Guide to Type II Deck Building
once more, dear friends!
I’ve decided to impart some of my various pearls of
wisdom, and teach some of the skills of Type II deck
building. Hopefully this will become a guide for you to
have open while you’re building the next Balancing
going to begin with some fairly basic points, but I
promise that I’ll get to the advanced stuff in a bit.
very first thing you should do, even before naming the
deck or considering the creatures, is to decide on your
deck’s style. Every deck needs a theme, a central
focus to concentrate on. If you try to do everything,
you will end up with nothing. Deciding on your focus
includes many aspects. You need to decide what speed you
want the deck to be, whether you want to concentrate on
what you’re doing or what your opponent is doing, and
what kind of balance you want to strike between
creatures and spells.
armed with this vague idea, you must select your colours.
Do you want the action of Red or the reaction of Blue?
The reality-changing Blue or the in-your-face Green
spells? The creatures of Green or the Black death? The
underhanded manipulation of Black or the upfront and
righteous White? White’s protection or Red’s
colours work better together than others. In the
beginnings of the game, colours which were placed beside
each other on the back of the cards were ‘Allied’
cards, and colours on opposite sides of the circle were
‘Enemy’ colours. However, in recent times the lines
have become blurred with the alliances of the Invasion
block, and any colour will work just as well with any
a list of deck styles in each colour combination. If
you’re a complete beginner, I advise you pick a single
colour. If you’ve already played a few games, also
select from 2 and 5 colour decks. If you’re pretty hot
(bet you’re not!) then go for any combination.
There are no Type II decks without any colours, for the simple reason that artifacts are very poor today, and that it’s just as easy to provide mana for 1 colour as none.
– The White Weenie archetype has been around for a
long time. You play creatures that usually have a
casting cost of W or 1W, perhaps backed up by
enchantments. When your forces eventually become
overwhelmed by your opponent’s meatier monsters, reset
the board with a mass removal spell like Wrath of God
and quickly pick up where you left off.
– Mono-Blue decks do everything they can to control
the way the game is going. If Blue’s opponent plays
something Blue really hates, he/she will either remove
it or counter it. Blue decks will draw lots of cards to
ensure that they stay on top of the game.
– It’s difficult to categorise a Black-only deck.
They will all resort to messing around with your
graveyard, with your hand and especially your creatures,
but they all have different ways of finishing the game
off. When you’re facing Black, remember that they will
make any sacrifice to win. (Usually literally!)
– Direct damage and even more direct creatures are the
order of the day. If it can’t reduce your opponent’s
life total, you probably won’t need it in a Red only
deck. The most popular name for this style of deck is
Sligh, but Red is also home to the principle of land
Green – Stomping over your opponent is one the most enjoyable ways to finish the game, and Green has large creatures coming out of its pointy ears. Most cards will be gargantuan creatures, creatures that provide mana to pay for the fatties, or spells that make Green’s creatures even more lethal.
+ Blue – Tends to play more like a control deck, but
borrows the extensive defensive capabilities of White.
Some simply wait until the enemy has run out of steam
and then launch the counterattack.
+ Black – This combination was formidable even before
people realized the hidden charms of Psychatog. Blue’s
manipulation combines with Black’s murderous intent to
make a clear stranglehold on the game. With the
aforementioned sensation, this deck now has a convincing
finish. Reliability is this deck’s first, last and
+ Red – If all-out slaughter is the deck type you
want, look no further. Imagine the intensity of Red with
the ruthlessness of Black, and you have an imposing
blend. The creatures used are about 3/3 or thereabouts,
and many have extra talents like killing creatures,
removing cards or firing off damage.
+ Green – Another fast, aggressive deck, but in this
one creatures with haste are the kings. Doing creature
damage at speed is the top priority, but usually with a
little burn to clear out any major threats that get
dropped by your opponent.
+White – Usually relies on large creatures, and
abilities that will either protect them or make them
more fearsome. This deck really begins to shine when it
+ Black – The unholy alliance of Black and White gives
a peculiar type of deck. White can compensate for
Black’s self-destructive habits with life gaining
spells, while Black helps out White’s lack of
dominance on the late-game battlefield by slaughtering
any obstacles in the way. Together they form a potent,
if bizarre, duo.
+ Green – This deck type combines Black trickery with
Green brute force. Abusing the graveyard mechanisms is a
key theme, as well as bringing the more imposing threats
back to life.
+ Blue – The most common occurrence of this
combination is found in the popular deck Tempo. The name
of the game is to play powerful creatures while
returning any obstructions to their controller’s hand.
Drawing cards for yourself while sending your
opponent’s back has a very pronounced effect.
+ Red – An interesting choice. This deck uses few
permanents, lots of removal, and damage that goes
straight to the head. One version that particularly
impressed me used Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor to lock down
the board so that the burn spells could concentrate on
reducing the opposing life total.
Red + White – A Red and White deck accentuates the common interest; low cost creatures. It plays very quickly, usually with the excellent Goblin Trenches as a finishing blow.
+ Blue + Black – The universally loved counter cards
Undermine and Absorb are essential to this commanding
yet unfocused deck. It will utilize a multitude of
useful creature abilities to take control of the board,
usually dealing the lethal damage with a large evasive
+ Black + Red – Very rarely played, but it controls
the creature side of the equation very well. Played with
an equal mix of burn, discard and card drawing, this
deck can take control well, but has problems dealing
+ Red + Green – Essentially like a Red + Green deck,
but with Black’s creature kill and indirect spells.
This deck provides mana for itself very well. It tends
to play larger creatures than it would without Black.
+ Green + White – This combination excels in the late
game, with plenty of large threats and finishing cards.
Red + Green + White also has access to a variety of
creatures that will let you play the bombs earlier, and
more importantly some inspired ways of dealing with
+ White + Blue – Another slow deck, but one that boxes
very cleverly. Most decks from this background will use
the ‘comes into play’ abilities of creatures more
than once to wear the opponent down, until a suitably
large army has been mustered to go in for the kill.
+ Black + Red – Another good deck for massacring
creatures, but this particular combination gives the
player several strong finishes to choose from. As well
as a more versatile spread of destruction, land removal
fits well with these colours.
+ Red + Green – The cards for a good deck in these
colours will set you back a fair bit, but they are most
effective. The good thing about this deck is that you
can easily customize the aggression, speed and style of
the deck just by playing with the colour ratios.
+ Green + White – For a deck featuring Green and
White, this plays very deviously. You will usually find
Desolation Angel to be the finisher, sometimes backed up
by Overgrown Estate to ensure the victory. Lots of
graveyard manipulation, along with traditional Green
threats to pave the way.
+ White + Blue – Look at the colours. That’s why
this deck is called the Patriot, almost always revolving
around Lightning Angel (aka Miss America) or Rakavolver.
(aka The Cow, aka Bush Jr.) The aim is to play one of
these highly effective critters, with control-based
backup to lock up the board.
Green + Blue + Black – Seeing this combination sends a shiver down my spine. The most effective deck in these colours goes to any length to play Spiritmonger. He is the most lethal monster in the format, and if one hits the board the rest is history. The rest of the deck, which already reads like a ‘Who’s who’ of Type II anyway, is mainly to get him into play. An abundance of counters will see that nothing gets in the way.
You won’t see any 4-colour decks other than in really casual games. To support a 4th colour you need the deck to be primarily dedicated to producing different types of mana, and this room could be better spent with good cards in the colours you already had.
White + Blue + Black + Red + Green – There isn’t a good deck featuring all 5 colours equally. These decks are primarily designed to take advantage of cards which give bonuses for having multiple land types, so a good 5 colour deck will have a couple of each of the minor colour lands, and ways to hunt them out of the deck. This allows access to every spell under the sun, but the deck is sometimes too slow to stop the early attacks it receives.
coma-inducing minutes later, you should now have a theme
for your deck, and the colours you’re going to use.
Very importantly, you must now limit yourself to these
colours! Otherwise, when you’re looking for cards for
the deck later on, you’ll make an exception for a card
that’ll work really well but is in the wrong colour,
then another, and eventually you’ve got a 250 card, 5
coloured monstrosity. Choose now or pay later.
that you’ve got a theme, a principle for your deck,
it’s time to actually get some cards in there. Chances
are you’ve already got some in mind, so throw those
in. Use the theme of your deck to get some more. If you
are building a Green and Red assault deck, then use a
card searcher to find only Red and Green creatures. If
you have a thorough one, you can search for Green
Creatures who have power at least equal to their casting
cost, or Red instants that feature the word
‘damage’. You’ll dismiss many of these straight
away, but you should keep between a half and a fifth in
out a basic strategy for the deck, and get cards of each
type. If you wanted a Red and White deck to defend and
gain life before unleashing an almightily damaging
spell, then find some defensive creatures, some life
gaining spells, and some large burn spells. For each
part of your strategy, work out how often you’ll want
to see each category of spell. For example, if you
wanted to draw a creature removal spell a sixth of the
time, then assign 10 slots to be cards of this type.
Cards that fulfil more than one function can go in
multiple categories, and so if you pick them for the
deck you’ll have a more efficient machine.
Now, for each aspect of your deck you have a set number of places, and all the cards of that type are competing to get in. The only way to choose is too compare them to each other. Make sure to score them both on how well they fulfil their role in the deck, and also whether they have any extra abilities or effects that will prove useful. Again, be strict with yourself. Try not to go over the quantities you already specified by more than 1 or 2. When deciding how many of a particular card you want in the deck, try to play 4 of each, with the following exceptions:
1) This card is an enchantment, and having more than one in play at any one time will have no extra effect. I recommend playing 3 of these.
2) This card is a finisher. You don’t want to have this card sitting dead in your hand through the game, so playing less works well. Play 2; unless it can be used for another purpose earlier in the game, in which case 3 or even 4 is fine.
I can’t choose! Very often, you’ll want to
have play 2 different cards, but you only really have
enough room for one, and each one is good for different
situations. In this case playing a few 3s here and there
is OK. Having a more versatile deck compensates for the
loss in consistency, but don’t overdo it.
order to choose cleanly, set out the cards beside each
other metaphorically, and weigh up the differences. Will
added toughness be more valuable than the extra ability?
Is that alternative use really worth the extra mana
cost? If you find yourself drawn to a card that seems to
have few benefits when measured against the others, then
ask yourself why you want that one. Try to take the
cards which are focused on your objective, but which
have ways of dealing with whatever your opponent is
you perform the above comparisons, you should do the
creatures first, followed by the spells, and then the
land. Creatures and land can be in any ratio, but 1
creature to 1.5 spells is about the average. If you have
very few of one or the other then you risk your opponent
taking advantage on that front. When it comes to land,
try to follow this rough guide:
the average mana cost of your cards, quadruple it, and
add 7 to it. Then, add 3 lands for each colour you
support in your deck, and subtract 1 for each 2
mana-producing cards in your deck. This will give you a
basic land count, and the best way to decide whether you
want basic or multi-colour lands is to experiment. If
your deck is 2-colour you should only need between 0 and
4 non-basic lands, but if you’re playing 3 colours
than you need to consider an advanced mana base, with a
perfected mix of pain-lands, tap-lands or maybe tainted
lands. 5 colour decks probably won’t play any
non-basic lands due to the stipulation in the wording of
may seem that the best way to allocate basic land slots
is by the ratios of mana costs, but this is not so. For
example, in a deck with 19 spells costing U, and 19
creatures each costing GGG, the best mix is not 5
Islands and 15 Forests. (2 multi-mana lands) The only
spells you can play on the first two turns are the Blue
spells, so you need to be sure of getting Islands in
your opening hand. In addition, more important than
having lots of the mana of your major colour is having
some mana for both colours. Generally it’s best to
move from the initial ratio mix towards a more 1:1 mix,
and in this case I’d play 9 Islands and 11 Forests.
Drawing 2 Forests and an Island won’t hamper you as
much as drawing 3 Forests.
next step to take when choosing between similar cards is
to consider their mana costs. A deck with all-powerful
bombs that cost 5-6 mana each to play will be wiped out
before it can play anything to save it from low-cost
creatures. A deck with 1-2 mana cost cards will do some
damage early on, but the lands will just be sitting
there untapped later in the game, while your opponent
launches devastating game-altering spells.
safe middle road is a downward curve. For those
mathematically minded among you, think of the curve f(x)
= 10(sqrt(5-x)). Basically, you have about 35% of spells
at 1 mana, 30% at 2 mana, 22% at 3 mana, and 13% at 4
mana or higher. This lets you play early threats easily,
and gives you the mana to play late-game wonders without
swamping your hand with them when you can’t afford to
take sample draws from your deck. If you have all the
cards already, then make a physical copy, if not then
use a random number generator or an online deck creator.
From a random draw, you’re looking for 2-3 lands, no
more than 2 cards that cost 4 mana or more, and 3 cards
that you’ll be able to play in the first few turns.
Play out a simple solitaire game for about 3-5 turns.
This should point out any mana problems or a lack of a
specific part of your strategy. Go back and tinker until
you are drawing satisfactorily.
you now have a working deck, ask other people for help.
Pojo’s Message Boards are my #1 choice, you’ll
always find someone who has played something similar and
has experiences to share. Don’t dismiss suggestion by
friends and other players out of hand, you lose nothing
by experimenting with their recommendations. When you
have got as many opinions as you can, (including the
obligatory ‘That deck sucks! lol!) try each of the
suggestions in your deck. See which ones work well
together, and which ones make the deck function more
deck should really be taking shape now. What you should
do next is tweak the deck according to the metagame.
That is, the decks you will be playing against. If you
play in tournaments, that means putting Lobotomy in your
control deck, and putting Spellbane Centaur in your
aggressive creature deck. This is because plenty of
decks at this level will heavily feature Blue, so your
deck will now be better prepared for them. If you’re
only playing against your good friend Timmy’s
Leviathan deck, then some cheap creature kill is in
order, or Blue and White creature manipulation.
should find that some of the costlier or more specific
cards would become less useful when you draw more than
1. Your deck list may well develop a set of 3s and 2s,
but if this is making the deck run smoothly then go with
some games against similar decks to your upcoming
opposition. You could play online, or just make another
deck from cards you own, and play as both sides. The
important thing is that you are facing the same threats
that you will in the real game, and hence you should
learn how to deal with them. Also, the cards that are
dead weight will really begin to show themselves, and
you can remove these for others you had originally
more games you play, the more your deck will improve,
and the more your skill at playing that deck increases
too. After every few games, go back to the deck list,
and change the quantities depending on how effective
each card is proving. When you go for several games and
you honestly cant find a way to change the deck for the
better, consider it complete. That’s right, when the
deck can’t get any better, you’re done building, and
you can hit the streets in search of fun at last!
are that you skipped over about 97% of what I said, so
after beating yourself silly with a stale loaf of bread,
check this concise list that summarizes the process.
M ake sure that you choose the theme before anything else.
A fterwards, pick colours that are conducive to that theme.
C hoose a basic game strategy, with clear objectives and cards which fit that strategy.
K ill off any cards that don’t help with those objectives.
E very deck needs to play multiples.
R ate cards according to how well they perform their function, and play more of the cheaper ones.
E ven the best players need to ask others for opinions, this is the fastest way to get new ideas.
eave your house and play some games to make the final
tweaks based on what is working best.
at what it spells! Spooky, eh? No? Ah, please yourself.
hope you enjoyed this mammoth look at deck building
tips, and I’m sure you’ll all be willing to
contribute to my medical bills when I develop RSI as a
result of writing this. Seriously, if you want any
clarification, extra advice or to convey your own ideas
then I’d love to hear from you. This address is back
wish you all good luck with building your decks, and a
happy future playing with them. See you all soon.
That is all.
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