:

The cards in your deck should complement each other well, but don’t necessarily need synergy. For example, having one cheap spell (2-3 cost) and one expensive spell (4-6 cost) provides you with a diverse range of options in terms of attacking. For attacking, you should include cards that respond well to cards that counter your win condition. For instance, Lava Hound decks often run Arrows and Lightning to deal with Minions and Inferno Towers/glass cannons (e.g. Musketeer, Mega Minion).

From Bakalol:

I don’t really look at card synergy between 2 cards but how well a card fits in a deck in general. So I won’t just include a dark prince in a deck containing prince because it has a nice synergy.

From AwDaSea:

Great question, it is important to consider card synergies because there may be another card that works better in combination but is overshadowed by another card in the current meta.

An example would be using poison instead of fireball. I use poison instead of fireball in my golem deck because the golem has so much health that poison can get a lot of value over its duration because troops are stuck attacking the golem. I also find it combos well with golem death damage.

Another example is i prefer to use minions rather than archers in my lavahound deck. both units counter graveyard well and fill the same role but with an air tank it can be more valuable to use air troops, they also can be used to distract an inferno tower.

From Marcel:

Already answered this. Nowadays the strongest combos all seem to involve Ice Golem. IG + Hog, IG + Balloon, IG + Graveyard, IG + Ebarbs… #NerfIceGolem

For reference, Marcel’s earlier answer talking about synergy was:

I’d say the next most important thing is card synergy/balance. For example, if I decide I want to run Tesla to hard counter the air meta, then maybe I’ll give up Mega Minion for Minions. This way I get a great GY defense card in Minions over MM without having to worry that I won’t have a spell-resistant defense against LH/Loon (because I already have Tesla).

From Darth Jar Jar:

The basic combination of tank + glass cannon is a classic. For exmaple, I always include two tanks in 3 musketeer decks for a split push.

From Clyde:

I try to build cards that bait the opponent’s cards. Zap bait is a great example of this. My favorite was in the SMC Season 2 Championship when I played 2 3 Musketeer decks. One ran 3M with Elixir Collector and Mirror and was a Poison bait deck.

From Rum Ham:

I tend to think very redundantly – like how could I fit multiple cards that all do the same thing into one strategy? Mini-PEKKA + Elite Barbs + Prince is a lot of redundancy, how could I made that work? Other times I’ll discover a small defensive package that feels so powerful that I want to test out other archetypes to see if I can make them work with that defensive package. Currently Ice Golem, Zap, Tombstone, and Skeleton Army feel like the basis of all my decks.

The least understood thing in Clash deckbuilding is that the game is always and forever going to trend towards quick cycles. We’re probably already there and never going back. Pick 2-3 cards that form your win condition (Lava + Balloon, Golem + Lightning, Giant + Graveyard) then fill out the remaining spots with the cheapest possible answers to the metagame. 6 months from now, cards like Ice Golem, Zap, Ice Spirit will still be top 10 played cards and any new 1- or 2-cost card with any utility will be considered. Get used to the ‘core’ cycle cards and you’ll find it much easier to switch archetypes. There’s only really 2-3 styles of play and the decks within those styles overlap greatly.

From Colton:

Yes, one of the current combos is the defensive combo of tombstone and skeleton army, combos such as that belong together because they count on you having both to bait out zap and to defend effectively.

Here we can see there’s many different ways to think about synergy in a deck, and I’d argue that they are all effective. If you already think about synergy in one specific way, try looking at these answers and thinking about it differently—it could improve your deck building and widen your perspective.

7. Do you have any tips for someone who is completely new to deck building? Where should they start?

From Woody:

Copy another player’s deck that uses at least some of the cards you like to play. You must first learn the game, then you can come to understand the metagame, and lastly you can attempt to innovate on the metagame by developing new decks.

From Bakalol:

I think I would search the strategy posts on reddit if I was completely new, I think someone actually did a writeup on how to build any deck by categorising each card in ranged, high dmg spell, etc.

From Apex:

My tips would be for someone beginning deck building would be, keep the supports relatively meta, but go crazy on the win condition as you won’t be able to control with match without good tempo and defense. Keep costs between 2.8 – 4.1 because otherwise you need to be extremely skilled to maneuver those decks effectively.

From AwDaSea:

When you start out deck building it is important to have a clear goal. Usually i say okay so decks X and Y are popular right now so i will build a deck that has a favourable matchup, however in doing so i will forfeit my matchup against deck Z but i only face deck Z 5% of the time so i should still have a good win rate.

You also need to have a good understanding of all the cards, their interactions, the pros and cons of each and possible replacements. This will help reduce the testing time needed to make an efficient deck.

From Marcel:

If you have no idea what kind of decks you’re going to face, then I’d say stick to a cookie cutter type of process. 2 spells, 1 win condition, 1 or 2 supporting units for offense, 1 structure, and the rest should be well rounded cards that are usually good on defense (like Mega Minion). Keep the average deck cost under around 3.8 unless you really know what you’re doing.

From Darth Jar Jar:

Experiment with variations on established decks.

From Xhadian:

In the end it’s probably the best to just copy a deck from a good player, like from global leaderboard, which looks like it suits your playstyle and then make small adjustments whether it’s because you don’t like playing a card or you have to make changes due to other reasons. But you should know that you can’t use every deck from the global leaderboard on ladder or have to make changes to make it on ladder because top 200 is much more closer to challenges because everybody has the same card levels.

From Clyde:

For someone completely new, I would say to make decks, and practice them. After each match, watch the replay and see whether it was a mechanical error or your deck that suffered. Make deck adjustments if you lose consistently lose because of your deck. If you’re losing because of a misplay, you might want to keep trying it. Compare your deck to the current top decks and look at them side by side. Simulate the battle in your head and think “if my opponent plays this, what do I play to counter that.”

From Rum Ham:

For people entirely new to deckbuilding, I would focus on refining a simple beatdown deck. Whats your favorite tank? Okay play that, and focus all your questions – what support troops or spells to play – around an ideal push with that tank. Sometimes new deckbuilders get a little too crazy and end up discouraged with some wacky combo that is beyond their current skillset.

From Colton:

Start by picking a decent win condition and then build god supportive and defensive cards around it, this typically consists of 1 win condition, 1 defense, 2 spells, 1 tank killer, 1 or 2 distract cards, then the rest support/damage cards that can be versatile. This of course is just a general idea and some decks don’t follow this to a tee.

There’s some great advice here for players new to deck building. I’d encourage everyone to read it, especially if you want to get into deck building more.

8. Do you believe there is a difference between a ladder deck and a challenge deck? If so, what are the differences?

From Woody:

Yes. Ladder decks can be more specialized in their lines of attack, which give them a ‘hit or miss’ style of gameplay. Often if your attacks fail, a strong defense can ensure a draw to preserve your trophies on the ladder. Contrast this with matches under Tournament Rules, which have 2 additional minutes of overtime, often long enough for your opponent to destroy a tower with reliable chip damage attacks, while shutting down your single win condition. Also, Freeze works much better on ladder because it lasts longer.

From Bakalol:

Definitely. A ladder deck should be well rounded, no matter the meta changes unless you have a lot of money that you can spend on leveling all your cards. I picked 3M a long time ago as my win condition and since then I have only been requesting them and leveled them and the few cards i play along with them even though they might not be perfect in the meta but if my 3M are 1 level higher than my other rares that would make them 10% stronger which would kinda break the game. In challenges on the other hand you need a well rounded deck that can beat the meta decks that are around. While you need a counter for RG on ladder you need a counter for Hog and Ebarbs in a challenge. A challenge deck should also make sure to not just lose to a certain archetype while it isnt too bad if your ladder deck does because you dont lose out on rewards if you lose 3 times in a row.

From Apex:

There is a huge difference between challenge and ladder decks because (hopefully) you’ll have lower level cards than your opponent on ladder, and you need to make up for that with certain cards. Like furnace is poor on ladder but awesome in challenges due to the extra chip damage. Both of them have different metas too, like ladder has more princess play while challenges would have more hogs and lavaloons.

From AwDaSea:

Absolutely theres a big difference between ladder and challenge decks. There are a couple reasons why, there is a different meta in challenges and ladder and this leads into the main difference between the two. In challenges everything is tournament standard whereas in ladder it is uncapped. Since it is easier to level up commons and rares than epics and legendaries (although some legendaries can be an exception because they can still perform well underlevelled) you may have more success with a deck that has more commons and rares in it but also you will face more decks based around commons and rares (hog rider and royal giant as win conditions).

For example golem is really bad on ladder when underlevelled because over levelled commons crush it (barbs, ebarbs, etc). Also lavahound performs poorly when underlevelled because the pups can be killed by zap.

You are better off focusing on a specific deck or few cards to upgrade and use for ladder whereas you have a lot more options for challenges.

From Marcel:

Yes. On ladder, it all depends on if you’re facing players with higher cards / tower levels than you or lower cards / tower levels. If you’re playing up, then avoid level dependent cards like Musketeer (dies to 1 level higher fireball), Minions (dies to 2 level higher zap), Furnace (doesnt reach 1 level higher tower). If you’re playing down, play cards like Goblins or Goblin Barrel (takes 3 shots to die to lower level tower), Zap (can Zap opponents Minions/Princess), Barbarians (wont die to IG + Fireball if Fireball is underleveled, wont get charged by Prince, etc.)

From Darth Jar Jar:

Yes. Decks that overperform on ladder usually don’t include cards susceptible to overleveled answers such as minions (overleveled zap). They may also include commons as win conditions because of how easy they are to level up (e.g. Royal Giant, Mortar).

From Xhadian:

Yes, there are clear differences between ladder and challenge decks. On ladder, you are usually underleveled, so some cards aren’t as good as on equal levels, the ones that make a big difference are Furnace (1 hit by tower), Musketeer (1 hit by fireball), 3 Musketeers. You also can’t use some epics if they’re heavily underleveled, let’s say by 2-3 levels, same with some legendaries. Even some whole decks are much worse on ladder if the epics aren’t maxed – specificially zap bait, especially mirror. Other way around some cards can also be very strong when overleveled – best example for that is the RG. The card itself isn’t good or op but it becomes strong when it’s overleveled by 1-3 levels.

From Clyde:

A ladder deck is very different from a challenge deck. Ladder decks have to win in 4 minutes as opposed to 6 minutes, meaning you only get a few significant pushes in, because you only have 2 minutes of 2x elixir (which is why slow decks like Golem is not as popular). Challenge decks can be slower and more defensive until you reach 2x elixir. Also, ladder decks can be a little more risky because if you make a bad play, you just have to stall for the draw, which is why Hog Freeze is popular.

From Rum Ham:

Absolutely. Challenge decks are more balanced and focused on the ‘true’ version of Clash Royale. Ladder decks tend to be made up o primarily commons/rares on both sides. For example, Lava Hound has been consistently a tier 1 or 2 challenge deck for 6 months but you don’t have to really plan for it on the ladder due to under leveled Hounds being susceptible to Zap.

From Colton:

Yes, ladder decks typically utilize more common and rare cards because they’re the easiest to level, elites and legendaries are less used except with maxed accounts. Also a card like freeze is way better on ladder because it scales with time and not damage, therefore a maxed freeze is way better on ladder than a tourney standard freeze in challenges.

I thought these answers were really interesting, especially because I’ve never seen a good answer to that question. When you are building a deck, your first question should be if it is a ladder or tournament deck. This influences which cards are available to you, and what win conditions you pick.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of information here, from the interviews to the Component Method. I’d encourage everyone to take their time to really read this, as I think it can improve everyone’s deck building ability.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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