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Making a Good Deck Better - Gage Hughes (3/31/2012)

Today we are going to talk about one of the most common questions I get asked. "How do I make my decklist better?" There are many ways to go about this but I want to talk specifically about card selection and "the magic number". The magic number is the correct amount of one specific card that is required for a certain event or just in general. Usually the event number and the general number sway from just a few numbers (a single copy to two copies.) The contributing factor in this is simply the metagame.

The metagame is determined by the number of a certain archetype currently being played in a room and how many different archetypes there are. In most metagames, especially Standard, there are archetypes that are always going to be around; Mono Red (burn), U/B Control, W/x Beats. The reason for this being there are always really control oriented blue and black cards, giving this color combination a lot of answers to the threats that other decks may possess. Mono Red is always going to be a deck because there is always going to be really nice cheap powerful red dudes that are going to bash your face in and burn to sweep up after your opponent plays a "bomb." White/x beatdown decks are always going to be good because white is generally a really strong aggressive color while most of the time needing another color for support. In current standard this deck is W/u Humans, the deck is really powerful with the ability to board in counterspells like Negate
Negate
NegateSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
43
Artist:
Jeremy Jarvis
Text:
Counter target noncreature spell.
in the control matchup or Flashfreeze
Flashfreeze
FlashfreezeSet: Coldsnap
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
33
Artist:
Brian Despain
Text:
Counter target red or green spell.
in the Wolf Run matchup, the main reason to be playing blue though is Moorland Haunt
Moorland Haunt
Moorland HauntSet: Innistrad
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
244
Artist:
James Paick
Text:
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool. {W}{U}, {T}, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying onto the battlefield.
, it allows you to play through sweepers and get really nice fliers.

So lets go ahead and talk about card selection now. Throughout my Magic: The Gathering career I have stumbled upon the situation of having to cut cards for more relevant cards to increase my matchup with "X" deck, but not wanting to hurt my matchup against "Y" and completely keeping the mirror match in mind. Lets say you are on W/u Humans, you want to be able to beat B/u Zombies but they are just too aggressive and you need a guy that doesn't falter to Geth's Verdict
Geth's Verdict
Geth's VerdictSet: New Phyrexia
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
61
Artist:
Whit Brachna
Text:
Target player sacrifices a creature and loses 1 life.
. Elgaud Inquisitor
Elgaud Inquisitor
Elgaud InquisitorSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Cleric
Rarity:
C
Number:
6
Artist:
Slawomir Maniak
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Lifelink (Damage dealt by this creature also causes you to gain that much life.) When Elgaud Inquisitor dies, put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying onto the battlefield.
works as a one-of in the main to brick their Geth's Verdict
Geth's Verdict
Geth's VerdictSet: New Phyrexia
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
61
Artist:
Whit Brachna
Text:
Target player sacrifices a creature and loses 1 life.
and to win the race. This card is better than playing something like Timely Reinforcements
Timely Reinforcements
Timely ReinforcementsSet: Magic 2012
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
40
Artist:
Tomasz Jedruszek
Text:
If you have less life than an opponent, you gain 6 life. If you control fewer creatures than an opponent, put three 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield.
because if you are reduced to being the reactive player you are already losing anyway. The Inquisitor allows you to gain life, race, get out of reach and brick their removal. That deck can't deal with fliers, and a 4 mana 2/2 Doomed Traveler
Doomed Traveler
Doomed TravelerSet: Innistrad
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
C
Number:
11
Artist:
Lars Grant-West
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
When Doomed Traveler dies, put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying onto the battlefield.
with lifelink really isn't awful when it's also 3W so it's really easy to splash. In this case you obviously don't have to splash since you are really heavily white. So now that you have a plan to increase your Zombies matchup you have to also think about what it is good against besides Zombies, namely R/G Beats, U/W Delver, and the mirror match. It may even be good against the Birthing Pod
Birthing Pod
Birthing PodSet: New Phyrexia
Cost:
8
Color:
Green
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Number:
104
Artist:
Daarken
Text:
({(g/p)} can be paid with either {G} or 2 life.) {1}{(g/p)}, {T}, Sacrifice a creature: Search your library for a creature card with converted mana cost equal to 1 plus the sacrificed creature's converted mana cost, put that card onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.
decks that have been running rampant on standard these last few weeks. Let's take a look at this list, piloted by Paul Longo at the recent SCG Open in Baltimore:


Creatures (25)
4 Champion of the Parish
Champion of the Parish
Champion of the ParishSet: Innistrad
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
R
Number:
6
Artist:
Svetlin Velinov
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Whenever another Human enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on Champion of the Parish.

4 Doomed Traveler
Doomed Traveler
Doomed TravelerSet: Innistrad
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
C
Number:
11
Artist:
Lars Grant-West
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
When Doomed Traveler dies, put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying onto the battlefield.

3 Fiend Hunter
Fiend Hunter
Fiend HunterSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
15
Artist:
Wayne Reynolds
Power:
1
Toughness:
3
Text:
When Fiend Hunter enters the battlefield, you may exile another target creature. When Fiend Hunter leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

4 Hero of Bladehold
Hero of Bladehold
Hero of BladeholdSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Knight
Rarity:
M
Number:
8
Artist:
Austin Hsu
Power:
3
Toughness:
4
Text:
Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.) Whenever Hero of Bladehold attacks, put two 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield tapped and attacking.

2 Leonin Relic-Warder
Leonin Relic-Warder
Leonin Relic-WarderSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cat Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
10
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
When Leonin Relic-Warder enters the battlefield, you may exile target artifact or enchantment. When Leonin Relic-Warder leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

2 Loyal Cathar
Loyal Cathar
Loyal CatharSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
C
Number:
13
Artist:
Ryan Pancoast
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Vigilance When Loyal Cathar dies, return it to the battlefield transformed under your control at the beginning of the next end step.

4 Mirran Crusader
Mirran Crusader
Mirran CrusaderSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Knight
Rarity:
R
Number:
14
Artist:
Eric Deschamps
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Double strike, protection from black and from green

2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
R
Number:
24
Artist:
Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
First strike Noncreature spells cost {1} more to cast.


Other Spells (11)
2 Sword of War and Peace
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of War and PeaceSet: New Phyrexia
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Sub Type:
Equipment
Rarity:
M
Number:
161
Artist:
Chris Rahn
Text:
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from red and from white. Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, Sword of War and Peace deals damage to that player equal to the number of cards in his or her hand and you gain 1 life for each card in your hand. Equip {2}

2 Angelic Destiny
Angelic Destiny
Angelic DestinySet: Magic 2012
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Sub Type:
Aura
Rarity:
M
Number:
3
Artist:
Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Text:
Enchant creature Enchanted creature gets +4/+4, has flying and first strike, and is an Angel in addition to its other types. When enchanted creature dies, return Angelic Destiny to its owner's hand.

4 Honor of the Pure
Honor of the Pure
Honor of the PureSet: Magic 2010
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
16
Artist:
Greg Staples
Text:
White creatures you control get +1/+1.

3 Mana Leak
Mana Leak
Mana LeakSet: Stronghold
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Counter target spell unless its caster pays an additional 3.


Land (24)
4 Glacial Fortress
Glacial Fortress
Glacial FortressSet: Magic 2010
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
226
Artist:
Franz Vohwinkel
Text:
Glacial Fortress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or an Island.{T}: Add {W} or {U} to your mana pool.

2 Moorland Haunt
Moorland Haunt
Moorland HauntSet: Innistrad
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
244
Artist:
James Paick
Text:
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool. {W}{U}, {T}, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying onto the battlefield.

4 Seachrome Coast
Seachrome Coast
Seachrome CoastSet: Scars of Mirrodin
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
229
Artist:
Lars Grant-West
Text:
Seachrome Coast enters the battlefield tapped unless you control two or fewer other lands. {T}: Add {W} or {U} to your mana pool.

1 Island
Island
IslandSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add U to your mana pool.

13 Plains
Plains
PlainsSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add W to your mana pool.


Sideboard (15)
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Feast and FamineSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Sub Type:
Equipment
Rarity:
M
Number:
138
Artist:
Chris Rahn
Text:
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from black and from green. Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, that player discards a card and you untap all lands you control. Equip {2}

1 Sword of War and Peace
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of War and PeaceSet: New Phyrexia
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Sub Type:
Equipment
Rarity:
M
Number:
161
Artist:
Chris Rahn
Text:
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from red and from white. Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, Sword of War and Peace deals damage to that player equal to the number of cards in his or her hand and you gain 1 life for each card in your hand. Equip {2}

1 Leonin Relic-Warder
Leonin Relic-Warder
Leonin Relic-WarderSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cat Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
10
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
When Leonin Relic-Warder enters the battlefield, you may exile target artifact or enchantment. When Leonin Relic-Warder leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

4 Celestial Purge
Celestial Purge
Celestial PurgeSet: Conflux
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
5
Text:
Remove target black or red permanent from the game.

1 Dismember
Dismember
DismemberSet: New Phyrexia
Cost:
11
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
57
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
({(b/p)} can be paid with either {B} or 2 life.) Target creature gets -5/-5 until end of turn.

1 Divine Offering
Divine Offering
Divine OfferingSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Jeff A. Menges
Text:
Destroy target artifact. Gain an amount of life equal to that artifact's total casting cost.

1 Flashfreeze
Flashfreeze
FlashfreezeSet: Coldsnap
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
33
Artist:
Brian Despain
Text:
Counter target red or green spell.

1 Mana Leak
Mana Leak
Mana LeakSet: Stronghold
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Counter target spell unless its caster pays an additional 3.

1 Negate
Negate
NegateSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
43
Artist:
Jeremy Jarvis
Text:
Counter target noncreature spell.

1 Steel Sabotage
Steel Sabotage
Steel SabotageSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
33
Artist:
Daarken
Text:
Choose one — Counter target artifact spell; or return target artifact to its owner's hand.

1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
R
Number:
24
Artist:
Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
First strike Noncreature spells cost {1} more to cast.



We need to cut one card in the main and a card in the board to increase these matchups since it is obviously just that good. To be honest, you could probably even cut a Plains
Plains
PlainsSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add W to your mana pool.
for it. The reason being is that yes, it's another 4 drop but still, having 23 lands is fine to curve at 4. Your 4 drops do end the game but they aren't as relevant as just beating their face in with your other dudes. I think that cutting 1 Purge
Purge
PurgeSet: Darksteel
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
12
Artist:
Pete Venters
Text:
Destroy target artifact creature or black creature. It can't be regenerated.
out of this sideboard will also be good because Celestial Purge
Celestial Purge
Celestial PurgeSet: Conflux
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
5
Text:
Remove target black or red permanent from the game.
is worse in most of the matchups we just talked about where Inquisitor is just better. Yes, Purge
Purge
PurgeSet: Darksteel
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
12
Artist:
Pete Venters
Text:
Destroy target artifact creature or black creature. It can't be regenerated.
is amazing right now, but I feel like three is fine if we are still making that board slot good in the same matchups. The other Mana Leak
Mana Leak
Mana LeakSet: Stronghold
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Counter target spell unless its caster pays an additional 3.
in the board should also just be a Negate
Negate
NegateSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
43
Artist:
Jeremy Jarvis
Text:
Counter target noncreature spell.
, the only time you need counterspells are against Wolf Run and Control. Negate
Negate
NegateSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
43
Artist:
Jeremy Jarvis
Text:
Counter target noncreature spell.
and the single Flashfreeze
Flashfreeze
FlashfreezeSet: Coldsnap
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
33
Artist:
Brian Despain
Text:
Counter target red or green spell.
should ride you to victory every time.

Moving onto the magic number. The numbers you put into your deck take a lot of brainstorming ideas and playtesting. Don't be afraid to try something new. In my competitive U/w Delver list, I cut a land for a Cackling Counterpart
Cackling Counterpart
Cackling CounterpartSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
46
Artist:
David Rapoza
Text:
Put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of target creature you control. Flashback {5}{U}{U} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)
. That card won me so many games because it was able to race them effectively with my unused mana. It kind of reminded me of Midnight Haunting
Midnight Haunting
Midnight HauntingSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
22
Artist:
Matt Stewart
Text:
Put two 1/1 white Spirit creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.
with its ability to just steal games by end of turning dudes while holding mana for a possible counterspell, even being able to bluff one. Bluffing isn't always good because many players can tell that you don't have a counterspell by the way you have been playing and your body language. But if you know you have a card to play your body language may indicate it, thus they won't play their threat because they are afraid of a counterspell. It also blanked their removal as well. Essentially it was a counterspell in those situations. Certain decks allow you to play one-ofs and others make you play 2-4 copies so you will see it. This depends on how relevant the card is in most of your matchups (especially the bad ones) and how many tutors and cantrips you play. In Delver you can play more one-ofs than you can in Humans just because you get to see more cards. This doesn't mean to put Ponder
Ponder
PonderSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
79
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card.
s and Probe
Probe
ProbeSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
66
Artist:
Eric Peterson
Text:
Kicker 1B (You may pay an additional 1B as you play this spell.)Draw three cards, then discard two cards from your hand.If you paid the kicker cost, target player discards two cards from his or her hand.
s into your Humans lists, stick to your game plan. How many of a specific card also depends on how mana greedy it is, if you are in B/W tokens and you try to play Elite Inquisitor
Elite Inquisitor
Elite InquisitorSet: Innistrad
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Soldier
Rarity:
R
Number:
13
Artist:
Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
First strike, vigilance Protection from Vampires, from Werewolves, and from Zombies
with no Isolated Chapel
Isolated Chapel
Isolated ChapelSet: Innistrad
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
242
Artist:
Cliff Childs
Text:
Isolated Chapel enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or a Swamp. {T}: Add {W} or {B} to your mana pool.
s it is fine as a one or two of so you draw it a bit later in the game but you don't want to have 4 sitting in a hand that it has no business being in.

I hope you have learned something new from this, don't be afraid to try new things and take advice.


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