• Magic: The Gathering
  • Magic: The Gathering Online

Which game do you want to buy from?

How to Buy at a Glance

  • 1. Search for items
  • 2. Purchase via PayPal or CC
  • 3. Receive items in the mail
    (usually in less than a week!)
Want Magic prices from CardShark.com on your Mobile device? - Try the Decked Builder app

CardShark Content - Kenneth Wright (9/13/2006)

One of the base elements of Magic play is deckbuilding. Without it, we'd all be playing clone decks from the card shop shelves. Unfortunately for some players, especially newer ones, determining the right spells for a deck is tricky if not difficult.

Fortunately, math can be applied to this problem. You've heard of the MIT students playing poker in Vegas, right? They use Probability Theory to determine what cards would be played next, then bet accordingly. For us, we can use basic probability methods to determine not only when, but how often a spell would be drawn.

For this article, I will be referring to my Cleric deck (mono-White Weenie). Now let's say I add the card ´´Awe Strike
Awe Strike
Awe StrikeSet: Mirrodin
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
6
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
The next time target creature would deal damage this turn, prevent that damage. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.
´´ to my deck. Since there is only one of this card in my deck, the chances of me drawing it off the top is 1/60. The chances of me drawing the card later are much higher. Let's say I am playing and it is my 20th draw. I have drawn 26 so far (starting hand of 7 + 19 draws). The chances of me drawing Awe Strike
Awe Strike
Awe StrikeSet: Mirrodin
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
6
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
The next time target creature would deal damage this turn, prevent that damage. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.
at this time are 1/34 (60 cards in deck - 26 cards drawn).

Now to increase my chances of drawing Awe Strike
Awe Strike
Awe StrikeSet: Mirrodin
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
6
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
The next time target creature would deal damage this turn, prevent that damage. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.
, I could add more to my deck. So I add another one. My chances now at the beginning are 2/60 or 1/30. Same scenario, the chances of me drawing an Awe Strike
Awe Strike
Awe StrikeSet: Mirrodin
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
6
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
The next time target creature would deal damage this turn, prevent that damage. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.
on the 20th draw is 2/34 or 1/17.

With probability alone, someone could build a blue draw deck. However, probability is nothing alone.

You have two spells in front of you: Ancestral Recall
Ancestral Recall
Ancestral RecallSet: Alpha
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Draw 3 cards or force opponent to draw 3 cards.
and U2VydW0gVisions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
. You have only one spot left in your deck. Which do you choose? If you answered Ancestral Recall
Ancestral Recall
Ancestral RecallSet: Alpha
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Draw 3 cards or force opponent to draw 3 cards.
, you have used Spell Effectiveness Theory.

Spell Effectiveness Theory, when related to non-creature cards, states that the total casting cost should equal the effect(s) of the card. For the effectiveness of Ancestral Recall
Ancestral Recall
Ancestral RecallSet: Alpha
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Draw 3 cards or force opponent to draw 3 cards.
vs. U2VydW0gVisions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
, both cards have the same cost of U. But U2VydW0gVisions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
allows you to draw 1 card, then Scry 2, whereas Recall
Recall
RecallSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Richard Kane Ferguson
Text:
Choose and discard X cards: Return X target cards in your graveyard to your hand. Remove Recall from the game.
lets you draw 3 cards. Therefore, Recall
Recall
RecallSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Richard Kane Ferguson
Text:
Choose and discard X cards: Return X target cards in your graveyard to your hand. Remove Recall from the game.
is more effective than Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
.

Now with creatures, SET states that the total casting cost of the creature should equal the highest stat number (Power and Toughness) plus the effect(s) of the creature. For example, Watchwolf
Watchwolf
WatchwolfSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
2
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wolf
Rarity:
U
Number:
239
Artist:
Kev Walker
Power:
3
Toughness:
3
from Ravnica (WG, 3/3) is a very effective creature spell, whereas Zombie Cutthroat
Zombie Cutthroat
Zombie CutthroatSet: Scourge
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
C
Number:
81
Artist:
Thomas M Baxa
Power:
3
Toughness:
4
Text:
Morph - Pay 5 life.
The single-mindedness of a zombie, the cunning of an assassin.
(3BB, 3/4) is not very effective.

In both cases, you have to look at effects and mechanics. For example, a card like Wing Shards
Wing Shards
Wing ShardsSet: Scourge
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
25
Artist:
Darren Bader
Text:
Target player sacrifices an attacking creature.
Storm
(1WW) would be more effective than Chastise
Chastise
ChastiseSet: Judgment
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
8
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
(3W) because of its Storm mechanic, allowing me to make free copies of the spell.

So looking at spell effectiveness, and referring back to my Cleric deck, I needed cards that were very effective. One of the card trade-offs I had to look at was Vengence vs. Chastise
Chastise
ChastiseSet: Judgment
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
8
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
. Both had the same cost (3W) and they both destroyed a creature. With effectiveness, however, Vengence was less effective than Chastise
Chastise
ChastiseSet: Judgment
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
8
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
for two reasons:

1) Vengence required the creature to be tapped. With Chastise
Chastise
ChastiseSet: Judgment
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
8
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
, even if the creature had Vigilence, it would still be destroyed.
2) Chastise
Chastise
ChastiseSet: Judgment
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
8
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
had something that Vengence did not: life gain.

Also relating to non-creature spells, and a harder trade-off, was Righteousness
Righteousness
RighteousnessSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Target defending creature gains +7/+7 until end of turn.
vs. Hold the Line
Hold the Line
Hold the LineSet: Champions of Kamigawa
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
13
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Blocking creatures get +7/+7 until end of turn.
. They have different costs (W and 1WW respectively) and they both give +7/+7 boosts. But Hold the Line
Hold the Line
Hold the LineSet: Champions of Kamigawa
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
13
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Blocking creatures get +7/+7 until end of turn.
proved to be more effective than Righteousness
Righteousness
RighteousnessSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Target defending creature gains +7/+7 until end of turn.
.

Righteousness
Righteousness
RighteousnessSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Target defending creature gains +7/+7 until end of turn.
only works with one creature, whereas Hold the Line
Hold the Line
Hold the LineSet: Champions of Kamigawa
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
13
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Blocking creatures get +7/+7 until end of turn.
works with all. Example: I have 5 blocking creatures. Using only Righteousness
Righteousness
RighteousnessSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Target defending creature gains +7/+7 until end of turn.
, I'd have to play it 5 times, total cost of 5 mana. Using Hold the Line
Hold the Line
Hold the LineSet: Champions of Kamigawa
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
13
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Blocking creatures get +7/+7 until end of turn.
, I play 1 spell, total cost of 3.

Now as to creatures, I had to use those few Clerics that have effects rather than the Clerics who did not. One example is Nova Cleric
Nova Cleric
Nova ClericSet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
45
Artist:
Alan Pollack
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
2W, T, Sacrifice Nova Cleric: Destroy all enchantments.
(W, 1/2). He was already effective because his cost was lower than his highest stat, but his effect (2W, Sacrifice
Sacrifice
SacrificeSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Dan Frazier
Text:
Sacrifice one of your creatures to add to your mana pool a number of black mana equal to that creature's casting cost.
Nova Cleric
Nova Cleric
Nova ClericSet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
45
Artist:
Alan Pollack
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
2W, T, Sacrifice Nova Cleric: Destroy all enchantments.
: Destroy all enchantments) allowed me to thin my deck of Demystify
Demystify
DemystifySet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
24
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Destroy target enchantment.
(s) and other enchantment-destroying cards.

Example: My opponent has 6 enchantment-auras on his creatures. I have Nova Cleric
Nova Cleric
Nova ClericSet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
45
Artist:
Alan Pollack
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
2W, T, Sacrifice Nova Cleric: Destroy all enchantments.
on the field, 3 Demystify
Demystify
DemystifySet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
24
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Destroy target enchantment.
in my hand, and WWW in my mana pool. Demystify
Demystify
DemystifySet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
24
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Destroy target enchantment.
destroys only one enchantment per spell, and using them costs me all my mana, but destroys only 3 of the 6. Instead, the more effective way is to use Nova Cleric
Nova Cleric
Nova ClericSet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
U
Number:
45
Artist:
Alan Pollack
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
2W, T, Sacrifice Nova Cleric: Destroy all enchantments.
's effect. It still costs me all my mana, but all the enchantments are gone.

Now you're probably wondering ´´I have a burn deck, so how are these explanations helping me?´´ Well, with burn decks, you have to spend less mana and create more damage, a perfect test for spell effectiveness. Let's say you're looking at Blaze
Blaze
BlazeSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
168
Artist:
Gerry Grace
Text:
Blaze deals X damage to target creature or player.
(XR) and Shock
Shock
ShockSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
206
Artist:
Randy Gallegos
Text:
Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
(R). Both deal damage to a target creature or player. However, Blaze
Blaze
BlazeSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
168
Artist:
Gerry Grace
Text:
Blaze deals X damage to target creature or player.
deals X, which is paid before the spell is cast. Shock
Shock
ShockSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
206
Artist:
Randy Gallegos
Text:
Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
deals 2 damage regardless. Therefore, Shock
Shock
ShockSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
206
Artist:
Randy Gallegos
Text:
Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
is more efficient than Blaze
Blaze
BlazeSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
168
Artist:
Gerry Grace
Text:
Blaze deals X damage to target creature or player.
(In this case, 1 damage should equal R. Since Blaze
Blaze
BlazeSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
168
Artist:
Gerry Grace
Text:
Blaze deals X damage to target creature or player.
does 1 damage for 1R, it is less effective).

Remember to test the spell for effectiveness before you use it.


Rate Article



Discuss Article

Click here to discuss this article in forum or leave comments for the author.

RSS feed RSS Feed


This article is provided to you by CardShark.com - A Better Way to Buy and Sell Collectable Games Online. Please check out the rest of our site - you won't be disappointed.

View More ArticlesView More Articles