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HOW TO: PvE Deckbuilding Guide


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Foreword

Content:

  1. Orb and Color Overview
  2. Picking your Approach
  3. General considerations
  4. Units in general
  5. Units in Tiers
  6. Buildings
  7. Spells
  8. Synergies
  9. My other Guides

If you recently asked "Can somebody show me a good deck for this color?" or "Can anyone rate my deck?" then this PvE Deckbuilding Guide could give you a foundation to use if you need some early pointers on what to pay attention to when you start building your own deck.

Experimentation and exploration are name of the game, so feel free to deviate from conventions. In line with that I will refrain from giving concrete examples or handholding. This is supposed to provide food for thought to point into a helpful direction to build decks yourself if you are still unsure.

There is no universal solution for deck building. For many maps, especially on expert difficulty, some adjustments to tackle the individual circumstances are advisable. It’s also quite different whether you play cPvE (campaign maps) or rPvE (randomly generated PvE).

You will notice my use of singular letters next to card names, which are referring to the cards affinity. G = Green, P = Purple, B = Blue, R = Red. Cards with affinities have two different versions and they vary in effect, depending on their affinity. Affinities are represented by a small dot on the card in their respective color. They have nothing to do with what Orbs you need to play that card though.


Orb and Color Overview

Your deck consists of 20 cards and usually you get 4 orbs during a normal game of Skylords. The color of the orbs you pick dictate which cards you are able to play.
Every card requires a specific amount of orbs too, these are referred to as tiers, shortened to just T. If a card requires one orb, it’s T1. If you need two orbs, it’s T2 and so on.

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Lost Vigil G, thus the green nature affinity, is a T3 unit. So for starters you need three orbs to play it. One of these has to be frost and one shadow, represented by the blue and purple dot respectively. The color of the third orb does not matter, which is represented by the grey circle. It doesn’t have to be nature just because its affinity is, it can be anything. The order in which these orb colors were built doesn't matter either.
This makes Lost Vigil G a semi-flexible card color wise since it does require two fixed orb colors but leaves the third one up to the player. For example, you wouldn’t be able to play Lost Vigil G if you previously picked two fire orbs for your T2. But one fire orb would be fine.
Check out the wiki articles for Monuments and Orbs and Cards for more information.


Picking the Approach

First you have to settle on the broad idea you want to follow. For that I want to present a few simple approaches. The images are meant to illustrate the concepts, not represent a deck. If you don’t know the requirements of the cards mentioned, check them out on the wiki.

Build bottom up
Pick the color you want to start with on T1. Chose cards that build onto that as T2, either using the same color as T1 or a new one. Repeat for T3. Finally look at what’s left on T4 for the color combination you ended up with.

Deck4.png.84aa706e46c1978a4baf7e18937fbf80.png
Starting with Forsaken means 1 shadow orb. Then I pick Rippers, so I am actually still undecided on which color to pick next. But then, after I settle on Vulcan, I have to go for fire on T2 nonetheless because it needs two of those. For my last orb I settle for nature, which opens up Skycatcher B. Could’ve picked Giant Wyrm, Bloodhorn, Tortugun, Overlord or any number of other cards too if I wanted though.

Build top down
Pick T4 cards that fit together color wise first. Which T3 cards can be used with these colors if you subtract one orb? Then check T2, finally pick what’s left for T1.

deck5.png.09dd7dd14517feb7f9459fc0528e8d80.png
I pick Lost Dragon P as my T4. This means I have to use 2 frost and 2 shadow orbs. That still leaves me enough wiggle room to pick Tremor as my T3. For T2 I pick Wareagle, so that means I have to build my first shadow orb on T3. It also means I have to start with frost.

Build for a color theme
Decide which color combination you want to end up with, this will naturally limit your available card pool. Then look in which order you want these orbs and which cards fit that order.

deck7.png.b41d739d97362e8ad0397752c2adaffc.png
I am building a Stonekin deck, which means I am restricting myself to frost and nature. So I could start with either of them, frost in this case. Then add a nature orb because I really want my first Stonekin unit by T2. T3 will have to be another frost orb to summon Deepfang R. Gemeye G is already covered but maybe another card in the deck needs one more nature or frost orb, so I have to pay attention to that.

Build for specific cards
Decide what cards you absolutely want to use. If there are multiple, check if they fit together into a linear orb progression. If yes, reverse engineer which other colored cards you can add for the color progression to work.

deck8.png.cdc94049171aea56d194da6f9751234a.png
I really want to use Juggernaut. That means I have to start fire and also add another fire orb on T2. On T4 though, I am free to pick whatever. Either make a pure fire deck or go for something else entirely. But Juggernaut wouldn’t fit with T1 or T2 cards that require other colors than fire.

Build for specific maps
Can be important for the more difficult content. Once you learn a maps hurdles, you can try to adjust decks to tackle them more effectively or build decks for them from the ground up.
 

General considerations

Combining Color

Color order
Something important to look out for is that you are actually able to play all the cards you picked at a certain tier. There are some exceptions to this but in general a deck only functions when most cards can succeed each other.

Deck1.png.c2a335b004c1c56ffeb3ed85f8f90c1c.png
Here the Deep One P cannot be played until T3, because it requires 2 nature orbs, yet the deck starts with fire. So this is obviously a waste. Either I change my T1 to nature or I change my T2 to cards that allow it to be fire.

Color restrictions
Orb color requirements dictate which cards you can potentially use together in a normal deck that progresses linearly through T1 up to T4. If you want to mix your orb colors a lot, then you won’t be able to use some cards that have stricter color requirements.

Deck3.png.3ce4d22a86bdf0101be3d43d6728d42c.png
Something like this would be a so-called rainbow deck. Frost-Shadow-Nature-Fire is the orb sequence and everything works together just fine. I won’t be able to use any cards that need two of the same color. But one of each leaves me with a sizable card pool to choose from nonetheless.

Color flexibility
Most cards don't need a fixed color for every orb to be played. These are prime candidates to be splashed, which means being mixed with other colors.

Deck2.png.d589420b33703b72200bf60a5d320aba.png
Here, despite all cards being nature, it actually only requires one specific color to play them all. It’s often the case that your T4 and sometimes even T3 color doesn’t need to be something specific because you got your colors covered beforehand.

Taking care of the Army

Sustain
Coming from units, buildings or spells to keep your army and constructions healthy. If at all available, it’s good if you have one source of sustain in the lower tiers, so T1 or T2 and one stronger source in T3 or T4. Sustain on demand in the form of heals or shields will make a deck more forgiving and every color has their own ways of providing it.

Damage prevention
Defensive buffs for both units and buildings. Especially in T3 and T4 there are some very strong options. Having ways of mitigating damage is valuable because especially in later tiers your army is quite expensive. Damage mitigation also makes every point of health and therefore healing more efficient. Think, with 50% damage reduction, it takes 2 damage to remove 1 HP but only a healing value of 1 to restore it again.

Damage buffs
Percentage based buffs (% more damage) are usable at any point in the game even if they are T1 or T2.

Taking care of the Enemy

Crowd Control (CC)
Disabling enemies is very important. It’s great to have CC available at every tier but some lower tier CC can work throughout the entire game. Enemies become resilient against CC for a short time after being affected by it. Also, death is the best CC so if you are unsure then it could be a good idea to go for ...

Extra damage
Either through unit abilities, spells or even some buildings, a solid burst of frontloaded damage can make fights much easier. AoE damage makes big armies more manageable. Well timed extra damage can turn a loss around or solidify victory.

Debuffs
There are various debuffs available that weaken enemies. Use them to pick off priority targets or make them less threatening.

Lock down Areas

Fortification
If the situation calls for it, consider adding Towers and Fortresses. Depending on the map it will make defending a lot easier. There are even units that excel at this.

Utility

Meatshields
There are various ways to quickly summon big quantities of disposable units. And although they won’t grant ground presence (they don't have an "aura" that allows you to play out cards next to them), they also don’t bind power and can not only deal some damage but also take the hits instead of your actual entities.

Mobility
Very powerful if used correctly. Means to traverse the map quickly can turn the tides of war. Either to rush ahead when time is of the essence, make a quick retreat or help out on a different front.

Economy
Anything with energy management: Get energy faster, preserve it, pay less, recover spent energy from the void pool and so on. Very important if you want to keep running on full steam. Every color has different means to achieve that.
Charges in your deck are also part of the economy and can be manipulated if you are in need of that.


The beauty of Skylords is that you can combine colors very freely, depending on your collection, intentions, preferences and creativity.
You can try to build a more flexible all rounder deck or specialize for a particular aspect. This might seem like a lot to keep in mind but don’t worry about it too much. Some color combinations naturally lean more into certain areas so just look at the cards available and see what you want or can get.
No need to worry if you cannot hit all the marks. For example, if you have a lot of sustain, you might not need a lot of damage prevention, although they have natural synergy with one another. Or vice versa. If your deck can deal a lot of extra damage, maybe you don’t need damage buffs. And so on.

Units in general

After you have a broad idea how you want to build, it’s time to go into the specific card types.

Most of the time a unit roster consists of 1 or 2 cards for each tier. 3 unit cards for one tier is already a noteworthy commitment. Using more can become slot inefficient and you might run out of space to fit good cards into your deck in other places. So usually there are 6 to 8, at times maybe even 10 units in a deck.
Some possible picks for unit combinations in each tier are:

One ranged unit
Sometimes just spamming one solid ranged unit is enough. Take care to have enough charges on that one card to play it repeatedly before it goes on cooldown.

Two ranged units
Two different ranged units can also be used as a duo.

One ranged and one melee unit
Mix one melee and one ranged unit to create a conventional army set-up of a front- and backline.

One ranged/melee and one support unit
Support units can debuff enemies, buff your own or allied entities, shield or heal. Many beneficial effects to pick from if you are so inclined.
Investing too much energy into supportive units will slow you down though. After all, every unit exclusively busy supporting is equivalent to one damage orientated unit, that you could’ve summoned instead, not fighting.

If you summon a mix of melee and ranged units, the ratio of your army is usually about 1/3 melee, 2/3 ranged. For supportive units, it’s roughly ¾ ranged/melee and ¼ support.
In case you forgo ranged units entirely, don’t leave yourself vulnerable to enemy air units. Also consider that only a certain number of melee units can attack one building at a time.
Again, these are general guidelines and deviating from them is fine if you still feel like you get everything you need out of your deck. Adding more units can lead to a more flexible army with interesting synergies.


Units in Tiers

Tier 1
Already on T1 there are many combinations to discover, so go out and try a few or observe how units do by themselves.

Tier 2
Things get more complicated here because now orbs can be splashed and there are much more units to choose from.

L sized units are expensive energy wise but deliver a good bang for your buck. If you pick a beefy L melee frontliner, you can supplement them with ranged units. But ranged L units can often hold their own as well. L units are also less susceptible to knockback, which can be a real pain for S and M units.
Good airborne units become broadly available on T2. Those are squishy and die easily but their great damage can make up for it if you use their high mobility to focus weak spots like melee enemies or buildings unable to defend against air.
Strong traits like exceptionally long artillery range or siege damage that destroys buildings quickly will also be at your disposal. Units generally start having much more interesting abilities. So consider if you want to have these in your deck as there are many synergies to discover.
You can still fall back on your T1 units if necessary. Especially some T1 support units can still keep up.

Tier 3
Powerful XL units start being common in T3. They are big energy investments but if you take care of them, they can do some serious work.
L units are no slouch either, many of them are loaded with amazing effects.
There are no S units in this tier but a few very specialized M ones. Knockback against M units is very common at this point in the game, so they are more difficult to pilot. However, their abilities can turn the tides of battle.

Tier 4
The realm of mighty XL units. The colors you picked in your previous tiers heavily influence which units you have available here.
T4 L and S units have powerful offensive abilities. M units are incredible supports.
It’s tempting to use a lot of different XL units but you should exercise restraint and not add too many of them into your deck, overloading your T4 unit roster. Their big energy cost means you won’t be able to summon them all at once rapidly.


Buildings

Usually buildings make up the smallest part of a deck. Sometimes as low as 2, especially in rPvE. For some cPvE maps it can be as much as 7 or 8.  But commonly somewhere in the 3 to 5 range.

Towers and Fortresses
Most of them are pretty straight forward and are simply meant to kill enemies. Defending is their most obvious use but they can also be utilized offensively if you can wait out the construction time when building away from wells and orbs and bait enemies into them.
Some towers are dedicated anti-air and some have additional utility effects giving them extra uses past their damage capabilities.

These rarely find a place in rPvE decks where you are mostly on the move. But for cPvE they are very good to fortify key locations. If necessary, 2 of these can be added to the deck at different tiers. 3 if you want to lean into it more heavily and have a smoother transition between tiers. More than that would be a very tower heavy, specialized deck.

Never dismiss them entirely though. These classes of buildings usually have much higher damage and life than any unit for their cost or extremely powerful combat effects. So whenever you repeatedly find yourself in situations where your units have a tough time, maybe backup from a building does the trick.

Shrines, Huts and Devices
Utility buildings, mostly without damage capabilities by themselves but with useful effects. Like sustain, cross-map mobility for units and support for other entities.

Being generally very useful almost all decks have a few of these. You will likely find at the very least 2 helpful buildings within these classes, regardless of your decks purpose. Possibly even more.

A very important aspect about these is economy management, especially void return. Speeding up the energy return from your void pool can make your game a lot faster overall. Having at least one building that is able to manipulate energy in some way is a big benefit. Either making summons cost less, affecting well output, changing power refund when killing units or affecting void return.


Spells

Spells are a very important card type that often turn the tides of battle. So it’s not uncommon for a deck to contain a lot of these. Rarely are there less than 5 spells. More commonly somewhere between 7 or even 10 spell cards.

There are three spell classes:

Spell
Requires ground presence. Which means there has to be a conventionally summoned (played straight from a card) ground entity nearby.

Enchantments
Global effects that can be played anywhere.

Arcane
Local effects that can be played anywhere.

Spell cards themselves have a lot of different uses. Some buff or heal your own units or buildings. Others deal a lot of damage to enemies. And there are utility spells that offer mobility, CC or have uniquely powerful effects. There are even low tier spell cards that are useful throughout the entire game.
A good balance of spells that allow for flexibility is very helpful. They can also be used to further define your decks strengths or cover for weaknesses. You can refer back to the general considerations to decide which spells you prefer in order to cover a given purpose.

Synergies

Decks really shine if you use cards that work well together. Some synergies are obvious and part of the card description. Like cards that depend on freezes or nearby buildings for full effect. Others are maybe not as immediately apparent. Here are a couple pointers to look out for, with many more waiting to be discovered as you familiarize yourself with the game.

  • Damage reduction is very powerful when combined with sustain since it makes every bit of healing worth so much more.
  • Similarly many self-damage mechanics can also be mitigated, so definitely test those in the forge. Healing combos incredibly well to compensate.
  • There are some ways to directly increase effectiveness of healing, so if you lean a lot into health restoration mechanics, these can vastly improve their performance.
  • Mechanics that summon disposable units work great together with those that require sacrifices or corpses.
  • For mechanics that use corpses as a resource, it’s possible to boost their efficiency.
  • If you are struggling with charges or cooldowns on certain cards, there are ways to replenish them during a game.
  • Most % damage buffs don’t stack and only the biggest one applies, so don’t overdo it with those.
  • % damage reduction on the other hand stacks multiplicative. One gets applied first. The second one gets applied to the remaining damage taken and so on.
  • Units that specialize in abilities that lock them in place can be very potent together as you can use localized effects much better.
  • Damage buffs on your units and simultaneously damage taken debuffs on enemies have devastating effects.
  • Root networks can develop into very powerful set-ups.

My other Guides

CHEAP and powerful BEGINNER Deck - If you are interested in a very cheap and flexible mixed deck.
CHEAP Pure-Fire Deck - If you are interested in a pure fire deck that you can put together on a budget.

Edited by Cocofang
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7 hours ago, Cocofang said:

Build bottom up
Pick the color you want to start with on T1. Chose cards that build onto that as T2, either using the same color as T1 or a new one. Repeat for T3. Finally look at what’s left on T4 for the color combination you ended up with.

As players become more familiar with the game, I actually recommend building "middle outward."

In other words, I start by choosing the most powerful core cards I want, then adjust my t1 to play into those.

For example, in rpve I usually value resource booster, shadow phoenix, and frenetic assault as the most powerful cards. So I usually want 2 shadow orbs by t3--which gives me some flexibility about t1. However, if I play t1 and t2 shadow, this lets me use resource booster as fast as possible.

Other players might really value mine, shrine of war, and enlightenment, so their first 3 orbs will have to be fire-nature-nature. (Then the 3rd orb is probably shadow because if you use enlightenment for a powerful unit, you probably want to buff it!)

On a map like raven's end, I want a good tool to deal with powerful flying units (ravenships) so I pick a t1+t2 combination that can fit stormsinger.

Of course, if players are not confident with every t1, then your "core cards" can definitely be t1 units (especially in some campaign maps, where mine/nightguard/mark of the keeper/glaciation can be very powerful, unique tools that completely change the way you can play the map)

However, as players learn how to use different factions, every t1 works, and t4 cards are often interchangable. So it's the cards in the middle that I think should be decided first.

Timer and Dallarian like this
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Yes, what you described falls under "Build for specific cards". Which can be anywhere in the tier progression. Like in my example with Juggernaut, the rest of the deck has to warp around its orb requirements, just like in your examples.

And there is obviously a lot of overlap. If you decide to build for color you then still have to decide whether to start bottom, mid, top or build for specific cards or maps. Employing and combining multiple of the outlined approaches is a given. But if you are still inexperienced, you have to start somewhere.

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