Magical Strategy

I passed a milestone this last week – I built a Magic deck based around a strategy inspired by particular cards rather than just filling slots in the mana curve.

When I’ve talked about deck building* before I’ve mentioned only how to maximise your chances of viable cards to play at each point: setting good proportions for cards of each cost, and then ensuring that your land base is well composed. When you’re working in a limited environment (whether sealed or booster draft) these are the most presing concerns – do you have a deck which is playable?

The next stage with building decks is to design the interactions between the cards so that they damage your opponent as effectively as possible. This is the wide open space of constructed play, and it’s what we’ve started doing in the Magic group I play with at the day job**.

There are several things to think about:

  • win conditions – how to beat your opponent, whether that’s how you grind down their life total, or how you force them to empty their library
  • keeping the win condition cards in play – removing threats on the board, or countering spells which are going to do damage.
  • staying alive long enough to win – stopping your opponent from doing for you before you do for them.

I will probably write about each of these categories in more depth in the future, but the deck I made last week has the following elements:

  1. creatures that attack early – a couple of cheap creatures with haste, and some bigger creatures with dash that can appear, do huge damage, and then disappear. I also have a couple of cards that enhance those attacks.
  2. a couple of big critters that will cause trouble – as well as the big dashers, there is a strong phoenix and a large zombie that will hurt a lot when they attack.
  3. token generators – cards that make lots of tokens to add to the battlefield.
  4. kill spells that use the size of the board – there are a couple of cards that use the number of creatures under your control as the count of how much damage is applied.

Those board-state driven kill spells are the ones that I built the deck around: make lots of tokens, then swarm in to deal huge damage to the opponent – a form of Zerg rush***. It’s actually at the point now where I want to go and buy a couple more of the the kill spells to make their appearance more reliable.

Have you built a deck around specific cards yet? Would anyone be interested in seeing a deck list for this one I’ve built?

[*] and YouTube’s adverts when you watch videos about Magic decks is overloaded with messages promoting deck boards.

[**] basically we’re doing Modern, but there are some much older decks floating around and it’s all kitchen table Magic really.

[***] apparently that’s what it’s called, although the term comes from Starcraft and I’ve never played that.

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