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I am a newbie Magic player who is suffering from frequent bad luck with mana distribution in the deck.

I am shuffling cards regularly between rounds and matches, and I use mixture of overhand and pile shuffle (4x2). After game, I drop 1-2 cards from graveyard or play on each land in play, and I put the block in the library. I do few overhand shuffles, and before match I do pile shuffle. However, having multiple lands at the bottom of my library after a mana-screw game has happened twice in two weeks.

What am I doing wrong, and is there a better way to ensure land randomization in the deck?

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    Re "Shuffling cards causes uneven mana distribution", Well, yeah, The distribution of mana cards is suppose to be random, so it will be rarely be even (since that's only one ordering of many possible). /// Re "ways to fix that?", That would require cheating. – ikegami Oct 1 '17 at 0:03
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I am shuffling cards regularly between rounds and matches, and I use mixture of overhand and pile shuffle (4x2). After game, I drop 1-2 cards from graveyard or play on each land in play, and I put the block in the library. I do few overhand shuffles, and before match I do pile shuffle.

Quite frankly, you are not shuffling your deck. Only riffle and mash shuffles can effectively randomize a deck, and you need to do it at least 8 times. An overhand shuffle is about 100 times less effective. A pile "shuffle" should only be used to count your deck (which you should do at the start of each game); it does not randomize the deck.

You should not do any organization of lands or spells in the deck before shuffling. If your deck is randomized, it does not matter what order it began in.

  • I never understood this position. A perfectly executed riffle shuffle, and especially a mash if you have sleeves and do half the deck into the other half, is no more random than a pile shuffle. Doing a quick overhand to randomize where the cards are, in between riffle, pile, or mash that spread the cards out in predictable ways, strikes me as a much better (i.e. more random) approach. – SirTechSpec May 3 at 16:01
  • Overhand shuffles do randomise the cards slightly yes... But they do so so poorly that it takes thousands of iterations to do so, compared to the 7 or so you need when rifle shuffling. – Tally Oct 6 at 21:32
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The only thing you're doing wrong is trying to "fix" uneven mana distribution.

If your deck is shuffled correctly — that is to say, if it's actually randomized — there's almost always going to be clumps of lands. You will sometimes have games where you're mana-screwed, and you will sometimes have games where you're mana-flooded. That's normal; it's supposed to happen.

That 1-2 cards per land card thing you're describing is called mana weaving. It's the only way to really "fix" clumping — and it's a form of cheating because it's trying to fix your deck with an even spread and make your deck less random and not properly shuffled. You can see here where I asked about that a few years ago: Is Mana Weaving ok if it's followed by a thorough shuffle?. The explanations I received were pretty helpful in understanding what is really meant to happen with shuffling a deck.

In general pile shuffling (when you're not using it to mana weave) is fine and all, but it's not regarded as an effective way to randomize your deck. Tournament rules say pile shuffling alone is not a good enough way to do a shuffle. Here's what I'd recommend:

  • Sleeve your cards.
  • Do overhand and riffle shuffles.
  • If you can't do riffle shuffles, try mash shuffles. However they'll damage your sleeves if you do it poorly and force your cards, and sufficient damage will eventually mark a card, letting you know where it is in your deck — marked cards aren't permitted so you'll need to replace the sleeve.
  • Accept that you're going to get lands clumped in your deck; it's supposed to happen.
  • Use land fetches, tutors, draws, scrying, shuffle, and other forms of card advantage — they help you move past clumping.
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    They are doing something wrong, from the full description. They 'stack' (weave) the deck, then do a minor amount of unreliable shuffling. Your advice on shuffling technique is good. – Samthere Oct 1 '17 at 1:11
  • @Samthere You're right, I should open this differently -- they're not doing nothing wrong, they're doing one thing wrong and it's trying to fix the mana situation. :) – doppelgreener Oct 1 '17 at 11:41
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    I find mash shuffles the best for randomizing. One thing I have noticed is that lands tend to stick to each other a bit when overhand shuffling. I think this might have something to do with them being handled so much (tapped/untapped each turn) they get more sweat/finger oils on them. – Malco Oct 3 '17 at 14:24
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    In my experience, sleeves get worn unevenly over time anyway, so don't feel bad if you can't riffle/bridge and just learn to mash well. – Alex P Oct 3 '17 at 15:06
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Tl;dr: Shuffle a lot using several different methods, then hope for the best but recognize that bad luck happens. Anything that can consistently spread the lands evenly in your deck is cheating.

Part 1: How to change your shuffling

There are several kinds of shuffling, including overhand and riffling styles. Note that each kind has its own weaknesses, e.g. a single riffle shuffle tends to leave the top card of the deck fairly close to the top. In tournament play you have a couple minutes to randomize your deck, so take the time to use multiple kinds of shuffles several times each. Do not use techniques like "mana weaving" that are specifically designed to spread your lands evenly throughout your deck: either you follow the mana weave by sufficient shuffling for randomization, in which case there was no reason to waste the time weaving, or you do not follow it with sufficient shuffling, in which case you're knowingly using an insufficiently randomized deck to gain an advantage, which is Cheating.

Note that even with excellent shuffling your deck will never be "truly" random, but it will be close enough that the next step is:

Part 2: How to change your perspective

After all that shuffling... you still get mana-screwed. What went wrong? The answer is that unlikely events happen all the time if you look with the right perspective. Let's consider just your opening hand, assuming you're playing 24 lands in a 60 card deck. On average, one out of every 46 games your opening seven cards should have no lands. The chance that you get three such awful opening hands in three consecutive games is only one in about a hundred thousand - basically impossible, right? Well actually, there are now around 20 million MtG players. This means that not only have a lot of them seen this phenomenon happen to them, but around 200 unlucky MtG newbies probably had this statistical nightmare happen to them in the first three games they ever played. Think about the apparent contradiction: it's extremely unlikely to happen to you in your entire MtG career, yet it's also virtually certain to happen to hundreds of players right when they first learn the game.

Conclusion

You can probably learn to shuffle a little more effectively, but in the end randomness allows bad stuff - even extremely unlikely bad stuff - to happen all the time.

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