Beginner Planeswalker Guide: Building a DeckFebruary 21, 2019
This is an ongoing series of Magic articles aimed at welcoming people into Magic: The Gathering!
So you know how to play Magic and you’re quickly growing a collection from attending limited events (prereleases, drafts, etc). It’s time to try out building a deck!
Deck building can feel like an overwhelming process. I’m hoping to help it feel a little less overwhelming with some tips.
First of all, I recommend starting out by finding a preconstructed deck that you really like and building your first deck by swapping out cards to try to make the deck better or more catered to your style. You can also look at net-decks to see what decks are doing really well in the tournament scene.
However, let’s focus on building a deck from scratch in case you’re ready for that step.
Your deck must have a purpose. This can be as simple as building your deck around a specific card, mechanic, or wanting to turn your draft deck that you really enjoy playing into a constructed deck. No matter what has inspired you to build this deck, synergy will be the most important component. Every card matters and should be in the deck for a reason, working with the other cards in the deck.
Know your style and build to your strengths. Your first deck should be based in your favorite 2 color combination, something you are comfortable playing with mechanics you are familiar with.
Constructed decks should be 60 cards exactly. You should have somewhere between 23-25 land cards, roughly 25 creatures, and roughly 10 spells. This will vary based on what you are aiming to accomplish. A creature focused deck might have fewer spells and a deck that relies on tricks might have more. If you are unsure, 25-25-10 is a safe start. Keep in mind that you cannot play more than 4 of any one card, with the exception of basic lands.
Make sure you have a good curve. What this means is that your cards make a nice bell shape when laid out in order of mana cost. You don’t want too many high-cost cards or too many cards that only cost one mana. Basically, you want to make sure you have a play every turn. It should look something like this:
Once you know what cards you want to start out with, you’ll need to figure out what lands to use. The three main factors in this decision are (in order of importance): 1) how many cards of each color are you playing, 2) what color will you need for your first few turns, 3) how many cards require multiple of one color to cast? In general, it’s best to be close to equal with your land, but if you only have a few cards in one color you will obviously need less of that land type.
You also have the option to have a 15 card Sideboard, meaning cards that you can swap into your deck between games. The best cards for a sideboard are cards that will help you against specific deck archetypes, such as enchantment or artifact removal.
Don’t expect to immediately build a deck that will have you winning 4-0 at the next Friday Night Magic event. You can build a pet deck – meaning a deck that you build for fun because you like to play it. Your deck doesn’t have to win all the time, but you can always be trying to make it better by swapping out cards and seeing what works best. Just practicing this will help you become a better Magic player.
Which leads to the last step of deck building: practice, practice, practice. I recommend testing your deck with as many friends that will play with you. Bring your pet deck to other events and ask people to play between rounds. Like all skills, deck building takes a lot of practice and patience to get right. If you’re like me, you might decide to only play limited formats because constructed deck building just isn’t your thing, and that’s okay. One of the best things about Magic is that there are so many ways to play.
I hope this helps some players build their first constructed deck!