Heya Strictly Friends! I’ve missed you guys, and have missed sharing my random thoughts and ramblings. Today, I wanted to take a bit and write about the most common questions I am asked across all mediums in Magic: “What deck should I play?” Everybody you talk to will give you a different answer. Recently I have put a lot of thought into this, and I have started to change my approach to deck choice for different events.
The first question I ask back when someone asks me what deck they should play at XXXXX event is simple. What are your goals for playing Magic at this event? This question does throw some people off, but I feel it is the most important thing to consider both when choosing what deck to play, and in some cases what event(s) to play. This refers more to lower-level events, but asking yourself that question will help guide you in deck decision, even at larger events (I’ll get back to larger events in a few; for now, let’s stick to weekly FNM style events). When attending weekly events at your LGS, you may find that you have many possible and varying goals week to week.
My current goal at FNM is simply to test out more cards, and variations on my Modern UW control deck. On a week to week basis with that as my goal, I don’t necessarily consider what deck to play. Instead I consider what silly tech will I try out. Getting more practice with a deck is a viable goal for attending a weekly event.
Another scenario that comes up often is using Magic as a tool to just get outta the house. Some weeks I just want to get out of my house (the one downside of working from home) and see my buds. This means playing a deck like my current UW list, or a deck like Storm are off the table. These are the weeks I gravitate towards Burn or a similar deck that will let the outcome of my match be decided in the first 7 minutes of the round. I can spend time between rounds talking to friends and trolling other guys playing grindy matchups.
On some rare occasions, my goal for a weekly event is to just plain have fun, not care about winning, and do things unexpected. Have fun with my opponents by playing a deck they do not expect, or decks that leverage cards not commonly played. With limited live MTG time these days, this scenario is few and far between. A couple gems from this goal are my short love affair with Mono-Blue Turns (Back when Jace, the Mind Sculptor was banned, and Nexus of Fate was just a bad idea and not a card) and my short spell-slinging fling with Troll Worship. Brief Disclaimer: If you are strapped for cash and trying to earn credit or cash from weekly events, this is a terrible idea. But loads of fun!
My final weekly goal for deck choice is the ‘HOLY COW, I just got this super sweet card, now I need to show it off to my friends’ goal. It may sound strange that I would actually include this; but let’s face it, they call me Strictly Average for a reason. Recently, I acquired a playset of my most sought-after card. The one I have always wanted, but never owned. And that is the WCMQ Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. So, in order to properly show her off to my friends, I am working on shoring up a UW spirits list that will allow me to cast her in all of her foil glory. This deck probably will never see ultra-competitive play for me, as it’s just not my style. But with a goal of sick brags, this deck choice is perfect.
Take a step back and look at this theory; ask yourself what your goals are for an event at the larger scale? If you’re heading to a PPTQ, IQ, GP, or an Open, the level 1 answer is to win as many rounds as possible. If you are going to one of these events for the first time, or are generally a novice at higher level play, the answer is to play your most comfortable deck. This ties into the goal of winning as many games as possible and getting better.
For those who regularly attend these events, the equation gets super complicated. I mean, Differential Equations complicated. ‘Well, such and such a deck is better than this one.’ ‘So and so won an event last week with this one deck, everyone is gonna try to beat them with this other deck, and I am gonna be Smart and Level 3 them by choosing the deck that beats the deck that beats this other deck.’
This is all enough to make you go mad. Simply put, having clear goals for a larger event will help guide the deck choice. I attended a Standard PPTQ a while back, and it was after the emergence of RB vehicles style decks. My goal for that PPTQ was straightforward. I didn’t want to lose to RB, so I crafted my deck to hose RB. (Truthfully this was a poor decision because I went 2-3 at the event). Although I did terribly versus non-RB matches, I didn’t lose a single game to RB. Some may read this and think I failed because I went 2-3. Nope, I succeeded in my goal. I was happy with the outcome because it led to adjusting my overall decklist and playstyle for the rest of that standard format. And Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Search For Azcanta have paid for themselves multiple times over in prizes.
I hope after sitting through this random stream of thought that the next time you ask yourself, or someone else, ‘What Deck should I play?’ you follow up with asking yourself ‘What are my goals at this event?’
Be Kind to eachother!
Jeremy aka “Strictly Average” is an ‘average’ guy with ‘average’ plans. He is the creator and overboss of Strictly Average Gaming, which includes the Patreon group and StrictlyAverageMTG.com