The Lost Art of Deck-Building

Check Out My Net-Deck. Isn’t It Sweet?!

It’s no secret that formats get stale eventually. Powerful decks take over the meta and that becomes all you see, wherever you turn. This has actually become a very common occurrence lately and I’m not too sure it has everything to do with the power level of the actual cards. Eldrazi Winter is the most recent happenstance of a meta stifling deck. The Eldrazi were EVERYWHERE and they spread almost instantaneously due to the speed of access the internet allows us. I genuinely think that given more time, a ‘hoser’ deck would have been built and Eldrazi would have slowly faded into one of the top Tier 1 decks. Instead, the banhammer came down swiftly. It’s even been whispered that this was the last nail in Modern’s Pro Tour coffin, doing away with the format entirely.

Impatience is another trait we are starting to see pop up more and more in the magic community. People are so quick to ask for bans instead of putting in the effort to see what works against some of these meta crushing decks.

I must confess that I started thinking about this while writing another piece centered around the December’s Grand Prix in Denver. My thoughts finally coalesced after the standard ban news. Which brings us to my questions: Is deck-building a lost art and/or is Net-decking killing creativity in magic?

The first answer is no; deck-building is not dead or a lost art. It just happens to be too time-consuming in the fast-paced, instant gratification society we live in. Building decks from the ground up is mainly seen as what the ‘filthy casuals’ and the top tier pro’s do. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve logged into Magic Online and gone to the Tournament Practice Lobby with a legitimate homebrew, then proceeded to get nothing but hate in the chat because of it. I understand that you are there looking to practice against the best decks in the meta, so am I; and if I have a deck that is going 60%+ against Four-Color Rally, you should probably figure out why that is, instead of berating me for being in the wrong lobby. This is where my opinion comes in.

The ‘Net-decking’ type of magic player is growing in popularity and I believe they’re becoming a bane to the Magic community as a whole. Especially in terms of stifling creativity. This can be seen most recently by the comments starting a few weeks ago about how Standard was dead and a call for card banning. Not even specific cards mind you- because a large percentage of these players don’t actually know how the decks operate- they just want a ban on cards to make things easier.

This prompted a whole slew of people basically whining that the format wasn’t diverse enough. It even got loud enough to prompt this article by a major content producer going over the History of Standard Bannings. While there have legitimately been cards that have needed a ban, Skullclamp is an easy one to look back on and determine that banning it was a correct decision, I don’t think we’ve seen that level of brokenness recently. Emrakul being the closest.

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Well, WotC listened to the outcry and we can say buh-bye to three powerful cards. Each of them had answers in the format and were getting more with the release of Aether Revolt.

Smuggler’s Copter was everywhere and could get super annoying. It gave serious card advantage overtime through filtering. Ban worthy? 5/10 on that. Emrakul is super powerful and crazily pushed. Showing up as the finisher in tons of decks. Ban worthy? 7/10. I haven’t noticed Reflector Mage being anywhere near as stifling as it was with CoCo. Ban worthy? 2/10.

Listen to the Pro Players

I hear quite frequently that the pro team’s test these decks and determine that they’re the best in the meta. This statement right here is repeated often, “Well, they’re pro’s…and I’m not- so why try something else?” Mainly because pros can be wrong too. They were recently wrong in Kaladesh Standard for over a month. It also took them almost until the release of Kaladesh to realize just how pushed Emrakul was.

Please don’t misunderstand me; going online and looking up decks that the pros have/are using is a very legitimate practice.  You would be selling yourself short if you didn’t know what was out there. Pro’s are typically on top of things and know what they’re doing. They are a valuable resource to get insights on how they view the meta.

Going online to discover new interactions of cards is also something everyone should be doing. The internet is a resource. BUT, simply doing a copy/paste into a shopping cart because a certain deck ‘happened’ to win the most recent big tournament is also selling yourself short. Perhaps even more so than not going online at all.

               

Coco Rally is a great example of the copy/paste technique.

Get to the Point Already

A little over a month ago people were calling for bans to make the G/B Delirium deck less oppressive, when what they should have been doing was building better decks. Because as GP Denver showed us, G/B Delirium CLEARLY was not the best deck in the format. It was simply the most copied. Marvel was bound to be more of the same.

I do think that Wizards of the Coast needs to print more hate cards. I do think that Emrakul, the Promised End was used as a top-end finisher in a disproportionate amount of decks. It’s also agreed upon that WotC needs to be very careful about how they design their flagship cards. Having said all that, it’s up to us as a community to be more resilient.

Is standard better because of the changes: Probably. Would it have survived without them: Maybe.

The fact remains that the creativity and tenacity of players is plummeting. That is plainly seen. This player base that copy/paste’s deck lists without understanding how to build it, has grown large enough and gotten a loud enough voice that Wizards has had no choice but to heed their call. We’ve allowed members of our community to dictate how the entire game should be played.

“Feels bad” and “Bad beats” plays are something that you should be learning from. While you should be upset that you lost, that’s natural, you shouldn’t just grab the pitchforks and rally the peasants because of it; because of that knee-jerk reaction, we’ve set a dangerous precedent. One that will have lasting effects.

-Chris Taveau

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