For the most part, Left 4 Dead 3– wait, no, that’s not what it’s called...for the most part, Back 4 Blood is a first-person shooter about teaming up with your friends to mow down hordes of zombies. But Back 4 Blood flips the script by including a decidedly non-shooting mechanic: a deck-building system.
Back 4 Blood’s deck-building system works on a meta level, giving each run a sort of roguelike flair. At the start of each run, you’ll choose a deck of cards that grant stat-changing effects. Each deck can hold up to 15 cards. Between levels, you’ll get to choose one card from that deck, the effects of which will stick with you for the rest of the run. You can have as many decks as you like, and customize each of them as you see fit from the cards you’ve unlocked. (Pro tip: Name them so you don’t lose track of what’s what.)
You earn cards by earning supply points, which you can then spend on new cards when you’re kicking it at camp between runs. Some are good. Some are bad. Some offer great bonuses, but also come with detrimental effects. And some are downright terrific, viable in pretty much all circumstances and in all decks. What follows is the cream of the crop of Back 4 Blood cards.
Effect: Makes you faster and gives you more health and stamina
Cross trainers is a card that belongs in every Back 4 Blood deck because it just has no downsides to it and a ton of advantages. You gain 5 health, 3 percent boost to movement speed, and extra stamina too. And unlike some more powerful cards in B4B, there are no negative effects.
Effect: Transforms your melee attack from a punch (weak) to a knife (strong)
Your standard melee in Back 4 Blood is...fine? Turn it into a knife, though, and it’ll kill any rank-and-file zombie in one hit.
Effect: Heals 2HP with every melee kill
Battle Lust isn’t a great card on its lonesome, but when you combine it with Combat Knife—which, again, kills any plain zombie in one hit—you turn into an unstoppable self-healing machine. Sure, 2HP doesn’t seem like much, but trust us, it adds up.
Effect: When healing yourself (or someone else) you get bonus health
Health items, especially if you don’t have any cards upgrading their effectiveness, will often not heal nearly enough. Poultice helps fix this by providing a bonus 20 health to all healing items. Combine this with a card that makes those same items more powerful and you got a winning combo.
Effect: Increases your max health
Few resources are more scarce in Back 4 Blood than health. You start with just 100HP, a pool that’s whittled down by standard attacks faster than you’d expect. Increasing it by 15—with a card that has no negative effects, by the way—is a no-brainer.
Effect: Do extra damage when shooting weak points
This is a simple, but effective card. Most of the big enemies in the game, like Tall Boys, have glowing weak spots. Shooting them does more damage, making these annoying freaks die faster. So having a card that makes them die even faster is a smart thing to toss in your deck.
Effect: Healing a teammate also heals you
In Back 4 Blood healing teammates is a very useful way to keep everyone alive, giving you more firepower and, sure, your friends will appreciate it. With this card, healing them also heals you for half the amount. So if you are hurt and need to heal, but your friend is nearly dead and more desperately needs some healing, you can heal them and in the process take care of a good chunk of your damage too.
Effect: Get a lump sum at the start of every level
Every Back 4 Blood level starts with a safe room, and every safe room has a shop, where you can buy pretty much anything you’d need: weapons, weapon attachments, healing items, bombs, you name it. While you won’t exactly be pressed for copper (Back 4 Blood’s currency), you won’t naturally come by enough to shop like a Hilton heir. So you’ll have to make careful choices about what to buy. But if you get Hazard Pay, which gives you a bonus 250 copper at the start of each level, you’ll be able to simply shop with abandon.
Effect: Do more damage with shotguns and move faster while using them
Shotguns are some of our favorite weapons in Back 4 Blood. They can quickly clear crowds of zombies in seconds. And with this card, you not only do more damage with my favorite guns, but you move faster too, letting you get closer to targets, making any shotty even more deadly.
Effect: Significantly increases reload speed at the expense of damage protection
Few moments in Back 4 Blood feel worse than having to reload your weapon while a horde of enemies bears down on you. Some cards will marginally improve your reload speed. Widemouth Magwell offers possibly the highest single boost: a whopping 30 percent. Yes, there’s a catch, but it’s negligible: a 5 percent hit to your damage reduction.
Effect: Lets you shoot while sprinting
Much of Back 4 Blood is about standing your ground and fighting off waves of zombies, but every so often the game throws you in a situation where you just need to run for your life. Being able to fire a weapon while doing so is invaluable in such circumstances.
Effect: Increases your carrying capacity for offensive weapons
Full stop: No single item in the game is more helpful than the pipe bomb, an explosive device that attracts every nearby zombie and then goes boom. Obviously being able to carry two of these is better than one. (Bonus points if you choose to play as Hoffman, as he can carry one extra from the get-go.)
Effect: Carry two primary weapons
Back 4 Blood limits the weapons you can carry to one primary gun (rifle, shotgun, sniper, etc.) and one sidearm (pistol, SMG, sawed-off shotgun, etc.) Find this card, though, and you can carry a primary weapon in your sidearm slot. The only drawback is that your weapon swap speed is slashed by 25 percent. Also, devastating news, but you can’t carry two sidearms, which means you can’t double up on the best weapon in the game: the Desert Eagle.
Effect: Take one less damage from all zombies
My favorite cards and perks in games are the ones that you apply and don’t have to think about too much. They just make your life easier. Scar Tissue is that kind of perk. It just makes you a bit tougher and while it might not seem like much, over the course of a run the amount of damage it will spare you from adds up fast.
Effect: When you kill a special zombie you all do one percent more damage (stacks up to 15)
There are a lot of special infected in Back 4 Blood. And they can quickly overwhelm your team due to how much damage it takes to kill them. So why not turn your suffering into an advantage? That’s what this card does. You will very quickly gain 15 percent extra damage using this nifty card. Just remember it resets between saferooms.
Effect: Heal 10 points of trauma damage at the start of each level
Trauma damage in Back 4 Blood is a bit weird and the game doesn’t do a great job explaining it. But basically, when you take damage there is a chance some of it will become trauma. This can’t be easily healed with medkits or pills. Too much trauma damage and you can quickly find yourself always low on health. This card helps keep your trauma down by healing some of it at the start of every level in a run.