Examples of Deck Building Part 1: The Skeletal Structure of a Deck

Deck Building is one of the quickest ways to tighten up your EDH game. There are a lot of facets to deckbuilding that as you master them you can brew stronger decks. As you brew stronger decks you will be in competition to win more. In the past, we have talked about your deck report and how it is important to build one for each deck before you ever sleeve up a card. Here is an example of building a deck from start to finish using the deck report process. Laying all the information out the article becomes quite intensive and long. We will break down the article into three parts.

This process can be used for any deck build. In this example, we will use a tribal value build as an introductory look at using this process. Tribal decks are easy to get to the focused level of power in a deck and can sometimes reach optimized depending on how heavily into your tribe you build and cards available. The deck should end up as a solid seven or eight on the power rating and should be able to win some games outside of cEDH. You can read about how Commander Clinic Rates decks here.

The Commander

 Usually, you start with a commander idea or an idea of the colors of the commander deck you want to build. In this case, I know I want to build a tribal deck. This will allow the deck to capitalize on synergy. I like playing Simic (blue-green) even though they are enemy colors because of the strong access to card draw and ramp without having to rely on artifacts. With the release of Ixilan merfolk has gotten a boost moving into green.. Because of this, we will want a commander who is merfolk and in simic colors.

A search on Gatherer revels eight possible commanders. Tuvasa, the Sunlight is in bant colors. If we need white for board wipes, then Tuvasa would be a possibility. Unfortunately, its ability is less than optimal for merfolk tribal. Tuvasa also wants a deck to be built around enchantments. We want lots of merfolk with special abilities to synergize with, not enchantments.

Of the remaining seven possible commanders, Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca has an ability that specifically targets merfolk and there are three of those abilities. Tishana, Voice of Thunder and Prime Speaker Zegana will allow us to draw a lot of cards in order to keep our hands full and are two other solid options. Both of these two commanders cost six mana or more to cast. If they get removed from the battlefield the commander tax could cause us to have difficulties recasting them. Kumena costs three mana and is more likely to be cast multiple times if the need arises. For these reasons we will choose to make Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca our commander.    

The Goal 

The next step is to build a goal for the deck with what you want to achieve. Often it will be based around your commander. We want it to be a sentence or two long this helps keep our focus simple and not try to do too much with our deck. We start with a deck archetype and capitalize on that. While Kumena can be made unblockable we will not focus on that ability because as a Voltron commander she is weak. Instead, we will go the tribal synergy deck archetype and build our goal around that. 

Goal: We want to cast a lot of low-cost merfolk that synergize with each other and create an overwhelming board state to gain value. We will use this value and a swarm strategy to attack our opponents and win.   

Package Breakdown 

With a tribal theme, we will want the standard packages of Card Draw/Card Quality, Lands, Ramp, and Removal. We also will want Merfolk and lots of them. While we do not need to go crazy with Lords, merfolk has several options and will want to make sure we include some so we will call it a subtheme.

We will also have another package that is synergy to the board state we build. We will explore a wizard subtheme in this category, if possible because many of the merfolk are also wizards. This variant also is often unexpected and the slight twist not only makes out deck unique, it also can catch our opponents off guard. Part of the strength of commander is a very large card pool and we will use it to our advantage. We also will want a couple of bombs or must answer threats that will help us win the game. Before we assign numbers the packages are as follows.

  • Card Draw/Quality
  • Mana Ramp/Color Fixing
  • Removal
  • Merfolk
    • Merfolk Lord Subtheme
  • Synergy (Possibly Wizard)
  • Bombs
  • Lands

As for the number of cards in packages we start with ten each card draw/quality, mana ramp/color fixing, and removal spells. We will need to focus on repeatable card draw cards as we might find meeting all the package requirements difficult. We would like to pack in at least twelve to fifteen draw cards so that we can keep dropping our hand on the battlefield. We may need to get creative with card draw. If we keep the mana curve as low as we can on the deck, ten ramp cards should be more than enough to get us the mana we want for the deck. 

As for removal, we will break it up to single removal and board wipes. Because we want to swarm the battlefield, board wipes are detrimental to us. Since this is so, we want to skew our removal to more pinpoint removal as opposed to board wipes. Normally we would go with a 7-3 split, however, since we are in blue and have access to Cyclonic Rift we will go 6-4 initially. If Cyclonic Rift will not affect us, then it acts more as pinpoint removal than mass removal when it pertains to our board presence. Although it effectively wipes our opponent’s battlefield. 

When running tribal decks we would like our merfolk cards to be about a third of our deck so we want to start with around 33 merfolk cards. These cards can include the lords we want to use. We would like 10 Synergy cards to give us flexibility and five bombs. Lands should run between 36 and 38 cards and we can take the low end if we can keep the curve lower. I would like two-thirds of the deck to be land and/or merfolk so we will also want 67 total cards in these two categories. If we start with 36 lands we will be looking for 31 merfolk cards. To start 

Initial breakdowns

  • 10 Card Draw/Quality
  • 10 Mana Ramp/Color Fixing
  • 10 Removal
    • 6 Pinpoint Removal
    • 4 Board Wipe
  • 31 Merfolk
    • 5 Merfolk Lord Subtheme
    • 26 Other Merfolk
  • 10 Synergy (Possibly Wizard)
  • 5 Bombs
  • 36 Lands

This brings the total number of card slots to 112 card slots. This means where we can we will want to get double effects out of cards. Cards like Thrasios, Triton Hero will be critical as the card can count as card draw, ramp, and merfolk. The more cards with multiple uses we can pack into this deck the fewer cards we will need to cut from our packages.

Merfolk will be the easiest to fit into other packages and it is safe to assume we will be able to find six cards that will be able to double as merfolk. The initial consideration is that we can find two cards that are merfolk in Card Draw, Ramp, and Synergy. With this in mind, we will need to cut down to 106 total card slots instead of 100. We can adjust this number if we end up more or less merfolk that can double in other packages.

The quickest cuts would be to combine the bombs with the synergy cards and cut the total from fifteen to ten cards. This leaves us one cut short of the 106 cards we will start with so we will cut an additional card in this area and go down to nine. We will keep the same ratio of bombs to synergy cards so it will be 6-3 ratio of additional synergy to bombs. This brings out package requirements to the following.

Reducing synergy means we might not be as satisfied with our synergy category as we would like. Initially, we want bombs because these are going to be the cards that will help us end the game. As the packages shape up if Synergy cards seem too weak on their own we may have to adjust our card packages to tweak the deck. Because we are building a synergy deck we will want to preserve some sort of synergy package if we have to tweak things.

Final Package Breakdowns

  • 10 Card Draw/Quality
  • 10 Mana Ramp/Color Fixing
  • 10 Removal
    • 6 Pinpoint Removal
    • 4 Board Wipes
  • 25 Merfolk
    • 5 Merfolk Lord Subtheme
    • 6 additional Merfolk in other packages
  • 6 Synergy Possibly WIzard
  • 3 Bombs
  • 36 Lands
  • 100 Total Cards

We now have a skeletal structure for our Merfolk Deck. We know who our commander is, what we want to accomplish and a basic idea of how many of each card type we will allocate to accomplish our goal. It may or may not be viable at this point in deckbuilding. If we can get our package list down to 100 cards without cutting much of what the deck wants to do then the odds will be that the deck will be viable. We will know more as we begin to add cards to the packages. That is the point where we will know if a deck will work or not.

When you are deckbuilding with this process you will want to keep a critical eye on your goal throughout the process and ask yourself is what I am putting together accomplishing the goal of the deck. AT this point the answer is yes, Next Time we will flesh out this structure and should know if the deck idea will work.

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