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How do you tell if a brew is worth working on?

I’m comfortable tweaking an existing deck - e.g., if I find my PPVP Kate is having trouble with Curtain Walls, I can try putting a Knifed in, and a few games should be enough to see if it’s a good idea.

Now: let’s say I think tagstorm NBN is possible. My first build will not be the best possible version of the archetype. It’s going to lose a lot vs top tier runner decks simply by being untuned. It can be tough distinguishing between

  • the archetype has promise and more tuning is worthwhile, and
  • the archetype is fundamentally bad, work on something else.

How do you tell the difference?

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By doing enough playtesting.

It’s not the most fun thing to do and it can be seen as a chore, but in the end that’s how you built great decks.


In my experience, half of the time, I can look at a deck and say to myself, “this is totally cohesive, powerful, and dynamic,” or, “this deck is pretty good, but has a few kinks to be worked out. It just needs some tuning or one more card to come out and it will be good”. Some good examples were cambridge PE, Prepaid Kate, Eater Maxx, and HB Rush. Usually, you can get a good idea about these things from knowing about previously built, similar decks, and recognizing that an improvement has been made, In the case of Prepaid, you could lose ProCons, which was always a high variance card that led to a lot of shitty starts. In the case of Cambridge, mushin solved an econ issue while also putting a serious threat to the runner. In the case of Eater Maxx, you solved Siphon anarch inconsistency issues by only needing one breaker, and in the case of HB Rush, you just added a bunch of powerful cards, DBS, Eve, and Ash, into an already successful HBFA deck.

In other cases, a deck might look a little sketchy on paper, but once you see a couple of games, you realize it works. NEARPAD and @SamRS’s Reina Headlock were examples of this for me. You see them matched up against good players and good decks and win, and that’s pretty much all you need to know.

In my experience, pretty much every deck I come across needs some amount of tuning. Usually what I do is take the concept of a deck, tune it to my liking in a deck builder, look at all the cards available in faction or splashable with flex influence to make sure it’s the best it can be, and take another look. If there isn’t another deck that does the same thing better, and the tuned list looks like it could some relevant good matchups, then I play a few games. If you’re a good enough to player to build decks, you should be able to do most of the tuning without actually playing the deck at all. If you’re not at that point, you should play more with other people’s decks.

It really doesn’t take too many games to make the final adjustments on a deck. It also doesn’t take too many games to figure out if it’s good. If you can find a strong opponent with a strong deck and win half the time, the deck is worth it. If you’re losing a lot, ditch it. Most decks can’t be saved from having multiple 25% matchups against top tier decks by tuning, so if you’re losing that much right off the bat, I would let go. NBN tagstorm (both Psycho-Beale and Scorch) is a deck that has had success in the past, so there is no reason to think that it isn’t powerful enough to win a decent amount now. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not copying someone else’s successful deck to start; there’s no reason to start from scratch when the scaffolding is already up.


If I don’t go at least a little bit blind after the first drink, I throw the whole batch out and start over.

Also practice. Lots of practice.


Not that I’m a great deckbuilder myself, but I want to second this. Even if you make major structural changes from a great deck because you want to try something new, it’ll be easier to use a real/successful deck as a basis than starting from scratch.

When I’ve done tagstorm lists in MN recently, I look at the old Psycho-Scorch list I used to run that I copied from others. When I did Rincewind Whizzard I looked at a bunch of Criminal decklists to see what things I’d want to copy and which wouldn’t be worth the risk. There’re a bunch of similarities to some Gabe and Andy lists in that Whizzard list, because the Desperado-Sec Testing economy was the basis of the deck and they had more value than a lot of Anarch lists because they were already optimized around them.

Even if you want to do something new or off-the-wall, looking at successful lists of the past and also the likely matchups is important. “What do I do to throw Blue Sun off their game? Can I kill an Oversighted Curtain Wall in the first two turns EVER, or is it literally impossible? If I don’t, can I render the economic swing less important by dealing with lots of ice effectively? Can I protect myself from Butcher Shop enough to not worry about it? Is making more than one run in a turn to trash some of RP’s econ going to break me?” If you can’t answer the questions when looking at a “finished” decklist, then keep working until you can.


It helps to have a gauntlet of decks ready to test the new deck against. For new runner decks I have premade RP, blue sun and NEH decks ready to go and I play both sides seeing how it feels from both the corp and runner side. Six games isn’t enough to refine a deck but it does let me get a feel for the deck. I’m not expecting to win but a new deck should feel like it has a chance against the established architects.

If it has no chance, I retire the deck or put together as a for fun only deck. However if it loses because it’s just a little too slow or a little too poor, it’s worthy of future consideration and real playtesting. Its always possible to make incremental improvements to a deck. If the idea is sound, then tweaking the money/support cards can only make it better and faster.


want to second (third?) this sentiment.

I have a friend who’s actually a good player and builds some really interesting stuff, but he’s a dyed in the wool bad-card-johnny and thinks it’s a crime to even look at other people’s lists. This leads to all kinds of decks where if he had just added his new idea onto an existing known-to-work structure, it might be great, but because he hodge-podges everything together every time he’s always doing things like forgetting hedge funds and shit. (He’s a good sport about it though, so we get him in shape for tournaments, but still)

Not that you will necessarily make mistakes that obvious, but I think the point stands; no reason to re-invent the wheel. Every time I have a deck idea I start by looking up tourney-winning lists with that ID or that use a few of the critical cards I’m thinking of, and going from there. It saves a lot of time that would otherwise be spend doing the very same basic playtesting that other players have already done.


I bet he has more fun losing than most people do winning, though! You just completeley described my approach to weekly league tournaments, and I often find it more rewarding going 2-4 or 3-3 with original decks than going undefeated with someone else’s.

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Thanks all for the input! Summarizing suggestions:

  • theory craft a v1, reusing as much as possible from existing similar decks
  • test vs guantlet, < 6 games, you should be at a basically reasonable place with the v1

This is what I do for small to midsize tweaks, with the bar for midsize being that I think there is basically one right way to build the deck. E.g. going from non-grail RP glacier to grail RP glacier, it is pretty easy to make the change and play some games and see what happens (and you have a totally solid deck you are starting from).

It’s harder when there isn’t an existing close skeleton. Dan, can you comment on reg ass maxx? It seems like the list in your article was pretty well tuned - how did you arrive at that list?

If you really want to be a unique snowflake and do something you haven’t seen before, be prepared to lose a lot in the process.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my first truly successful original brew took me an entire store championship season to go from losing most games to winning most games. 6 store championships plus at least a dozen smaller tournaments during that time, and that doesn’t count practice games/open night games. Only my stubborn, egotistical desire for a unique, Yu-Gi-Oh! heart of the cards style trademark deck saw me through it.

I’ve been tweaking netdecks for competetive play since then, because brewing true originals for high-level play can get exhausting and disheartening.


There is a difference between players in how far you can go with pure theorycrafting.
I can often create a working shell in the deckbuilder that can win games, but if I have a deck that I believe in for major tournaments I try to run it in a minor tournament for 4-6 quality games where I usually encounter some different archetypes and reasonable opponent skill. That’s almost always enough for a good evaluation.

When I analyze those games afterwards I can often find the faulty areas of the decklist.
For example I was trying a new Noise breaker suite today and while I had some initial hope in it, it proved to way to slow in crucial games. Here it’s important to not introduce bias. Even if I win the games, it’s important to note when I’m being helped or hindered by my own deck. Also i think it’s important to think about what meta expectations you have and what adaptations you’ve made to your deck to counter those. Suboptimal cards can easily be defended by meta decisions, but only if you’ve put thought into them beforehand.

A problem before answering the OPs questions is that you need to know what level the Brew will have to stand up to. If I need a new list for winning regionals that’s a different ballgame compared to making the cut in a Store Champs. Most of my Brews will fall under the cathegory: Fun deck that wins games but there is no reason to bring this over the popular decks for tournaments

Taking a new archetype to a regional t-4 or similar takes a substantional amount of work and there is no way there besides lots of playtesting.

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I want to win, so I have always taken net decks :). I don’t need to stake my claim with an interesting deck, my reason for building new decks is like a math problem - does deck idea X work (in the sense of winning tournaments). So yes, thinking of it as a deck for regionals is not far off, except that there is no danger I will actually take a bad brew I am attached to.

In general a rogue deck is only worth running in a major tournament if you either believe it will have a significant enough advantage against the meta to compensate for being a slightly worse deck overall or be different enough to induce significant player mistakes from your opponent not knowing the deck.

The second choice will often lead to advancing from the swiss but getting eliminated in the cut.
A example I myself have from this is last years regionals where I faced a guy with a Jinteki: PE deck that ran no ICE and a bunch of kill cards. He had a great run during the swiss (lost 1 of 5 game with his corp if I remember correctly) but got eliminated at the first game in the cut when he faced a opponent he met during the swiss that knew what to mulligan for.

Also in my experience there is a clear difference in player skill at tournaments that will be good to take into account when you plan for the meta. In my area there are 6-8 guys that regularly get into the top at the tournament and I should probably take into account their prefference in decks in my tournament prep.

Reg ass was come to by putting levy and clone chip in a value anarch deck. Most things I tried 3 of off the bat and ended up cutting based on seeing too many of a card (deja, sucker, liberated). Kati went from 2 to 3 in testing. Lucky and Legwork replaced 1x Siphon. Added knifed and queens gambit, cut Injects.

All changes were made in one iteration after about 7 games. Since then Ive done -1 knife +1 spoon.


Oh, I appreciate the sentiment; I share it somewhat myself. but he has even more fun the next week after I make him drape his ideas on decent bones (yes, you have to put in jackson, man. No, peak efficiency isn’t “basically just as good” as hedge. ) and he goes 4-0.

I’m going to write an article about deck borrowing/refining/building. Thread inspired me.

“Refining the Process”



Does it play account siphon X3 and same old thing X3? If not does it have some super powerful draw engine and 3x stimhack and strong multi access, if not then it isn’t worth playing.


Do you have strong ability to score?

How strong are the 12-14 econ cards in your deck?

What’s your ability to defend R&D/HQ like?

If you look at the previously best decks

ETF Fast advance : had sansan and biotic and rushing, Good econ in Hedge fund/PAD/Adonis/green level clearence/ETF abiltiy

Making news Psycographics : econ package of Celebrity gift/PAD/Sweeps Week/Hedge fund/Restructure/Beanstalk royalties/Caducues/popup combined with Sansan+astrotrain AND Psycographics kill, also happened to be natrually strong vs account siphon due to Psycographics on astroscript.

Runner best decks

“The deck” : account siphon+same old thing Leave corp broke, Quality time draws Der infinite cards with andromeda ability, Desperado/Datasucker leave corps taxation significantly lower

Looks like Alexfrog circa 2013.


I don’t want to say i disagree with what people are saying here. It’s a valid way to do it, but i largely consider myself to be an engineer on the engineer to pilot scale and so building decks trends to be what I’m good at. There are a myriad of things to consider as you build and each of these things can help you determine whether you are on a good track or not, even in the absence of precedent.

The main things to focus on are:

  1. Economy (burst, drip, or clicky)
  2. Access (breakers, draw, multi access)
  3. Disruption (economy denial, card denial, tempo denial)

Corps are largely about one and three, runners primarily focus on one and two. Building a deck is an iterative process.

If a card is not filling a role and shaking the game you trade it out. You do get the reflex to be able to build a shell. But you’ve got to figure out what typically works. First thing to do is figure out whether you’re an engineer or a pilot. Everyone is a bit of both, but you’ll be better at one than the other most likely. Most people on this forum are pilots first, and you’ll see them pass over opportunity until it proves itself in someone else’s hands. Also means they pass over junk people like myself might spend more time on.

In anser to your actual question, how do I tell: sometimes you can’t. It can be very difficult to tell if you’re at the top of a hill if you haven’t considered all of the cards. I tend to make a lot of decks that are guesses at what might be good. Such as, building a professor deck oriented around aesops economy. That economy engine existed already and gave me the freedom to try to build a professor deck. Or, when I built IT Department NEH (Crazy Train), I just saw a lot of economic options that looked like they’d work in a horizontal deck and tried to pull cards that would work with that (turtlebacks, pad campaign, marked accounts, SanSan Citygrid (oh, maybe license acquisition would make these things better, I thought; and it did). Then you look at the things in the deck that aren’t pulling their weight as @mediohxcore implied and you switch in things that patch your holes. In the professor deck I originally included keyhole, but it cost 4 and rarely did any work for me because I needed to make repeated runs, out it went and in went sneakdoor because archives was usually open against me.

Mostly, after play testing a few times you can see what you problems are; if you can, and you can fix them, you know the deck can be better. If you can’t figure out how to make it better ask others if they have any ideas. And if they can’t, then you’re probably done.

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He was right all along