What does a good Scrolls deck look like?
The conventional “Rules of Consistency” say:
If you are a new player asking for advice about your deck, you’ll be told to adhere to these rules. Play fewer scrolls in deck and play fewer different scrolls. There is a reason for this – sticking to the rules increases consistency. Predictability. A consistent and predictable deck is usually a good deck.
But aren’t there exceptions to these rules? Decks that actually perform better if you introduce more variety, more unpredictability? Yes, I say. This is where things get tricky though. I would say that most new decks, archetypes and players should start off with adhering to the rules of consistency until the player has grown familiar enough to the deck to understand what makes it tick.
Which scrolls are the key players in the deck? What are the good and bad matchups? What are the scenarios that the deck ends up in when it is winning or losing?
Even though this needs to be answered for each deck and archetype before you can start altering it to suit the metagame you are aiming to beat, there are still some general rules for when breaking the Rules of Consistency might be a good idea.
Early game decks like Tempo Order or Aggro Growth are all about consistency. They typically want to play a very similar, less reactive game each time – play the most efficient creatures, enchantments and spells and beat your opponent as quickly as possible before their own strategy can take effect. In this case, sacrificing consistency for diversity is usually a bad idea.
Late game decks are a different story. A deck like Energy Structures can reliably count on cycling through its deck at least once in a game where it is winning. Thus, it can get away with playing narrower threats and answers because it has time to fix its hand throughout the game to get rid of inappropriate scrolls for the matchup / situation and can also react better to what the opponent is doing and playing by having a higher chance of having a particular threat or answer that is especially good in the matchup.
A good example of this in Energy is Thunder Surge. After Rebellion, Sudden Eruption is the better scroll in most scenarios. After all, Thunder Surge only works fully when your opponent allows it to, which is usually in scenarios where you are losing regardless. Sudden Eruption is the opposite – it works when the Energy player wants it to (i.e. invests in Energy resources)or in some cases when the RNG gods bless you with some good rolls. On the other hand, since fewer people are now expecting to get Thunder Surged, it suddenly becomes better again! So if you drop in one or two copies in your Energy deck your opponent has a choice to make – sacrifice some positioning to play around the threat of Thunder Surge or position optimally by clumping up and gamble that you haven’t drawn it. If they know that you are likely playing three Surges, the choice is clear – avoid clumping at all cost. If you only have one or two Surges, it’s harder for your opponent to play optimally and read the situation correctly.
I’ve had a lot of Energy decks where I really wanted a turn 2 drop to start putting pressure on early. Energy has a ton of good blocker options at 3 Energy (Automata Forge, State Machine, Hellspitter Mortar, Machine Divinator) and dropping an attacker on turn 2 set up some really good early pressure on the opponent.
In this case, the best turn two scroll was clearly Gun Automaton. Testing and math indicated that I should run four or five Gun Automaton to reliably draw one between the opening hand and the first draw. But I can only play 3 of them. Or can I?
Tool Initiate has the same stats (2/2/3 for 2 Energy) and a slightly different ability. In a lot of scenarios, the game will play out the same regardless if I draw Gun Automaton or Tool Initiate – the creature being Ranged or having a structure buff ability is not as important as the ability to attack for two every other turn and living through a Quake or Soul Steal.
Some scrolls are very powerful in certain situations. Rumble, Concentrated Fire, Purification. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have them in your opening hand. Same thing goes for really expensive scrolls like champions. Drawing them late is usually very powerful, but early on they are essentially a blank scroll (with the possible exception of Thea and Power Trip).
If you only run a few of these situational but powerful scrolls, you can get away with sacrificing them. Run too many of them and you might end up with an early hand that can’t be salvaged without falling behind in early tempo.
So the simple rule of thumb is:
If you don’t want to see a particular scroll in your opening hand, run only one or two copies.
As an example, here’s a sample deck configuration that can increase the diversity of your deck:
50 scrolls total.
I call it Seven Deuce because it runs seven two-ofs (apart from being one of the worst starting hands in Texas Hold’em). This setup allows you to run 19 different scrolls instead of 17, increasing your threat and answer diversity while still being fairly consistent. You have basically cut one of copy of four or your scrolls in order to fit two more options in there.
Here’s an example of a Ranged Energy deck that uses the Seven Deuce principle.
What I’ve done here is simply cutting a Cannon Automaton, an Iron Whip, a Hired Marksman and a Sudden Eruption to fit two Thunder Surges and two Tempest Reavers in there. This (in theory mind you) allow us to strengthen the Growth matchup without sacrificing too much consistency in general. All the scrolls cut are not particularly great in your starting hand (compared to Dust Runner, Spark or State Machine) but they are good in the later parts of the game when you are a little more set up. Thea was already a two-of in the deck, which makes sense since she is the most expensive scroll in there.
There are other possible deck configurations out there apart from 16-3, 1-2 but they take a bit more work to understand and properly tune. They are also not for every deck – late game decks are better suited for running this kind of configuration.
Scrolls is still a very young game and there is still much left to learn about deck construction and play tactics. Hopefully you are as excited about this as I am! Sysp out.