Lady Luck: Yer Kind Ain't Wanted 'Round These Parts

Originally published at:
by Joe James

(Prodigy on OCTGN)

Round 4 of the semi-finals at GenCon, 2015, found 32 players looking to punch their ticket to the top 8 finals. I was 2-1, and was still smarting over my run of bad shootout draws in my loss to Adam Brancatos’ Law Dog Judge deck (who did end up in the top 8). My deck started Ramiro, Irving, Jacqueline Isham, Travis, and Oliva Jenks out of the original Morgan home. Oh, and instead of the expected Dudes n Deeds/Slide build, this deck had an itchy trigger finger for a good ol’ shootout. Going in, consensus figured Morgan for a low turn out, and uncompetitive to boot. So of course I had to play them.

I had played in two previous qualifiers, and the deck actually did quite well. I loved setting down my Morgan home, shuffling, then watching the confused look on opponents’ faces as I revealed my starting posse. Turn 1 standard opening: Equip a shotgun or pearl-handed revolver, followed by sending everyone to the town square. Queue an even more confused look from my opponent. Irving had full license to use the home ability every turn, quickly building up deeds and cash for more dudes and more guns. If anyone dared to call him out, a scary contingent stood ready to pounce upon the hapless dude(s).

Now in round 4, my opponent had built a straight flush clubs deck. An early shootout saw multiple studs on my side. After a pistol whip, my opponent had only draws. Things looked grim for him, but there it was again! I drew total crap with 9 cards plus a few redraws on a very tight draw structure. His legal flush hurt big time, but I retreated home to regroup. I built back up enough to have slight board advantage again, and we found ourselves in another important shootout. I once again had a few studs, versus his one draw. I chose to go with a legal full house instead of a cheating four of a kind, knowing at best he would probably get a flush. I kept hoping for five of a kind, but full house would have to do.

We revealed our hands, and what did he have? Five of a kind! The loss of two dudes meant game over for me, and no chance of top 8. I felt both frustrated and relieved. I had assumed that I would not make the semis, let alone finals, so I had scheduled another event that started half way through the semi-finals, so I dropped out after round 4. We both laughed about it, and he mentioned that his deck had never before drawn five of a kind - it was only meant to draw flushes and straight flushes. Considering he drew five cards and only redrew one, one would not expect to see a five of a kind. After three days of Doomtown tournaments, my somewhat silly deck surprised me with how far it actually advanced through the grinders and semis. I gracefully bowed out, but those fateful shootouts never fully left my thoughts.

“Man, how do you ever win events like these without consistent luck every game?”, I thought. I felt that I had a solid deck that I had played well. A run or two of bad luck can still knock anyone out of a tournament. Thinking about this a few months later, I remembered teaching a friend how to play one night. He consistently kicked my butt in shootouts using only the base example deck, even when I I played my fine-tuned deck. In the OCTGN league I once again sent in multiple studs versus my opponents’ one draw dude. I could have had a five of a kind, but discarded my joker to save it for later and opted for the 4 of a kind. Even a tie would have been ok with me. Instead, he pulled a five of a kind, and déjà vu all over again.

How much of this game relies upon skill? Perhaps Doomtown resembles poker more than I thought where skilled players regularly make it to the top, but certainly not every time, and only with the help of some consistent luck?

I think a lot of Doomtown players ask themselves these questions at some point after drifting into Gomorra. I was definitely a greenhorn going into the Gencon 2015 Marshal tournament, without much experience in the way of competitive events. My first introduction to the game was the previous year’s Gencon inaugural tourney. I learned how to play the night before playing in one of the 2 main events (if I remember right, they simply had prizes for the top 8 of each, with no further elimination down to a single winner). With what I can only presume was pure luck, I made it to the top 8 and on the spot became enamored with the Doomtown. I had trouble finding local players, and didn’t really play the game much until a few months before the next year’s Gencon. From there, I really got into it after finding a local group and playing a few OPand store-level tournaments.

I’ve played a lot of Doomtown since then, and presumably like most other experienced players, I know better now. Yes, random elements determine pulls, the lowball hands, and shootout draws - not to mention your play hand. There will always be that element of both bad and good luck, and that’s part of what makes this game uniquely fun. An epic game where that one draw dude faced down a small army and not only survived, but took out a couple of dudes create epic stories worth retelling. If we ended up on the losing end, it seems frustrating, but play this game enough and one realizes that sort of thing happens from time to time - on both ends of the table. Mastering your game and playing as skillfully as you can usually out-trumps any small strings of bad luck here and there. Long, awful strings of bad luck? Well, they are pretty rare, and there’s always next time.

Sometimes though, you just really want to flip Lady Luck the bird. Right up until a couple of months ago, I could not stop thinking about that aspect of the game. I always strive to improve as a player, but can I also minimize that random element? What would that kind of deck look like?

In pondering this question, I came up with three solutions.

Solution 1: Deedslide and Control Decks

The first is quite well known: deed slide and some control-based 4th Ring decks. Any deck where you avoid shootouts at all cost will dramatically decrease the element of luck. You’ll still have the above-mentioned random elements to deal with. These decks, however, deal almost exclusively with the chess-like aspects of the game. Slide decks successes at Toledo’s Frogtown Hobbies recent Outlaw event garnered opinions from some that slide is not a good archetype because it “ignores” or “gets around” a main element of the game: shootouts. While I prefer not to play with or against slide decks, I recognize that playing a slide relies primarily upon pilot skill. I would also argue that there are two main elements of Doomtown: movement/control/influence and shootouts. Focusing on one should not mean taking away from some basic element of the game.

I respect slide decks and players, but I’m not a fan of piloting any deck that avoids shootouts. I want to minimize the random element, but still get into lots of shootouts. That leaves the other two solutions.

Solution 2: Hand Rank Manipulation

The first deck I made centered around cards that either bump up your hand rank or lower that of your opponents. It still tries to have some studs and a somewhat tighter draw structure. Now, however, when things go well we really don’t care if we draw the dreaded three pairs, and end up with either two pair or three of a kind. Just bump up the hand rank so much that it does not matter (or at least make it hurt a lot less).

The obvious choices, at least for me, were Den of Thieves + Barton Everest. No other faction can compare when it comes to bumping up hand rank with a nearly guaranteed +2 the first round of each shootout, and +1 each additional rounds. There are two ways to diverge from here: Outgunned or hexes. Outgunned is a great choice, but it does require both an unbooted shooter and a posse with more bullets than your opponent. Barton with a Rapier sounds sweet, but I wanted to experiment with the much more reliable hand rank boost of Hex Slingin’. Add in It’s Not What You Know along with a brace of Devil’s Jokers and you have several ways to bump yourself up beyond the (nearly) guaranteed 2 ranks.

Deck list here:

Going completely overboard on the hand rank bump/lower idea, I present another list that uses a ridiculous number of manipulators, plus a couple of acing resolutions courtesy of Point Blank. I haven’t played this one yet, so it’s entirely theoretical:

Solution 3: Dude Removal

Instead of trying to get in lots of shootouts and getting a good hand rank, just use shootout abilities to ace dudes. We’ll do our best to try and draw a decent hand, but in this deck there are so many cheap dudes (with the help of Den’s cost reduction) that we can easily afford losses. This type of deck resembles a Hot Lead Flyin or Takin’ Ya With Me type of deck, but those only activate upon losing the shootout. Hot Lead decks are trickier and less consistent with their punishment, which is why I chose Shotguns and Legendary Holsters for this third solution.

No need to rely on luck when you have guaranteed shootout abilities every turn. This deck has done extremely well so far on OCTGN:

What other ways are there to flip lady luck the middle digit? I’d love to hear what other ideas folks might have!


There are decks that take advantage of acing effects to thin out their off-structure cards to increase their consistency in shootouts. This approach is common in decks going for the harder to achieve hands of Straight Flush or the Dead Man’s Hand. An alternative approach, and one that I’ve had a lot of fun with, is to achieve such a ridiculous level of stud/draw bonus that you’re going through near half your deck looking for the cards you need. Here’s an example of such a deck that I’ve had success with.

I don’t enjoy playing hex control, and I don’t like going overboard with hand rank manipulation or lose-to-win focused decks as I feel they’re cheap. I’ll take a posse of Law Dogs, some bullet reducers and cheatin’ punishment or a band of rag-tag kung fu bandits with all the bullets and a straight flush/DMH structure any day :smile:

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I agree with almost everything you said in OP apart from one thing. I recently played multiple times against HLF deck and I have to say ( at least in case of this specific deck) that it is almost completely immune to bad draws, apart from very early game. Once Shotguns, multiple,cheap dudes are played this deck can draw hand rank 1 and still win a shootout.

Yeah, cards that thin out your draw structure are another great example. Personally I’m not a fan of them since it usually takes longer than I’m comfortable with, and for some reason I’m just not a fan of straight-flush or DMH structures. That’s not to say they aren’t good or can’t work, as clearly they can and have, but either way that’s a good example of “increasing your luck”.

Most definitely, I lumped the HLF deck in as the same type of example as Solution 3 for just that reason. Very similar to the Holster deck in most aspects.

EDIT: Also, as mplain reminded me, I can’t believe I forgot to add Morgans Flyin Zombies as a good example of Solution 2… That wasn’t my intention when I made the deck, but it ended up fitting the ‘hand rank bump’ type theme, or at least the theme of not relying on luck as much.

There’s another option for shootout that I think a lot of people overlook.

Hit and Run tactics. Deckbuilder · DoomtownDB

The deck revolves around Legendary Holster/Shotgun and Make The Smart Choice and requires you to play around your “moments of power”. With a MTSC in hand you can send your LH dude into a shootout solo (only if you’ve won lowball/know your opponent can’t stop you). Ace a dude with LH and then second action bail with MTSC.

Your goal is to never let a shootout get to resolution, you want to bail at every opportunity before then. If you can take out one of their guys for free that’s a huge swing in your favor and over time can put a lot of pressure on your opponent.


I like that idea too. Looks like something that could work even better in a LH kung fu deck, so you have at least 8 ways to jump out of the fight after shotgunning/Holstering a dude (and 4 of those ways can potentially be used from the discard pile).

If you build your deck right you can build a Jose Morales shotgun/soulblast it also works nice.

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soul blast can also works similarly to this if the huckster is high enough grit, since they can soul blast themselves.

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This is similar to something I’ve been thinking about recently, mainly that it’s not enough for a shootout deck to consistently pull legal full houses and four of a kinds. That’s what all shoot out decks can do. So really be effective they need to be able to consistently:

Pull straight Flushes/DMH reliably
Lose to win
Boost/reduce hand ranks.

And now I can add acing to that list.


I am writing a piece on this as we type. I divide it into different types of decks, namely:

Alternative draw structures
Bullets reduction
Hand Rank Manipulation
Lose to win

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