Animation Throwdown General Deck Assembly Guide

Animation Throwdown General Deck Assembly Guide

Still Biased and Definitely Daft

Author: Peter Kraatz, aka KinzuaKid
Twitter: @TheKinzuaKid

Updated December, 2020
Note: This update is by request to explain some of the probabilities as player decks get much larger than the optimal 25-card set.


This is a general strategy guide for Animation Throwdown deck assembly. Since there are many resources at your disposal already I’m writing this guide in response to queries from my current guild to update gaps in general theory left out of the Rumble Strategy Guide. Thanks for the feedback, Robot High Council (again)! As usual, the effectiveness of any given tactic is up for debate and this is just what works for me, so take it all with a grain of salt.

Any casual reader will note I’ve repeated myself from the Rumble Guide, here. I’ve done this for consistency and because I wrote the words. I’ll do what I want with them.

Preface and Conventions

Everything is opinion unless backed up by data.

This guide assumes you have an advanced understanding of gameplay, deck management, Skills, Traits, scoring, and combinations. The reader should have finished the bulk of Adventure Mode through Onyx and possesses a deck comprising Legendary (purple) or Epic (blue) cards. You may not be in SFC yet, but you’re probably close. Beginners will benefit from many of the tips below but some will be difficult to employ.

It does not matter if you’re a P2P or F2P player but you should have your ad bonus maxed out.

  • I’ll refer to card rarity by color, rather than by name, throughout this document. See above.
  • Skills I will refer to by their proper name.
  • The card positions on the board I will refer to as, from left to right, slot 1, slot 2, etc.
  • Your opponent is the AI.
  • When in doubt, “Deploy” will almost always mean “put the card in your deck.”
  • By contrast, “Play” will normally mean “put the card down on your turn in play.”

This guide also assumes you have mlebkowski’s github tools and strategy site bookmarked, here:


Getting Started and the Rules of Thumb

Foundations of the Rules of Thumb: Understanding Card Types

This Game is About COMBOS, Not Cards

More Combos: So Nice, it’s in Here Twice

Deck Assembly and Deployment

Choosing Cards: Rarity

Card Upgrades

Deploying for the BGE(s)

A Note on Defensive Deck Assembly

Deck Size and Card Distribution

Getting Started and the Rules of Thumb

[Caution, some entry level content below]

The basics of deck layout and construction have been discussed extensively in other forums, but I’m covering it here by request. The basics comprise three rules of thumb:

  1. You must put at least 25 cards in your deck. You should probably consider that your target MAXIMUM number as well. Keep your deck as small as is possible, adding more cards ONLY if it will significantly improve your position.
  2. You should have an equal number of Character and Action cards in your deck. If not, the numbers should be as close to equal as you can make them.
  3. You should deploy Power cards sparingly, or not at all.

Consider those three bullets the framework upon which everything else hangs. They’re guidelines, and there are many ways to kick ass without following them to the letter.

Foundations of the Rules of Thumb: Understanding Card Types

There are three major card types you can deploy, Character, Action (or “Item”, and Power (or “Precombo”) cards. Combinations can only be made by combining one Character card with one Action card on your turn in play, making the resulting card much more powerful. Power cards are already “comboed” and therefore are in their final form when deployed.

Character Cards

Character cards generally feature a recognizable lead show character as the card name and image. Character cards will be your nemesis as the game progresses. There are fewer Character cards available in the game than there are Action or Power cards and you always seem to need a 4th Character card that is not available at the present time. Not all “characters” are Character cards, so be careful. Here’s a notable exception:

Despite being a “character,” Mr. Frond is an Action card, not a Character card.

When creating a combination in play, the character card will always determine the combined card’s Show designation (i.e., Family Guy, Futurama, etc.). You can use this information to plan your advanced gameplay.

Action Cards

Action Cards (or Item Cards) frequently feature some interesting show secondary character, object, place, or event. Action cards are plentiful, which is both part of their charm and an aggravating fact of life. You will regularly get a completely new set of Action cards that need research and for which you have no pairs to fuse. Again, it’s not always easy to tell which card is what type:


Yup, both of these are Action cards

When creating a combination in play, the Action card will almost always determine the combined card’s Trait (i.e., Educated, Animal, Drunk, etc.). You can use this information to plan your advanced gameplay. When in doubt, look up the Combo Recipes for your cards.

Power Cards

The most powerful cards are combinations made in play from two very powerful starter Character and Action cards. Power Cards (or PreCombo Cards) are single cards that already represent that combo. They are never as strong as their counterparts you build in play. See below:

Half Dog Gene: A Quad-Fused Maxed-Out Power Card

Half Dog Gene: A Combo card made from maxed out Character and Item cards

I think the difference is obvious. The true Combo card is much better than the Power (precombo) card. Don’t get me wrong; if you have a deck full of maxed out Power cards you’re probably doing just fine. Fine, that is until the real Combo cards start coming along…

“Devil Hank”: If you don’t kill him quick…

Wingnut Leela has a Power Card? Awesome, except…

…except Wingnut Leela as a Combo Card is /root

Power, or Precombo, cards can do very well on their own, particularly if they are maxed out and you have several of them. Even so, there are limits and you can see quite easily that many Power Cards can be neutralized while their Combo Card counterparts are nearly indestructible. The game, as always, remains about the Combos, not the cards. Oh, wait-

This Game is About COMBOS, Not Cards

Sure, “Animation Throwdown – The Quest for Cards” seems to suggest the game is about cards, but it’s not. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably say it a lot more: The game is about combos. Let’s be clear; if you’re talking about one of these cards…


37-38 total damage is nothing to sneeze at

…then it’s most definitely about the card. Don’t have 25 of those? Good. Let’s talk combos.

There are only a handful of cards like maxed-out Mythic Leela you can reasonably deploy without first having useful combos available with the other cards deployed and, second, having researched those combos.

Naturally, you should be researching new combinations ahead of an upcoming BGE and in line with the cards you either already have deployed or expect to deploy soon. The reason for this should be obvious. When you have a choice between researching, say, a blue-purple or a purple-purple for the same combo, always choose the higher power option (purple-purple).

More Combos: So Nice, it’s in Here Twice

You should be using RickBot’s “Combo Recipes” tool to prioritize your research and you should be leveraging his “Share Your Deck” tool to check your deck’s flexibility. You’re a smart player so you’re already doing that. You’re using that tool to insure the maximum probability of making good combos by avoiding this:

The dreaded “inadequate” flag

Having a few cards show up on this list is not going to break a good deck, especially if the cards in question make superior combos and you have a bunch of the corresponding card to pair it. One “Book of Spells,” for example, is terrible. But in your deck with three 6* Bobby cards and your game is awash with:

Everybody’s favorite li’l ass-kicker

Deck Assembly and Deployment

Here I’ll cover useful tips for deck assembly including card choice, playing to the BGE, upgrades, and skills.

Choosing Cards: Rarity

In general, all decks evolve to purple and gold. Just because yours isn’t 100% purple doesn’t mean it’s a crap deck. There are many blue cards that have staying power, even at the higher Arena ranks and into the lower SFC scores.

This card lasts a surprisingly long time

If you’re juggling a large number of cards, a good rule of thumb is that a maxed-out blue card beats an unfused purple card. This is not true in all cases by any means but it’s true enough to be the default position. All this means is that while your deck is in transition between blue and purple, don’t just toss in a purple because of its color. Study it carefully and in the bigger picture strategy of the combos you can make with it. To wit, Bending School:


This card is a horror show by itself. I can think of a dozen maxed-out blues that will crush this card (Burger Suit, anyone?) even without half a chance to combo. That said, Bending School just happens to combo to form Diarama Gene and Shop Teacher Hank. Here you’re seeing them in their weakest form:

At higher levels these cards are unstoppable workhorses:

Card Upgrades

You may notice I am showing cards as they appear fully upgraded at whatever fused level they happen to be for the use case I am demonstrating. This is on purpose. Any card you deploy should be upgraded fully at its current fused level. That means level 5 for Epic cards and level 6 for Legendary cards. Mythic cards are a special case because they do not upgrade in the same way as other cards. Deploy Mythic cards at any level of upgrade, so long as you have combinations researched for the Action cards already deployed in your deck.

If you don’t have enough Giggitywatts to bring a card up to its maximum stats at whatever fused level it’s at, farm more Giggity until you can. Only deploy fully upgraded cards unless you have no other option, Mythics excepted.

Fusing cards

As your deck evolves, you’ll be fusing upgraded cards to improve their stats. At some point you will have to decide whether to fuse two cards or continue to play them as two weaker cards. If you are not currently using and do not plan to use a pair of cards in the near future, fuse them. It will save you an inventory slot.

If, however, you ARE using that card in your deck you have to weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks before fusing. Having multiple copies of a card in your deck offers more opportunities for combinations, though the combos will be weaker than they could be with fully upgraded base cards.

Your best results overall will come from a deck that is balanced in its card levels. You’re going to read the term “balanced” a fair bit from here on out, so just let it soak in a moment. In general, if most of your cards are fused once with a few straggler “unfused leveled” cards in the mix, you want to fuse the stragglers before quad-fusing anything else in your deck. Any new card you add or swap in should also be fused before deployment. If you fuse or quad-fuse a pair of cards, you should have an equally good replacement card in your inventory, first. A 25-Purple card deck is no good if 20 cards are unfused and 5 are maxed out. You’ll do fine for a match, then lose 15 in a row. That’s no way to go through life, son.

The temptation to max out everything can lead to disastrous results when you don’t have the card variety or combo support to backup that one quad-fused monster.

Naturally, this is a guideline. Your strategy and available cards will determine the best move. To wit…

Fusing Character Cards

Late game, particularly after you reach SFC, you will notice Character cards become harder to come by. This is a function of your mature deck building strategy and the fact that you have started to rely on certain combinations to lay the foundation for your game. This is not a reflection on the actual rarity of Character cards. What is rare are those specific Character cards you NEED to improve your deck. Once you’ve arrived at that point all you can do is wait and hope for a good drop in a box or Nixon purchase.

If, however, you find yourself flush with Character cards and are in a position to completely max out (quad-fused-fully upgraded) a set of 10-13 Character cards, do it. Rethink your entire deployment strategy around those newly minted cards if you have to. Even if all the rest of your cards are unfused single cards, a suite of maxed out Characters will massively improve your deck’s performance.

Deploying for the BGE(s)

The battleground effect (BGE) is an interesting twist that is at times non-optional and at other times trivial and insignificant. When the current BGE offers a 50% bonus to attack and defense, you simply have no choice but to favor the BGE when deploying cards. In that case, you should deploy as many BGE-related cards as possible. Those buffs make marginal cards much more powerful and powerful cards omnipotent. The BGEs with these obscene buffs appear to be a thing of the past, thankfully, so you can actually afford to put more thought into your deck deployment.

My personal approach to BGEs is mine alone and it might not work for you in the least. I’m only including it as anecdotal evidence that I actually play this game on occasion:

  1. If the BGE matches one of the two or three primary Traits I normally favor, I will focus the deck entirely on that BGE because I probably have the cards to support it. Even my weaker cards will do just fine in this case, so pile on for the party!
  2. If the BGE is unnatural for my deck and I have the cards in Inventory at the right upgrade level to match the rest of my deck, I will include a BGE card, or two, or three. This all depends on the BGE and the cards in Inventory. I favor only maxed out cards in this situation.
  3. If the BGE is unnatural and I have few or no cards to support it, I will completely ignore that BGE.
  4. I ALWAYS deploy Character cards that match one of the current BGEs, regardless of anything else I’m doing with the deck build.

If your core deck makeup (your key Character Cards and Action Cards you always deploy) is strong enough, all BGEs are basically optional and should be favored based on your overall deployment strategy and deck makeup alone. This is rare and if your card inventory is this strong, you’re probably in possession of enough BGE-specific cards to construct a focused deck. Time, and possibly a lot of money, will get you there eventually.

Multi-Trait Cards

There are a handful of cards that benefit from TWO BGEs simultaneously. If you have those cards and both BGEs are in play you should find a way to deploy those cards, at least for the duration of the BGEs. During the short window where the Musical and Disguised BGEs overlapped, this Heavy Metal Hayley would have been ridiculous:

A very nice support card

A Note on Defensive Deck Assembly

Best practices will differ whether you’re preparing your defensive deck for Guild Siege, Rumble Play, or plain old Arena/SFC.

In general, defense decks are successful or not based on individual cards (not combos) because you don’t get to play the hand, the AI does. The strongest combo is worthless unless the AI can survive long enough to play it. Since your opponent is trying to destroy that first card on his second turn, your goal is to deploy cards that will take a few hits. Tanks. You want tanks. Tanks with Gas, Bomb, Punch, and Payback.

Deck Size and Card Distribution

Since the time I wrote the Rumble Guide, I’ve actually put together some data and can confidently say: the fewer the cards you deploy, the better. Your best bet is to deploy between 10-13 cards each of character and action cards with no more than 1-3 Power (precombo) cards. Your goal is to maximize your deck strength with as close to the 25-card minimum as you can afford to deploy.

Your mileage will vary, especially during weird BGEs, but minimizing your deck size is important because every new card in your deck reduces your probability of making combos in your early turns.

Even more important is that you balance the number of Character and Action cards you deploy. Allow my friend, Math, to explain…

Probabilities and Card Distribution

You need to maximize your chances of setting up the best combo with the first 5 cards you receive. If you cannot setup for a specific combo on your first turn, you will be forced to either play a card in anticipation of a good draw on turn 2 (gamble) or play a suboptimal card, one that may not make a desired combo but is more likely to survive a few hits while you pray for better cards.

Introducing a new card or creating an imbalance between the number of Character and Action cards in your deck immediately reduces your options in play, reduces the likelihood risk taking will pay off, and increases your likelihood of a bum first deal. How much so? That depends:

For this discussion, let’s assume that all of the Character cards deployed in your deck can combo with all of your Action cards. This is highly unusual and only likely to happen if you have carefully selected a single Character or two and have boatloads of Action cards from which to choose. In the table below, I show a number of aggressive but typical deck constructs. The “Deck Distribution” column shows a number in the form CC-AA-PC, which refers to the number of Character, Action, and Power cards in the deck. Whether you swap the Character cards or Action cards in that model makes no difference. 13 Character and 10 Action cards results in the same probabilities as 10 Character cards and 13 Action cards.

The next two columns show the percentage and probability of drawing a “bad deal” on your first hand, meaning a set of 5 cards with no possibility of creating a combo.

Probability of being dealt 5 Cards with no combo options on your 1st Turn
Deck Distribution % Chance Probability
13-13-0 3.91% 1-In: 26
12-12-1 4.84% 1-In: 21
13-11-1 5.26% 1-In: 19
12-11-2 6.19% 1-In: 16
14-10-1 6.52% 1-In: 15
15-10-1 7.34% 1-In: 14

A perfectly balanced deck is our benchmark, the 13-13-0 distribution, which will screw you over on average just once every 26 games. Look at row two, where we have introduced just one Power card while removing one each of the Character and Action cards. Our odds drop dramatically. Granted, we are still getting decent hands dealt to us in 95% of the games we play but the bum deal is going to come 5 games sooner. Remember, unless you are extremely careful and have the cards to work with, your Character and Action cards are never going to all match up for combinations. Your results will be much worse in reality. This table is a best-case scenario.

Don’t even think about building a deck like the one in the last row. These percentages may seem small, but 6% or 7% is a big risk when you’re only likely to see 3-5 more cards after that first deal.

This distribution of hands dealt tells us three important things:

  1. A balanced deck is a happy deck
  2. The fewer Power cards, the better
  3. If you deploy ANY Power cards, you better have a perfectly balanced deck otherwise

FULL STOP: Time for an update…
I heard from a reader that this section could be helped with a few more examples, including some outrageous deck builds. I live to serve. That said, I have limits and you can do some of these calculations for yourself with Excel or an online Combination calculator. Here’s a table, and I’ll show you how to do it yourself right below it.

5 Cards with no combo options on your 1st Turn    
Deck Distribution % Chance Probability
16-16-0 4.34% 1-In: 23
17-17-0 4.45% 1-In: 22
18-18-0 4.55% 1-In: 22
19-19-0 4.63% 1-In: 21
20-20-0 4.71% 1-In: 21
18-14-0 5.25% 1-In: 19

Note that I calculated only for decks without Power cards, mainly for balanced decks, and I rounded a lot. I’m doing the math manually so I don’t have time for endless examples and this will do nicely to illustrate several points:

First– you can clearly see that the larger the deck, even perfectly balanced, the higher your odds of drawing a bum deal. It’s not a LOT higher, but you’re playing with madame fate, and remember what your math teacher taught you about streaks. Every card over 25 adds about 1/10 of 1% to your crap deal chances. DON’T DO IT.
Second– look at the difference between the 16-16-0 deck and the 18-14-0 deck. They’re both 32 cards, but the latter is nearly 25% more likely to give you a ragequit. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, MY DUDE? Stop that. Just…stop it. You shouldn’t have a 32-card deck in the first place, but, if you do, it needs to be BALANCED.
Third– I hear from guild managers that you people are arguing that the percentages are so small, why worry about it? Why care about the difference between 3% and 7%? Here’s a clue: the house edge for the game of blackjack (the percentage advantage the house has over the player in a normal game) is ~o.5%. One-half of one percent advantage is enough to make a casino rich. That’s why you worry about the small numbers.

Now calculating these odds is pretty trivial, and since there are many combination calculators on the Internet to choose from (or use the COMBIN function in Excel) I’ll just describe the variables here you dump into the calculators. Every one of them uses this formula for combinations:

Sometimes, you will see this written as “nCr,” for short.

First, note the deck size and makeup. The total number of cards in your deck is usually (n) in the formulae, where the size of your hand, 5, is (r). Run that calculation for something like 26C5 and you’ll get 65,680. That’s the total number of 5-card hands possible for a 26-card, 13-13-0 deck. Now calculate all the bad hands, which will require you to run the formula twice. Same formula, but this time (n1) is the number of Character cards in your deck, and (n2) will be the number of Action cards. You’ll get two numbers. In the case of the 13-13-0 deck, both numbers are 1,287. Add those together and divide the sum by the big number from the first step. You’ll get 0.0391 (and change). Aaaaaand, that’s exactly what I show in the first probability table.

What you’re doing is counting all possible hands first, then counting the two different kinds of bad hands (ones where there is only one type of card dealt to you), summing up the bad hands and dividing them by the total hands. Clear as mud?

I left out Power cards because it makes the formula more messy, but it is basically the same. Since Power cards don’t combo with anything, they count as both an Action card and a Character card in the numerator (making it bigger), but only as a single card in the denominator (making it smaller). I already showed you how Power cards jack with your odds, and this goes especially for newer players with no Combination Mastery in play. If you absolutely must run the figures yourself because you’re not convinced, here’s how you’d represent the formula for a 12-16-1 deck in different cases-

Total Possible Hands: 29C5 = 118,755
Total Character and Power Card Only Hands: 13C5 = 1,287
Total Action and Power Card Only Hands: 17C5 = 6,188
Total Odds of Drawing a Bum Deal: ( 13C5 + 17C5 ) / 29C5 = 6.29%

Anecdotally, I played with a 12-12-1 deck for a long time with great results (1600+ SFC) but fell in love with a second Power card due to a particularly nasty BGE at the time. So, I added it to the mix and ended up moving out another Action card to keep the deck power balanced (the retired Action card was unfused, while all the others were fused at least once). This left me with a 12-11-2 distribution, and it was an immediate failure.

Mind you, I didn’t know why I was having such terrible luck for almost a week. It cost me dearly in a Rumble and I did not figure out the problem until building this probability table.

“But Pete, you don’t get to play a combo on turn 1 anyway. You’re forgetting the card you draw for turn 2, which could easily make a combo we can use!”

No, I’m not. I was hoping you’d forget to ask:

Probability of being dealt 5 Cards with no combo options on your 1st Turn


Probability your second turn will also suck, assuming turn 1 did…

Deck Distribution % Chance Probability Card 6 Also Fails (%)
13-13-0 3.91% 1-In: 26 38.10%
12-12-1 4.84% 1-In: 21 40.00%
13-11-1 5.26% 1-In: 19 45.00%
12-11-2 6.19% 1-In: 16 45.00%
14-10-1 6.52% 1-In: 15 50.00%
15-10-1 7.34% 1-In: 14 52.38%

If you were hoping for an update to the remaining sections as well, there’s no need. All the numbers are the same after you’ve got your odds for the first hand. Once the cards are dealt, you’re simply figuring out the distribution of the cards that remain in the deck for your odds, which is what these next paragraphs do…

If you have a crap deal on turn 1, get ready for turn 2 to disappoint. Put another way, if you draw five terrible cards on turn 1, you’re probably going to draw the sixth on turn 2. Even that “low” 38.10% chance for the 13-13-0 distribution isn’t all that attractive, so just hang on for the ride because turn 3 doesn’t get much better if you take another beating on turn 2:

Probability of turn 3 sucking after turns 1 and 2 dealt you crap…

Deck Distribution Card 7 Also Fails (%)
13-13-0 35.00%
12-12-1 36.84%
13-11-1 42.11%
12-11-2 42.11%
14-10-1 47.37%
15-10-1 50.00%

Bottom line: all the screaming on the forums about the AI dealer “cheating” and “this is bullshit” are just nonsense. You are likely to be dealt 6, 7, or even 8 cards in a row of the same type on a fairly regular basis. Keeping in mind that not all Character and Action cards create a combo, your odds of drawing a pair of cards that work together are even worse. Math, how does it work?

The only defense against the inevitable odds is to deploy as balanced a deck as you can afford.

Note for those who math: the ranges shown above for turns 6 and 7 assume turn 1 (and/or 2) was a dud already and does not calculate the probability of drawing six or seven bum cards but the probability of drawing one bum card after already having drawn five of them on turn 1 or a sixth on turn 2. Because you asked, here’s the % chance of drawing 8 cards in a row without any hope of a combo:

Probability of drawing 8 craptastic cards in a row with no combo potential (e.g., 7 Character Cards, 1 Power Card or 8 Characters, etc.)
Deck Distribution 8-Card Ragequit (%) Probability
13-13-0 0.16% 1-In: 607
12-12-1 0.24% 1-In: 421
13-11-1 0.39% 1-In: 258
12-11-2 0.46% 1-In: 219
14-10-1 0.69% 1-In: 146
15-10-1 0.91% 1-In: 110

This looks a lot better when you don’t understand probability whatsoever and your retirement plan is the lottery

Once more: since not all Character and Action cards combo together, your 15-10-1 deck that seems to draw 8 crap cards in a row every 20th game is probably spot on with the math. So please, stop whining. You’re doing it to yourself.

Side note on probabilities: if you’ve ever been asked to run the “coin flip experiment” you will recall that events like card draws and coin flips seem to run in streaks. Just because you flipped a coin for 9 heads in a row doesn’t mean the 10th is any more likely to be tails. Ditto for the bum deals. I’ve been saddled with an 8-card ragequit deal 3 games in a row on at least a dozen occasions and twice just while writing this guide.

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3 Responses to Animation Throwdown General Deck Assembly Guide

  1. Fringe says:

    Hi! Are you still playing?

    I still share this page with guild members when we talk about deck construction. I have a hard time convincing a few people that they shouldn’t make larger decks, like with 32 cards. You mention keeping the number of cards down to 25 or 26 but don’t show how bad the odds get with 28 or 35. If you ever update this (ha?), would love to see the numbers for making combos with 16 characters and 16 items, for example. Seeing how much worse the numbers are might convince them.

    Thanks for keeping this page up, hope you’re well and happy.

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