Weekly Article: Pixel Tactics Formats by D

Hey, everyone! Welcome to our new piece of Daily Content! Every Tuesday, we will be releasing articles about our games! These can range from simple things like analyzing the base pentagon in BattleCON to complex card counting in EXCEED. This week, we have a wonderful Pixel Tactics article from community member D (Daniel Zeiger).


            Howdy, folks! I'm here to talk to you about Pixel Tactics Offline. That's the print version, which uses old-fashioned physical cards instead of fancy bits and bytes.

            You might be wondering why this matters when Pixel Tactics Online is so far along in development (and looks so incredibly good). Well, PTO and the print game are different games. The core mechanics are similar, but a few slight changes make a world of difference.

            Plus, lots of people already have the physical game. It's not like releasing PTO will make the physical game obsolete!


Pre-Constructed Decks

            You might've heard the term "pre-constructed deck" (especially if you've participated in any Pixel Tactics Organized Play events) without knowing what it means. Chances are, it's all you've used if you've played any physical copy of Pixel Tactics.

            Anyone who sits down to play with a copy of Pixel Tactics 1 will always have the same 25 cards in their deck. The same goes for every other Pixel Tactics set; that's why they're called "pre-constructed." When you start taking cards out or putting cards in, you're no longer working with a pre-constructed deck. This is where shenanigans begin.

Picture by Luca Borlini on BGG.

Picture by Luca Borlini on BGG.

What Is Deckbuilding?

            Deckbuilding is the act of changing the cards in your deck—or putting together an all-new deck—to change your play experience. More information than I'm giving here can be found in the current official rulebook; I'm just going to cover a couple basic ideas... and then explain what I meant by "shenanigans."

            Format defines the rules of deck construction you're following: Standard or Epic. Standard Format specifies that you must have exactly four Leaders (no more, no less) and between 25 and 30 Heroes. You can't have more than one copy of any card, which means you can't use both the Hero and Leader sides of the same card. (You also can't use two different versions of the same card, like having both Borneo and Juto.)

            Constructed Deckbuilding means "you built your own deck ahead of time and brought it ready to play." Note that it's different from pre-constructed, because you're not using a single set's deck as-is!

            Draft Deckbuilding means "you participated in an event where you and some other people built your decks at the same time by choosing cards from a shared pool." There are different ways to draft, each of which specifies exactly how players choose cards and what the pool looks like, but that's the basic idea.

            Combination Deckbuilding means "you took a pre-constructed deck and shuffled in a Minipak." This is a casual deckbuilding method; it's a great way to spice up a pre-constructed deck for a game with a friend, but don't expect it to result in a legal Constructed deck!


Why Drafting Is Fun

            Whichever way you cut it, Draft is an exercise in creating order from chaos! You don't know going in what cards you'll be dealt, so you have to build a strategy on the fly to suit the cards you run into. This makes Draft exciting and unpredictable; no two Draft decks are alike!

            Draft also usually has just enough cards for all the players to participate. Since most of the cards end up in someone's deck, you're likely to encounter a wide variety of decks and run into Leaders and mechanics you may never have seen before.

            Another big benefit of Draft events is a highly practical one: the organizer brings all the cards, which means attendees can participate without having to worry about deckbuilding in advance and bringing their cards with them.

A fierce battle between armies!

A fierce battle between armies!

Why Constructed Is Fun

            Now, about those shenanigans I mentioned.

            In Constructed Deckbuilding, you have the ability to customize your deck from scratch. This means that you can experiment with new and unusual combinations of effects to build a completely unique deck! Also, unlike Draft, you have as much time as you're willing to take to practice with your deck and make improvements to it, since it all happens on your own time.

            As long as your deck is legal (meaning it follows the Format rules and respects the ban list), you can bring it to a Constructed event and expect to be able to play it—no need for the organizer to bring extra cards. (This might not seem like much of a benefit, but the organizer probably appreciates it!)


What Was That About A Ban List?

            A Ban List is a list of cards that are officially banned; they can't be used in Constructed decks, and they must not be included in the pool of cards available for Draft events.

            The incredible quantity and diversity of effects in Pixel Tactics means that a lot of things are possible, some of which work together in extraordinary ways! Part of the fun of deckbuilding is finding such intriguing combinations, of course—and if certain cards are so incredibly powerful that they're mandatory in every Constructed deck, that means they're going to take up room in every deck, which gives everyone fewer options.

            In Draft, the problem is even worse, since in any given group of players, only one of these "power cards" can exist. Whoever gets one has an advantage they didn't gain by strategy, but by sheer luck of the draw. While this doesn't necessarily make the game itself less fun, it makes the tournament less fair, which is no good at all.

            Besides power level, there are two other reasons a card hits the ban list:

            Card Management. When players start taking Rival cards into their own hands, it's easy to lose track of who started with which cards. This is particularly troublesome in Draft, since everybody builds from one pool and the cards don't have different backs (or are sleeved).

            Examples: Iaxus, Endrbyt, Mage, Deceiver

            Game Breakers. Some cards can be combined in ways that do things that simply aren't supposed to be possible. For example, with the right deck, Shoshannah Kasselock can draw and play her entire deck multiple times over on the first turn after Ceasefire!

            Examples: Shoshannah, Laine, Failsafe, all promos!

Picture by Julio Anderson Nunes on BGG.

Picture by Julio Anderson Nunes on BGG.

Where To Start

            Even without the game breakers, there are endless strange and interesting combos to discover! In fact, there are so many possibilities, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the options available in Constructed play.

            The simplest way to build a deck is: start with a deck.

            No, really! Pick a set of PT you've played before, or PT1 if you've never played. Remove any banned cards, then pick a Leader you like (or one at random). You'll find that you don't have enough cards for a legal Constructed deck: you need three more Leaders, and (if you didn't start with a Mega Man set) you'll also need more Heroes to fill out the 25-Hero minimum.

            This is where the magic happens. Filling in the gaps in your deck is where you can start to think about what you want to see or use when you play. You don't have to build the whole deck at once! Just think about your Leader's ability and try to pick other Leaders who do similar things, then Heroes that seem like they’d work well with it.

            Whether you're able to build a legal deck on the first pass or not, the most important part of deckbuilding is testing. Even if you’re a few cards short, you've got to play your deck a few times. After some practice, you'll start to notice which cards aren't useful and think about which effects would be useful to have. Change things up as often as necessary and keep testing, and your deck will begin to take shape.


But Wait!

            There's more! Some of the Pixel Tacticians in the official Discord server post regular deckbuilding prompts, which provide some optional structure if you're still stuck on where to start. It's not a competition, and there's no prize beyond recognition; we just want to see what people can make!

            Leader: Runika Zenanen, ???, ???, ???

            Format: Standard (4 Leaders, 25 Heroes)

            Special: Can't use Leaders from odd-numbered Sets

            Try building a deck of Heroes with Runika as their Leader, then pick a few even-tempered Leaders to round it out. If you end up with a legal deck (or if you don't but still want to show it off), come by the official Discord server and share your creation!

            You can also come by if you're having trouble with deckbuilding, if you have questions and want to learn more, or if you're just looking to talk about the game for any reason at all!

            Want to deckbuild, but don't have the cards? No worries; an online reference document for all the cards is being developed for just this reason (and an accompanying document will be out soon to make deckbuilding even easier)! It's fan-made and fan-maintained, so if you spot any errors, feel free to hop into the Discord server and let someone know!

Hope to see you there; happy gaming!


(Daniel Zeiger)

Thanks for the awesome article, D! If you, reader, have an article you want to share with the World of Indines, contact Marco on the Official Discord and we'll get it sorted out!