Previously we covered Spell decks. Today’s article covers the other skill archetype of Mad Scientists and Gadgets.
What are Mad Scientists, Gadgets, and their consequences?
In Doomtown, science can be just as powerful a weapon as the most destructive spells or legendary gunslingers. The dudes who use science to create the gadgets of the Weird West are known as Mad Scientists. You can identify such dudes because they have the “Mad Scientist” keyword along with a number representing their Mad Scientist skill rating. You can also identify the goods that are gadgets as they have the “Gadget” keyword.
Gadgets have a special way of entering play, called “inventing.” In particular, a mad scientist needs to attempt to build the gadget you want to play, as science is a tricky business and it could always fail! “Inventing” a gadget is a subset of “Shopping” in the sense that the rules of “shopping” apply to “inventing” as well. So in order to build a gadget, you’ll need an unbooted Mad Scientist at a location you control (similar to the requirement to bring Goods and Spells into play). After that, the following process occurs
1) Boot the Mad Scientist who will attempt to invent the gadget
2) Pay the ghost rock cost of the gadget you’re going to attempt to invent
3) Make a skill test check against the difficulty of the gadget by doing a Pull (this is done by revealing the top card of your deck and using the rank value of the card similar to a spell check)
The rank value of the card you reveal plus the mad scientist rating of your dude must equal or exceed the difficulty of the gadget. For example, if you attempt to invent a Yagn's Mechanical Skeleton with Elander Boldman, and pull an 8, you would succeed since 8 plus the 2 from Elander Boldman’s Mad Scientist rating is greater or equal to Yagn's Mechanical Skeleton’s 9 difficulty. Conversely, if you were to pull a 4, you would fail the gadget check since 4 plus 2 is 6 which is less than the 9 difficulty. This portion is very similar to the previously covered Spell checks.
Assuming a successful gadget check, that gadget now attaches to the inventing Mad Scientist. There are cases of gadgets that enter play differently. For example, gadget deeds would need to be placed as a new location, whereas gadget dudes would enter play as a dude at the mad scientist’s location but be just like any other dude as opposed to a goods.
What is very different though than spell checks though are the consequences of failing a gadget check. If you were to fail a gadget invention check, the following happens
1) Discard the card you were attempting to invent.
2) Lose all the ghost rock you paid for the attempted gadget.
3) The booted mad scientist remains booted.
If you add all that up, failing a gadget pull can be a fatal turn of events for a gadget deck.
Note that you can trade gadgets between your dudes. This means that while one Mad Scientist builds the gadgets, other dudes can use those gadgets! This is important because Mad Scientists don’t tend to be the most effective fighters, but your stronger dudes reinforced by strong gadgets can become an unstoppable force!
How do gadgets decks win?
At the most general level, Gadgets decks win by using gadgets to take over the board and apply pressure. The pathways to do this are pretty varied. You can use powerful stat buff gadgets like Yagn's Mechanical Skeleton to dominate the board. Alternatively, some of the powerful gadget deeds like Miasmatic Purifier, can apply control point pressure quickly on your opponent. Gadgets offer lots of flexibility in how you want to approach the game. There are even cards that can give you a strong economic boost like Disgenuine Currency Press, which can help you attempt to landslide your opponent. You can even use something like Decimator Array to attempt to win shootouts with straight flushes in Hearts which is usually a difficult hand rank to achieve! One of the most fun parts about gadget decks is the sheer variety of strategies you can explore!
What are the strengths of a gadget decks?
The core strength of a gadget deck is that the gadgets (once you get them on the board) should give you a consistent advantage to leverage throughout the game. Even something like a Flame-Thrower can turn the most basic of dudes into a monster on the board. In general, gadget decks are absolutely brutal to fight against once they get completely setup. From a long-game perspective, gadget decks are absolute terrors. In addition, gadget decks tend to come with a lot of flexibility. Assuming you have the mad science chops, you can sprinkle in gadget deeds like Secured Stockyard to help get a strong economy going, invent a powerful gadget dude like POST-A-TRON to provide a strong shooter who can also get you ghost rock, or even make a Force Field to help you weather a bad shootout round (assuming you have the ghost rock)!
In addition, some gadget decks have some powerful actions that can give your opponent headaches! A Slight Modification can negate a shootout action, which is an incredibly powerful effect in DT:R. A card like Technological Exhibition can help you get gadgets out of your discard pile basically for free and if you have control of town square, allow you to generate control points to boot!
What are the weaknesses of a gadget deck?
Gadget decks generally have two primary weaknesses that require management. First, until your gadgets are on the board, it can be difficult to apply pressure to an opponent. This is similar to the issue affecting spell decks where without spells, your board will be quite weak. There is also always the chance you don’t see the gadgets you need to get your deck going, resulting in your deck “punting.” While this can be managed by loading as many gadgets into your deck as possible (and using grifters to manage your opening hand), it’s just one of the baked in risks of attachment based decks in any game. Jobs like Mugging can be brutal against you as they ace two of your key gadgets on the board, resulting in your losing the tools necessary to push the game in your favor. That said, a card like The Whateley Estate can let you cycle them back into your discard pile so you can gain access to them again.
The second weakness is that if you lose your mad scientists, a sizable chunk of your deck is now just dead cards. Gadgets aren’t very useful when you can’t invent them! What this boils down to (and is somewhat related to the first weakness) is that gadget decks need to be wary of aggression attempts to knock mad scientists off the board. Law Dogs players often start Judge Harry Somerset (Exp.1) and “blitz” against a deck with mad scientists. The goal here is to knock off mad scientists fast enough to cripple a gadget deck. The game does have some built in ways of combating aggression. Many gadget decks will start at least one defensive shooter like Jacqueline Isham or The Caretaker to help fight off reckless blitz attempts and give you a chance to setup.Also remember that you can trade invented gadgets. This allows you to turn anyone into a good shooter. So even if you start with some weaker shooters, your gadgets can turn them into formidable fighters later.
Special challenges of a building / piloting a gadget deck
The biggest challenge of building gadget deck is minimizing the amount of cards that can result in you failing a pull. I cannot emphasize this enough, failing a gadget pull is catastrophic and should be avoided at all costs. Early in a game, you cannot afford to just throw ghost rock away, and discarding a gadget means you won’t see that copy most likely until it cycles back. As such, when you include gadgets with high difficulty ratings, understand that you are locking out a lot of powerful values out of your deck. Powerful gadgets like The Wretched, have high difficulty ratings (in this case 9) so consider the cards you can play alongside it. While Mad Scientists with mad scientists ratings above 0 tend to be expensive, they also justify the extra cost because of the deck building options they open up by minimizing the chances you fail a mad scientist pull.
The other aspect to consider is the management of your deck itself during the game. As we discussed in the 16x3 article, playing cards out of your deck inevitably weakens your draw structure if you go with a stacked structure. Remember, the best way of guaranteeing you see the copies of the gadgets you need is to include 4 copies of them. This naturally leads gadget decks to be stacked decks. As a player, you need to manage whether that second, third, or fourth copy of a gadget is worth it against possibly weakening your draw structure down the road. On the opposite end, some people try to make decks that are looser upfront, but get better as more gadgets are brought out. The only risk with this is that if your deck gets forced into an early shootout (e.g. via Kidnappin'), you can be forced to fight from a very weak position. In those instances, it becomes mission critical to have some strong defensive shooters to try and weather the storm.
What should I learn playing a spell deck / playing against a spell deck
Gadgets decks are a tricky deck type in DT:R to both pilot and play against. As the pilot, you need to have a game plan based on the gadgets you put into your deck. Even if a gadget appears powerful on its surface, if the opposing deck has ways around it, it may make more sense to not pay the ghost rock to build it (or at least consider the board state while building it.) This deck type take some practice to master, and requires a pilot to adapt to situations on the fly to get the most out of their deck. Since gadget decks tend to get better over the long game, patience is critical in playing them and identifying when it’s your turn to apply the pressure. You’ll probably have to take some lumps upfront when playing gadget decks (both when learning them and in the early turns of games), but they can be an absolute blast to play. One other important thing to learn is to identify which gadgets solve which problems, and how many to play without hurting your draw structure too much.
Playing against a gadget deck means that dealing with the opponent’s mad scientists usually becomes your primary concern. After all, if your opponent doesn’t have any mad scientists, they can’t invent their gadgets. However, it’s not always wise to challenge them head on. Strong defensive shooters can cause tons of headaches if you challenge them without strong shootout actions and booting all your dudes on a job can leave your opponent to drop as many deeds as they want to build up an economy quickly.
There are some cards to consider as well. One of the best solutions to a stacked gadget monster is to do an all-out Kidnappin' against a dude with a ton of gadgets, getting the dude and all their gadgets off the board. Another option is Mugging which can cripple a gadget deck by acing their gadgets. If your deck is loose enough, Unprepared can absolutely decimate decks that try to stack gadgets on a single dude, but be mindful that you’ll most likely need to win lowball to get the most out of the effect.
What are some examples of spell decks?
Here is tournament deck from TybarSunsong!
You’ll notice how many gadgets are in the deck! The goal here is not to invent them all, but build enough to get board dominance and use a card like Decimator Array to help make straight flushes with hearts! Thankfully the deck has a great write-up so I’d recommend you check it out!
Here is another tournament deck from Shinjo Hughes!
Somewhat similar to the previous deck above but provides an interesting twist on the style of deck!
Finally another deck that is more loaded on deeds from Prodigy!
The deck list comes with a fantastic write-up so I recommend checking it out!
The next article will cover what I call a “deck building checklist” and some of the specific things to consider when building a deck.
Cheers & Happy Inventing!