This week I would like to regale you with a story. Like all good fairy tales, this one has a moral. Fortunately, this story also contains relevant Magic: the Gathering Deck Brewing strategy, and my personal steps for brewing a deck. So enough blah intro, let’s start storytime!
Step 1: Concept Development
Be it attempting to abuse a simple 2-card interaction in a never-before-done way or choosing a certain card and attempting to “break” it in a format, this is the most important step. An amoeba can throw together a seventy-five, call it a brew, and lose every game it plays. There must be a preconceived notion of what the brewer wants to happen before a successful deck can be created. In this scenario, I was attempting to break Unexpected Results in Legacy. Yes, it sounds stupid to use such a seemingly weak card in en eternal format when established cards like Show and Tell dominate, but it was the only card that compelled me to try Standard again. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. But when it did not, it was able to be reused, which makes it a mana ramp tool as well. So there was my concept, now to step 2.
Step 2: Find a Shell or Synergistic Cards| Step 3: Throw Together a List
I was trying to break a card that had never really seen eternal play before. This meant that I could not adapt an existing shell to fit the card, and instead I would have to find synergystic cards and abilities that would allow Unexpected Results to excel. In this case, I was looking for cards that would help me to control the top of my library and easily put one of maybe two or three fatty win conditions on the top. Any MtG player with the ability to read should see why this was doomed to fail from the get-go. I, however, was totally oblivious to this until a later step, as you will see.
Anyways, the first card to come to mind was Sensei’s Divining Top. Top is a great card in general for fixing draws and finding stuff, and combines well with shuffle effects and fetchlands. From there, I knew I was playing green, so I also decided to include Sylvan Library. The weirdly-worded card can provide extra draw at the cost of life, or set up good draws without costing any mana. These were my choices for top-control, and with 4 Top 2 Library, I was looking for some card advantage.
I really liked the prospect of See Beyond. Draw two, and shuffle an unneeded fatty back into the library for seemed like an excellent deal as a 2-of, since I only wanted to run 2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and did not want them in my hand at any point during the game, and See Beyond was a great out to the chance of drawing one. To that end, Brainstorm provides great hand fixing while shipping Emrakul if necessary when combined with a fetch. As usual, BS is an automatic 4-of.
Playing a 4-mana sorcery on turn 4 is also not great in Legacy, especially since it would mandate the inclusion of more land. So, like Food Chain decks, let’s play some mana dorks! Four Birds of Paradise and four Noble Hierarch should get the job done nicely. I also decided to include a playset of Coiling Oracle and Shardless Agent to take a couple of leaves out of Food Chain’s book again, because they add to the consistency of the deck and chump block when necessary.
Lastly was the protection. Let’s see… Playing Sensei’s Divining Top? Check. Also packing Brainstorm/fetchlands? Check. Two plus two makes Counterbalance. The card makes it very easy to stall for time while trying to set up a perfect Unexpected results, and I was psyched that I could easily integrate the two and have a well-protected combo. I also wanted 3 Force of Will; I deemed the deck to have enough blue cards to support it. With all of this in mind, here was my masterfully crafted list:
Legacy Unexpected Results
4 Coiling Oracle
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Shardless Agent
2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Unexpected Results
1 Sylvan Library
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Force of Will
2 See Beyond
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Tropical Island
3 Flooded Grove
2 Polluted Delta
1 Wooded Foothills
I was excited about the list. It looked to be well-rounded, and I was psyched to take it to step 4. Sadly, this is when reality struck and my dream fell apart.
Step 4: Playtest
I am a huge advocate of playtesting. Taking a preliminary list and throwing it into the gauntlet is far better than analyzing data from some statistics site like tappedout, as it gives an immediate look into what works well and what does not. Usually, I goldfish about five times with a list before this, but that does not constitute an entire step. Really, it should just be done. Anyways, I loaded the deck up on Cockatrice to give it a whirl. My opponent was playing Miracles, but I was able to nail a turn 3 Counter-Top lock off of a turn 1 Birds of Paradise and a turn 2 Coiling Oracle drawing me into the top, followed by Counterbalance. I was able to blindly counter his Brainstorm, as I was tapped out, and untapped with a Shardless Agent at the ready.
At this point, and deckbuilder would be stoked. The first list was performing admirably against what is likely the most controlling deck in Legacy. Turn five, with Counter-Top and Force of Will protection at the ready with an Emrakul on the top of my library, I cast Unexpected Results. As you can imagine, the results were… Unexpected.
Oh yes. After deciding to dedicate bulding an entire deck around the card, I completely missed that shuffle clause. My opponent was, naturally, unhappy at this and quit after the first game. Honestly, I was going to but he got to it first. So what’s next? I had a complete brewing failure, so what is Step 5? The final step is applicable to any deck that is brewed.
Step 5: Edit, Test Some More, Scrap, Repeat
It’s quite simple. Trial and error until things start to run smoothly. If things never start to run smoothly, as in my case, simply scrap the list. Most of the decks that I brew are complete failures that never make it past three or four playtest games, even with edits to the obvious and severe errors. However, after some changes, decks can start to take shape. Maybe that special nifty two-card combo that’s your favorite has to go because it’s too “cute,” but sometimes that gives the deck a winning edge. Trial and error. But always – ALWAYS – read the text box carefully.
I learned my lesson here, and I hope you gained something from my mistake. That’s all that can be done, learning from mistakes, and it makes us all better Magic players. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you all next week!