The Evolution of a Bad Deck

By the time you read this article SCG: Baltimore will be over. I am currently putting the finishing touches on the 75 I will be locking in for the tournament.  I’m also preparing to take a couple days off for a mental health break after grinding pretty intensely in the first week and a half after the full Shadows Over Innistrad spoiler was released.

A lot of writers post their decklists by the bunch with little to no testing backing up their choices. This is a fine way to entertain readers, but I’m not here to lie to you guys about a bunch of random bad decks I’ve put together in my notebook. (If you want them I’m glad to send you some photos)

Instead I’d like to dedicate this article to the process of how I like to build decks for new set launches, and more importantly set rotations, and how I end up where I do.

What not to do

In my short experience, everyone sees flashy mythics and wants to build around them. In this set we have some usual offenders: Arlinn Kord, Nahiri, The Gitrog Monster and Avacyn. While these cards might independently be powerful and efficient, the hardest part is building a core which can support them.

When I began building decks for Shadows Over Innistrad I was immediately put off of any tribal build. Werewolves, Spirits, Humans, Vampires, you name it, I’m off of it immediately. People like to get caught up in forcing a tribal deck even when the components just aren’t there, and I felt that was the case in each of these instances minus a Humans deck.

Getting back on track, it struck me that 2-color decks were the baseline for this weekend. Mana has gotten much worse with the departure of fetch lands, and I wasn’t going to play a 3-color deck without a TON of stress testing on the mana. This brought me to a sad realization that I was probably not playing an old classic of mine, Esper Dragons, and if I’ve learned anything in previous week 1’s it is that you need the format to shake out before you start playing blue cards.

Where to start

With that said, I’m a sucker for blue decks, so of course I started to build one like an idiot (gotta start somewhere right?). Jace, Unraveler of Secrets and Engulf the Shore intrigued me right away. I started with this very bad rough draft:

UW Control by Mat Bimonte

After a handful of matches I was winning more than I lost, but after retooling the BW Control deck and GW Megamorph decks we were testing against, I quickly learned this choice probably wasn’t a viable option for the week and scrapped it. It was badly misbuilt, and I did’t think there was a way to fix it to be up to my standards.

What was good, what was bad?

It’s good to learn what cards are working well in unison even in your bad piles. As soon as I cast Secured the Wastes on my end step, untapped and cracked Westvale Abbey for the first time, I knew that I wanted to try and find the best deck using those 2 cards in combination. I also realized rather quickly how much I missed having a creature land in straight UW. Playing White for Secure and wanting a creature land limited my options, so I began working on this:

RW Secure by Mat Bimonte

Building on past experience

Aggressive decks are always slaying people who are fumbling on their mana and giant creatures they can never cast week 1. For that reasons I started with a very aggressive slant including what I feel like will be a thorn in everyone’s sides very soon, Village Messenger and Falkenrath Gorger. These two together are really obscene and are probably misused in this deck, but the early pressure getting us into the Fireball mode of Avacyn’s Judgement or making a million guys with Gideon/Secure was an above average route to victory.

Lean on your friends and testing partners

With some help from fellow MTGCM writer Jeff Hoogland, we came up with our masterpiece of a transformational sideboard. We played a similar strategy to this when we played Mardu Aggro a while back, boarding into the 26th land, Outpost Siege, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. It’s something we did to many unsuspecting opponents after being on the aggro plan in game 1 expecting they would board in removal. There is something to be said about confusing your opponents and shuffling 75 cards together when nobody knows what they’re playing against.

I realized that maybe the bigger version of those deck was just better overall as Sylvan Advocate was a problem by the time Exquisite Firecraft was an option. So with a few modifications we landed here:

Revised RW

Are you weak to the obvious decks?

I had a real problem with this deck against Ramp strategies and I’m not sure that’s somewhere you want to be in the first few weeks. This deck was tons of fun, there still might be something there, and I could’ve been missing something, so this is a sweet starting point if it tickles your fancy. I may pick this deck up again when/if Secure + Abbey loses the target on its back I think it had this weekend. Perhaps the deck will even gain more support in future sets.

Diagnose existing decks that lost very little, and don’t be sucked into your brew

I, like many who are attending this week want to build some really sweet deck, and hop in front of a camera for 5 minutes with Nick Miller in the Sideboard explaining our sick brew. However,  like one of my inspirations Ricky Bobby always says, “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” and I like winning more than putting my ugly mug on camera.

Trust me, I wanted to play some very bad decks, even this RW deck that is probably serviceable, but when a deck nearly survives rotation, you should probably be taking a very hard look at it, and ask yourself why you are refusing to play it. That took me here:

Kent Ketter’s Red Eldrazi

When I said I wanted to be aggressive I wasn’t kidding. This deck lost exactly 3 cards from the main deck. Really?! I fully expected at least one copy of this archetype to be in the Top 8 this weekend if not more. That didn’t turn out to be the case; however there was one in the Top 16 though – and hey, that’s me! I’ve messed with the sideboard and a little bit, and as far as the main deck goes I tried to incorporate Abbey and a newer removal suite, but overall this deck just does the same thing every game, and that’s what you want: consistency.

Doing your best to build an efficient sideboard

Before we go any further, here is what I settled on:

“Do you have any clue what you’ll be playing against this weekend?” Boy, that was the $5,000 question. Browsing online and from chatter, I felt like there would be a bunch of:

Wx Humans


GW Megamorph // Bant CoCo

BW Control

Esper Dragons

X Eldrazi

I felt I had a solid matchup against these decks. For Ramp, a bunch of hasted guys, one of whom also takes an opponent’s giant monster, seemed excellent. Moving along, you always need a plan for little aggro decks week one. Whether it was aggressive red decks, a Humans deck, or something else, 4 Chandra plus 3 Kozileks Return seemed like a good way to combat fast decks. Roast was just another efficient answer to whatever your opponent wanted to play, and I wouldn’t have left home this weekend without 4. The board could have used some cleaning up, but I felt this 75 is a great starting point for the weekend.

Wrap Up

I hope I gave everyone a little insight into how my deckbuilding process works. My way of doing things isn’t the only way, but it has worked for me and my teammates in the past, and having great people to test with, bounce ideas off of, and build with is a very big deal. If you’re at the Invitational in a couple weeks, come say hi! I’m always available on Twitter, Email, or Facebook to answer any questions you may have.

Thanks for stopping in,

Mat Bimonte

Mat Bimonte

Mat Bimonte

Mat Bimonte began his Magic playing career midway through the release of Theros. Despite his short time playing the game, he has a Modern 5K championship title along with a handful of smaller Standard tournament wins. Mat spends most of his time on the Star City Circuit with aspirations of qualifying for the Pro Tour in the coming years.
Mat Bimonte

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Published:April 13, 2016


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