Recently I have seen a couple of my friends talk about how they aren’t very good deck builders. While, not an expert on deck building it is probably my favorite part of Magic outside the physical mechanics of actually playing the game. So, for this edition of Kitchen Table Hero we’re going to go over the very basics of deck building. Let’s dive right in.
Where do we start?
One of the major roadblocks to deck building is the starting line. Well, maybe for me. I don’t always know what I want to do beyond thinking “I want to make a new deck.” The general idea is to determine what do I want to do with the deck. Do I want to go with a theme? Is there is a general archetype that want to go with? This is just the stepping stones towards building a deck.
A theme deck is a deck that follows a certain idea. Think the intro decks that Wizard’s releases. I would say the old school theme decks, but they don’t exist anymore and I don’t know how many of you have an LGS that still caries them. I highly recommend the website Ertai’s Lament. It’s a website that reviews pre-constructed products and also retools them. It is a great place to get the general idea of what you are doing when you make a theme deck.
For me, building a theme deck tends to revolve around making a Tribal deck. This makes constructing the theme very easy. I will use my mono White Flanking Knights deck as an example.
The idea behind the deck was to make sure every creature was White and was a Knight. After that, I attempted to make sure every creature had the keyword ability Flanking. The one knight in the deck that doesn’t is just a good utility card. The 8 non creature cards are just very good for utility. Pacifism makes threatening creatures less scary. Honor of the Pure and Crusade buff our creatures. And Unquestioned Authority gives our creatures protection from other creatures and draws a card, what is there not to love about it?
Archetype is the type of your deck are you running. Do you want to play a combo deck where you kill your opponent with a neat card interaction? Do you want to control the game until, over time, you finish off your opponent with one strong card or because of incremental advantage? Do you want to aggro out and just finish off your opponents by just constantly applying pressure?
In those questions I have highlighted the basic premise between just a few of the basic archetypes of Magic decks; combo, control, and aggro. There are other archetypes out there like midrange and ramp. And then there are hybrid archetypes like aggro midrange, combo control, and aggro control. Because this article is just the basic premise behind building a deck, I will leave diving into each archetype for another article, if you guys and gals are interested in something like that.
Here is an example of a red/green aggro deck:
The basic premise behind an aggro deck to constantly keep the pressure on your opponent with cheap fast and efficient creatures while using removal spells to handle the opponent’s creatures or burn cards to just get in there and deal damage to the face. In this deck I made every creature with the exception of one had haste. In a lot of test games with this deck, I was swinging for 15-20 on turn 4-5 and was previously swinging for 5-8 on turns 3-4. As you can see, you don’t get sit and relax when an aggro deck is on your heels
Once we have our starting point down, then the real meat and potatoes of deck building kicks in. What cards do we put into the deck. Do we run a bunch of one ofs and pepper in some redundancy or do we go for synergy? How do we evaluate which cards are good and which are bad?
These are all basic questions we ask when picking out the cards we want to run in our decks. I am not qualified to tell you how to tell if a card is bad or good. That is all really situational based on what you are trying to do in the deck. What I can tell you is that once you have a theme and/or the archetype plotted out, card selection for the deck get’s a whole lot easier.
When I was building the Knights deck, I knew I wanted it to be White, have Knights, and be a deck that slowly builds pressure and board presence. To do this, I made sure that the creatures I selected stayed around CMC(Converted Mana Cost) 2 and 3. Knight of Sursi has suspend for 1 White mana so, he is effectively our 1 drop in the deck. Calvary Master and Pentarch Paladin are the over the top cards so it is okay that they don’t fit into the sweet spot our deck wants the creatures to cost.
When it came to utility, I knew my creatures were strong on the offensive but weak on the defensive. To fix that I added the Pacifisms. And while Unquestioned Authority is meant to make sure our creatures connect, it will also make a creature a really efficient blocker. Honor of the Pure and Crusade make our dudes bigger. This way they can also be defensive threats when need be. But, in all honesty, we want to keep turning our creatures sideways.
With the Red Green Aggro deck, the basic premise was using cheap creatures with haste. Vengevine isn’t cheap per say, but he is hard to keep off the board. Bloodbraid Elf is also not cheap, but he will more than likely bring a friend with him. The rest of the deck is effective burn spells to keep the pressure on the opponent and his/her creatures.
While this wasn’t a definitive guide to deck building I hope that it helps anyone struggling with how to create a framework to build their deck with. If you all liked this article, I can touch more on deck building next time. What I can do is sit and walk you through how I build my deck from start to finish. Sound good? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or on Twitter. Until next time, remember to keep it casual.