Naturally when you make a new deck, you test it on your friends but mine have all stabilised their tournament decks now and the game ends so quickly that I don't get a feel for how my deck flows.

What I want to know is if there is ways of testing decks to see their potential without another player. I really need to give the deck a thorough test so I can see what cards don't fit and which combos are better than expected.

I have seen people play games against themselves but I don't believe this works very well.

What methods do tournament players use to test their decks?

Please note that simply playing games is not an acceptable answer as I do not know people that will just play for fun; they are all super competitive.

  • 1
    So you don't want to play against yourself, and you don't want to play against others. What's the point of testing then?
    – Hackworth
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 11:15
  • 1
    You could... find some people who will just play for fun? I'm sure they're out there. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 11:21
  • @Hackworth I have 3 friends that play. one uses pyromancers acension and juts waits to get 20 direct damage. another uses hive mind and plays pack spells and the third uses rush merfolk. all three can end the game by turn 5 on average and seeing 5 cards from my deck is not enough time to see how it flows, if i get mana screwed a lot, are my creatures to expensive on average, and not knowing you deck well having never used it having only 4 turns is not very good for learning which are your stronger cards and which of the 3 mana creatures to play first.
    – Skeith
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 11:26
  • 1
    @Skeith you didn't make it exactly clear what you want from your deck. You want to play for fun, but you also want to tune it for good combos and put well-performing cards into it. If you want a competitive deck, you have to run it against other competitive decks, period. If you want a fun, non-competitve deck, what's there to test?
    – Hackworth
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 12:06
  • 5
    @Skeith By the way, your opponents sound like jerks. "11 destroy all artifact cards" in the sideboard? That's not a sideboard, that's a specific attempt to make sure you don't have any fun at all. (Unless you mean 11 anti-artifact cards between all their sideboards, which would be a bit more reasonable.) Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 13:56

6 Answers 6


There are different ways of testing that you can do, but none of them are as effective as playing real games against other people.

1) Play without an opponent. I usually play new decks over and over without an opponent to see how the basic idea works out. Just draw and play and see how many rounds it would take you to win on average. Do your combos work out as you had hoped for? Do you have too much or too little mana available? Adjust your deck until you are satisfied with the results.

2) Analyze the meta-game you are playing in. What are other players going to play against you? Try to identify the main threats in those decks and see if you can counter them. Are you fast enough so that they do not matter or can you establish enough control to break their combos? If you find a common deck that you are helpless against, try to find a solution.

3) Put up your desk for analysis online. There are many forums with experts from the MTG scene. Post your deck in the appropriate forum and hear what others think about your deck. They usually will have more experience and find weaknesses without having to play the deck. If you have more specific questions than "is my deck any good?", the MTG experts from this site here (Board and Card games on Stack Exchange) will also be able to help. I learned a lot already here.

These three steps can help you a lot already. In addition you can analyze the Mana Curve of your deck and identify problems there. But in the end, finding practice partners helps the most. I have played MTG-games over webcam in the past with friends of mine. It works better than it sounds like in the first place ;). So even if you don't have anyone in reach, you can try to play with friends who live farther away over the Internet.


It's been a while since I was a tournament player, but I used to be pretty good. Beyond playing against the tournament decks of my friends, which was always the best way to test, I did two things.

  • I just played the deck to see how many turns it took to get to 20 damage, which actually is decent testing to test the basic concept of the deck to see if it even works on a basic level.
  • I had a set of about four decks that I kept maintained that were exemplars of existing tournament decks and ran against them. It's usually pretty easy to play both ends of the game, and it wasn't hard to keep on top of what some examples of tournament decks are; at the time, you could find listings of them online and in magazines, as I'm sure is still true today. I'd just proxy cards I didn't have for this purpose, and that testing would give me an idea how my new deck fared against the dominant archetypes of the day.

You need an actual playtesting group, one with decks that resemble the actual metagame, not ones specifically tuned to beat your one deck (unless you're playing a dominant deck and that's a specific metagame choice, that is.)

Also, super competitive players need to test their decks just like anyone else. Why won't they take you seriously and do proper testing with you? Even if they're decks are fully tuned (which I seriously doubt, especially since Innistrad is coming out this weekend and each format's metagame will undoubtedly adjust at least slightly), the play practice should still be valuable.

If it's because your deck is a rogue brew and they won't test with you because they perceive it won't benefit them because they'll never play against it... Well, I imagine that's a problem with which many rogue brewers have trouble, and I don't have a solution myself.


Tapped out is Good database and useful insight for people with intermediate entry level information about the game, but should be in advanced understanding of rules. Great place to play test if you have all the cards remembered, but does take some time.

Magic the gathering is a complex game with tons of rules and rules that not only evolve over time, but new ones are introduced every new set/ block (or rather new card mechanics) which both makes the game infinitely changing but also always different and exciting. Wizards pays attention to the meta game and actually creates solutions for kinks people find in over powered cards, the universe of Magic is so big now that deck types and spells are more like Rock Paper Scissors with hundreds of combinations. There will always be a great skill in the game, but the best players know that it is knowing what's popular and finding the balence between the power and strategy of all the options. One that has been proven powerful is card advantage, and choice, not limiting your solutions against your opponent. A well rounded deck may fair well against all but loose to speed decks- and struggle to stop decks from "going off" and that's why games have side boards which can't be overlooked either while playing one on one.

Advice for newer players who really want to enjoy the game and up there ability with access to the Internet, simply read cards. Go to the gatherer and look up some of the cards you have seen. Go to discussion in all the interesting cards and see what people have to say. Look up simple search for a color type you like, or even a creature type. The more cards you know the more your mind will flood with possibilities, often placing doubt on methods you once thought were incredible combos. There is always a rock paper scissor effect with magic, a few decks are known for their ability to triumph over a bunch of decks and some require a higher knowledge of the game and how mechanics work.

If your friends are playing what sounds like tier one legacy decks and you are new it almost sounds unfair, I'm sure they would be open to ideas of pauper (a cheeper solution and favorite of mine) is a limited number on rarity symbols which will change game style drastically.

Download the apps on kindle and I phone I pad. The latest electronic versions of magic are impressive to say the least. The latest Apple version grows and expands just like the traditional meta game, however starts with magic Orgins.


You could join a group like http://www.magic-league.com. I don't play with them myself, but these people run online tournaments unaffiliated to Wizards, using applications for playing Magic over the internet that are not MtGO... and thus a lot cheaper, for those who are budget-conscious!

I expect you'd find plenty of people in the forums and on IRC who'd be willing to discuss deck testing and maybe even give you a game. As far as I can tell it looks like a pretty active community...

I appreciate that your question asked for "ways of testing a Magic deck that don't involve playing with people", but honestly, I really think you should find ways of playing with people! I can't believe anyone ever became really good at competitive Magic without a playtesting group of some kind.


go to tappedout.net and play their playtest app. you can find different decks in there built by other player and go ahead and play their deck against yours

  • Welcome to B&CG Dave! We tend to favor longer answers here rather than quick links out. While the above is helpful, you could expand it by telling us about a time when tappedout.net was particulary helpful to you. Thanks!
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 2:58

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