Essential Magic Articles

1,2,3,4, Do I Need Less, Or Do I Need More?

by Anomander

Of the many aspects of deck construction, one that is key, but hard to judge is how many of a given card you use in the deck.  There may be cards that are obvious “4-of’s” is your deck, or just too good not to play with, but are your other choices that obvious?  I intend to break down the science (because it’s a science) of choosing one, two, three, or four of any card in your deck.


Perhaps the most simple of the choices, the One slot is filled by cards that can have a few qualities.  Firstly, if it’s restricted.  I play Vintage, and when a card is just so good you must use it and you wish you could break the rules and play with 4, sure enough Wizards is on the ball and only lets you use one.   Obvious.   In other formats, when you could use more, the choice is a little trickier.  For example, if you know a fat creature is perfect for your deck, but your early game is crucially structured to be quick, it may be detrimental to draw the fatty early in the game, and it would truly suck to draw 2 of it early.
Another card quality to consider could be coined “vectoring”.  There may be a better term, but what I mean is that when a card or few cards fill a VERY specific and similar role, and satisfy a requirement, thusly adding to the theme of your deck.  Examples of a vector could be “creature removal, red mana provider, mana accelerator, stompy creature, etc.  The One slot works because having multiple versions of a card may end up being redundant (the exception is that when that role is meant to be cumulative and assail the opponent with as many as possible).  Having said that, it may be the case that there are two cards of high casting cost that satisfy your vector, and conflict each other in some way.  In that case, one of each may be the right choice.

 On a similar note, if a card is legendary, you MAY want to only use one.  Personally, I would use 2 of any legendary card, but we’ll discuss that in the Two section.  Thus:


Two, in my opinion, is the hardest choice to make when considering how many of a card to use.  The reason is that in a game, it is likely that you may not see either of the card.  I should point out at this time that I play almost exclusively Vintage, and so getting to the second half of the deck may never happen.  In fact, turn 2 or 3 may never happen.   But, there are Vintage games that go the distance, or draw 30 cards in a few turns, so your Two slot may be seen.

One interesting use for the two slot is testing.  If you have your deck 90% solid, and you’re looking to augment or boost certain areas of your theme, two is probably the best test slot.  The reason is that you will not always get the card, or get too many (thus feeling the card is redundant), but when you do top deck the card, you’ll know if you want more.

As I mentioned in the One section, using two of a card applies when the card is legendary.  I believe this is the best number because the odds are that you will likely draw only one of it in a game.  You know that having two would be bad, and if you were to have more than two of it in a deck, you would likely get it twice and it’ll sit in your hand.  To finalize my point about legendary picks, I will state the exception (of course).  If you have a legendary card that is so good that you REALLY want it in every game, it can be the game winner, it’s a combo piece, or it has many vectors, then you may want to up it to 3.  Sitting on an extra one in hand isn’t so bad because anything can get destroyed (except darksteel colossus!) and you may want to drop the second right away.  An example is Karn, Silver Golem.  He’s an absolute bomb, and in vintage, having your Smokestack, Trinisphere, and Tangle Wire turn into creatures, while killing your opponents moxes can be a BOMB at almost any time.   But I’ll stop here because this sounds more like the Three section.  Thus:

Last edited 3/31/2008 11:54:52 AM Page 1 of 2  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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