I have been playing MTG since the set was known as Portal. Good times and memories...but it was always casual among friends.

Now...after several very long years of playing off and on through out the history of the game....I have been playing competitive standard and Drafts through the Amonkhet and now Ixalan blocks.

Something that seems to elude me is why deck builds are always the same. No matter what the subtype is... mid , aggro, control, I always see 4 of several creatures, 4 of situational removal, a couple of heavy hitters...rinse and repeat.

Of 16+ creatures they are all made up of the same 4 - 6 creatures....and thats it. Why is there no variety? What are you looking for, and why, in your handfull of repeating creatures?

Question: Why do the templates / expectations for deck building almost always follow the above pattern?

  • Sounds like a lot of variety to me. Yes, every deck is basically a 15-card deck multiplied by 4, but which 15 cards are used varies widely.
    – Brilliand
    Oct 6, 2017 at 20:24
  • 1
    This is a pretty open ended question right now. It might be a good idea to try to narrow it down a bit. What format specifically are you seeing this pattern in (Limited is pretty different from constructed)? What cards are you seeing repeating (give examples)? What are you hoping to gain by someone answering this question?
    – Malco
    Oct 6, 2017 at 20:30
  • 4
    I see a deck running zero creatures that is, as of this comment, 11.26% of the current standard meta. That makes it the third most played archetype in the meta.
    – Rainbolt
    Oct 6, 2017 at 21:26

2 Answers 2


Your premise isn't entirely correct. The template of playsets of about 5 creatures and about 4 spells is a pretty good description of an aggro or midrange deck, because that matches the aggro and midrange gameplan. But that's not the only kind of deck. If you look at MTG Top 8's current Standard metagame breakdown, you can see that aggro decks are in fact relatively dominant in the current metagame. But there's also a significant number of control decks, which have a different game plan, and different decklists to match.

This blue/white control deck, for example, plays 11 different non-creature spells in varying quantities, and only two copies of one creature, which are likely there more for the utility of its ability than for the creature itself. This blue/black/red deck follows a similar plan in different colors. On the other hand, this God-Pharaoh's Gift deck plays a lot of creatures and no non-creature removal spells, because it has a different game plan.

Even if you look at the Aggro category, there are more than 10 different broad archetypes of aggro decks in the current standard meta, and each of those archetypes has a variety of matching decklists.



In general, you are adding cards to your deck because they are good, and you want to draw your good cards. If you are running fewer than 4 copies of your good cards you are less likely to draw them than if you were running 4 copies of the card. This is pretty much the same reason that decks rarely go over 60 cards in constructed or 40 in limited.

Also in decks usually want the highest quality cards for any given slot. So when given 4 slots and the option between Thragtusk and Sentinel Spider for your 5CMC creature slot you will (probably) always choose the Thragtusk. It is a better card for several reasons, it is easier to cast for multicolor decks (only needing {G} vs {G}{G}), it is resistant to removal, and it has a higher power and toughness (if you include the beast token).

There can be exceptions where you might run fewer than 4 copies of a card. They include: you have multiple cards that do basically the same thing and you don't need all 8 copies of both (Go for the Throat and Doom Blade), you have a card that tutors for the card (Birthing Pod), it is a card you don't want to see until late in the game (Aetherling).

The rule of thumb for the number of copies of a card to run I've heard is this:

  1. Silver bullet you can tutor for, or a card you have a very deliberate reason for only having 1
  2. Hard to cast (either because of color requirements or just being expensive), or they are fairly situational
  3. You want to see it often, but not necessarily every game, or it is bad in multiples
  4. Card you want to see every game, especially early in the game

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