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The Dragon's Den
Originality or No
By DeQuan Watson - 2.2.05

Everyone wants to have something of their own.  It's why we work.  It's why we are driven.  You want to have something to call your own.  Apparently, this carries over into our gaming lives as well. 

You start out with a deck idea.  You sit down and try to work it out.  Sometimes the deck comes together.  Sometimes it doesn't.  For some of us, this is OK.  But for others it isn't.  I'm one of those guys that usually going to play a deck that isn't one of the popular metagame decks.  I don't see why I should.  I talk about Magic.  I write about Magic.  I run a game store where people play Magic.  I have access to all the cards I need.  So, I feel that more often than not I should be playing something a little different and original.
Others want to be original for other reasons.  For some it's a statement of bragging rights.  They can be proud of something they built and something play played of their own design.  Some players treat it as a statement of their abilities.  For each deckbuilder it is a different reason.  Regardless, deckbuilding is obviously for those with personal skills for building decks.  This ability encompasses a lot of things.  You need the ability to see card interaction.  You need to be able to find unconventional answers to conventional problems.  You have to determine the right ratio of spells to lands.  You must be able to pull a good mesh of cards together to achieve greater synergy.  With this also comes a lot of time for playesting.  You will probably take the deck to many tournaments and hope to find the results you are looking for.
But what about those of you without these amazing deck building skills?  You have to just every resource you have.  You have to scour the internet.  You have to
determine which deck is best for your metagame.  You have to figure out what cards you have available (or how easy it is to get some cards) to build the deck that you see as your favorite.  This takes a lot of time, but it's different.  You are reading.  You have to compare the reputation of the sites.  More importantly you have to compare the reputation and the integrity of the writers.  In the end, you've taken someone else's deck and built it to play on your terms on your turf.
The previous two paragraphs represent completely different people in the gaming community.  Is either superior to the other.  That's arguable.  The reason it's arguable is that no matter what happens, it comes down to one thing..results.
No one cares where your deck comes from.  Some of the greatest players of the game such as Kai Budde and Jon Finkel rarely built their own decks.  They were surrounded by good deck builders.  However, when the time came to play those decks to their full potential, these men were more than up for the task.  And honestly, many people don't even realize this fact.  Both sides of the coin have their benefits and their drawbacks.
When you play some one else's deck, a lot of the testing time is already done for you.  Someone else put it together.  Someone other than you spent the time playing it in a tournament to come up with sideboard suggestions.  That's all fine and good, but then you are left with little familiarity.  What I'm saying is that it's can be difficult to just pick up a deck and play it.  Just knowing the power of the all the cards and what's in the deck can really effect the order you play things or plan things out during a turn.
Simply having the best deck in the format isn't the answer.  Many times, there isn't even truly a "best deck."  You can read an article about a particular deck to find sideboard notes, but "+2 Xcard, -2 Ycard" doesn't equate to much once you sit down against a rogue deck that was unlisted on your matrix.  You have to be able to identify why certain card are sideboarded in or out.  You need to play several games to find all the intricacies and nuances that a deck may have.  And the downside is that your opponent will know almost every card in your deck.  Your opponent has played or playtested against a deck similar to it, so they will usually have a leg up on you.
The flip side of this is that when you build your own deck, you can become jaded.  I've watch many players get hooked on an idea and won't let it go.  If you hit a wall of failure, change a few card up and try again for ten or twenty games.  If that doesn't work, try again.  If you keep getting poor results, then you have to start look at which cards of the core list may be suspect.  You can't let personal views get in the way.  Personal attachment to cards can many times be the downfall of a great deck.  That's also many times the one thing I see plaguing players.
I'm often presented with a deck and asked to review it or evaluate it in my store.  I'll sit with the presenting player and lay the cards out and give my two cents on things.  Unfortunately, many times I get a conversation that goes something like:
Me: I'm not sure X card fits in your deck. What is it doing for you?
Player:  It's one of my favorite cards in the deck.
Me: So what about Y card?  It's kind of expensive.
Player: Yeah, but it's one of the reason I was playing X.
Me:  So how about we pull Z card to put in some removal?
Player:  If we do that, then the X and Y become pretty pointless.
Me: Unfortunately, you don't want help.
Player: *frown*
The lesson?  Be open for suggestions.  Many times I get the feeling that players want confirmation that they did a good job and don't really want deck criticism (even though they asked for it).  I often times see players get advise and then come back with miniscule changes to the deck (none of which use the newfound wisdom). 
And we can take a step beyond all of this and look at modifying a deck to fit your personal taste and flavor.  That's a whole other set of skills.  When you want to do this, you have to identify the key parts of the deck so that you're careful to not remove them.  You need to be careful with the land count.  You have to be careful about the synergy and cohesion of the rest of the deck.  You can't just take a deck and rip out chunks and expect it to work properly.  There is a way to do things.
Personally I don't think any of these methods is wrong.  If you need help, get it.  If you need to play a netdeck because you lack time to playtest, then do it.  It's like I said earlier.  No matter what your method of choice for preparing a deck was, people eventually just look at the results.
Just remember to review your deck.  Play your deck a lot. Build a deck that's fun for you. 
Until next time,
DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com

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