Hi everyone, let’s talk about deck selection. Choosing the best deck for a tournament is a very important part of succeeding in Magic. Despite this, we Magic players all too often sabotage our own chances of winning by choosing to play suboptimal decks. Today I want to try and figure out why that is, in the hopes that by understanding why we sometimes make poor decisions we can learn to make better ones in the future.

Of course, there are many reasons besides winning to play a certain deck. Maybe it’s the only deck you have, or a deck you simply enjoy playing. Maybe it’s a deck that you think is probably bad, but you wanna test it to be sure. There are also many definitions for what constitutes a good or a bad deck. For the purpose of this article however, I’m going to assume your goal is to win. I’m going to define a good deck as one that gives you the highest (or close to the highest) chance of winning, and a bad deck as one that does not.

Fear of Failure

The following conversation took place between me and a friend at a recent tournament.

Friend: “What’s your record?”

Me: “1-3, but I’m not playing a tier one deck, so I don’t feel too bad about it.”

Wait, what am I saying? Did I just try to justify my poor results by saying my deck is bad? If I think the deck is bad, why on earth am I not playing a different deck instead? Slowly the truth started to dawn on me, although I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I’m afraid of failure, and playing a deck that isn’t considered tier one gave me something to blame my losses on.

I like to think I’m pretty good at this game. I bet many of us do. If you’ve played this game for a reasonable amount of time, you probably experienced a losing streak at some point. A losing streak is a prolonged series of poor or underperforming results, and it can be very demoralizing. When going through a losing streak it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking for excuses in an attempt to protect your ego and sense of pride. Rather than trying harder to win we invest less time and energy into improving at the game, so as to not have to take responsibility for our losses.

“I’m playing a bad deck.”

“I didn’t test for this tournament.”

“I lost because I wasn’t really trying.”

Not giving Magic 110% might make the possibility of failure seem less scary, but it certainly isn’t a recipe for improvement. Failure isn’t even always about losing. Sometimes it can be about not living up to your own standards of success. My own results have actually been fine lately, just nowhere close to as good as I strive for them to be. If I’m serious about getting better at Magic, I need to start taking responsibility for making that happen. No more excuses.


This brings me to another reason I think we sometimes play bad decks. As competitive Magic players, we are constantly looking to gain an edge over the competition, and the best way to do so is often through deck selection. In the past I’ve often done well even in formats I was inexperienced with simply because I had a good deck when others did not. These situations make winning feel easy.

Winning is not always easy however. It’s easy to get too comfortable when you’re used to the smooth sailing of playing a vastly superior deck. But the truth is that that isn’t always possible. Sometimes everyone plays the best deck. Sometimes the best deck just isn’t that much better than everything else. In such times you’re better off learning the best deck and perfecting your technical play rather than looking for that magical deck that is going to take the metagame by storm. You don’t need your deck to be the next big thing in order to win. You just need a good deck that you know how to play well. I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to find a deck to exploit the current metagame, something that could give me an edge versus the field. What if instead I had spent all that time learning Grixis Delver, the consensus best deck in Legacy?

Learning a new deck takes practice. It often requires a rather large investment of both time and energy, and can seem like a daunting task. This is especially true when you’ve played one deck only for a long period of time. But it’s important not to be intimidated by the challenges of learning a deck. When you’re trying to come up with a deck to give you an edge versus the field, ask yourself if it’s because you believe that’s the best thing you could be doing with your time, or because you need an excuse to avoid doing something else. If you suspect it might be the latter, you’re probably better off just picking the consensus best deck and learning how to play it.

Sandro is a Magic player from Stockholm, Sweden. He’s been playing Goblins in Legacy for years. Follow him on Twitter @SandroRajalin

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