March 14, 2014

Magic101 - Knowing Your Deck


In the world today, information is everywhere. In the world of Magic: the Gathering deck building, getting all the information that you need is very easy compared to, say 10 years ago. Information is very accessible now that with just a click, the discussions about a certain deck or the recent top 8 deck lists in major events around the world can be viewed in our computers and phones.

As someone who played the game way back before internet access became very easy, I used to open my booster packs, read every card that I get in the packs, and try to think about a deck for them. The fun part was play testing the decks with my friends. Usually, these experiments don't work out so either I just abandon the idea or keep working on it. And so, I buy more booster packs just to get additional copies of the cards, try to evaluate new cards again, repeat this process until I finish a deck with the strategy that I want. Without knowing, through this process, I usually end up with a deck that I know inside and out. I know how many copies of a certain card in the deck, I know how many creature cards are there, I know the right time when to properly use a card, or I know how many Islands or Mountains are there in my deck. Since I know my deck and I tested it many times while building it, decision making for these decks are easier for me compared to the decks that I only borrowed from a friend.

Know Your Deck

With the growth of Magic: the Gathering since that time and the abundance of information nowadays, many people will have the liberty of skipping the process of experimenting with cards. Don't get me wrong, that is a very good thing. Since I am not alone in this world, there are definitely other people who had the same idea as mine and they may have already gone through the process of testing the cards and may have already shared their ideas online. By accessing these information, we save a lot of time and we can just select the most efficient cards to use via the experiences of other people. One possible problem with this is that we may not know our decks as well as those people who did the experiments. That is why, it is very important to play with your deck multiple times and know how it reacts with different matchups. I am not really into the idea of looking at the recent top decks then just buying the whole decklist and immediately bring it on Friday Night Magic tournaments and expect to top 8 the tournament.

Getting the right cards is different from knowing the cards

Recent top decks are decks that underwent a lot of revisions. The player who won with it has definitely put in a lot of work to modify it many times and surely, it wasn't just an overnight process. For example, Domri Rade is a very good card, and everybody else in the world may say that every optimized red-green deck should have it. But actually winning with Domri Rade and using its abilities correctly takes a lot of time to practice and mastery. The way I decide on how to use Domri's ability may be different compared to a person who has been using it for more than a year, and sometimes, when you ask that person the reason for his/her actions, the person may not even offer an explanation. It's just that he or she KNOWS that it was the best thing to do under that particular situation.

Knowing your deck will greatly help in Mulligans

If we are playing a control deck and we will have an opening hand of : Island, Island, Island, Plains, Plains, Azorius Charm and Supreme Verdict, a player who really knows that his or her deck is control and would be winning in the long game would probably keep this hand. Even with no creatures, this is a keep. Since we know that we don't need creatures early on and we have a Supreme Verdict to protect us against aggro decks, this hand conforms to our goal of winning the game when game goes long. 

Likewise, a Monored player may not keep a hand of : Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Shock, and Lightning Strike. Provided that the player built the deck with the goal of winning quickly - by attacking with cheap creatures, this hand will definitely not give the player a big chance of winning the game, does it? So this hand may be an automatic mulligan until, say, we get early creature drops.

Knowing your deck changes game-time decisions

Let's just say that you are piloting a Dimir deck. For the sake of having an example, let's just say that you only have 3 counterspells in your deck (probably Dissolve) and a bunch of removals like Doom Blade, Hero's Downfall and Ultimate Price. When you have a Dissolve in hand and you don't have a removal spell, will you use your counterspell to counter the Polukranos, World Eater of your opponent? I'm not saying that there is a definite answer to this, but by knowing that my deck has a LOT of ways to kill a creature, I may not counter that spell. I think that I will have more chances of drawing a spell that can kill the Polukranos so I'd rather save my counterspell for something that my deck cannot answer. Likewise, if my opponent casts an Assemble the Legion, by knowing that I don't have anything in my main deck to deal with enchantments, I know that I should use the Dissolve to counter this spell.

What I described above are just some of the benefits of knowing your deck. Knowing your deck will give you more chances of winning. And remember to not just cast cards from your hand just because you have the mana to cast them. Try to just give it a simple thought first: if casting this spell is something that you want to do. Knowing how your deck operates and wins is something worth considering.

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