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In most games, such as chess, Monopoly, or Puerto Rico, I buy a game set with a specified board configuration, and specific cards and pieces in specific quantities (e.g.28 title deeds, 32 houses and 12 hotels in Monopoly) for a specified price. (And if I lose something, I can create a facsimile of it to represent the original).

In certain games, such as Magic, the Gathering, on the other hand, the number and type of cards are variable. It is seems like if you have ten different players, you might have ten different sets of cards.

Once someone has a general idea what kind of deck they want to build, how do they go about the actual construction and tuning, and determine when a deck is actually playworthy?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by LittleBobbyTables, Paul Marshall, Pablo, warren, Lance Roberts Apr 16 at 20:29

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You have a title/body question mismatch. Your question is primarily opinion based (how long does it take to get to know a deck, how much of an advatage is that over a good/poor deck) or way too broad. It confuses TCG/CCG and possibly LCG with deck building game. What sort of answer are you expecting? –  user1873 Dec 27 '13 at 0:12
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You still have 3 Questions. 1) How would I know whether I have the right cards? (Opinion based, depends upon your objective. Let's assume winning, then if your deck wins more than it is supposed to on average.) 2) whether I have spent enough money on them? (Is your objective to spend more money? I have some land in Antarctica you might be interested in.) 3) would it be an advantage to play with your cards, rather than your opponents (Opinion Based) some incapable of playing some decks properly no matter how much better constructed they are than another deck (Blue Permission). –  user1873 Dec 27 '13 at 2:03
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The title still asks about your deck while the question seems to be asking about an entire collection of cards (you almost certainly don't just buy enough cards to make one single deck). It seems like this is just a vague, general "how does a deck-building/trading card game work?" question. –  Jefromi Dec 27 '13 at 2:21
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Well, edit and ask that (or post a new one) then. If you want to keep something more similar to what you initially asked, I think it's along the lines of "do people ever have Magic collections they regard as 'complete' or do they just keep buying cards?", which the existing answers all address in a way. –  Jefromi Dec 27 '13 at 2:52
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@bengoesboom It's an answerable question. The actual decision is of course subjective, but it's completely possible to describe various ways people pick types of decks to play. –  Jefromi Dec 27 '13 at 22:15

2 Answers 2

Deck construction and tuning is a big part of the fun (and the skill) in Magic. Becoming an expert deckbuilder can be a multiyear learning, not something that can be given in a StackExchange answer. But as someone who did spend those years (lots of "limited" competition and a decent amount of "constructed" format competition) I'll offer some principles to get you started:

A deck is a subset of the available cards that you choose to play, not the collection itself. You choose which cards to include in a deck in order to

a) meet whatever rules apply to your format (e.g. a 40 or 60 card minimum; rules on how many copies of a particular card can be included; what sets are eligible, etc.). These can be formal tournament rules or just whatever you and your circle of players think will be fun.

b) WIN! :)

Winning implies you have a strategy to actually win, e.g. "I will deal very fast damage to kill my opponent before they can even get set up" or "I will hit my opponent with creatures they cannot block" or "I will play a defensive battle and win with a late, game-breaking play." Obviously not all strategies are created equal, and the real fun is in the interactions between strategies. For example, a deck that concentrates on dealing damage with early fast creatures can be very effective against a deck that is slow to get defenses up, but tends to struggle against a medium-speed deck full of larger creatures. This implies that there is no one winning strategy, and that even selecting what strategy may depend in part on what you expect to face. OK, that's how you plan to win.

c) You also want to not lose. Yes, this is different from the strategy to win.

Not losing (more than necessary) means two things, both more tactical. First, you want the deck to be efficient and repeatable in its execution of the strategy. That means things like ensuring you generally have the mana to play your spells, but not more mana than you need (dead cards in your hand). There are general guidelines for these things (e.g. search up "mana curve"), and you will also develop a feel, but don't hesitate to just play out a bunch of hands solo and see how it's working.

The second element of not losing is potentially including cards that don't directly feed the primary strategy, but make the deck more resilient to opposing strategies. For example, if you are playing small weenie creatures maybe you need to add just 1-2 evasion creatures to give you a chance once the opponent gets good blockers in place. Or if you are playing a combo deck, maybe you need some defense to give yourself time to draw the combo. In general, I find it best to build the pure strategy deck first, and only swap in a few tactical cards like this if you absolutely need them. The difference in effectiveness between a pure full-on assault and a "90% assault, 10% what if" can be huge.

This is just a few thoughts to get you started. Pick how you want to win, do sample draws/plays to balance mechanical aspects, and then ultimately judge the deck by how it performs in real matches. And have fun!

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Welcome to the site. An upvote for a good answer. –  Tom Au Dec 31 '13 at 14:03

If you have ten players, you'll almost certainly have ten different decks, unless some of you are working off of published decklists. As new sets are released, the "meta" of tournament play changes, making different combinations and overall strategies more or less effective, but the meta tends to coalesce fairly quickly on a small number of competitive deck-types.

If you're playing serious Magic, it will be important to work toward one of these competitive variants. However, if you're just playing with friends, the meta of your playgroup may be quite different. You'll want to build decks that are effective in your group's meta: for example, if your group is creature-heavy, you'll need more answers for creatures than you might in a playgroup that tends to play with control decks.

It is certainly necessary to understand your deck in order to play it effectively, but that doesn't mean you're better off with your deck than your opponents'; they may have built much better decks than yours!

As to knowing when you're done: in some sense, you'll never be done. You'll discover new techniques, get interesting new cards, etc, and change your deck(s). But you'll want to aim toward a point where you and your friends are playing each other closely -- if your friends are always beating you badly, you'll need to change things up. On the other hand, if you're always beating your friends, maybe stop spending quite so much to keep it fun for everyone.

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FYI: the question has been edited to focus more on deck construction, so you might want to revise your answer. –  Jefromi Dec 27 '13 at 22:17

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