Buffy Deckbuilding 101: The Basics

"Now, we can do this the hard way, or ... well, actually, there's just the hard way". - Buffy, Season One: Welcome to the Hellmouth.

Buffy Deckbuilding 101: The Basics by Reason

Lesson 1: The Basics

Decks in BtVS CCG are composed of four parts:
  • The Essence Card, which represents the character you are using as your deck's Main Character.
  • The Challenge Deck, which holds all the Challenges your characters may face and attempt to defeat.
  • Location Cards
  • The Resource Deck, which holds all your Actions, Items, Skills, and Characters. This is the deck you draw from in the game.

    Part 1: The Essence Card

    Essence Cards represent your Main Character, and give them special abilities throughout the game. The Essence Card is not part of your Resource Deck, but rather it stays outside of game play. If you're using a play mat, the Essence card can be used to keep track of your Destiny Points.

    Essence Cards also determine if you're playing a Hero/Companion (blue chracters) deck, or a Villain/Minion (red characters) deck. In the Pergamum Prophecy set, the Hero Main Characters (blue) are Buffy, Willow, Giles, and Angel. The Villain Main Characters (red) are Spike, Drusilla, Collin, and The Master.

    Essences can make a big difference in how powerful a character is. Willow's Essence, for example, reads:

    Willow gains the SPELLCRAFT and COMPUTERS traits and +1 Weirdness and +1 Smarts.

    So, a player using Willow as a Supporting Character, and not as a Main Character (with the Essence Card) has a weaker Willow.

    Not only would they not get the benefit of the one extra Weirdness and Smarts, but the Level 1 Willow card only has Computers, and the Level 2 Willow card only has Spellcraft. Their Willow wouldn't get both Traits until Level 3!

    As you can see, Essence Cards are a powerful tool for your deck. It's important to choose your Main Character carefully.

    Part 2: The Challenge Deck

    The Challenge Deck holds all of your Challenge cards. A Challenge Deck is always made up of exactly 7 Challenges. You may only have one of each Challenge in your Challenge Deck, no duplicates.

    If you are playing an Evil Main Character, you may only use Evil (red bordered) Challenges. If you are playing a Hero Main Character, you may only use Good (yellow border) Challenges.

    Choose your seven Challenges carefully, as they will effect how you set up much of the rest of your deck. Your Challenges can affect which Locations, Items, Characters, and Skills you play with in the rest of your deck.

    For example, the Challenge Mayhem at the Bronze must be played at The Bronze location. Therefore, if you know you're using Mayhem at the Bronze, you also know that The Bronze should be one of the Locations you choose to play with.

    Look over the Talent Requirements you need to defeat each of your Challenges. These will also have an effect on how you build your deck. If all your characters have low Butt-Kicking and high Smarts, you might not want to use the On Patrol Challenge, which requires 10 Butt-Kicking to defeat. Perhaps You Can Trust the Technopagan, which requires 10 Smarts and 4 Weirdness, would be a much better choice for your deck.

    Some Challenges require specific characters to defeat them. Festival of St. Vigeous requires Spike, Parent Teacher Night and Breaking the Bones require Buffy, and Xander has to be around if you want to beat Why Yes, I Am a Praying Mantis. You're going to want to make sure your Resource Deck contains all the characters you'll need to defeat your Challenges.

    Characters can also recieve bonuses against certain Challenges. Billy Palmer gets bonus Smarts against Nightmares of Mine. Sid recieves a similar bonus against The Talent Show Must Go On.

    Other Challenges require certain Items or give bonus Destiny if specific Items are present. A Dead Cheerleader is a Good Cheerleader awards an extra Destiny Point if one of the characters facing it has a Sentient Cheerleading Trophy, and don't even consider defeating The Talent Show Must Go On if you left your Empty Puppet Cases at home...

    Also, see if any of your Challenges have Trait Requirements on them. The Challenge When Good Mothers Go Bad requires not only 8 Weirdness and 5 Smarts to defeat, but also the Traits Spellcraft and Occult.

    To be able to defeat this Challenge, you would have to make sure your deck provided those Traits. For Spellcraft, you could play with a character that had that Trait, or you could use a Skill like Power of the Black Mass to give one of your characters Spellcraft. You could also play the Challenge at the Madison House Location, which gives Spellcraft to all the characters at that Location.

    Occult is even harder to come by... if you were using the When Good Mothers Go Bad Challenge, you'll probably want to put one or two copies of Scully Me (a Skill that gives the Occult Trait) in your deck. However, to win the Challenges 5 Destiny Points, it's probably worth it... that's already halfway to victory!

    It should be apparent by now that which Challenges you choose can greatly affect the rest of your deck. Choose wisely.

    Part 3: Locations

    Locations represent the places that your characters travel to, meet up at, fight at, and face Challenges at. You may have up to 8 Location cards, however, you will only play up to 4 of those 8 in the game.

    You may have only one of each Unique location in your deck, and up to 8 of the same Non-Unique location (as long as the total number of location cards you use is not more than 8).

    Location cards are optional. In BtVS CCG, there are always three rows of three locations... four spots for your opponent, four for you, and the center location, Sunnydale Park, which never has a Location card played on it.

    Even if you don't play a Location card at all of your four location spots, those spots are still locations for the purpose of playing cards and challenges there. Locations with no cards on them have no special names or powers... they're just generic places like "third bush on the left" or "three feet to the right of that stop sign over there".

    Playing Location cards at your location spots, however, can be enormously effective, as Location cards have special powers that can either help you or hinder your opponent during the game.

    When choosing what Location cards to play with (if any), there are certain rules you must follow. All Location cards are either Unique or Non-Unique, and will say so towards the bottom of the card. If a location is Unique, there may only be one of that location in your deck, and after you play your Locations, only one of that Location in play.

    For example, you and your opponent both have a copy of The Bronze Location in your decks. When you start the game, you determine who the active player is, and that player gets to play the first Location. If your opponent plays his copy of The Bronze, you may not play yours this game. The Bronze is already in play, and everyone knows there's only one The Bronze in Sunnydale!

    You would have to choose a different Location to play instead, and save your copy of The Bronze for the next game.

    This is why you can have up to 8 Location cards even if you only ever play 4 in a game, so that if your opponent plays one of your Unique Locations, you have others to choose from.

    You may use up to 8 of any Non-Unique Location. You may have up to 4 of the same Non-Unique Location in play. Your opponent may even have 4 more copies of that Location in play, if he chooses. Who knew there were so many Public Restrooms in Sunnydale? It beats trying to find one in Manhattan, that's for sure!

    Location card powers can have a big effect on how you build your deck.
    The Power Station, for example, says:
    Characters at this Location that are attacked and not defeated cannot be attacked again this turn.

    So, one thing you could do if you have a few weaker characters that you don't want to get beat up... put them next to the Power Station. If your opponent attacks them, play I Quit to get out of the fight and move them to the Power Station. They'll be safe there for the rest of the turn!

    Therefore, if you wanted to use the Power Station in this way, your deck should include a few I Quits as well as some Actions that boost Charm in Talent Stacks (I Quit has a requirement of 3 Charm to use, not too hard to get if you plan for it!).

    You'll also want to make sure you have the Locations you need to be able to successfully play all your Challenges.

    Part 4: The Resource Deck

    The Resource Deck holds all your Characters, Items, Skills, and Actions. For that Reason, it merits its own discussion. For now, I'll cover the basic rules for the Resource Deck.

    Your resource Deck must be at least 40 cards. There is currently no maximum to the number of cards that can be in a resource Deck.

    Note: As of February 1, 2002, the minimum deck size for a tournament officially sanctioned by Score is 60 cards, not 40.

    You may only have up to 3 copies of any card in your Resource Deck.

    No more than 50% of your resource Deck can be Character cards, including the Level 1 card for your Main Character. Likewise, you may not have more than 50% of your Resource Deck be Action cards.

    Your Main Character's Essence card, your Challenges, and your Locations are NOT part of your Resource Deck.

    Your Resource Deck is always played face down, with the card backs showing, unless a card or game effect says otherwise.

    In the next Lesson, I'll show you how to use these rules to make an effective Resource Deck. In the meantime, I hope this has been helpful.

    Read on for Buffy Deck Building 101: The Resource Deck!

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    Revised 16-Feb-2002