Hello! I've decided I'm going to make a series about "decks" that new players will want to progress through in order to learn Doomtown Reloaded ("DTR") called the Gunslinger's Path. It's not a surprise that DTR has a steep learning wall for players and until you overcome those obstacles, it can be an almost Byzantine game. My hope is that going through some of the archetypal decks that I feel new players should learn to pilot will help them get through that wall a little faster. The goal is that with each type of deck type a player learns, more of the game will be unlocked in their mind to help them progress deeper into the game.
With that, let's start with what is the most common place for newer players to start, the classic 16x3 deck.
What is a 16x3 deck?
A 16x3 deck has 48/52 cards in the deck all fit within 3 specific values (generally with the off-value cards being the starting posse) that a player chooses. As a note, it's pretty rare to find a true 16x3 deck, but many people will refer to any super "stacked" deck as 16x3. The goal here is that by overloading on these 3 values, you'll have the ability to shoot very well right off the bat focusing on Full Houses, 4 of Kinds, and on occasion 5 of a Kinds.
How do 16x3 decks win?
They generally have 2 paths to victory. The first path is using (and generally protecting) a control point generation engine as it quickly generates control points to overwhelm the opponent. The most straight forward example of this is Allie Hensman (Basic) usually combined with the original Sloane outfit. The second path is straight up crashing into the opponent's dudes and placing as many of them into Boot Hill as possible. This can either be achieved with a dude like Judge Harry Somerset (XP1), or stacking multiple copies of kill jobs like Kidnappin'. The main thing to consider here is that 16x3 decks want to keep the town small and want to win the game VERY quickly.
What are the strengths of a 16x3 deck?
16x3 generally comes with 2 main strengths
First, 16x3 decks are usually almost always capable of making very strong shootout draw hands, even with minimal stud and draw. This is important because it means you should be able to shoot often and more importantly consistently. One note though is that if you have low stud in a shootout, your chances of cheating are drastically increased (which I'll cover later). Thus, if your opponent is trying to go into Shootouts with the goal of beating you on hand ranks early in the game, it can be very difficult for them.
Second, 16x3 decks generally takes the stance of "my opponent's plan doesn't matter if all their dudes are in Boot Hill" or "my opponent's plan doesn't matter if I'm just generating CP and they can't contest me." As you may have guessed, it's primarily linked to the type of 16x3 deck you make but the key here is that you are going in with a plan, and that plan will generally disrupt any plan your opponent will throw at you. One way to think of them is as finely tuned machines that go fast.
All this sounds good right? but there are some weaknesses that need to be considered, whose importance will become more important the further into the game we go.
What are the weaknesses of a 16x3 deck?
Now, we need to cover the many weaknesses of 16x3 decks, as these will highlight many parts of DTR that we will expand up on later as well.
First, 16x3 decks generally forfeit lowball as you'll lose it A LOT. The reason being that because your deck is so stacked towards making consistently high hand ranks, you should be making higher hand ranks in low ball than your opponent. This is important for 2 reasons. Reason 1 being that if you lose lowball 100% of the time, the production math on outfits is greatly skewed. Even though outfits say "+3" on them, meaning they generate 3 ghost rock per turn, that's not exactly true. If you take into account the ante from low ball, and combine that with your outfit's production, what's really happening is that on turns you win lowball, you are actually generating 4 ghost rock. Conversely, if you lose lowball on a turn, you are actually generating 2 ghost rock. Thus, you're basically making your outfit only generate 2 ghost rock per turn if playing 16x3, and giving your opponent an outfit that generates 4 ghost rock. This economic advantage should not be underestimated as it can turbo charge decks. Reason 2 is that you forfeit taking the first action during the game. This will be most important in relation to both Shootout actions Resolution actions. First, there are some powerful cards that hinge upon taking the first action in a Shootout (for example Legendary Holster which is usually referred to as "LH"). If you don't get to use LH as your first action in a shootout (and for now, we'll ignore move into shootout actions), your opponent could use shootout abilities to neutralize it's effectiveness (either a card like Unprepared or Pistol Whip). Thus you are effectively locking yourself out of many powerful cards in the game when playing 16x3. In addition, if your opponent gets the first opportunity to play a cheating resolution like Flight of the Lepus during a shootout, they can clear out your posse!
Second, 16x3 decks generally cheat A LOT during lowball. This can open you up to Cheating Resolutions in lowball which can hurt. For example, if you cheat a lot in lowball, One Good Turn, can become a card your opponent consistently triggers which can give them an monumental income advantage to leverage against you. Cards like Inner Struggle can also permanently hinder you if your lowball hands are consistently cheating. When it comes to shootouts, it becomes crucial to have ample stud to be able to generate good hands without cheating. Otherwise, one bad Bottom Dealin' can wreck your posse. Another dangerous card is Coachwhip! as this aces one of your dudes. If you opponent made a strong legal hand, they could even choose your best dude, which puts you in a bind! In order to minimize the chances of your opponent getting off a ton of these cards, it's important to win as fast as possible.
Third, 16x3 aren't very flexible deck types. Since they generally go in with a very linear plan, they aren't very good at adapting on the fly. Remember, the general strategy here is that if I move fast enough, my opponent will not be able to do anything about it. As such, if your opponent manages to stem the tied of your initial push, or even worse, hit a critical part of your deck, you can find yourself severely on the back foot for the rest of the game.
Fourth, 16x3 decks want to play as few cards as possible from their deck. The reason being that the more cards you are playing (in general, not an exact science) the worse you are making your shooting structure for your deck. Remember the vast majority of your deck consists of on-value cards so if those cards are on the board, you can't use them to make strong shootout hands. Now, in general it's okay to play a couple of cards, but it's something you need to be mindful of when putting cards into the game. One important thing to consider as well is that since you'll be forfeiting lowball a lot, you'll have less ghost rock to play lots of cards.
What should I learn from playing a 16x3 deck and/or playing against a 16x3 deck?
I'm glad you asked! If you are piloting a 16x3 deck, it's important to learn that your most important decisions are being hyper focused on shooting. As I said before, in general, you'll be forfeiting the movement aspect of the game (or minimizing it) to maximize the shooting aspect. This means most of your decisions will be based on using shootout actions and when to go after your opponents dudes. Remember, you've build a machine that needs to hit the game hard and fast, so don't let up on the gas!
Now if you're playing against a 16x3 deck, you should devise some counter strategies based on the weaknesses of the deck. Here are some general tips to consider.
First, 16x3 decks have poor economic income AND are giving you a boost. Take advantage of this to develop your board state so you can fight back when the moment is right! Your opponent is front loading their deck, so take what they give them and plan for the long(er) game. Obviously, this is contingent upon surviving the onslaught however
Second, you don't have to engage in every fight. Many times, "onslaught" style 16x3 decks that look to take your dudes off the board usually only end up discarding dudes as opposing to acing them as most acing jobs are either expensive (like Ambush), have specific requirements that need to be meet (like Ol' Fashioned Hangin'), or give you some autonomy of who is aced (like Election Day Slaughter). This is important because the longer the game goes, the better your chances of seeing these dudes again as you cycle your deck. In addition, if your opponent is selling out hard (sending their entire posse every turn on a Kidnappin'), all those opposing dudes will end up at home booted, which means you can build your town relatively unopposed. A card like Hired Guns can be a massive play. After your opponent discards your dude (because you let the Kidnappin' through unopposed), you can build up your town somewhat (to develop an economy) and then use a card like Hired Guns to get those dudes out of your discard pile and back into play. This can quickly lead your opponent into a tough spot as you've developed a board that they can't easily overcome without playing their own cards, which will weaken their draw structure.
Third, there are some very strong shootout actions / cheating resolution you can consider packing if you are worried about 16x3. If your deck is not overly stacked, Bottom Dealin', remains one of the most terrifying cheating resolutions (usually referred to as "CRs") to 16x3, and quite frankly, many decks. If you have a solid economy, It's Not Who You Know..., can also straight up wreck an opposing player who tries to cheat in shootouts. An excellent card to fight back as well is Pistol Whip. This will allow you to send the opposing posses strongest shooters home, and then hopefully even the odds on who to fight with. Also, don't forget some of the strong CR attachments in the game including Jael's Guile which can discard 2 opposing dudes in a shootout! Other key shootout actions to consider are Pinned Down, which can hurt their primary stud shooter and force them to take him as a casualty (which can also make a nasty combo with Takin' Ya With Me as you lose your dude, and then they have to pick that dude you targeted with Pinned Down for their 1 casualty). These are just some of the cards to consider!
Fourth, since you'll have a better economy, also consider increasing the influence of your starting posse. This will make the amount of work your opponent has to do to overcome you that much more difficult since the game's win condition is having more control points than your opponent's influence.
What are some example of 16x3 (or similar style) decks?
So I'll provide a couple of examples of 16x3 or similar style decks. Remember, true 16x3 is pretty rare but you can finally find decks that are pretty close in theory or execution. Most people will generally loosen up the structure somewhat to alleviate some of the issues I covered previously about running pure 16x3. I think it's more helpful to newer players to see what are more common value stacking strategies than a pure 16x3 build. I'll leave it to the community to share any true 16x3 builds they may have if they wish! The following decks are more about highlighting some of the ideas that have been brought up here.
First - Sloane CP Blitz (which thankfully comes up with an excellent write up by our resident playtesting lead @Harlath!) Read the write up and see if you can see how the deck deals with some of the concepts we've brought up. This deck ran 14x14x13 which is somewhat looser than 16x3 but uses the same concepts that were discussed earlier. For example, one thing to consider is that by loosening up the draw structure a little bit, @Harlath had a better chance of winning lowball more consistently (at the expense of weakening his shootout consistency somewhat)
Second - Law Dogs Removal Style Deck (which comes from @Lapp our community manager!). This deck is fairly stacked at 15x14x14, but Law Dogs can collect bounty to help mitigate the fact that he'd be gaining less ghost rock during low ball. In addition, look at how many ways the deck can start aggression with Bounty Hunter x4, both copies of the Judge, Judge (Basic) & Judge (XP1), and Clyde Owens.
Third - Here is a very old, and very off-kilter 16x15x12 deck I made a long time ago that won a small local event we ran. The concept of this deck was to actually switch gears from fast start (being able to fight while attempting the DROW job) to board development and was hyper specialized to our meta...didn't even run CRs but that was because our meta (at the time) was scared to death of cheating because everyone was packing CRs. Probably wouldn't work now as the meta has developed, but still useful for demonstration purposes.
You'll notice I overloaded on ways to make cheap studs with Pearl-Handled Revolver, protect my studs with Peacemaker, and kill low value dudes with Shotgun. The trick here was using DROW to force my opponent into either fighting me or letting me generate substantial ghost rock and CP through the outfit to then flood the board with a ton of dudes and deeds. With all the ways to protect my studs, I could avoid having to make cheating hands in shootouts, thus turning off my opponent's cheating resolutions.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Alright, I hope this has been a useful first step in your development as a DTR player. Remember 16x3 (or similarly stacked decks) have some strong perks, but also come with some drawbacks that need to be managed. Many people still run stacked decks (even placing high at large tournaments) but usually loosen up the draw structure substantially to help alleviate some of the problems of running pure 16x3. We'll discuss this in more detail as we move through deck types.
Next time, we will talk about the polar opposite of 16x3, the dreaded passive landslide deck and why you should learn how to pilot it to help expand your knowledge of the game.
If there are any other players out there who would like to chime in about this style of deck, please feel free! Also, if anyone has a true pure 16x3 deck to share, please do as it can be a useful learning tool!
Cheers everyone and I hope all this helps!