Once my original pile has been cut substantially down I can really start to focus the deck. One of the things that I like to do at this stage is to look at the potential deck from different perspectives. As I said, my original sort is by color, type, and cost; but then I will typically sort it by converted mana cost to see how my curve is looking. If one part of my curve is bigger than it should be, it makes it easier to cut some of those cards. I typically bounce between color, converted mana cost, and card type as I make cuts in an attempt to keep the deck balanced. One other method that I use is to sort by effect. In other words, I’ll have piles for token generators, counter generators, removal, ramp, etc… Sorting those piles by converted mana cost is also a good idea because if I have 3 targeted removal spells at 3 converted mana cost or less, then I may not need that 6 converted mana cost removal spell… unless it generates tokens or counters that is!
Up to this point I have been keeping all of the colors separate. This means that I may have multiple removal cards spread out among all of my colors. While this can be a good thing, particularly for fighting against protections, at this point there are just way too many removal spells in the deck! At this point, I start mixing the colors. I’m still bouncing between sorting by converted mana cost, card type and effect, but by mixing the colors it allows me to find the areas of the deck that are heavy on one type of card and cutting those down.
As I mentioned in Part 2, I want a balanced deck. While I want the primary focus to be on generating tokens and +1/+1 counters, I know that to function against opponents, the deck has to have other things as well, like removal, graveyard hate, and so on. At one time my pile probably had well over 50 cards that I would put into the “token ” category, and while I want all of these cards in the deck, that just isn’t possible. Bear in mind however, that some of these categories can overlap. For example, I could use a spell like Doom Blade for targeted removal, but I can also use something like Beast Within. Not only does this increase the number of viable targets (any permanent instead of a non-black creature), it also provides a token. That way if I have it in hand, and none of my opponents have any good targets, then I can hit one of my 1/1 tokens and replace it with a 3/3 token instead, and if I happen to have Doubling Season or Parallel Lives in play then I get multiple 3/3 tokens!