Essential Magic Articles

Synergy, Strategy, and Stand-Alone

by Cathan

I've been playing magic off and on for some years.  I remember being fourteen around the time of 3rd edition.  Back then, the fun and cool thing to do for casual play was to pull off the sickest combos.  It was an outlet for creativity and an exercise in trouble shooting to an extent.  Magic has come a long way over the years, and while I don't know if such practices were ever accepted, you have to know when to hold em and when to fold them so to speak.

Combos are fine.  Some of the best decks I've played and seen are combo decks.  Combo decks usually revolve around control to get a two or three card combo in play that would lock up the game.  But as attractive as this is, it is not always prudent; in fact it is against my inner child to advise against it or at least to use caution.  Here is why:

The downfall of combos is usually not drawing it or if you do draw one card, you can't find the other.  Sometimes you do, but it is easilly disrupted by attacking one card.  I am certain I'm not the only person to every hold a hand with part of a combo and thinking it will be great when I get it out, but in the meantime, that card is useless.  While some combos are fun or devastating, their common folly is the same problem that happens when playing with multiple colors; the mana screw, or in this case, the combo screw.  Obviously magic has come a long way since the days of single color; to the point where it is considered suicide if you don't at least splash a color.  But with the evolution of Magic, mana problems have been addressed.  Combo problems are a little trickier.

There are three schools of thought I have encountered that have revolutionized my style of play and deck building and I think anyone can benefit from:  Synergy; Strategy; and Stand-alone-threat.

Synergy, may be new to some and a no-brainer to others.  What synergy is to me is, instead of making one combo and a deck revolve around one combo--make the cards in that combo react equally with most every card in that deck and/or have multiple combos involving those cards.  Being a fan of combos, this is a fun style for me.  Not only is it combos, but it is combos to the Nth power.  Instead of one combo, one of these decks may have four or five different combos, interchangeable by the difference of a card.  This also solves the biggest problem of combo decks: holding useless cards and consistency.  When you draw a card and it compliments any given card in your hand, you have synergy.  The idea is to not put a card in the deck unless it works with at least two-three other cards equally.  There are exceptions, but you get the idea behind it.  Personally I like playing with cards without having attachment to them.  If I'm not attached, I have no problem throwing them away.  Also if you build a deck revolving around a card, if you don't draw it or it is removed, that's your game.  The bonus of this deck build is, there is no pressure.  You are fairly certain, no matter what you draw, hand after hand, it will be a good hand and everything in it expendable.  I also find I use lesser amounts of multiples with these kinds of decks, rarely using four copies, mostly running three and a lot of single copies.

The second style is strategy and while it seems like it wouldn't require an explanation, I believe it does.  There is a slight difference between synergy and strategy but they are related.  While a combo deck with synergy revolves around a combo or several, possibly unrelated combos, a strategy is a plan of attack.  A strategy deck works like a combo but without cards, if that makes sense; if it doesn't, no worries, I will explain.  See, a combo relies on a few cards out of the bunch.  A strategy relies on every card supporting one element of your attack or another.  I was inspired by a proxy top 8 deck.  It was a land destruction deck that destroyed land, while simultaneously ramping up mana and putting out cheap fatties.  Most if not every card was committed to one facet of that strategy.  I recently started playing casually with friends and built a deck using a friends cards.  I built a b/u discard/control deck.  It was light on creatures, using hippies and a few creatures like clone or royal assassin to deal with threat.  Other than that every card was geared towards discard.  The main prob with discard is, your opponent can draw on his/her turn and play.  So I added counter as the next facet.  Dis em down, then counter if necessary.  Sometimes things did hit the board so I threw in bounce and this worked well for either counter or discard.  Another problem is, when they are out of cards, my discard is useless so I threw in draw.  I could either discard to draw more or force them to draw more so that I damage them from forcing them to discard.  By the time it was said and done, I had a plan of attack or a strategy, instead of a cheap combo.  Every card was committed to one of the mechanics of my plan.

The final style I fall back on is, and it is probably the most effective if not the most difficult for someone like myself to build.  These decks usually fall under the category of aggro and for good reason.  The idea is to not rely on any cheap thrills, no combos; simply great cards.  The concept is that every card that goes into the deck is a stand alone card; it requires no support as soon as it hits the board.  When it hits the board, your opponent groans.  They are the type of cards that make your opponent want to load up removal and smoke every card they see.  Your opponent feels like it is an unrelenting assault as there isn't enough removal he could throw in, but you will never be slowed down by having too many creatures.  I'm not just saying go blow your wad on all the rares; instead weigh card value.  Look for the power/toughness to casting cost ratio.  Look for cards that are referred to as cockroaches or that are very difficult to remove once they hit the board.  Look for cards that will cause your opponent problems, but make sure they do not rely on anything other than being drawn and played.  Again this sounds like the simplest thing, but it is difficult finding sixty cards that fall under that category and function as a deck.

I hope this helps any novices with deck building.

Last edited 4/17/2008 10:44:37 AM Page 1 of 1  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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