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Say you've got a fairly competitive Magic: the Gathering deck you really like. It's likely to be tuned to the particular environment it developed in, whether that's what's most popular among your friend group or the metagame at your local FNM (or this month's big-tournament metagame, for that matter -- netdecks are a popular thing).

A lot of MTG play is informal play between relative strangers. It's not "Vintage" because you're not playing with decks designed to win Vintage. You can sit down for some "casual play" at a convention or game store and see everything from an old Lorwyn-era Standard deck to Legacy-grade Countertop to a cross-set mono-green beatdown deck -- and you'll get to play some pretty dang serious games against them.

Clearly this is an environment that favors breadth over really specific answers and hosers and threats. As an example, Gut Shot is a pretty widespread card in M12-Scars-Innistrad Standard because it deals with turn-1 Delver or Stromkirk Noble; it's rather a crap choice against an aggro deck using cards like Loam Lion, Vampire Lacerator, or Goblin Guide, though. Lightning Bolt, in contrast, is a card that is almost never considered useless.

What approach should you take to improve the breadth of a deck for this kind of never-know-what-you're-going-to-face environment?

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IMHO this is the ultimate broad and ill-defined question. You are asking for a deck that's both competitive and casual, and that has an answer for every conceivable archetype in every format. My opinion: IMPOSSIBRU! Besides, the premise of your question is flawed. You cannot play a deck outside of an environment. Whatever decks are possible make up the environment, even if it's larger than Vintage. –  Hackworth Jan 30 '12 at 17:17
    
I think it might be possible to usefully discuss techniques of broadening your deck for wider environments - I can think of a poor but relevant answer, so the many MtG players here could easily come up with a better one. I say let it ride until we see if good answers happen. –  Tynam Jan 30 '12 at 19:09
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2 Answers

One way of dealing with a great variance of decks is to ignore them. Make a solid combo deck with some protection (counters/discard) and you'll beat most decks. Especially since they won't have the correct sideboard against you in this wide format. This will for sure make a competitive deck if you want to win, but the games against the casual players won't be much fun.

I say the best way to enjoy games of magic against with such a variance of opponents is to have several decks. That's because I think it's most fun when playing pretty even decks, at least so even that both players have a chance of winning.

Edit: Making a deck that tries to handle every possible deck in a special way will just make it kinda bad against everything and you'll get beaten by all good decks.

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As you probably know a common trail of thought when building a deck is: "This deck has a really good match up against X, Y and Z. Deck A completely crushes me but trying to fix it will worsen my chances against the others so I just have to hope not to face any A's". My point is, worrying to much about other decks might dull your deck more than it's worth. –  AndSoYouCode Jan 31 '12 at 11:22
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I think perhaps you are asking the wrong question.

When I was going to an event for casual play, I'd normally bring more than one deck and I'd either ask for an opponent for a specific format or else ask the other person what format and break out the appropriate deck. Obviously, I didn't carry a deck for every conceivable format, but if I brought my current standard deck, and an extended deck, and a "completely-casual-deck to play against beginners" I'd be able to find something "close enough".

If you really want just one deck to take to take to a gathering, then I would make a fast, solid aggro deck with some removal but no specific hosers (except just maybe in sideboard). I would go with aggro over control or combo for a couple of reasons:

  1. It always exists in about the same form in most formats, where control really needs to be tuned to the metagame to work right, so it can be broadly competitive.
  2. You are describing a fairly casual environment of pick-up games. Of course any competitive player would be happy to face combo or control, but it frustrates and surprises a lot of casual/new players. So, for the sake of everyone having fun, I tend to run aggro in pick-up games and save combo/control for more competitive environments.

When building this deck to take to such an open environment, I would avoid anything that was designed as an answer to a specific threat (one with nothing for instance saw tournament play due to the metagame at the time, but it was an answer to one specific threat type). I would also look more than normal at cards that could have multiple purposes (green has often had cards that would act as a creature, or kill an artifact). Of course, such versatility often comes at a cost in terms of mana, but in that type of environment (might face anything, but generally on the casual side) that might be a fair trade off.

Finally, you can blunt a lot of the "random-deck" problems by playing multiplayer. Even if you don't have an answer to a major threat, another player at the table probably does.

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I think I need to rephrase the question. I'm not looking for "one deck to rule them all". I'm looking for "Here are some ways to make a deck less specific." Your point about aggro just working against more stuff with minimal modification is a good one! –  Alex P Jan 30 '12 at 21:02
    
I edited and expanded now that I better understand the question. But I stand by the core of my answer: Your best bet is to carry more than one deck to an event like that. If you really want to carry just one, I would go with aggo. –  TimothyAWiseman Jan 30 '12 at 21:17
    
Thanks! Any advice on how I should edit my question to make it clearer / more useful / less vague? –  Alex P Jan 30 '12 at 21:31
    
In this particular case, I just misread the question the first time through. –  TimothyAWiseman Jan 30 '12 at 23:02
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