Pandora's Deckbox: Characteristics of a Strong Deck

Pandora's Deckbox


17 June 2016



A strong deck has a blend of characteristics that support one another and contribute to the overall performance and potential of the build. Although the workings of each deck are infinitely complex, the major factors of any deck's strength can be broken down into seven primary categories. This will be a brief summary rather than an in-depth inspection of any one characteristic.

The Seven Characteristics


Flexibility: the ability of a deck to react to various situations and threats during games and adapt to changes in the game state.

A flexible deck is capable of adapting to a wide range of scenarios with little loss of momentum or position. Every deck should be able to adapt to multiple board states. Flexibility allows a deck to play around developments and maintain proper positioning. It is primarily a measure of a deck's offensive capability - that is, the ability of the deck to preempt or actively address potential threats or shifts.

An inflexible deck is poorly suited to handle changes in game conditions and is likelier to crumble under pressure. Inflexibility is caused by a marked lack of "answer" cards such as removal spells as well as an overcommitment to the end goals without sufficient consideration for the paths to those goals.


Resilience: the ability of a deck to endure unfavorable conditions and setbacks without losing momentum.

Every strategy is susceptible to some form of disruption. A strong deck should not only be able to respond to hindrances, but also be capable of surviving them. A resilient deck is able to take hits and continue functioning, even if it means changing strategies or rebuilding position. Whereas a flexible deck is capable of reacting to situations as they arise, a resilient deck is capable of surviving those situations when they develop. It is a measure of a deck's defensive capabilities rather than its offensive ones.

A deck that is not resilient will have difficulty surviving suboptimal conditions. It will falter under pressure and may fail to recover properly. A lack of resilience may stem from dependence on a single card or strategy or from unaddressed vulnerabilities in its design.


Sustainability: the ability of a deck to deliver constant pressure and maintain the flow of resources throughout the game.

To be strong overall, a deck needs to be strong during all stages of the game. A sustainable deck capitalizes on ramp, draw power, and other utilities to fuel itself as it spends its resources. This allows it to continue pushing after other decks would have slowed down. Sustainability is also a safeguard against overextension.

An unsustainable deck tends to experience problems in at least one stage of the game. It can sometimes lag behind in the early game while waiting to draw something explosive, falter in the midgame while trying to establish a stable position, or wane in the endgame after all its resources are expended. These problems are often caused by a lack of supporting utilities. Unsustainable decks are also more vulnerable to overextending because they cannot fuel prolonged or deep pushes.


Consistency: the ability of a deck to perform evenly across multiple games.

Consistency is an important indicator of a deck's strength because it is a true measure of that deck's performance. It gauges whether the deck can regularly deliver results. There is a critical difference between a deck that merely has the potential to work well and a deck that actually does work well. Consistency means stable, patterned results. The consistency of a deck is influenced largely by the deck size, card counts, and presence of tutor and draw effects.

An inconsistent deck may still win games or perform well on occasion, but it does not demonstrate a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. It instead demonstrates unpredictability. Low card counts are often one of the largest contributors to deck inconsistency.


Cohesiveness: the ability of a deck to function as a unit and build upon internal synergies.

A cohesive deck uses cards that work well together and complement one another. Interactions or combos between cards create additional advantage. The advantage strengthens the deck and naturally improves its other characteristics. Being cohesive does not necessarily mean all of the cards in the deck interact with one another, nor does it necessarily mean the cards all rely on one another. It does mean, however, that all the cards must be relevant to the overall strategy.

A noncohesive deck exhibits a lack of unity between its cards. Even if the cards are individually strong, they may not necessarily form a cohesive strategy. It should be noted that a lack of synergy is not as severe a deficit as a lack cohesiveness. "Goodstuff" decks, which are collections of strong cards chosen specifically for being individually strong, exist and are viable. However, a lack of synergy does take away from some of the other characteristics. General cohesiveness is good, but interactions and combos between cards add to the strength of a deck because they provide additional advantage for the same resources.


Efficiency: the ability of a deck to utilize its resources in an economical manner. Efficiency is also a quality of individual cards; efficient cards represent a profitable return on resource investment.

An efficient deck must be comprised of efficient cards; in this case, the parts make the whole. If a deck is efficient, it contains cards that offer strong effects for reasonable costs and it also maximizes on its resource usage. A balanced mana curve generally helps with the latter.

An inefficient deck does not properly capitalize on its resources. It may invest heavily in certain cards or strategies, but fail to recoup that investment by generating sufficient advantage. It may also waste resources by not spending them economically or, in the case of persistent resources like lands, by not spending them consistently.


Effectiveness: the ability of a deck to execute its strategy and achieve its goals. Effectiveness is also a quality of individual cards; effective cards succeed in accomplishing specific goals.

Effectiveness is the most immediate indicator of a deck's strength. Often, a player will recognize that a deck is strong because it is adept at achieving its prescribed objectives - in other words, the deck is effective. Likewise, a player will often recognize that a card is effective in certain respects. The reasons for which a deck or card is effective are not so straightforward, however. A deck's effectiveness depends in large part upon its balance of the other six characteristics because those characteristics allow it to succeed.

An ineffective deck simply fails at the tasks for which it was designed. If a deck does not do what it was designed to do, then it cannot be considered a truly strong deck. A deck can be well designed and can contain powerful cards, but those traits are irrelevant if the deck cannot achieve its goals. Ultimately, the other six qualities are meaningless if a deck is not effective.

Putting Everything Together

Although these characteristics are all individually important, the strength of a deck comes from its combination of all seven factors in one frame. It is not accidental that any one characteristic is influenced by the other six; they are meant to support one another and work collectively. Smart deckbuilding involves considering each of them both individually and in the group context. A strong deck uses clever card selections to improve all of the characteristics rather than trying to improve a single facet at a time.

It takes experience to intuitively strike a balance between all seven elements, but that balance is critical to the strength of a deck.

The next article in this series is Pandora's Deckbox: Flexibility and Deck Strength

Dallie says... #1

Great article, I'm sure many, myself included, can learn a lot about deckbuilding from this article. Not letting your deck falter on any of the aspects, and reviewing your old decks, with this in mind, will definitely help players build stronger decks.

August 10, 2013 6:42 a.m.

SaberTech says... #2

So now that this article has laid out your concepts, will the purpose of this series be the analysis of individual decks or deck archetypes in relation to the categories that you have listed? If so, will you also occasionally discuss how the base rating of a deck derived from these categories can be further influenced either positively or negatively by the meta in which the deck exists?

August 10, 2013 6:54 a.m.

RussischerZar says... #3

Good read. I think you made a typo on Resilience in the 3rd paragraph: it should probably read "A deck that is not resilient ..."

Some questions: Will this be a series of articles and if so, how will you continue? Is this first introduction article an overview and will you go in-depth on the seven here described characteristics? Or will you just expand on what is good / bad deckbuilding and write general tips? I'm very curious about this.

August 10, 2013 7:16 a.m.

TheAnnihilator says... #4

This article is REALLY helpful, especially for new players, I'm sure. I think that as SaberTech suggested, if you went into details of specific deck types, it could be a really good reference, and I'd come back to read more on this subject. Maybe you could do a sideboard edition, describing how the sideboard helps to support the deck, and what makes a sideboard card a good choice. Even many experienced players have trouble with sideboards.

August 10, 2013 12:07 p.m.

Epochalyptik says... #5

I'm not really sure where the series will take me. I have tons of random ideas floating around, from EDH articles to deck techs. I suppose I could go into depth about the seven categories, especially if that's something you all think would be helpful.

August 10, 2013 2:20 p.m.

SaberTech says... #6

Going more in depth in explaining each category would probably be the best way to start this series off. There are a lot of factors to these categories that need to be considered. For example: with Efficiency you can talk about card comparisons and why Tragic Slip may be a more efficient kill spell in a particular deck than Doom Blade or how Rancor , despite giving a smaller boost to a creature's power, is a more efficient creature enhancer than a card like Giant Growth . You can talk about efficiency in terms of how a deck can follow up on the spells that it casts or about card advantage and why a card like Bonfire of the Damned is great in aggro decks while Supreme Verdict wouldn't be as effective do to the affect that it would have on the aggro deck's own game plan (dipping into synergy there). But perhaps the largest factor that contributes to efficiency is game play and knowing when the best time to cast your spells to get the most value out of them.

To follow up on my previous comment, it would be interesting to occasionally see you analyze the characteristic of a deck in his series based of the categories you've listed. You could assign the deck a 0-10 score in each category as a way of highlighting its strengths and weaknesses from a mechanical standpoint instead of just from the perspective of card selection. One of the reasons that I think Jund decks are so broadly effective across the different formats is because they are capable of exploiting where a deck is weakest mechanically to disrupt its game plan. Control decks are slow to establish early board presence so Jund runs cheap creatures like Scavenging Ooze to apply early pressure and then disrupts a control deck's plans by eating the cards in its hand with spells like Duress and Rakdos's Return . Against creature based decks Jund has spot removal, board wipe, and resilient creatures like Kitchen Finks to slow an aggro deck's tempo and then overwhelm it with card advantage once the aggro deck has run out of gas and is stuck in top-decking mode.

After rereading your article, I just wanted to say that in regards to effectiveness I think that in some decks enhanced effectiveness can be achieved by abandoning focus on some of categories in favor of others. In a dedicated combo deck that seeks to combo off and win the game as quickly as possible you will often find that the card selection in the deck forgoes flexibility, resilience, and sustainability in favor if focusing primarily on the consistency and efficiency of its draws. Dedicated combo decks will usually run a little bit of hand disruption and counter magic to protect its combo and slow the opponent down just enough for the combo player to end the game first, but beyond that the deck is primarily designed to grab its combo quickly by having multiple copies of all its combo pieces alongside a large amount of card draw and tutor effects. So while the aspiration for greatest deck effectiveness would involve increasing a deck's ratings in all categories as high as possible, I think that most decks achieve efficiency by only investing in the categories that best support their particular game plan.

August 10, 2013 3:40 p.m.

Epochalyptik says... #7

Lots of good feedback so far.

I can certainly look into doing a series of articles that elaborate on the points in this article, but I wonder how long each of them would be. Would it be better to isolate each of the seven characteristics, then elaborate on them individually?

August 10, 2013 4:23 p.m.

SaberTech says... #8

Tackle the categories in whichever manner you are comfortable with, I'm looking forward to seeing where you decide to go with this series. Addressing individual categories is an easy format to follow but you might find that it is more effective for a couple of the categories to talk about them in conjunction with each other to help compare and contrast the points you are making.

August 10, 2013 5:20 p.m.

TheAnnihilator says... #9

I like the idea of going into specific decks and rating their scores. For example, what score ratings are typical of good control decks? What score(s) needs to be pushed more when you construct an aggro deck? When you play a combo deck, to what extent do you need to support consistency of your draws without pushing it too far or letting other ratings fall? These are viable questions, and each kind of deck direction (burn, aggro, control, life gain, ect.) could be dealt with individually.

August 10, 2013 6:15 p.m.

It's harder to do scores because the ratings are all relative. It's difficult to assign an objective score to a deck because there are so many factors that influence each deck and card choice.

August 10, 2013 6:25 p.m.

Bellock86 says... #11

As a self proclaimed "awful deck builder" I find the hints and insights laid out here majorly helpful. While I have considered some of the more (IMHO) obvious concepts like consistency some of the other ones have escaped me. I for one would find individual articles breaking down each of the seven major points to be an excellent and invaluable resource. Thanks for all you do for the T/O community Epochalyptik.

August 10, 2013 11:05 p.m.

Apoptosis says... #12

Rating a deck on each characteristic in a quantitative way would be difficult as there is no basis for how to measure each characteristic. However, it should be relatively straightforward to give a qualitative assessment for each characteristic, highlight the cards that contribute to each (or do not), and then provide an overall assessment of a deck.

I think this is a great start. As outlined the article demonstrates clear testible hypothesises that can be explored in deck breakdowns. There are many are many ways this could be developed into a series. Great job!

August 11, 2013 9:18 a.m.

MindAblaze says... #13

As with anything, there needs to be a goal...and with magic its fairly straightforward. Winning...somehow...

I think a great way to proceed would be to elaborate on each characteristic by taking a (user-submitted?) deck as a sample, break it down by how it lines up to the given topic and then make suggestions along the way.

It could almost be a deckbuilding series in which a deck shell is chosen, run through the first six steps and then tested for Effectiveness against say...Dominus - Dreamcrusher Edition

August 11, 2013 4:14 p.m.

Supersun says... #14

I wouldn't necessarily say that "Goodstuff" decks aren't as synergistic as other decks because the synergy lies in a hidden advantage.

Some other decks, like a sliver deck for example, thrive by trying to play as many cards on the field as they can safely get away with because each card they add to the board increases the power of each other card on the board as the cards work together.

This isn't true with "Goodstuff" decks, but that doesn't make them any less synergistic. Where "Goodstuff" decks thrive is in the opposite type of board state that a sliver deck works best in, a board with as few cards on the field as they can manage on both sides. "Goodstuff" decks stuff just win when you compare cards with the other deck 1 for 1 without any outside influence by other cards.

That may sound like the opposite of synergy, but how you get there is where the synergy lies. A sliver deck wants to create as complex a gamestate as he can get where each sliver is enhancing the other while the "Goodstuff" deck wants to create a simplified gamestate where each cards are against each other 1v1 without other cards helping. The cards that help get you to that simplified state is the synergy of the deck. Each 1-1 trade you make like Doom Blading an enemy creature eliminates one more card that can be interacted with and reduces 1 more card on the field making it more likely for those 1v1s to take place where you will dominate. Each 1-1 trade you can make essentially powers up the rest of your deck since the fewer cards involved in the game the better your deck becomes.

August 11, 2013 4:21 p.m.

Darkness1835 says... #15

I'd say a very important aspect of decks, which might be slightly more tangible, and draws from several of Epoch's pillars, is answers. If an opponent plays a threat that you can't deal with, unless you can out-muscle it, you'll lose. Answers come in lots of forms, but typically it's removal for creatures or planeswalkers. This is where sideboards are so key. Answers are necessary to stop an opponents' win condition. Without answers, your opponent will be asking lots of questions about your deck. Just my tid-bit.

August 11, 2013 4:29 p.m.

@Supersun: I would argue, perhaps unsurprisingly, that that isn't synergy.

Synergy entails interactions or combos between cards. A synergistic deck uses cards in conjunction with one another to produce additional advantage based on the way those cards work together.

Goodstuff decks like Jund have individually strong cards, but they're rarely synergistic. You can't really say that using a Lightning Bolt to kill a creature so you can swing through is any kind of synergy. Goodstuff decks instead operate primarily on flexibility and efficiency.

@Darkness1835: Answers generally fall under the category of flexibility because they're how a deck responds to the game state and to certain threats. Flexibility is a measure of a deck's offensive and preemptive power.

August 11, 2013 4:50 p.m.

Supersun says... #17

Synergy doesn't only entail interactions and combos between cards just like efficiency doesn't only entail a deck of efficient creatures.

Synergy can also imply any virtual advantage a deck gains as a game progresses. Now a deck gaining virtual advantage may seem like a strange concept, but imagine a creature heavy deck is against some combo type deck and (somehow) the game reached a point where there are no cards on the field and both players hands are empty. Due to the game state the creature deck should be stronger then normal and the combo deck should be weaker then normal.

This is the same thing I was referring to. I'm not talking about dropping a lightning bolt so you can swing through. I'm talking about a deck loaded with powerful cards aimed at bringing the game state as close to a top deck war as possible to virtually increase the power of their deck.

Now this is not ALL "Goodstuff" decks, but some that aim for the above strategy can certainly fall under that category.

August 11, 2013 5:37 p.m.

@Supersun: I understand the concept. I just disagree with it.

Synergy does not necessarily encompass every kind of advantage generation. At the point where you stalemate the game as a strategy, you're talking about effectiveness (as well as the flexibility and efficiency necessary to execute that strategy).

Synergy also means the relevance of all cards in the deck to the deck, but it's hard to argue that a goodstuff deck demonstrates synergy. The cards are chosen for being individually strong. They happen to work independently to create advantage. That isn't synergy. That's effectiveness. Synergy specifically deals with how the cards interact or otherwise work with one another.

August 11, 2013 5:51 p.m.

Synergy equals harmony. Dredge and Affinity decks are highly synergetic; the cards work well with each other and support one another. My two cents on the matter.

In any case, I dig the article. I agree with the expansion on the subjects you listed. Perhaps concrete examples of various cards and deck archetypes would be helpful.

August 11, 2013 6:06 p.m.

Apoptosis says... #20

Synergy is defined in science as an interaction that is more then additive, e.g. Drug #1 has a 10% effect, drug #2 has also has a 10% effect, but together they have a 90% effect.

In Magic I'm not clear how synergy differs from combo, since the "synergistic effect" is usually a new gain that occurs between two cards that doesn't occur when only one of the two is in play. For example, I would say that Kismet and Stasis synergize, as there is a new effect on the battlefield that would otherwise not occur. But this is also a combo. I guess this sort of combo is just one example of synergy, as synergy can occur on a broader scale, such as in tribal decks.

August 11, 2013 6:16 p.m.

Supersun says... #21

No, Synergy doesn't encompass every type of advantage generation, but I can't really see this type of interaction fitting anywhere else besides synergy.

I mean when Doom Blading an enemy creature also slightly increases the power of your deck and every other creature you own on the field because you move towards a simplified game state I can't really see that interaction falling under any other category besides synergy.

Now keep in mind I'm not talking about all "goodstuff" decks and probably not even the vast majority of them. I'm talking about ones which are designed from the beginning to exploit this interaction. Sure, effectiveness, flexibility, and efficiency are important to execute the strategy, but the strategy only works in the first place because of an artificial advantage being created by a synergy.

I think we are just largely debating about the semantics of what synergy is. What I'm describing doesn't fit under your definition of synergy, and I'm sorta debating that your definition is too small since some important deck features don't really fit into any category otherwise. (I tend to think of synergy as any additional advantage created past the normal advantage when multiple cards interact together).

August 11, 2013 6:20 p.m.

@Apoptosis: Synergies don't necessarily have to be combos. One of the differences I've been struggling to beat into common acceptance is the one between combo and interaction.

A combo creates advantage by abusing a repeatable loop or compound effect between multiple cards. For example, infinite loops qualify as combos.

An interaction creates advantage by using two effects in conjunction, although these effects don't provide repeatable or severe advantage swings. For example, Elvish Archdruid has a good interaction in an Elf deck, but it doesn't combo with Elves.

Some synergies are in kind of a gray area between combos and interactions. I think that most synergies do, by definition, have to at least be interactions. The only exception of which I can think is the generalization of a deck as being synergistic or not synergistic based on the cohesiveness of the cards and strategy.

@Supersun: I'm using goodstuff as a go-to example because it demonstrates that effectiveness and efficiency do not necessarily translate to synergy.

Using Doom Blade as a stand-alone removal spell (without, say, Mimic Vat or a morbid trigger to capitalize on the effect) doesn't fall under the category of synergy. Synergy requires that multiple effects or cards work together to increase advantage. While Doom Blade does create advantage, that falls under the category of effectiveness rather than synergy because we're now looking at an isolated case of performance.

Can you provide a more concrete example?

August 11, 2013 6:51 p.m.

SaberTech says... #23

I think that synergy is tied closely to design, and you see it when a card appears to do more for the deck then what the effects of the card might initially indicate. Yes, Doom Blade effectively does more for you when it kills an opponent's blocker and helps you get your Thragtusk through to deal damage and swing the tempo of the game in your favor, but that is what kill spells are meant to do. In this instance Doom Blade is interchangeable with any other kill spell that would have killed that blocker, such as Putrefy . To start working your way towards defining synergy you have to ask yourself, "Why did I chose to include Doom Blade in my deck over all the other possible kill spells available?"

You may have chosen Doom Blade because it kills a (non-black) creature of your choice for only two mana, which happens to slide in nicely to your mana curve for the deck and gives you some strong opening plays. In this case, Doom Blade was included because it was the most efficient pick for the deck. It kills a creature for a cheap cost and can be worked into the deck's early plays with minimal disruption to what the deck is trying to do. However, all Doom Blade does for your deck is kill an opponent's creature. Another kill spell, perhaps Searing Spear or Mizzium Mortars if you are also running red, could likely fill the same role and minimal functionality would be lost.

So now the question comes down to, "Well, if choosing the card that works best for a particular function in my deck doesn't necessarily count as synergy, then what else is needed?"

To give an example, lets say you are playing a casual game against an opponent who is running a Black/Blue deck. You cast a spell and the opponent plays Psychic Strike to counter it. Considering that this is a casual game and assuming that the opponent has access to any card he or she wanted to use, why has the opponent chosen to run Psychic Strike ? They could have chosen any number of other counter spells , such as Counterspell , which might have allowed them to leave mana up for an additional spell like Brainstorm . So why did they use Psychic Strike if it isn't necessarily the most efficient choice to use as a counter spell? The answer comes a few turns later when the opponent casts Consuming Aberration , now that much larger thanks to the two cards that Psychic Strike milled off the top of your library. The next turn the opponent casts Body Double , triggering Consuming Aberration 's ability that mills you for a few more cards, then Body Double enters the battlefield and copies the best creature in your graveyard. None of these spells are necessarily the most efficient spells that the opponent could be playing, but the way that one spell's abilities enhance the spell that comes after it is the snowball power gain that synergistic decks can achieve. A synergistic card doesn't just play a particular role in a deck, it enhances the power of other cards in the deck. The more cards a particular spell positively effects in your deck, the more synergistic it is. It's this web-like pattern of interaction between cards that I think differentiates Synergy from Efficiency.

August 11, 2013 10:54 p.m.

SaberTech puts it well.

If a card does what it is designed and chosen to do, then it is effective. Being effective means being good at a certain task.

If a card adds to the functionality or power of other cards, then it is synergistic. Although a card can add to the functionality of a deck (e.g. Doom Blade adding removal power to your deck), that card isn't synergistic unless it interacts with other cards to produce some kind of additional advantage.

Looking back on it, I could change synergy to cohesion, as the latter is a broader category and would more accurately address the point that needs to be made. Some decks can lack synergy, yet demonstrate cohesion.

August 11, 2013 11:34 p.m.

Wiki says this about synergy:

Synergy is the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia from synergos, , meaning "working together".[1]

And Webster says this of cohesion:

1 : the act or state of sticking together tightly ; especially : unity 2 : union between similar plant parts or organs 3 : molecular attraction by which the particles of a body are united throughout the mass

The best example of synergy in a deck I can think of ATM is Affinity. With the artifact lands and Cheerios like Memnite , Ornithopter , and Mox Opal , Frogmite and Myr Enforcer are essentially free creatures, Thoughtcast can be cast for U, making it a virtual Ancestral Recall . Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas offers some wicked tutoring and is a huge threat in and of himself, Etched Champion with a Cranial Plating is almost an instant win, and Master of Etherium and Arcbound Ravager hold their own. Each card can be ok by itself, however the deck gains it's power by the synergy if the cards working very well together. I suppose it is cohesive as well, but as Epochalyptik mentioned early, it's semantics...

August 12, 2013 12:01 a.m.

I updated the article to include cohesiveness instead of synergy (although synergy is still mentioned).

August 13, 2013 1:32 a.m.

Goody says... #27

That's a good way of putting it. Standard Jund is a cohesive deck, but not a synergistic one. Bonfire of the Damned doesn't synergize with Huntmaster of the Fells  Flip or Olivia Voldaren (slight anti-synergy with her, actually), and Thragtusk doesn't synergize with rakdos return, but the deck is still very cohesive as all those cards work to decimate the opponent and dominate the field.

Standard Junk Rites, however, is (or was) a synergistic and cohesive deck. Restoration Angel synergizes very well with Thragtusk , Unburial Rites synergizes with Grisly Salvage , and Arbor Elf synergizes with Craterhoof Behemoth .

August 13, 2013 1:51 a.m.

Goody says... #28

August 13, 2013 1:52 a.m.

Queima says... #29

Epochalyptik congratulations!.. english is not my mother lenguage, so excuse me in advance for any grammar, i wanna say this is the first time a read something about what building a deck really means for me.. its not just choosing the best card you can afford or puting in 4 copies of A card with 4 copies of B card because they combo.. and ive found that many, many, many decks fall into that.. in casual, EDH, standard, modern.. the only place where that is not so common is legacy or extended.. but you can still find, a really like this article, im looking forward to read some more and im glad i found someone who thinks the same way i do about deckbuilding..regarding how to follow.. i would suggest you do it your way, i mean, the way you feel more confortable.. as a reader, talking about each of the categories, with cards or decks examples would be pretty usefull.. and examples of what not to do, help a lot to understand your, congratulations again and ill be following regards

August 14, 2013 10:21 a.m.

First, this article was really catering my taste. I like how you explained general concepts without using examples, but rather forging words around the essence of the topic (sorry, still in rpg mode).

Most people don't want to push you, and neither do I. However, that wont keep me from mentioning a few wishes, of course without any obligation to fulfill them.

I'm hoping for a - how should I put it? Well, let's call it philosophical - in-depth analysis of each of the seven cardinal virtues of the deckbuilder. That means, I'd prefer a general methodology over too specific examples. Once I know what and how to do, finding the right cards is not a problem.

These ate the questions I hope to see answered:

  1. What is [virtue], which points define it?
  2. How do you measure it correctly?
  3. What methods can be used to achieve it, independent of the actual cards we apply them to later?
  4. How do I avoid interfering with other virtues?

It shouldn't be necessary to mention that I'll read anything that follows up to and in the style of this article. Having those points covered would be great, however.

August 14, 2013 11:44 a.m.

sadiuh says... #31

Pretty awesome tips.Thanks!

August 14, 2013 11:47 a.m.

After re-reading the post, I realised point 2 might need some explanation.

For example, when evaluating synergies, my approach would be to take into account the synergetic value of every single card to each other card and to all other cards, getting a Synergy rating for every single card. Then to evaluate the overall synergy rating of the deck, avoiding to have - for example - few cards with a very high synergy to every other card, but the other cards having none or even negative synergy among themselves.

August 14, 2013 11:58 a.m.

MindAblaze says... #33

@ Triforce-Finder

...and the trick is not valuing the synergy so high that you're running subpar cards because you want a certain effect. Take...Spread the Sickness vs Doom Blade as an example.

August 14, 2013 12:04 p.m.

@ MindAblaze!

Exactly. That's what the point about avoiding interference with other virtues was about.

I didn't want to show off my methods (since they're okay but far from perfect), or go too deep into the topic either, just meant to clarify what I meant by "how to measure".

August 14, 2013 12:45 p.m.

MindAblaze says... #35

Ah yes, point 4. lol.

August 14, 2013 12:52 p.m.

Queima says... #36

I think finding an accurate way of meassuring the synergy or cohesivness for the cards is really would have to assing a synergy level to each of the cards with each of the other cards..card A has 9 synergy with card B, 8 with card C, 5 with card D... and so on..then card B has synergy 9 with card A, 5 with card C, and son on with each card...its really complicated, and absolutly arbirtrary and subjective...i think synergy or cohesiveness should be considered in a full deck scale.. not on a card on card should evaluate the whole decks functioning, selecting those cards that work better with the specific plan of action.. then you could find examples of that dinamic in other cards and see if any of them works better for the "full decks plan"...and finally, select those cards that dont help much to the full deck, and analyze if they help your Flexibility, Resiliance or Sustainability... for instance, ramp and mana fixing.. help sustainability and may help flexibility, but you do not need to have a ramp-deck or a big beasts deck to find those cards useful and even necessary in some cases.. thats my point of view..and i would like to share with you one pretty simple elves deck (though non conventional) that i put together some time ago and even though its surely not perfect, i found that it works really really well against many different decks...even those who at first sight, should be able to defeat it easly... even when the curse of the game puts it at a clear disadvantage.. ya

August 14, 2013 1:10 p.m.

//sighs dramatically and puts on a well-studied frown before he starts his half-serious, half ironic ranting// Dear goodness... could people stop drowning my proposals in the discussion about a technique that was only mentioned as an example? However, the discussion is not uninteresting, and since you can't stop those things anyway, why not go with it. Might be fun. /drama-mode off


The Evolutionary Technique you mentioned is a good one, but it is best applied to improve a deck that has already been built to to a certain extent. It is actually quite similar to the routine I apply to improve decks. That is important too, as other players decks keep getting better and adapting is an ongoing process.

For the initial build, I find my method faster than running several half-baked versions of a deck in 20, 30 games to find out if it works, rebuilding it, running another 20 games, and so on. And it's only complicated if you make it complicated by using too much detail or even going mathematical. What is of course possible if you like that.

When I'm talking about rating, that can be as simple as: singles: good, combos:2 theme:okay, bad with card x or y. that for 10 to 15 cards, since you're playing cards more than once in a deck, doesn't seem to much trouble to me. Also, that's part of the routine that you most probably use when deciding if you add a card to the deck, so you're going through it anyway.

August 14, 2013 2:01 p.m.

It's great to see so much discussion! I definitely value your opinions and suggestions because, at the end of the day, this series is for the community. These articles are a way to pass on my knowledge to you all, so I greatly appreciate insight that helps me tailor the series to your needs.

I think I might stay away from specific examples. As Triforce-Finder mentions, the concepts are what is important. I may use a few this-vs.-that comparisons to better illustrate the idea, but I want the focus to be on the concept rather than an extrapolation to an example.

As for the question of how one measures a characteristic, I plan to go over the factors that influence that characteristic. As several of you point out, it's almost impossible to devise a sliding scale to grade a deck's characteristics, so the best approach is to define the various influences without trying to devise a relative rating system.

Any other general guidelines you want addressed or questions you want answered in the following articles? I'm drafting up my outlines, but I'm waiting on the actual writing until I have a good structure and enough material.

August 15, 2013 4:29 a.m.

zzzzsman says... #39

i am always looking to improve. thanks for the article

August 15, 2013 9:33 a.m.

Agog says... #40

Great article, awesome discussion

Sideboard design and execution is something I would love to see an article addressing. Since its so deck dependent and meta dependent, an approach like youve done here would be good to establish a framework around sideboards.

Deck archetypes and what they need to have and need to be able to handle is another core topic IMO. For example, every mid-game and control deck needs to be able to deal with an aggro deck because they peak early; every mid-game deck needs to be able to handle a control deck because they have had time to set up; etc. (Hopefully those are reasonable examples.)

August 18, 2013 5:20 p.m.

Loyalty says... #41

Fantastic article, and great information for beginner and advanced deck builders to keep in mind when constructing a deck.

May 7, 2014 7:18 a.m.

@HumanOverlord: Glad you liked it. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more information about each of the individual characteristics. You'll find the articles linked on my profile page, or you can go through the links at the bottom of each article.

May 7, 2014 3:43 p.m.

jasonhuebner says... #43

It's harder to do scores because the ratings are all relative. It's difficult to assign an objective score to a deck because there are so many factors that influence each deck and card choice.

August 30, 2014 3:09 p.m.

luisserpa says... #44

Great article, I really loved it. It gives so many things to think about my decks already built and the ones that I'm doing now.

September 30, 2014 7:54 a.m.

Tyr_W says... #45

Great list, it gives a great insight in what can be used to make a deck technically strong.

One thing I'd like to add and that is "personal connection". One of the key elements of winning in Magic is timing and overview. If you have little patience and find it hard to read the strategy of your opponent, then don't try that blue control-deck. Rather go for a deck that will win without too much interaction or sophisticated timing.

And when designing for EDH, a special characteristic is "gameplay". Especially in multiplayer format, it is important to avoid drawing too much attention too early in the game. This is one of the major drawbacks for Narset, Enlightened Master for instance. Also making sure it is more interesting for your opponents to attack each other instead of you is a virtue of a strong EDH-deck. Hornet Queen can provide such a barrier as her minions sting.

June 8, 2016 3:31 a.m.

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