In card games like Magic: The Gathering (MTG), it is important to start at the base for everything you do – your deck itself. As far as Standard goes (my favorite format to play), there are many aspects to consider when constructing your very own 60-card deck, not to mention the 15-card sideboard that should be carefully considered as well. Throughout my time of playing MTG, I have picked up many helpful tips and deck-making theories from all kinds of sources. I have had many experienced players teach me a thing or two about efficiency and card values, but ultimately a deck you put together should follow some proven concepts to set up a recipe for success.
Below are five random deck-building tips I would like to share, in no particular order of significance. I hope they help you out as much as they have helped me improve as a player.
1. Lands are the foundation for any deck in MTG.
MTG uses a resource system in the form of lands to provide you with mana to play cards. Having the appropriate lands in your deck is thus essential. No matter how many good cards you manage to gather, all of it does not mean anything if you do not have the correct mana sources to utilize those cards.
When I first started out, I had to use the inefficient lands at first. Basics and cheap taplands comprised my mana base for my first few decks. Think of it as your training wheels until you eventually gather the fancier lands. Of course, getting the good lands is just half of the battle. You then need to find the right balance of lands to coincide with your deck’s various colors.”
It may sound like a lot to take in, but you definitely want a rock-solid mana base to act as your foundation. Without it, no practical deck can be made.
2. Build your deck with a purpose.
This may sound quite obvious, but some decks lack a proper identity. Having a win condition (win con) in mind is a no-brainer, but how does your deck go about achieving this win con? Will your deck overwhelm your opponent with a creature army? Will your deck control the tempo of the game until you can play your win con?
The beauty in MTG is there are literally countless ways of winning, so the name of the game should be putting together a deck concept that can achieve what it is intended to do. When I lay my cards out and plan for a new deck idea, I think about every angle that would be appropriate for my own individual style. In particular, I focus on expressing myself as a player. Because I am a combo-oriented person, I focus on making a deck revolving around synergy.
There is no (single) correct way of making a deck. It is all about making your deck idea practical. This is the real trick to it all.
3. Race cars versus junk cars.
My friend put it in an eloquent way. At the end of the day, you have to think about card quality. Some cards are just better than others, and to use the stronger cards is like driving around in a race car. Some cards, unfortunately, are just junk by comparison. And it is not to say you cannot win with a junk car sometimes, but card games are all about every random advantage adding up. If you want to stand a chance in any match, there comes a point where you need to make sure your individual cards are up to snuff.
But there is a disclaimer here, as I am someone who has a reputation at my local stores to think outside of the box. I will personally give unorthodox cards a shot if I see them fitting into my particular strategies. You just have to be willing to give some cards a shot.
4. Respect the ratios.
Because MTG uses a resource system in its game, understanding the concept of a “mana curve” is very crucial for building a deck. You cannot just throw in random cards and hope for the best, when following some sense of a curve is the way to go. Every single card boils down to statistics. What are the chances of you getting any given card as a game carries out from start to finish? Do you have too many low-cost cards and nothing at the top end? Or perhaps you have the opposite problem with too many mana-intense cards without anything in the beginning?
Without getting too technical, you just have to look at the mana costs of your cards and see how they curve out after you count the individual quantity of cards.
For what it is worth, many decks often have more cards at the start of the curve and less at the top end, but ratios can vary. Balancing out the ratios is a fundamental that makes deck building easier. More often than not, you can find a lot more success by tuning your card counts around, depending on what kind of strategy you want to employ.
After you have finished making a deck, remember to test it out. Experiment with how the deck runs against other decks, mix up the matchups and keep playing until you can determine a feel of how well it runs. Is it too slow? Is it too clunky? Are the combos working as intended? You cannot iron out the kinks unless you know what they are, plus actually playing with the deck you make is a load of fun in itself.
Redundant. This is a word I have kept close to my heart when it comes to deck building. If you can make your deck strategy redundant, as in the deck can redundantly perform its intended strategy most of the time, your deck is probably in a good spot. After all, a major element about a card game is consistency, so having a deck capable of eeking out similar results in most of its matches should hopefully reel in more victories overall, right?
I hope these random tips help you for future decks you put together. These tidbits of advice certainly aided me in learning how to find my own recipe for success in MTG.
Magic: The Gathering images belong to Wizards of the Coast.