I have to make one point clear before we start: if you're playing Conquest in-person, and you want to make a real game of it, you need to have 3 core sets available. Maybe this means that you and a buddy split the costs and share the cards, but all of this deck-building advice assumes that players have access to 3 of every card in the full card pool.
Alternatively, you can play on OCTGN to hold you over until you can get those Core Sets.
So you have all of these cards available to you, and two possible allies per faction. It's a lot of information to sort and absorb! My first tip is this: don't be intimidated by the card pool. The game is new enough that there really aren't that many cards, and the game is still so new that even the most experienced players are still exploring good combos and possibilities.
My second, and more practical tip, is to use either CardGameDB or ConquestDB for your deck-building schemes (I prefer ConquestDB for the interface and organizational tools, but CardGameDB has a thriving forum).
Example of a deck-in-progress from a while back, this was built on ConquestDB
Using these two platforms will help you break down the statistics of each of your decks and make it easier to analyze where your deck-building might be going wrong. And it'll really help you manage the five basic elements of every deck:
1. Deck Size - Sun-Tzu wrote in The Art of War about the laws of heaven and the laws of Earth. The laws of heaven were immutable; no man could stop the rain or the tides, no man could affect the need for food or rest. Then there were the laws of the Earth, the laws that man could change, such as the organization of societies. In our humble card game, deck size is a law of Heaven. You must have a minimum of 50 cards. Period. "Pro" players, and myself, would also tell you that you should never have more than the 50 card minimum if possible.
The reason is simple probability: you want the best chance of seeing the cards that you need. The more cards in your deck, the less of a chance you'll pull your critical cards.
2. Army units - assuming this article is published before the release of the Urien Rakarth warlord for Dark Eldar, pretty much every faction will be heavy on army units. And by "heavy", I mean 29-31 out of your 50 cards will be army units. Now, this includes the obligatory neutral cards Rogue Trader and Void Pirate, but at this stage in the game you need to have a deck with a lot of army units.
Each of your units will have different roles. Some will focus on command struggles, some will focus on combat, and some will be able to do a little (or a lot) of both. But the point is that, at this stage in the game, you really must have between 29-31 army units.
3. Shield Icons - The other cards in your deck will include attachments, events, and supports. Of these three types, attachments and events will have shield icons. You will need these cards not only for their abilities, but also to prevent damage through their shields.
Again, there are certain rules we can apply simply because the game is so new. Each faction has limited access to cards with 2 shield icons, so even if such an event/attachment isn't that good, it still warrants consideration if it has two shields.
Each faction has different needs when it comes to shielding damage, and some factions have better access to shield cards than others. Suffice to say that you're going to need to think about how you're going to prevent your units from getting damaged at inopportune moments.
4. Command Icons - There is a simple guideline regarding a unit's command icons at this stage in the game: if a unit doesn't have any command icons, then it better have a damn good ability. You need units with command icons to keep from getting completely outclassed in the command struggle, plain and simple.
An example of a card that is worth including despite having no command icons
Look for units in your faction or available allies that are 2-cost and have 2 command icons, generally those units are gold!
5. Cost Curve - Finally, once you've chosen the cards that you might want to include in your deck you'll need to look at the "cost curve" (the average cost of cards in your deck). This is where CardGameDB and ConquestDB prove their worth. Generally, and I hate to get all mathemagician on you, you're looking for a cost curve that hovers around 1.7 resources. There are some cards, especially in the Chaos faction, that have a high cost but you'll be able to get at a discount, but even then you'll want a cost curve that doesn't deviate too far from 1.7.
Units like this make calculating a cost-curve more difficult
I remember using a Chaos deck before I made use of those two deck-building sites. The deck didn't work, and I was growing frustrated. Then I built the deck in ConquestDB and saw that it had a ludicrously high cost curve of 2! That might not seem like much, but it simply doesn't work.
Also, right now, big units just aren't that good. There are too many ways for players to completely side-step that big unit you just paid a premium for. In general, stay away from the big, monstrous, flashy units.
So how do we put all of this together? Simple! Go to one of the two deck building websites I mentioned earlier, choose a warlord, and get to it! Generally I'll go through a specific faction's cards (and an ally's), pick all of the cards that I want, realize I have way too many cards and the cost curve is too high, and trim it down from there. Then, just play some games. Don't get sucked into "analysis paralysis" like I so often do. Build some decks and then get out there and have a good time smashing your way through the Warhammer 40k universe.
What are your thoughts on deck building? Did I miss any basics? Sound off in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter @PIflamesofwar