Different from traditional RTS, in which all units of a faction are available to the player in a match, CnC Rivals only allows you to bring 6 units and a commander into battle. This constraint adds a new deck building element into the game. While CnC Rivals deck building isn’t an exact science, this guide will outline some things to consider when creating CnC Rivals decks. This guide is a primer on the fine art of building decks in CnC Rivals.
Every deck should have general answers to various openings one could face. How will your deck respond to a bike rush? A double harvester opening? How will you know what your opponent is doing? The answer to the last question is scouting, which conveniently is the first post of the Fundamentals series. The answer to the first two questions will vary depending on your deck, but it is important to have an answer to them to avoid build order losses.
In this game of advanced rock paper scissors, having answers is everything. More than just having answers to an opener, a deck should also have an answer to unit types.
Every deck should have at least a unit that is favourable against each of the three unit types: infantry, vehicle, and aircraft. Having these units ensure that your deck doesn’t immediately lose to say, an inferno. However, just following this rule isn’t enough. For example, missile squads are favourable against both vehicles and aircrafts, but if you have no other anti-vehicle unit, you can be easily shutdown by a single wolverine.
For the purposes of deck building, any unit has three main attributes: its own unit type, it’s favourable targets, and its cost. Note that the cost of a unit isn’t just its stated cost, but also the cost of its associated building. This associated building cost decreases the more units of the same building that you bring (thus, it is unadvised to bring all four buildings as they add cost without adding combat power to the unit produced). This third cost attribute can explain why a wolverine can gun down many missile squads before going down itself. Similarly, while a basilisk isn’t favoured against infantry, its cost difference with missile squads means that it can hold its own in a direct engagement with (multiple) missile squads.
One decision to make while creating a deck is what kind of style you would like the deck to be. Will you rely on cheap early game units to quickly get a 2-0 missile victory, or will you give up the first missile and make a come back with your tech lab heavy units? This is up to personal style and potentially meta, but recognising how heavy your deck is compared to your opponent’s deck should influence how you play. For example, if you run a light deck and recognise that your opponent has a heavier deck, you should make every effort to close the game quickly. Due to the cost attribute, your missile squads are not equipped to take down titans in a timely fashion.
There are other factors to consider when looking at a unit as well. Unit speed, range, and movement type comes to mind. Drone swarms were common in a previous meta because of their ability to contest pads. This was thanks to their fast(est) speed and flying movement type, as well as their cost and the quality of being a squad. Drones offer very little in terms of combat capacity, but this utility made them overpowered and caused their subsequent nerf.
Range is a more delicate subject. I have a lot of opinions about the problems with ranged units but will just say one thing. You should have a plan to deal with ranged units or be prepared to have a bad winrate against them. Currently, ranged units are rare enough that choosing not to have an answer against them is fine.
Let’s take a look at an example deck and apply what we’ve learned. This is the deck I used to climb to Tiberium league. You can find details about that journey here.
The opener of this deck is harvester into rifleman. Against an aggressive bike rush, I would pull back my harvester and make some missile squads to block them along with the rifleman squad. Against a double harvester start, I can make pitbulls or predator tanks to pressure the opponent. This was actually one of the deck’s weakness, at least for the GDI variant. Being the more defensive faction, GDI’s pitbulls and predators are worse at punishing double harvester starts than their Nod counterparts.
The deck has a counter to all unit types. Against infantry, shockwaves and only shockwaves (a second rifleman squad is rarely made). Having only a single anti-infantry unit works because infantry tend to be lighter on the cost side. As you might expect, confessors, a high cost anti-infantry infantry, spells trouble for this deck. Good thing confessors aren’t popular. Against vehicles, missile squads, pitbulls, tanks, and zone troopers can handle a variety of enemies. The same is true against aircrafts, just take tanks out of the list. The deck, especially the GDI variant (because it is slower), struggles against ranged units supported by proper micro and blocking. Again, this is mostly fine because ranged units are not common enough.
Cost-wise, the barracks units are enough to survive the early game and protect your harvester. The mid-game units of pitbulls and tanks, combined with shockwave trooper support, can last you most of the game. Only using these units will cause a bit of tiberium float, which can be used on commander abilities and teching up into the heavy zone troopers to catch your opponents by surprise.
Deck building in Rivals isn’t an exact science. There is no objective best deck. This is also what makes deck building so interesting and fun. I hope to see a tournament mode involving drafting and banning units in the future. Also, since deck building isn’t a science, it’s hard to cover everything there is to talk about in deck building. After all, this is supposed to be a beginner’s guide, so it shouldn’t be too complicated. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.
Good luck on the battlefield.