In Wizard 101, most of the typical player's time will be spent in Player vs Environment battles. This guide will illuminate some of the nuances of the spell deck system as it relates to PvE content. Enjoy!
Wizard 101 more closely resembles a card-based duel game than an MMORPG. When I say "card", I am talking about real paper in the real world. If you've played Magic: the Gathering but you've never played World of Warcraft - you might find yourself more at home in Wizard 101 combat than an MMO veteran. For the uninitiated, card-based duel games (like Magic) rely on each player to build their "deck" of cards ahead of time and then duels are determined by a set of rules, strategy, and a little luck. Of course, the strategy you use to construct your deck is at least as important as the strategy you use on the battlefield. The same holds true for Wizard 101.
Your chosen school of magic, spent training points, expected group role, and gear all factor in to your deck composition. Items with cards usually give 1 or 2 "copies" of the card in your deck, which means you should not count on drawing it in the first round of every combat. If you spend training points to learn a spell from a different school, then your equipped deck will limit how many copies you can have (usually 3 or more). So, if you want to rely on a certain spell being drawn, spend the training points.
As a general rule, you should build your deck with a fair amount (at least 20%-33%) of 0-pip spells. That way, you can be productive while you hoard your pips for the higher level spells. Blades, Traps and Shields are popular and effective 0-pip spells (note - not all blades, traps and shields cost 0-pips). For PvE, the 0-pip Myth minion is also useful no matter what level you are. Why? Well, think of that little wooden guy as a slow damage over time that also acts as a shield. If he builds enough aggression in an enemy, that enemy will waste a spell on the minion - effectively making him a 0-pip damage dealer and shield all in one. Unfortunately, you must be a Myth wizard to learn that spell.
After the 0-pip spells, you'll want level-appropriate, damage-dealing spells. Of course, your mileage may vary - but, the 1-pip damage spells for each school start to lose their luster once you hit the second world, Krokotopia. The 2-pip spells from your school are useful as you can cast them with a single power pip. Each school has a 4/5 pip "heavy-hitter" and that spell will be a staple once you learn it. Area-of-effect spells usually cost 3 or more pips and you'll want to pack a few of those - possibly more if you plan to travel in a group.
Minions are usually more expensive than they/re worth (except the Myth Golem Minion) for the random "street" battles. However, you may find your minion quite useful in boss fights, so have him/her/it ready in another deck or manually swap when the time comes.
Global spells are also not worth the effort in your everyday fights. Break them out in boss fights if you prefer, but keep in mind that only the most recent global spell takes effect.
There's also a handful of "utility" spells like stunning, minion control, threat management and removing harmful/helpful spells from targets. Depending on the theme you're going for and your role - you may or may not have these as filler in your deck.
Well, that covers the spell basics - what about gear? First off - your wand/sword/staff is essential and factors in to the 0-pip cards you want available in your deck. If you have the means, and you are a new player - buy a crown wand off either the "holiday" vendor (Shopping District, usually) or Zeke (Olde Town). You really don't want to be using the "starter" wand full of 1-pip spells instead of 0-pip 100% accuracy wand attacks. Anyway, your wand/sword/staff is perfect for reliably finishing low-health enemies, dealing some filler damage, and for clearing enemy shields. Don't leave your dorm without it!
The "Crown" gear comes with one or more item cards and can be purchased with gold or crowns. Please note that crown gear is currently the best gear available. Not all schools are equally represented in the crown gear, so you may have a difficult time matching a piece of gear with your deck's theme. However, the cards provided by the gear are usually better than the "normal" corresponding spells. So, if you are a Balance wizard and you are addicted to one of the best spells in the game, Judgment - you're in luck! Head over to the Marleybone shops and add 3 more copies of "super" Judgment to your arsenal through crown gear.
Now comes the sideboard - you can see the sideboard by managing your deck and clicking on the gold "treasure card" icon to the right. Your equipped deck has a maximum sideboard size and you are allowed to draw those cards after discarding other cards in battle. Treasure cards may be purchased at the libraries, found as treasure, given as a quest reward, traded to/from other players or won in mini-games. Some treasure cards modify other cards, and the most useful ones will probably be cards in your school (so you can take advantage of power pips).
Whew - there's enough options to blind a cyclops! Here are a few "role" ideas to get you started if you're having trouble finding your groove: