UFS 101 - A New Player's Guide to Deckbuilding

So you’re officially broken into this crazy game we call UFS. You’ve found a playgroup, you’ve cracked your product, and now you are ready to get out there and start bashing faces in for the chance to win the ultimate prize in gaming. Problem is, you have no idea what the hell you’re doing. You slap cards together in the hopes that you peel into your Dragon’s Flame set ups early and often and set your opponents ablaze with the holy fire of being lucky as hell! Instead, you happen to draw all attacks and check 2’s like a champ. You can do one of two things. You can decide that you clearly are bad at UFS and go to back to TCG's where ready and available netdecking let you stomp face for little to no intellectual investment. Or you can take a step back and examine some of the fundamentals of deckbuilding in standard UFS. 

If you are still reading you must have chosen option B. Good for you. YGO has enough players anyway (yeah that was cheap) and you want to figure out some of finer points of building decks in a unique game like UFS. So what gives? Well, chances are that if you’re new to UFS, you really have no idea how to build a solid, consistent deck. Well by the end of this article I hope to introduce a you new bloods to some of the finer points of deck development in our beloved game. So without further ado... 

Your Format... Know it!

Know your format! You see me tossing the word standard around a lot. Well in UFS, as of June, 2010, standard constructed includes the sets Shadowar, Quest for Souls, Tower of Souls, Tekken 6, and all promos and reprints with a 5 point shuriken on the text box. From this card pool, your first objective is going to be to find a character. This is one of most fun parts of UFS and really reflects your individual style as a player. Do you like bashing face? Give Mitsurugi or Zi Mei a shot. Like to play LOTS of attacks in a turn? Why not try characters like Ivy or Christie? Are you the control player that likes making his opponents frustrated to the point of bleeding eyes/ripped out hair/etc.? Try Lizardman or Astrid. There are a ton of characters in UFS that suit all styles of player. Look around, ask veteran players, or check out the various UFS resources available if you are interested in seeing what a lot the characters do. Sketch has an interesting thread on the forums dealing with the standard characters and their strengths and weakness. The biggest thing is experimentation. Find a character that works for you and just play play play! 

Keep It Slender!

I’m talking about your deck and not your girlish physique. In this card game (and almost any other card game) you want to stay as close to the MINIMUM number of cards in a deck as you can. For UFS that magic number is 59 cards + 1 for you character for a total of 60. Now the new guys are sitting there saying “Drew, I have all these rad cards I want to play. Why should I not play every good card I have in hopes that I draw them all! Then I can always get my double Dragon’s Flame draws since I play 40 attacks in my 97 card deck!” If this is your current mindset, then I really hope I play you first round at Worlds. You want to keep your deck as small possible based on the simple fact that the more junk you have in your deck, the less likely you are to draw your good stuff. If you have 40 attacks in your deck, that’s 40 cards you need to sift through to find Dragon’s flame. Now if were rocking a cool calm 16 attacks and limiting our foundations to the bare minimum, that Flame is going to show up much more often. Simple, right? Every World Champion thus far has kept a small deck fronted by a character with a large handsize. A small deck + a character that sees a lot of cards = a more consistent deck. Keep this in mind when building and I guarantee you that you will win a lot of your games on the back of your deck drawing you out of bad situations. Remember, when building consistency is key!

Keep Your Kung Fu Strong

In other words, figure out your attack base. As a good start I try to pick out 14-18 attacks and stay in that range. As a general rule of thumb, control decks tend to want less attacks as they need more foundations early, have access to better card draw, and usually run high costed, high damage finishers. Aggro decks on the other hand like having a few more attacks as that is where the meat of their gameplan lies. They want to kill you as fast as possible and generally favor early game rather than going to later turns. Next, weed out your attacks with a 2 control check or worse. Decks realistically only want to play no more than 6 attacks with a 2 control check in a deck due to them making your early build turns very risky. Playing multiple 2 difficulty foundations turn 1 becomes more dangerous and you’ll have aneurysm with how many times you check that 2CC attack on a 3 difficulty foundation when you are going first. So to avoid splattering brain matter on your opponent, keep 2CC to a minimum. Next, try to find a good mix of pokes and finishers. For the sake of simplicity try to have about half and half. Now what do I mean by pokes? Think of pokes in UFS as an attack that is there to set up your bigger attacks much like they do in fighting games. They are attacks that stress good utility and have beneficial abilities and keywords instead of high damage and speed. Good examples of this include attacks like Hilt Impact, Zi Mei’s Wheel Kick, Seal, and Wipe the Floor. Finishers are the attacks that follow the pokes and usually serve to put your opponent into the floor. They tend to be big, hard to block, and usually have a devastating effect. Examples of this include Fury of the Ancients, Phoenix Smasher, Knight Breaker, and Twilight Embrace. These counts will vary from deck to deck but this is a good start and you can always tweak as you go. For instance, I have seen Ivy decks that run over 20 attacks and Jin decks that run 8 or more 2 checks because their character cards benefit building against the norm. Experiment and see what works for you build. 

ORANGE CARD ORANGE CARD ... what are all these blue and green cards doing?

This section is going to see a lot of variation depending on your character, symbol, and general play style. Assets and actions are interesting card types in that they generally don’t directly win you the game like attacks nor can they help you build or outrace your opponent in the foundation war. So why play them? Well, while they don’t necessarily win you the game by themselves, they provide TONS of utility. They usually sport excellent blocks, great CCs, and many can turn the tide of a game with a single R of E speed effect. Actions and assets tend to flesh out and support your overall strategy rather than make up a cornerstone of your decks general game plan. For this reason I tend to include no more than 7 or so total of both when I am building a deck. Standard is very much about keeping pace with your opponent’s building and drawing an opening hand glutted with blue and green does nothing to help you get foundations into play in order to start mounting your offense. 

Foundations are ... well... the foundation of your deck

Foundations are the key to your deck. Period. Attacks may kill your opponent but the boring gray cards are what let you play your attacks and provide you with the opportunities you need to make sure your attacks get through. So let’s talk about counts and how important cost of foundations is in standard UFS. As I mentioned before, standard UFS is all about pace. 9 times out of 10 when you look at why you lost a match in standard, it’s usually because you were out built and your opponent was able to establish board control before you were. A lot of times players refer to this as a “race.” Well, how do you win the race? Playing as much as you can as early as you can is the best way to do it. And to do that you need cheap, low costed foundations. 8-12 (More if you are playing Life, Good, or some builds of Fire) of your foundations are going to be 1 difficulty or lower. These cheap foundations, typically referred to as spam, help you bolster your early build turns and keep you safe from being stunned out and killed early. 

Now that you’ve picked your spam, lets get our expensive, 3+ difficulty foundations out of the way. Typically I don’t like to play more than 8 of these in a deck as they make your turn 1 builds difficult and downright suicidal if you are playing a 2 check attack. You never want to have to try to pass more than a single 3 difficulty foundation when going first. For this reason, 8 is a good number as it minimizes the number you will draw in your first 6 cards while still giving you access to the strong abilities 3+ diff foundations provide. 

Finally, after getting your 3 diffs and spam foundations sorted out and finalized, the rest of your deck is going to be solid 2 diff foundations. 2 diffs provide the widest array of abilities, have decent blocks, and great control checks. They are usually the core of you deck and are going to comprise more than half of your total base.

The Ten Worldly Truths of Deckbuilding

So chances are you saw this and thought to yourself “geez, too much text.” Well for you wieners, here is the TLDR version of the article. This is a great, 10 step baseline for any deck. Now remember, this does not apply to all character and play styles. This is a very basic approach to building. However, following these steps makes it much easier for new players to find their deck building rhythm and to help build competitive lists on their own.
  1. Determine how you want to play.
  2. Determine who you want to play.
  3. Pick 14-18 attacks (less for control, more for agro. Depends on your build)
  4. Cut down your 2 control check attacks to no more than 6.
  5. Pick up to 7 TOTAL actions/assets. They can’t commit to help build and it sucks getting multiple in your opening hand.
  6. Pick 8-16 1 or 0 difficulty foundations. This is all deck dependent foundation as right now the only symbols with access to 16 playable spam foundations is good, life, and fire.
  7. Pick no more than 8 3+ difficulty foundations. You don’t want to try to pass more than 1 on your opener especially with a 2 control attack in your deck.
  8. Fill the rest of your deck with 2 diff foundations. These are the workhorses of your deck and provide great abilities, decent blocks, and solid checks for 2 diff.
  9. Be mindful of your blocks. Make sure you have enough blocks to adequately defend yourself against the more popular attacks in the format. And to know what a popular attack is, you should…
  10. Research, research, research! Read what other people are doing. Play a lot. Write stuff down. Go back and read it later. Succeeding in standard, especially with the recent banning, is all about knowing what to expect. Keep an open mind when playing and building and most of all have fun.

If you've made it this far into my article, I'd like to thank you for reading. I'd love some feedback on this. If it was useful, let me know. If it sucks, let me know if i can improve it in anyway. And above all, feel free to hit me up at anytime on AIM at Badman4275 or PM me on the boards. I'm always willing to help out new players. Thanks for reading guys.