Shadowfist Deck Construction: The Rule of Fives
by Dave Van Domelen

Home | Site Map | Card Lists and Database | Decks | Strategy Articles | Basics for Newbies | Player's Help | Tournament Stuff
FAQ | Sets and Collector's Info | Design Notes | Story | Fun Stuff | Online Play | Shadowfist Links | Artist Links

Home > Strategy > Shadowfist Deck Construction: The Rule of Fives
[posted 20 Oct 2003; updated 1 Apr 2005]

Copyright 1995 by Dave Van Domelen. This article originally appeared in Scrye Magazine [, 1 Apr 2005] issue #11, copyright 1995 Krause Publications. All rights reserved. Reprint here is by permission of both Dave and Scrye. Thanks!

Shadowfist Deck Construction: The Rule of Fives
copyright 1995 by Dave Van Domelen

  Dave's article as it appeared in Scrye

To quote from page 10 of the Shadowfist rulebook:

"One-fifth of cards should be feng shui sites, one-fifth characters that have no resource requirements but that have resources, and the rest an even mix of other kinds of cards. You may have no more than five of a given card."

As far as this goes, it's pretty good deckbuilding advice. But when it comes to building your first few decks, it helps to have a little more to go on than this. Once you're an expert and can tune your weird decks so that they can get by with only three feng shui sites or whatever, you obviously don't need help (or maybe you do...psychiatrists really should make a study of deck designs, eh?).

But for those starting out, I've found that the Rule of Fives works very well for making well-balanced decks that don't self-destruct in under five turns.

Here's the Rule:

1 in 5 cards should be Power Providers
1 in 5 cards should be Resource Providers
1 in 5 cards should be Cheap Events and States
1 in 5 cards should be Characters with Resource Conditions
1 in 5 cards should be Everything Else

Now to define what I mean in each part.

Power Providers - Any card that lets you generate power out of nothing. Usually these are sites of some kind, sometimes characters. This is not the same as power *stealing* cards, which are less reliable and generally fall under the Everything Else category.

Resource Providers - Cards with no Resource Condition that give you Resources. Mainly characters, although there are a few sites that do this too. If something is both a Power Provider and a Resource Provider (like certain sites) count it as a Power Provider.

Cheap Events and States - Those with power cost of one or zero, preferably zero. These are the cards you can pull out to save the day when you have little to no power left in your pool later in the game. They may not win you the game, but you need them to keep from losing the game.

Characters With Resource Conditions - These are the meat of your deck, the heavy hitters with Fighting scores over 4 as well as those with special powers that can tip the balance. Generally, you want more of the low power cost ones with special powers and only a few of the Big Sticks, but if you think your deck can generate power quickly then go ahead and put in more Big Sticks.

Everything Else - Events and States with power costs of 2 or more, Edges, characters that don't provide resources you need but have useful powers (such as the "colorless" White Ninja or the Lotus card Big Brother Tsien, or the two Monarchs in the current set), sites which provide no power but have nifty special abilities and so forth. This category covers a lot of ground, especially since it contains most of the cards which can win you the game in one fell swoop (like Neutron Bomb). This category allows the most latitude, since if you've done the other four properly you should survive long enough to get these bad boys into play.

Note that you will generally build your deck from the bottom of this list to the top, first deciding on your big hitters and then putting in enough other cards to support them.

If your deck has more than one faction in it, apply the Rule of Five separately to each faction. In other words, if I have Lotus and Dragon in my deck, 1 in 5 Lotus cards should be a Resource Provider, etc. Since Power is factionless, just make sure it's 1/5 of your total deck. Be very careful not to have too few Resource Providers of one faction and too many of another... you can have 1 in 5 cards be Resource Providers but have not enough resources for one faction.

Example: I want a deck that's 70 cards total (because I can just barely cram that many back into a starter box). I want there to be more Dragons than Lotus, I only want the Lotus for a few neat Events and Characters I have. So first off I need 14 Power Providers (one fifth of 70). Then I need 14 Characters with Resource Conditions and 14 Everything Else cards which will form the core of my deck. I end up with 10 characters and 8 Everything Else cards being Dragon, or 18 out of 28 cards in those two categories. So when I go for Resource Providers and Cheap Events/States, I should have about 18 total Dragon cards and 10 Lotus in those areas so that my heavier stack of Dragon cards is supported by more resources.

While I'm at it, here's some other Rules of Five to help tune a deck once you've built it.

Dave Van Domelen, 1995.

back to top

Legal Stuff | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | About Me | Contact Me