Breaking Through – Misconceptions


Prior to breaking through onto the Pro Tour (see what I did there?) I, like many of you, heard the constant debates surrounding issues that seemed to be totally opinion-based and arbitrary. I would take a side, because after all, that is what you do in an argument situation, but the data and basis behind both arguments always seemed flawed and overly general. In essence, everything was an argument going nowhere, and changing nothing. Everyone is familiar with the issues, like whether the casual or pro player is more crucial to Magic’s survival etc. They have no true answer and each person can come up with 50 different reasons to support one side over the other.

Amidst those petty arguments though, the occasional point would come up that was deeper and more philosophical, yet equally misunderstood. I am not claiming to know all of the answers here, but I do have some opinions and some new thoughts on such arguments that I would like to discuss today. The first is a popular one that a forum poster mentioned on a recent article of mine. Allow me to quote (paraphrase) here, although the misspelled words have been corrected. Straight from the keyboard of one “F*** you metagamers”

“I hate those fat boorish magic players who run nothing but blue, white or W,U,G, all they do is think of the metagame and build decks that counter and control. Its like these decks don’t even take skill to play. Some cheeseball combo usually ends up winning the game and they run with like the most staked cards in magic history.

Vendilion Clique is a bad card. Same with path and same with Tarmogoyf. I went to FNM and I saw about 5 metagamers running the same deck. They really take the fun out of this game and they cant possible conjure up anything remotely creative.
_Lets pick all the best cards and throw them in a deck so well be sure to WIN metagame FTW!_

I ran a mono colored discard deck, not that original i know, but my deck only cost 50 bucks compared to all these power gamers running with only pure rares in their decks who ended up getting whooped. Their jaws almost dropped in amazement that cards they thought as useless like mires toll, and quest for the nihil stone where whalloping the **** outta their metagame control decks.

No offense Conley but its people like you that take the fun outta games.
The fat magic elitist that think their somebody cause they can outsmart somebody in a card game.
Stop writing articles and go get a life or something.”

Now, this post brought two things to mind; one simply being a spin off of the other. I understand that the first thing to do when reading this is to jump down this poster’s throat and tell him how ignorant he is, but that accomplishes nothing, and sadly, he is not alone in these thoughts. While the “No Metagamers” argument may be new to me, the “No Netdeckers” argument certainly isn’t and this is just a different form of it.

It is a common trend among casual players to hate those players who netdeck because they see the act as a cop out. They believe these players have no deck building skill of their own and therefore turn to the Internet. Unfortunately, part of this negative stereotype has come about due to the name given to the group. The term “netdecker” just seems spiteful in nature and definitely contributes towards the negative opinions generated at the group from those who do not know the reality of the situation.

Magic is a complex game with multiple layers of strategy and game play. Being a good player is a prerequisite to being successful but being a good deck builder is not. In fact, being a deck builder is a skill that only a small portion of the community shares, yet at the same time, they tend to be missing some other skill that another player may possess, such as deck tweaking, metagame predictions, or drafting. Look at a sport to examine the fine differences between various skill sets. Because a basketball center has good post moves, should every player be required to be proficient in the post? Or if they are skilled in the post, should they not have adapted moves from a different post player?

Borrowing decks from online is simply an admission that the player wants to win and does not feel confident in his or her own deck building skills. This is just an admission of a flaw with a apparent solution that is being utilized. When looked at from that angle, it is much harder to accuse these players of faulty anything. If you insist on blaming them for being thieves and non-creatives, they seem to be much easier to target. Those without the talent to sing, do not sing, or admit to their lack of ability. Those without the ability to build should not be outlawed simply because they also wish to enjoy the greatest game around.

Likewise, those that metagame should not be attacked because they think a level above where a player may wish to think. Everyone has gifts and plays into those gifts. The same argument is used to berate pro players for “making the game less fun.”

Magic is unique in that the professional players play amongst the competitive, but not quite professional, crowd. You will not find Kobe or Lebron playing at the local gym too often. Yet still, who accuses Kobe or Lebron of ruining the game for the non-professional crowd? No one.

Basketball has been around long enough that people understand their role within the game. The backyard players realize that they are not Kobe or Lebron and stay away from NBA tryouts because of that. Yet in Magic, due to the underground nature of the game, everyone shares most of the same environments and common grounds with each other. This means the player looking to make a living off of the game might be sitting next to the EDH superstar. Still, just because the physical lines are blurred does not mean that all of the lines should be.

If you are a casual player and wish to play only casual, avoid tournament structures. I understand FNM is one of the lower level tournaments, but it still remains a tournament. Tournaments for anything serve one purpose, and that is to determine a victor. If your number one priority is not to win a tournament, and you choose to still attend one, that is perfectly fine, but do not blame or berate those that do. Just as a pro player would not force themselves upon a table EDH game and criticize everyone for playing casually, one cannot show up to a competitive environment and accuse those involved of being competitive.

There is no reason the two halves of Magic cannot live together, and for the most part they do. In fact, in general the halves help each other, through trading, idea sharing, etc. The important thing here is just to understand your own identity and know where you fall. If you can define yourself, then you no longer need to define others and subsequently accuse them of crossing some line.

Wizards understands the lines here and has gone so far as to create the Wizards Play network in an effort to allow casual crowds their own devices. A player wanting to win should never be scrutinized on that fact alone so long as they remain honest in doing so. Which brings me to my next misconception. this one more from the other end of the play spectrum.

Winning is all that matters.

That my friends, is a phrase you will hear countless times on your way to the top of this game, yet maybe only a handful of the times, will the speaker actually understand what that phrase entails. The actual words contained in that phrase are simple enough, and are basically true, assuming you wish to play competitive Magic.

The problem with that phrase is the connotation with which it is used, and the baggage that it has picked up. The other day on Twitter, Mike Flores, Aaron Forsythe, myself, and various followers were discussing the success of past rogue designers. The names that came up are irrelevant here, but one follower noted that winning was all that matters and rogue designers hamper their chances by forcing rogue.

The argument stems from this idea that having fun directly conflicts with one’s end goal of winning. In reality, there is nothing that prevents these two items from being mutually exclusive. In fact, going beyond them even having no impact on each other, some would argue that having fun directly caters towards your ability to win!

Winning may be the result we each look to reach, but the path upon which we take to get there is going to be different per individual. We have definitely seen some trends, such as “playing the best deck” that tend to work more often than not, but these are still only supported by small sample sizes. Just because winning through different methods has not been extensively tested does not mean it does not work.

The problem here is that players tend to project onto you what they either must do for themselves, or have done for themselves. Yes, sometimes, even most of the time, this will help you improve and likely increase your winning percentages, but to be so tunnel visioned that you think that is the only way to reach a winning platform is just ignorant.

I have no problem with telling others that winning is all that matters, but when you begin to define the methods for that to happen, you have actually contradicted yourself. If winning is all that matters, how can it be that playing the best deck is what matters? Maybe for that person, playing the best deck does not directly lead to winning. Remember, by one’s own admission, winning is all that matters.

Magic is too young, both physically, and in theory development, to know exactly what works and what doesn’t work in such a law-like manner. This is not anyone’s fault, and is actually a beautiful thing that showcases the complexity of the game. Still, this leads to most “Theories” about the game being either too overly general to be useful, too specific to be useful (as in regarding a single card), or not true at all.

Claiming then, that winning is all that matters, is actually an overly general statement of theory that, while correct, states nothing of relevance. Instead, people interpret that phrase to mean a bunch of the things we have discussed like “Play the best deck,” which in and of itself, is another general theory as “the best deck” is a subjective interpretation. You actually take this general, do nothing statement, and begin to unravel it into some convoluted mess.

-Winning is all that matters
-To accomplish winning, play the best deck
-The best deck is the deck that has won the most tournaments so far
-Unless there have been no tournaments, in which case the best deck is that of general consensus
-But only play that deck if you haven’t discovered some better deck AKA” Broken the Format”

So yes, winning is all that matters if you wish to play competitive Magic, but how you go about winning is irrelevant, so long as you ultimately win. Do not be discouraged by those players who choose to tell you differently. Obviously it is of your best interest to take advice from those better than you and to learn from every mistake but there is no magical fool proof secret that will result in winning. This should not be used as an excuse to go all out and do everything radically different just to claim that it might lead to winning though. In fact, I would still argue that 95% of the time you should be running the cliché and “playing the best deck” etc. But, if you happen to be one of those people who discover that something else works for you, ignore the naysayers and run the game your own way. In the end, your results will speak for themselves regardless of how you get there. Avoid the blanket statements, which are ultimately what both of the above are, and maybe the mold will be broken. Thanks for reading.

Conley Woods

120 thoughts on “Breaking Through – Misconceptions”

  1. I can’t believe someone actually posted that. Even if you hate netdeckers, or metagamers or whoever is ruining your fun at FNM, why would you attack someone personally for how they choose to play the game. “No offense Conley but its people like you that take the fun outta games.The fat magic elitist that think their somebody cause they can outsmart somebody in a card game. Stop writing articles and go get a life or something.” Seriously? That alone condemns their opinion.

  2. Excellent article as always Conley. Your handling of this critic was excellent, and hopefully he will take something out of this article. It seems his rage comes from his own unwillingness or inability to spend money on the game, and has expressed this anger by attacking people who can. I hope he realizes that it is merely a different mindset that separates him from players who commit money and time into the game, and that believing everyone should play like him would detract from the diversity and advancement of the game. Once again, a great article, and an important one, especially for players newer to the tournament scene.

  3. Best. Article. Ever.

    My local Magic scene is incredibly casual. WHile fun, I occasionally want to play against decks that are built to win, not just do silly things. So, I loan out decks, then get crap for being a “netdecker” because I am running naya/jund/UWR etc. This article is something I am going to recommend all the haters read.

  4. I find it ironic that someone who was a self-proclaimed hater of “metagamers” used a discard deck, which is commonly known to shred up control decks. Bald-faced hyprocrisy, or idiotic brilliance?

  5. Actually this is SO informative for the general public that I suggest LSV giving/donating the article to the mothership.

    GREAT one.

  6. What does that guy even think “metagamers” means? Is it someone that has very expensive decks? Someone that “just throws a bunch of good cards together” rather than thinking about synnergy? Complaining about counterspells? I mean, to me, metagame means a very specific thing (playing the deck that has the best odds to win a tournament based on what other people are playing), but this guy has some other idea.

    It would be like saying in [american] football that it’s not fair that the other team uses the same plays as everyone else, when we go and make up our own plays and still win. I just don’t understand it.

  7. “I have no problem with telling others that winning is all that matters, but when you begin to define the methods for that to happen, you have actually contradicted yourself.”

    100% pure awesome! Conley, I will be incredibly sad the day you decide to leave the Magic community.

  8. Obviously this critic needs guidance, i discovered that this game is a learning curve, always, and sure you need to netdeck once in a while, but the format is evervolving and so should you netdecking skills or even your building skills. if you rock up to your local tourney and dont account for the lone rougue playing mono black discard then he deserves to win… but that doesnt make mono black discard better than everyone it makes him the guy ahead of the curve… you need to anticipate and react… both are skills the pro’s advocate and rock!
    Good One
    See you on Tour!

  9. It’s sad that such close-minded people play magic. Ironically, the poster of that comment is a bigger douchebag that he sees “netdeckers” and high level players as. I really dislike these hater types solely for the fact that they seem to always try and usurp the tournament scene with their own stupid little rules and self-imposed “honour systems”. It’s just like when you play fighting games and you get flak for beating people with “cheap” tactics.

    If you’re going to play tournament level magic, then don’t get huffy about people playing the best decks off of the net. Many people at FNMs play these decks because they genuinely want to get better at the game and possibly advance their play to PTQ’s and perhaps even GP’s and PT events. Most people are not going to give a shit that it’s unfun for haters; just because your singleton allies deck can’t beat Jund or Jace decks, either make a new deck and try to become better or go back to kitchen table magic. It’s that simple.

  10. Well done, whoever left that comment sounds like they have a number of personal issues.

    I myself am a casual player turned competitive, and I still like playing EDH or casual vintage. One thing I really love about this game is your ability to pick out your own game pieces. I fancy myself as some what of a good an innovative deck builder, and hope that if I can ever make it big it will be off the back of something I built. I do feel that part of the game has been lost to netdeckers, not because play becomes repetitive, but if everyone played what they really wanted there would be some new innovations. People will do what gets them the victory though.

    As always good read.

  11. The problem with both his post and this article is that I would wager the poster (and most people who bring up this argument) are not interested whatsoever in a debate. Here is a real life example of what I’m talking about:

    Guy: Hey, you’re just a netdecker!
    Me: And?
    Guy: FUCK YOU

    I know that looks silly and paraphrased, but it happened. It happens all the time. A friend of mine just loves to tell the story of the time he went to a standard event during Mirrodin block and everyone played Affinitiy, those netdeckers! Of course he went 0-3 drop and had a generally shit time, but it wasn’t his fault, it was those damn netdeckers!

    A formula 1 race car driver doesn’t design his car, just like a netdecker doesn’t build his deck from the ground up. Trying to explain this to seemingly immature people, who really don’t wish to even open up to the fact that they could be wrong, is fruitless. Some people are just assholes like that.

  12. Great article, Mr. Woods. I have heard these arguments as well and it’s nice to hear (read) someone else’s thoughts on the matter. I think there is a lot to be learned here beyond the scope of Magic.

  13. I think this was an excellent start or introduction to an article but as a whole it lacked substance for me. You do a good job of outlining some interesting issues but don’t really say or do anything novel with it.

  14. Lawl @sub1600rating’s attempt at being coy:

    “Dearest Conley,

    No offense, but you’re fat and you have no life. Please, for the love of God, stop being so good at Magic!”


    The Poopsmith.”

  15. I think a better overall conclusion would be Magic and social skills don’t go together too often. A lot of gamers bitch about anything and everything, and then wonder why they have a rough go of it socially. Just a self perpetuating cycle of negativity.

  16. Daryn Kimbtoughh

    Fantastic article. Conley Woods is fast becoming my fav writer on channel fireball

  17. Great article, but I feel it isn’t reaching the right audience here. Maybe a crosspost on mtgsalvation’s forums would reach the people who need to hear this.

  18. I like how you used the sports reference Conley and I will use another one.

    Netdecking is the Magic Equivalent of taking Steroids from the casual players perspective.

    A Casual player playing at FNM has been using his Megrim deck to great effect on the kitchen table. All his friends think that this deck is unbeatable and tell him to take it to FNM and take down the tournament and in only a few short months he’ll be slinging spells on the Pro Tour.
    Megrim is that good!
    But round one of FNM he gets killed by a Conley Woods creation. Megrim gets upset by this, and accuses the player of Juicing his deck with Conley Woods tech. Now every time that kid shows up at the FNM he has to give random deck samples and federal investigators are asking who gave him the tech, and how long he has been using it.

    Magic is a game.

    It is meant to be a fun one. Tournaments are not your kitchen table. You are there to win. If you don’t want to win don’t show up.

  19. And ye, Conley speaketh the truth to Spikes. And ye Spikes the world over rejoiced.

    I totally agree with you Conley. I might have missed you mentioning it but I would just like to point out that the main reason people bitch is they lost and can’t bring themselves to admit that THEY lost. It was always something else.

    Modern Americans (it could be an international thing but I don’t know many outside the US) fairly casually and often do not accept blame for their own actions/failures anymore. Ask a player how he lost a magic game. I can almost guarantee they won’t say because I didn’t play well enough. It was my fault.

    They will blame their opponents cascades, luck, the opponents netdecking or the bad match up. That’s why I like this site so much. You all man up to your mistakes. Even LSV in his last tournament didn’t blame his bad luck. He said yeah, I kinda got screwed but that match up was just not in my favor and I could’ve played better. Props to you guys.

    Sadly the common phenomenon known as nerd rage fell upon one of your articles comments. On behalf of the internet, I would like to apologize. Your articles are not only insightful and informative, they are entertaining and well written. Ignore the ignorant, they’re doing it to you.

  20. You always seem to put things in such a way to make me feel you are a very noble, and very intelligent man. It’s quite honestly liberating to know that there is someone else in the world who seems to think like myself. I feel that a person will never learn until they are mature enough to accept that they have a problem in the first place. The poster who attacked your weight and skill, of all things, and together, nonetheless, should really be lynched, but what did you do? You spent your own personal time to give the man an attempted path to his own maturity, as well as guiding the rest of us in accepting all different forms of gamers. You are a phenomenal person.


  21. wow. i’m glad someone was blindly ranting about how you create original decks that do well using such coveted rares as caldera hellion <_<

    anyway, i’m surprised that such an ignorant poster garnered this much attention but even more surprised but just how awesome this article ended up being. cheers : )

  22. Anthony Laflamme


  23. @ Conley
    It is really ineresting – the approach you are advancing in your articles, which I do like much, as it is always a good and informative read, and it makes you think.. Where I’m getting at – 95% of articles are centered on contemplating strengths and waknesses of certain archetypes, or meta predictions, or sideboard techs – and while been golden for people like myself, who don’t have time for extensive testing or skill for breaking the format with innovative deck, still want to go and win, so I just “netdeck” from pros’ articles the skill they put into writing one. And here you come discussing philosophy behind the game, way players think and ways to look at cards values. These, my friend, are priceless piece of read and you are truly unique and for that I am oh so grateful. And the great thing is that this reading doesn’t only affect Magic side of my life, which is a huge plus.

    @ on the “metagame haters” topic
    Being myself a former member of this camp I won’t astound anyone by saying, that most of these harsh words people say when they are sore from losing. And I too feel like saying something along this lines when I blow out the match, regardless if opponent is a netdecker or isn’t. So any reason goes and you get accused. This is where I’d like to add a small point – Remember your feelings after getting whiped by the tier 1 deck? Especially if the thing wiped was your precious homebrew unique design deck. I bet you were feeling “a bit” sore? No? Now you moved on and while maintaining some deckbuilding skills, you put more effort in fine-tuning decks other people came-up with, extensively tested and proved worthy. Nothing wrong with that, but remember your feelings from before and be a bit more understanding to a complaining crowd. As it was said – I think that the intellectual level of people playing THE GAME is mostly above average and they understand their words being not entirely true. Bu sometimes people just can’t help but feel sore and complaining is what people like to do :)))


    jk lol, i hate it when people say stuff like that – if you don’t metagame, how are you supposed to make a sideboard, or even playtest?


  25. this article was not your best. you posited a lame argument by a whiny troll and spent a lot of time refuting it.

    your skill in deckbuilding is world renowned. just share those thoughts. arguing with stupid whiny trolls is rarely productive.

  26. Mr. Woods, your intelligence transcends your deckbuilding skills.

    I was a former hater, till I played FNM, realizing that if you are going to play cards, you may as well play good ones. My own personal preference to not take it so seriously and to just play to catch up with people overruled any desire I had to hate. Besides, if you aim to metagame, you’ll win. If you ail to have fun, you’ll have stories to remember. (I still remember warp worlding into an auto kill with Valakut and 6 mountains)

  27. Excellent article, thank you again.

    I thought that people stopped using “netdecker” as a derogatory term somewhere around Mirrodin when the internet began to really give a frequently-updated look at which decks the best players were playing. We all need to be reminded every now and then that copying a deck from the internet is not necessarily a bad thing. Personally, I’m playing Naya in Standard thanks to LSV. I’m using a list very similar to what he used with a few (IMHO) minor alterations because he and Tom Ross and his testing group have spent countless hours that I don’t have to perfect the deck. It’s as though someone did all the work so all I have to do is practice it and learn how to play it.
    Some people really like building rogue decks and playtesting everything to iron out the deck list. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I’d rather take a proven deck and learn _how_ to play it like the pros do. Two paths to the same goal, really, though to be fair, the latter takes a bit less creativity and elbow grease. Still, no one can argue that anyone can take a prefab deck like Naya, Dark Depths, or Ad Nauseam, go into a competitive tournament without some experience playing the deck, and expect to cruise into the Top 8. The better and more prepared players will always do better in tournaments.

  28. Great read as always Conley.

    Some people just don’t understand the difference between a tournament setting and the circle of friends playathon. At it’s highest level magic is just as competitive as any sport or professional game. Hence the Pro Tour. Some people just don’t get this and will always look at MtG as “just a game/hobby” and that people who play it with higher aspirations than that are losers/fat/whatever.

  29. the article is great and your points are mostly all valid, people place value on diffrent areas of the game according to what they think is the best part or the most important, i have several friends who are just awefull players but i have no problem letting them tweak my main deck or round out my sideboard and have made the top 8 of several ptq’s because of there help and i respect that asspect of there game greatlly, i just dont have the deck building skill and its fine im a net decker i admit it, the sports examples fit this wonderfully

  30. Good article.

    One thing that could be added, is that time is an issue. A big issue for some people I’m sure, as basicly they would not be able to play constructed FNMs if they had to construct their own deck from scratch. So if you don’t have the time, you take a deck you like from the net, change a couple of cards maybe to fit your meta, and you go to the tournament and play it.

    So it is interesting that when you say A) “people shouldn’t netdeck and go to FNM”, you also claim B) “people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands shouldn’t play constructed magic at a very low level”. Pretty absurd.

    Maybe if you claim this, what you mean is more like A2) “People shouldn’t netdeck good decks and go to FNM”. Not that that is any better, because then you also claim B2)”People who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands shouldn’t play good constructed decks”. Also absurd.

    But I also understand those who don’t like those who “netdecks” (though you should think carefully about what you say and why, since you might accidently be expressing some weird views like the above). Maybe if you feel this way you should look to play “rogue” formats that are more casual. For example, you could have a format where you have your own ban list. So each time you play you could e.g. ban some cards which arent considered fun, and maybe unban some other cards, by vote.

  31. Good article, I applaud your efforts at dealing with the situation. Casual players gather their friends, head to FNM for some fun games with their friends and wind up playing tournament geared individuals, and feel like these game-stealing intruders are a major problem. I was in this camp once, then told myself what did I expect?

    I play in the heart of Sydney Australia a deal of the time, and the best decks Jund Bant Vamps are played constantly. I’ve gotten used to the “program” as it is and watch a match unfold, as a Baneslayer comes down (gasp from the audience) only to be Terminated, Jund player is safe! But what’s this, a SECOND Angel from Bant player, whatever shall Jund do? *dramatic overtone*

  32. @Andrew – Your comparison with fighting games is an interesting one. This is how the tournament scene was 5-10 years ago, but modern games are increasingly well designed such that there are fewer and fewer tactics worthy of complaint. Playing SF4 on PSN I’ve been insulted endlessly by players who weren’t happy about losing, but not one of them ever complained about cheap tactics.

    But interestingly, WotC may never fix the corresponding flaws in Magic, because it’s quite probable that their revenue is directly increased by having only small numbers of tournament-grade cards in each set. This would leave them quite naturally disinclined to make changes, leaving a subset of Magic players (and unlike Conley, I’m not convinced it’s just casual players) hating the fact that they just see the same old stuff over and over again.

  33. “If winning is all that matters, how can it be that playing the best deck is what matters? Maybe for that person, playing the best deck does not directly lead to winning. Remember, by one's own admission, winning is all that matters.”

    I don’t think I understand how this paragraph works out logically. Can someone explain what the first sentence I quote means? I thought you would play the best desk available if winning was all that mattered. Why would playing the best deck not directly lead to winning? These statements seem to conflict with the rest of the article.
    A little help here?

  34. The argument stems from this idea that having fun directly conflicts with one's end goal of winning. In reality, there is nothing that prevents these two items from being mutually exclusive.


    Your above statement is either miswritten or misedited. You mean to say that wining and having fun are NOT mutually exclusive. Yet you say there’s nothing preventnig them from being so.

    I am willing to edit content, let’s negotiate LSV!


  35. Nice article and discussion – for someone who rides both sides of the tracks.

    I love trying out something weird and wonderful (and usually useless) at FNM, but that’s because it’s the only time I get to play serious Magic against anyone face-to-face. Because my play-time is so limited I’ll netdeck every now and then, if I have the cards (3-1 last week with a stripped-down Boss Naya).

    When I do I don’t get any abuse – maybe it’s ‘cos I’m playing in the UK? Maybe because it’s a small and friendly group (typically 8-16 local folks)? Maybe because I do it only occasionally, and occupy the bottom 3 slots most weeks?

    I’m inclined to think that it’s the second option. When you know, and count as friends, the people you’re playing with you allow a little slack. When I load up MTGO things quickly change, as soon as I play a land destruction spell the abuse starts, or my opponent just quits the game.

    “That’s so gay!” was a comment I got last week when I blew out my opponent’s board with a Pyromancer’s Ascension powered double Lavaball Trap, quickly followed by ‘Player X left the game’ – but do the same thing at FNM and I just get a smile and ‘good game’

    Don’t want to get your feelings hurt by the nasty power players? Just play with your friends. Either that, or man up and accept that there are multiple routes to perceived ‘success’ and not everyone will follow the one you choose.

  36. In defense of net-deck haters…

    1. One of the important skills new player need to develop is that of playing in a tournament environment. For most, that new environment is FNM. Going to FNM with your cherished home-brew and getting destroyed is a time-honored tradition in Magic.
    2. Going to FNM and having the same person win, playing a Jund/Faeries/Affinity etc. deck that s/he copied off of the interwebs stunts the ambition of said new player, by making it seem that only by copying decks from the interwebs will s/he succeed.

    The metaphor of the baskeball player and the post move fails, I’m afraid. In our beloved game, for the least skilled players, it really is the shoes, not the moves, that win games. Given equal resources, the more skilled player will win most of the time. Given net-decks versus limited-card-pool home-brews, the net-deck will prevail. This doesn’t stunt the creativity of the game–it discourages beginners who otherwise would continue.

  37. Good article. I have always been a budget builder, but I’m also a metagamer, which means that I occupy parts of both worlds. I see nothing wrong with netdecking. I don’t do it, because I’d rather have the satisfaction of winning with my own deck, designed and assembled by none other than me. But at the same time, I recognize that you can’t blame someone else when you lose with your own deck. He who builds his own decks must accept responsibility for his losses as well as his victories.

    Besides, saying that netdecking is wrong is ultimately fruitless. As long as netdeckers continue winning with netdecks, we can’t expect them to just them to say, “Oh dear, we seem to be offending many thin-skinned, misguided players. Maybe we should stop netdecking so that we don’t hurt their feelings anymore.” That is not how the world works. People do what it takes to achieve their goals.
    So thanks, Conley. You’re a man after my own heart. You may play with better cards than this budget-building writer, but the spirit of innovation and the desire to explore the diverse possibilities that our great game offers should serve as an inspiration for all aspiring tourney players.

  38. Wow. Yet another Magic article that restates Dave Sirlin’s “Playing to Win” — only explicitly in terms of Magic and thus making it less universal. I wonder how many times the central truths in that work has to be rediscovered by other writers…

  39. ROFL at the post offering editing services … with a misspelling. That’s just classic.

    Conley, I love the article! It’s usually tough for me to sit through a conceptual Magic article and really give it a good read, but this one earned my attention, especially considering the source. Nice work amigo.

  40. Great article! I just wanted to say I think your decks are really innovative and it is inspiring to see a pro who consistently tries to make his own deck. In fact, the irony of the angry poster you quote in your article is that you don’t ruin the game, if anything you increase the possibilities of seeing different strategies! It’s also sorta absurd that he is upset that you just “took the best cards available” and made a deck, while they obviously made a metagame decision to bring discard to fight control decks!

    Anyway, keep up the good work man.

  41. So I’m a recently converted netdecker, now running LSV’s deck. I used to get frustrated by people who would netdeck, and follow the trends, but it makes sense to me now. I don’t get frustrated when my golf buddies go out and buy new clubs, and in my opinion, thats the same thing as netdecking. Its taken me hours of playing to get used to LSV’s deck, and i took many loses that I would not have taken if i was running my U/W ally deck. The decks are just tools that players use to play the game. you still have to be able to make decisions and play the game smartly, even if your deck is the consensus #1 deck. I also agree with the point that if you’re playing at FNM, you should be ready to deal with netdecking, and the top decks in the format. For most people, especially people who unfortunately cannot devote their life to traveling around the world playing magic, this is the only chance they get to play some level of competitive magic. if you want a casual standard game, I’m sure there are people in your store that will play casual decks, and then bust out Jund for FNM.

  42. The article is very good, I must re-read it in detail later, as I took a real quick look at it.

    The one thing that caught my fancy was Conley saying that in fact, Magic is too young. Wow. It’s quite the radical departure from people preaching the end of magic since 1996. While most players are wondering how to survive the current metagame, this dude actually foresees a future X years later where things will be understood differently. It’s a humbling vision. Well done.

  43. Well said Mr. Woods, well said. For many years I held contempt for the “net deckers”. I thought that any player worth his salt should be able to build his own deck and be successful with it. To that end, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade trying to be that perfect blend of player/deck builder. Looking back now, I realize I’ve wasted a Iot of time, energy, and money and caused myself a lot of unneccesary grief trying to go rouge. I have come to the realization that, as much as I may want to be, I’m probably not the greatest deck builder around and I may never be, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to be the best player I possibly can.
    I have a new resolve to finish in the top 8 at a PTQ in the next 2 years. I know in order to make that possible I need to play a competitive deck. Since I ‘m not among the Magic elite (yet 😉 ) so I have to look at tournament results to find out what those decks are.
    I hope other people who have aspirations of “goin pro” will read this article, and understand what took me 10 years to figure out on my own.
    Thanks for reinforcing my feelings on this matter Conley, and keep up the good work!

  44. @Zach something funny happens around here. Everyone is playing decks with sideboard hate against jund, with concrete plans against jund, hell, someone will even try the occasional spreading seas to spite jund….but no one plays jund!! The bogeyman doesn’t even exist. I am trying to finish a jund build to finish this nonsense (and also, to give a break to the Boss Naya build I’ve been using to dominate the tournament for two weeks straight ^^).

    I guess my point is that netdecking can get pretty silly when you plan your sideboard around a deck that doesn’t exist….

  45. When I returned to Magic (last played during Ice Age…) I came back with the attitude of “I’m only going to play my own decks.” At our 45-man FNM’s I was going 3-2 or 3-1-1 or sometimes 2-3 as a result. I did Top 8 once but only once during this timeframe.

    What it comes down to is a matter of pride. Eventually you get to the point where you’re either going to tame your ego, continue to fail, or quit the game. My recommendation to anyone that feels like this is to just get over yourself like I did.

    Netdecking/metagaming is a skill in and of itself. Your deck choice for your local scene should bear in mind what you expect others to play. You can start with a stock list from one of the greats like LSV or Chapin, (not-so-much Conley as his genius leads him to build decks for a single tournament rather than creating an archetype for a format) and it shouldn’t stop there. You should be testing the deck and tweaking it (and especially the sideboard!) If you’re questioning card choices and experimenting, you’re doing it right.

  46. Good article, but I disagree with a lot of it.

    I think part of the objection — and the frustration that casual players feel — comes from feeling like you’re not playing the same game as the guy across the table from you. We need to remember that it ISN’T fun to sleeve up your random homebrewed midrange deck and sit down across from somebody who Brainfreezes you out on turn two, and in recent years there have been too many instances where metagames devolved into similarly un-fun exchanges — I sat out most of last year’s standard because Faeries is SO not fun to play against (and Jund is only a little better). Saying “stay out of tournaments and enjoy sitting at your kitchen table if you can’t run with the big boys” is sort of ridiculous, as it excludes a huge swath of players from the game.

    Rather than basketball, we’d be better off looking at something like chess as a point of comparison, where ratings-determined (and capped) tournaments are a regular feature, and less talented players can actually win in a bracket of players of approximately equal skill. It’s a much more rewarding structure, as it provides an opportunity for players who have no illusions about being pros to compete and win against a field of players who are — to return to an earlier point — “playing the same game”.

    Magic is obviously a somewhat different animal, in that you still end up with a room full of weak players running the same netdeck (see the interminable MtGO Casual room debate), but it’s a step in the right direction to think about ways to include less experienced players in competitive structures that they actually enjoy and find rewarding. I’m not sure what the answer is, but feel I like an “Apologia for Spike” doesn’t really move the conversation forward all that much.

    The net result is that when these conflicts happen, the player who gets yelled at just shows up next week to win again, while the angry ‘casual’ player who wasted his Saturday night doesn’t show up again at all — and that’s much worse for the health of the game as a whole.

  47. Great article from a truly inspriational writer and magic player. Channel Fireball is definitely the best place for magic literature.

    Good on you son

  48. Extemely well written. Thank you for gracefully addressing an issue that’s been plaguing the game for a long time.

  49. A great read again,

    Obviously, one who would post such a comment is reading Magic articles on internet but would be in no way using it as a tool to improve his game but would rather insult a great player who is not even netdecking.

    Oh and I am one of the rare (though a lot less rare than people think) who enjoys competitive Magic and Casual. I travel to Grand Prix and then I have 2 EDH and am loving Planechase. It’s distinctive and are both fun and I would not like to do just one (competition or casual)

    Thanks for telling the community, though I am afraid that most of your readers are on the competitive side of the game anyway.

    Nicely handled, thanks for the read

  50. Excellent article, definitely made be think. might want to get an editor

    “here is nothing that prevents these two items from being mutually exclusive”

    i think you meant to say there’s nothing that “forces” the two items to be mutually exclusive

  51. hi conley,
    you are an inspiration to many magic players and the first thing i do when following at the pro tour coverage is to look for your deck list and it ususally just makes me smile. you’re awesome dude, seriously!

  52. AmenazainCreible

    At the beginning of my playing carrer (circa 2004) I was a kitchen table player. I really loved those days when I destroyed everyone else of my friends with a BW cleric deck with a forest splashed for a towering baloth and just 16 lands (since, you know, lands are useless, and after all I only need like 8 in play)…

    When I tried to move to the tournament scene (everyone back then dreamed with a life where you could earn cash for playing a game and also being immortalized on a card), I just got crushed. Myself, not the ragging type, got exact the opposite situation from the aluded. I was treated like the plague just because I was playing a “fun” deck.

    Rather than just rage at the unjust that is the world, I tried hard to learn the game, both at deck building and playing (Zvi´s articles at the mothership were trascendental for me, he even used my deck as an example of how sometimes you just cannot win =P). Then I returned to tournaments, still playing with my brews, and won. Probably they werent good enough for a PT, but at least they were good to bash those self proclaimed “Pro players”.

    Today, I have less and less time to make a deck from scratch, and have to netdeck to keep being competitive (Also, im not a mastermind, so I need help and ideas from time to time) . This is not something I am ashamed, since I never complained about this, but even when I adapt those decks to my liking and my meta, I dont get the same satisfaction that when I won with my brews.

    I somewhat understand the aluded player. Is really crushing to try to being competitive for the first time and see how your dedication goes down with the toilet water. Also, it can be intoxicating when your brew “defeats” the netdecked ones. Rather than be agresive and bitch when you lose, and mock netdecks when you win, you should learn about those triumphs and defeats.

    Winning at magic is more than just luck and “god draws” (they rather have an impact, though), or brews or netdecking. Winning means to pick a deck that you like (that doesnt have to be “the best deck”), and tune it and know it to a point where you reduce the chance to a minimum and every play and desition you make has an impact on the outcome of the game. At the end, every netdeck was a brew in somebodys mind, isnt it?

    It is still a pleasure to know about somebody that at a high competitive level still believes in innovation and is a good gentleman.

    On a side note, Netdecking isnt near the same as steroid use. Steroids arent something to use when you want to be “better” at something. They are illegal, have more severe consecuences and side effects, and can be really harmful if they are not properly used, and sometimes they sell you shit that isnt even fabricated for humans. Take it from somebody with a degree on Biofarmaceutical chemistry.


  53. Conley,

    Gotta say I love your articles, but I feel like you may have just taken a troll’s comment way too close to heart here, a casual troll at that. You write for a website dedicated to competitive magic articles lol.

    Good read none-the-less, so thanks.

  54. at the end of the day, if the pros are using/designing the decks…they’re pretty fucking good. why woudln’t i use these decks in a tournament? i have fun at magic when i just play, however, i have a lot of fun at magic when i win. just cause you want to design a deck of your own and lose to another popular good build, don’t hate the player, don’t hate the game…hate your deck.

  55. I’m really glad you addressed the netdecking, but you didn’t address the fact that not everyone who is an “elitist” is fat. 🙁

  56. I didn’t see my name. Is this some sort of one-way street deal on name-dropping?

    I think my favorite line is this one: “Just as a pro player would not force themselves upon a table EDH game and criticize everyone for playing casually, one cannot show up to a competitive environment and accuse those involved of being competitive.” I think that many small-time players (myself included) forget that, yeah, FNM is competitive. If my local FNM is dominated by a “netdeck,” then I shouldn’t be bellyaching because I showed up with Wacky Warp World or something — I should be figuring out how to beat it.

  57. Hey Man, nice read. I like it. Conley is willing to talk about some of the aspects of our game that not everyone takes the time to go into. And he serves one mean cup of joe over at EG!

  58. Excellent article. I can really relate because when I first start up in a new format, I have to find the deck that just feels right for me to play. Often times I just can’t do as well with the best deck because I either don’t enjoy it or don’t play it correctly. It’s easy to say that someone should just learn to be better with the best deck rather than playing something else, but you can even see that pros like LSV or Chapin will gravitate towards control even if it’s not the best deck. I think the idea of only one correct choice in magic is flawed because very different plays or deck choices can lead to similar results.

  59. I think part of the problem here is how much the “good” standard cards cost right now. BSA and Jace are around $50. The barrier to entry for standard is supposed to be significantly lower than other formats so newer players with limited resources can still be competitive.

    I realize that BSA and Jace aren’t necessary to make a good deck, but just about every deck I can think of can benefit from expensive standard cards. I wouldn’t want to compete knowing that I am starting at a disadvantage because I don’t have the high quality cards that others have.

    The whole mythic rarity idea is keeping newer players from being more competitive at the standard level. Expensive ($20 and up imo) cards belong in extended and eternal formats.

  60. I like to think about decks like medicine: Of course you’ll always keep trying to make something better than what’s already ‘in the market’, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the known answer.

    Imagine penicilin in the hands of those people with that ‘if I didn’t make it, I won’t use it’ line of thought o.0

  61. I like the kids in my area who call me a dirty netdecker as they shuffle up their Jund decks. LOL

  62. This article was excellent and deserves much praise. Absolutely the best article I have ever read on this website. I respect you a lot, as a player and as a highly intelligent person.

    Personally for me I am a guy who has made money on tour and on the money draft circuit and my favorite format, besides money drafting, is type 4. I also love me a cube draft! It is absolutely possible to be competitive and also want to have fun and goof around with your friends at the same time. Mind you, I like when these type 4 games and cube drafts are competitive, sometimes for money, and when the players know what they are doing, but to me that makes it more fun.

    Also, on that note, a certain write on this website from Brazil with a really long name and multiple pro tour top 8s but still somehow not a win (not to name names or anything) is the absolute worst type 4 player ever. We were playing at GP Boston and it was comical. =D

  63. “one cannot show up to a competitive environment and accuse those involved of being competitive.”

    thanks for being our voice. i have struggled to deal with these types of people since i began competitive play. i am about to print this off and go make a bunch of copies to hand out to haters at the fnm. i highly doubt that many of those players are gonna stumble upon this gem. this is after all, a strategy site….

  64. Great article, Conley.

    By the way, if you ever tire of playing and writing about Magic for money, you might consider becoming a lawyer with that logical brain of yours. (I say this in a good way, as I am a lawyer myself).

    Keep up the good work, both with the articles and the decks that you create.

  65. For some people, Magic is more than simply playing the game.

    Yes, yes – when you get to a tournament, the only thing that matters in the end is how many wins you rack up over the course of the day. But Magic is *more* than just that. Just as Magic is a game *and* a collectible, the game part consists of both deck construction-skill as well as play-skill.

    And that’s where some people start to look down upon the ‘net deckers.’

    Net deckers basically proclaim that they are deficient in a significant portion of the game… well, significant to many people. And so it seems ‘unfair’ that these people can then simply pick up a deck provided by someone else and then win with it (because they have the playskill, if not the construction-skill). People on the other end of the spectrum don’t get such a ‘pass’ on their playskill if they don’t have it to begin with. Of course, since there is no good way to test construction-skill, “spikes” will dismiss such skill offhand, leading to bad reaction from ‘the rest of us.’

    Of course, there’s the other point of view: Poor vs ‘rich.’ Netdecks are often exceedingly expensive, pretty much *because* they are popular. You very rarely have an inexpensive net-deck, as demand drives up prices, good showings drive up demand, and you net-deck because of the good showings a deck has had. Some people just don’t have the money to spend on $50+ dollar pieces of cardboard, regardless of how much they go without food for a simple game. And so there is resentment – people feel like the netdeckers are simply ‘buying’ wins. It’d be like in basketball if there really were shoes which made you jump higher, run faster, etc. All the ‘spikes’ would be telling us ‘scrubs’ that we should just suck it up and buy them or else we should get off the court. Us ‘scrubs,’ who can’t afford such things, then are simply out of luck… regardless of how much playskill we actually have! I mean, I could have twice the playskill of you, but if I can only afford Trash.dec and you play with Jund… well, it feels unfair. Magic is a game and should be most reliant upon your own playskill… not how much money you have in the bank. You might as well let rich people bribe their way to top 8s, looking at it from this perspective.

    So, while I think that the comments that person made to you are abhorrently stated, I feel like there are some valid reasons why people have these sorts of feelings. Simply saying “Suck it up and Play to Win” is making the matter far more simplistic than it actually is.

  66. well written article from someone who’s experienced both sides of the fence. too bad the people hating on you don’t check their facts first.

  67. Great article. Lots of food for thought. To me, it underscores the fact that so many of us play for so many different reasons, and thus have so many different goals, and thus the means to achieve them are so different. I personally like a balance of fun and winning. I’m happy to lose to really good players and really good decks, but I wanna play my favorite cards and have them do their thing too.

    For example, I LOVE playing Elves, and I had a blast at the recent PTQ even though I “only” went 3-5. I didn’t play the Elves deck that won a PTQ somewhere else, because it wasn’t what I wanted to play. I wanted to see my vision of flooding the board with ridiculous swarms of elves come to pass, and it did. Well, sometimes. Sometimes it didn’t. A lot of the times it didn’t, it was because I was playing against a better deck (*cough* Dark Depths), and I was fine with that. I could have played the Cloudstone Curio combo and won a few more games and matches, but that’s not what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to “just” play somebody else’s combo and “just” win, I wanted to see my own vision come to fruition and play some good, fun, interesting games with it. And I did; and I won 3 matches! And at least a couple of the matches I lost were exciting, close, interesting matches. I got what I wanted.

    Now I would really love to be able to design my own deck and win tournaments with it, but I know that takes a lot of talent and hard work. The talent I might have, but the hard work I don’t. So I’m happy to scale back my goals and enjoy what I can out of this incredibly fun game.

  68. I think it is important for any future deck designer to net deck a considerable amount. If you want to make pro level, competitive decks, you need to play pro level competitive decks for a long time, to really understand what makes a “good deck” I net deck a lot, and I build a lot of decks, and the more I play with pro decks, the better the decks I make become. Anyone refusing to play with top tier decks will never become a decent deck designer.

    And as far as choosing a deck for a tournament, I believe its important to choose something you enjoy playing, as long as its competitive. Fun is the number one goal in magic, and I don’t have fun when I’m losing, but also, I don’t have fun playing decks like Jund. If winning was the only facture in playing magic, we’d all be playing jund every friday lol. Personally, ill choose a deck I dont think is as powerful, just because I like playing the deck so much

  69. "I have no problem with telling others that winning is all that matters, but when you begin to define the methods for that to happen, you have actually contradicted yourself." There has to be a definition of how you win; it doesn’t just arbitrarily happen. So, how is it contradictory to define your working method of what helps you win? It isn’t. I like the article, and props to how you handled the flame, but that just doesn’t make sense. When your working method is all part of the “winning process” so to speak, defining it isn’t contradictory in any way; it’s simply the process any given winning player uses to achieve their success. Now, the other key thing I wanted to point out is this. (Flaming is expected in response to this bit, btw.)
    “No offense Conley but its people like you that take the fun outta games.
    The fat magic elitist that think their somebody cause they can outsmart somebody in a card game.
    Stop writing articles and go get a life or something."
    Now, obviously this guy has been butthurt by some pro or another pooping on his choice of a “fun, non-net” deck at a tournament, but the point is actually true. (Although in a very non-personal way; it’s not any single person responsible) But the fact is, this opinion is the reason for the lack of growth in the MTG community. Those already in the community are solidly entrenched, but the community doesn’t grow, because of this opinion. MTG has a huge proportion of elitist players (I’ll actually call someone out here, as Gavin Verhey is an -excellent- example; sorry Gavin, but, you’re an ass.) that actually hurt the growth of the game and the community by making it more difficult for new players to come in. I’ve actually personally watched a person put his deck on a table, say he was done with magic, and walk out of a PTQ because of people like this. (PS: The guy who walked out won his match, it wasn’t a rage quit.) There will always be people who hate on those who are better than them, in MTG, and anything else in life, so instead of just hating back on them, give the newer players a chance. Help them, coach them, FFS, be a decent/respectful person, and change their view; hating on a hater just makes you a hater too. And for that, Conley, props, because you did an excellent job of responding to the comments without resorting to the response of “You’re a noob” or something along those lines.

  70. Excellent article!

    Just one year ago I used to be on the side of the casual player, regretting that in FNM you would only find netdeckers and metagame haters.

    Now I often go online to check the latest tech and be aware of the metagame. If you want to be competitive in this game you have to, you must be aware of the current field and either prepare for it or join “the best deck” players. I understood this after I was badly beaten in a Standard FNM in which I took my pet (and casual) deck.

    A few words of advice to those casual players out there: you are also a big part of this great game, and I sincerely believe you are the biggest reason this game has thrived for so long. If you don´t want to play against “netdeckers” steer out of competitive tournaments, talk to your local store owner and try to start a few more casual ones (EDH, 2HG, etc) and attend pre-releases where everyone is just having fun with new cards. To us “netdeckers”, when playing against casual decks try to praise their original ideas and explain to them, if possible, whenever they do a mistake. Thanks to a guy who did that with me I changed to a more competitive player, although from time to time I swing casual concoctions with buddies for the health of my inner Timmy.

  71. Great article, everything you said hit the bullseye. One thing to note is that many pro tours have been won with “rogue” decks. Decks that wern’t on the radar before the pro tour and cards for them start being bought up worldwide because it’s something different. This causes the rogue deck to become part of the metagame becuase so many people build the new deck and others start coming up with counter stratigies for it. This has been done with every type of deck, from lightning-fast aggro decks to super controling decks to the nutty combo decks. So for next time you think you’ve come up with something new, guess what? It’s probably been done before and it’s probably on the internet somewhere. Netdecks are simply part of Magic, even for casual players.

  72. Total Gold. for further articles on a lot of winning game theory and how to play games specifically to win. Not an advert, i have no offiliation with the website whatsoever it just happens to be extremely relevant to what Conely has said in this article.

  73. I fist pump for you Conley.

    One of my main mottos when playing Magic is to try anything and take what works, discard what doesn’t work. I’m also a fan of being the underdog taking down the top deck.

    Part of the reason I play Magic is to have fun. If having fun means that I lose sometimes, so be it. I just don’t like winning all the time since that means there’s nothing else to improve.

  74. Interesting article. Mosdef written from the viewpoint of a pro though. I’m not saying you are incorrect, but it would be pretty difficult to be a pro and be a “hater” as your playskill would have to be tremendous (not saying it isn’t) to take up the slack of playing a tier 2 (or worse)deck. 😛

    When I built my first deck ~1 yr ago I looked through all the r/g/w cards in the the game to find cards that worked well together and used those. When I say every card in the colors I was gonna use (naya colors) I mean EVERY card. Lol! I didn’t know a whole lot about magic back then (not that I do now, but my knowledge has grown trememdously). I have friends (2-3 of which are REALLY good magic players) who helped me with my ideas but the deck was something I built prodominantly by myself with cards I liked and thought would work well together. I look back on the deck now and it was an ok deck, but by no means was a tier 1 deck. 😛

    I tell this story because I would play this n00b deck I built from scratch and would beat my brothers (who has been playing magic for ~10yrs) rock deck ~80% of the time and I would split much of the time with my friends (the good ones) and their “tier 1” decks. I found great satisfaction in this and it made me want to be creative and build my own decks, learn and improve my game. Now if I had taken a deck from the net and played it and had beaten my brother it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying and I likely wouldn’t have continued playing.

    I stradle the fence on this one. I enjoy being creative enough to build my own decks (usually from scratch) but don’t mind using ideas or cards from established decks/pros. I built junk before I even knew there was a name for it. I have always liked aggro decks, considered w/g to have some of the best beater cards and with the new fetches (namely verdants and marsh flats) splashing black was just too easy. Argueably the best 3 drops in standard are blightning, war monk, KotR, pulse (the charms and dauntless/stag, o-ring, thrinax, nighthawk, WoD, thoctar bein close runners up). KotR and pulse could be played in the same deck. Just seemed like a good start. So when I built the deck and more people started playing with it I saw cards that I thought would work well and adopted some of those cards. Now I feel confident enough with my deck that it still feels as if it is mine and I don’t mind exchanging a few cards for those that have been proven by others.

    I find it fun to be somewhat creative AND win. Sucks to be me huh? I understand that many don’t like to or cannot build decks so they netdeck. But imho it doesn’t make you good to play a good deck. It just means that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of creativity and autonomy in order to win. If that is your goal (to win) then so be it. I guess what I’m saying is use what gifts you have. Not everyone will be a good deck builder, tweaker AND player. But realize that if you use 95% of a deck you found on the net and win with it, yes you are a winner but you are also being unoriginal (don’t get feelings like the people who lose with creative home brews shouldn’t when they get beat by netdecks). But at the same time don’t bitch if someone calls you out cause its the truth……..

  75. I take it everyone that agrees with this viewpoint falls into the category of being a “Netdecker”. The problem I have always had with netdecking is you take a deck from someone that used their own mind and creativity. They put many hours/days into testing and readjusting it just so that when they win a big Tourney the world can copy it and claim it their own. How much ingenuity does it take to copy another’s masterpiece? In the past I have made unique decks that have been a local and state hit, only to have it posted by the Tournament officials so I may play the mirror of my own creation constantly. I can’t tell you how many Jund player’s I have met that have told me that they were the first person to make the Jund deck. When you see their list it is an exact duplicate of a list that has been posted that everyone else is playing. I agree Magic is supposed to be fun, but playing vs the same copy of Jund every week takes that away. I just wonder how many new and exciting decks could be made if more people used their own noggins for a change! The plus and positive that always comes with creating your own deck is that no one knows what to expect, so in turn you have the advantage. The question you always here after a triumphant win is (Can I have a copy of your decklist?) and it begins!

  76. I love when people copy my decks. Makes me feel good that they like the design enough to try and play it themselves.

    Probably why I write a column about this stuff. 🙂

  77. I guess an important issue is that the game is a fundamentally different one between casual and tournament play, even apart from the competitiveness. In casual play, the skills needed to win are a combination of deckbuilding and game play, while in tournaments, people routinely netdeck, meaning that play skills are the main ones needed. It really comes down to, “What is Magic? Which game is the real one?”

    The contrast here means that casual players come expecting to play a fundamentally different game than they find many of their tournament opponents playing. They often a. consider to be the tournament variety less fun, and b. find it frustrating to lose to opponents who might be inferior if judged on a combined deckbuilding/game play scale. It takes a while to accept that this is just the way it is. It’s not the opponents who are at fault; they’re just trying to win within the rules of the game that has been handed to them. That doesn’t mean that netdecking is a good thing, either; it’s just part of the tournament version of the game. The game might be better if it were not possible, but it is.

    The best solution I’ve found is to play Limited. No one can do the deck building for your opponents there.

  78. I think the issue stems from the fact that some people still look upon Magic as a fun and gimmicky hobby, whereas others, like you, mr. Woods, and everyone else with a competitive view on Magic, does not. To us, Magic is our venue for creative intellectual stimulation, and it would make little sense for us, the competitive group, to downgrade our creations to cater to the casual crowd. Why should the “better” player – or rather deck – surrender to the will of the poorer one?

    What seems to be the problem then, and I think a lot of competitive players miss this, is that Magic _is_ or rather was meant to be a fun and gimmicky hobby. It is us, the small(er) group, that has transformed it into this divided entity, with two or more very different groups of followers. We, the competitive players, shouldn’t look down upon these “simple creatures” as most of us came from that very group ourselves. Back when I started playing Magic – around the Urza block – I collected black rares. That’s it. I didn’t play any games, didn’t build any decks; didn’t even spare it a thought. To me, “fun” was cracking boosters and trading for new black rares. Nothing more to it. Later on I would get an understanding of the game, and start enjoying the cerebral side of it, but my beginnings were very humble, and I think the same is true for many other competitive players.

    My point? I think the problem is, as was pointed out earlier, that the casual and competitive players end up meeting at various venues (FNM being the obvious one). This meeting will almost always end up with the casual players losing (for quite obvious reasons), and of course that must be frustrating. Imagine yourself preparing for something, spending time or money on it and looking forward to having fun, and then get trashed by someone who could be a worse player, but just one that spends a lot more money on their hobby. Now you will of course counter this with “they can do the same”, and that is obviously true from a simpleton perspective, but I think that would offend you a bit as well to lose in this manner, and in this era of Mythic Rares and Pokemagic, this “just spend”-mentality should be cause for concern. I remember when competitive Magic decks for Standard would cost you 100-150 $ incl. mana base just a few years ago, and now we see decks costing five times as much as that thanks to Lolslayer, Loljace and others. What will happen if this mentality continues? Let me tell you. Some of us competitive Magic players might be forced to end up playing Magic casually, and at that point I think you’ll be forced to agree with them/me, that losing to someone just because they are willing to fork over more money is never satisfying.

    Hope this was understandable. English isn’t my native tongue, so I was not able to express my thoughts as well as I would have liked.

  79. I feel both sides of the argument compelling and to a point valid. While i do enjoy playing casual games with my friends i do understand (though i do take the table often) that i am NOT the best deck builder out there. With aspirations for pro quality play in my future i am guilty of “Netdecking”.

    I have to feel sorry for the casual player that tries his hand at a FNM and goes away pissed off that A: his/her baby deck did nothing in the format, and B: s/he learned nothing because the blame was placed on the people who chose to play something good, and not that this player was unprepared for the decks that they will see. This player waisted valuable time because s/he did not have fun because they chose not to have fun.

    I consider myself a spike and find much enjoyment in winning, especially in a competitive environment where people are prepared with their best of the best deck, whether that deck came from some list off the net or some home-brew creation. But, i also find enjoyment in loosing a hard fought game in the same format The matches that are not fun are those that i blow out the other player and listen to the crying because they chose not to prepare for a play to win event, or those where I am on the other side of the coin. Its never fun when you build something that looks good and you get trounced.

    If you do so choose to go rouge at an event good on you. But, if you haven’t looked at the “netdecks” and “metagamed” for them you will find that you will be losing more often than not. The reason? MANY heads get together it seems when a pro builds a deck. They playtest often and critique each others deck choices, card choices, and lines of play. This and the pilot skill of the pro is why you see them in the top 8’s often. I find often the people at FNM that whine are also often the people who cannot take a bit of constructive critique and refuse to make changes that either slide them more in line with what others are doing, or that trump what others are doing altogether.

    That all being said i feel for the people who want to be creative, and want others to do the same. To those like this you should look up to Mr. Woods instead of bashing him, as almost all of his deck choices are also very rouge. Yes he does use the “best” cards of the format, but why wouldn’t he? He also uses some of the worst cards if they are unexpected and will have a big impact on the metagame. Inovation and creativity drive this game, but many don’t have that skill, so must rely on the skill of others (including myself to some extent).

  80. “No offense Conley but its people like you that take the fun outta games.
    The fat magic elitist that think their somebody cause they can outsmart somebody in a card game.
    Stop writing articles and go get a life or something."


  81. Kudos, Conley. Your attitude and ideas are much more beneficial than almost any other competitive player I’ve encountered. I hope success never changes you.

  82. Hi all, I’m a player with a 1670 limited rating and a 1450 constructed rating (5th worst in my country!).

    I chastise anyone who turns up to a tournament with a crap deck (like mine!) and then proceeds to whine about netdecking.

    I don’t expect to do well in constructed tournaments because I don’t spend money getting the best deck (student!). Nor do I play enough to lift my skill up to what is needed. Simple. No room for whining about it. As such, I often will play dumb fun decks for the lols and occasionally make good players throw tantrums as I take maximum ratings points off them.

    It’s fine for me to show up to a tournament and not be there to win, because I actually don’t care, and just want to see what my dumb deck can win. If I wanted to win, and had the cash, I’d show up with something pro.
    Someone of my ilk turning up to a tournament and whining about Baneslayers is doing it entirely wrong: they should accept their deck isn’t tournament quality and either: 1) get a better one and win or 2) not care and have fun anyway or 3) stick to casual playing.

  83. Conley,

    The art of converstation isn’t lacking in you. I always appreciate to look at what insight you bring. Everyone that has any form of competitiveness understands that not everyone can be great at something.

    To be the best at magic it takes a commitment level that most people would never be able to do. Which is why I appreciate seeing, watching, listening, and reading what happens out of respect of the people in the game.

    Keep working the articles and podcasts and we will be here!

  84. Accusations of netdecking are hilarious. If it were a principle issue, then these same players would have a big problem with me netdecking 5-year-old Timmy’s version of Cloud Sprite.dec, but somehow I doubt anyone would have a problem with that. So really, call it what it is – it’s a whine. It’s really just an extension of your typical no-LD no-counterspell no-discard whine; a no-synergy or no-good-decks whine, maybe. Or, more simply, it’s an entitlement whine – a feeling that one should be able to beat the players who have invested in a good deck without investing in one themselves.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love playing casual decks and just having a good time. But if I enter a tournament (and yes, FNM is a tournament) where prizes are involved, I want to win those prizes – if I just wanted to sling, then why the heck would I spend money to enter the tournament? So if you don’t care about winning, then you don’t have to netdeck – that’s fine. But if you lose because you decided not to inform yourself of the metagame and the most popular deck in the format crushes you, don’t complain about it afterward as if the world owes you a favor because you graced the tournament with your presence.

    And then there’s the hilarious contortions these people twist themselves into when people take well-known archetypes and tweak them to beat the hate decks, or when people like Conley create a deck that places well at a big event and immediately catches fire. “3 hours ago, Conley’s deck was okay – but now it’s a netdeck!” Or perhaps “Zvi isn’t a REAL deckbuilder because his My Fires was just a tweak of the generic Fires deck!” Get over yourselves. The world does not answer to your every whim and desire. If you’re going to be setting arbitrary rules for yourself that stop you from winning in a tournament, that’s your choice, but to then turn around and blame the people who beat you and complain that they have better decks than you is stupid.

    So decide what you want to do. If you want to sling purely for funsies and without regard to whether you win or lose, then don’t enter a tournament – you can probably find infinite people who will sit down and sling with you casually all night. But if you enter a tournament, then expect that people will want to win and will act accordingly (read: build the best decks in the format, which often come off the net). If you want to play at the top levels, don’t complain that you can’t afford a playset of Baneslayers – you have to invest, just like everyone else. If you’re not willing (or not able) to invest, then don’t expect to be able to play the best decks. It’s really not rocket science.

  85. screw those stupid ppl who can’t build a pro deck and complain! life is unfair, some of us drive camreys and others drive lambo’s. point is, just becuz others have more devotion doesn’t mean they are making the game “un-fun”. Conley, you’re awesome and should not get shit like this from spamers. As for those who lost to a nihil stone deck, you should’ve added more cards to your intro pack!

  86. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  87. Holy crap I think this is the most comments for an article, ever. I think I only saw two negative ones too? Geez, definitely time to give Conley a raise.

  88. Just because you have more money than me doesn’t mean you are more ‘devoted.’ It is those kinds of comments that drives even more of a wedge between spikes and ‘the rest of us.’

  89. Great article. However, if I could point out:

    The metagame changes after each new set, and it is shaped by what cards are available. So if a control deck is the most feasible option out of what is available, it is bound to develop in several different forms, even without netdeckers.

    And what of those players that get together on Wednesday night for casual play and help each other with deck ideas? Are we to condemn them for the same lack of originality in deck design? After all, they couldn’t build a deck alone.

    Finally, in defense of netdeckers, my current standard deck was pulled off of the net, but due to not having certain cards and my style of play, I tweaked it a decent amount, leaving me with a winning deck, but only after adjusting it to my preference. So is it cheating? Or is netdecking just a different way that some of us brainstorm?

  90. This is a ridiculous article. If the “metagamer” comment is sincere (which I HIGHLY doubt), then responding to it as though it represents a widely held opinion is outrageously masturbatory.

    All I got from this article was a sense of your own inflated self opinion and a comment circle jerk.

  91. masturbation is self-improvement jon h.

    nice way of dealing with something inflammatory in a rational, adult manner instead conley. I expected nothing less.

  92. Hi Brandon (poster about 26 spots up)

    Just wondering what makes you think I’m an elitist jerk. I try and promote the game in every way possible, and always try and remain kind and courteous in my articles. (Well, except my GP Oakland report, but there was a reason for that if you read the whole thing.) If there was some kind of personal altercation we had at one point, I’d be interested to know what it was so I can change this tendency in the future and apologize. You can e-mail me if you’d prefer to discuss this privately; gavintriesagain at gmail dot com.


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