Hi folks - thanks in advance for your time. This is a VERY rough draft of the deck-teaching post I'm creating in hopes to keep people from becoming frustrated and leaving the game because the combat is... far from straight forward and explained well.
I'm not looking for help copyediting, grammar, etc. As I re-write this and take responses into account, I'll shorten it in length (significantly) and make sure it's polished before exposure to the player base.
What I need from you is feedback on the explanations. Does this make sense? Was it helpful? What parts weren't straightforward or confusing? etc. DO NOT DISTRIBUTE THIS DOCUMENT TO ANYONE YET - IT NEEDS TO BE REFINED AND CUT DOWN.
And, thanks again for your time. I know this is long, but hopefully it helps.
Understand the Deck System - The 5/5/18 Method and How to Modify it For Your Needs
The goal of this is to leave you with a solid understanding of the mechanics behind the deck system. It is not to provide you with the best build, mandatory glyphs, etc. It's an example. An example that is functional, powerful, and easily adapted to any role you can hope to fill in this game. You can modify any aspect of what I'm about to walk you through, and you should modify it.
What I'm giving you here is strictly for teaching purposes, leave out the debates about which glyphs are better than others, please. This isn't about which glyphs do more damage, it's about understanding how the deck works.
Refer to the graphic(s) I've included to follow along.
So, what's the 5/5/18 stand for? The first 5 slots are unlocked, the second 5 are locked, and the overall deck contains 18 glyphs - the minimum allowed with this many locked slots on the bar. The concepts from trading card games also apply here - the game is literally using a virtual deck of cards to decide what glyphs appear. A smaller number of cards in the deck means you can reasonably predict what glyphs you will be dealt, and thus somewhat plan ahead for combos - more on this VERY important aspect later. Let's start with the basics.
The difference between locked and unlocked bar slots are as follows:
- Locked slots are not part of the deck. By locking an ability on the bar, you are telling the game that you wish to always have that glyph occupy that place on the bar, and to dictate its availability via its cooldown, not whether it was drawn from the deck. Again, any individual glyph locked on your bar is not part of the deck.
Glyphs locked to the bar will affect how many copies can be added to the deck. Notice in the picture my #7 skill is a locked Defensive Stance glyph. Now look above it in the Available Glyphs Window - you'll notice that Defensive stance has a quantity of "1/4" meaning that of the four copies of the glyph I have, one is being used. In this case, that copy is locked on the bar in the #7 slot. Even though I can't expand the deck window to show you the entirety of the glyphs added to it, it's important to note that even if I could, you would NOT see defensive stance there because I've used one copy of the glyph by locking it on the bar. It is NOT in the deck.
The glyphs you see locked into my example deck are abilities generally have long durations, or are for a very nuanced use that I would not utilize every fight, but still need available for use should I need them.
In this case, I have Blink, Defensive Stance, Death Shield, Immolation, and a Pet summon glyph equipped. Blink is for mobility. Defensive Stance and Death shield are for damage mitigation. Immolation is there, and not in the deck, because the effect of the spell lasts longer than the cooldown for it, and I don't use it much, and the pet summon is there in case my pet dies during a fight and I need it back.
The 5 locked slots in this method of deck building are being used by me to buff myself, throw down a large AOE that centers on me, re-summon a pet, or escape from a bad situation.
When considering what glyph to lock, think of the things you might only cast once a fight, or only in a very specific situation. Things that are useful to have, but that aren't needed in rapid succession.
It's also important to note that locked glyphs should be costing more focus. You can see this on the tooltip if you put your mouse pointer on the lock itself, under any locked ability in the deck window. However, I'm currently unable to see any focus cost increase for locked skills - the described focus penalty is either entirely disabled, or so minor that it's increasing focus cost by fractions of a point, sometimes resulting in abilities costing 1 additional focus as a result. Either way, that specific penalty for locking glyphs is not one you should consider when building your deck, it's simply not significant in any considerable fashion.
So, we've got locked skills covered. Now we get into the real potential of the deck system, and the source of frustration for MANY players that simply don't understand the mechanics going on here because they aren't explained well. Or at all in most cases.
-Unlocked slots - by placing a glyph, let's say Lightning, in an unlocked slot you are telling the game that as it cycles through the deck should it pull a copy of the Lightning glyph, place it in an unlocked slot that you've designated for Lightning. In my example, I have lightning designated for the first four slots on the bar. When the Lightning glyph is pulled from the deck, it will only appear in those designated slots.
When you drag a glyph icon onto the bar, you are simply telling the game to ONLY place that glyph into the spots you've designated, or an open slot. Please, for the sake of this instruction, pretend open slots do not exist. Using them correctly is something that we'll save for another "advanced deck building" article.
In this build, my first four slots are my damaging glyphs. The fifth slot contains the instant-case life glyph Healing touch. You can split this up for your purposes however you wish. If you're a healer, maybe you'll use your first three slots for heals, and slot 4 and 5 for utility spells you'll also be casting regularly. You can, and should, modify this 5/5/18 method to suit your play style. I'm simply giving you the foundation to build on.
Once you've decided what glyphs appear where on the bar, you're ready to add copies of these glyphs to the deck. By default, if you assign a glyph to an unlocked slot on your bar, it will add ONE copy of that glyph to your deck, seen on the right in the deck window pictured in the graphic. As glyphs gain levels, you get more copies of them, attaining a second copy at level 10, a 3rd at level 20, and a 4th at level 40, and even more copies should you continue to level the glyph.
In this method I utilize my first four slots on the bar to do damage, and the fifth slot as more of an, "Oh shit, I need to heal right now!" emergency fallback.
Since the window can't be resized, I'll write out the deck in the example provided:
4x -Chain Lightning
4x -Ring of Fire
4x Searing Ray
2x - Lightning
4x - Healing Touch
Note the Available Glyph side of the window, specifically the quantity column. It's there you'll see how many copies of a glyph are available to you.
You'll note I have exactly 18 glyphs. If I had less, let's say I didn't add the two lightning copies, I'd have 16 glyphs in the deck + two "slugs", which are useless abilities that will be randomly drawn from the deck, taking up a slot on your bar for a few seconds and preventing you from using it until it goes away. Slugs are bad, you should never, ever, have them in your deck.
If you do have slugs, ensure you've added the intended copies of your glyphs to the deck. If you've done that and simply can't reach the full 18 glyphs needed for your deck, add a new glyph and subsequent copies until you can. Slugs are bad, and there's never, ever a reason to have them in your deck.
So, why set the deck up this way? Simple. Having my active abilities all in one place, with multiple copies, allows me to not only rapidly execute abilities, but to combo them in a somewhat predictable manner. Only four glyphs can come up in slots 1 through 4 on the bar, and since I've dictated the glyphs that go there, I know what's coming, and that everything is useful for what I'm doing at the moment.
Again, the glyphs presented are just for instructional purposes. This is not a guide to a build, it's a guide on understanding the deck.
So you should now have a solid understanding on the difference between locked and unlocked glyphs. As well as how to utilize and create a build that suits you using a combination of locked and unlocked glyphs. The 5/5/18 Deck has a lot of utility, but the best part about it is that this is far from the only method, experiment with your desired role and see what works best for you. I decided to present this method because it a 'middle of the road' build. It's easily adaptable to any role, and it's fairly straight forward with what's happening in the deck during combat.
The last thing we need to cover is combo's. You need to be combining spells during combat, failing to do so will significantly decrease your effectiveness compared to someone that understands and utilizes the deck and combo mechanics. Yes, you might be able to solo basic stuff with a fully locked bar of skills, but I assure you, you are significantly weaker than someone utilizing a deck. Not only are they firing more glyphs than you are, they're doing so efficiently both in terms of focus and damage, almost constantly.
In the example provided, I've blacked out everything except the first five slots on my bar and, really, you only need to be concerned with slots 2 and 3. You'll notice they're both green, indicating that they can be combo'd - but there's something else important there, the green #3 on the bottom right corner of the 3rd slot in the bar. That is indicating that I've combo'd, or stacked, that ability three times already (in this case the ability is enlightenment, and having it stacked will grant a stronger, longer buff).
Yes, you can combine the same ability with itself. That's the key many people are missing in the deck system. Doing so increases the potency of that ability, while lowering the focus cost. Most people never realize it, and some even discover it by mistake. The game only tells you about the combo window, the "L" key by default.
This is where the 5/5/18 method really shines. Because you've dictated which abilities will actively appear on you bar in slots 1-5, you can rely on the deck system to constantly feed you glyphs as you combine them and eventually activate them. Glyphs will stay on the bar for a few moments once they're drawn and appear there. You can Press R to begin a combo, from there, press the corresponding keys on your keyboard with the bar slots you wish to combo, and the new, stronger ability will appear on the slot you selected last.
For instance, in the picture of the bar above, enlightenment is in spots 2 and 3. The glyph in slot 3 has been stacked 3 times. If I pressed R at this point, and then hit the number 2, then 3 on my keyboard, the glyph on slot #2 would disappear, and the glyph on slot #3 would be replaced with an Enlightenment glyph that had a 4 in the bottom right corner instead of a 3. It would get stronger.
Note, that the new ability resulting from ANY combo will ALWAYS be placed in the bar slot you hit last. There is a full list of combo's available to you via the "L" key by default, in the combo tab. It will not only show you which combo's you have available currently because you have the corresponding glyphs trained, but also other combos for glyphs you might not have yet.
Also of note is that you CAN continue to stack combo'd abilities. Perhaps instead of Chain lightning and Ring of fire from my example build, you have Fire Arrow and Death ray, which combo into the excellent spell Fiery Decay. Once you have the Fiery Decay glyph on your bar, you can hold it there and create another fiery decay glyph once fire arrow and death ray are drawn on your other slots - remember, in this build, you have five unlocked slots! Four are dedicated to your main abilities - in this case, damage. Once you've combined spells and have two fiery decay glyphs, you can combine them together, resulting in a glyph with the #2 in the lower right corner. A stronger, more efficient fiery decay - and all it cost you was a few key presses.
Constantly combining glyphs in an efficient and quick manner, while casting them, is what will separate the good players of this game from the great players. Learning how to combo quickly while you're casting or channeling another spell will enhance the power of your character significantly. Failure to do so will, predictably, make you less effective in comparison.
So, that's it (finally)! You now have the fundamentals and example build that will provide a foundation for whatever you hope to accomplish in Shroud of the avatar. Get creative, try new things, move slots around to suit your liking. Go crazy, there's a lot of depth here and the deck system, once you understand it and can properly wield it as a weapon, is one of the best things in the game. Don't let people tell you it's garbage and totally random, it's not. They just don't understand it and, as there are minor elements of chance involved - IE what cards are drawn - YOU control what cards are in the deck, and YOU control how fast they come up and how they interact with each other and the environment.
Hopefully you've got a good grasp on this. Go kick some ass. Or, send me a tell in game, "The Balance". If you've got corrections, theories, or even just a question you feel is stupid and basic - send me a tell and if I don't know the answer, I will find it, or go find someone who does. Remember, the 5/5/18 method here is just an example, it's not the best, nor is it the worst. What it is, is a functional example of how these mechanics interact with each other.
Good luck, and honestly, thanks for reading this and caring enough about the game to learn more about it. There's a lot of depth with this system, it's enjoyable and fun once you master it. Combat's reactive and strategic. Not random and boring.