Building the Better Combat Deck

The Combat deck is one of the three integral components of a good Rage deck. It is essential for the Combat Deck to provide a way for your Garou (or other characters) to have an effective means of dealing with combat. This article examines several different styles of combat decks, and looks at ways to make them more effective.

Combat Events: Setting the Style

Combat Events set the style of combat your garou expect to be in. Are your garou all High-Rage/Damage combat monsters, or are you relying upon pack actions? Will your alpha be challenging other garou, or hunting out Enemies? Or perhaps you want to avoid being hurt, and gain victory points through other means (such as Quests or Moots).

The Champion Decks, which relies upon a strong alpha to do most of the hurting, will have a completely different set of Combat Events. Surprise Ally would take the place of any of the pack-attack Events. Shieldmate is vital when your champion has gotten wounded in one fight and has to defend against another alpha - a little extra help goes a long way, particularly when you can assign damage where you wish. Taking the Death Blow is also important for the same reason - why have Golgol take that final blow when another garou can step in the way and save him? Frenzy is likewise important - when you really want to kill, radically increasing your combat hand gives a lot more options. Don't forget to have a Gang Beating or two, just to make the Pack player miserable.

For Pack Decks, the choices of Combat Events are fairly obvious. Either Hunting Party or Attacking the Wyrm (or Ass-Whupping Lynch Mob, for those Wyrm-Corrupted among you) are vital, as is Pack Defense. With Pack decks, you'll have a high proportion of Pack Combat Events, because the deck is not as effective in one-on-one conflicts; you want to make sure you always have a pack attack ready when your alpha is making his challenge. Battle Fervor is useful to get extra choices of cards for your pack members; Frenzy is not as useful in this deck since only the frenzied garou can use the extra cards.

Combat Avoidance decks will use other Combat Events, particularly those that help end combat or keep characters alive. In this type of deck, Taking the Death Blow and Shieldmate both serve to keep characters alive for a while longer. Fox Frenzy is a useful Combat Event from Legacy. It gives a quick method of ending combat that does not require a Sept card. It is quite useful in a combat-avoidance deck, and is useful in other decks as well.

Other Combat Events have more particular places. Get Medieval is very effective in a deck with medium-sized garou - losing one is not critical, but vengeance can be fun. No Escape can be used in a Lure-em deck, where you force other alphas to attack you (with Rite of Summoning, for instance). The Battlefield Combat events are specialized for Battlefield style of combat.

Avoid Bum's Rush, as it does not give you any additional cards, and allows an enemy to take his pick of targets. Reinforcements should usually be avoided in a Pack Deck - if you have not killed your enemy in the first two rounds, you are in trouble.

Combat Actions: Doing the Hurting

Combat Actions are the meat of most combat decks. When selecting Combat Actions, a good garou has to know how his deck can be expected to perform. There are a lot of different combat cards, many of which are very similar. Which to use?

Combat Actions (and therefore, combat decks) can generally be broken into four categories, some of which overlap. I call them Harm, Harass, Hinder, and Hide. Each Combat action will typically fit into one of these categories.

Harm: Perhaps the first instinct is to take the biggest, nastiest combat cards you can and lump them into a deck. Harm decks focus on Mangling, Entrail Rending, and other high damage actions. This deck works perfectly for a Champion deck. Generally, any card of Rage 6 or higher and Damage 4 or higher would fit well into this deck. Some lower rage combat cards are necessary in this deck for those time when you have not made it into Crinos form yet, but they should be minimized. The Rage value of the combat cards should work with your Alpha and his backup.

Harm decks only fail when you can't get to play those nasty cards, or when their effect is neutralized. Against a very defensive deck, or one that uses a lot of gifts to prevent cards from being played, a Harm deck can quickly lead to a sulking Garou who never gets to throw that Heartbreaker.

Harass: Harass cards are those low-rage cards that do more damage than the Rage required to use it. Bite, Lucky Blow, Stinging Wound, and Over-Extended Attack are all great examples of this. Harass cards work perfectly in a pack deck, where many lower-rage garou work to bring down a large foe. In general, the minor drawbacks of these cards do not cause much hardships; however use Over-Extended Attack with extreme care.

One of the disadvantages of decks with predominantly low-rage cards is that your combat cards generally do not pose a threat when an opponent is attacking a high-rage Enemy. Who is really afraid of a Nexus Crawler if all it can do is Bite you? For that reason, Harass decks need to have other ways to prevent opponents from killing Enemies.

Hinder: Hinder Combat actions make it more difficult for an opponent to play combat cards, or act in combat. Organ Puncture, Kneecapper, and Broken Limb are all Hinder combat cards. A pure Hinder combat deck is difficult to properly use. However, Hinder cards are essential to other decks - a Harass deck benefits greatly from a Surprise Attack, while a Harm deck can use a Beat Unmerciful on the heels of a Vital Blow for true nastiness. Head Wound is also very useful.

Hinder cards and decks fail miserably against two or more opponents. For that reason, Hinder decks must usually have some other component, or some method to prevent pack attacks and defenses (Hunts-at-Night comes to mind).

Hide: Some Rage decks are not designed to be combat decks. Typically, a moot deck maximizes its ability to avoid getting killed. Certain Quest decks also would avoid combat except in certain circumstances. Hide cards are the cards to avoid damage - Dodge, Block or Evasion - and those that let you escape combat, such as Umbral Escape or simply Running like Hell. While it is certainly possible to build a deck specifically to avoid everything thrown at you, using Hide cards to give flexibility to other decks is very useful too.

Hide decks also excel at defending enemies. Their only weakness is their general lack of firepower - when over half of a Combat Deck does no damage, actually making kills is very difficult. A nasty trick to use with a Hide deck is to use Frenzies while attacking, and have a couple of Entrail Rends in your deck. It is quite possible that you will be able to run your opponent out of cards while dodging everything thrown at you. When his defender is tired from all those attacks, rip his guts out with the Entrail Rend you've been saving.

Other decks: Many decks, built out of the ideas here, are hybrids focusing on a special type of combat. Kailindo decks are one obvious example. Kailindo gives a lot of combat actions to break off combat, or hinder the opponent while still doing some damage. With the addition of the Kailindo cards in Legacy, Kailindo decks become even more effective.

Umbral decks are another specialized form of deck, although Umbral combat actions generally are inferior to standard combat actions, with the exception of Redirected Attack (heh heh). Redirected Attack is ideal to use with a Feint. Umbral escapes work well in an umbral deck - not for your Garou, who cannot use it in the Umbra, but for badly wounded enemies. Let that badly-beaten Refinery Umbral Escape across the gauntlet right into your Umbral pack's waiting fangs.

Since the Combat Deck recycles, it does not need to be very large. In fact, the smaller the Combat deck, the more effective and focused it is. Typically when designing a combat deck, I almost never go above 25 cards; frequently I use the 20-card minimum. This allows a minimum of randomness to creep into your draws, while maximizing the chances for you to hold key cards in your combat hand.

The following are several Combat Decks from successful decks I have played

Red Talons Wolfpack Combat Deck (Pack deck, 25 cards)

The trick here is to get as many characters in combat as possible; Battle Fervors combined with a Hunting Party or Attacking the Wyrm give a large choice of combat actions to use, even with the high number of combat events in the deck. If its not dead in the first two rounds, break off.

7th Generation Combat Deck (Hide deck - 20 cards)

Hide! Avoid those horrid Garou! Those claws and teeth hurt! Bide your time, wait for an easy target, and hit quickly with a Fast Strike. There are enough reasonable damage cards here to be a threat as well. Take advantage of weakened opponents, and be patient.

Ahroun Deck (Harm Deck - 30 cards)

This deck breaks my 25-card limit. Since a lot of the cards are in the same Rage/Damage range, the deck still works, and there are not that many combat events to clog the hand. The maximum Rage (without modifiers) for the Garou in this deck is 8 (Gere Hunts-the-Hunters), so nothing over 8 Rage appears in the combat deck. A lot of cards are tossed in for the sheer visceral fun of it..

While the Combat deck is a vital element for Rage, the Sept deck must support the combat deck and vice-versa. It is critical for the Sept deck to bolster the Garou in their combat; the exact nature of the Sept deck will depend on the characters chosen for the pack even more than the Combat deck. However, learning the strengths and weaknesses of each particular style will help you to select the characters for your deck..

Howl Loudly and Rage Often!