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Deck Types January 6, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random, design , trackback

I have mentioned in a previous article that I don’t like Wizards of the Coast telling me “deck ideas.” I like to be encouraged to think of my own deck ideas. This is one of the whole points to collectible card games. If Wizards of the Coast is going to tell us what decks to play, they might as well just have us all play preconstructed decks.

There is one thing in particular about Magic: the Gathering that tells us that we can make our own deck ideas: There are many ways of winning. There are creature decks, mill decks, stasis decks, illusionary mask decks, burn decks, dredge decks, etc. Not only are there various win conditions, but sometimes we find other ways of winning. Stasis, for example, isn’t technically a win condition, but it provides a unique kind of advantage over the opponent. In contrast, other card games seem to provide pretty much just one kind of deck (creature decks).

One problem: Wizards of the Coast seems like it wants the game to be almost entirely based on creatures. There are few alternatives to playing a creature deck and for the most part it has to be a “control deck” that merely destroys lots of creatures. (Two control decks against each other is very boring.) In fact, making a noncreature deck in my favorite format (draft) is very rare.

In order to assure that Magic stays a unique game the power level of creatures and other win conditions should be equalized. Usually when other win conditions are introduced, such as “Battle of Wits,” the cards are severely underpowered. If alternate win conditions were underpowered simply because we will worry that they will be too powerful, then Wizards either needs to play test better, or they need to make a more powerful version of the card once it has been deemed too weak.

I must admit that one problem with alternate win conditions tends to be that the decks become non-interactive. I’ve never seen this be more true than in legacy Dredge, where mana isn’t even used. The deck completely ignores its opponent while it tries to get a combo. This unfortunately is nothing new. Decks with a slow win condition can be twice as boring. For example, Stasis decks sounded cool, but they could be very boring to play against… if you lose against it.

Creatures are “fun” in that they tend to be very interactive. You can block with them, attack with them, and sometimes do other things with them. Non-creature spells are interactive if they destroy permanents or counter spells, but a lot of them aren’t as interactive. Perhaps this problem will one day be revolutionized so that noncreature decks and alternate win conditions will involve more interaction.

One of the least interactive decks are storm decks, such as Mind’s Desire. These decks are about as uninteractive as possible. Even counterspell can’t stop them because storm duplicates the win condition several times over.

Stasis is a good example of a fairly interactive combo deck. Instead of getting a combo that “automatically wins,” you merely get an advantage over the opponent in certain respects. A simple disenchant can ruin a stasis deck. Unfortunately Stasis is also an example of an extremelly slow control deck. Almost the whole deck involves counterspells to keep the opponent from doing anything, and this isn’t particularly fun.

Comments»

1. michael - January 6, 2009

I think that when you start getting into things like “illusionary mask decks”, you are going too far as the only deck that would use that is one with Phyrexian Dreadnaught…and that now uses Stifle cause it got errata’d back to being stifleable.

There are 3 categories…Aggro, Control, and Combo (you can also have hybrids of these categories). Combo is the least interactive. This is where the storm and ichorid decks go.

Your list of deck types at the top seems more like win condition cards than actual deck types.
Domain Zoo = deck archtype (specific architecture with minor metagame changes here and there).
Draw-go = deck type (very broad category that can win by mill, card advantage, etc).

2. James - January 6, 2009

Right, when I use the word “deck type” or “ways of wining” I am not referring to deck categories. I’m not talking about “combo” decks and so forth. You are misreading the article because you want “deck type” to mean one thing. I’m talking about ways of playing the game in a different sense. Winning with stasis is a different way to play than any other way. There are lots of different kinds of combo decks. There might be “combo, control, and aggro” decks in other card games, but I am talking about something similar to win condition.