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[High Effort Post] How to Build a Deck (Rated E for Everyone) Part 2

\This is Part 2. If you haven't done so, you should go back and read Part 1. The guide is much better if read in order :)*

link to first half of guide

Section 4: Do Card Levels Really Matter?

(If you are familiar with card level interactions, skip to the Author's Note after this section)

At this point many of you may be thinking, "I want to play other decks, but I don't have high enough card levels 😥." As a F2P (Free to Play) player myself, I completely understand. I'm currently sitting with 77 possible upgrades right now, and less than 100,000 gold. I've still got a long way to go before I completely max out my account. However, I offer some encouragement: Card levels don't really matter, especially not in lower arenas (to a certain extent).

A good measure of whether or not you deck is "too low level" or not is a deck's ADL (Average Deck Level. Such a complex, thought-provoking name, right? 😂) Consider each of your cards and measure how many "points" each card earns based on your king tower level. For example, if you are king level 11, max level cards would "earn" 2 points, level 10 cards would "earn" -1 points, etc. Finally, add up all of your card points. If the point total is positive, then good job. Your card levels are around where they should be.

Another thing to consider is that most card interactions have a 1-2 level margin. What this means is that cards 1-2 levels lower than your opponent's cards will still do their job relatively well. Some cards even go past this margin. For example, a level 9 princess will still 2-shot max level minions (just like she is supposed to). On the other hand, as long as your minions are at least level 10, they will survive one shot from a max level princess (again, this is what's supposed to happen).

While this margin varies based on the specific card interactions, most card interactions follow this 1-2 level "rule". So if your card levels are only about 1-2 levels lower, you should still have a decent chance at winning, at least based solely on card levels.

**\* Cycle decks are more affected by low card levels than Beatdown decks. If you're worried about having low card levels, play Beatdown.

("But what if I hate having lower card levels? Even having one card at a lower level is frustrating.")

I have good news for you; there are certain cards that perform well, even at lower levels. The following list ranks cards in order of how much they are affected by a level difference:

Still very strong or do the same thing even when underleveled

  • Tornado
  • Skarmy
  • Rage
  • Freeze
  • Clone

Somewhat affected but still fairly strong at lower levels

  • Inferno Tower
  • Inferno Dragon
  • Pekka
  • Mini Pekka
  • Princess
  • Sparky
  • Mega Knight
  • Valkyrie
  • Lumberjack
  • Balloon
  • Bomber

Usable, but only at a 1-2 level difference

  • Swarm units other than stab goblins (including skeleton barrel, graveyard, etc.)
  • Direct damage spells
  • Defensive buildings
  • Spawners (except Furnace)
  • Basically anything not included in the other categories

Highly dependent on level

  • Spirits + Furnace will not reach the tower and deal chip damage
  • Glass cannons (musketeer, 3 musketeers, wizard, etc.) die to fireball if underleveled
  • Elixir Pump gets less value against heavy spells
  • Wall Breakers do not reach the tower
  • Ice Golem death damage does not kill skeletons/bats
  • Goblin cards (barrel, gang, regular) die to zap if underleveled
  • Firecracker and Archers die to log if underleveled
  • Prince does not one-shot glass cannons (while charging) if underleveled

(Again, I think have I covered all of the cards, except mirror. If I have misplaced any, let me know.)

**\* For players using a level 1 account, the cards in group #1 are your go-to cards, at least until you get legendaries.

Section 5: Advanced Techniques/Knowledge

If you are familiar with Damage Output and Four-Card Cycles, there's nothing left! (unless you wanna read section 6.)

Disclaimer #3: The following section does not cover elixir counting, cycle tracking, and other high skill cap techniques relating to gameplay. Only topics relating to decks and their structure are explained.

Damage Output (DPS, DPSPE)

What exactly is damage output? That's a hard question to answer. Decks have subtle, implicit interconnections between cards that determine how strong a deck is. Quantifying damage output is a hard thing to do. However, there are a few stats that reflect the strength of the deck fairly accurately.

One of those stats is DPS (Damage Per Second). Most troops cards will display a "damage per second" stat when you click on the "info" tab. This stat allows us to compare the damage output of troops with different attacks speeds. For example, which kills tanks faster, a Prince or a Sparky? Prince attacks faster..... but sparky does massive damage per shot. (For those curious, it is sparky.) Without comparing DPS, it would be hard to know for sure.

The following list includes the 20 highest DPS troop cards (that survive arrows), with their respective DPS (rounded to the nearest tenth):

  1. Inferno Dragon (assuming it's not reset) ................................................................................ [75-875]
  2. Barbarians (together) ................................................................................................................... [567.9]
  3. Three Musketeers (together) ...................................................................................................... [493.6]
  4. Pekka ............................................................................................................................................... [376.7]
  5. Elite Barbarians (together) .......................................................................................................... [354.1]
  6. Royal Recruits (at most 4 recruits will help out on defense) ................................................... [338.5]
  7. Mini Pekka ...................................................................................................................................... [332.2]
  8. Hunter ............................................................................................................................................. [318.2]
  9. Sparky ................................................................................................................................................. [275]
  10. Goblin Brawler ............................................................................................................................... [253.6]
  11. Lumberjack ....................................................................................................................................... [250]
  12. Prince .............................................................................................................................................. [232.1]
  13. Cannon Cart ...................................................................................................................................... [176]
  14. Night Witch (not including bats) ................................................................................................. [173.3]
  15. Wizard ............................................................................................................................................. [167.1]
  16. Musketeer ...................................................................................................................................... [164.5]
  17. Mega Minion .................................................................................................................................. [161.3]
  18. Bandit ................................................................................................................................................. [160]
  19. Dark Prince .................................................................................................................................... [158.5]
  20. Skeleton Dragons (together) ....................................................................................................... [156.5]

It's not surprising that most of the above cards all in some meta deck or another. It's also fairly reasonable to say that most of these cards will remain in the meta for a long time, simply because of their high DPS.

However, the list above will only get us so far, because it doesn't take a very important aspect of the game into account: elixir. Players don't get infinite elixir, to play down any card whenever they want (*coughs in 7x elixir challenge). While it would be nice to be able to throw down 15 Pekkas every time someone plays a Golem, that's not how the game works.

Also, card cost different amounts of elixir, which begs the question "Is it really worth it?". Pekka has a very high DPS..... but it also costs 7 elixir. With 7 elixir, you could throw down a combination of a few cards, like Mini Pekka + a swarm unit. Doesn't that sound like a better deal? This takes us to the next step in our quest to understand the meta: DPSPE.

DPSPE (Damage Per Second, Per Elixir) measures the damage output of a card, just like DPS. However, DPSPE also takes into account how much elixir that DPS costs. Since everyone gets the same amount of elixir..... shouldn't we make the most of it? Pekka + Mirrored Pekka is definitely not the best deal. Pretty high DPS..... but it costs too much in comparison. DPSPE gauges the relative damage output of a unit compared to its elixir cost, and provides a more realistic view on why some cards are used more than others.

Consider this next list. It is similar to the one above, but ranks DPSPE instead of DPS. The top 20 DPSPE troop cards (again, that survive arrows), with their respective DPSPE (rounded to the nearest tenth), are:

  1. Inferno Dragon (assuming it's not reset) .......................................................................... [18.8-218.8]
  2. Barbarians (together) ................................................................................................................... [113.6]
  3. Mini Pekka ........................................................................................................................................ [83.1]
  4. Hunter ............................................................................................................................................... [79.5]
  5. Goblin Brawler ................................................................................................................................. [63.4]
  6. Lumberjack ...................................................................................................................................... [62.5]
  7. Elite Barbarians (together) ............................................................................................................ [59.0]
  8. Three Musketeers (together) ........................................................................................................ [54.8]
  9. Mega Minion .................................................................................................................................... [53.8]
  10. Pekka ................................................................................................................................................. [53.8]
  11. Bandit ................................................................................................................................................ [53.3]
  12. Royal Recruits (at most 4 recruits will help out on defense) ..................................................... [48.4]
  13. Bomber .............................................................................................................................................. [47.5]
  14. Prince ................................................................................................................................................. [46.4]
  15. Knight ................................................................................................................................................ [46.4]
  16. Sparky ................................................................................................................................................ [45.8]
  17. Miner ................................................................................................................................................. [44.4]
  18. Night Witch ...................................................................................................................................... [43.3]
  19. Musketeer ........................................................................................................................................ [41.1]
  20. Fisherman ......................................................................................................................................... [41.0]

This list is quite a bit different from the one above. Inferno Dragon continues to top the list (as it should). But Mega Minion is ranked much higher at #9, Sparky has dropped to #16, Wizard didn't even make this list, and Mini Pekka and Hunter have moved to top 5. A DPSPE list reflects the meta so much more accurately than a simple DPS list, because players don't have infinite elixir to use.

Pekka has a higher DPS than Mini Pekka (376 vs 332). But is Pekka more value? 4 Pekkas will do a total of ~1500 DPS, for 28 elixir. What if we spent that 28 elixir on Mini Pekkas? That's 7 Mini Pekkas..... which yields ~2300 DPS for the same elixir cost. And sure enough, Mini Pekka sits at #3..... while Pekka has dropped to #10.

Of course, DPSPE isn't perfect. It doesn't explain why musketeer has such a high usage rate compared to its place on the list. Damage output isn't the only stat that matters. But it is a piece of the puzzle. So, the next time you build a deck, take a few moment to consider, "Does this card provide the best value? Or will another card do more damage, for less elixir?". I guarantee that you will begin to win more and more often, just by choosing the right card for your deck.

(The reason the above lists include troops that survive arrows was to simplify the difference between swarm troops and single units. I realize that barbarians are technically swarm, and that cards like dart goblin are not swarm. I've been working on this guide for more than a week, give me a break 🙃. I am planning on going back and editing after I post.)

The Four-Card Cycle (and the Five-Card Cycle)

Every player is aware of the "Average Elixir Cost" statistic that Clash Displays below a deck. This helps players gauge how "heavy" or "light" their deck is, then make changes accordingly; without having to do the math themselves. This quality-of-life feature is one of the major things that strategists will discuss when critiquing a deck. However, it's not very accurate, especially when decks contain 1 very expensive card, and 7 very cheap cards (not to mention mirror and elixir collector screw up the calculations a bit)

Consider the following deck:

Looks fun.... 🤡

This deck has an average elixir cost of 4.0..... but does that really reflect the cards in the deck? There are 3 very expensive, 7+ elixir cards, and the rest are 1-2 elixir. None of the cards in this deck are even close to 4 elixir. While the above deck is an extreme case, and very unrealistic, it does demonstrate a significant problem with the "Average Elixir Cost" stat.

One such consequence is that players may build a deck, worry that it's too expensive, and then replace one of the cards with ice spirit/skeletons. While this does bring down the "Average Elixir Cost"stat, nothing about the deck has really changed. It's still the same deck as before, with the difference of one card. Players will mistakenly believe that the "Average Elixir Cost" stat is a perfect measure of a deck's flexibility, which leads to confusion. Players will lose battle after battle, and wonder why their deck isn't working. They never consider that the "Average Elixir Cost" may be misleading.

I'm not suggesting that Supercell put that stat in to mislead us. I think the "Average Elixir Cost" is a wonderful quality-of-life feature that makes Clash Royale easier to analyze, and form strategies about. However, the "Average Elixir Cost" stat doesn't tell the full story. To gain a more accurate perspective about the elixir rating of a deck, players should also consider a deck's Four-Card Cycle.

The Four-Card Cycle of a deck is the elixir total of the four cheapest cards in the deck. In other words, the Four-Card Cycle is a measure of the least amount of elixir a player can spend and still come back to a certain card. This matter, especially in overtime, because elixir is synonymous with time. If something costs less, it will take your elixir less time to regenerate the amount spent, hence allowing you to play cards faster, and cycle through your deck.

Cycle decks naturally have a lower Four-Card Cycle than, say, Beatdown decks. For example, Hog 2.6 has a Four-Card Cycle of 6 elixir (Skeletons + Ice Spirit + Log + Ice Golem), while a LavaLoon deck has a Four-Card Cycle of 11~12 elixir (depending on the variation of LavaLoon). This is fairly intuitive; it makes sense that a deck with cheaper cards would be able to cycle faster. However, we can apply this to another concept: direct damage.

Many players, especially Cycle players (*coughs in Icebow), will resort to cycling spells during overtime. This is a common tactic that almost every deck utilizes, as long as they have a heavy spell with decent crown tower damage. However, not all decks are created equal. How do I know if I have the upper hand? Should I keep spell cycling, or should I switch to pressuring my opponent so he can't spell cycle? These questions, and many others like them, can be answered by considering a deck's Four-Card Cycle.

Many of you will recognize this deck:

Icebow..... 🤢

This deck is infamous for being obnoxious with its quick cycle and ice wizard + tornado defensive combo. However, most of the frustration from high-level players comes not from the X-Bow..... but from the rocket. Most skilled players can handle an X-Bow. But when an Icebow player starts going defensive and cycling rockets, there's nothing you can do**.**

Supercell even said this about spells during the last month's update: "This, coupled with the creation of sometimes stale and frustrating ‘Spell Cycle’ strategies, sees them get a slight reduction to Crown Tower Damage this Season."

There is no way to counter the actual damage a spell does. I'm not saying that spell cycle is op (quite the contrary actually). I am well aware that pressuring an opponent will force them to stop, or at least slow down their spell cycling. I'm referring to the actual damage that spells do. Once someone fires a spell at your tower, it is 100% guaranteed to do damage (unless they u/ChiefPat it, of course, sorry not sorry Chief Pat 🙃). This is why spells are often called "direct damage". Once someone fires a rocket at your tower, there is no way to stop your tower from taking 370 damage (max level).

But this post isn't to complain about Icebow. Let's resume our focus. Why is Icebow so good at spell cycling? How does it compare with other decks? Which is better at spell cycling, Hog 2.6 or Log Bait? Hog 2.6 is cheaper, but it has fireball. Log Bait is more expensive, but it has rocket. How do you know for sure?

One way to measure a deck's spell cycle ability quantitatively is to use the Five-Card Cycle. (Yes, Five-Card, not Four-Card). The Five-Card Cycle calculates how efficiently decks can deal damage through spells. Five-Card Cycles are measured in Crown Tower Damage Per Elixir, Per Cycle, or DPC for short. DPC measures how much crown tower damage a deck does on average, per 1 elixir, during one cycle.

Let's go back to Icebow. Icebow contains Rocket and Log. (Tornado damage is basically nothing). From the perspective of the Icebow player, he wants to get as much damage as possible, while using as less elixir as possible. This means he will most likely play Rocket + Log + Knight + Skeletons + Ice Wizard during one cycle (I realize this does not take defense into account, this method simply creates a constant form of measurement for all decks). This costs a total of 15 elixir, and deals a total of 442 damage (tournament standard). So, the DPC of Icebow is 442/15 = 29.5.

How does this compare to Hog 2.6? Well, Hog 2.6 players will play Fireball + Log + Ice Spirit + Skeletons + Ice Golem which does a total of 244 damage for 10 elixir, or 24.4 DPC. As you can see, even though Icebow costs more elixir per cycle, it still ends up doing more damage.

Let's take a look at the DPCs of a few well-known decks (rounded to the nearest tenth):

  1. Icebow ............................................................................................................................................... [29.5]
  2. Log Bait (OG, w/ knight) .................................................................................................................. [26.0]
  3. Hog 2.6 ............................................................................................................................................... [24.4]
  4. X-Bow 2.9 .......................................................................................................................................... [24.4]
  5. RG Cycle ............................................................................................................................................ [15.6]
  6. Golem Beatdown ............................................................................................................................. [14.7]
  7. Pekka + Ram .................................................................................................................................... [14.5]
  8. Graveyard (w/ musketeer + barbarian hut) .................................................................................. [11.5]
  9. Giant + Graveyard (w/ musketeer) ................................................................................................ [10.1]
  10. MK Zap Bait/Mega Goblins ............................................................................................................. [4.0]

Icebow tops this list (should I be surprised?), closely followed by Log Bait and Hog 2.6. Beatdown decks have a significantly lower DPC, which explains why Beatdown players don't resort to spell cycle as often. Decks without heavy spells, such as Mk Zap Bait, have much lower DPCs.

The DPC of a deck is a good way to measure the power of a deck in Overtime. If you and another player are neck-and-neck in crown tower damage, you want to have a higher DPC then them. Due to one of the recent updates, as long as you have more damage, you win! So the next time you edit a deck, or build a new one; think about the DPC. You'll find yourself pulling ahead during Overtime.

Section 6: Final Thoughts

To anyone who made it this far, I congratulate you for making it through my (probably boring) post. I hope you found this guide to be satisfactory, and I hope you learned something new. May the Clash Gods be with you on your journey.

If there are any other players out there that still have faith in Clash Royale and the dev team, drop a comment down below. While this recent update may not have been their best work, the dev team still deserve lots of praise; at least for bringing us this game in the first place, if not for the other wonderful updates that everyone seems to have forgotten about.

Also, I think the dev team would benefit from this a lot. If you think so too, tag /u/Supercell-Seth and /u/Supercell_Drew and tell them so!

On a side note, I would really like to see this guide turn into an OJ Clash Royale tech video. If you would too, tag OJ: /u/yyarn

I plan to post more guides like this in the future. If you would like me to notify you whenever I post, or if you have any questions about Clash in general, DM me! I'd be happy to offer my two cents.

Finally,

https://preview.redd.it/wzlhhy1r08l51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=f60e3723f140c35d1f1d522b65732d07736ca9ad

..... and have a wonderful day!

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