Disney Lorcana is the hottest trading card game since Pokémon: The Trading Card Game’s debut over 20 years ago. Its well-defined rules and mid-range complexity slot perfectly between the younger-skewed Pokémon and the perpetual card game juggernaut, Magic: The Gathering.

As in Pokémon and MTG, much of Lorcana’s strategy unfolds well before the Illumineer’s face off.

Whether you’ve messed around with the starter decks and want to swap in a few cards, or you’re starting over with some booster packs, you’ll need to know how to make a Lorcana deck that’s fun to play, and has a shot at winning.

Bare Necessities

First, we’ll need to know the basic rules for creating a deck in Disney Lorcana:

A deck must contain at least 60 cards. You can have as many as you want, but the more cards you add, the less you’ll end up seeing. It’s generally good practice to limit yourself to exactly 60 cards.

A Lorcana deck can include up to two different colors. Unlike many other card games, ink resources in Lorcana aren’t tied to any particular color. You’re limited to two colors, but the ratio doesn’t matter when it comes to resources, only which cards you like. You can technically create monocolor decks, though as of the second release (Rise of the Floodborn), there isn’t any benefit to doing so.

You cannot include more than four copies of any one exact card. This means you cannot have five copies of Elsa: Queen Regent in a single deck. However, you can include four copies of Elsa: Queen Regent as well as four copies of Elsa: Snow Queen, as they are two different cards.

And that’s it!

Actually, that’s just the beginning. To build a better deck, we’re going to want to discover our preferred playstyle, look at card synergies, and balance our deck for each phase of the game.

Colors of the Wind

The easiest way to look at playstyle is by the ink colors. Each color tends toward certain game concepts and styles, meaning we will prefer playing some colors more than others.

Amber is all about healing and support (literally, in the case of the Support keyword). Amber decks tend to overwhelm opponents with smaller but more numerous characters. It features lots of easy-to-use actions and songs that heal their allies, making it pair well with other inks. It’s also the color to choose if you love the Disney Princesses! In Magic terms, Amber is White/Green, and is one of the most popular ink colors to use.

With advanced, niche abilities, Amethyst is not for the faint of heart. Blue players from Magic will feel right at home focusing on control and card draw. Friends on the Other Side remains one of the most popular song cards. Rise of the Floodborn added a unique card strategy with “bouncing” Merlin’s different shapeshifted forms back from your hand (especially Merlin: Goat), gaining their powerful played abilities over and over again.

Reactive players who enjoy “take-that” strategies should check out Emerald. Emerald cards often punish opponents by forcing them to discard cards, making them a great counter to aggro decks. Flynn Rider: Charming Rogue is a great example, and a popular early game drop. Emerald can also be aggro itself, especially with the popular Legendary card, Beast: Relentless, which readies every time an enemy character is damaged.

Ruby is the easiest Magic color to compare: it’s Red! Ruby focuses on challenging and banishing characters with Rush and Reckless, and protecting them with Evasive. Ruby’s Rare and Super-Rare cards all reward for you winning challenges, including Aladdin: Heroic Outlaw, Raya: Leader of Heart, and Shere Khan: Menacing Predator. If you like battling over questing, Ruby is your jam.

Sapphire is the ramp color, meaning it’s great at making more ink to use on later turns, with cards like Gramma Tala: Storyteller, Mickey Mouse: Detective, and One Jump Ahead. With many of Sapphire’s powers, you’ll be able to quickly amass a horde of ink resources to play whatever you need, making it a great color for lots of decks. Rise of the Floodborn added lots of interesting synergy with item cards such as Maurice’s Workshop and Judy Hopps: Optimistic Officer. Its Magic equivalent is a hybrid between Blue and Green.

Full of beefy characters and direct damage actions, Steel is one of the most straightforward ink colors to understand. Like propping down huge, scary characters such as the 10/10 Goofy: Knight for a Day? Or firing off damaging bursts with Fire the Cannons!, Grab Your Sword, Ransack, or Beast: Forbidding Recluse? Steel is also built for defense, with characters that boast Resist and Bodyguard abilities, making them particularly resistant to enemy challenges. By focusing on direct damage, attack, and protection, Steel has elements of Red and White from Magic: The Gathering.

Almost There

Typically we build our decks around certain card combos or synergies. For example, Rise of the Floodborn added a simple Amber synergy with the Seven Dwarfs characters, half of which are Common cards, who support other Dwarfs characters in various ways.

But to really get the most out of that deck, we’ll want to include Snow White: Unexpected Houseguest. This 2-cost version of the Disney princess provides an ink discount to all Dwarfs characters. Unlike Snow White: Lost in the Forest, this Uncommon version of Snow White is not included in the Seven Dwarfs Amber/Sapphire Starter Deck.

Another great Amber combo revolves around Song actions. By using Sleepy’s Flute, you can gain lore every time you sing, and characters such as Ariel: Spectacular Singer can help you dig for songs. Combine the deck with Steel for some particularly powerful songs, such as A Whole New World, and you have the deck affectionally referred to as Steelsong!

Perhaps you want to build your deck around certain movies or themes. An Amethyst/Steel Frozen deck, or a Villain deck, which could result in any combination of Amethyst, Ruby, or Emerald. You’ve seen how vexing Evasive characters can be, and can throw together powerful Evasive characters from Emerald and Ruby. Maybe you lucked out and pulled some Musketeers — time to build an Amber/Steel powerhouse!

Thankfully, we know we need to balance our deck for each stage of play, whether we hit our big combos or not. This is where a database website such as Dreamborn.ink is a huge help.

By entering our deck ideas into the website, we can see the breakdown of ink-cost, character-ratio, and inkable-ratio of all our cards. Then it’s easy to see if, after including all the cards we want, where our big gaps lie. Maybe we should throw in a few items for persistent abilities, add more 3-cost characters, or reduce the number of non-inkable cards.

A good rule of thumb is between 40-50 characters, and no more than 10 non-inkable cards. Barring specific deck strategies, we’ll want to make sure we have a decent ramp of cards to play at each ink cost, without making us too top-heavy.

Zero to Hero

This is a trading card game, with many of the most powerful abilities reserved for Rare, Super-Rare, and Legendary cards. Something to keep in mind when building a princess deck around that single copy of Moana: Of Motunui found in the wave one Amber/Amethyst Starter Deck. With a 60-card deck, there’s a good chance we’ll never get to use her ability to ready our other princess characters.

But don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of solid decks you can build with just the starters and a few booster packs, especially when aiming to play casually with friends and family.

Lorcana is a fantastic game, and the rare TCG with true-staying power and an infinitely long tail life. There’s no need to rush through overpriced product when demand is so much higher than supply. Take your time, purchase cheaper singles to round out your decks, and discover your favorite cards and playstyles to become a better player.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.