Now the process of building the deck really begins. Armed with my piles of cards, and my lists of cards that I want in the deck, I can start to determine what I want the deck to do, and how I want to accomplish that. Then, with that in mind I start cutting cards, but first a thank you!
In Part 1, I mentioned that I had asked Adena (@prsgrrl on Twitter) from the Horde of Notions podcast for her Ghave list, but that she hadn’t responded. I’m happy to report that she did respond, and she really went above and beyond. If you check the comments section of Part 1, you will see her response, including her full deck list which she had to type out for us which means that she had to sort her deck out into piles making it necessary for her to shuffle the deck profusely before being able to play again. For all of that work Adena, I thank you! On to the cutting of cards!
The first step that I undertake is sorting out my pile of cards. My typical approach is to sort by color, then type and converted casting cost. Once I have all the cards sorted I compare my wish list of cards that I culled from my various sources and check whether I have the card or not. If I have the card I make sure it is in the appropriate stack of cards and then remove it from the list. What remains when this process is finished is a preliminary wish-list of cards that I want but do not have (or can’t find.) This is where an online or App deck building tool is very helpful. I have a couple of options, but for the most flexibility when putting together these lists, I use the website http://deckbox.org as I mentioned in Part I. Here is a link to the wish list at deckbox, as it was after this process was finished.
The next step is to determine what exactly I want the deck to do. For that we take a look at several things. I usually like to build at least a little bit around the commander. I don’t particularly enjoy just using a commander for their color combination alone. I want to build around whatever powerful effect it has because it is repeatable. In this case our commander is Ghave, Guru of Spores, a legendary creature – fungus shaman that costs 2BGW and is 0/0. He comes into play with five +1/+1 counters and has the ability to remove counters and make 1/1 Saprolings and he can sacrifice creatures to get his +1/+1 counters back. I do have to pay 2 for each activation however, but the plus side is that he does not tap for these abilities so I can use them as many times as I have mana for! I am dealing with both counters and tokens and this is perfect for the card that I would most like to pair it with, Doubling Season. With Doubling Season on the board, when Ghave enters the battlefield, he will do so with 10 +1/+1 counters. When I remove one of those counters, I will get two 1/1 Saprolings, and if I were to sacrifice a creature I would put two +1/+1 counters on Ghave. If I were to add Parallel Lives to the mix I would get four Saprolings instead of two!
So what am I trying to do here? Am I trying to win by building up Ghave and attacking for the win with general damage? Or am I trying to build up a massive swarm of creatures to overwhelm my opponents? I think in the end the primary goal that I want for this deck is to swarm my opponents and have general damage as a viable backup plan. With that in mind what I really want to be doing is focusing on making token creatures with a secondary focus on +1/+1 counters. There is also a tertiary focus here, and it is that of the graveyard. Since I will be sacrificing creatures a fair amount of the time, I want to be able to take advantage of anything that I can that interacts with that. For example, Grave Pact. Not only does this deter my opponents from attacking me, it provides me with a great removal resource for when I start sacrificing my tokens and other creatures.
Now that I’ve determined what I want the final deck to focus on, I can start going through my piles of cards and cutting things that either don’t fit into the strategy or even if they do fit the strategy are inefficient enough that I have other options that I prefer. I always have to bear in mind that I want a balanced deck, so certain cards and types of cards will also make the cut, especially in the early rounds. These would include mass and targeted removal, certain meta considerations such as graveyard hate since I know I could be playing against the likes of The Mimeoplasm, staples such as Sol Ring, Solemn Simulacrum, etc… I also want to be on the lookout for combos or synergistic cards. For example, the deck should work fine if I don’t get Doubling Season or Parallel Lives, but it would work so much better if I did, therefore I should strive to get “extra copies” of those cards into the deck. The best way to do that is with tutors! For this reason I want to be sure that I have a few tutors, primarily of the type that can find anything (i.e. Diabolic Tutor, Liliana Vess, etc…) but also one or two that can search only for enchantments (Academy Rector, Idyllic Tutor, etc…) Unfortunately I don’t own any of the enchantment specific variety, and the ones I listed are a bit pricey for my taste, but they will go on the wish list anyway for the time being. I also don’t necessarily want too many tutors. I want to be able to find these cards, but I don’t want to build a cut throat deck that always plays out the same way. For that reason I will probably limit it at two to four tutors total. Another example for card synergies to look for is graveyard shenanigans. There are several great cards like Spider Spawning that make a lot of tokens but are dependent on the graveyard. This means that if I want to run that card and others like it, then I have to have a lot of creatures that will eventually end up in the graveyard. In other words, Doomed Traveler should probably make it into the deck! This type of interaction opens up some other synergies. If I add Requiem Angel from Dark Ascension to the deck, that gives every non-spirit creature on the board a 1/1 spirit when it dies. Read that again, “non-spirit” creatures… so if a spider token dies, I get a 1/1 spirit token! However, I have to be careful of opposing synergies. If I run a card like Necrogenesis to generate tokens, I am potentially reducing the interaction between my graveyard and a spell like Spider Spawning. The upside here is that Necrogenesis works on any player’s graveyard, not just mine. So I can pull creatures from any graveyard to generate Saproling tokens, then sacrifice those to Ghave, gaining 1/1 Spirit tokens to replace them! These are some pretty mana-hungry synergies. Ghave costs two colorless mana to activate, as does Necrogenesis, and if I want to be doing this multiple times per turn, then I may need to see if there are any infinite mana combos I can come up with!
With these things in mind, I start going through my piles and cutting cards. It may seem difficult to make these cuts, but at this point there are just too many cards, and remember that I can always bring any of these cards back in later stages of building the deck. Bear in mind that this original round of cuts is not to get down to my goal of 60-ish cards. When I first started I went through my collection and grabbed pretty much anything I could find that said the word token or counter on it. This round of cuts gets rid of a lot of those cards that just aren’t very good, or that aren’t as good as an alternative. For example, compare Sprout to Sprout Swarm. Sprout is a one-time use instant for a single green that makes a 1/1 Saproling. Sprout Swarm is also an instant that makes a 1/1, but it costs 1 and a green. This seems worse, but it also has Convoke which means I can tap creatures to make it cheaper and it has Buyback which lets me bring it back to my hand as I cast it. In this first round I would probably cut Sprout in favor of Sprout Swarm. It should be pretty easy to get the first round out of the way and cut your original pile in half or less. After the physical card cuts, I will go through the wish list and make these same type of cuts. Since I do want the option to bring these cards back, when doing these cuts from an electronic list, I like to put the cut cards into the sideboard rather than removing them from the list entirely.
For the record, my original stack was in the range of one hundred eighty cards. After the first round of cuts, it was only down to around one hundred forty. This is nowhere near where I want to be after round one of cuts. I’m going to have to start making wholesale cuts to get this list cut down. It doesn’t help that I got my box of Dark Ascension last night, and out of the cards I wanted the only one still missing is Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. This adds about 15 cards or so to the stack!
The stack of cards will steadily decrease in size, so the next step is to really focus the deck down into the token producing machine that I want it to be, and start cutting cards that I may really want, but just don’t fit well enough into the deck.
Join me next time for Part 3!