TSW – How to Build a Deck (for newbies)

I’ve read rather a lot of reviews of TSW, and many of them reveal that the authors fundamentally didn’t understand the ability system, or know how to build a deck. So without further ado, here are some thoughts on how I’ve done so.

Which weapons?

The first absolutely crucial thing is to pick two weapons. Frankly, any two weapons can work fine together, but each weapon has its own gameplay. Here’s the breakdown:

Melee weapons: Resources for these are built on the caster, so after you’ve used five resource builders on any combination of targets, you have five resources to spend on any target. Melee resources refill when out of combat, meaning you can start every fight with a five-resource consumer for a solid first hit. Melee weapons tend to be restricted to melee range, though each weapon has a few limited options for minor ranged attacks.

Magic: Resources are built on the caster, not the target. Magic resources dissipate out of combat. Magic weapons tend to be ranged (blood & elemental) or melee (chaos) based on the magic type chosen.

Ranged: Resources are built on the target, meaning if you’re fighting three foes and hit one with a single-target attack, you’ve only built resources on that one foe. You can’t spend resources from foe A on foe B. Ranged weapon resources dissipate out of combat. Ranged weapons can have long (assault rifle), medium (pistol), or short (shotgun) range.

Personally, I like to have at least one ranged attack at all time; I find this just simplifies a lot of situations. So I avoid all-melee builds as well as melee/chaos builds by and large. There’s nothing at all wrong with such builds, mind you; this is just personal preference.

Build to Consume

Now that you’ve chosen two weapons, you need to be able to do something with them. The basic action types deal with resources – either building them or consuming them. You’ll need at least one builder. Attacks that build resources generally build resources for both weapons, so it’s not necessary to have separate builders for each weapon. Healing abilities only build resources for the weapon being used, so if you’re making an all- healing build, you’ll want a resource builder for both weapons.

You’ll want to be able to expend those resources you’ve built up, as well, so it’s necessary to have at least one consumer for each weapon.

So, ok, you can build resources and consume them. The next thing to consider is whether you want to be able to fight a single foe or a group, and whether you want to do so from close range or farther away. My personal preference is to always have one ranged resource builder, because I can do that at any time; it’s not dependent on my already having built resources. I like hybrid builds most of the time, and prepare to fight both individuals and groups. So personally, I advocate having a single-target ranged builder as well as an AE melee builder. The former is great for pulling or kiting, while the latter allows me to plough through packs of foes. I couple these with at least one single-target consumer and at least one AE consumer.

Pick a Theme

OK, so you have two weapons chosen. You can build resources and consume them. Now it’s time to pick a theme for your build. What’s the point of this build? What is it intended to do?

There are a number of viable approaches here. Personally, I find it very useful to look at a tool like the [url=http://www.tsw-builder.com/#00vp]TSW Deck Builder[/url] as I’m figuring out what goes together.

If you visit the TSW Deck Builder, on the right side of the screen you’ll notice a section marked “Bridges”, which allows you to select “States, Subtypes, Triggers, Support, Weapons, Misc”. The first three are of special use to us at this point, since they allow us to look at themes for our build. Themes are also known as commonalities or synergies; basically they’re ways of finding things that abilities have in common and finding ways to make one ability work with another to greater effect. States are types of secondary effects you can cause: afflict (damage over time), weaken (debuff), hinder (slow), and impair (stun). Subtypes are classes of attacks: strike (fast heavy hit), blast (fast cone/column AE), chain (slow AE that jumps from target to target), focus (very slow channeled attack), frenzy (fast PBAoE), and burst (instant attack with multiple hits). Triggers are various things that can happen in combat that can trigger reactions: whether you hit a foe, penetrate their defenses, or critically hit; and whether you defend against, evade, or block an incoming attack.

Let’s say for instance you like the idea of dealing damage over time. You can look under “States” and find “Afflict”, and there you’ll see a list of every passive ability that interacts with afflictions – causing them or reacting to their presence.

Or let’s say you want to make a more defensive build, that gives you various benefits when foes hit you with a glancing blow. You can look under “Triggers” and “Defense” and find a list of things that can happen to you or to your attacker when you’re struck with a glancing blow.

Generally speaking, you want between one and three themes for your deck. Fewer than one means that your abilities don’t have any synergy at all; that’s sad. More than three means you’re probably too scattered and are trying to do too many things at once, which will likely result in underperforming at each of them. One of my favorite builds right now has heavy use of afflictions and focus attacks, meaning I have two themes.

The people who complain about TSW’s ability system generally don’t understand themes/synergies at all. They complain that outer wheel skills aren’t any more powerful than inner wheel skills, so it doesn’t seem like your character is growing in power when you buy new skills. And this is true, but it’s badly missing the point. All abilities are roughly balanced against each other, with the exception of elites, which are balanced against other elites. So yes, the abilities don’t grow in power as you move through the various trees; instead they simply offer more chances to find themes and develop synergies.

For instance, say you like swords. Who doesn’t? One of the first skills you learn is a single-target resource consumer called Dancing Blade. It’s a nice little Focus attack that deals good damage. The fact is, no single-target resource consumer you learn later will inherently do more damage than Dancing Blade; instead, they’ll simply be different. So e.g. there’s Destiny, which is similar, but deals more damage if the target is afflicted; or Brandish, which buffs your defenses while you’re using it; or Binding Wounds, which causes any impaired targets to also suffer an affliction. If you only look at the numbers, you’ll be disappointed, because Binding Wounds costs 27AP to purchase and does no more damage than Dancing Blade, which only cost 3AP. If you look at the synergies though, they’re very different abilities.

Remember, passive abilities can be chosen from any tree at all, including weapons you’re not wielding. Your ability to deal damage with an assault rifle might benefit from an elite passive ability in a hammer tree (Epicentre), for instance, to cite one all-too-common PvP build.

Elitism isn’t Bad

Elite abilities are just plain better than other abilities. They can’t help it; they were designed that way. Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful!

In all seriousness, elite abilities are just like other abilities; they come in both passive and active flavours. For every tree, in both the inner and outer wheels, the final ability is elite. That means that every weapon has an inner wheel active elite ability and an inner wheel passive elite ability, plus four outer wheel active elite abilities and two outer wheel passive elite abilities.

The three miscellaneous trees (basically for tanking, self-healing, and dps) also have one active elite ability each.

You can have at most one active elite ability and one passive elite ability available at a time. That means every build can choose from 13 active elite abilities (three from misc, and 5 each from your two weapons) and 27 passive elite abilities.

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2 comments so far

  1. http://tinyurl.com/catlpedro06015 on

    How long did it take you to write “TSW – How to Build
    a Deck (for newbies) Fool’s Age”? It comes with quite a bit of good details. With thanks -Duane

    • foolsage on

      The writing part usually doesn’t take me long. I do generally spend quiet a while thinking over what I want to write though, and organizing thoughts, before I ever set finger to keyboard. Glad the article was helpful!


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