Drafting the Munchkin Collectible Card Game

November 10, 2017


No two card games draft exactly alike. And here in the offices of Steve Jackson Games, over the last few months we've discovered some specific secrets to drafting in the Munchkin Collectible Card Game.
(Not sure what a draft is? Here are our draft guidelines.)
So now, I am here to share some of this knowledge with you. I'll use an example. One particular deck went undefeated in a recent draft tournament we held in the conference room when we should have been working. And those who lost against it generally hated their lives.
First, the undefeated deck list (it includes one of each card, unless otherwise specified) –

Hero:

Loot:

  • Big Baby Bandage (Uncommon)
  • Shiny Manipulator (Uncommon)
  • Clobberknocker (2) (Common)
  • Flaming Armor (Common)
  • Belt Buckler (Common)
  • Mugsy's Sap (Common)

Mischief:

  • Stuff Shaming (3) (Common)
  • Tavern Brawl (2) (Common)
  • Spin Kick (Common)
  • The Final Countdown (X-rarity)
  • Doge! (Common)
  • Skewer (Common)

Monsters:

  • Vanillamental (Common)
  • Smug (Common)
  • Ferrous Oxide Monster (Common)
  • Hipstaur (Uncommon)
  • Peigh'Toowyn (Uncommon)
  • Glassjaw (Common)
  • Pygmy Suckophant (Common)
  • Moose (Common)
  • Drop Bear (Common)
  • RNGesus (Common)

Allies:

  • Repeat Offender (Uncommon)
  • Avenging Apostle (Uncommon)
  • Bertha (Common)
  • Barbarian the Librarian (Common)


There are a couple of broad, overarching themes here that make the deck work.

First, the deck includes one-third to one-half Monsters. In our draft adventures, we've found that (most of the time) a good Munchkin Collectible Card Game deck has about that proportion of Monsters. This is because, out of all the card types, Monsters and Mischief are the two that most often deal damage to your opponent's Hero – and Monsters tend to be a more efficient use of your limited number of cards, since they come back to your hand each round. So, because cards are finite resources in the Munchkin Collectible Card Game, you'll probably want a good portion of your hand on any given turn to be Monsters, if you want to win the damage race.

That being said, this particular deck has 10 Monsters, which is on the light side. We'll look at why that is in a minute.

Also note that, out of those 10 Monsters, four cost 2 gold to hire. Three cost 3 gold, two cost 4 gold, and one costs 5 gold. This is a classic cost curve: There are Monsters to hire at a variety of gold levels, with more Monsters at the lower costs. That means you're more likely to draw low-cost Monsters you can use early in the game, and to then eventually draw into the bigger, more expensive Monsters as the game goes on and your resources ramp.

The second major thing to note about this deck is that it includes seven pieces of Loot, and here we have a bit of a cost curve as well. There's a rank 1, three rank 2s, and two rank 3s.

Four Allies round out the deck's defensive options. They're all relatively cheap, with costs of 1 or 2 gold, so they'll be usable any time during the game.

Third, I'd like to point out that this deck features nine Mischief cards – which is probably why it can afford to have a proportionally lower number of Monsters. While Monsters tend to be more efficient in terms of gold and cards, Mischief cards are more of a sure thing than Monsters are. There are simply fewer ways in the game to prevent, block, or deal with the effects of Mischief.

The number of Mischief cards, unlike Monsters or Loot, is entirely up to you when you build your deck. You can build a good deck with just a couple of Mischiefs, or you can devote a third of your deck to making Mischief, as this deck does.

Finally, this deck has no Locations! That's probably okay in a draft. Locations are best when you can break them in your favor – that is, when you can build your deck in such a way that you’re going to benefit more from the Location than your opponent is. And that’s harder to accomplish in a draft than in a constructed deck. So no Location is a solid default.

Now let's talk about some of the specific cards in this list, and why they are good to include in a draft deck.

It's an old, tried-and-true drafting rule that you want cards that your opponent is going to have a hard time avoiding, interacting with, or mitigating. Any time you can pull a card that rises above the back-and-forth that most cards have to go through to have an effect, you've found an efficient path to victory. In this deck, there are a few Monsters and Mischiefs that fit that bill.

Smug might have only 3 health, but his ability gives him some unexpected beefiness: It reduces the attack value of every weapon committed to the fight against him, so Smug's a lot harder to squish than he looks at first glance. So the chances that your opponent is going to off him are lower than for your average Monster; he will probably do some damage for you.

Moose, on the other hand, is just plain hard to squish. With 6 health, once you get the Moose in play, he's probably coming back next turn.

Spin Kick is a great card to draft -- pretty much no matter what else your deck is doing. It's a Mischief so, like I said, there are just fewer answers out there for it. Dealing 4 damage to a hired Monster and its controller directly from the hand, out of nowhere, on your opponent's turn? Yes, thank you.

Tavern Brawl can be another big Mischief hit to your opponent that they won't have many ways to interact with.

Last, Stuff Shaming, The Final Countdown, and Skewer all provide automatic damage to an opponent after a specific trigger (either Reckoning or card draw), and all three cards are "stuck" to either your opponent's Hero card or a card in their Hoard. There are relatively few ways to get rid of cards that get stuck to you in the Munchkin Collectible Card Game, so this could be a reliable source of regular damage.

Another type of card it's important to pull in a draft is removal, and the Munchkin Collectible Card Game is no exception. I'll loosely define removal in the Munchkin Collectible Card Game as any card that's going to get you out of some damage either by preventing it, by squishing or blocking a Monster, by removing a Monster from a fight, or by interrupting or stopping a Mischief card's effects.

Flaming Armor, Belt Buckler, all the Allies, Clobberknocker, Big Baby Bandage, Doge!, and Spin Kick all act as removal in this deck.

Another kind of card it can be good to pull in a draft (though not before any of the types I've mentioned before) is what I'll call utility cards. Utility cards provide some benefit, optimally recurring from the Hoard, that boost your overall strategy. Utility cards might do something like one of the following:

  • Give you extra gold, or the chance at extra gold.
  • Provide extra card draw. Barbarian the Librarian has a card draw effect.
  • Unzap your zapped Loot or Allies, or zap your opponent’s Loot or Allies. This deck features two copies of the Shiny Manipulator, a rank 2 Trinket that unzaps one of your Weapons.
  • Provide a way to do some ping damage here and there, for when you, for example, need just one more damage to squish a Monster. Mugsy's Sap and the Clobberknocker both provide this effect.

Finally, you’ve got the rank-and-file of the draft deck: All those extra Monsters that may or may not get a hit in before their demise. Glassjaw, Vanillamental, Drop Bear – all are decent Monsters that fill out the deck’s Monster cost curve.

And that's about all there is to say about this draft deck.

Thanks for reading!


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