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In Magic the Gathering, the decks are required to be no less than 60 cards, but can be larger. Since you can only have 4 of each card (except for basic lands), it seems you would want the limit size to improve your chances of getting the cards you want. Why would you want to play with a larger deck?

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I take it they have increased the minimum deck size? Back when I played (16+ years ago) the minimum deck size was 35, and I typically used decks of around 40. –  GalacticCowboy Oct 20 '10 at 13:10
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@GalacticCowboy Yes, official play is up to 60 now, but many of the "starter decks" only have 40 cards. –  C. Ross Oct 20 '10 at 13:18
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There's also a 40-card minimum in limited formats like draft or sealed-deck. –  Jadasc Oct 20 '10 at 15:39

8 Answers 8

up vote 23 down vote accepted

You can easily run yourself out of cards if you build a standard-sized deck based around card-drawing, decking mechanics (where you try and exhaust your opponent's deck), or graveyard-pilfering (where you want to get as much stuff into your graveyard as possible). This can quickly happen if you play with Recycle, Worry Beads, Anvil of Bogardan, Riptide Director, Tolarian Serpent, Cephalid Vandal, Prosperity, Ambassador Laquatus... or any of the infinite card drawing combos. These are some of my favourite kinds of decks for casual play, and are routinely large.

Another strong argument is if you expect to be on the receiving end of someone trying to 'deck' you. I built a deck specifically for this purpose after getting annoyed with my friend's Millstone deck. Clearly this is not a general approach, but is handy for wiping the smirk off your regular gaming partner's face. ;)

A third reason is if you want to keep your deck general, and include lots of options for dealing with different types of enemies. You can build powerful decks around this approach, using the idea of cycling, digging or searching through your deck with e.g. Tutors, Skyship Weatherlight, Captain Sisay, and so on, to find the exact card you need for any situation.

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I'm sorry but I completely disagree. (1) you are supposed to win by the time you have drawn all your deck; i.e. if your deck is so weak you didn't win after you have drawn 60 cards, burn it; (2) this is a very weak argument even if you know that the opponent will try to mill you: using anti-mill cards is much better instead; (3) if you can't fit all your cards, just have less cards for each type (1x or 2x instead of 4x) and use some tutors to find them - if you think you need too many 1x cards to fit 60, well, lol. –  Lohoris Nov 25 '10 at 15:20
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@Lo'oris: If you win at 60 cards you still win. A stall/stasis/mill deck is completely viable in casual play and periodically one will show up in Standard. Decking is also more likely if you play heavy life-gain decks and end up in a mirror match. Giving yourself an extra card can be enough to protect against decking against mirror and it isn't going to hurt your deck that much. (That being said, 60 cards is still likely to be the proper play.) –  MrHen Mar 2 '11 at 22:31
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I agree with Lo'oris. This answer provides examples of situations where having a larger deck might not be a strict disadvantage. However, they're all hugely outweighed by the fact that you want to win, and to win you need to maximise the chances of drawing the cards you need to draw, i.e. have as small a deck as legally possible. This answer makes it seem as though it could be a valid choice to randomly decide to have more than 60 cards in a Constructed deck "just in case". It shouldn't really be the accepted answer. –  thesunneversets Aug 23 '11 at 19:19
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I'm surprised at how contentious this answer seems to be, and how strong the counter opinions run. It's not all about obliterating your opponent. In casual play, I enjoy playing with bigger decks. In fact, most of my decks are bigger than 60 cards. Sometimes I enjoy building decks that only use one of each card. Sometimes I like building decks that win with the most obscure mechanic available. The question asked "Why would you want to...?" not "Are decks bigger than 60 cards a great idea for crushing my enemies?" Magic is not just about the tournament scene. –  ire_and_curses Dec 22 '11 at 22:49
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@ire_and_curses Most casual decks benefit from playing 60 cards in the same way that they benefit from running the right number of lands. I don't think of this as "crush my enemies" as much as "make sure my deck actually gets to do its thing" -- which is a concern for many casual players. –  Alex P Dec 26 '11 at 17:22

Obviously,

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From a strategy standpoint, my answer would be "You wouldn't".

The mathematics of probability in drawing from a 60 card deck vs a 61 or 62 card deck change (almost dramatically). Here's an interesting article.

However, I think that often you can start with more than 60 cards when 'testing' a deck. Often you find that a card doesn't fit or 'play nice with others' and should come out. Same with cards that you draw and think "I wish I hadn't drawn that". Those cards come out also.

So to summarize, when testing ideas, 60+ is okay. For tournament play, reduce to 60.

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I think the better phrase would be, "you almost always wouldn't." A number of great players have, on rare occasions, played 61 cards and done well with them, though obviously they put a great deal of thought into the matter. This has been the subject of discussion many times. –  Andy May 19 '11 at 15:41
    
@Andy - yes, I agree, with the caveat that you should be aware of the probability changes and make (darned) sure that the 61st card is just as important as the 60th card. –  My Turn Yet May 23 '11 at 17:07
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Deck-building, like writing, is all about the editting. –  Joshua Shane Liberman Feb 17 '12 at 18:45

You might be playing in a format that mandates it. One example is Commander, which uses a deck of precisely 100 cards, with no cards repeated save basic land.

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Adding diversity seems to the biggest reason you'd want to go over 60. Since most decks are designed around getting certain cards, increasing the size of the deck beyond sixty decreases the probability of drawing any one card. Since a deck is limited to only four copies of a non land card usually, this added diversity comes at the cost of significantly reducing the chances of getting a certain card in a given game.

I think for players looking to experiment, or looking for decks that deliver truly random results, having a deck larger then sixty isn't an issue. Larger decks could be fun for some people to play since they can have a much larger selection of spells, but I don't there are any strategic reasons for doing.

Larger decks are going to be much less constant on getting the cards you need, when you need them. Most magic decks are highly focused one or at most two strategies for winning. Especially when your looking for a certain card combination to win, having extra cards will just reduce the odds of you getting the cards you need.

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okay, I agree with the 'diversity' part also. Still, I tend to want to cut to 60... –  My Turn Yet Oct 20 '10 at 0:10
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@Egg of P'an Ku For any serious deck, 60 cards is the way to go. –  ICodeForCoffee Oct 20 '10 at 0:13
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I disagree. I think 60 is the way to go for almost all serious decks, but not all. On very rare occasions, some people have played 61 (not sure about any more than that) and done well. –  Andy May 19 '11 at 15:43
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@Andy: IMO, the rules should specifically forbid you from doing that unless you have at least 1 Pro Point. :) –  adamjford Sep 30 '11 at 20:08

Effective Magic decks thrive on consistency. Exceeding the minimum deck size is only worth it if it gives you a powerful benefit you can't gain otherwise, like a surprising way to attack the metagame.

Pushing your deck above 60 (or 40) cards makes it harder to find key cards, increases the risk of "mana flood" and "mana screw," and makes it more likely that you'll draw unplayable hands. Generally speaking, this is not a good plan! Even in a casual environment where playing an optimal deck might not be your top priority, losing because of flood/screw or bad mulligans isn't fun.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Frank Karsten wrote an article called "Is Playing More Than 60 Cards Always a Bad Idea?" to examine some special cases. His findings:

  • Adding extra cards is not a good way to tweak mana ratios: the added variance of the 61st card tended to be greater than the value of getting your lands-to-spells number just so. Frank's advice:

    Running a 61st card to add “half a land” to your deck is almost always wrong. If you really need to add half a land, then cut an expensive spell and add a cheap cantrip.

  • Specific combo-style win conditions can justify going over the minimum number of cards. Examples are Battle of Wits (which requires a huge library to win the game) and Scapeshift (which requires playing enough Mountains to one-shot your opponent with Valakut triggers). However, since increasing deck size hampers your ability to actually find your key cards, it seems that it's only worth it for one-card combo kills — and you should play lots of tutoring and filtering cards so you can find them faster.

  • Very rarely, it'll be a good move to play a deck that has no win condition other than just letting your opponents deck themselves. This is for lockdown archetypes like Fog and Stasis. It's good to be aware of these archetypes because they sometimes come up in Limited, like the Lost in the Woods "combo" in Dark Ascension Limited, or making your own surprising imitation of a Fog deck by just drafting a pile of removal and no good win conditions.

    (Note that forced-card-draw spells or library recursion like Elixir of Immortality are probably better than diluting your deck, though. Try sticking a Blue Sun's Zenith into your TurboStasis deck before you go adding extra cards.)

It's okay to experiment with deck size, but you should go into it armed with a good understanding of Magic strategy and probability, and the awareness that the overwhelming majority of such experiments are going to fail. In contrast, you pretty much can't go wrong playing exactly 60 cards in your Constructed deck, or 40 cards in your Limited deck.

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Really I think that the 60 card idea is good as it allows you to have a higher chance of getting lands (which are needed for winning in almost any situation). Also when i play a deck of over 60 I lose most games but 60-65 does well so you can go over 60 to do well but don't go mad and go like 80-infinite. :)

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There's no land limit, so really only the percent of lands in a deck alters your chance of getting lands, the total number of cards doesn't matter. –  Gregor Oct 24 '13 at 17:12

Why would you play with a larger sized deck? 1- More fun 2- To show those who rely on law of probability that you can throw that out the window when you're dealing with thousands of options(number of existing cards.) It's the exact same science that "proves" that there is no life on other planets. Take a good look at the math for that. Nowhere is there mentioned number of possible planets which, until we know more, is infinite. Every math that I've seen has always ignored other parameters that should be in the equation.

The theories for most card mechanics involve 52 different cards(54 if you count the jokers). Even this is sat on it's head by the sheer determination of luck involved.

With that in mind, I wouldn't build an aggro deck over 60, or ones that rely on certain combos. You want fewer cards for that and I'd actually prefer fewer cards. If you want to build a defensive deck, then by all means, go over 70 if you want to. Use cards that have more than 1 use. Use card draws. If the others want to stick to 60 out of some fallible math, then by all means, run a milling deck on them until they beg for mercy.

In a game that is filled with variety, I cannot understand why players are so stubborn as to not be innovative. Before you quote someone's fallible math, try and prove it wrong. You'll be surprised at the results.

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-1 Equating self-sabotaging with "innovative". You're flat-out saying that going over 60 hurts consistency in aggro and combo, but it's just as much of a problem for control decks because they tend to run land-heavy and the higher variance leads to more "mana screw" / "mana flood". –  Alex P Jan 16 '12 at 22:19
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Welcome to B&CG! –  Pat Ludwig Jan 18 '12 at 17:36
    
I wonder why the word "truthiness" comes to my mind... –  Hackworth Feb 16 '12 at 15:27
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At least this isn't one of the more scientific SE sites; "number of possible planets... is infinite" just hurts my brain. –  Brian S Nov 21 '13 at 14:44

protected by Alex P Oct 24 '13 at 17:03

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