This article explains my procedures for creating a winning deck My deck building philosophy is to create a fairly reliable stream of units, usually building one unit per turn by turn 6 or 7. A well reinforced front line is essential. Powerful command cards or large amounts of resources are just so much smoking ruins if your opponent can simply overwhelm your front line.

Stage 1 - deciding deck strategies

When an attack is declared, the defender decides which 'mechs or other units will block the attack. This gives the defender the advantage. He may decide to commit powerful or numerous forces destroy 'mechs and win through attrition, or block with minimal forces and counterattack an overcommitted front line. It is not possible to win by simply charging at the enemy. Instead, a basic strategy must focus on pushing at an aspect of an opponent's defence as hard as possible, even at the expense of other options. For example, opposing 'mechs can block to prevent damage to the stockpile. Four attacks of an Avatar AV1-0B will generate 16 missiles before an opposing Avatar AV1-0C is able to destroy it. On average, this results in 16 damage to the stockpile, which the opponent can only now attempt to equalise before he draws his last card. The more this unblockable damage aspect is pushed, the greater the chance of winning. This is otherwise known as 'pushing the envelope'.

Unblockable damage via Missiles or Long Range is a common and useful way to attack but a predictable attack can be anticipated and more easily countered. A winning strategy must be unusual or unexpected. This means exploiting unusual or extreme aspects of cards. Look at your entire collection. Consider unusual or extreme card behaviours in combination with other cards. The table below shows some examples.

Deck Card behaviour Combination Exploit
1 Battalion Support grants stockpile +5 attack Deep Lake Even unblocked, attacking enemy 'mechs risks being 'sunk'.
2 2 or more C3 based 'mechs are powerful Overrun If enemy blocks with a sacrificial, weak unit, it will be destroyed and several 'mechs can untap and re-attack.
3 Blitzkrieg Elemental Point moves at same speed as accompanying omnimechs and effectively inflicts 4 damage. Fast omnimech with 3 attack Fast, 7 attack for 3 cost. An opponent may not be able to build sufficient fast 'mechs, making his resources vulnerable.

Most strategies rely on specific cards. As a deck can only contain a maximum of 6 of each card title, such a combination is usually only available two or three times in a game. Identify a common aspect of your cards and devise an alternate or secondary strategies that exploits this. Ideally, strategies should enhance each other. For example:

Deck Common card behaviour Combination Alternate exploit
1 Deep Lake prevents overheat damage Any high armour, low structure 'mech with high overheat damage Your defending 'mechs can Overheat with impunity.
2 C3 based 'mechs attack in groups of 2 or more Fanatical Leader, Kai Allard-Laio, Lance Commander, Prince Victor Steiner-Davion, Victor Steiner Davion These pilots perform better in groups of 2 or more.
3 Elemental Points and fast, 3 attack omnimechs are cheap Steel Viper R&D Team Deploy even more units using limited resources.
3 Elemental Points and fast, 3 attack omnimechs are cheap Heat of Battle Opponent usually can't build 2 fast 'mechs in time to protect resources.

Once the deck strategies are determined, collect the required cards. This is the core deck. This collection should be between 15 to 30 cards. If there are too many candidate cards for a broad set such as 'C3 based 'mechs', keep the excess handy - the core deck may be revised later.

Stage 2 - adding options and covering weaknesses

Options and flexibility are needed to prevent your tactics from being predictable. For example, an opponent may block your attack with a 'mech that can withstand the damage, believing it will survive to block a later attack. Use of the simple Good Shooting can immediately destroy the 'mech and deny him a later defence.

Adding tactical cards or choosing 'mechs is an art form and this should be based around your deck and playing style. If the core deck strategy uses a collection from a broad set, cards of the collection may be swapped with others in the set without compromising the deck's core strategy. The table below shows some common examples:

Tactic / Style Cards to add 'Mech options to use
Cheap, low attack, high structure 'mechs Civilian Settlement, Perimeter Alarm, Pushing the Envelope Long Range, Missiles, Overheat
High attack, low structure 'mechs Herioc Sacrifice, Taking the Hit, Rolling Hills Alphastrike
Expensive, high attack, high structure 'mechs Advanced Manufacturing Techniques, Inside Job, No Quarter Long Range, Missiles
Cheap, 'straight-to-patrol-region' 'mechs. Forged Mission Orders, Herioc Sacrifice, Recon Pilot  
Attack in groups Close Formation, Defensive Formation, End Run, Heat of Battle, Overwhelm ECM
Missiles Hot Loaded LRMs, Missile Spotter, Targeting Ace, Thunder LRMs NARC
Overheat Deep Lake, Rapid Cooldown, Redline Pilot  
Alphastrike Access to Extra Munitions, Sharpshooter, Ammo Truck  
Pilots MedEvac Team, Solaris Contacts, Training Facility  

Applied to the example strategies:

Deck Tactic Cards used
1 Cheap, low attack, high structure 'mechs Avatar AV1-0B (missile), Last Stand at Hanover (inexpensive loss), Stalker STK-3F (missile and overheat)
2 Attack in groups Firestarter FS9-0D (C3, ECM), Blackjack BJ2 -0B (C3, Long Range)
2 Pilots Solaris Contacts
3 Attack in groups Hankyu Prime (Fast, 3 attack, ECM)
3 Cheap, 'straight-to-patrol-region' 'mechs. Forged Mission Orders

Some deck designs may have particularly exploitable vulnerabilities. At least a few cards should be used to cover such weaknesses

Deck design Vulnerability Cards to use
C3 based 'mechs 'Mech hunting Fast 'mechs, Heavy Fog
Predominately slow 'mechs Resource hunting Lured into Bog
Low structure 'mechs Rocky Gorge ECM based 'mechs, Move to Partial Cover, Doc Trevena
Predominately expensive 'mechs   Overwhelming by faster build-up decks.  Heavy Woods

For example:

Deck  Vulnerability Cards used
2 'Mech hunting Owens OW-1 (Fast C3 includes C3 'mech in battle), Heavy Fog
3 Rocky Gorge Hankyu Prime (ECM)

Now add your additional cards (but not basic resources). Your partially constructed deck should have, at most, 24 units and 12 non-resource Command and Mission cards. Keep any candidate cards you didn't you use handy - they may be used during a later stage.

Stage 3 - adding resources

No strategy can work with insufficient resources or excessive costs due to missing assets, A deck must have sufficient resources and asset supplying cards so they can be drawn reasonably quickly. On average, a deck should have 24 Resource cards, 18 of which should be zero cost. Scan your partial deck and identify which assets are needed to avoid asset costs. Also, add M for any missile based units and T for any mission cards. For each asset needed, your deck must have at least 6 cards that can supply it in some way. Some cards can supply 2 or more assets. Some cards allow you to obtain any desired resource during play. If your deck requires 3 or more assets, use at least 4 of the following resources:

Your deck should now contain 24 Units, 24 Resources and 12 other cards.

Stage 4 - fine tuning

Your overall deck and unused, candidate cards should be reviewed:

Resource count
Decks using predominately expensive cards should more resources, at most 30. Conversely, cheaper cards can use fewer resources but never less than 20 and 16 zero cost.
The greater number of assets required, the greater the chance of a missing asset. Ideally, a deck should use 1 or 2 assets, though 3 asset decks are fine. Identify the number and importance of cards that require each asset. If only a few cards require an asset, considering replacing them and eliminating the asset.
Fast 'mechs
It is an expensive use of forces to guard several, critical Command cards and this invites your opponent to attack your stockpile. If your deck uses valuable Command cards, have at least 4 fast 'mechs, even if they won't survive a battle.

Example decks

Deck 1 - Stockpile fights back

Deck 2 - Davion C3-Pilot

Deck 3 - Steel Viper Elemental R&D