Thumb up
5 Posts

Deadlands: Doomtown» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Doomtown Deck Structures rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Eric Jome
United States
flag msg tools

One of the most challenging and interesting aspects of Doomtown is building a solid deck, one that can draw a decent shootout hand while avoiding cheating and still have room for good cards with useful effects. This article attempts to give a basic guide for how to do just that; it will examine the fundamentals of a solid deck and show three examples that employ these fundamentals.

The most fundamental aspect of building a Doomtown deck is striking a compromise between a structure that supports good draws while still including a diverse and useful set of cards. To do this, it is best to split the deck into two essential parts, the draw structure and the remainder.

The draw structure is a set of cards that make up the bulk of the ability to draw or pull well. The remainder is all the cards left over after building this structure, including starting dudes. The goal is then to avoid putting cards in the draw structure into play while playing out the remainder. Thus, cards in the draw structure are more important for their suit and value and less for their effect. Cards in the remainder are more important for their effect and less for their suit and value.

The draw structure of a deck is essentially for shootouts. The most effective draw structure will be able to draw a strong hand early in the game and an even better hand later. A good target for a draw hand early is a Full House. There are at least three different draw structures that produce higher hands later in the game. These are named for the higher hands they are meant to draw to; Four Of A Kind, Straight Flush, and Deadman's Hand are detailed in the examples below.

It is important to note that a strong draw structure will interfere with winning lowball; this is an unavoidable aspect of being able to draw well in a shootout. If winning lowball becomes more important, than a weaker draw structure will become necessary. Planning a Doomtown deck should take this into account and keep its upkeep and production balanced. Even though winning lowball will be difficult for a strong draw structure, it should still avoid Cheatin! in lowball and never be forced to reveal a Cheatin! hand in a shootout.

To moderate the prospect of Cheatin!, the deck should follow certain rules. No suit and value pair should be included more than 4 times. That is, if you decide to use a Nine of Hearts, you should not use more than 4 cards that are Nine of Hearts. The draw structure often includes multiples of the same suit and value pair, but should not go above 4.

Unlike the draw structure, the remainder should avoid having even two cards that have the same suit and value. Instead, a good thing for the remainder is to include several cards of the same value, but different suits. For example, using a Three of Clubs, Three of Hearts, and Three of Diamonds in the remainder can help with draw hands while avoiding increasing the odds of Cheatin! Occasionally, key cards in the remainder will need to be included in multiples, such as important spells. Avoid this if possible, but cards in the remainder are cards to be put into play; include what your strategy requires.

A last general consideration for the draw structure and the remainder is cycling. Cycling means being able to effectively play the cards that come into your hand. Effectively playing cards in the draw structure means quickly getting them back into your deck to help with draws. Effectively playing cards in the remainder means quickly putting the cards into play or Boot Hill and keeping them there. Good cards to consider for the draw structure are cheap dudes or deeds with upkeep or events that don't ace themselves. Good cards to consider for the remainder are dudes, deeds, goods, spells, and things that ace themselves when used. Including a variety of discard and redraw effects, such as the Pony Express, can help greatly.

Following these guidelines will produce a predictable, understandable deck. It will have a reliable draw hand and be easy to count into, taking some of the luck out of pulling and drawing. Below are three suggested basic structures that use these suggestions. The examples do not include Jokers; it is assumed they will be used.

The Four Of A Kind Deck

The Four Of A Kind deck is the most flexible and reliable of the draw structures. It offers the most room for the remainder and is very easy to build and use. To build this deck, choose two values and include sixteen cards of each value, 4 each Diamonds, Clubs, Spades, and Hearts. If it is necessary to pull high, make one or both of these values higher values. If Harrowed dudes are a concern, make one of the values Ace. This style can withstand putting more of the draw structure into play than the others. Indeed, if you find yourself playing one of the values, keep playing it; this improves the chances of hitting the other more often. In a pinch, this form can draw a Cheatin! Five of a Kind and will get a Full House very easily. Here is an example based on Three and Eight.

Sample Four Of A Kind Deck Style

Draw structure (32 cards)

4 of Three of Diamonds
4 of Three of Clubs
4 of Three of Spades
4 of Three of Hearts

4 of Eight of Diamonds
4 of Eight of Clubs
4 of Eight of Spades
4 of Eight of Hearts

Remainder (20 cards)

The Deadman's Hand Deck

A variation of the basic Four Of A Kind deck is the Deadman's Hand deck. This sets aside the core of the Deadman's Hand and fills out the values of Jack, Eight, and Ace to give a good chance of Four of a Kind or Full House. There is less room here in the remainder and the inclusion of so many Aces makes this deck unreliable for pulls. The deck can easily play out the cards that are not a part of the Deadman's Hand over the game, degenerating to a more reliable draw hand. The sample structure is given below, but the extra Jacks, Eights, and Aces can be weighted differently as needed.

Sample Deadman's Hand Style

Draw structure (38 cards)

4 of Jack of Diamonds
4 of Eight of Clubs
4 of Eight of Spades
4 of Ace of Clubs
4 of Ace of Spades

2 of Jack of Clubs
2 of Jack of Hearts
2 of Jack of Spades
3 of Eight of Hearts
3 of Eight of Diamonds
3 of Ace of Hearts
3 of Ace of Diamonds

Remainder (14 cards)

The Straight Flush Deck

The Straight Flush Deck is the most complicated and card intensive draw structure, leaving less room for in the remainder than the other two. A run of seven different values builds the core of the Straight Flush, with more of the middle values than the ends and typically using Clubs. To provide stronger draw hands early, include more of two of the middle values in this range in other suits. This style has an opportunity to stack high or low as needed, making it useful for a variety of different decks, but the limited remainder can make it difficult to include everything a strategy needs. The sample below is based on a run from Seven to King, with core values at Ten and Jack, ideal for pulls.

Sample Straight Flush Style

Draw structure (40 cards)

2 of Seven of Clubs
3 of Eight of Clubs
4 of Nine of Clubs
4 of Ten of Clubs
4 of Jack of Clubs
3 of Queen of Clubs
2 of King of Clubs

3 of Ten of Spades
3 of Ten of Diamonds
3 of Ten of Hearts
3 of Jack of Spades
3 of Jack of Diamonds
3 of Jack of Hearts

Remainder (12 cards)


These three basic styles represent variations on build a Doomtown deck that can draw well, avoid Cheatin!, and include a variety of useful cards. Thinking of a Doomtown deck as two portions helps to break down the complicated task of building a deck and having a rule to follow makes the deck easier to understand and predict. Different styles are more appropriate for different strategies and each style bears some minor variation from the samples given, but using these conventions can help build strong, effective Doomtown decks.
 Thumb up
  • [+] Dice rolls
Billy Compton
United States
Boiling Springs
South Carolina
flag msg tools
That was an awesome article! One of the best I have read on deck structure for this game. Makes me want to go pull out my cards and setup a deck to play.

Do you have any example decks you can show us?

 Thumb up
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Jome
United States
flag msg tools
Wargamer777 wrote:
Do you have any example decks you can show us?

Sure. I keep several on my website, but here is a simple one;

Peacemakers, Law Dogs, Hunter's Office

The Approach

Well, looking at Hunter's Office, it says to me "shootout deck" what with cheaper Weapons and a built in "call out" action. Looking at the Weapons, it seems Shotguns are ideal to take advantage of high bullet rating Law Dogs and make the shootouts less risky. Including methods to make people Wanted like Warrant, Framed, The Snitch, Red Handed, Flight of Angels, and lots of Private Deeds will help exploit the ability to call out Wanted dudes. Lets base the deck around Five and Jack for the shotguns and other solid cards in these ranges and use Seven for Stallions, Framed, Roll of Dimes, and the good Dudes available there. The expected shootout hand is a Full House with an easy 4 of a Kind if we have a good stud; Cheatin! Five of a Kind is easy if you know they dont have a Cheatin! card.

The Fives (12)

2 Warrant
1 Ambush
2 Shotgun
1 Roan
1 Jessie Fremont exp
1 Deputy Milo Powell
1 Reverend Simon MacPherson
1 Mosely's Maw
1 Ninth Circle Mine
1 T and Q Cattle Ranch

Try replacing the Ambush with Degeneration or Dust Devil for handling more diverse situations. Two new Deeds in E4E look really good here, O'Reilly's Five and Dime and New Pony Express Office. You could replace one of the Deeds with the Jail, too, but these are here to provide a little income.

The Sevens (12)

1 Framed
1 Bad Tequila
1 Move Along
2 Stallion
1 Roll of Dimes
1 Deputy John Templeton
1 Cain Regen
1 Montana Holland
1 Weaponsmith
1 Power Plant
1 Sheriff's Shaft

Try to hit their Cheatin! cards with Move Along. Framed is another way to make people wanted and Bad Tequila can help you pin someone down so you can get to them. You could replace Bad Tequila with Attitude or Hot-Loaded Rounds to add more kick to your shotguns. Stallion is a common from E4E and you can use it to move to a location with a wanted dude and call them out in one action... very powerful. You could replace the Roll of Dimes with a Buffalo Rifle, which is good for guarding In-Town Deeds and with Montana Holland or Nelson Roberts.

The Jacks (12)

2 Rumors
1 Shallow Grave
3 Double-Barreled Shotgun
1 Nate Hunter
1 The Drifter
1 Nelson Roberts exp
1 Roadhouse
1 Whiskey Nick's Joint
1 Guard Dog House

More shotguns and some utility actions. Try playing basic Nate for a big shotgun wielder early and later replace him with his experienced version. You could try adding in a Tin Shield in place of a Double-Barreled Shotgun to allow you to use some out-of-faction Dudes (like Blackjack exp2!)

Other Cards (16)

1 Red Handed
1 Flight of Angels
2 Jackelope Stampede
1 Bolt-action Rifle
1 The Clock Tower
1 Shootin' Range
1 Nate Hunter exp2
1 The Snitch
1 Jesse Radcliffe
1 Xiong "Wendy" Cheng
1 William Olson
1 Cassidy Greene
1 Charlie Flatbush
1 Tao Cheng
1 Mr. Bones
and 2 Jokers (Death's Heads if you have them)

These are all utility cards that help with different tasks. If you like, you could replace some of these with cards in the main 3 values to pull even higher in shootouts... just watch out for Cheatin!

Your starting dudes are William Olson, Cassidy Greene, Charlie Flatbush, Tao Cheng, and Mr. Bones for a total cost of 15 out of 18 with 1 Upkeep out of 3 Production and 4 Influence. If you arent worried about Lions and Los Diablos, you could always start Jesse Radcliffe in place of Olson and Cheng.

Remember; Stick it to them before they stick it to you! Stay safe out there.
 Thumb up
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin Jeffreys
New Zealand
flag msg tools

I would add that different structures allow for effective shooting at different points in the game.
Four of a Kind decks are strong shooters even on the 1st turn, which is important vs. spell heavy decks which, if given a few turns to set up, can likely avoid most shootouts for the rest of the game.

Straight Flush decks need time to strip out the non-clubs from the deck.
This means they need lots of cheap deeds and dudes in the remaining spots to play out in the first few turns.
The obvious exception is Blackjacks. They can get away with just running the Straight Flush of Clubs and a Virtual 2nd straight flush in Spades since they will be able to use the dudes to play more dudes. This means they only need to run a few really amazing deeds (eg Lode).

It's my opinion that part of what makes Doomtown a great game is this dynamic. It becomes important to recognise quickly what style of deck your opponent is playing, and to workout if you need to win fast, or win late. This also is part of what makes deck building tricky. You need to have relevant card abilities and actions to make your main game plan work, but need the correct filler abilities to get you to either keep you in the game until that point, or stop your opponent building up to easily. One quick example is if you choose to run a card like Degeneration to deal with Ezzie early game, instead of running Ambush which is powerful a few turns later when you can afford it.

 Thumb up
  • [+] Dice rolls
Byron St. James

msg tools

This was a fantastic article and a great resource for beginners. I'm starting to dabble in some degenerative shooters (didn't do to much shooting at Gencon with my Sweetrock build), and am trying to assess how one should go about choosing which draw structure is most appropriate for a given deck type.

Are certain draw structure more appropriate for a Law Dogs "wanted" manipulation deck vs. a spell heavy Sioux shooter?

I'm trying to build a Lost Angels "destroy everything" that I believe will need to degenerate down to a strong draw hand for mid / late game. With all the spells I feel like it will have good degenerative capability, but am concerned that the need to put the spells into play I would put a 4-of-a-kind draw structure at the risk of late game cheating hands.

While this is the deck I'm working on now, I would love any thoughts on general frameworks for thinking through the best way to choose a draw structure for future attempts.

 Thumb up
  • [+] Dice rolls