The Kitchen Table #211 – The Next Deckbuilding Challenge

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Welcome back to our corner of cyberspace where the articles are dedicated to the realm of the casual. Last week, I told you about the loss of my laptop for a while, which had about five or six articles already written on it. Therefore, I had to write an article quickly for the week. It still hasn’t come back, so I am had to write another article and find a new idea.

Welcome back to our corner of cyberspace where the articles are dedicated to the realm of the casual. Last week, I told you about the loss of my laptop for a while, which had about five or six articles already written on it. Therefore, I had to write an article quickly for the week. It still hasn’t come back, so I am had to write another article and find a new idea.

I popped over to the French website featuring some of the players and decks that I mention in my article, and said hello (in French). I’m not sure that they all believed it was me. I do have some rudimentary French skills, although rusty from disuse. Let me see if I can write a little something here:

C’est un bonjour spécial à mes amis en France. Bonne chance au tournoie sur le 23ème!

I had to look up “tournament.” I know the rest of the words and I hope I spelled them right.

This past week my playgroup all chipped in and bought me a Mox Emerald for my birthday, one of the last remaining cards I need for my collections, and the second to last Power 9 card I needed along with Mox Ruby. It was a very heartwarming gift, and I wanted to take a second out to publicly thank them again for their consideration and care.

On to the article!

I began exploring old articles and looking for something to mine. I came across The Kitchen Table #134. In that article, I explain several of my own apparent biases, and then do the actual analysis of my decks to see if my biases hold up. Then I held an official deckbuilding contest.

I intend to do the same today. I spent a couple of hours reviewing all of my articles since 134 to see if my decks reflect any trends. I want my decks to be representative of all casual players not just my own quirky style of deckbuilding.

After giving you the new data, I’ll combine it with the old to see if any trends continue or are changed. Then, I will give you a new deckbuilding challenge. All decks will be featured in the first article of the new year.

I don’t know if any other writer gives you this sort of transparency. I have built 295 decks for you, but if they look too similar and overuse the same cards, then there is a problem. It’s a challenge to build that many decks and not rely on deck building trends. Therefore, I am open with you about what my decks have looked like.

Alright, time for the analysis. Here we go:

I Love the Tempo: I really like tempo elements in my decks. Therefore, I wanted to check and see if I overused tempo is my decks since article 134. I only count a deck as having a significant tempo element if it has a few dedicated tempo cards, like Armageddon or Winter Orb, or if it had eight tempo cads that work in tandem to create a significant tempo portion. I can have a tempo Red deck with Tanglewire and cheap creatures, or I can have it with Stone Rain, Pillage and cheap creatures, but not with just Stone Rain and the cheap creatures.

I have built 127 decks in my articles since number 134. In those 127 decks, 20 had a significant element, which is 15.7% of decks. This is a drop from 20% in the previous article. I had previously created 33 decks with significant tempo elements in 168 previous decks.

That means I have built 295 decks for you over the years.

The good news is that the tempo element decreased a bit. I think I used cards like Pendrell Mists and Winter Orb a little less since article 134. With less tempo we also have less reliance on old ways of building decks, instead looking at new decks

Bombarding the Masses: I love Goblin Bombardment and my fear was always that I used it too much in my decks. Therefore, when I last looked through my decks for you, I counted how many decks used GBB. I also counted how many decks used a GBB substitute like Blasting Station, Krovikan Horror, or other strategies like Altar of Dementia. I had just five decks with a copy of GBB since article 134, and another 6 used a GBB substitute. That puts me at 8.6 % of my decks with a GBB or other method of sacrificing creatures for the win.

In my previous article, I mention that I used GBB in 10 out of 168 decks and other methods in nine more, for around an 11% usage. Therefore, I have dropped again from 11 to 8.6. That’s pretty good.

The 187 Sounds of Victory: This next premise I’ll fess up to with ease. I like using 187 creatures a lot in my decks.

Not every creature with a comes-into-play (CIP) ability counts as a 187 creature. To me, a 187 creature is like the CIP creatures from VisionsMan-o’-War, Nekrataal, Knight of the Mists, and Uktabi Orangutan. All four creatures were referred to as 187 creatures and all generated some form of card advantage or tempo. Shrieking Drake was in the same set with a CIP ability, and you never saw it referred to as 187.

To my mind, a 187 creature needs to have an ability with card advantage or the ability to get card advantage on it. Man-o’-War works because you can bounce permanents with enchantments on them, plus you get a significant tempo advantage.

Examples of 187 creatures include Avalanche Riders, Civic Wayfinder, Ravenous Baboons, Goblin Matron, Ravenous Rats, Thornscape Battlemage, Phyrexian Rager, and so forth. Examples of creatures that have CIP abilities but are not 187 include Hunting Moa, Ironshell Beetle, Venerable Monk, and Quirion Sentinel.

In order for a deck to count as having a significant 187 component, it needed to have at least eight slots with 187 creatures in them. This has got to be more than a Green deck that runs Indrik Stomphowlers.

Of my 127 decks, 20 relied on 187 creatures. This gives us the same 15.7% of decks that the tempo element used. In my previous article, I point out that 37 decks, 22% used 187 creatures significantly. Therefore, I have dropped my usage of 187 creatures by seven percent since article 134. Again, less of a reliance on my normal cards is good for my decks.

I Really Like Digging: My last theory is that I use a lot of graveyard recursion, maybe too much. From Replenish to Living Death, I really like brining back things from the yard.

I counted any deck that either had a central card with a recursive element, like Replenish, or had eight cards dedicated to spot recursion, like Necromancy. For example, I had a deck with Oath of Druids, one Eternal Witness, Ires of Kaminari and a bunch of arcane spells. Despite just one spell that recurred in Eternal Witness, recurring an Ire was how the deck won, so it counted.

Of my 127 decks, just 11 had a significant recursive element for another 8.6%. In my previous assessment, the 168 decks had significant recursion 32 times for 19%. I cut that rate in half, my most significant achievement.

In all four areas of my biases, I reduced my biases since my previous article so it’s good that I curtailed some of these excesses.

The Color is the Thing

Alright then, let’s look at colors. Over the past 127 decks, my mono-colored decks are used thusly:

Green: 5
Black: 10
Red: 10
Blue: 10
White: 9

As you can see, Green falls behind all of the other colors significantly. I never set out to balance my colors, so this is a natural usage of all colors, with a smaller emphasis on mono-Green. 44 of my 127 decks were monocolor, a 34.6% rate.

In my first 168 decks, the breakdown was this:

Blue — 13
Black — 12
White — 8
Red — 8
Green — 12

With Green near the top, and White and Red near the bottom. Therefore, it seems that I have increased my Red and White at the expense of mono-Green decks. Blue are Black are at the top both times, especially when you combine both lists. My build rate the first time for single color decks was 31.4%, so that rate barely rose.

Now let’s look at dual colors. By far the largest number of my decks feature two colors. Let’s see what the breakdown is in the past 127. I’ll put these in order from least used to most used. The order of colors is given alphabetically.

Black/Green — 1
Black/Red — 2
Black/White — 4
Blue/Green — 4
Blue/Red — 4
Green/White — 5
Black/Blue — 6
Green/Red — 8
Red/White — 8
Blue/White — 9

As you can see, Black is back at the bottom of the list, while White is in the top two, and Red in the #2 and #3 spots. 51 of the decks, a full 40.2% of the decks are two colors. How does this compare to before?

Black/Green — 5
Green/White — 5
Black/White — 6
Blue/White — 7
Black/Blue — 8
Blue/Green — 8
Red/White — 9
Black/Red — 10
Green/Red — 10
Blue/Red — 14

Before I had 49% of my decks as dual color decks, so that has dropped significantly. Because there are ten categories, with small sample sizes in each category, let’s combine these to see the trends. Previously, note the high placement of Red against the low placement of White. Note that Black/Red falls from tied with second to second last. Blue/White moved up to first from eighth. Now let’s combine.

Black/Green — 6
Green/White — 10
Black/White — 10
Black/Red — 12
Blue/Green — 12
Black/Blue – 14
Blue/White — 16
Red/White — 17
Green/Red — 18
Blue/Red — 18

Once you combine the lists, you can definitely see some winners and losers.

For someone often labeled a Crazy Johnny Deckbuilder, its interesting to note that one of the most used colors is a G/R, which is difficult to build a lot of combos with. (Don’t start to prove me wrong, I already beat you with several R/G combo decks in my articles).

I have no idea what is going on with Black/Green, because it’s the big loser here. I think I always want to combine cool B/G cards with other colors. Let’s see if we have a lot of the triple color combinations with B/G.

As for G/W, this was my least favorite color combination until Ravnica, which finally made good cards for the combination. Before, they never worked as well together as friendly colors should, but then everything came together. Now Black/White is my least favorite color combination, and you can tell that it’s tied for eighth in my color lists.

Note Red in all three top spots. I like Red a lot in double combinations with other colors. Even with Black/Red tumbling from my top three to seventh, Red is still heavily represented. I think that signifies how utterly disappointed I was with Rakdos and hellbent in Ravnica block. That block gave a ton of great deck building tools to colors, but R/B seems like hellbent was rarely as useful as it needed to be and the cards were lame.

You find Green in dead last and tied for first, which is interesting. White is either at the top or the bottom, but never in the middle, also interesting. Black is still in the back, with all four color combinations charting 5th or worse out of ten.

If you were to judge my personal favorite colors from these two lists (the mono color and double color ones), you might say that my five favorite colors are in this order: Red, Blue, White, Black, and Green. (Note that Black did well in mono color decks).

Alright, then, here comes the trip color combinations, in order. I alphabetized the colors.

Black/Green/Red — 1
Black/Blue/Green — 1
Black/Blue/White — 1
Black/Red/White — 2
Green/Red/White — 2
Blue/Green/Red — 3
Blue/Green/White — 4
Black/Blue/Red — 5

Not appearing:


That gives us 19 decks with three colors, for 15% of the decks, which is an increase from 12%. With ten categories, and a much smaller sample size, we have to smash these together, and I won’t even bother giving you the previous stats, just the combined ones.

Black/Blue/Green — 1
Black/Blue/White — 2
Black/Green/White — 2
Blue/Red/White — 2
Black/Red/Green — 3
Blue/Green/Red — 3
Black/Blue/Red — 5
Black/Red/White — 5
Green/Red/White — 6
Blue/Green/White — 10

Alright, this can be a little hard to get your head around. With alot these three colors combinations. Note that we have a clear winner and several combinations that are virtually never used by myself.

Are there trends in these colors? Allow me to pull out the colors and their usage in three color sets to find out.

Black: 15
Blue: 23
Red: 24
Green: 25
White: 27

It’s beginning to look like I don’t like Black outside of mono-colored decks. By itself, I’m fine playing Black, but put it with something, and I’m not happy. The other four are all pretty much in the same area.

So I am giving the prize in this area to Red. Why Red? Blue/White/Green is the combination of Equinaut, and over the years, I must have built between six and eight Equinaut builds in my articles thus inflating those numbers. If you trim, say, four from each of those numbers, you see Blue in the back with Black, and Red jumps ahead. Despite both Black and Red being disadvantaged by not being in Equinaut, Red still manages to muscle near the top and defeats an Equinaut color.

How about quad color combos? Any tends here?

Over the past 127 decks, only three have been four colors. If I combine it with the previous list, here we go:

All but White: 0
All but Green: 0
All but Red: 1
All but Black: 2
All but Blue: 3

Still not enough of a sample size to work with here. Still, I’ll come back to this list later in the article, when I give my Deck Challenge.

What about the Five Color? This time ten of my decks were all five colors, for a 7.9% use rate. In my previous article, 11 out of 168 decks used all colors, at just 6.5%, so we rise a bit.

I built no mono-brown decks this time, one overall.

CCA Revival:

This last section is dedicated to those of you who love looking at Magic decks in a triad — Control/Combo/Aggro. The problem is that not all decks fall within this triangle. Some don’t try to win, some are built around goofy themes, and some do something completely different (see here for an example).

For those of you who must have this breakdown, here it is, although note that my reluctance for this is why I made the Framework to begin with.

“Combo” — 38
“Aggro” — 47
“Control” — 42

Not bad. There are all right there by each other, which was eth same last time. Combine them, however, and you see a bit of a trend.

“Combo” — 89
“Aggro” — 104
“Control” — 102

Combo is lagging behind the other decks by a bit, which is interesting to me when you remember that I am sometimes characterized as the crazy combo builder.

Alright, now that you have waded through all of this stuff, what it is all for?

The Second Kitchen Table Deck Challenge

For this challenge, you must build a deck that meets the following criteria:

1). The decks colors must be Black/Blue/Green/Red or Black/Blue/Red/White. These are the only two color combinations I have never used in a deck.

2). Include significant elements of tempo, 187 creatures, sacrificing creatures, and graveyard.

3). Must be legal in a format of your choice. I don’t care which format.

E-mail me the title of your deck, along with your real life name. The winners will be printed right here in this column on January 3, 2008. My e-mail is euplatious AT hotmail.com

All entries must be submitted by Friday, December 21, 2007 at Noon, Eastern Standard Time, at which point I will judge the entries.

Entries are judged on tempo, 187 creatures, recursion, sacrifice effects and lastly, tilt — a category that defines how I feel about your deck. Is it interesting or unusual? That adds to the tilt.

Good luck to you all!

Until later,

Abe Sargent