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CHEAP Pure-Shadow Deck

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  1. Cost
  2. Tier progression
  3. Alternative Cards to use
  4. Upgrade priorities
  5. My other Guides

This guide aims to put together a pure shadow deck on a budget.
As always in Skylords, any suggestion is merely that. It’s all about experimenting. If you don’t like something, just change it.

Want to give something a try? Just slot it in!
Pulled an interesting card that you want to see in action? Build a deck around it, make it work!
Struggle with a specific map? Try different cards, there might be more suitable ones for different situations.
Create something else entirely from the ground up? The card pool is your oyster.

With that being said my goals here are:

  • Focus on cards of mostly lower rarity
  • Use mostly cheap cards
  • Introduce cards (in the deck itself or as alternatives) that have at least some interesting synergies and are more involved
  • Be flexible, so many cards can be changed
  • Be a generalist, usable in both rPvE and cPvE

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.


The pricetag isn’t excessive but it will inevitably be higher than a budget mixed deck, because the pool of available cards is restricted. Also, because of the nature of Shadow, we have to use at least one or two more expensive cards.

shadow new.png

  • Forsaken - 10 (starter card)
  • Snapjaws R - 10
  • Knight of Chaos - 10
  • Shadow Phoenix - 50
  • Shadow Insect - 10 (starter card)
  • Cultist Master - 150
  • Necrofury - 50
  • Overlord - 400 to 500
  • Embalmer’s Shrine - 150
  • Soulsplicer G - 150
  • Furnace of Flesh - 40
  • Time Vortex B - 30
  • Necroblaster G - 10 (starter card)
  • Life Weaving - 30
  • Undead Army - 10
  • Blood Healing - 40
  • Frenetic Assault R - 130
  • Plague - 130
  • Rifle Cultists - 10 (starter card)
  • Offering G - 10 (starter card)

So right away I have to say that it is really hard to make a pure shadow deck work at all without using Rare or Ultra Rare cards. Some cards are also in dire need of upgrades or even charges to become decent. If you are trying to put together a pure shadow deck without at least some investment, you are in for a bad time. So we have to assess the trade-off between budget and usability.

Make sure you have BFP and gold saved up to cover the absolute necessities. Your gold reserves will also be especially strained to get the Rare cards up to speed.

The estimated total to get the aforementioned cards should be around 1500 BFP, which is achievable within about three days of play. Buy your discounted daily booster, resell it to someone for more and there you go. The expensive cards don’t need charges though, which makes charge upgrades cheap at least. AH (Auction House) prices seem to be pretty consistent, if big outliers appear they usually settle again after a few days.

What is more, you want to have around 15000 gold to immediately upgrade the cards that benefit from it the most. Less is workable but you'd have to cut corners.

Shadow is generally a bit harder to play than other factions and trying to make working under budget restraints makes that especially true.

Playing rPvE 9 is possible with the baseline version but it can be very tough. Especially the harder enemy types will be a big challenge. You’ll probably end up waiting around a whole lot in order to stack up your army. I'd advise you to stick to solo until you got a good feeling for the deck. Play one round of 6 or 7 at first. Then try 8 and 9.

Tier progression

Tier 1 :shadoworb:

Forsaken are our main guys, we stack as many of them as we can. One Snapjaw R is enough to serve as our support unit. We have to actively micro manage our army if we want to make the most of it. Snapjaw R applies a 50% damage taken debuff to the enemy it attacks and we want all our Forsaken to focus that target as well. This makes it possible to pick off one target after another in quick succession. Their ability Frenzy is hardly worth using until they are at least U2. Be careful with it, as it carries a high risk. If we don’t manage to use the immense damage boost to kill all opposition, we will be left with nothing.

Embalmer’s Shrine is a very important building for this deck because a lot of cards have Corpse Gathering and therefore use corpse HP as a resource. While Pick over the bones is active Corpse Gathering will be much more efficient. We can build two Shrines and cycle their buffs, so we have permanent up-time if necessary.

Soulsplicer G is used both offensively and defensively. We can build it just outside an enemy base and then pull their units into its AoE for Corpse Gathering. While it has some stored up, it will heal our army with Gifted Necromancy. This also makes it great to fortify a position together with units. We use it on U1 to gain access to Soul Suction, which effectively increases the area it can gather corpses from.

On T1 specifically, we can use Pick over the bones to boost Soul Splicer G if absolutely necessary.

Life Weaving probably won’t find much use in this tier yet. It’s actually a T1 card we pick up for later. Having it at least on U2 makes it work much better.

Same for Offering G, it will see use in T3 and T4. Something to keep in mind about Offering is that it even resets a cards cooldown. So whenever we want to use a card in quick succession we can circumvent its cooldown, either internal or through a lack of charges, by offering a unit of the same tier as the desired card.

Tier 2 :shadoworb::shadoworb:

Here things get interesting. Knight of Chaos is a pretty strong card but tricky to play and it depends on which affinity is used. Basically, we pre-cast Chaos and take care to not tag our own units. Then we run in before our own units, positioning the knight as deep as possible within the enemy army. Which affinity we use is completely up for preference though. Tainted Chaos has pretty big damage potential as enemies attack one another. But it's also riskier because you have to take care to not affect your own units. Blessed Chaos lets you use Forsaken to kill a few units before the enemy can react so it's safer. We can also use several knights to easily cycle the effect. This is seamlessly possible once it's U2.

Imagine Shadow Phoenix as a spell. They deal massive AoE damage to ground targets and multiple at once can instantly kill high priority buildings like spawners. We take care to always have Embalmer’s Shrine running to ensure they make full use of Reincarnation. What’s even better is that when they use Crashdive once, they count as having died. Which means we get the usual 90% energy refund to your void pool. Considering the whole package, they are probably the strongest unit we can have on T2 hands down. There is also a fun interaction with Knight of Chaos. While Blessed Chaos prevents the Phoenix from suicide bombing Tainted Chaos lets them attack (albeit randomly) but since Crashdive isn't technically an attack the knight doesn't get damaged.

Furnace of Flesh is this decks energy manipulation building. Whenever we have units we no longer need or have identified a spot where enemies tend to die regularly, we build a Furnace to speed up our void return. Having it on U1 will make it a bit more efficient. This is a vital building and will see use throughout the game.

At this point we can also consider that, instead of simply destroying a left over Soul Splicer, we build a Furnace next to it and use Corpse Sharing to fuel a bit of void return until it runs dry.

Time Vortex B deals a lot of damage and has strong knockback. It also shoots faster and faster the less void we have. So they have natural synergy with Furnace.

Undead Army is another very important part of the deck that relies on corpses. It summons up to four Skeleton Warriors with Unholy Armor active, which means they take less damage but die after some time. Embalmer’s Shrine makes it much easier to summon the maximum amount of squads. The Skeletons upgrade level is the same as the spell, so it should be at least U2. They make great meat shields to soak up damage that would’ve been dealt to our main army otherwise. If the situation presents itself, letting the Skeletons die near a Furnace will make use of their corpses for void return.

Tier 3 :shadoworb::shadoworb::neutralorb:

Cultist Master is one of the core cards in every shadow deck but it requires upgrades to gain exponentially more power. That's expensive, considering it's a rare, but it's well worth it. On its own it doesn't pack a big punch but with Call Horros it summons Nightcrawlers with Frenzy. Using these it can swamp enemies with murderous insects for a life cost. With Soulsplicer G it can push on the offensive repeatedly. But even more important is the interaction with Furnace of Flesh. This is the quintessential way to cycle void power for the rest of the game. Let a few (usually 3) Cultist Masters sit in your base around a Furnace and cast Call Horror whenever available. The Nightcrawlers will die automatically and fuel the Furnace so it gives back void power. No new power is created by this, you just get your old power back much quicker. This makes Cultist Master probably the highest value card we can pick up.

Shadow Insect supplements T3. Once again, we encounter Corpse Gathering, this time to enable Soul Shock, which is a strong, spammable ranged nuke. U2 makes its usage much more rewarding. Embalmer’s Shrine helps sustaining frequent use. It can be tough to manage though, since their low health makes them impractical as frontliners. Cultist Masters can feed Shadow Insects with Nightcrawlers before you engage.

Necroblaster G is one of the strongest T3 towers but it requires corpses. U2 is rather important as it makes it deal even more damage, which in turn kills enemies quicker and helps with corpse sustain.

The real power of this stage lies in the spells. Blood Healing is very important to keep your units healthy, so U2 is recommended. We can use it on Nightcrawlers summoned by Cultist Master or Skeletons summoned by Undead Army. These make ideal targets since they will die anyway but their Unholy Armor reduces the health cost. This becomes an even stronger interaction once Undead Army is upgraded.

Some numbers to think about:

Skeleton Warriors

  • U0 – 3 ticks of Blood Healing
  • U1 and U2 – 5 ticks
  • U3 – 7 ticks

Blood Healing amount per tick

  • U0 - 860
  • U1 - 900
  • U2 - 1000
  • U3 – 1100

This means if we have U0 Undead Army and U2 Blood Healing, we are only getting 3000 healing out of sacrificing one Skeleton. U1 Undead Army and U1 Blood Healing gives 4500, so it’s a much better investment. U3 Undead Army/U0 Blood Healing gives 6020 even. Having both on U3 will give the maximum output for this combo at 7700 healing.

But that’s not all. Coming back to our T1 spells, we can use both Life Weaving and Blood Healing on the same unit, drastically reducing the health cost. Of course part of the self-damage will be spread out to surrounding units, which is vastly off-set by the healing though. However, the damage splash applies BEFORE the healing. Units that are close to death might just die from the effect of Life Weaving before Blood Healing heals them. But this combo makes it feasible to use Blood Healing on our own, permanent units without having to fear their death.

Frenetic Assault G is one of the strongest spells in the game. It makes enemy units attack each other, so not only does it have huge damage potential, it makes our own units less likely to be attacked. The red affinity, which we use, can even be used on buildings, to make enemies destroy them. If the affected target dies quickly enough the spell even procs a second time.

Offering G makes its first major appearance here as it can be used to sacrifice a Cultist Master in order to refresh the long cooldown on Frenetic Assault G or recharge your T3 cards in general.

Tier 4 :shadoworb::shadoworb::shadoworb::neutralorb:

Unfortunately we have to spend big to get a decent T4 army going, since the cheap options pure shadow has to offer don’t work very well together.

Which means we opt for an extremely powerful frontline in Overlord. U1 is very important here since it doubles the proc rate of Flesh Feast. This passive ability makes Overlord gather corpses to constantly heal himself. So despite only having 4000 HP, he can take a lot of punishment in prolonged skirmishes. Blood Share can be used to quickly heal some units, but a combination of Life Weaving with Blood Healing will be better in most situations. Take note though, that on the targeted unit Blood Healing prevents healing by any means other than inherent leech like Life Stealer.

Necrofury cannot attack airborne targets but they wreak some real havoc. Positioning them in reasonable safety we can use Bone Shards, which is a devastating nuke that costs a lot of life points but deals even more damage. Using it early can take out big parts of the opposition before the fight even heats up. Much better to first upgrade the card though.

Rifle Cultists are mainly there to fuel all your other T4 card charges with Offering G.

Plague has ridiculous damage potential and is just too strong to pass on. Enemies that die while under the effect of the 5 original parasites will spread it even further. Some chain reactions later and we can have dozens of Plague instances. And they can even stack up! So if we are lucky we can have several stacks of Plague eating through a boss.

Undead Army is still as useful as it was on T3, if not more so because of Blood Healing. Frenetic Assault G will also continue to serve us well. As will Furnace of Flesh with Cultist Masters.

Alternative Cards to use

With each Tier explained, let's look at some alternatives, upgrades or additions.

Rough price chart:
Very cheap - <20
Cheap - <80
Moderate - <150
Expensive - <250
Very expensive - <500
Top end - 500+

Tier 1 Options

Nox Trooper – Sidegrade to Forsaken. Overload provides a lot of burst damage and they are less susceptible to knockback by virtue of being M. Cheap.

Dreadcharger – Swift with The Reaping being a very strong if niche ability once upgraded. Moderate to expensive.

Skeleton Warriors – Beefy frontline with Unholy Armor once upgraded. Very cheap.

Phase Tower – Even after Relocation, it still has more raw stats than any unit for its cost. Cheap.

Decomposer – A way to drastically speed up T2 acquisition but Furnace of Flesh quickly replaces it. Very cheap.

Motivate – Useful throughout the entire game, assuming you have ways to replace the sacrifice. Moderate.

Tier 2 Options

Harvester – Possibly the most iconic shadow card. Extremely fun to play and an absolute powerhouse once upgraded. Top end.

Darkelf Assassins – Their ability can make short work of enemies. Very risky to use though. Cheap.

Shadow Mage – Difficult to use but can be very fun. Enormous damage output but they require a lot of care for sustain, like Soul Splicer G or Undead Army. Moderate.

Resource Booster – If you are confident a round will be over quickly, this will speed it up further. Always a boon in rPvE where the timer guarantees that you will benefit. Very cheap to cheap.

Stone of Torment – Very situational but used in clusters it can deal with most attacks. Very cheap.

Unholy Power – Great synergy with centerpiece units like Harvester. Very cheap to cheap.

Nether Warp B/G – An amazing utility card if used right. Don’t inconvenience your allies though, you don’t know if they want to come along for the ride. Blue affinity is better suited to CC enemies, green is more beneficial for your own units. Very expensive to top end.

Tier 3 Options

Ashbone Pyro – Once upgraded this card can carry T3 and even work on T4. Moderate.

Fallen Skyelf Visions of Despair can annihilate tanky enemies, even bosses, if sufficient damage output is present. A classic combo is Necrofury buffed by Unholy Hero using Bone Shards. Moderate.

Unstable Demon – Quite difficult to pilot but a very engaging card once upgraded. Cheap.

Infect – A whole lot of meat shields with damage potential to boot. Top end.

Frenetic Assault P - The spell is so powerful that it can even be justified having both affinities in a deck. Moderate.

Soulshatter – Smart usage can wipe out bunched up units. Moderate to expensive.

Tier 4 Options

Death Ray – Requires U3 to get faster. Leech Guns gives them immense damage output but it’s hard to sustain them in pure shadow. Moderate.

Grim Bahir – Supportive unit that summons lots of meatshields. The Nether Crawlers can even be Offered to recharge T4 cards. Expensive to very expensive.

Shadow Worm – Very powerful and versatile card. Self sufficient backline, Earth Diving disruptor or mobile Disintigrator. Life Stealer works through Blood Healing and the damage reduction while moving reduces its damage. Very expensive.

Void Maw – Enabling a lot of damage potential and offers some guaranteed burst damage on bosses. Cheap.

Altar of Chaos – Together with Cultist Master summons the bombs can deal ludicrous damage. Moderate.

Unholy Hero – Makes a single unit deadly both to enemies and allies. Especially potent with already high offensive capabilities, like Death Ray, Necrofury or even Rifle Cultists. Very cheap.

Upgrade priorities

Some advice on what to invest in once you start gathering Gold for card upgrades and BFP for more charges.
There are some mandatory upgrades and charges as a baseline and I wouldn't advise running this deck without them. These are extra highlighted.

Vital upgrades AND charges
Forsaken – Stronger T1 is always a priority. U2 and C2 Recommended.
Shadow Insect – Better ability and more charges to Offer for Satanael. U2 and C2 Recommended.
Necroblaster – More damage means better corpse sustain. U2 and C2 Recommended.
Undead Army – Always have this spell ready and tankier Skeleton Warriors not only mean better meatshields but also more efficient Blood Healing. U1 and C1 Recommended.
Blood Healing – Your major way of sustain, every tick needs to be worth as much as possible. U1 and C1 Recommended.

Vital upgrades
Cultist Master – More Nightcrawlers summoned. U2 Recommended.
Overlord – Much stronger heal and damage. U1 Recommended.
Furnace of Flesh – More void return. U1 Recommended.
Life Weaving – Better synergy with Blood Healing. U2 Recommended.
Soulsplicer G – U1 is very strong. U1 Recommended.

Important upgrades
Shadow Phoenix – More consistent survival and greater damage output.
Knight of Chaos – Ability lasts longer, which allows chaining it and of course longer uptime.
Necrofury – Much stronger ability and health.
Embalmer’s Shrine – Makes any corpse reliant ability easier to use.
Time Vortex B – If you use them often treat yourself to more damage.
Offering G – If you use it very frequently, upgrade asap.
Frenetic Assault G – Too powerful to ignore. More charges won't do anything though, because of the long innate CD.

Decent upgrades
Snapjaws R – Just a bit more life.
Rifle Cultist – A very powerful ability but mostly used for Offering G.
Plague – Much cheaper to use.

My other Guides

HOW TO: PvE Deckbuilding Guide - If you are unsure how to start building your own decks and what to consider.
CHEAP and powerful BEGINNER Deck - If you are rather interested in a very cheap and flexible mixed deck.
CHEAP Pure-Fire Deck - If you are rather interested in a cheap and flexible fire deck.

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