As with any game, Classic Rage (aka Rage1, or WWRage) has a number of archetypal decks. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Playing Rage (or any other CCG) is as much about identifying and countering your opponents' paths to victory as winning by points yourself.
So how can you beat the best decks? This webpage is intended to give you some insights in deck strengths and weaknesses.
|Champion Decks||Pack Decks||Moot Decks|
|Umbra Decks||Sniper Decks||Specific Cards|
Champion Decks are usually fairly straightforward. Simply pick a favorite big garou (usually 8 renown or better), get into Crinos, and do lots of damage with big combat cards. Frenzies are a popular combat deck feature, as are Mangles and other combat cards of high rage. The Champion deck is by far the easiest to build quickly, as many of the card picks are somewhat standard. Because of this, it is also the deck style that new players usually try first.
Sept cards are usually combat-driven. True Fear or Spirit of the Fray are favorites. Anything else will usually bolster the primary combatant, or support him. Sometimes a gift-canceler is present, to protect the alpha against unwanted gifts.
Characters: Typical garou in such a deck are Golgol, Mamu, Howls-like-Thunder, King Albrecht, or any of the other big combat-oriented characters. Julisha, Stalks-Death, Anna Kliminski, Bron, or any of the three big Uktena would also work well for champions. Other characters are usually support (or a secondary fighter) to support the alpha.
There are a number of ways to beat a Champion deck. The most important thing is to avoid having the Champion attack your alpha (unless you are prepared for it). Secondarily, hampering the champion's ability to kill enemies is also very important. When you have both bases covered, you can usually shut the deck down. Also, if you can take your alpha action first, you could pick off the choice targets (Carleson Ruah is excellent for this).
Almost every tribe has some form of combat-ending or combat-avoiding card. The Red Talons have Trackless Waste, the Silver Fangs use Staredown, etc. Different cards are useful in different circumstances. Use them.
Anythng you can do to weaken the Champion is a good thing. Aggravated Damage is right up there, since a number of Champion decks do not include much (if any) healing. Whelp Body is a VERY potent card against Champions - many of the higher rage combat cards cannot be bluffed, or must be used in Crinos form. Likewise, Taking the True Form is wonderfully effective in hampering the Champion, particularly if used in the middle of combat. Heart of Fury is also another good choice, to prevent those Frenzies (as is a New Moon).
Finally, the effects you have to remove a character from play (Small Town Cop, for instance) can frequently devastate a Champion deck.
King Albrecht: King Albrecht deserves special consideration. At 13 Renown with an automatic Fast Strike against Wyrm creatures, he is definitely one of the most potent garou in the game. King Albrect is almost always accompanied by a support character (Storm Chaser works well in this role) - if you can eliminate the support, you may seriously hamper the deck. Most of the usual Champion-hindering tactics work well on Albrecht. At 13 renown, King Albrecht is also a very juicy target for other Gaia packs - don't hesitate to attack if you can beat him!
Tag-Team: Tag-team decks use two champions, usually two of the 10-renown ahrouns (Golgol, Mamu, or Howls). This avoids the danger of losing the primary fighter, since both are equally dangerous. Be prepared to hinder both equally. One of the weaknesses of the Tag-team is usually a lack of gift-canceling power, so make sure you use your gifts wisely!
Pack decks are almost the reverse of the Champion deck. Instead of one or two huge garou, the pack deck uses lots of smaller ones. Any time you see a deck with six (or more) characters, its almost guaranteed to be a pack deck. While a champion deck uses big damage cards, the pack deck uses the low-rage combat cards, usually the ones that have a higher damage than their rage (Bite, Lucky Blow, Bitch Slap. etc.), because that increases the chances that all members of the pack could play them.
Pack decks rely upon bringing most or all of the garou in the pack into combat, to strike quickly at large targets. Enemies in a Pack deck are usually big - the Nexus Crawler or the Refinery are frequent targets. The pack usually uses gifts or abilities to prevent the enemy from escaping or evading (look for True Fear or Distractions), or simply hampering the target (Syntax against the Refinery, for example).
Characters: Almost any character of 7 renown or under can be in a pack deck. Allies are frequent additions to pack decks (spirit allies especially so, since the targets could not Umbral Escape from them). Common characters are Anna-Howls-from-Soul, Banana Split, and Carleson Ruah.
Pack decks are difficult to beat, simply because there are a wide variety of them. With a wide variety of garou to choose from, the selection of gifts or equipment can't always be predicted. There are umbral pack decks, weenie pack decks (no renown higher than 3), or even moot-pack hybrids.
A pack deck usually relies upon a kill in the first round of combat. When drawing additional characters into the fray, a pack will have only so many combat cards to go around; any character not playing a combat card should get whacked by the enemy. The characters are also not usually too potent individually, so they are easily killed, IF the enemy gets a chance to attack in combat. But a first round Evasion is by far the best play against a Pack deck (followed by Umbral Escape).
Another weakness of a Pack deck is the low Rage of the combat cards. When you are playing in a one-on-one game against a pack deck, the enemies may be fairly easy to kill, since the pack may not have high-rage cards. Don't depend on this until you've seen most of the combat cards in the pack deck (which is usually after the first combat anyway).
The other weakness of a pack deck is that there are usually one or two key characters in the pack. Anna Howls-from-Soul, Banana Split, and Carleson are all valuable members of a pack deck, and their loss can seriously hinder the pack. Don't waste your time trying to kill the alpha, unless you are ready to fight the entire pack (and remember, they often have a stymier like True Fear ready).
Of course, you can always try attacking the pack directly. This is particularly useful if you can frenzy on them, and play a Gang Beating. Gang Beatings are the bane of pack decks. Also, if you are playing an oppositely aligned deck (Gaia vs. Wyrm), you can step in against the pack.
Pack deck are also vulnerable to effects that globally hinder the garou. Mass Pollution or The Piper hinder pack decks more than most other types of decks.
Victory by Moots is an alternative method for victory in Rage. It has the advantage of being easy to do if other players are not ready to handle them. While victory in a combat not always guaranteed, a player can usually figure out the moot totals in advance.
Moot decks frequently seriously hamper other packs, primarily by removing characters through Skindancer or Winter Wolf. Because of this, they can easily dominate one-on-one games, since once one opposing character is eliminated, it is that much easier to eliminate the next. The combat deck of a Moot Deck is very defensive, and the Sept deck will usually have plenty of combat-enders in it (including Friends in High Places, for instance). An alternate form of moot decks are those that deny VPs using Jackal's Curses and other similar effects. Also, beware of Legendary Leaderships - they are a staple of the better Moot Decks.
Characters: Grimfang and Pearl River are both obvious choices, particularly since both the Children of Gaia caern and the Silver Fang caern give bonuses to moots. Other moot pack characters include Roar-of-Storms, and Grek.
Beating a Moot deck typically takes two courses. The first is to simply kill the Moot Deck characters. This is usually the more difficult route, because of the deck's defensive capabilities. Be prepared to use Distractions to help an Enemy wound Grimfang, or use other tricks to similarly harass the Moot Deck's resources. Once one of the larger garou in a Moot Deck is removed, it is usually stopped for a while (until other packs also loose characters).
The other method is to avoid the Moots. Hiding in the Umbra avoids being voted a Skindancer or Winter Wolf, but it also lets the Moot deck pass other moots without challenge. Umbral decks can frequently outpace a moot deck, simply by killing things quickly.
Moots are totally useless against a Wyrm deck, and are also weaker when they have to outvote multiple Gaia decks. However, if you are in a 3-way game with a Moot deck and a Wyrm deck, the Moot player will be targetting you with every harmful moot. Encouraging the Wyrm player to whomp on the Moot player is certainly something to consider.
One prominent style of deck is the Umbra deck. These decks rely upon getting into the Umbra and making kills there. Umbral decks are dangerous because it can turn the enemy-killing into a race, in the Umbral Deck's favor. Even if you attack that fearsome Vampire, be prepared to see him Umbral Escape into the waiting claws of the Umbral Pack.
Combat with an umbral deck is seldom a guarantee. Beware of Redirected Attacks - particularly with a Mangle. Sap Spirit is also dangerous. Since most packs use high-gnosis characters, they don't always need to get into Crinos to be dangerous.
Characters: Shakey Mac, Naomi, and Laughs-at-Death are all common umbral characters. The Fist of the Comet caern works particularly well with Naomi.
Beating an Umbral deck can take one of two courses - fighting the pack in the umbra (dangerous, but possible), or fighting in the real world and killing things faster. Fighting the Umbral Pack directly is frequently dangerous - most of the good umbral characters are Theurges, which gives them access to a lot of gift-cancelling (although little in the way of combat-stymies). Expect to fight a straight fight against them, on their home ground. But most umbral packs won't have the stopping power of a Champion deck.
Racing to kill enemies is another tactic. If you have an Incarna Sigil, stay in the real world and kill the umbral targets. If not, use your caern (you do have one in your deck, right?) to enter or leave the umbra to kill the biggest thing you can - if you can effectively split your combatants to cover both realms, so much the better.
Umbral decks are frequently weak for a similar reason that pack decks are weak - if the combat is in the real world, Redirected Attacks and other umbral combat cards are totally useless. At the same time, if you are in the umbra, the enemy cannot Umbral Escape from you. Choose your battleground wisely.
Sniper Decks, or Attrition Decks, are designed to win by quick kills. Frequently they use Fast Strikes, Bane Arrows and lots of combat-avoidance or combat-escape. Most Sniper Decks have defensive combat decks, with a few specific attacks to provide a quick victory.
Sniper Decks usually use easy-to-kill enemies, such as the Furmling, or attack opponents' non-alpha characters. To prevent others from scoring the prize a Sniper Deck will frequently use Sneak Attacks. Using characters such as Allemande allow a Sniper to select easy-to-kill targets.
Characters: Allemande, Walks-with-Might, Roars-like-Thunder are all good picks for a Sniper deck. The Silent Striders have a number of combat-avoidance gifts that are very effective.
The Sniper Deck is difficult to beat. Like the Pack Deck, there are a number of variations. For instance, a deck with Walks-with-Might can double as a Champion deck easily, and would probably have more deadly combat cards. Avoiding lasting combats is the way these decks usually work, so be prepared to frenzy on them if you can. Otherwise, use things that negate their ability to Sneak Attack (Security System, Sky River Caern), or redirect it (Fooled You, Geas, Splinter the Weakened Mind).
Overcoming the defensive nature of the combat deck is another problem. When most of the combat cards are dodges, blocks and escapes, it is difficult to land a blow on enemies (not to mention the pack itself). In a multiplayer game, a Sniper deck frequently makes it more worthwhile to go after another alpha rather than fight enemies, unless you have a Frenzy or can prevent the target from evading you (with a True Fear, for instance).
A Sniper Deck is actually vulnerable to another Sniper Deck. The combats turn into dances of dodges, and blocks, but rarely do blows land. When they do, it usually means that both Sniper decks have gotten hit pretty hard. Take advantage of that if you are a third player in a multiplayer game.
A number of Rage cards exist that are difficult to counter. This section focuses on some of the more dangerous cards to face, and what to do about them. Some of the potent cards (e.g., King Albrecht) have already been addressed in the Decks sections.
Frenzy is one of those effects that define Rage (at least WWRage). Its a flurry of carnage which almost always results in at least one, and frequently two, casualties. Playing a Frenzy is the Rage equivalent of launching a Nuke, so deal with it as quickly as you can.
Most of the effects that hamper Champion Decks work well against a Frenzy. Use them. Also, if you don't use Frenzies at all, consider adding New Moons to your deck. Renown Admonishment is another good choice, as is Memory Ribbon. Every deck you build should have something to avoid, end or otherwise hamper a Frenzy. Finally, anything that will stop a combat (like Staredown or Fox Frenzy) is a good addition.
Remember you can use Stymie cards (True Fear, Scream of Gaia) to end a Frenzy - simply decline to play a card while the opponent is stymied, and the combat will end, regardless of the Frenzy. While this uses one of your potent cards, it may be worth it if you would otherwise lose your alpha.
The Stymie cards are those cards like True Fear, Distractions and Scream of Gaia, that prevent your opponent from playing a card (or negate it once played). These are potent cards that allow you to bluff without worry. Because of this, they are a staple of many Rage decks, particularly Pack Decks.
Dark Moon's Femur is the best way to stop Stymie cards, but only Uktena can use it, and its unique. Iron Will is another good choice; unfortunately it was part of the short-printed Amazon set. Using a Stymie against a Stymie will end the combat (assuming its a one-on-one combat). Again, using a combat-stopper like Staredown is another good solution.
One of the best two combat cards in Rage (the other being Evasion), Mangle is alternately praised or cursed by many garou in combat. Its a potent damage card that prevents the victim from taking any action. Very Nasty Indeed.
Mangle can be beaten, however. Most of the effects that stop Stymiers work after you've been Mangled. Also, even if you've been mangled, you can still play Combat Events (like Fox Frenzy) or use equipment (like Vampire Blood). But by far the best defense against a Mangle is simply not being there to be hit - dodge it, or umbral escape.
Taking the Death Blow is one of the few cards in Rage without an obvious counter for, Therefore, it takes a more strategic approach to deal with it. First, don't attack the pack using it, unless you have no choice. Use lower-damage cards to slow the character's regeneration - don't try to kill them all at once. Finally, when you get a chance to eliminate packmates, do it. Sneak Attack the pack, but don't expect to kill anything. Just plan on wounding the target within a point of its life. He won't always have the card in his hand (it can't be played from a frenzy hand).
If you can trap the target away from the rest of his pack, do not hesitate. If he Umbral Escapes and his pack is in the real world, chase him if you can (but watch out for that hit as you come across the gauntlet yourself). But remember - spirits exist on both sides of the gauntlet, and Ka Spirits are a favorite for Taking the Death Blow.
The eternal Ka spirit, returning whenever they die. Bound by the eternal nature of their existence - and damn annoying. In conjunction with Taking the Death Blow, they are one of the most dificult cards to deal with. You can't permanently kill them, so what do you do?
Bind them. Use a Rite of Binding, and add a Ka Spirit to your own pack, or use the Bottlecap of Shakey Mac to borrow one at your leisure. Don't use it in combat, just keep it away from the Silent Strider's pack. If things get out of hand, you can always use Close the Bawn to eliminate all of them (since they are not killed, simply discarded). Likewise, Spirit Drain or Exorcism are useful against the Ka Spirits.
A nasty, first-striking Kailindoist, the Akashic Brother is a danger to many combatants. An Akashic striking with a Nerve Cluster means you can't play anything higher than Rage 1 cards. With a Passive Aggression, he can turn your attacks against you. What to do?
Two tactics spring to mind. If you can even the score with a Spirit of the Fray, do it. He's worth 8 points, and has a health of 3. Likewise, using a Fast Strike is a valuable tactic. The other thing to do is expect his nastiest attack. Don't bother trying to dodge - he will hit you before the dodge works. So expect a Nerve Cluster, and play a Rage 1 damage card against him - particularly if you have more than one in your hand.
The Wyrm has an excellent counter to the Akashic Brother (not to mention the Dreamspeaker) with the Fractured Nephandus.
Probably one of the more dangerous Wyrm characters is Blossom. She can take any character out of play (on a "date"), for a full turn. Since wyrm packs with Blossom will usually have cards to defend her specifically (like Taking the Death Blow), Sneak Attacking her is difficult. How do you beat her?
You don't - at least not directly. Blossom is a thorn to Champion decks primarily - she just loves the King especially. Design your deck so that you don't rely upon any one character. Even a Champion Deck should have a combat-capable second. Blossom also cannot (usually) get into the Umbra, so if you make it in there, you're safe. Finally, realize that Blossom can be your friend in a multiplayer game - make it more attractive to take out someone else's character (this never works if you have King Albrecht in play, though).
Spirit of the Fray turns all of the character's combat actions into fast-strikes, resolving before other cards. This allows characters to hit something even if its trying to dodge out of the way. A Spirit of the Fray coupled with a Mangle is truly disgusting. How do you deal with it?
As with most gifts, Spirit of the Fray can be easily canceled. If you know your opponent has Spirit of the Fray in the deck, hold onto any gift cancelling you can. Alternately, escape from or stop the combat if you can. Spirit of the Fray is really only dangerous if it kills you or seriously impairs you (like a Mangle or Nerve Cluster). Since your opponent will be trying to hit you hard, hit back hard too. Don't waste time on useless dodges or blocks - if you're stuck in combat, do as much damage to him as you can.
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