The Lost Art of Deckbuilding

There was a question on our forums about what we read and listen to on the Internet regarding MtG. There’s a lot of stuff I read and some stuff I listen to, but it also occurred to me that the person asking the question is not an experienced deckbuilder, so I might want to direct him to something about those basics.

So, what did I come up with? Nothing.

Well, now that I think about it, there was a series called Level One by Reid Duke on the Mothership, which probably had some fairly basic things about deckbuilding and every once in a while someone like the great Frank Karsten writes an article about something very basic, but important, like a good manabase, but generally, the articles seem to assume you are there to copy the decklists.

And most people do. Some do build their own decks, but many see this simply as a phase you’ll eventually grow out of and learn to trust the decks that did well in the last Pro Tour. Well, here’s the big secret: All decks are only good in a context. There are plenty of decks out there that never got played, because their designers thought they weren’t the right choice for that particular Pro Tour. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t be good.

But netdecking has become so ubiquitous that most people are unwilling to even try, but they should. Creating stuff is a basic human need and even if your creation sucks, its still your creation.

Here’s the secret: Most decks by the masters suck. Its one of those ‘school of hard knocks’ type of situation. The key is to keep trying and not falling in love with your own ideas. Kill your darlings.

I love playing weird brews at FNMs. I know they don’t usually work and they are very rough around the edges, but I love seeing these creations these people make. They must hesitate bringing them into a tournament they know some players will bring tier 1 decks into, but they do it none the less and its great. These aren’t supposed to be highly competitive events, even though the rules are enforced, and such creative approaches should rule there.

I try not to let them know, but I like losing to some of these decks. I love it when their weird plan comes together and trounces my deck. Especially if I’m being boring and playing a tier 1 deck. I’m proud when I see them adopting cards and strategies from week to week, trying out new things and learning new tricks. This is one of the reasons I try to bring a brew or a lesser known deck to these events.

But what if these people want to graduate to the next level? There just doesn’t seem to be anyone out there talking about this stuff on the meta level. I know about manacurves, opportunity costs, and the four different starting points to deckbuilding, but I had to dig pretty deep to find out about this stuff, or actually I learned a lot of it back in the last millenium.

Why don’t the big websites do anything to help out? I would think it would be in their best interest to tend to the newer players as well and I bet most experienced ones don’t know anything about all this either.

So, in time, people will fall more and more into just copying lists. In time even the great deckbuilders of the current generation will end their careers and finally we’ll be left with just some templates everyone will follow from set to set.

It won’t probably be quite this bad, but I would like to see some sort of emergence of deckbuilding as an artform. We do still have Sam Black, Conley Woods and others, who promote this with their own designs, but they are a minority. A few people will be inspired by them and the tradition will stay alive, but if you don’t know the theory behind it all, you are going to miss a lot of things.

One thought on “The Lost Art of Deckbuilding

  1. Pingback: How to Build a Deck | Guild Blog

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