I, like a lot of Americans, have an SUV as my main vehicle (technically it’s my only vehicle). This means I use up a lot of gasoline getting from place to place. My car, by definition of its V6 gas-guzzling engine, has bad mileage. But that’s not the type of mileage I’m talking about today.
The sort of mileage I’m speaking of is how long you can use a certain decks in tournaments before it’s time to give it up. Many times I’ve found myself “stuck” with one deck or another that I liked. While it may not have been at the top of the Meta, it was competitive enough to take home a few prize splits here and there.
Other decks, however, stand up to the test of time and make it a good long while with a few variations along the way. These are the defining decks of their era (Tooth and Nail is a great example) that can beat through hate and familiarity to remain a champion.
There are millions of configurations for a Magic deck. There are only a few hundred decks, however, that make up the metagame as we’ve known it for a decade. These stacks of four-ofs and lands give us glimpses of the past and their power level. It’s always been interesting to me how quickly we must find and adapt a new deck for the upcoming metagame, how quickly things change on a week-by-week basis as tournament results come in and new articles influence thousands.
When you think of your “favorite deck of all time,” think of how long you played it. A year? Two years? How many “miles” did you get out of the deck? What did its success provide? Product? Cash? By what should you measure a deck’s mileage? Fun or profit?
We as competitive Magic players run through a vast majority of decks in a quick succession. Limited formats are even more advanced: you rarely get one or two premier events with a block before we’re off to the next set. I mean, Coldsnap is coming soon, and Time Spiral rumors are already surfacing. Before you know it Ravnica Block Draft and Sealed will be grand tales of three- and four-color decks, Bloodgraft and its ilk will rest only in legends and tall tales.
The most important thing to keep in mind of in terms of deck mileage is how well known it is (and hence, how much hate will be packed for it at any given tournament) and how effective it is against the field. I recall seeing some groundbreaking White Weenie decks at the top tables of Regionals ’05 featuring Damping Matrix; this important component shut off a majority of the business spells in the opposing decks (Mindslaver, Oblivion Stone, Memnarch, Sensei’s Divining Top). This sort of metagaming is important and crucial to understanding how long decks are good against the field.
Tournaments played after that Regionals were well aware of the White Weenie presence and hence prepared for it through playtesting or sideboarding strategies. The surprise advantage had run out – and soon, too, it’s worth in running in the current Meta. The mileage was running out.
Mileage in Variation
How do you build your decks? Do you netdeck? Do you read differing opinions, and then assemble your own? Do you look for unused gems?
Deckbuilding is certainly some sort of art form, the ensemble of various pieces working in conjunction to bring your opponent’s life to zero. Whether this is the slow and steady method (Control) or the live-fast-die-young method (Aggro), these choices and the rock-paper-scissors type split of any metagame gives you an idea on how long to play a certain type of deck and how much mileage it will provide.
It also comes down to style. Your “pet cards” may give your deck much more mileage than after the archetype hits it big and players begin preparing for it. Remember when Electrostatic Bolt in Tooth and Nail was the cutting edge tech? Players had been using that for awhile, but suddenly their pet card was out and it was time to change.
So until tomorrow, think of your favorite creation, how you made it your own, and what sort of results you got out of it. Whether you choose to “sell out” and go straight netdeck to win that big local tournament, or whether you foster your own ideas to the fullest, how long you choose to run that deck and its mileage is up to you.
Here’s to hoping the highway for your favorite is long, and open.
Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written while listening to Regina Spektor’s “Begin to Hope”