MTG Deck Design

MTG Deck Design concepts

In today's article I'm going to briefly discuss an aspect of deck design with respect to Magic: The Gathering, that you may not be aware of, and may help improve the way we all play the game.

How to improve deck design

Firstly, the problem arises when we net deck (Take a deck that did well in a tournament, off of some page on the internet) without ever really knowing all of the card selections made in a deck, but assume that the 75 cards we're about to use will still be impactful in a similar way. This is primarily an issue if you're a player that isn't self-aware of the meta-game you're about to participate in or have considered how the format you're interacting with has evolved since the time of the event you're taking the deck from.

I've read from several sources that MTG Arena's meta game isn't the same as the paper meta game and that you can't really trust the results. I don't really agree with this argument because if that was true, then someone with a top-tier paper-based deck should out-perform, or be more relevant than the deck I'm playing. Almost to suggest that whatever deck I use on MTG Arena to get Mythic (#) is sort of insignificant, which I don't buy. If you're winning in Standard on MTG Arena and the games aren't really close against competitive decks, then you're on the right track. I would also argue that the speed at which the MTG Arena competitive meta game moves is much faster than paper Magic, so in my opinion it would be a superior playing field.

Consider how you approach the format

Let's take Standard MTG for example. If I have the cards to play a UG Ramp deck, go to a website and copy & paste the same 75 cards without considering how other top-decks in the format are doing with their Sideboards, how much worse is my Match Up against these opponents? What decks do I need to be aware of and protect against? Here's a few decks I think you need to consider when Sideboarding:

  • Scapeshift (Bant/Gates/Sultai)
  • Vampires
  • Mono W
  • Mono R
  • Mono U
  • UW Fliers
  • Esper Hero (Mirdange)
  • Jund Dinos
  • Simic Nexus

If you're not considering these decks, and are just copying and pasting then you are making your odds worse to win. A good example of this, would be when I personally played UG Ramp, and was up against Mono U. I felt that Shifting Ceratops was more than enough of a stone wall against that deck that bringing in 3 copies should be more than enough to get me to the late game and win. However, this opponent played Transmogrifying Wand and absolutely won the game based off this card. This was a good indication that my 75 wasn't perfect anymore and it was time to make a critical decision.

How are you positioned in the meta game?

If you play great cards, it won't be enough in all situations as I've mentioned, and the format will naturally become more efficient as time goes on. If you're not optimizing your once awesome deck, then you may be falling out of favour more rapidly than you realize. Here's an interesting concept. 3 weeks ago, Nissa, Who Shakes the World on turn 3 would usually be more than enough pressure to win the game, almost immediately. So, building a deck that could do this, was pretty optimal. Cards like LLanowar Elves, Leafkin Druid and Growth Spiral are generally good tools to do the job. However, in today's meta game, this isn't going "big enough" anymore. Our once favoured Ramp strategy fell out of position in the meta game, and it was time to look around to find out why.


Format Efficiency

Taking a look around at what is happening is very important. Scapeshift is taking over the format. It's so powerful in the Modern format, that Players (Myself included) are gravitating towards this Archetype because of how fast it is, and the lack of interaction it provides to their opponents. The usual suspect shows up in the face of Teferi, Time Raveler which has played a critical role in stifling opposing sideboard plans. A Planeswalker on turn 2, is often times devastating. Generating 16 2/2 zombie tokens at instant-speed shortly there after leaves not much room to maneuver or interact either. It's extremely efficient.


Be forward thinking

If you know one of the best decks in the format plays lethal threats at instant speed, doesn't allow you to interact, what can you do to win? One answer would be to stop letting them play the game. Which is why Nexus of Fate is superior. Even if you could make 100 Zombies, ultimately what the Simic Nexus deck is doing, is more powerful and will provide a better end-game plan.

So if you're forward thinking, do you want to be the Player making 100 Zombies, or do you want to be the Player preventing those Zombies from ever killing you? Either way, considering these deck choices, you will need to be forward thinking and come up with some neat tools to disrupt the game plan on either side. From the Scapeshift point of view, The Immortal Sun is a pretty interesting card, as is Tale's End. If you're a Simic Nexus player, Ashiok, Dream Render seems pretty good, as does Flood of Tears. Now, if you're not forward thinking and just copy and paste a deck, regardless of whose side you're on, how would you answer these new tools if you're not even considering them?

Take the time to evaluate the deck you're interested in. Find out as much information as you can. If you can find out why the person chose cards in the sideboard and for what matches, you're going to give yourself better odds to win. Don't just netdeck and think you have the best deck. Your doing yourself a dis-service and you aren't getting better for it.

Let's have fun out there folks. Good luck sweeping them up with these new concepts!

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