We’ve covered a lot of deck types so far in this series, but let’s say you’re thinking about building your own deck and want a “general” framework to go through the process? Well that’s what this article is going to focus on! If you haven’t - please read the previous articles as concepts in those articles will most likely be referenced here! This guide will be more of how I approach deckbuilding in the game (and others will certainly have different approaches) but hopefully by seeing how one person does it, it will give you some tools to think about how you want to approach your deckbuilding!
I like to split Doomtown into two pieces of deck building - the first part is building your deck around abilities and gameplay, while the second part is building your deck around structure (mainly ranks and suits) - first let’s go over abilities and gameplay
BeastEG’s high level abilities and gameplay deckbuilding checklist
In general, I think of gameplay deckbuilding in 3 stages which I will cover more in-depth:
- What is my AFK method of winning?
- What tools enable me to push that condition?
- Can I create some synergy between my tools?
What is my AFK method of winning?
For those who may be unfamiliar, AFK translates to “Away From The Keyboard,” meaning someone isn’t actually doing anything. In Doomtown, your opponent always has the option to simply pass and sit at home doing nothing, which can be a royal pain in the arse. The reason I start with this question is you want to be able to apply pressure to your opponent to force them to have to respond. Remember, in Doomtown, unless you use a card effect, you can’t simply walk into someone’s home and call them out. In addition, if your opponent stocks a deck up with dudes who have no upkeep and at least 1 influence (“INF”), an opponent can hang out for a while while shrugging off your attempts to overwhelm them with control points, giving them more time to set up some nasty trick.
As such, it’s critical to think about how you can force your opponent into a situation where your control points (“CP”) will overwhelm them unless they do something. Now, some may ask “This seems a little simple? Of course you should be doing things to win!” but I want to highlight a couple of things that sometimes newer players don’t always think about. First, there is no rule saying your opponent has to play deeds with CP. While generally, your opponent will play deeds with CP, this is no guarantee. If you’re not 100% sure that the normal amount of CP your deck can pump out will threaten your opponent, then it’s possible that you’ll never be able to overwhelm your opponent’s INF unless you simultaneously are building your CP AND are removing their INF. Keep in mind that this can be very difficult to do as there isn’t always overlap in accomplishing this goal. Second, the only rulebook way to reduce an opponent’s INF is to get into shootouts and win. Shootouts are always a risky bet as you have to put your own dudes at risk, and you can always be one bad draw hand (or cheatin’ punishment!) from getting your posse wiped. As such, it’s important to think of shooting as one possible avenue to winning, not the only avenue to winning.
For example, as we covered in the Legendary Holster Hit & Run deck - The deck is not looking to get into a shootout every turn. It’s looking to overwhelm you with deed CP to force you into risky shootouts where Legendary Holster can cause the most damage. If you’ve ever had to play against the deck, it applies pressure through deed CP, not through primarily looking to ace your dudes. What it does do though is then force you into a tough choice of having your dudes aced in the process of trying to take over your opponent’s deed.
Now - in general, an AFK win condition is going to take two primary forms - either putting enough CP on the board that your opponent has to do something OR completely removing INF from your opponent. Now, what are some good cards to consider regarding applying AFK pressure? While there is no hard and fast rule, here are few things to consider regarding CP.
- Cards like Allie Hensman (Basic) or Epidemic Laboratory can slowly rack up CP and in theory have no upper limit in terms of the number of CP they can generate
- Cards like The Union Casino or Hunter’s Protections can help get CP on your dudes. The Union Casino can become brutal in a landslide deck with Clementine Lepp sitting on it, while Hunter’s Protection can quickly churn out CP on cheaper dudes.
- Outlaws have plenty of outfits that are capable of generating CP on their own dudes including The Sloane Gang outfit and Desolation Row.
- Some Legends including Jasper Stone and Hellstromme can help convert reducing your opponent’s INF into CP for you (causing a double whammy effect!).
- 2/1/1 deeds favored by landslide can be relatively easy investments to get some production and CP pressure going.
- 3/2/1 deeds provide a nice balance of CP and very efficient production (but greater upfront investment)
Most decks will rely on combination of these methods to get CP on the board. Landslide for example will favor a flood of cheap deeds, while a deck focused on Jasper Stone is going to try and kill your dudes as fast as possible to get CP from the Legend. Other decks, may start Allie Hensman in combination with The Sloane Gang outfit to try and flood the board with CP on dudes, and may even throw in a few 2/1/1 deeds as well. The most important thing here is to keep in mind that you need to overwhelm your opponent’s INF in order to force them to act. Remember, until your CP is greater than your opponent’s INF, they do not have to act!
Now let’s think about using INF reduction methods to apply AFK pressure. In general, this boils down KILL ALL THE DUDES but there are a few little twists here or there.
- Cards like Kidnappin’, Election Day Slaughter, Curse of Failure, Ol’ Fashioned Hanging, and Forced Quarantine are jobs that result in your opponent having to discard or ace dudes. Another favorite for Law Dogs that isn’t a job put a method to kill dudes safely is Bounty Hunter!
- A card like Blood Curse can reduce your opponent’s INF relatively safely if your opponent doesn’t contest you.
- Avie Cline XP can harpoon dudes out of their home to try and kill them. This can be very powerful if used in conjunction with Whateley Estate or unrefusable call-outs.
- Hustings can force your opponent out of their home and give you an opportunity to bounce.
- The Arsenal can allow you to call-out wanted dudes at home (and note that it’s a Repeat ability!).
- Certain cards like Dog’s Duster or the upcoming Nathaniel Tuwikaa (in Out for Blood) have call-outs built into them providing you an on the board action that you can use over multiple turns.
- Morgan Regulators can cap the maximum amount of INF that can just sit at home.
Keep in mind that reducing your opponent’s INF is generally higher risk and higher commitment than trying to build you own CP. Shooting requires you to put far more emphasis on your decks rank and suit structure, and it also requires you putting your dudes at risk. Remember, no matter how much you slant your deck towards shooting, one bad draw hand could wipe your posse!
As a general rule - you want to be fairly confident that no matter how much INF your opponent is packing, you can apply enough pressure to force them to have to act. As such, it’s a good idea to plan for trying to get to roughly 5-6 points of advancing the win condition (as a combination of increasing your control points and reducing your opponent’s influence). Certain decks will try to put down a burst of CP while others may focusing on acing 1 dude per turn. The goal here is to mainly say that I can consistently apply pressure and advance the win condition, even if my opponent sits at home. The one glaring exception to this is a landslide deck that will purposefully put a ton of CP on the board so while they will say pass a lot, there should be plenty for you do!.
What tools enable me to push that condition?
Now we get to what I would consider the most subtle, and most important portion of deck building - thinking about what cards in your deck will help you indirectly advance your win condition. As a note, there is no simple formula you can follow - trial and error will always be a part of card games and deck building can be as much an art as it is a science. That said, let’s go over a few tools that can get overlooked sometimes and why they are critical. There are so many different avenues that to cover them all would be too much, but these are three options that I thought would be good to think about at the minium. Perhaps we’ll do another article on some of the interesting tools you can leverage in the game!
When building a deck, it’s always important to balance many factors - but the one that I think gets overlooked by newer players is deck throughput. Deck throughput is the concept of how many cards you, the player, see over the course of the game. Think of it like how many cards pass through you play hand over the course of the game. You’ll notice I’m specifically avoiding the term deck output, which generally refers to the amount of cards you actually play or put into play.
In most card games, you really want to play all the cards in your hand, but in Doomtown, because you need your deck to shoot, it’s not always advantageous to play every card you have and you may not always be in a good position to play a specific card. As such, cards that increase your deck’s throughput become vital because they can help you get rid of cards that don’t currently have value to you. One other thing is that because you almost always fill up your hand to 5 cards at the end of a turn, discarding cards can be a net benefit rather than a net cost.
If you’re looking to increase your deck’s throughput, there are quite a few cards to consider. For Anarchists, Asakichi Cooke, is a prime example of a straight power card. Good stats are great, but her ability is amazing! While on the surface, discarding a card from hand to move a dude, may seem pretty good - the real power of her ability is to pitch dead cards in your hand in the hope of better cards next turn.. Even if you just move a dude to town square, and then immediately move that dude back home booted, getting a dead card out of your hand lets you see more cards next turn. Other examples of this ability on dudes can be seen on Stewart Davidson, Smiling Frog, and the upcoming Big Nose Kate.
Certain deeds can also help with this as well. Pony Express continues to be an amazing deed that provides pretty good production and the ability to cycle a card, while a deed like Circle M Ranch can help you see more cards as well! Joker’s Smile can help you avoid jokers from clogging up your play hand, while Killer Bunnies Casino allows you to discard more cards at Sundown. Always try to keep in mind deeds that can help you get through more cards, since getting through more cards means you’ll see critical cards faster!
When it comes to action cards (i.e. clubs) you always need to think about how easily you can get certain cards out of your hand so your deck throughput isn’t negatively affected. While it’s always tempting to stock your hand with nothing but powerful shootout actions and cheating resolutions...remember that if you get put into a situation where you need to play dudes or deeds (for example, against passive landslide), those cards may be completely dead! As such, a general rule to keep in mind is that more geared towards shooting and cheating punishment your deck is, the more deck throughput tools you should put into your deck to make sure it doesn’t get clogged up too much when put into situations where you can’t play them effectively. Even a humble card like Reserves can be a critical piece of a deck that is trying to pump through cards quickly (and gain a little ghost rock on the side as well)!
Movement / Into and Out of Posse
One thing I frequently see newer players struggle with is movement. I want to be clear, I’m speaking beyond the rules of movement (which can be tricky), and more about moving around the board with a purpose. Now, I’m certainly not the best at this, but I want to talk about a few concepts, cards, and other things to keep in mind as they tend to be critical in regards to further pushing a win condition.
First, mobility wins games and should be something you are always thinking about incorporating into your game plan. Outfits like The 108 Righteous Bandits and Morgan Regulators provide incredible movement options that can help you outplay your opponent. One of the most important tactical actions you can take in Doomtown is forcing your opponent to chase you! If your opponent’s deck thrives on call-outs, make them work for it. If they made a deck that has very little in terms of movement options, they’ll find quickly that they have to get out of position to call you out and that can lead them to losing very quickly. On the opposite end, something like Phantasm can let you move other dudes into positions that are dangerous and are advantageous for you. One particularly devastating combo is Whateley Estate when combined with either Phantasm or Avie Cline XP. This can force dudes to the Estate, and because of the deed’s trait, boot the opposing dude. In addition, movement can help you chase troublesome dudes who are sitting on your deeds, which can be important against First Peoples who have a bevy of movement options.
A little less explored for newer players is sometimes moving into posses and moving out of posses during shootouts. If you look at most jobs that result in a dude being discarded or aced, they will frequently require that the leader boot as part of the cost (e.g. Ambush). The main purpose for this is to throttle certain cards that thrive on having unbooted dudes in shootouts like Pistol Whip, Wendy (Basic), or even Point Blank. Usually it’s not realistic to move a single unbooted dude to the location of where a job would be done , so most of these jobs will have your posse completely booted. That said, certain cards like Pinto or Roan can enable you to get in dudes unbooted! Even something like a Buffalo Rifle can give you extremely powerful options! Do not sleep on these options! Giving a dude like Barton Everest a Pinto can put him into multiple shootouts where he can help protect your dudes. If you have a powerful shooter with a Buffalo Rifle and you place them in Town Square, you now have a dude who can literally cover every location in town! A brutal combo is to get the Judge (Basic) out with Wendy (Basic) and give Wendy a Pinto. Now all of a sudden, you can start acing dudes left and right!
Equally as important is retreat out of battle and how it can help you out immensely. The classic card for this is Make The Smart Choice. At first glance, this card may seem pretty weak since giving a dude a bullet penalty equal to their influence can be very hit or miss. This is actually not what you should be focused on. Instead, it’s far more important that you can choose your own dudes and then have those dudes run home (booted of course!). Why you may ask? Well first, this can help greatly reduce the risk of using a dude like Irving Patterson and the Morgan Cattle Co. Outfit as now being booted at a deed and getting called out won’t result in you having to go to draw hand resolution with a 0 draw. Instead, just Make the Smart Choice home and the shootout is over! This can also mean that your opponent may have moved dudes around town in anticipation of killing Irving, only to now have no succeeded in killing that dude. Even a card like Soul Blast can be used like this! If you try using the lower value hexes, you’ll find that your pull values will generally be pretty low! Even worse, usually enemy big dudes will have high grit because they have higher bullets. However, if you plan on failing the pull by targeting a bigger dude and knowing your deck has low values, you could get your Huckster home safely, ending the shootout as well.
Out Of Town Deeds
Out of Town (“OOT”) deeds tend to be something that some newer players try to overload on in the hopes of never giving their opponent the chance for control points, or steer away from because they want to make sure they have enough control points to pressure an opponent. That’s not to say there is a wrong approach to OOT, but I want to do a slightly more nuanced discussion about them and the role they play in the game.
If you’re a non-landslide deck, you should definitely want enough OOT deeds that you’ll feel confident finding at least one during a landslide game. Why you may ask? OOT provide income without placing CP on the board, which is critical when facing landslide. Even landslide decks will play some OOT deeds to help make sure they can generate enough income without flooding the board too quickly with CP. In short, they provide a critical pathway to generate income without the risk of CP. Also, because they are not easy to get to, they tend to be difficult to contest unless you have some specific options that allow you to reach them (e.g. The Surveyor’s Office, Musting, etc.) so they can be a safe investment. That said, due to their usual lack of CP, they can be difficult to use as a tool to advance your win condition unless you have a means of converting ghost rock into a win condition (e.g. The Union Casino or Ambush).
That said, one OOT deed that can almost always go into a deck is the famed Jackson Strike. A deed that gives you 2 production for 2 ghost rock is the epitome of efficiency in the game and something that you can almost always use. If you ask many of the best deck builders and players in the game, most of them will tell you their decks start with Jackson Strike and then 51 other cards plus Jokers :). Another great OOT can be Pat’s Perch. At 1 ghost rock and 1 production, it can help reduce the sting of losing lowball, and with its relatively low production, very few players will go out of there way to contest it. The mother of all OOT deeds (and quite frankly almost all deeds in general) is Blake Ranch. While costing a whooping 4 ghost rock, it provides 3 production, which is basically like having a 2nd outfit! Many games can be determined by who gets a Blake Ranch out uncontested, so don’t be afraid to consider putting it in your deck. Even something like Clanton Ranch can be great for a tight deck that if it will lose lowball consistently, can make up the ghost rock loss!
Alright, this topic could go one forever, but hopefully this gives you some ideas to look at!
Can I create some synergy between my tools?
All card games to a certain degree are about the combo of cards in your deck. As such, you should always be thinking about how the tools you in your deck synergize. This can be an entire article on its own, but I will go over one very common combination - bullet penalties, kill jobs, and cheating resolutions in order to give you an idea about how to think about your tools.
What’s the synergy?
The synergy here is relatively straight forward. Bullet penalties fundamentally are about making sure your opponent cannot put together strong hands. If your opponent has stacked their deck substantially however, they may be able to put together strong hands even with minimal stud and draw bonuses. This is where cheating resolutions fit in. It’s usually very difficult for a deck with minimal stud and draw bonus to put together a strong LEGAL hand. Thus, if you have some powerful cheating resolutions, you can punish there attempts to keep up with you. Okay, so that’s how these two things work together...but what about kill jobs?
Kill jobs in this instance are about giving you an avenue to use the other two tools. It’s not uncommon that you may be in a situation where you have a hand full of shootout actions and cheating resolutions, but no way to efficiently start a fight. Enter a card like Kidnappin’ or Ambush to start wiping away the INF (and dudes) of your opponent. With all three of these tools working together, you can in essence take over the game.
This section is relatively short because it could go on forever, and this article is getting long! However, I hope I illuminated how 3 main tools - bullet penalties, cheating resolutions, and kill jobs - can work together to form a cohesive set of tools with synergy! Honestly, this could be a whole article, but I would encourage the community to talk about some of their favorite combos!
Alright hopefully this gives you some ideas regarding how to think about your deck in terms of abilities! Next time, we’ll cover the other aspect of deck building, looking over your rank and suits!
Cheers and I hope that helps!