Deckbuilding and Magic: The Gathering

Magic is a very intriguing game in the aspect that there are so many possible deck configurations. Within the infinite possibilities of deck construction lie several effective deck archetypes. A deck archetype simply represents a deck type and all its minor variations. A green deck with many small creatures, commonly referred to as a green horde deck, can have several different configurations. This means some may use one card over another, or maybe just use a different number of some cards. The deck type is the same, but the exact configuration may vary from deck to deck. There may not be a "best" version, but instead, several tuned versions of the deck which operate well.

In Magic, there is no best deck. If there were, everyone would play it! There are dominating decks, however. When a deck dominates, people often play a deck that wins against the dominating deck. This is often called a metagame deck. Often the tournament environment turns into a game of rock-paper-scissors where there is a deck designed to beat the metagame deck, but loses to the dominating deck. The DCI tries to eliminate this from happening by banning cards from deck construction, which are too powerful. In a suitable field, there are many possible deck types. Some may be control strategies, some may be creature swarm strategies, and some may be completely combination based. That means that the deck is designed to set up a combination of cards, which when put together, guarantee victory.

Often it is said that swarm beats control, control beats combo, and combo beats swarm. That is just a generalization, and some decks perform better than others do. Determining which deck is best to play in a tournament requires some simple thought. There is no exact way to determine which deck to play unless you know what other people are playing, and what your odds are of beating them. And still, you only get an approximation.

More importantly than choosing the deck is the deck construction aspect of Magic. Selecting which cards to use for a deck means trying to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Using cards which are overall effective means trying to find a balance between general usefulness and situational usefulness. Combined with proper management of resources, creating a deck that wins is a complex task. That is often why people rely on decks that have already proven themselves.

Which is more effective though, designing your own rogue (original) deck or using a stock (familiar) deck? Most people agree that each has its own inherent advantages. Stock decks have already proven themselves, so one only needs to be able to play the deck well in order to succeed with it. However, not knowing the deck well is a disadvantage. When you build your own deck you know why the cards are there since you put them there. Not only that, but someone you face in a tournament will most likely know the exact contents of your deck if you play a stock deck. If not that, he will know exactly how to beat it, which cards to deal with first, and the like. If you play a deck you made yourself, the person will not know if you have something more threatening coming up. He will have to guess and make tough judgment calls.

Jamie Wakefield is a Pro Tour player who has been renowned for his success with rogue decks. The deck Jamie has been famous for is a green control deck he calls "Secret Force". Using large green creatures and utility, the deck is able to wreck most of the popular decks. When he first made his appearance with this deck, people did not know how to deal with it since they had never seen it before. The result was that since his deck was at least equally effective, but not known to the opponent, he won. Jamie knew what was in his opponents' decks. However, that same information they did not know about him. The surprise factor won him many games, and qualified him for Pro Tour: New York.

Usually, though, rogue decks have limited success. Still, the respect factor is great for those who can design new decks, play them well, and win games. It is easier for someone to take a deck already in existence and play it to perfection than for the same person to design a deck and win just as much. The reward in the latter case is that the person can truly call the deck his own.


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