From Scratch! Building a New Deck – Part 1

Good morning all, it seems I’m on a quest, that of building a new deck! I thought I would chronicle my effort with this new deck here. I’ll write it up in pieces and post one every few days until I get the final list posted. Feel free to comment and make suggestions, constructive criticism, etc…

I know that I said in my last post that I would write about my Animar deck next, but I think getting this down while in the process is important. Stay tuned though, the Animar article will follow shortly after this series!

I was listening to the Horde of Notions podcast the other day, and it struck me that Adena (@prsgrrl on Twitter) and I are very similar in our love of anything token, especially the ultimate enabler of tokens, Doubling Season! This was right after she talked a little bit about her Ghave, Guru of Spores/Doubling Season deck. My interest was piqued! I already have a Blue/Green Doubling Season deck that is pretty sweet. It started out using Experiment Kraj as the commander, but evolved fairly recently to using Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. It piles out tons of tokens and then boosts them up. What is the deck missing? Black and white, and all of the insane token producing cards that they encompass! Of particular interest are quite a few new cards from Dark Ascension that I really want to incorporate!

Once I’ve made the decision to make a new deck the process has started. Depending on my mood I have a couple of different approaches that I take. I can either build the deck completely using an online deck building tool (my favorite is, or I can pull out my collection and start rifling through it! In this case I kind of mixed methods. I started by doing a search on Deckbox with anything in green, white, black or colorless that had the word “token” in the text box. When I was done I had a list of around a hundred cards. These included many things that I don’t have, including anything from Dark Ascension.  These cards don’t get cut simply because I don’t have it. If the card is  great and in my price range, then I will try to obtain it. I prefer to use cards that I already have, but sometimes you just need that one card that really makes the deck.

Next comes some research. First, I asked Adena via Twitter for her list, but I haven’t heard back from her, so I checked a great resource, CMDR Decks on You Tube and he did have a Ghave deck video! I watched the video and wrote down the names of any cards that struck an interest in me. Unfortunately his deck was not really build around tokens and it didn’t even have Doubling Season! However, I did get a few ideas, so I added them to my list on Deckbox. Another option is to check out various forums for ideas and deck lists. I don’t really like to do this too much for a several reasons, the first of which is that  I am not going to have a lot of the cards that other people have and once you start asking for advice on your list what you typically end up with a couple of great posts with ideas surrounded by a plethora of posts just listing off someone’s favorite cards. The second reason is that every person has their own approach to a particular deck, as I found with the CMDR Deck video on Ghave. The only reason I asked Adena for her list was because I know that she loves Doubling Season and it’s effect, so I know the deck it going to be the type of deck that I want. Even though I won’t have all of the cards that she has in her list, I’ll still get some great ideas if she sends it to me.

My next step is to drag out the binders and boxes and start digging. Usually if I want to build the whole list online, then I just need to look for specific cards, but in this case for some reason I decided that my online list of cards was just an outline, and also it primarily contains cards that deal strictly with tokens, as a result the deck would be pretty unbalanced if I lose focus and don’t do any more research on it. At this time I’ve gone through about half of my collection and have stacks of cards that I might want in the deck. At this time that stack is probably close to two-hundred cards! By the time I finish going through my collection I might have a stack of three-hundred cards or more! I know it sounds daunting, but this approach is really a catch-all. Most every card with the word “token” or “put a +1/+1 counter” in the text box got pulled from the collection, as well as various other cards that will hopefully balance the deck out (removal, answers, etc…) It seems like it would be hard to cut that down, but in the end it should be pretty easy to trim the stack down to at least half of what it is when I finish pulling cards… hopefully.

This is also the time when you want to decide what to do with other decks that might contain cards that you need for the current deck. In my case I currently have two standard legal decks that I decided would be taken apart, therefore I can pull whatever cards I want out of those for use in the Ghave deck. I also have the skeletons of roughly 4 Commander decks that contain cards in the colors I am looking for, as well as the stack of cards rejected from my last deck (Dakkon Blackblade). These I don’t mind cannibalizing for the new deck. Finally, I have three Commander decks that I would prefer not to touch if possible. I don’t have the collection that some have, so for cards that I really want in the deck, I may have to start pulling cards from those decks, but I will keep very careful track of which cards I pull from which decks and I simply replace them with a land card that has the name of the shared card written in sharpie so that I can quickly locate what is missing and switch it out depending on which deck I want to play. In this case I have a game night tomorrow night, and I don’t know that my first draft of the Ghave deck will be ready by then, so for that reason I’m not pulling any cards at this time from those decks. If I get far enough along with the deck to where I think it will be ready to play tomorrow night, then I may go ahead and pull the cards.

Once all of the cards that you think you might want in the deck are separated out from the collection, that ‘s when the real building begins…

  1. Sorry I didn’t get you the decklist sooner – basically it’s because I didn’t actually have one. For you, and your readers, I am happy to oblige, so here’s what’s in it now, what could be in it, and how it all got there.

    Since I didn’t have any commander decks, I decided to go the easy route and just buy all the precons online. So far I’ve opened one of the five – Ghave, Guru of spores. The first thing I did was switch out the land base since I have all the duals and shock lands and pain lands online. Then I added Doubling Season, since I can’t fathom why it wasn’t in the deck in the first place. Then I went through my collection and swapped in cards I thought were better (particularly things like Damnation instead of whatever lame black removal spell was originally in the deck, and other powerful rares.)

    My playgroup was yelling at me because I didn’t have a commander deck in real life, so one day I used to print proxies of every card in my new online commander deck (except the basic lands.) Since then, I’ve been playing more and more offline, and my commander deck is pretty much exclusively played IRL. I started acquiring cards because they were in my commander deck, and taking out the proxies to replace them with real cards. I’ve never been a foil
    aficionada before, but I found myself trading for a full art foil day of judgement and digging through the random dollar rares boxes in search of cards that would complement my deck. Then I found things to take out so I can put the new things in.

    Althought my deck is still significantly comprised of proxies, most of the people I’ve played with don’t mind since my one criteria is that I will not put a card I do not own into my deck. If it’s a proxy IRL, I do have a copy of it in my MTGO account.

    Side note: I have six copies of parallel lives in my binder, not counting the pretty foil one that’s in my EDH… er, I mean commander deck. Oddly, I never actually played when it was called EDH, but I still slip and call it that sometimes.

    Without further ado, here is my current decklist (acquired by sorting my deck into piles which I will now need to shuffle significantly before I can play it again. You’re welcome.)

    LAND (39)
    Plains (6 copies)
    Swamp (6 copies)
    Forest (8 copies)
    Overgrown Tomb
    Godless Shrine
    Temple Garden
    Golgari Rot Farm
    Orzhov Basilica
    Selesnya Sanctuary
    Vivid Grove
    Vivid Marsh
    Vivid Meadow
    Isolated Chapel
    Evolving Wilds
    Rupture Spire
    Command Tower
    Temple of the False God
    Eiganjo Castle
    Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree

    CREATURES (20)
    Mikaeus, the Lunarch
    Golgari Guildmage
    Selesnya Guildmage
    Sakura Tribe Elder
    Selesnya Evangel
    Suture Priest
    Spike Feeder
    Yavimaya Elder
    Sigil Captain
    Sprouting Phytohydra
    Teneb, the Harvester
    Wurmcoil Engine
    Hornet Queen
    Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter
    Sheoldred, Whispering One
    Symbiotic Wurm
    Chorus of the Conclave
    Karador, Ghost Chieftan

    SPELLS (18)
    Crime // Punishment
    Scout’s Warning
    Swords to Plowshares
    Path to Exile
    Tribute to the Wild
    Beast Within
    Maelstrom Pulse
    Sudden Spoiling
    Day of Judgment
    Syphon Flesh
    Cobra Trap
    Hour of Reckoning
    Death Mutation
    Storm Herd

    Elspeth, Knight-Errant
    Garruk, Primal Hunter

    Sol Ring
    Intangible Virtue
    Golgari Signet
    Orzhov Signet
    Selesnya Signet
    Contagion Clasp
    Fists of Ironwood
    Whispersilk Cloak
    Awakening Zone
    Oblivion Ring
    Beastmaster Ascension
    Aura Shards
    Mimic Vat
    Darksteel Ingot
    Parallel Lives
    Doubling Season
    Contagion Engine

    Ghave, Guru of Spores


    Cards that aren’t in it but should be:
    Wrath of God (oddly, I don’t own one either online or IRL)
    Phytohydra (owned both online AND offline, just haven’t swapped it in yet)
    Maybe some of the token makers from DKA, haven’t sorted through my prerelease HOC (heap of cards) yet.
    Predator Ooze (cracked one, thanks for the idea above!)
    Protean Hydra
    Bloodline Keeper
    Avenger of Zendikar
    Requiem Angel (again, thanks for the idea – it doesn’t say non-TOKEN it says non-SPIRIT… muahahahahaha.)
    Sorin, Lord of Innistrad (maybe there will be a copy in the 10 packs of DKA I won at the prerelease. I don’t crack packs. Ever. Probably because I learned to play online, where you can use prize packs to draft and play sealed events. IRL, I only crack packs if I am playing pack wars, or some other sealed game with my friends. I had unopened worldwake packs for about a year. Yes, I know I’m a freak.)

    Hope this helps – feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas, and thanks again for plugging the podcast!

    • Adena, this post is above and beyond! I really appreciate it.

      I’ve got two and a half weeks before my next game night which is where my deck will debut and this helps immensely with ideas. I hope t have another post up by the end of this coming week talking about how I cut my massive piles of cards down and focus the deck, and then at the end of the next week with final cuts, picking up missing cards, and the final list and finally the end of the third week with a report on how the deck did in battle!

      Thank you very much for your thoughts and list!

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