Desolation Row - Understanding and countering a strong Doomtown: Reloaded archetype

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Gencon’s Marshal tourney promises to be this year’s premier event for Doomtown: Reloaded, with multiple events leading to one player earning the coveted Marshal’s badge. Recent high stakes Sheriff and Deputy events preview the meta for the big showdown in Indy. One outfit faction has emerged as a clear favorite, and I think you know which one I am talking about. Sloane Desolation Row (SDrow) has won multiple recent tourneys or blazed its way into the top four. Recently the Gomorra Gazette community discussed ways to counter a Desolation Row meta.

Despite recent strong Fourth Ring and Law Dogs decks, Desolation Row still finishes high in tournament standings. So why does SDrow consistently win or place well in major events? For example, here are some winning Desolation Row deck-lists:

  1. Myrtle Beach, SC Sheriff event
  2. Cardiff Sheriff & OP2 event
  3. Aces in the Hole Deputy Event
  4. Kublacon Shan Fan showdown
  5. Origins 2015
SDrow can play a diverse selection of cards built around a 3 core value draw structure and an immediate, fast-paced tempo. These decks can go deed-less or deed-light, since the home ability gains control points and generates ghost rock. While those four decks are different breeds of elephant in the room, they share one basic principle. When they start their home job or get into a shootout, they throw serious lead in your face if you come unprepared.

Many players believe in trying stop the first turn job. Others, however, let it go unopposed because it boots their dudes and you can go on doing what your deck does best. Neither of these strategies are right or wrong, but depend on player experience in piloting their own deck. I am a dudes and deeds player, so I tend to not oppose their jobs as I know that my losing a dude with influence costs me more than what they gain from a successful turn 1 job.

Cards that counter Desolation Row decks are:
Too Much Attention
Pistol Whip
The Evidence
Bounty Hunter
Jacqueline Isham

Too Much Attention boots a dude or deed with a control point, which hurts SDrow, because by day 2 or 3 their dudes start gaining control points. It also boots a wanted dude, which Desolation Row will have in play due to the home job. The Evidence is a card that prolongs the game and allows you to get rid of opponent’s bounties so they lose control points. Yes, that means YOU, Mr. Fred Aims. Wendy and Pistol Whip boot the leader home before the shootout even starts and stop the job from succeeding, since the leader has to remain in the posse for the job to succeed. Coachwhip mainly aces wanted dudes to permanently get rid of pesky job leaders as well as gaining their bounty. If they they cheat during lowball, Coachwhip boots one of their main shooters. Jacqueline is a new dude from No Turning Back. Fittingly as a drifter, she has seen play in all factions. Her ability to become a stud when defending against jobs puts JackieI front and center in defending against Desolation Row’s job. Working for Desolation Row, she defends against a turn 1 preemptive strike by the Lawdogs led by the experienced Judge Harry.

Recent meta shifts see an increase in Lawdogs decks with bounty/cheatin’ tech that counters Desolation Row’s shenanigans as evidenced by a recent tourney where 10 of 16 decks were core Lawdogs. Desolation Row nevertheless shot its way through a gauntlet of lawmen to finish second in that event(with a base Sloane Gang taking home the bronze). Another deck that gives SDrow decks problems are 4th ring shooter/Hex Slingin’ decks that manipulate stats, bullets, and hand ranks. It is interesting that despite some powerful counters, Desolation Row offers enough flexibility and options to prevail over other strong archetypes.

My biggest tip for combating Desolation Row, and indeed any other deck, is simply to build a variant of a winning SDrow deck and play test your deck against it. After each playtest, write down the biggest missed opportunity along with the MVP card that did the most work for you during the game. Tweak your starting posse each game to maybe add more influence or perhaps another stud and figure out what best fits your play style. When you start beating Desolation Row on a consistent basis, play your deck against other strong decks in the same manner, so you know that you have not diluted your deck to beating just that one archetype.

Instead of one deck-list, I found four recent winning decks that complement the SDrow decks listed above to playtest with and against. Hopefully, you will define your own play style and build a deck to combat against Desolation Row and other powerful decks.


This thread shows that Desolation Row has won two Sheriff events out of 19 registered ones. Clear favourite? Even Oddities and basic Sloane won more.

Maybe it was typed before some of the recent results?

Also might be looking at say top 4 and seeing how many Drow there are?

He has info on faction distribution in the top 4 of Sheriff events? That would be interesting to see.

He said he MIGHT have some info and stated top 4 as an example to prove his point.

Desolation Row was the deck to beat for some time. And no, I have no data to back this up other than conversations on this board etc. The fact that Law Dogs are doing so well at the moment is partly due to Desolation Row being very strong , people are expecting it and need a way to counter this. This is enough to call Desolation Row a favorite in my opinion. But again, all without data or info, just my thoughts about this.

And most of all, really nice article. I can see this being especially useful to new players going to events and try to beat that deck type. Constructive posts like this really help forums to grow.


Law Dogs are doing well against Des.Row and everything else, don’t they? That makes Law Dogs a good deck, not Des.Row.

You know what’s doing well regardless of the meta state? Clowns :slight_smile:

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QFT exactly

Yes you are right, although I don’t see how this invalidates my point. I am not saying that Desolation Row is the best deck right now or that it is clearly better than Law Dogs. I am saying though that just because one strong deck has a good matchup against another does not mean that the second is not a contender for winning a big event. And this especially does not mean that you should not learn how to play against it, as the article tries to teach you.

Also I don’t see how Desolation Row immediately becomes a mediocre or bad deck just because Law Dogs is strong. That is not how tier lists work.

I’m not questioning the overall strength of Res.Row decks, or the usefulness of this article. I’m questioning one paragraph that I quoted in my top post, the one stating that results from Sheriff and Deputy events show Des.Row as ‘a clear favourite’. Available data from Sheriff events doesn’t show anything like that, and if the author based that statement on ‘conversations on the forum’ that happened over a month ago, then maybe it should be mentioned in the introduction to the article.

I didn’t mean that you question this article, sorry if that was not clear.

According to Google, the defintion of several is indeed more than 2. The more you know… So Desolation Row did not win several events but this is more or less semantics.

But again, still thinking it is a favorite to do so, even if it has not yet won as much as other outfits did.

Nice article. I’ll add a few observations/tips based on playing against Des Row in recent tourneys:

I lost the first time I played against a Des Row deck, but after seeing how it worked I’ve managed to win every game against Des Row since by avoiding shootouts and building up on dudes and deeds until I’m ready. I tend to run a looser draw structure than dedicated shooters, so it’s not always a good idea to jump into a shootout early on. When I’m prepared for a fight (e.g. Pistol Whip and/or Bullet Reduction actions in hand, a Cheatin’ Resolution available, an expendable casualty soak in case it goes wrong), I’ll oppose the job/move to kick them out of whatever deeds of mine they’re controlling.

If they’ve got a couple of deeds out and a bunch of dudes with upkeep, try to deny them income so they have to run the job to keep affording their dudes. Either you’re ready for a shootout and stop them, or let them run it so their dudes end up booted at home and you have a bit more freedom to play your game.

Based on decks I’ve played against, Angelica Espinosa is a regular starter for Des Row as she can back up the job posse from afar or similarly sit in the town square and cover the dudes controlling your deeds. If she’s in play, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to deal with her when planning your moves. She’s a prime target for Forget, and Pistol Whip can seriously ruin her day. Scoop Hound can stop her joining the posse with her ability.

If you’ve got room for The Evidence in your deck, it’s worth having at least one copy. It can be discarded to deny a control point on a wanted dude, but also to disrupt your opponents plans if they’re using a dude whose trait boosts them while they’re wanted (e.g. Maria Kingsford, Marion Seville, Aims bros.). To some players, it’s like a red rag to a bull so use that to your advantage if you’re playing against someone like that :smile:


It is literally a red rag.

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It’s called a Bandanna!


Tell that to the bull who is protecting his precious bounty

Also, this.

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Thank you for a great article on Desolation Row. I agree on the different ways to construct decks that can outgun them - especially the Sloane Deck you have linked to is almost a direct counter to Desolation Row - maybe not first round but every other round they run it.

Anyways - I think we need to talk less in decks and more in cards/strategies that counter. Good examples are too much attention, coachwhip and the evidence as you mention. The trick is however to build decks that have their own strategy for winning and at the same time include counters or know how to counter certain other decks.

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