Buffy Deckbuilding 101: Anatomy of (TWO) Decks!

"Once again, I'm banished to the demon section of the card catalog". - Willow, Season One: The Puppet Show.

Buffy Deckbuilding 101: Anatomy of (TWO) Decks! by Reason

I thought I'd take the time to share a little of my deck building strategies, as an offer to help some of you who are discovering the joys of playing in Buffy tournaments in your area.

This post is a follow-up to my other Buffy Deck-Building tutorials, also located in this forum. If you haven't read those, please go here and read them first, they'll answer a lot of questions about basic deck building.

The following are the two decks that I've been using or tournaments recently. That's right, my tournament level decks. Most high-level players won't share their decks and strategies, but in my opinion this is the best way for newer players to learn good deck building techniques. A word of caution, though... before you go build exact copies of the decks, keep in mind that you will not be the only one reading this. A major part of strategy in tournaments comes from your opponent NOT knowing what's in your deck. Directly copying these decks may only serve to give your opponents an advantage when playing you.

I'll follow each deck with notes on some of the strategy I employ when playing them. Please keep in mind that over the course of the game you'll make dozens, even hundreds, of situational decisions based on what's currently in play. Short of playing against me several times, there's no way I can truly tell you how I play these decks, down to the every card play. Also, the decks you'll face in your area will very likely be different than the ones I play against in mine. Keep in mind that certain circumstances will change with the metagame, though some cards will simply always be good cards.


The first deck is an Angelus fighting deck. Don't let this surprise you. I may have been known in the past for building Challenge decks, but since the release of Angel's Curse, fighting has become an extremely strong strategy. Anyone who says Fighting decks can't win is WRONG! I've beaten some of the best Challenge decks with this deck.

The key to fighting is controlling movement. Simply put, you can't start a Fight if your character's not at the same location as your opponent's.

The key to beating fast Challenge deck with a Fighting deck is to be relentless. It's almost impossible for a Challenge deck to be effective if they only have one or two characters in play. Always chase your opponents, since even moving them away from the location where there Challenge is placed costs them a turn of gaining Destiny.

This deck contains only 4 different characters, and each serves its own purpose. Angelus' job is to chase my opponent and get into as many Fights as possible. The Master and Spike mostly stay on my side of the board and complete easy Challenges for a few extra Destiny. Though this is not a Challenge deck specifically, and extra 3 or 4 Destiny never hurts. It also helps to have a Villain or two at the Lair of the Master to allow me to Trans-Possess skills onto Angelus without having to fatigue anyone. Drusilla serves two functions, in the early game I use her to draw cards. After I have more presence on the board and I'm better set up, she'll often chime in with Spike and The Master to help with the Challenges.

By lowering the number of characters you make more room for Skills and Items, which are big keys to winning Fights by Talent Stacks. Their versatility is essential when Talent Changers are taken into consideration. Also, this deck has far less card cycling ability than a normal Smarts based Challenge deck, so it's important to have fewer "dead cards" in your deck.

And remember, the key to this deck's strategy is aggressiveness. Angelus should always be chasing your opponent down, whenever possible. You can move into the park with Spike/The Master/Drusilla later on if you want to, especially after one of them has Primal Connection, but this deck will lose if you sit back and let your opponent play a bunch of characters and have free reign on their Challenges.

Some may wonder why I chose Angelus over Buffy for a Fighting deck. There are three main Reasons:

1) Movement. After I play Spike's Car/Ring of Prophecy, Angelus gets 3 moves every two turns, Buffy gets only 2 moves every two turns. Since getting to the same location as my opponent's characters is extremely important, the more I can move, the better.

2) No More Soul. Don't get me wrong, Confrontation is a GREAT card, I wish I could put it in this deck, but No More Soul keeps me from having to include the Talent Icon-less Clumsy Fingers and Lounging About With Imbeciles. Plus, it's a 2 BK card. No More Soul is extremely effective against Challenge decks that use Wisdom to compete in Fights, as well as helping to keep the edvantage against other Fighting decks that rely on BK boosters like Quarterstaff and Watcher Training.

3) Extra destiny. Sure, your opponent has to be playing Heroes, but an extra Destiny or two can make the difference when you relying on Fighting as your main source of Destiny.


Locations (8):
St. du Lac Mausoleum
Lair of the Master
Natural History Museum
Vampire Mansion

(back up)
Sunnydale High School Auditorium (replaces Vampire Mansion against Giles/Willow decks)
Sunnydale High School Lawn
Hospital (pure back up if another location gets played)
50's Time Capsule (brought in to replace the Auditorium or Natural History Museum after those locations have opponent's Challenges attached)

Challenges (7):
These Challenges are played on my locations and I attempt to complete them:
Reviving the Master
Festival of St. Vigeous
Welcome to the Harvest

These Challenges are played on my opponent's side, and I never complete them:
From The Ashes of Five Dead
Young Frankenstein
Feeding Time

Characters (8):
Angelus lvl 1
Angelus lvl 2 (great Talents, suddenly Talent Changers don't concern me)
The Master lvl 1 x2
Spike lvl 1 (WW1 promo) x2 (the promo has a higher WE and can get Drusilla)
Drusilla lvl 1 x2

Events (2):
Death (KEY CARD: play this card as early as possible)
A Fervent Wish

Items (13):
Spike's Car x3
Ring of Prophecy x2
Manacles x3 (KEY CARD: IMPORTANT! these cards are here to look for Hair Flips/Book Learnings and get rid of them)
Stake & Crossbow x3 (better than quarterstaff cause I can still equip Spike's Car or RoP)
Empty Puppet Case x2

Skills (7):
Watcher Training x3
Fast Pace x2 (KEY CARD: Once Fast Pace is attached, my opponent has nowhere to run)
Real Literary-Like
Primal Connection (now available through Commisary redemption)

Actions (30):
No More Soul x3
Run, Fast! x3 (KEY CARD: It's all about controlling your opponent's movement)
Total Lecture Overload x3 (KEY CARD: See Run, Fast! above)
Grounded x2 (KEY CARD: We're still controlling our opponent's movement here)
The Old Madison Body Switch (STILL controlling their movement)
Anywhere But Here x3 (see notes on the Manacles loop below)
Testosterone x3
Creep Factor x1
Circle of Kayless x2 (Angelus gets extra Destiny for Heroes... the Companions can go away, I don't want 'em)
Superior Fighting x2
Oh, the *Other* Cemetery x2
Computer Threat (extra Destiny, always target their Main Character)
Demon Theory x3 (Extra extra Destiny)


Always start Angelus in the middle right location, the closest location to your opponent without having to go through the Park.

When playing your locations, play St. du Lac Mausoleum in the middle right (where Angelus is). Play Lair of the Master bottom right, under the Mausoleum. Play Natural History Museum bottom center. Play Vampire Mansion/SDHS Auditorium bottom left.

The order you play these will change. Against a Giles/Willow deck, you might play the Auditorium first to cut them off, but if you know their also playing St. du Lac's, play that first. The Mausoleum is more important than disrupting their Talent Show Must Go On Challenge.

Always start at Night.

First turn Draw Step: depending on what's in your hand, fatigue Angelus at the Mausoleum and attach Spike's Car or Ring of Prophecy. If you have one of these in your hand, attach a Manacles instead.

First turn Refresh Step: refresh Angelus.

First turn Movement Step: Move into their territory. Try and get to the same location as their Main Character (remember you have two moves to do this). A first turn Run, Fast! can really help you achieve this if they move away from you.

That's the set-up, the rest is up to you. When playing against a Hero deck, always try and fight their Heroes. Let Circle of Kayless handle the Companions, if you can. You get extra Destiny for the Heroes, and chances are they rely on them more for whatever their strategy is. The fewer characters they have in play, the fewer options they have.

Manacles and the Manacles loop:
Manacles are in your deck for one thing: to get rid of Hair Flips and Book Learnings against Challenge decks and to get rid of cards like Superior Fighting against BK based Fighting decks. Angelus should be able to win almost any BK contest.

The Manacles loop is not a key to this deck, but it can be very effective. Here's how it works:

First of all, once Natural History Museum has one of your opponent's Challenges on it (usually the first turn), it's no longer useful. Your opponent is not likely to be strolling to your side of the board to attempt that Challenge. You can, if you want, use Oh, the *Other* Cemetery to move their Challenge from NHM to another of your locations (like Lair of the Master) and grab another one of theirs, but that's up to you.

Likewise, SDHS Auditorium is mostly useful for attaching your opponent's The Talent Show Must Go On and your Festival of St. Vigeous. Again, once one or both of these Challenges is attached, you don't want this location in play anymore. Moving to the location fatigues you.

Anywhere But Here gives you a large amount of options for when you no longer need NHM or the Auditorium. One option is to bring in the SDHS Lawn. If your opponent is running oodles of companions/minions, Spike and The Master at the Lawn can help deal with some of them while Angelus kills off the Heroes.

If you have St. du Lac's Mausoleum in play, you should bring in 50's Time Capsule to set up the Manacles loop. It works like this: during the Prologue or Draw Step, use 50's Time Capsule to put a Manacles back in your Resource Deck. Then, fatigue a character at the Mausoleum to attach the Manacles. Refresh the character who got the Manacles during that turn's Refresh Step. This way, you have a Manacles attached to your characters every turn, greatly reducing the risk of losing a Fight because you already have a good idea of what's in your opponent's hand.

Keep in mind that, if your opponent plays 50's Time Capsule before you, all is not lost. If Angelus happens to be there anyway, 50's Time Capsule's text does not require you to fatigue to use it.

Remember, the key to winning with this deck is to disrupt your opponent's strategy by controlling their movement, chracters, and ability to complete Challenges. Test your deck against this one, and see how it does!

Ok, and now for something completely different:


Come on now, you didn't think that I wouldn't have a Challenge deck around, did you? It's still an extremely efficient way to win, especially since most players have not yet realized the strength of a focused, aggressive fighting deck (though I guess that may change now).

This deck is simply a refinement of the Challenge decks that I've built before. Giles is still a great character, but the Willow Only cards that she got in Angel's Curse can definitely make the difference in a game. At the moment, I feel Willow is slightly stronger than Giles in the metagame: not quite as fast, but more versatile and able to cope with your opponent's different strategies. Plus, Willow's natural inclusion of Spellcraft and Computer means you have more options when it comes to Challenges you can defeat.


Locations (6):
SDHS Auditorium
Football Field SDHS Library
Hyena Exhibit (for "Good Mothers")
Willy's Bar

Challenges (7):
Hyenas in the Principle's Office
When Good Mother's Go Bad
Oh, May Queen
A Soul's Revenge
A Quick Jaunt to the Funeral Home
You Can Trust the Technopagan
The Talent Show Must Go On

Characters (14):
Willow Rosenberg lvl 1
Willow Rosenberg lvl 2
Rupert Giles lvl 1 x2
Buffy Summers lvl 1 (PP) x2
Angel lvl 1 (AC) x2
Uncle Enyos x2
Amy Madison x2
Jenny Calender

Events (0):

Items (11):
Empty Puppet Case x3
Orb of Thesulah x2
Silver Locket x2
Rocket Launcher (for "Quick Jaunt")
Disembodied Arm (for "Good Mothers")
Mummy's Seal x2

Skils (5):
Wisdom x3
Black Lagoon Aromatherapy
Watcher Training (for "Quick Jaunt" and protection against Fight decks)

Actions (30):
Challenge helpers:
Offer of Ugly Death x3
Gathering of Scoobies x3
Finding Your Destiny
Will You Go to the Dance? x2
Dig Up the Corpses x3
Studying x3
Book Learning x3
Hair Flip x3
Total Lecture Overload x3
Clumsy Fingers
Lounging About With Imbeciles
General purpose:
Angry Mob x2
A Friend in Need

You may notice that this deck is slightly more protected against Fight decks than most Challenge decks usually are. If you read the Angelus deck above, you'll know why. Without the additional cards, this deck got slaughtered by Angelus every time. Like I said, though, you local metagame may vary.

Most of this deck is pretty straight forward: defeat Challenges until you have 10 Destiny.

Since this is a strategy that most of us are familiar with, I'll simply point out a few cards and their uses.

The primary focus of this deck is Smarts based Challenges. The character selection generally makes that a breeze, but adding Gathering of Scoobies really puts you over the top. I often have 20+ Smarts when facing a Challenge, allowing me to concentrate my Talent Stacks on other Talents. By giving myself one less Talent to focus on when completing Challenges, I can stretch the cards that I play into Talent Stacks further. If an Action boosts Smarts and Charm, instead of choosing between them, I simply play the card to boost Charm (assuming I need Charm for that Challenge).

Again, lots of Items and Skills help make my Talent Stacks more versatile, and since cards like Rocket Launcher and Disembodied Arm are situational, I have no regrets throwing those cards into Talent Stacks if I'm not going to be facing the respective Challenges I included them for.

One good trick if your opponent is using the Lawn/Abduction is to respond by playing Angry Mob. You move your captured Companion back to Willow's location as if they never left, and your opponent has wasted that action.

Mummy's Seal is almost exclusively for Enyos, since besides Black Lagoon Aromatherapy, he's your only source of Occult for the two Challenges in the deck that require it.

If you're facing another Challenge deck, Book Learning/Hair Flip are perfect cards for discarding to Studying.

This deck, when left to it's own devises, is extremely fast. It should only take 2 or 3 Challenges to reach 10 Destiny. This is important, because most of your opponent's decks will take an average of 3 of your Challenges away from you in the first couple turns with Oh, the *Other* Cemetery and Natural History Museum, etc. That's ok, though. Chances are you won't need them.

Notice that with The Talent Show Must Go On, Will You Go To the Dance x2, and Offer of Ugly Death x3, you can total 11 Destiny off of one Challenge. If you're extremely lucky, you can win the game on this set-up alone.

One mistake I do see people make with these decks is that they're afraid to let go of cards. They won't use their card cycling abilities to their full extent. Break yourself of this habit! Use your Puppet Cases, Studying, and Draw Step to your maximum advantage. Holding a card you might need is nowhere near as important as getting a card you do need.

If necessary, don't be afraid to send Buffy or Angel into battle... if your opponent is chasing you with a character trying to get into a fight, let them! After all, you may win, and if you do they basically have to start all over. And don't be afraid to Stunt-Double to protect your big Challenge guys like Willow and Giles.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the decks I've been using lately. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

Listen to,

BtVS CCG Netrep/Moderator

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