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CardShark Content - Walter Vining (6/22/2005)

Some people say that when it comes to building a good magic deck, that there is really nothing to it. That all you have to do is copy what someone else did, and change it a little and there you go. You have a great deck to play. While this may be true to some extent, it’s not true on the whole. There is a lot that goes into building those decks that you are going to copy. There is a lot more to the cards then just adding your own. This article, and probably more to come, will discuss that things one should take into account when putting together a deck, either for casual or tournament play.

1. Concept/mechanic/theme

First things first, you should decide what kind of deck you are going to build. A lot of first time magic players really don't understand what this means. What it means is how is your deck going to work, what kind of mechanic of the game is it going to concentrate on most. There are many mechanics to the game that a lot of long time magic players recognize and these are as follows: discard, control (or counter), weenie, aggro (or beat down), or direct damage (or burn).

One thing that makes a lot of the top tier decks work really well is finding the best cards for the mechanic that they are going to use. In several cases there may be a lot of good cards, but one fits better than the others. At this point it really breaks down into what the player feels like using for the deck. Once you decide on your main focus of the deck you can move onto the next step, synergy.

2. Synergy

Most people don't understand how vital it is that every card in your deck at some point helps to give you a bonus to your main focus of the deck in some way. This is called synergy of the cards and is a very vital part into how the deck will play. If you have dead cards for your mechanic, then your deck won’t have synergy with itself and won’t work well, if often at all. All the cards in your deck need to relate in some way shape or form to what you are working towards which should ultimately be a win. Synergy helps you get there faster. Plus when you see all of your cards start to have a building effect in play, and if they are al working together with your other ones, the REALLY bad things that are happening to your opponent usually can disrupt their game play making it easier for you to pull off that win you are so looking for. Synergy can also lead to another principle that others think is vital, and that’s tempo.

3. Tempo

This is a multi-part topic here. Tempo in the game of magic is many things other than just how fast, or slow, you play your hand. Its also board and hand control. It is hand advantage and just about another advantage that can be taken in the game. If you control the tempo of the game, then you are in total control of the match. Many control decks either have a very slow tempo, or control only because the creatures they put on the table are fast, and have control abilities on them. Many discard decks have a fast tempo because they need you to have an empty hand in order to establish control. Direct damage decks have a very fast tempo, as they usually have very few creatures and they need to win quickly, same with weenie decks. Weenie decks need to be fast because their creatures are not very powerful and need to win quickly in order to maintain their advantage.

This is really where you start to see what kind of cards you need to put in your deck by the tempo you want to play at. If you’re not sure what kind of tempo to play at look at the cards viable to your main theme of the deck and see which ones can be played with how much mana. This will help give you the tempo that you need. If the best cards for you are very high mana cost, then you’re probably going to play at a very slow tempo. But if you have low cost cards you’re playing at a fast tempo. If you mix the two, then you’re going at an average tempo for the game.

4. Win Conditions

This is where a lot of deck builders spend most of their time: coming up with more than one way for the deck to win games. It is very vital for the best of decks to have more than one way to win, in case if your opponent’s mechanic shut it down. This is also in some way dictated by the tempo you play at and your mechanic. At least your primary win condition is. Your secondary win condition can be another mechanic, or it can be a different way for your primary mechanic to win.

A lot of decks will include some form of another mechanic to give it a multiple win condition ability, which gives them flexibility during play to go one way or another. This is also partly true due to sideboarding and where the second win is usually hidden from your opponent.

These are just four ways to build a good deck, and I think they are probably the most important four. There are many many others and lots of other players concentrate on them, but a lot of the top pro level decks look at these four for their decks. I hope this helps all of you out there, and good luck with your games.

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