Deckbuilding 101 – Card evaluation

pharika banner

Welcome back, class! The last time we learned about concepts in EDH, that is, the necessity of choosing and sticking to a theme. I hope you’ve spent your leisure time pondering what to build, because this time we’re talking about card evaluation in EDH. I want to stress that what I’m about to share is my method, and it is in no way all-encompassing. This is merely the way I do it.

I want to reiterate – the goal here isn’t necessarily to build the strongest possible 100-card deck – it’s more likely to build a fun and/or unique deck that suits your goal, style, meta and collection. The last bit, the collection, will differ widely between players. I prefer to mostly build from what I own, which has affected my method of building, but I will expand upon and include a couple of other examples.

solemnsimulacrum.hq

SadBot – the first ramp card to be added after Sol Ring.

The first thing I do is to go to EDHREC.com, and look up either whatever general I’m building, or researching the available commanders in my intended colour(s). EDHREC is a very powerful tool if used responsibly, and it is a great starting off point if you’re at a loss over where to start. Once I’ve got a grip on the commander, I sit down and type a list of cards I know from memory that I want. Usually I like to do this on paper – but anything works.

Next, I go to my collection of “EDH playables”, a big box of cards sorted by colour. I go through the relevant colours and pick out all the cards that I want to play in the deck.

By this time, I often have a stack of cards around 150 or so cards, and by this time, I start to break down the deck in it’s relevant parts. If we break down the bare bones, here’s what we have:

Commander: 1
Lands: 38
Mana ramp: 10
Card draw: 10
Sweepers: 4

These are numbers I always start with. Some decks will want more than 38 lands, some can get by with less. Some cards might want more than 10 ramp cards, some less, and so on.

Easy math will tell you that in practice, most commander decks aren’t 100 unique cards, they are 100-1-38 (the commander and the lands) which leaves us 61 card slots. Take away the slots for the basic ramp and card-draw, that leaves 41 slots. Take away the slots for sweepers, and that leaves 37. Does that mean only 37 cards differentiate EDH decks? Of course not, but most decks should have these basic card types before considering anything else.

Remember class, the goal here isn’t to build a “competitive EDH deck” (since that’s an oxymoron) – the goal is to build a functioning EDH deck. Since you will devote at least 45 minutes to every game you sit down for, most often more than that, it’s important to have a deck that stands a fighting chance – lest the games will turn into very boring slogs towards the end for you.

After I’ve sorted out the lands, the ramp cards, the card draw and most often at least a basic suite of sweepers, I separate the cards left into three tiers. These tiers aren’t set in stone, but it’s usually what I do in order to rank cards.

livingdeath.hqTier one: Cards that are absolutely necessary for the deck to function. They are central to the theme, whatever it is, and the deck will not do without them. Cards in Pharika that are tier one are cards like Grave Pact, Viscera Seer, Oath of Ghouls, and Living Death. The deck would be considerably worse without these cards, and they are central to Pharika’s theme of controlling graveyards and grinding out with your own.

Tier two: Cards that aren’t exactly necessary for the deck, but are good in it and most often related to the theme. Cards that are tier two in Pharika include Eidolon of Blossoms, Doomwake Giant, Creakwood Liege, and Maelstrom Pulse. Most spotremoval falls into tier two-territory, and though many spotremoval cards make the cut, not all should, for obvious reasons.

Tier three: Tier three is the lowest of the tiers, though that does not mean that they are cards that can be cut without consideration. These cards did make the first cut out of the box/binder, mind you. Cards in tier three are cards that aren’t related to the theme directly, cards that fall into the “danger of cool things” territory (yes, it is within the curriculum to refer to an article from 1999), pet cards etc. Although most of the time, there aren’t that many tier three cards in my decks, I have a few pet cards that I tend to play with. An example in Pharika would be Vraska, the Unseen. Although she isn’t a pet card specifically, I really like planeswalkers, and I like to have them in all of my decks – and Vraska is the only black-green one prined so far. She’s also like the best rattlesnake there is, and if there is one deck that could protect a planeswalker from attackers, it’s Pharika.


Lavamancer 2By now, we’re getting a rough sketch of what we need in the deck – and we can start making cuts. Usually, I start from tier three, make heavy cuts, go to tier two, make slightly less cuts, and initially, I keep almost all cards in tier one. Once the deck is around 110-120 cards, I start to look at what the next part will be about: mana curve and designing mana bases!

I’ll leave you with a few wise words from our very own friendly neighbourhood Lavamancer, like the last time.

Your homework for the next time is to make a rough sketch of your deck, and try out the tier system for yourself. It is a lot easier to work with if you have a large collection, though it can be done electronically, if you plan to buy a bunch of cards.

Class dismissed!

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