Strategic Deck Archetypes

In trading card games, players build decks with a win condition in mind. A win condition is a game state that a player reaches in a game where he or she is deemed a winner by the rules. In this article, win conditions will refer to the typical and modern forms of such conditions, mainly through dealing lethal combat damage of causing the opponent to deck out. Since inception of trading card games, the deck building strategies of players can be divided among three archetypes, which are defined either on the speed at which a win condition is met or how interactions between cards achieve a win condition. These archetypes are:

  • Aggro. This archetypal strategy focuses on winning fast win in early game by methods that are too quick for an opponent to respond or defend against. Examples of decks that fit into this archetype are weenie* decks or burn** decks.
  • Control. While aggro strategies focus on the early game, this archetype focuses on the slow buildup of resources for the sake of winning in the late game. Examples of this strategy are decks with high-cost creatures.
  • Combo. When other strategies focus on the speed at which a win condition is met, this strategy uses strong synergy between cards as a win condition. Decks under this archetype mainly rely on the effect interactions between certain cards in the deck to win the game on their own.

According to many players, aggro, combo, and control are the most common strategical archetypes for deck building in trading card games to date. Other decks may appear at your local card shop, but most of them will fall into one or more these three categories. Some examples of uncommon strategies that are not covered by the main three include:

  • Midrange. Defined by its flexibility, decks that fall into this strategic archetype have the ability to speed up or slow down against opponents when the need arises.
  • Mill. While many strategies focus on dealing the required combat damage to win the game, this strategic archetype solely focuses on forcing the opponent to discard cards off of the top of his or her deck until the player cannot draw any more cards out of deck.

Thanks for your continued support! If you have any questions or comments, please place them in the comments section.

*Weenie decks focus their efforts on generating many small creatures for a low cost and/or early in the game.

**Burn decks mainly focus on dealing a large amount of damage to the opponent through the use of card effects alone.</sup>

How to Read the Meta


The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

As a player of any card game the most beneficial thing you can gain is knowledge. Learning the meta and how to predict and read it is something that will greatly help any player. When talking about meta in a card game, it typically means what decks have the most success in winning and see the most play.  For example, let’s say there are five upcoming tournaments. After each tournament the results show that out of the top eight decks six of them are all Royal Paladin. Not only are they Royal Paladin, but they are all the same type of deck. This is what card game players define as meta game (or meta for short). A deck or archetype that has constant winnings over a span of time is considered a meta deck. What keeps card games fresh is that the meta is constantly changing majority of the time. Whatever deck may be doing well now may not have the same success a month down the line. What can you do to figure out the characteristics of the meta? In order to determine the meta, the player must consider the type of tournament that he or she will participant in and how to read the meta for each type of tournament. 

Basically, there are really two types of tournaments. These two tournaments are local level tournaments and higher level tournaments (e.g. regional tournaments).  Locals are a type of tournament that are held generally once a week at your local card shop. Reading the meta here is arguably the hardest at first. Due to the nature of the tournament a lot of players will play whatever they want whether said deck is meta or not. To really read the meta here, you will have to learn what your local players like to play. For example, if you have a player there that likes to play great nature odds are when Great Nature gets support again that player will play Great Nature during that time.

Higher level tournaments are a different ball game. These tournaments almost always attract a greater numbers of players than your local tournament. People all over the region or the country travel to compete in these tournaments. To figure out what is meta in these tournaments, there are a number of options you can take. The first and probably best option is to look at recent tournament toppings. Here is a helpful link to do that ( In this link, you can see a number of different event records and see the most used clans in each tournament. Looking at web sites and records of larger tournaments that is within your region or country will give you a general idea of what to expect. Another option is to look at the Japanese and Singapore topping records. Now two things to note before doing this. Firstly, some players will advise you not to do this because they firmly believe the English card game has much different toppings than the Japanese or Singapore toppings. The fact is that the English game tends to follow closely to the same meta as the Japanese/Singapore meta. The English players tend to not play the best decks as much as the Japanese/Singapore players would, however English players still do play these decks very much. The second thing to note is that Japanese/Singapore players receive card sets a little bit earlier than English players. This allows players to see how cards in the next set are doing before the English players get them. By considering this, players can prepare early for decks to come later. I good place to look for stuff like this is ( * +).

If you do these things mentioned above, you can always be ahead of the meta game. As you grow and learn as a player you will be able to see more and more vividly what will become meta just by playing a deck. This can take some time to figure out, so do not worry if you do not understand this right away. For now, look at these helpful links and stay active within your community if you want to stay ahead of the crowd. Consider these things, and you will be on your way to becoming a better player in no time.

* For this website you will more than likely have to open it up twice as it will try to redirect you to the English page.

+ For help with finding deck lists from around the world, one can visit our post on finding such deck lists here:

Psychology of the Fight: How To Use and Avoid Mental Manipulation (Part 1)

NOTE: Although the original intent of this article was meant to help Cardfight!! Vanguard players when it was written, the concepts described in this article can be applied to any card game.

Over my years of cardfighting, I have noticed that players seem to alter their playstyle by the smallest things their opponent does, and some opponents do these things on purpose. I’m here to point out how to use and counter these ways of manipulating your opponent’s playstyle in your favor in a match of Cardfight!! Vanguard.

Play Speed


Let’s say you’re playing a slow, conservative generation break deck, and your opponent is playing a deck like beast deities. As soon as they ride grade 2, they rapidly place their cards down and immediately start attacking your vanguard, ignoring your rearguards. The turn is over in 15 seconds, and it’s your turn. You ride quickly, call out your hand quickly just like they did in the heat of the moment, and attack their vanguard with all of your units. You have just altered your conservative/control playstyle by copying your opponent’s moves. This happens a lot more often than you may think, and some players will do this on purpose to rile you up and make you misplay.

Humans tend to emulate what other humans do and feel, based on actions and appearances. Most generation break decks focus on controlling the  in the early game, and counter aggro* decks by attacking rearguards. But because you’ve been flustered by your opponent’s speed, you copy their movements as to feel like you’re not falling behind.

How to Counter:

Countering this is very easy. Once you know this happens, all you have to do is ignore it and play like you would normally in that situation. On the other side of the spectrum, if you are playing a G break deck and your opponent is playing an aggro* deck, playing slowly may affect their mental momentum, and cause them to misplay as well out of frustration from your slow play.

How to Take Advantage:

If your opponent does not know about this way of influencing people, you can bait them into committing more cards to the field than they would normally by altering your play speed.

How You Hold Your Cards

Situation 1:

You have all your combo pieces ready to go. The opponent is at five damage. You stride your best G Unit you’ve been waiting for all game to use. Your opponent’s hand is collapsed (like a closed fan) and in their hand against the table. You’ve been wanting to do this combo all game, and they seem to not have enough cards to guard all of your attacks. You decide to go all in, but your opponent somehow manages to block it all and kill you with his or her powerful stride. After the match, the opponent says that he or she had 13 cards in hand during that turn.

By holding the hand of cards collapsed, it caused you to misjudge the size at a glance, and your excitement to pull of your combo distracted you from asking how many cards they had in their hand. Also, be careful of double sleeves, as they can make it seem as though they have more cards in their hand than they really have when they are stacked on top of one another.

Situation 2:

You have all your combo pieces ready to go. The opponent is at five damage. However, your opponent is flaunting their easy-to-count thirteen card hand up high in a fan-style way of holding them. Because of this, you decide to hold off on your best G Unit and instead go for a more safe play to tear down their hand size for the next turn. At the end of the turn they have 8 cards left, and they pull an insane combo with most of those cards and you lose. You notice all of them have 5000 shield, and after the match the show you their four grade 3’s they had in hand during your last turn.

By flaunting their hand, it caused you to rethink your strategy, and it made you change your playstyle entirely. What you didn’t realize is that they only had one perfect guard, 4 grade three units, and a bunch of 5000 shields/combo pieces**. If you had gone all in, the opponent would have had to guard with all of those combo pieces, ruining their potential combination plays, and potentially allowing you to win the game.

How to Counter:

Situation 1: Always keep your cool, and ask your opponent how many cards they have in their hand before making big plays.

Situation 2: Try to remember what your opponent has in their hand throughout the game based on drive checks (see article titled Open Hand, Closed Hand for more information), and be suspicious when your opponent all of a sudden flaunts their hand size at the start of your turn.

How to Take Advantage:

Situation 1: If you have a large hand size and you know you can guard whatever attacks your opponent will throw at you, it is good to collapse it so that you can mislead your opponent into thinking how many cards you have in hand. Sometimes players forget to even check their opponent’s hand size because it is not in their face this way.

Situation 2: If you have a large hand size but a low amount of guard, it is good to flaunt the hand as much as possible to the opponent, so that they are deterred from making any power plays that might kill you. This doesn’t work all the time, as some people may take you up on that challenge and go all in anyways.

So that’s all for this week, although there are many more ways you can be affected by these subtle mind games. Stay tuned for more in the future!

*This refers to decks that mainly on focus on aggressive attacking strategies. This is similar to aggro decks in Magic: The Gathering, as defined here:
**This refers to units that are used to accomplish attack combinations.
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