Also known as: Breaking Through: A Crab, A Doctor, and A Priest Walk Into a Bar…
Sometimes a good idea just isn’t good enough; or at the very least, its time has not yet come, or maybe has passed. When you build decks “for a living,” these concepts need to be quickly learned or else you could very well go mad at the thought of days of hard work being flushed down the drain. Once you accept the fate of being a deck builder though, there are lessons to be learned from every project, good or bad.
This is the premise behind the new video series that should hopefully be going up within a few days of this article. The idea that 9 out of 10 decks a person works on will fail has often been cited as fact, but there has never been any type of live progress detailing just that. Hopefully, this new series will be a bit of insight into the world of a deck builder and therefore be simultaneously educating and entertaining.
Deck Doctor is a fun series to shoot, but it is a little different than this new project (working name: Rogue’s Recipes). In Deck Doctor, we are very much trying to turn around decks that those in the community are excited by and make them as competitive as possible. Sometimes there are successes, other times failures, so in that sense, it is just like deck building from a personal stand point. Where it differs though, is that the creations are never my own. I can only try to get into the builder’s head and come out with what I believe is a build that remained true to form. With Rogue’s Recipes, everything from top to bottom will be my own, making the journey that much more smooth and intentional.
Each deck will be something I am just experimenting with. Some lists will be more competitive than others. Some lists may break a format while others break themselves. Some lists may have weeks dedicated to them, while others have only 2 or 3 matches under their belt before being designated a trash can. Hopefully the series will be a candid look into the world of deck building from a rogue or brewer’s perspective through all of this.
The series will probably become weekly eventually, but to start off they will trickle in while I figure out the best scheduling for it and Deck Doctor together. Just to summarize before we move on to the deck itself:
-New decks will be featured that are of my own design.
-The building process, including tweaks, will be highlighted.
-A deck will remain featured until it is debunked or is highly polished.
Hopefully that is clear enough, but if not, feel free to ask questions in the forums and I will try to get all of them answered. Now lets move on to the first project that should be going up in video form on or around the date of this being published.
Alright, that isn’t the real name, but it was the most comical thing I could come up with on the fly that didn’t directly reference genitalia. To be fair though, this deck doesn’t really have a name, so we will work with that for now.
After GP Atlanta, I was able to really clamp down and witness the power of [card]Vengevine[/card] dredge strategies for constructed purposes. In Atlanta, I had the aid of some more synergy driven cards, like [card]Extractor Demon[/card], and ways to push through your combo, like [card]Thoughtseize[/card], but for the most part, the core of the deck still existed in Standard. I had been working on getting my deck into my graveyard for a little while when a reader submitted a dredge strategy to Deck Doctor. In order to see the strategy from a different angle, I decided to feature it, and although some of the components were a bit lacking, like Riddlesmith, the process opened up my mind to a few different directions I could take the strategy.
I went back to the lab and continued to work on my more traditional version of the deck. [card]Riddlesmith[/card] just required too many cards that didn’t do enough on their own which was dramatically holding the deck down. I was looking to increase the density of cards that actually cared about either being in your graveyard or getting other things to the graveyard. There are a lot of cards that fit this bill, but only a few that are really constructed worthy. The defined list as I had it included:
While other cards were OK, such as Grim Discovery, they didn’t excite me enough to try to build around them. After a master list like the one above though, the build around process becomes a lot more tedious and will hopefully be what is documented on camera. Unfortunately for that list though, one of the cards fit less well than the others as far as a valid shell goes, so Kuldotha Phoenix was left on the sidelines for this particular build.
The deck underwent a ton of changes over the few weeks that I worked on it, which for the most part will be documented on video. The exception here is that I failed to record the early development of the deck and therefore had to simply do a recap of the early stages. Basically I was not intending to debut this deck with this series but jumped on board that plan a little ways into the tweaking process. Hopefully the background information will suffice though.
I do not plan on posting every list as I progress through the deck, as that sort of defeats the purpose of the videos in general, but I will be posting the initial list from where I began as well as the finished product. Keep in mind that sometimes that finished product will be the list I found myself liking the most, and other times it will simply be the latest version of the deck before I decided it was not worth the time and effort and move on.
For reference, here is where this beast started:
As you can see with any rogue deck you begin to work on, taking small steps is key. We began with a master list of 4 different cards. From there we narrowed that down to 3 cards and then built a deck using all 3 of those cards in maximum capacity. If we were to try out a bunch of funky numbers from that list, we would not be able to generalize our findings in a significant manner. We need to at least figure out if those cards are actually worth building around and in order to do so, maximizing their numbers gives us the greatest chance and seeing as many interactions with each as possible. We are not going into this particular list with the assumption that it is going to be metagame breaking, but we are hoping to work our way to that point.
In some ways then, this first list isn’t even a real deck list so much as the closest thing to a vacuum we can create to test out our master list. Once we establish the effectiveness of our general strategy, we can begin to move around the various support pieces on our way toward creating a viable deck. I will leave the rest of the strategy portion up to the video, as repeating myself hardly seems efficient, but hopefully this is a solid precursor to it.
Keeping It All In Perspective
One thing that I think many video viewers do not keep in mind is that not all videos are looking to accomplish the same thing. Just as you would not expect a ton of theory work in an article about a certain deck and its match ups, you should be looking at individual videos in this same way. The reason players tend to get caught up on technical play during videos is that it is something they are constantly exposed to, even if it is not the purpose of the video.
Generally, things like draft videos are intended to both be entertaining, but also showcase good drafting skills and technical play, so being critical of certain plays here is fine. But once you begin to look at a series like LSV’s “Running the Gauntlet,” “Deck Doctor,” or this new series, the emphasis should change.
While technical play is still going to be a component and obviously awful play is going to hurt results, the emphasis is on the matchups or the feel of the deck. When I play a deck for Deck Doctor, it is the first time I have ever picked up the deck. While I feel I play the decks fine, I obviously make some mistakes that would not occur later in the learning curve. If everyone were able to pick up a deck and pilot it perfectly, there would be no need for playtesting, and yet Pros obviously engage in plenty of playtesting. Some interactions, cards, or plays are just not obvious at a first run through. And so while I think I probably catch more of these plays than many would, I am going to miss my fair share as well.
If the play errors are not so drastic that they are masking the effectiveness of the deck being tested, they can largely be ignored. Again, there is a learning curve here. Now if the same mistakes are being made during game 20 that were made game 1, there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, but it is still only secondary to actual game play.
Part of good testing is wading through the data and plays that don’t matter to come out with the best idea of what the decks you were testing actually could accomplish. Letting the occasional take-back or stop and talk-it-out moment occur are natural and only help the deck builder to figure out exactly what his creation needs to be doing. Note that testing at this time is different than polished list testing, where you are just figuring out the specific high-level interactions between two decks. Again, focus on what matters here and you will come out ahead.
I only bring this point up because it seems like time after time there are complaints in forums about small play mistakes being made by people taking a deck out for their first outing. This is Magic people; its a pretty hard game.
Alright, I know this article was a little bit scatter brained, but hopefully it makes for a nice companion to the kick-off of this new video series.
Speaking of video series, Deck Doctor got delayed this week due to the finals getting corrupted during the uploading process, so I need to re-shoot the deck du jour if you will. Hopefully the daily drafts and other series have made up for its absence and I will get it up as soon as possible, most likely next week. As always, you can send deck submissions into [email protected] and thank you for the continued support there.
As always, thanks for reading and be sure to say hi if you are going to GP: Dallas. I have a somewhat spicy brew lined up and am looking forward to the weekend. Good luck to everyone going (unless you face me of course).