So to start off with, even calling myself a "novice" might be generous: I've not yet had the opportunity to actually play the game. However, I am eagerly anticipating it, and constructing decks (or rather codices + starting decks) that seem to me like they would be good/fun to play, and I'm interested in what people think of them, particularly where they might fall short and what sorts of modifications might improve them.
Deck one: [Necromancy],Blood, Law
Ever since I saw the necromancy spec, I have loved the notion of using Skeletal Lord to summon a tech III unit before my opponent can possibly be prepared for it. Obviously this can't reasonably happen before tech II comes online (turn 3 or 4 depending on whether you go first), and based on some of the recaps I've seen (and some rough math I've done), it probably won't be until later, because teching up has to be balanced against surviving for the moment, but ideally I would want to at least keep pace with my opponent tech-wise, and as soon as possible play both Lord and my 5th skeleton on a single turn, then summon a tech III from my hand, which would hopefully then proceed to simply dominate the game. This is the gameplan, so the question is, how best to do it, and which secondary specs should I choose to support it.
First, and most obviously, I want to get a lot of skeletons quickly. This means using the black starting deck since it includes summon skeletons. I will also want to keep Torken on the board as much as possible, spamming his first ability, and bring out bone collectors as soon as I hit tech I. In order to accumulate skeletons, it's also important that they survive, so I'll want to play skeleton archery as soon as possible to allow me to attack with the skeletons without losing them. If I loose torken, or if I'm able to get a hero's hall out, drakk ramhorn's midband ability should make this technique much more effective. There is a difficult balancing act here with the heroes (more on that later) which is one of my major uncertainties about the deck. Using graveyard with bone collector and javelineer should also help to maintain a large skeleton presence.
Second, I want to build my economy to get to tech II and unleash my combo no later than the turn after my opponent reaches tech II (and as quickly as possible in any case). This means patrolling in scavenger when possible, playing a worker every turn, and teching up quickly. That means that 3 of my turn 2 gold is likely spoken for, unless my opponent is bringing early aggression, in which case I'd focus on building up skeleton control while making sure I at least keep pace with their economy. I expect my first couple of skeletons will wind up being cannon fodder, so I'll have to make sure I have the capacity to rebuild that population quickly so I can get to five to trigger my combo. Additional options for money include tax collector and rickety mine. If my opponent starts bringing out scary early creatures, sacrifice the weak and doom grasp are options, while injunction can potentially be used if they somehow start to pull ahead technologically.
Third, I want to pull off my combo and use it to win. If I can accomplish my first two goals, any tech III that I bring out with the combo is likely to be backbreaking, however, it seems to me that Pirate Gang Commander is the best choice. Using the combo means (potentially) giving up some patrolling capacity, and PGC gives me three new chump blockers. Moreover, he punishes my opponent for killing my (numerous) units, and allows me to play red units for free (Captured bug blatter!).
The downside of Lord's ability is he requires that the card you play come from your hand. In other words, if you want to play him as a surprise combo, I need both him and my tech III in hand. If tech II comes online and I don't have both, Bigby gets played, so I can save one until I have the other. Probably. Depending on my board state, and my opponent's build, I might be able to play Lord before I'm ready to combo and use my buffed skeletons to remove my opponent's threats. Graveyard could also help here.
Comments and concerns: This deck wants to do a lot, and I'm not sure I'll have time to do it. Realistically, I think that while the dream is to play Lord and PGC to beat my opponent to tech 3, it's probably more reasonable to see it as a catch-up mechanism. PGC combined with a bunch of Lorded Skeletons with archery is likely strong enough to counter an opposing tech III that comes out at the same time. Once PGC comes out, even if they wipe my board, their base is taking a minimum of 10 damage. If they just go through my goblins to hit PGC, that commitment will likely cost them enough that 5 2/2s with long range and anti-air will be a serious threat, and my likely play would be to activate drakk's midband, giving me access to 15 points of likely unanswered damage, usable for either board control or finishing off their base. The game plan I outlined above, then is only relevant if my opponent seems to be rushing for tech rather than playing a bunch of threats. In that case, I'll rush right along with them, using Torken in lead (leveling only to heal), skeletons as additional chump blockers, and bone collectors as attackers to try to hang in there until I can combo and leap to tech III. This would mean forgoing some things like (possibly) archery, graveyard, and drakk. Archery probably would come out once I had a few skeletons and their board was getting more threatening, as it allows the skeletons to contribute without dying. If they're playing more threats, I'm likely to stall with Sac the Weak and bring out archery and drakk quicker to control their board, eventually I'd likely also use a graveyard to make sure I could keep collectors out, especially since I may not always have Torken to keep my skeleton count up. Basically whatever their strategy, the idea here is to maintain a unit majority, while keeping pace at least economically, if not technologically. Archery can make skeletons equal to, if not better than, most tech I units, with the added advantage of being available earlier. Drakk plus a growing majority can threaten tech II's as they come out. Basically, superior numbers allow you to make up for being a tech level behind, then Lord comes along and catches you back up. The biggest threat to this deck is decks with a lot of ability to spread large amounts of damage around. in this case you have three options, Either focus on getting out a bugblatter, so simply killing your units hurts them, or switch to your third spec. I chose Law for a few reasons: First, card draw is helpful in this deck for a lot of reasons, and scribe is the only tech I with card draw. Second, while I don't necessarily need to keep up tech-wise, keeping up money-wise is important, and tax collector can help with that. Third, Bigby's ability helps me to set up the Lord Combo. Finally, if their tech advantage starts to become a problem, Law's spells provide some possible answers. I think it's important for the third spec to provide an alternative to the Necro/Blood plan of swarming with small units, and Law certainly does that. Another possibility I considered was Demonology, which has big creatures to counter weenie-hate, and the advantage that Vandy, being black, can cast Summon and StW without paying extra. Anyway, I think you get the basic Idea. Interested to hear thoughts.