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Magic Duels: Origin Deckbuilding 101 (How to Build the Powerful Deck)

0. Basics
In Magic Duels Origins a deck can maximally run 4 copies of each common card, 3 copies of each uncommon card, 2 copies of each rare card and only 1 copy of each mythic rare card. This is different from regular Magic, where you can play up to 4 copies of each card, regardless of rarity. Of course you are always allowed to play any number of Basic Land cards.

A deck has to play at least 60 cards, but this is also the unofficial maximum number of cards you should play. Playing more than 60 cards decreases your chances of drawing the better cards in your deck and also decreases consistency.

1. Have a plan
The most important rule in deckbuilding is to know what your deck is trying to accomplish. Is your deck trying to be fast and kill quickly? Is your deck trying to drag out the game and win with some big finishers? Does your deck rely on certain synergies to create a big advantage? These are the kinds of questions that you have to ask yourself constantly.

The cards that you choose to include in your deck should always reinforce that plan. With a clear plan in mind, you will not only be able to build more cohesive decks, but this will also help guide your decisions when actually playing out your games.

2. Card Evaluation
This is the trickier part of deckbuilding. If you can separate the better cards from the worse ones, you will be able to construct decks with higher average card quality. This sounds simple enough.

Nightfire Giant is clearly better than Dreg Reaver in your black/red deck, but how does Gilt-Leaf Winnower factor into the equation? The double black casting cost makes it harder to cast and it’s only a 4/3 compared to a potential 5/4 Nightfire Giant. Gilt-Leaf Winnower can sometimes kill a creature when it enters the battlefield, while the Nightfire Giant has a reusable activated ability. The Winnower has Menace, making it harder to block, so maybe it fits better into a more aggressive deck? Nightfire Giant is a Zombie, while Gilt-Leaf Winnower is an Elf. Both of these creature types have synergies with other cards in the game.

Evaluating cards can be difficult, especially when you have no experience with previous Magic sets to make comparisons. A good way to find out which cards are better is by playing with them and finding out first hand. Listening to other players’ opinions and experiences can also be very valuable.

A common way to evaluate creature cards is by looking at the converted mana cost and comparing it with the creature’s power and toughness. For 2 mana we expect our creature to at least be a 2/2, for 3 mana a 3/3, for 4 mana a 4/4 and so on. Of course most creatures have additional abilities which can drastically change their power level. Creatures with Flying for example are very valuable, so they will often have a higher converted mana cost to make up for it. Cards with a high converted mana cost should have impactful abilities to justify their high cost.

When reading and evaluating a card don’t always focus on the best-case scenario. Some cards can have a very high upside, but if the circumstances aren’t ideal they can become useless. A card like Fog can take an opponent by surprise when they make their final all-out attack, thinking they can kill you. Fog can prevent all the damage and now that the opponent has no blockers left it’s your turn to make the winning attack. This scenario is unlikely to happen very often and Fog will be sitting in your hand for the duration of a game doing nothing, essentially putting you down a card. Talent of the Telepath can be amazing if you can cast 2 expensive cards for just 4 mana. Most opponents will only have a limited number of instants and sorceries in their deck, let alone expensive ones. Goblin Glory Chaser can be awesome if you cast him on turn 1 and manage to hit the opponent right away. However if the opponent plays a blocker or if you draw the Glory Chaser later in the game, the Glory Chaser looks a lot less menacing. There could very well be an aggressive deck where Goblin Glory Chaser is a valuable inclusion, but don’t play him in a deck that doesn’t have a critical mass of cheap creatures and ways to get them through for damage.

3. Synergy
Generally speaking, the less ‘help’ a card needs to be good, the better. If a deck has enough synergies with a particular card however, its evaluation changes. Here are some examples of cards that require your deck to be built around them to be good. Blightcaster costs 4 mana and is only a 2/3, but his ability can be very powerful. For his ability to trigger often enough, we should be playing around 15 enchantments in our deck (including ways to search up enchantments). Bone to Ash has the ability to deal with an opposing creature and draw a card at the same time. The downside of playing with counterspells is that they don’t really help you if you’re already losing on the board. There’s also a significant cost tied to planning to use Bone to Ash. If the opponent doesn’t play a creature we can counter, we’ve just wasted 4 mana. That’s why it’s important to have a lot of other instants in our deck, so we can use those instead if our opponent doesn’t play into our Bone to Ash. Primal Bellow can deal a lot of damage out of nowhere if our manabase consists entirely out of Forests. It can be used to save a creature in combat early on and straight up kill the opponent in the late-game. I would avoid playing it outside a mono-green deck.

4. Manacurve
The manacurve of a deck is obtained by sorting all the cards according to their converted mana cost. An aggressive deck will play a lot of 1 and 2 mana cards, so it will have a low manacurve. This ensure that most opening hands will have cards that can be played on the first few turns of a game.

Decks that want to resolve a lot of 3 and 4 mana cards have a higher manacurve. It is very important that these decks don’t play too many cards with the same casting cost, as that doesn’t allow you to spend your mana efficiently in a game. For example a deck with too many (14+) cards that cost 3 mana will be less likely to have a play on the second turn. On the third turn it will play one of its many 3 mana cards. A turn later it might still have to cast a 3 mana card even if it has 4 mana available due to poor deckbuilding. An opponent that curved into a 2, 3 and 4 mana spell will have a big advantage. It is important to be using mana efficiently, as that maximizes your impact on a game and not doing so is an easy way to fall behind.

Below is an example of a good manacurve taken from a green/black Elf deck. The deck plays with a couple 1 mana cards, but you shouldn’t expect to play them very often on turn 1, considering that they include Bone Splinters. The deck is very likely to play a 2 mana spell on the second turn and a 3 mana spell on the third turn. Even if the deck doesn’t have a 4 mana spell on the fourth turn, it could still play two 2 mana spells or a 1 and 3 mana spell.

5. Manabase
The amount of lands that decks play usually range from 20 for very low curve decks up to 26 for controlling decks that want to play a land every turn. If your curve tops out at 3 mana, then playing 22 lands will usually be enough. For a deck with a normal 1 to 5 curve, you can’t go too wrong with playing 24 lands.

How many lands do you need to play that produce a specific color when playing multiple colors? Here’s a useful table with a link [www.channelfireball.com]to the math behind it.

A land that produces two different colors of mana counts as a source of both colors. Cards that search for lands or artifacts that produce mana should also be considered as mana sources. We do have to keep in mind that if we’re playing an aggressive deck, lands that come into play tapped are not ideal. I should note that the numbers in the table are not always a realistic goal in Duels Origins, given the relatively low amount of manafixing available. The numbers should guide your decisions when building your manabase and will often lead you to the conclusion that playing colorless utility lands in a multicolor deck is a bad idea.

6. Metagame
When there are multiple viable strategies and deck choices at a certain point in time, they become part of the current metagame. Thinking about the metagame when fine-tuning your deck can give you an edge over your opponents. For example if black control strategies become very popular, you can expect to run into a lot of Reave Souls and Languishes. You can prepare for those scenarios by including more creatures in your deck that can survive those removal spells, by having more than 3 power and/or more than 5 toughness. If decks with a lot of 1/1 flying Thopter tokens start becoming prevalent a removal spell like Twin Bolt might go up in value, as it can deal with two tokens at once.

If you notice that a certain deck is becoming more popular, you can usually find a weakness that you can exploit. Sometimes that means changing a few cards around, but that could also mean changing decks entirely if your current strategy matches up poorly.

7. Walkthrough
Let’s put all this knowledge into practice and build an entire deck from scratch. For this example I will be building a black/green ramp deck that tries to resolve big creatures to win the game and relies on small green creatures and black removal spells to stall the game long enough. We assume all cards are already unlocked.

Looking through the card pool we see a few cheap creatures that provide a valuable ability when they enter the battlefield. Elvish Visionary draws a card and Gatecreeper Vine finds us another land. These are all effects that we are interested in, as Elvish Visionary helps us find our finishers and Gatecreeper Vine ensures we keep hitting our land drops. We are happy to play 4 copies of each. Now that we are likely to have a few expendable creatures in play, the enchantment Evolutionary Leap becomes very appealing. It’s another way to find our finishers and even if it finds another Visionary or Vine we won’t be too sad as we can just repeat the process while still getting a small advantage. We will play both copies, acknowledging that drawing both copies is less than ideal, because we want to increase the chance of drawing the first copy. We can also use our expendable creatures to block an attacker and then sacrifice them before damage to Evolutionary Leap to save us some life, while still gaining an advantage.

In order to deal with problematic early and midgame creatures, we will also run some copies of Reave Soul. With 3 copies of Reave Soul we would already have a total of 13 cards that cost 2 mana, which is a good place to be.

Looking at possible 3 mana cards we have Nissa’s Pilgrimage, which is a good way of ramping our mana and ensuring we keep hitting land drops. The spell mastery is a nice bonus, but the card is still good without it. Playing with Nissa’s Pilgrimage also means that we don’t have to play as many 4 mana cards to fill in our curve, as we can sometimes just skip from 3 to 5 mana. We will be playing all 4 copies of Nissa’s Pilgrimage. To go along with her pilgrimage we can play Nissa, Vastwood Seer herself. She’s good in the early game as another expendable creature and in the late game she transforms into a card advantage machine. We will play the one copy that’s allowed, given that she’s a mythic rare.

Fleshbag Marauder is also a good fit for this deck, as it’s a removal spell in creature form. We can even sacrifice our weaker creatures so we can keep a 3/1 around. All 3 uncommon copies are welcome. We could also consider playing Liliana, Heretical Healer as she goes well with the creature sacrifice angle of our deck. The double black casting cost means we won’t reliably cast her on turn 3 unless we play a lot of black sources, which might go against Nissa’s Pilgrimage. So far all our green cards cost a single green to cast, so looking at the table of section 5 we don’t have to play a very large amount of green mana sources. Gatecreeper Vine also helps us find a Swamp, so we can count it as a black source. This means we can probably include Liliana, as she’s a powerful addition to the deck, even if we cast her a few turns late.

A copy of Reclamation Sage can also be valuable, as it goes well with Woodland Bellower, one of our finishers. Priest of the Blood Rite is also a powerful card in this deck, as we can simply sacrifice the 2/2 to our Evolutionary Leap or Fleshbag Marauder and keep a 5/5 flier around.

Outland Colossus is another big threat that is hard to deal with and thanks to Nissa’s Pilgrimage we can play it as early as turn 4, starting to apply the pressure right away. Our final finisher will be Gaea’s Revenge, as it is very hard to kill for most opponents. Gaea’s Revenge, along with Woodland Bellower, Outland Colossus and the Demon token from Priest of the Blood Rite all have 5 or more toughness, which means they all survive the dreaded Languish. This means that including Languish in our own deck is highly beneficial, as it will wipe the board while keeping our finishers alive.

We currently have 32 nonland spells in our deck and we’re aiming to play 24 lands, which leaves room for 4 more cards to get up to 60. We have a lot of freedom to fill in these last slots and we can easily change them if they don’t work out or if we want to improve a certain matchup. Gravedigger is a card that can recur one of our previously sacrificed creatures and is an expendable creature himself. He’s also another 4 mana card to go along with Languish to fill in our mana curve. We’re also a little short on targeted removal to deal with large opposing creatures that survive our Languish and Reave Soul. Given that both Fleshbag Marauder and Gravedigger are zombies, adding Cruel Revival makes sense.

For constructing our mana base we have access to 4 Golgari Guildgate and 2 Woodland Cemetery. This already gives us 6 black sources and 6 green sources, with 18 land slots left. We want to have at least 13 green sources to consistently play our 2 mana cards, which also enable the manafixing of Gatecreeper Vine and Nissa’s Pilgrimage to get more green sources. This means adding 8 Forests, which should also give us enough targets for the Pilgrimage. By adding 10 Swamps we get 16 black sources from our lands and 4 more if we count Gatecreeper Vine. This is more than enough to consistently cast Liliana on turn 3 and Languish on turn 4, so we can even increase the number of Forests and decrease the number of Swamps by one. That gives us more targets for the Pilgrimage and more green mana for Evolutionary Leap activations.

This leads to the following decklist:

4x Elvish Visionary
4x Gatecreeper Vine
2x Evolutionary Leap
3x Reave Soul

4x Nissa's Pilgrimage
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
3x Fleshbag Marauder
1x Liliana, Heretical Healer
1x Reclamation Sage

2x Languish
2x Gravedigger

2x Priest of the Bloodrite
2x Outland Colossus
2x Cruel Revival

1x Woodland Bellower

2x Gaea's Revenge

4x Golgari Guildgate
2x Woodland Cemetery
9x Swamp
9x Forest

Alternatively we could play with Bone Splinters or even try to fit in Erebos’s Titan by adding back the Swamp over the Forest. Perilous Myr is also a good option if we are facing a lot of ground based aggro decks and combined with Languish it can take out 5 and 6 toughness creatures.

8. Final Note
One of the biggest advantages of building a lot of decks yourself is that you become very familiar with all the different cards and strategies in the game. This can give you an edge when playing out your games, as you can start to predict the opponent’s deck composition based on their first few plays. With that knowledge you can play around certain cards the opponent might be holding and reap the rewards. Deckbuilding is also a lot of fun and makes for a very good thought exercise.

Source: Guide by Legend- http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=491003520