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The Fundamentals - Deck Building

First thing is first, about me.

My name is Ben W. This is my first ever article for Blackborder. I am a relatively new member of the Blackborder community, but definitely not new to Magic. I started playing right after 8th Edition was released, but you might think that is new considering that Magic came out in 1993. At any rate, since then, I have been building decks and creating schemes as to how to beat up my friends and my older brother…in Magic that is. My neighbors introduced me to the fine game of Magic. They showed me how to build decks when I was only 12! That was back when artifacts were still brown and Editions were white-bordered. At first, I struggled to understand the simple mechanics like regenerate and trample. I understood the game, but I had no strategy or intentions with any turn. It was “what is the highest mana cost I can play this turn?” or “how do I play the most spells this turn?”. Finally, it clicked. I started playing with strategy. The most important part was that my decks were being built with strategy now. I’ve designed well over 100 decks all on my own. I will be the first to admit, my first 50 or so were pretty terrible, but ask anyone that has played Magic against me in the last 4 years and they will tell you that I am good at making decks and better at using them. I have taken a stack of cards and made it into a well-functioning deck for numerous people. Now you probably think I am arrogant for saying those last few things, but hear me out. I am here to talk about deck-building.

Now on to the good stuff!

I’ve built decks for myself and for many other people. When I build decks for myself, I always have card biases. If I could, I would put Sol Ring into every deck, but that is just not in the cards. I usually take a liking to cards and try to fit them in to my deck designs. When I build decks for other people, it’s not me just making the best possible deck for that person with the cards at hand. I ALWAYS ask that person if they like the cards that are being put into that deck. If you don’t like the cards that are in your deck, then you don’t like your deck. When I make decks for other people, I want them to like what they will be using. Most likely, they will take the deck apart if they do not like it and then all the work that was put into making it will be wasted. When you make decks, consider those card biases, especially in casual Magic. If you like Lightning Bolt (who doesn’t) throw it into your red deck. If you like Swords to Plowshares (I certainly do) then throw it in your white deck. Now you might be thinking, “I only play Standard”. I have one thing to say to you…shame on you. You do not get Magic’s full potential when you only play Standard. Sure, I get it, “it’s the thrill of deck-building” or “you like the challenge in building with a small block of cards”. I understand what you mean. I recently built a Human deck using mainly Innistrad. I felt it was a major pain making it Standard only. If you play in Standard tournaments then more power to you. At any rate, put your favorite cards into your decks even if they are not the best card possible especially if you are playing casual like I do. This way your deck represents you. Deck-building is extremely personal. As I said before, it is not fun to play with a deck that you do not like. Now if you are playing in big tournaments, you may or may not need to. If it comes down to taking out your favorite cards, I say sideboard them. Sometimes it is best to get over your card biases if there is a prize involved!

I, however, have never once played in a Standard tournament. I love using old cards that end up having awesome combos with new cards. For example, when Mirrodin came out (the first time) there was a pretty simple artifact that almost everybody knows called Energy Chamber. Coupled with a brother Energy Chamber or a pair or Coretappers, Magistrate's Scepter will give you infinite turns. I put this combo in my original Myr deck. Other simple and obvious combos like Walk the Aeons, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and Crucible of Worlds will also yield infinite turns (if you can pay the three Island buyback in the first place). My other crazy deck combo that I use is the Dark DepthsVampire Hexmage combo. It is in essence the new Phyrexian DreadnoughtStifle turn 2 play.
I build decks that are fun to play with. Building fun decks is, well, fun to say the least. Pulling off some crazy infinite combo to kill your opponent to avoid death on your opponent’s next turn is always the best feeling in the world. Maybe not even an infinite combo, but cards that work so well together it is almost unfair. 

Here’s a scenario:

My opponent is at 26 and has multiple creatures on the ground and a creature in the air. I have out a Salvage Titan, Disciple of the Vault, Frogmite, Vault Skirge equipped with a Bone Saw and Piston Sledge, Ichor Wellspring, Sol Ring, Vault of Whispers, and Seat of the Synod. In my hand, I have a second Salvage Titan and in my graveyard I have multiple artifacts that were previously sacrificed. If I do not win this turn, my opponent will win next turn by way of a pair of Blightsteel Colossi. I attack with the Vault Skirge and my opponent chooses not to block it. That puts him at 21. I sacrificed my Ichor Wellspring to re-equip the Piston Sledge to my Salvage Titan. That puts him down to 20. My drawn card from the Wellspring…Disciple of the Vault. I cast the Disciple without a second’s hesitation. I sacrifice the Salvage Titan, Vault Skirge, and Bone Saw to play my second Salvage Titan; that’s 6 life. I remove three artifacts from my graveyard to return the Titan to my hand. I cast the first Titan by sacrificing the other Titan, the Frogmite, and the Sol Ring; that’s another 6 life. I again return the Titan to my hand and re-cast it by sacrificing the other Titan, the Vault of Whispers, and the Seat of the Synod; that’s another 6 life. So now, we stand with him at 2 life and I have out a Salvage Titan, Piston Sledge and a pair of Disciples. I equip the sledge to the Disciple by sacrificing the Titan. That is the final 2 life. I had exactly enough artifacts in play to kill my opponent in time. Thankfully, he did not block the Vault Skirge or else I would have lost with around 20 poison counters. This did actually happen to me and I am not making it up. Oh, and one more thing, this was on turn 4. This is the deck I used for that game. Its mostly the same with a few minor changes.

Black Blue Artifact

Converted Mana Cost
Artifact Creature16

The original intention with this deck was to cast a Salvage Titan as soon as possible and has since transformed into this crazy unorthodox Arcbound Ravager-Esque deck. Granted, it doesn't compare to that deck and it doesn't exactly operate on the same mechanics, but it is almost as effective in my eyes. My favorite part of this deck has got to be playing my entire hand on turn 1 with no lands.

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Now this fun combination of cards would have never occurred if I only played standard. Especially considering all the restrictions my deck would have with the artifact lands in there.

I may sound like a pessimist in regards to Standard, but I am not. I just feel like you are not getting the full Magic experience by only playing Standard. I am not saying that people should not play Standard. You can play whatever you want. It is the joy of deck building and playing that drives me. Every deck is unique and every game is completely different from the next. I can safely say that because every player builds his or her own personal deck. Sure, people might end up with the same 60 cards and 15-card sideboard, but the way people play their creations is what makes a game unique. Deck building is and always will be a learning experience, but most of all it will be fun. Build your own decks. Look at other deck lists to get ideas. Trust me it helps! Help others with their deck lists. Do not hold back from building your own creation the way you want it to be!

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