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Guide to Type II Deck Building

Welcome once more, dear friends!

Today, 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 Tings.

I’m going to begin with some fairly basic points, but I promise that I’ll get to the advanced stuff in a bit.

The 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.

Now, 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 damaging attacks?

Some 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 other.

Here’s 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.

0 colours

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.

1 colour

White – 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.

Blue – 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.

Black – 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!)

Red – 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 destruction 

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.

2 colours

White + 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.

Blue + 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 middle name.

Black + 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.

Red + 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.

Green +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 reaches Threshold.

White + 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.

Black + 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.

Green + 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.

Blue + 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.

3 colours

White + 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 creature.

Blue + 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 with spells.

Black + 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.

Red + 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 opposing attacks.

Green + 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.

White + 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.

Blue + 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.

Black + 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.

Red + 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.

4 colours

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.

5 colours

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.

Several 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.

Now 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 the selection.

Work 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.

3)      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.

In 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 doing.

When 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:

Take 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 Domain-style cards

It 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.

The 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.

A 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 play them.

Now, 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.

As 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 efficiently.

The 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.

You 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 it.

Play 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 omitted.

The 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!

Chances 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.

L eave your house and play some games to make the final tweaks based on what is working best.

Look at what it spells! Spooky, eh? No? Ah, please yourself.

I 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 one page.

I wish you all good luck with building your decks, and a happy future playing with them. See you all soon.

That is all.




Copyright 2001 Pojo.com

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