I’ve been playing digital card games almost every day for probably a decade now. For the past few years, that has meant regular games of Legends of Runeterra. Before that, I was obsessed with Hearthstone, and then Gwent. Recently, Marvel Snap snapped at me. So here’s a confession: I still don’t like deck building.
I am a web tracker through and through. This means instead of building my own decks, and figuring out my own strategies, I simply look them up online, copying decks laid out by experts and influencers with far more time to delve deeper into their decks than I do.
In almost every online blackjack community, this is considered a shameful admission. People routinely dismiss their opponents as web surfers, or blame them for losing the spark for team play. It’s synonymous with fool – an imaginary player is someone who thoughtlessly pilots their copied aircraft, not out of skill or intelligence, but simply because they have a proven kit. They steal the guts of the better players, and thwart the efforts of real, honest people who are just trying to move up the ladder in the sweat of their brow. Or so the thinking goes.
The logic is that, as netizens copy decks, they lead to homogenization – too many people copying the same decks means you keep running into those popular decks over and over again, especially if said decks are advertised or broken. But the irony is that these are the same communities that discuss meta so exhaustively, dividing competitive play into a narrow range of optimized decks and rejecting as useless any card that doesn’t fit a Tier 1 strategy. It is precisely their attitude towards competitive play that has reinforced this lack of diversity.
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It’s also built on the common fallacy in almost every multiplayer community that everyone believes: when I win, it’s because I’m skilled, and when I lose, it’s because my opponent used some OP shit. They were weaker than me, and the developers are incompetent to allow that, and it’s everyone’s fault but me.
The truth is that you can copy the lineup of the best player in the world, but you still need skill and experience to use it. Bad players are not ranked, no matter what lineup they use. You need to be able to understand what the group is trying to achieve, and how, and you need to respond step by step to what your opponent is doing. You need to know the other archetypes in the deck, so you can counteract what they are trying to do, and you need to remember which cards are in your deck that have already been drawn.
People who don’t understand the decks they copied are easily spotted and overpowered. They’re like fighting game players who keep spamming the same move, with no sense of the rhythm of the match – and if you can’t beat Ryu who keeps throwing fireballs, that’s on you, not them.
I consider myself a good card player. If nothing else, I have many hours on the books. I really enjoy the slash and shove of a good match, and love that it’s multiplayer that’s just based on outsmarting your opponent, rather than relying on my terrible reflexes or shaky aim. I’m not very good at deck building, nor do I enjoy it. Most of all, what I don’t enjoy is worrying about being held back in a match by the choices I made before it even started. This isn’t always a rational fear, but playing cards that already have the seal of approval from others allows me to focus on incremental action, rather than always thinking about what I could have swapped or swapped.
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And this does not mean that I only play the first three floors. I regularly pull out relatively odd or weak combos, to try out different archetypes or complete specific tasks. I suspect a lot of my fellow netizens do the same. If anything, when you stray off the beaten path, you want to rest assured that you’re working with something that’s tried and tested.
I also believe that there are a lot of fellow netizens. Each major digital card game has multiple locations completely dedicated to providing the easiest possible access to pre-made decks. Each influencer focused on these games plays videos introducing their decks for viewers to use. It’s obviously big business, and that means there has to be a huge player base that looks a lot like me. Now, democracy doesn’t always arrive at the right answers, but surely it is ineffective for societies to hate a group that should make up a large percentage of the actual players of games? Dare we even suggest, that many of the people who complain may also be playing themselves up, maliciously?
So let’s stop pretending. Our web uploads, which is okay. It’s okay to enjoy one aspect of the game more than the other, and to look to the experts for tactical expertise. It’s okay to use shortcuts, in a game you’re probably playing more to relax than anything else. May it be your decision in 2023 to stop shaming your fellow gamers. None of you are sinless, and besides, rock-throwing has been completely affected in the latest patch.