CUE is a card battle game. You build a deck of 18 cards from your collection and play against other players (or sometimes bots). Building your deck is part of the enjoyment, lots of different types of decks can win, unlike some other battle games, it’s not simply a race to all try and build the same deck. Even new players with few cards can be competitive in the game with some deck savvy. Some CUE players don’t actually play the battle game very much and instead focus on the collecting and trading aspects of CUE.
This guide explains some of the terminology, different types of card packs that are available, and some basic strategy. It is intended to orient new players so that they can benefit from more detailed resources available elsewhere. The most important of these are CUEniversity and the CUE Discord Server. CUEniversity has a complete list of all cards, 2- and 3-card combinations and other information for novice and advanced deck builders. The discord server has channels devoted to helping players tweak their decks (check-my-deck), a trading forum (trading), regular competitions and giveaways (tournament, events-and-giveaways) and many other aspects of CUE.
This guide uses bold for new terms, italics for quotes, and bold italics when referring to a particular card for an example. You can look up the referenced card from the Collection view (with All at top right, so you can also view cards you don’t own) and search for the name.
Note that there are information screens throughout CUE, look for the yellow information buttons. For example, at the top of the Card Collection (accessed through Cards & Decks on the home screen), the information icon presents the most important aspects of card rarity, energy and power.
CUE has about 1500 different cards. They come in two broad types: basic and limited. You can tell the difference by looking at the icon at the bottom of the card image (above the text box). Limited cards state limited card, and basic cards either do not have any text or state fusion ingredient. Fusion ingredients are simply basic cards that can be used to make other cards, but more about fusion later.
Cards also have different rarity levels, indicated by a badge at the top right of the card. Common cards don’t have a badge, rare cards have a bronze coloured badge with the word rare and two interlinked circles, epic cards have a silver coloured badge with the word epic and a star, and legendary cards have a gold coloured badge with the word legendary and a gemstone outline. These two classifications combine, so there are both basic and limited legendary cards for example.
Cards are also classified by album and collection, which refers to the content of the card rather than its rarity. Albums include major groupings such as History or Science, and each album has multiple collections, for example Ancient Greece in History, or Excellent Elements in Science. Some collections have a mix of basic and limited cards (e.g. Ancient Greece) and some are only limited cards (e.g. Primates in the Life on land category). Note that players often refer to albums as categories or cats and to collections as subcategories or subcats.
In addition, as you gain experience, you will automatically receive Level Up cards. These cards are never in packs and cannot be obtained except by reaching the experience threshold or trading for one. However, most players will not trade away their level up cards because they know they would be hard to replace.
Fusion cards are made from some basic cards, those marked fusion ingredient. Fusion cards are not available in packs. They are obtained by collecting all the ingredients and then destroying those cards in the fusion screen. A new fusion is released each Friday and some of the existing basic cards become fusion ingredients and other new ingredients are released. A typical fusion might require 3x epics, 6x rares and 30 commons. The specific cards needed can be found by viewing the fusion card and pressing the button below it labelled “Fusion”.
Mythic cards are powerful but very rare. Every pack has a small chance of giving a mythic except those packs where every card is a guaranteed (because there’s no free slots for the mythic). While the odds are not known, experience suggests that the average is about 1 mythic per 750 to 1000 packs opened. It would be very expensive to open packs simply to chase mythics but they will appear as you open packs for the actual pack contents.
Crafting allows you to convert multiple lower rarity cards into a higher rarity card. With fusion, a specific fusion level card is created from a particular combination of fusion ingredient cards. In contrast, crafting uses 9x lower level cards to create a higher level card that could be found in packs. It is intended as a way to convert excess cards into better cards. Commons are used to craft a random basic rare, rares are used to craft a random basic epic, epics are used to create a random basic legendary and legendaries are used to create a random limited card (which could be rare or epic or legendary). Only basic cards can be used in the crafting process and they must be duplicates.
In addition to the normal crafting process, Avid occasionally releases a special card that can only be crafted. These are like fusion cards in the sense that a specific recipe is required and the card is not available in packs. However, unlike fusions, the recipe is not released and must be found by solving puzzles.
Different packs offer different mixes of basic and limited cards from different albums. All packs contain basic cards, but only some packs contain limited cards. Some packs are always available in the shop, such as “Marvellous Miscellany”, which delivers 8 basic cards for 4500 coins. The shop also has a section for premium packs, which guarantee rare (or higher) cards or have a chance of limited cards.
Currently (early 2021), the typical premium packs include:
There are also other packs that may guarantee different types of cards. Each pack has a pack description that lists what is guaranteed. In addition, there is an information icon to press to obtain the probability of different types of cards (limited or basic, by rarity level) in a pack.
Limited cards are much more expensive to obtain than basic cards and are therefore much more valuable than basic cards at the same level. When trading, do not offer basic cards for limited cards, and always check the offers you receive to make sure that you are receiving limited cards if being asked for limited cards.
In trading, basic cards are reasonably interchangeable at level (so rare for rare etc) as are limited commons and limited rares. However, the trading value of limited epics and limited legendaries vary widely based on their playability and scarcity, with those in guaranteed packs worth a lot less than those pulled from general packs.
Battles are broken into rounds of three turns. The winner of a round is the person ahead at the end of the three turns. If the two players are drawn at the end of a round, extra turns are added within that round until one player wins. The battle winner is the first player to win three rounds, so a battle takes between three and five rounds.
Each player starts with a stock of energy. Energy is added to that stock at the beginning of each turn, and reduced according to the cards played.
The top left of each card has two numbers: energy (top, blue) and power (bottom, pink). Energy is how much it costs to play the card and the card delivers the stated amount of power in battle. This is notated with E/P where E is the amount of energy and P is the amount of power.
Each turn, the player can place up to three cards into battle but the total energy of the cards played cannot exceed the current energy stock for that player. The winner of a round is whichever player has delivered the most total power over three turns.
Both energy and power must be managed throughout the game. In general, cards that deliver more power cost more energy to play. Beating the opponent by a large amount of power in one round may lead to insufficient energy in a later round to play the cards you want to play. But holding back too much energy means that you are also playing lower power cards so it is harder to win a round.
Some cards also have special abilities, which are described in the text at the bottom of the card. Card abilities vary widely. Some improve the card in certain situations, for example adding extra power if played on the first turn of a round. Some cards improve other cards, for example by reducing the energy cost of cards in hand when the card is drawn. Other cards change the balance of the game in other ways, for example by adding energy to the owner’s current total.
Abilities are organised broadly as power, energy, burn or lock. Some cards have more than one ability.
Power abilities affect the power of cards, either a player’s own or the opponent’s or both:
Energy abilities affect the energy of cards, either a player’s own or the opponent’s or both:
Drain cards reduce the amount of energy. Some affect energy received each turn. For example, the ability of King Cobra reads: When played, your opponent loses -1 Energy/Turn until game end. Others are one time reductions that adjust a player’s energy stock, such as that of Spotted Salamander. If the player does not have sufficient energy, the stock will be negative and the player will be unable to play any cards until the per turn energy has increased the stock sufficiently.
Burn cards are similar to debuff cards, they reduce power. However, the reduction usually does not occur for one turn and may continue for multiple turns. For example, the ability of Raphael reads (in part): When drawn BURN (14 P/T) your Opponent’s cards until played. Assuming the other player plays three cards immediately and then the other two cards in the next turn, two cards will each have a reduction of 14 power. But if the card cannot be played for some reason (such as insufficient energy or being locked), the burning will inflict a further 14 power reduction each turn until power becomes 0 or the card is played.
Lock cards make a card unplayable for some number of turns. The ability of Puli reads: When drawn, Lock a random card in your opponent’s hand this turn. This means that when the card appears in your hand, one of the five cards in your opponent’s hand will not be available to play in that turn. This can be very disruptive if, for example, the player is trying to coordinate a combo.
There is considerable variety in the way these broad abilities are implemented in individual cards. Abilities differ in the cards to which they apply. They can apply to cards that are being played, all the cards in the hand, or in the deck. This is in addition to card specific conditions such as only applying to cards from certain collections.
The other way that abilities differ even though they appear similar is in the timing and duration. Abilities can be triggered on draw (when the card comes into your hand, you don’t need to play it), play (it will apply during the turn in which you play it) or return to deck (after the turn is played). And the effect can last for different durations. For example, the debuff applied by Hammerhead Shark lasts for the rest of the game, even when the affected card is drawn again later in the game, it will still have less than normal energy. Other changes may just last for the turn in which the card is played (such as Kumamoto Castle), or until the round finishes (such as Blizzard). Note that the ‘end of round’ effects end before the energy is given for the first turn of the next round or the cards for the next round are drawn.
A deck is made up of exactly 18 cards. At the start of the game, you draw 5 random cards from your deck. You can play up to 3 cards each turn (provided you have sufficient energy). At the end of the turn, you receive the same number of cards as you play, so you always have 5 cards to choose from.
Conceptually, the cards that you play are returned to the bottom of the deck. That means that cards you play together will be drawn together later; once your combo is lined up, it will stay lined up. Further, the card you play in the left hand box is returned first, then the one from the middle box, then the right hand box.
If you play three cards every turn (referred to as cycling), then two of the three cards you play in the first turn will be available in turn 3 of round 2 (because turn 1 of round 1 has cards 1 to 5, then 6 to 8 are drawn and so on until 15 to 17 in turn 2 of round 2). This continues through the deck, so the cards you play are available again approximately two rounds later.
There are two options for playing: casual and league. In casual games, the starting energy is 7 and the additional energy gained each turn is 7 (unless changed by card abilities). Energy is unlimited in the sense that any leftover energy is carried over to the next turn. Each round has a different randomly selected album. You can see what albums apply for each round by the colours at the top of the game display (where you also see whether you won or lost previous rounds and what turn you are currently playing). If you play a card of the same album during the round, the card has +10 power for that turn.
League has a new competition with slightly different rules each week, running Monday to Monday. There are two elements to the rules, arena bonuses and energy. Arena bonuses apply to a specific collection within an album. Two collections attract an arena bonus in each league, typically between 40 and 80 additional power for any card from the relevant collection played during that album’s round. Furthermore, the album is guaranteed to be included in the five rounds. These arena bonuses can be a valuable source of power for newer players who have not yet built a strong deck.
There are three different aspects to the league energy rules. These are starting energy, energy per turn and energy cap. A low energy league may have a rule such as 5 start, +9 each turn, maximum of 15. A high energy league may have a rule such as 40 start, +12 each turn, maximum of 50. These different energy rules require different strategies and careful balancing of energy and power.
The combination of different arena collections and changing energy rules mean that a deck that is good in one league is unlikely to be competitive in the following week’s league. But many players have a core deck of cards that they enjoy playing, and rather than rebuild each week, they adjust the deck for the different rules by changing only some of the cards.
There are about 1500 different cards available in CUE, and you choose 18 to make up your deck. There is no specific best deck (or meta game) in CUE. Many different decks can win with a combination of good deck building, good play and good luck. While it is true that rarer cards have more power per energy and better special abilities, a deck with only basic cards that is played well can win against a deck stacked with high end cards that is designed or played badly.
General approach: power and energy
A good objective for newer players is to average 10 power per energy played. So in a game with average 10 energy per turn, the initial target is 100 power per turn. This can’t be achieved simply by placing high power cards, because there are few cards with 10 power per energy, and special purpose cards such as energy generators have much lower power per energy. Instead, a deck is designed with synergy, so that there are combinations or buffs that benefit other cards in the deck.
Cycling is needed to gain the full benefit of such synergy. Playing one high power card each turn will only use half the deck in three rounds, and combinations may never be available. Furthermore, many cards have permanent effects and those effects accumulate if the card is played multiple times.
Energy management is therefore a key principle of deck design. League rules with high starting energy and large energy per turn support decks with many higher powered cards (which tend to require more energy) and few, if any, cards that help to generate or conserve energy. On the other hand, casual rules and league rules with a small energy per turn favour decks with many small energy cards that support each other. Finishing the game with lots of spare energy suggests that some more powerful cards could be included in the deck, making the deck deliver more power. On the other hand, the deck will not cycle if there is insufficient energy to play the available cards.
A typical deck includes a mix of cards: to generate energy, high power, combinations, cards that support the category that the combinations are drawn from, and some cards that generally buff the deck. The sharks and old west demonstration deck shown contains all these elements. It is built entirely with basic cards and is therefore relatively accessible for a new player. It is tuned for casual energy rules and is strong enough to beat bots. Many other example decks with only basic cards are listed HERE, including notes about strategy and also what cards to change to improve your deck as you obtain more cards.
In this demonstration deck, there are two energy generators. Thunderstorms increases the energy you receive each turn and should be played as soon as possible as the increase starts once you have played the card. Brontosaurus provides an immediate energy boost when drawn, there is no need to play the card to receive it. This is very useful early in the game when you have not yet built up much energy. You can hold the card in hand for a few turns to play more powerful cards to win the round for example. However, in the early rounds, you want to play it fairly soon after drawing it so that it returns and gives another boost later in the game.
There are two 2-card combos. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp must be played together (in the same turn) to get the power buff. In contrast, Fangtooth Moray and The Moon can be played separately, but must be coordinated in hand. Once you draw The Moon, you should hold it in your hand until you draw Fangtooth Moray. Then play The Moon first, so that it returns before Fangtooth Moray.
There are eight sharks in the deck. Two of the shark cards are subcategory buffs for sharks. Nurse Shark is relatively expensive (high energy) to play for the power at 7/66, but when you play it you reduce the cost of every shark in the deck. The reduction occurs after the turn, so any sharks played in the same turn as Nurse Shark will have a lower energy cost the next time they are played. Thresher Shark increases the power of every shark (including itself). That buff occurs when you draw Thresher Shark and adds 120 total power to the deck (8 sharks at +15 each). The other sharks are in the deck to take advantage of those buffs, as each additional shark increases the benefit arising from the two subcategory buffs.
There are also subcategory buffs for the Legends of the Old West cards. However, unlike the shark buffing, the cards must be coordinated to gain any benefit. Butch Cassidy is ideally played with the Holliday and Earp combo because that means there are three cards receiving the buff. However, it can also be played with Annie Oakley if the coordination is not possible. Annie Oakley decreases the energy cost of any Legends of the Old West cards that are in hand when it is drawn (including itself). This means that the best play is to hold as many of the Old West cards as possible until Annie Oakley is drawn, then play Annie Oakley in the turn following the other Legends of the Old West cards so that they are drawn together in later rounds.
Stingray and Water Strider buff other cards played in the same turn. Stingray adds power regardless of what the other cards are. Therefore the only strategy required is to try and play with two other cards. In contrast, Water Strider will only add power if the other cards are also from the oceans album. As most of the deck are oceans cards, this should not be difficult to coordinate. If the other player is also playing oceans cards, Water Strider has an additional effect of debuffing the opponent’s cards. Adding to the deck synergy, Spiny Dogfish buffs any of the four Legends of the Old West cards if played in the same turn. Wobbegong adds power to all cards in hand, regardless of whether they are played in the same turn, which makes it a good choice if you are short of energy and can’t play three cards.
Two cards have general buff effects when drawn. As well as the combination with Fangtooth Moray, The Moon adds power to any oceans cards that you are holding when it is drawn. This increase lasts to the end of the game, in contrast to the other buffing which lasts until the card is played. That is, you may be able to play the affected card twice (or even three times) with the additional power, making the buff more valuable. To get the most out of this effect, try and play The Moon in the middle of turns with mostly oceans cards so that your hand has oceans cards when it is next drawn. Finally, Molly Maguires adds power to any common or rare card, of which there are 13. The additional power is gained on draw and available only for the round, so it is best to try and draw Molly Maguires on the first turn of the round. The best way to do this is to play it on the second turn of a round (in the left or middle box) if possible.
Most decks are built in a way that is similar to the demonstration deck, with some combinations and some subcategory buffing so that the deck is more powerful than is apparent just from the individual cards. There are also decks that are designed to win in other ways.
A ramp deck has a large number of ramp cards together with some energy generators and some higher power cards. The strategy is to win one of the first three rounds with the higher power cards while playing as many ramp cards as possible. Then the power per turn from the ramp cards makes it easy to win rounds 4 and 5.
A disruption deck contains a large number of lock and burn cards. The idea is to disrupt the other player’s combinations and coordination by either locking a card they need to play or forcing them to play a card they want to hold because it is burning and losing power.
A drain deck uses a combination of drain and cost inflation cards to reduce the opponent’s energy (stock and per turn) and increase the energy cost of their cards so they are unable to fully cycle in early rounds and may not be able to play any cards at all in later rounds.
More specialised decks are also possible but generally rely on limited cards and are more difficult to design, so are not really suitable for new players. For example, Frilled Dragon buffs any card with energy of 0 or 1. The deck would have as many cards with 0 or 1 energy as possible to gain the benefit of that buffing. As these cards are low energy, there is also spare energy available to play some high power cards. A different deck can be built around Bobbitt, which debuffs any card with power of at least 50. As Bobbitt also affects your own cards, the deck would contain cards with 49 or lower power that buff each other rather than rely on higher power cards. A legendaries deck is designed to take advantage of cards that improve cards that are legendary rarity, such as Michelangelo (which increases their power) and Evolution (which decreases their energy cost).