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I spend a bit of my spare time helping people out with their decks on the Casual Boards at magicthegathering.com.

Most of what goes on there is one person posts a deck and other people give suggestions on how to improve it. Helping on these boards has helped my deckbuilding skills tremendously and is what eventually inspired me to start writing Magic articles. Today I will look at a few decks I randomly spotted on the forums and post them here and after likely making fun of them (since they will likely never see this) will go about improving them as I would have if I posted in the actual thread. Partly this will help see how to improve your own decks (or other people’s) and partly this will just show you how much better at Magic you are than the average casual player.

For picking the decks I ignored anything that was just a netdeck with no original thought as well as anything that didn’t follow the banned/restricted lists or was just plain broken. I also wanted it to be at least semi-attainable as far as budget goes. I’ll let dual lands and cards like Force of Will through but will draw the line when things like the power 9 or cards like Mana Drain, Mishra’s Workshop, and other $50+ cards are used.


I really wanted to make a Black deck and recently got some more, so… Here it is.

Before I get into this one it is pretty obvious that he is a very new player and thus I will not make fun of his deck. He very obviously just bought the Dead Again precon and added a few cards to it. This is pretty typical of a new player that has only been playing a month or so and is actually a semi-decent way to start (the best way being having a friend give you a bunch of extra commons and stuff to jump start your collection). Here is the precon he got the cards from:

Because this is a brand new player that gives you an idea of what kind of budget they have. Because his collection is so small I would keep my suggestions to tailor toward that type of player. This means no expensive cards at all (I may mention them but will make sure they know the suggestion is optional and only if they can) and will prefer newer cards since they are so much easier to get ahold of.

The absolute first thing I would do is to explain about consistency and suggest buying a second copy of Dead Again in order to have more copies of the cards in the deck.

After that I’d list off all the cards that are just plain bad or at least sub-par and should be removed from the deck. These include:

There are certainly a few mediocre cards that are a bit lacking like Highway Robber, Deathgazer, and Drudge Skeletons but we’ll worry about that later. At least those are good enough to be fine in limited and a low power environment is basically like a bunch of 60-card limited decks.

Alternatively instead of listing what should be removed from the deck I’d go over what needs to be added first. In this case more copies of things like Ravenous Rats, Nekrataal, and Festering Goblin.

If I really wanted to into detail I’d actually go through every single card in the deck and why it either needs to leave or why more copies are needed.

My suggested deck might look something like this:

Notice how I didn’t suggest a single card that wasn’t already in the deck? I often do this if it is obvious that the player is new and has a very small collection. This is just to help with the consistency of the deck. Already this is a huge improvement and is actually not a completely terrible deck. I left in a few of the random single copies of rares as generally if you have a rare that you really like you tend to want to use it even if you only have one. Havoc Demon is actually a pretty poor fit here but is cool enough that a new player wouldn’t care. Out of the cards I suggested adding the most expensive one is Nekrataal. This is clearly not out of anyone’s budget. Every card that wasn’t already in the deck is still in print and can be gotten for less than a quarter.

At this point I would wait for feedback. I’m not done giving suggestions but I like to give it a little at a time and wait for feedback. If I randomly just suggest a new deck they will both tend to not want drastic changes and will think it is too hard to get that many new cards. Also there might be some card I removed that they just absolutely love and if it isn’t something completely terrible it can easily go back in. I’ll make sure to mention this as well as the the changes so far weren’t it.

Once I’ve been given the okay with those changes I’ll start actually suggest new cards. This is also the point where I would try to weed out the random rares and cards like Unholy Strength that don’t need to be there. With this deck I’d first just mention a bunch of good black cards to see if anything catches their interest. This would be where suggestions like Duress Hymn to Tourach and Dark Ritual would come out. I wouldn’t push for them as if ordering cards online is not an option and there isn’t a local store that sells old commons getting them can be tricky. At the very least I would recommend replacing Unholy Strength with something like Distress.

The finished product would certainly not be anything amazing but it would at least be a decent deck that if piloted correctly could be just fine for a casual group with newer players.

There will be a few more of these forum deck articles once I finish them up. This is something I do anyway on the forums so I would just need to write the article around posts I’d make anyway. I hope to do decks of varying quality and budget as well as some with different types of problems. Maybe even a few that are above what we are used to as far as power level goes.