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Deck Beautification

The Apocalypse prerelease was today. For those with a desire to know, I built what I felt was a fairly strong W/U/B deck, with few bombs but a lot of good fliers and some nifty tricks. I went 4-2 out of six rounds, with one close loss and one slaughter at the hands of a deck that could only be described as fairly broken. The dreaded Spiritmonger only crossed my path once, and wouldn't you know it, I just happened to have a Phyrexian Infiltrator waiting for it. That was a fun game.

I hope to see many of your prerelease tournament reports showing up on Pojo in the next few days, but the fact that the event is over for most of us makes it so there is little point in me talking about Sealed strategy or anything similar. And I talked about Apocalypse last week. Yes, I am already germinating deck ideas regarding the new set and its accompanying format, but I don't want to talk about them right now either. Instead, I want to talk about something fun. So let me tell you a story.

Earlier this week, I was cleaning up my room. The occasion was the fact that I had moved back home from college, along with my desktop computer and a good deal of personal belongings. As a result, a good deal of material needed to be shuffled about my already crowded room. In the process, I happened upon a couple of old Portal: Second Age starter decks that had been given to me by well-meaning acquaintances at some distant point in the past. Wanting an excuse to take a break from work, I cracked them open and started looking through them. Within a few minutes, I had come to two firm conclusions:

1) The Portal sets were, and are, a key part of the gigantic conspiracy to dumb down Magic until we are all playing with Hill Giants and we wonder what exactly that old card type called "instants" was all about. The inclusion of several Portal cards in Seventh Edition is ample testament to this fact.

2) The Portal: Second Age lands are gorgeous. Especially the mountains.

Let me expand on that second statement a bit... One of my tendencies, whether I realize it or not, is to play with cards that have appealing artwork. I would hazard a guess that most of us have felt the same way at some time or another. This is not to say that I will always play with suboptimal or just plain bad cards on the virtue of their appearance, but it is something I keep in mind when selecting cards, and where I have a choice among multiple versions of artwork, I will generally try to take the one that I like best. It's true that the functionality of the card is unaffected one way or the other, but think of it this way-- if all goes well, you will likely spend a lot of time looking at the cards in your deck, either in play or in your hand. Might as well have them be easy on the eyes, eh? Foils are another aspect of a card's visual appearance, and I try to play with foils whenever I can.

Now, granted, even I don't usually take the time or the money to ensure that all of my Millstones are from 7th Edition, and I doubt many of us have a full set of foil Chimeric Idols or Blastoderms. So tradeoffs must be made. Generally, I just trade for these cards when I can, hope to pull them from packs, and work them into decks whenever possible. Currently, the only foils in my Type 2 deck are a lone Pillage and Star Compass. I may spend several games without seeing either of them. But when I do pull them up, it's worth it. They glitter in the light so prettily. Sometimes it even evokes a comment from my opponent, especially the Pillage. It doesn't change the way my deck works at all, but it's an extra little part of the experience. Even the non-foiled cards in my deck provide visual entertainment-- the powerful Scoria Cat pouncing forth from rivers of molten lava, for example, or the Flowstone Overseer towering over the battlefield like some gigantic colossus. All the cards in my deck have artwork that appeals to my personality, and it makes it that much more fun to draw them and put them into play. Others might prefer the metallic horror of the Phyrexian Scuta, or the dazzling grace of the Blinding Angel. It's all up to you.

Okay, so you're already playing the color that appeals to your personality. This is often the same thing, as the various themes of the colors are usually reflected to some degree in the artwork. Is there anything else you can do to make your deck nicer to look at without spending a bundle?

Well, yes. You might even have already guessed what it is-- it's what originally sent me down this topic, a few paragraphs ago.


Of all the consistently reprinted cards in Magic, basic lands are probably the ones with the largest amount of variety in artwork. When you add up 4 different illustrations for each basic land type in each large expansion from Ice Age onwards, plus the offerings from the periodic editions of the base set-- well, it adds up pretty quickly. Granted, a lot of these lands are either plain-looking or downright ugly, but by contrast, there are some truly gorgeous examples out there. (Mirage lands are among my favorites, in particular.) Even better, outside of the very early sets such as Beta and Revised, basic land is typically dirt cheap. Some people will even give it to you free if you ask. Look around and accumulate a small stash of the ones you like best-- it's yet another way to add a neat little personal touch to your deck.

What I said before about foils also goes for basic land. Foil land is relatively easy to come by. You should start to accumulate a modest collection of it in one color or another if you spend any reasonable length of time in the hobby. The best thing about foil basic land is that it's automatically playable, whereas the odds are significantly against a nonland foil card being anything close to Constructed viable. (My binder, full of such foil gems as Briar Patch and Rhystic Shield, is mute testimony to this fact.) Again, foil land is something to be on the lookout for and to hang onto when you get it-- it might not seem much at first, but before you know it you'll have a neat little stack of shiny lands.

Anyway, back to my story about the Portal: Second Age mountains I found. They were, indeed, above the usual caliber of what I've found for land artwork-- beautiful, snow-covered mountain vistas. I gathered as much of them together as I could, and later that evening I swapped out the remaining Ice Age and Tempest mountains in my T2 deck for them. (All of my foil mountains are currently devoted to my "casual play" red deck, and I don't have enough of the Mirage lands to fill out my Ponza deck.) And guess what? It made for a noticeable change! Both the new lands and the old ones tapped for red mana equally well, but the new ones were a delight to behold, rather than being an eyesore, as the old ones were.

The moral of this story? Play with pretty cards. It really does make for a difference in your outlook on the game, and it's also a statement of your own personal tastes. Don't let it become the end-all of your gaming outlook, but take the extra effort to reward yourself and your favorite deck. Trust me-- it's addictive. :)

Until next time... peace out.