It’s an easy scapegoat right? “You only won because you copied your deck!” Well…yeah. I like to win. Winning is fun. “You won because you use overpowered cards!” This may come as a surprise, but playing strong cards is also fun. It’s a weird complaint to make, but it is a common one within the card game community. Sure you’re entitled to your opinion but at the end of the day why do we play the game? We play to win obviously.
Defending netdecking goes beyond the superficial though. Yes it is inevitable, like the tide. Information will spread and as it does people will gravitate towards what helps them. This is beginning to become beating a dead horse territory both in these articles as well as on stream. It’s worth exploring things more deeply in spite of all that. There are positive reasons to netdeck as well as endorse netdecking in general.
As mentioned above it is a futile effort to fight netdecking as it is A Thing. It’s going to happen even if it is accidental. How can you “accidentally” copy someone else’s deck? Well this may come as a shock, but none of us are the main characters in the universe.
Yes, it was tough for me to admit it too.
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Too
At the end of the day everyone has braincells between their ears. Given the appropriate amount of time, motivation, and specified goals I believe that anyone would be able to identify not just every deck but actually rank them according to strength. This is important because while you may have been “the first”, there’s no reason to suspect that someone else couldn’t come up with not just the same idea but maybe even a better iteration of it if given the chance (or even before you did). Tournaments, and to a degree ladder systems, reward discovery but there are plenty of factors outside the game that may help or hinder an individual’s progress. A deck or strategy isn’t “yours”, you don’t get to hide it away and everyone must pay a royalty to use it. If you encounter someone in an event or on ladder and they are playing the same deck you just played against 4 times before they aren’t lesser for choosing to bandwagon. The fact of the matter is they may not be bandwagoning at all.
Putting the origin discussion aside for a moment, it is also silly to fault someone for standing on the shoulders of giants. Even if we assume that a given person completely copied a deck from someone else. Who cares? Within the context of what is written above, that individual could have gotten there anyway. We all have other obligations outside of card games, and even beyond that research requires effort. The goal by anti-netdeckers here seems to be simply to brand people as lazy. That is not a reasonable label to apply. It comes across as though the crowd that hates netdecking just wants to claim intellectual superiority. Instead it just reveals a penchant for self-aggrandization. “I can build decks and you can’t”. Ultimately it overemphasizes one portion of a game, deckbuilding, completely ignoring another, that is piloting said deck.
Hey You! New Guy!
Moving from the moral arguments, there are more concrete and practical ways that netdecking benefits both a game and a community as a whole. To illustrate it, let’s pose a question: what is the biggest issue with most games? If you say anything resembling balance you’re wrong. One of, if not the biggest problem that most games face is simply getting people to play. Sure you may catch people’s eye with flashy artwork, or massive tournaments, but it is the more casual player base that underpins even the most competitive games. They typically outnumber competitive focused players by orders of magnitude and provide the needed cash for a company to you know….keep making the game. It plainly tough to onboard new players, casual or otherwise. This is especially true when a game has been around for a little while. You end up in a position where there’s just this enormous wall of information to try and absorb and it feels incredibly overwhelming. That’s where netdecking comes in. Not unlike a textbook which explains all the theorems, oh and by the way all the homework answers in the back, a newer player can learn a colossal amount about a game and its unwritten rules simply by being handed a “good deck”. Now this isn’t to say that you can hand them just any deck, but a strong build is similar to a picture. It’s worth a lot of words.
Just as above, why would you actively want to reinvent the wheel? A lot of people put a lot of work into analyzing card games. It would be silly to ignore their efforts. Netdecking increases the general player pool knowledge, elevates gameplay, and makes games more fun. That goes for both the casual and competitive sides of the room. Getting pulverized as the beginner is going to happen to some extent regardless, but there is no reason to be sadistic about it, prolonging the initiation period. Trust me, those people will have ample opportunity to flex their deckbuilding and creative skills if they want to later on. For now, get them in and running with the pack as quickly as you can so you can explore the game alongside them.
Necessity is a Mother
A third defense of why netdecking is good is actually a two-parter. It helps good deckbuilders as well as good players. That may sound crazy on its surface, because how could copying someone’s deck be a benefit to someone building decks? Here’s the secret: if you knew exactly what you were going to face each time you played, wouldn’t you adjust your deck? Having stable, but not stagnant, metas is a great position for games to be in. When things boil down to coin flips either due to matchups or specific cards, it is unsatisfying to play them, and that’s putting it mildly. Knowing what you are up against is key to being able to adapt and overcome. In this way deckbuilders can showcase their skills by analyzing a format and then evolving builds. Ironically the predictability incentivizes creativity whereas things being too open can stifle it.
This of course extends to in game adaptations as well. Your opponent is running a stock list of Deck A? Well good thing you’ve prepared! It’s a battle you’re well prepped for as you may know your opponent’s exact 60 (or 40 or 24) cards, but they are scrambling to assess what you have sleeved up. Battlefield adjustments are immensely easier to make when there isn’t a nasty surprise lurking. Walking into a room where with advance knowledge from everyone’s in this way is a huge advantage that can be transformed into wins. Just like the deckbuilding advantage other people netdecking adds to the list of advantages strong players have over weaker ones.
Like it or not, netdecking is here to stay. Simply looking at it from different angles, including ones not discussed here, reveals that not only is it not a detriment, but an active benefit for large swaths of any game’s player base. As with everything else in this genre, it is important to ingest as much information you can and then carefully consider it. Blindly flying into a rage just because you don’t like something, or it doesn’t fit neatly into what you think the game should be doesn’t mean that it isn’t OK. Take some time to examine the subject before jumping into a hot take with with both feet.
As always everyone thanks for coming by, and Black Lives Matter.