I’ve been on a bit of hiatus, but, I’ve recently become motivated to talk about how to build decks in Modern and how this process will allow you to play your favorite decks in any metagame with some careful research and testing. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use my UB Faeries deck that I have played to almost a 70% win rate for the last year in various metagames. I’ll detail my steps below and share some sample lists based on various metagames.
The first step in building a deck is looking at the core. What is your deck trying to do? What are its strengths? What unique and powerful objectives are you trying to take advantage of that others aren’t? In the case of Faeries, I’m really building my deck around Bitterblossom and the Faerie synergies that come with it. Moreover, when you look at those synergies you’ll see cards like Spellstutter Sprite and Vendilion Clique have flash. This means I’ll want to put cards around them that really take advantage of the flash mechanic and offer me a wide range of utility in different parts of the game. That gives us a core that looks like this:
Now, this is only 18 nonlands. While some of these numbers can be adjusted, it’s important to use these cards as your framework and your solid group when brainstorming what exactly you want to be doing. These cards define your gameplan and your role in various matchups. Based on a metagame, you’ll want to change various packages that you’re adding and that might slightly impact the core, but, not substantially.
Packages are a Magic shortcut to describe a collection of cards that work well together or accomplish a particular aim. Here are a few examples:
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Go for the Throat
2 Mana Leak
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Mistbind Clique
1 Vendilion Clique
1-2 Secluded Glen
These three packages showcase what I was trying to detail. The Snapcaster Package for example considers Snapcaster Mage to be a complimentary threat to the flash creatures and then surrounds it with several different ways to utilize Snapcaster Mage. If your deck is going to include Snap, you’ll want to add a variety of roles for it to perform. Whether that’s additional hand sculpting, more removal, or more counters, Snapcaster goes from being a single threat to a swiss army knife. The discard package is an example of cards that are put in place to perform a role. Typically, Faeries decks, especially in extended and Lorwyn block, used discard as a way to set the stage for their blossoms and control the early game. These six cards represent a style of deck you’re hoping to produce. This package would make you want to offer more pressure after your discard spells – this package is less about an objective and more about a type of play you’d want to adopt. Choosing this discard package would be good for specific metagames and help you center your deck in a certain theme. Something like Liliana of the Veil might help you quickly close out games. The Mistbind package offers an idea of how a manabase might be effected. When you use mana-intensive packages, you might want to add a land. In the case of Faeries, once we add Mistbind Clique, we’re looking at 14 faeries we could reveal to Secluded Glen which means even if we’re cutting a few after sideboarding, we still have the benefit of a land that would be entering untapped when we hope to cast Mistbind Clique or our other 4 drops.
The Last Few Slots
At this point you may have added a package or two to your deck. Your deck has gone from a core objective that you’ll be proactively trying to accomplish, buffed by a reactive or combative package that attacks the specific metagame you’re hoping to address. This means your deck will have specific strategies and matchups where you’ll be favored and also matchups where you’ll be set at a disadvantage. Because of that, you’ll want to use these last few maindeck slots of sure up good matchups, target a specific archetype or help protect your game 1 against some weak matchups. This might look like a card like Spell Snare for combatting early pressure or another counterspell to gain the edge in a control or combo matchup. It might look like a source of lifegain like Kalitas or a Sword of Light and Shadow, a Planeswalker for midrange battles or an extra removal spell to catch up from behind. Decks playing discard should look for ways to close out early games and ways to improve their lackluster topdecks in the late game and decks without discard should be looking for ways to catch up in the early game and be less concerned about their topdecks, as they’ll be naturally stronger.
Starting Over: Building a 75 for Your Metagame:
That’s right! After you’ve adapted your maindeck with the various packages, you’ll want to start from scratch and look at how they’ll inform your sideboard. The number one tip I can offer someone who is hoping that their deck lasts them for a while should really look into how putting packages in the maindeck and sideboard can help them combat specific decks, moreover, being able to completely alter your deck for various metagames is an essential skill as I’ll show you below. Here’s a few of the Faeries lists I’ve played over the last two years as well as some of the decks Faeries pilots have used at various points.
So, with these 3 lists, I’m trying to demonstrate some of the things that had been done to combat various metagames. The first list is my current Faeries list. Notable cards from the shell are a larger number of Mistbind Cliques because of the uptick in big mana strategies and a removal of the traditional discard package for the greater quantity of midrange decks in the metagame. Additionally, there’s an interesting anti-creature package in Kalitas, Gifted Aetherborn and an additional removal spell which comes in against Dredge, Humans, Eldrazi Tron, or Company variants. This plan is to try and assist a bad matchup in my favor. Compare this with the last list which is a variation of a list I took to GP Vegas when Death’s Shadow was at its peak, and you’ll notice that a lot of the sideboard and flex slots have changed. The anti-shadow list is a lot more proactive and features a lower curve as well as a Pendelhaven in order to stop Lingering Souls tokens. Yuuta Takahashi’s MOCS list is incredibly divergent but you’ll notice short of 0 Vendilion Cliques, it offers a lot of the same shell I referenced above. Yuuta’s list is really looking to take advantage of a Liliana package that uses Remand to counter something and then Liliana to strip it out of their hand. Yuuta’s list is also aimed at improving Ancestral Visions with these cards as well, buying lots of time. Yuuta’s anti-creature package is very interesting as well featuring Hostage Taker and Scarab God as ways to fight Voice of Resurgence and other large creature decks. I showcased these three decks because all of them diverge from “traditional” Faeries lists you may have seen that feature 6 discard spells. The ability to diverge from the norm can sometimes give your deck the ability to stay relevant long after its predecessors have thrown in the towel.
That concludes my article for this week. As a bit of housekeeping, I plan on regularly writing articles again and as such hope to feature a weekly mailbag column to answer reader questions. Feel free to send any questions to email@example.com or comment in the articles below. I’m looking forward to answering any questions you have about my articles, Magic formats, metagaming, brews, and really any Magic topics you can think of! Looking forward to hearing from all of you!
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