Essential Magic Articles

Advice for newbie deck-builders

by Brian Holland

I’d like to start by saying that between the Tempest block and Shards of Alara block I only played VERY casually. I don’t claim to be an expert or “Master” deck-builder, but I do have some experience as a once-upon-a-time AND more-recent newbie.

As the title suggests, this is not a how-to on deck-building (there are more-qualified people to tackle that topic than me), but I feel I have some valuable advice to pass along.

The first piece of advice is on deck composition.

I feel there are three important things for newbies to be mindful of to make successful decks.

1) Mana Curve: This is not a tutorial on mana curve. I only want to say here that you want at least as many cheap spells (usually MORE) than expensive spells. If you have a hand full of cards that you wont be able to play until turn 3 or 4 you may already be at a distinct disadvantage.

2) Removal (Creature, Enchantment, and/or Artifact, in that order): Some form of removal should be main-decked because it makes your opponent’s deck NOT work the way it’s intended to. “You played a Lord of Extinction? No problem, I’ll play Terminate”, “What’s that, an Underworld Dreams (Or something WORSE)? Let me Oblivion Ring or Celestial Purge that bad-boy.”  Just remember that unless you have a lot of removal, you need to be patient and not waste it on a non-threat…wait until your opponent plays something that will REALLY mess you up!

3) Synergy: Synergy is two or more components working together for a greater effect. Synergy is not about combos! It’s about the cards in your deck - whatever the theme of your deck is - working together to win. At the lowest level this means not choosing random cards for your deck (“I want this, I want that”). A higher level of synergy is a STRONGLY themed deck, with ALL the cards in your deck supporting that theme. Be very careful with regards to the “I want this, I want that” syndrome. If it doesn’t support your theme, it doesn’t belong!

My next piece of advice is to PLAY your deck (that’s why you built it, right?).

You need to play your new deck as often and against as many different people and decks as possible to see what changes you need to make. Unless you’re a master deck-builder (remember, I’m NOT) you will need to make changes to your deck. If you play it as much as possible, you can get an idea of what it needs!

Don’t get discouraged when your deck loses!

Your deck will lose. Even your best deck that destroys almost everyone you play will lose once in a while. It’s important as a newbie that you don’t let this discourage you from playing the game. Keep playing (and tweaking) your deck until you know it CAN’T win.

Know when to fold ‘em.

You will sometimes build decks that can’t win, or just win so rarely that they’re not fun to play. Then, and only then, should you give up on a deck.

Remember me saying that I’m not a master deck-builder? In the last year I’ve built 22 decks…I have only kept 6 of them. That means I’ve made 16 crappy decks that I’ve gotten rid of. That’s almost 3 bad decks for every 1 good deck! Still, DON’T get discouraged!

Now I’d like to give some advice on what NOT to do when a new set comes out.

The first thing I do when a new set comes out is look through it to see what cards can go into my existing decks to make them better. The second thing I do is look again to make a new deck (or 2 or 3). I will not discuss the latter here, but I want to caution you about the former.

It’s really easy to go through a new set of cards and really mess up a deck that was working well (if not great!). Something I’ve done in the past is add cards (“I want this, I want that”) and lands without really making room for them. If you’re going to add something in, you should usually aim to take the same number of cards out to keep your deck as close to 60 cards as possible.

DON’T get carried away with these new cards.
Remember the advice I gave you above. If one of these new cards doesn’t belong in your deck, DON’T put it in just because it’s a cool card. Remember SYNERGY!
If you already have a few expensive cards in your deck, DON’T put in a new five-caster unless you can make room for it AND it helps your deck.
PLAY your deck with these new changes as often and against as many players as possible, and if they don’t work (or make your deck worse), SCRAP them and take it back to where it was before you added them.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make changes with these new cards (Burst Lightning is and excellent replacement for Shock), just follow the advice given above and be careful.

Have fun!
Have fun building new decks! The most enjoyable aspect of Magic for me is creating new decks, so I hope this article can help some newbies build better decks.

Last edited 1/26/2010 10:58:22 AM Page 1 of 1  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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