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 Post subject: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 6:57 am 
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Joined: 2011-Mar-29 8:30 am
Age: Drake
There are so many ways that individuals test their decks to see what goes in, but for every action you take you must take the opposing reaction by removing a card.

What considerations must be made and how does one weigh the cost of taking out that mana rock or removal spell for an additional win condition or card interaction?

I don't know about you, but my desire for changing my deck and my willingness to do so are on two separate planes. I want to make improvements or changes, but I often treat my decks as if it was an unchangeable work of art. Often there is a little bit of emotion and stress involved with removing cards...much like if one brick is removed the whole house could fall apart.

So what is your strategy for testing new cards and interactions in a deck?

How do you evaluate those crucial cuts or adds?

As for me when having the desire to add or remove a card I often leave it on the side of the deck and play the deck out...on each turn I take... I ask myself this question, "if I draw this now what will it do for me?" "is it a dead card or can it help win the game or counteract the meta in which I play?"

This may work on an individual card basis, however when you want to add multiple cards that synergize well together, how do you evaluate them against the functionality of your current deck?

In other words how do you evaluate what could be vs. what is?

Thanks,

Jest


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 7:07 am 

Joined: 2011-Sep-30 6:08 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Is this card something my deck needs more of?

If yes, what does my deck to have too much of during a normal game? Swap new card for worst or least interesting card in over-populated category.

If no, swap for worst or least interesting card in same category.

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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 7:32 am 

Joined: 2008-Nov-30 12:36 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Wow, that's quite a big question, really. I mean, there are a ton of factors that are specific to the deck in question or the cards I'm trying to add. Plus there are emotional vs. logical factors, like sometimes you just want to jam a pet card in despite it being of questionable value to that deck.

To answer the actual question in the threat title, how I test my decks usually involved goldfishing some number of games just to iron out any inherent weaknesses that are more internal to the deck rather than coming from external sources. Meaning, making sure your mana is balanced, you have enough draw, and your curve isn't awful - but goldfishing rarely gives you an accurate picture of how well your deck can handle external factors.

So once I feel like my deck draws well and plays smoothly in a vacuum, without any opposition, then I move on to playing it in real games. From there, I'm just wanting to make sure I have the right balance between reactive and proactive lines of play.

Because, and maybe this is just me, but I think it's super important not to let the pendulum swing too far in the direction of either aggro or combo. Not saying I only build midrange - no, I definitely have decks that are firmly control or firmly aggro - but even my most aggressive decks tend to have a high level of interaction, while my control decks need to be able to win so that I'm not just dragging the game out to no end.

It's all pretty subjective, of course, but usually I just tinker with the recipe until it feels right - "season to taste" basically.

As for cutting lands for threats and highly questionable things like that? I usually won't do that up front - I tend to make very conservative, safe swaps until I've been playing the deck a while and have enough real data to say "okay, cutting a land probably won't cripple me here." or "I have enough win-cons that I can easily cut a peice of fat for some more lean removal to improve my early game a bit".

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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 7:47 am 

Joined: 2008-Nov-30 12:36 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Another question along OP's lines, that I find myself asking a LOT these days, is how many redundant effects do I want?

Example: when Reclamation Sage was printed I had a very tough time figuring out which decks wanted him. In most of my green decks, I was already running Krosan Grip, Acidic Slime and Indrik Stomphowler at the time so for each deck I had to ask myself which of these three options was the best for that deck - A) cut one of those three cards in favor of rec sage, B) cut something else instead and just add a fourth member to that package, or C) leave Rec Sage out entirely and keep the package as-is. And of course if I choose option A, then I have the follow-up question of which card to cut.

Obviously the synergies and weaknesses of the deck in question will often dictate the answer but it's not always clear. In a vacuum, with nothing else to go on, I'm likely to say my most common action here is to cut Stomphowler in favor of the leaner, faster Rec Sage. But what if I'm playing with cards like Elemental Bond, Garruk's Packleader or Temur Acendancy where the 2-power creature is less likely to trigger those abilities? Then I might cut Slime instead. A Meren or Karador deck, meanwhile, probably wants another body to recur instead of a spell so I'd probably cut Grip instead.

If there's no clear synergy-driven reason to favor one card over another, I tend to go with the cheaper options, so cutting either five-drop for a three-drop that does the same thing is very sensible.

And if I'm so worried about artifacts or enchantments that I feel like I need to just add Rec Sage as a fourth answer rather than cutting one of the existing three, then I have to ask myself if I might want something like Bane of Progress. At a certain point, adding a sweeper makes more sense than adding yet another 1-for-1 option, right?

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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 8:17 am 

Joined: 2011-Aug-18 3:35 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
I tend to trade like for like (draw for draw, bomb for bomb, etc) unless the deck is obviously missing something.

I tend to make swaps based on types and mana costs to try to maintain the curves and such.

I will remove generic goodstuff over niche synergies.

I test the deck fairly significantly before making changes unless I spot some glaring issues even though it worked as intended because randomness is always a thing.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 8:22 am 

Joined: 2013-Aug-20 4:37 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Boston
I have google docs for all of my active decks (and quite a few of my retired decks). I keep a list of thoughts alongside, which can range from "needs more finishers" to specific cards to "is (card) to funsucking?". I also highlight cards in the deck that have been disappointing either in yellow (for thinking about cutting) or red (for definitely cutting), and highlight cards in the thoughts list in light blue or green for how much I think they would be good in the deck.

Eventually I will build up enough times of seeing that I was disappointed by a card that I will overcome my inertia and make a swap.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 12:07 pm 
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Joined: 2010-Dec-10 12:16 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
For small changes (e.g. C15 only added Ezuri's Predation and Caller of the Pack to my Gahiji Beast Tribal[/c]) I will set aside those cards in the same casting cost and/or function niche (Beater creatures and everything CMC 7 when evaluating Caller of the Pack) then evaluate the new card against each card it *could* replace. I then re-add the cards in the pile one-by-one based on perceived value to the deck, theme and function until one card remains which becomes the culled card. If I did use the new prospective card, the card it replaced is set aside so that I can switch back if it doesn't playtest well after a few games.

For larger changes (such as recently updating my Karona Avatar tribal that hadn't seen an update since RTR block) I pull it apart, add all the new creatures to the pile I have already, sort by CMC then add them back to the deck in the following order until I have filled all of my creature spots allocated for the deck in question.
1) Theme\Deck focus centered
2) necessary functions
3) Pet Cards
4) Additional creatures in CMC needed to balance curve

I then do the same thing for non-land, non creatures. Put the deck contents in a pile, add all cards from recent sets I am considering, organize by CMC and add them back in using the same criteria until all non-creature/non-land spots are filled.

Finally I take all of the remaining cards and evaluate them case-by-case to see if I want to swap it in for something else (or multiples e.g. removing three things to make room because an Avatar Tribal must have the Kaldra artifact group). When I have my tentative list I calculate my land ratios as discussed in that thread. Playtest, adjust, repeat.

Playtesting can either be MTGO solitaire goldfishing, MTGO FFA games or games with co-workers (rare).

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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 4:09 pm 

Joined: 2013-Oct-09 7:02 am
Age: Elder Dragon
I cut basic lands for real cards. I hardly notice mulliganning any more than usual.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-25 5:03 pm 
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Joined: 2012-Feb-07 4:15 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
I usually build from scratch. I decide on a game plan, mathematically figure out how much utility I want, and then pick my favorites among flavor/pet cards/specific interactions. That strategy alone usually gets 50ish cards.

For the remainder, one thing I like to do is what I call a synergy-based point system. Basically I take each individual card I'm thinking of including and pair it with every non-basic land in the deck. I then award the card (let's say it's Regal Force) 5 points if there is a strong synergy (Avenger of Zendikar), 3 points if there's an ok synergy (Woodland Bellower), 1 point if there's technically a synergy (Grizzly Bears) and 0 for no synergy (Krosan Grip). All of the values are doubled if the card is compared to the general.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-26 1:50 am 
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Joined: 2011-Mar-29 8:30 am
Age: Drake
Wow! You have come up with some phenomenal answers!

I definatelly liked what thaumaturge had to say about logical vs emotional!

Quote:
Plus there are emotional vs. logical factors, like sometimes you just want to jam a pet card in despite it being of questionable value to that deck.


I know that Bitterblossoms is that card for me...If I have a deck that contains black I am hard pressed to cut it for something more logical.

I would definitely consider myself a theme person to the n'th degree! I like my decks to work like a machine, one that is fine tuned. I love to find my own interactions that function similar to this combination of cards: Grinding Station Blasting Station Salvaging Station and Summoning Station . I'm sure you can see that if you cut away any part of that sequence the machine no longer functions. Now that was an obvious illustration of if you cut one card away the rest of the machine falls apart, but what about a not so obvious illustration.

Below is a deck that I built that is a machine that requires parts and synergies that interact fairly well with one another.

http://mtgcommander.net/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=18114

Jori En "Cantrip'n" on the deck list page if my link isn't functional.

It's themed around as many 1 drop instants and 1 drop artifacts that interact in some way. It requires multiple artifacts to take advantage of one of my favorite new cards (call it a pet if you will) Ghirapur AEther Grid. There is also a similar combo with Unwinding Clock, Clock of Omens and Staff of Nin + multiple artifacts. Unwinding Clock, Clock of Omens and Lux Cannon is a card combo that I had to cut. :( Because of space, but I digress....you see how it is similar to the station combination I talked about above.

Back to my point... the deck is 34% artifacts and 23% small instant spells I wanted artifacts to take advantage of the artifact synergy cards like Ghirapur AEther Grid and for the instant cards to have synergy with things like Runchanter's Pike. Both card types have common synergies (directly or indirectly) with cards like Psychosis Crawler and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind.

Now to the hard cut...

I had to cut Runechanter's Pike and Inkmoth Nexus win-con because lets face it there are only 23 intstant/sorc cards in my deck and that only interprets into about 5 instant or sorcery cards in my grave by mid to late game... :facepalm:

This was very difficult cut because I wanted that interaction to happen and sure I could add more instants to make it work...but then my artifact numbers start to dwindle cutting off the decks synergy with artifacts. There is a fine balance to take into account and my emotions about cutting cards often clouds my judgement.

Do you ever feel this way when building a deck with 2 themes that burn at both ends of the candlestick?

All the Best!

Your Friend,

-Jest


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-26 1:59 am 

Joined: 2013-Aug-20 4:37 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Boston
Jest wrote:
Do you ever feel this way when building a deck with 2 themes that burn at both ends of the candlestick?

Definitely. If there isn't much cross-over, you eventually just have to decide which is the main theme and which is the secondary one. Otherwise you just end up with 2 secondary themes.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-26 2:33 am 
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Joined: 2011-Mar-29 8:30 am
Age: Drake
Quote:
Example: when Reclamation Sage was printed I had a very tough time figuring out which decks wanted him. In most of my green decks, I was already running Krosan Grip, Acidic Slime and Indrik Stomphowler at the time so for each deck I had to ask myself which of these three options was the best for that deck - A) cut one of those three cards in favor of rec sage, B) cut something else instead and just add a fourth member to that package, or C) leave Rec Sage out entirely and keep the package as-is. And of course if I choose option A, then I have the follow-up question of which card to cut.


I wanted to talk about this for a minute... I too was excited about Reclamation Sage, but for very different reasons than I think you were. See I wasn't trying to find a home for it in just any deck simply because it is an excellent card... the deck would need to be elf centric or thematic for me to even consider it. Now when pitting it against the other example cards you used I would take a lot into consideration. For instance I used to have an acidic slime in my glissa, the traitor deck. It had at least two major reasons to be there! It had deathtouch which was a theme of the deck that took advantage of cards like Viridian Longbow and the obvious benefit...it comes into play blows up land/artifact/enchantment. I evaluated the card based on the multiple characteristics beginning with theme and then function was a secondary condition. Same with Indrik Stomphowler there is the obvious beast theme or the synergy with cards like Garruck's Packleader or Elemental Bond that Reclamation Sage and Acidic Slime just can't trigger.

I mention that not because I don't think you know about these interactions...far from it, I merely wanted to illustrate that I wouldn't put a removal card in a deck just because it is just very efficient at what it does, I do it because it is thematic and interesting and works well with the overall machine that is my deck.


All the Best!

Your Friend,

-Jest


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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-26 9:29 am 
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Age: Drake
Location: Nomad Outpost, Tarkir
Honestly? Trial-and-error.

When I deck build, I am from the school of thought that there are NO staples of any given deck or colour combination - no, not even Sol Ring or Mana Drain (although Demonic Tutor comes the closest for sure). As a result I am able to build to a set of threats to draw/tutours to answers to acceleration ratio by exploring any card that does these tasks. The net result, is I play fewer cards that ramp thereby freeing up more slots for answers and threats, while finding powerful hidden gems (such as the amazingly under-the-radar Spatial Contortion), and a tight curve that allows for seamless gameplay from match to match.

Admittedly, from my signature you can see the kinds of decks I play stand to benefit the most from such a design philosophy.

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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Feb-26 9:58 am 
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Joined: 2012-Nov-27 4:39 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Midgard
As with several other people on here, a combination of a bunch of things contribute to how I choose cards and cuts. An important thing, for me, is random searching. I know it's not very scientific, but I often begin building decks by searching up generic terms in http://magiccards.info/ and sifting through cards. For instance, if my deck is going to have a counter theme in Red and Green, I may end up going through all 631 cards until I gather a large list of cards I like for these colors. This list is narrowed down considerably by knowing, in general, which cards I know I have and don't have in my possession. When I get a chance, I then continue by going through my physical cards--a rather unorganized disaster, that is it--and may end up going through the majority of my collection in the process.

The natural result of this, of course, is when I was actively going through my collection and looking up cards, I could name just about any card based on virtually no information. A person could mention a Blue card with a picture of someone coming out of a portal, and I'd say, "Oh, you mean Abduction? Yeah, it's from...umm...Weatherlight?" I also used to spend a lot of time keeping track of various combos and deck strategies in every format. So combine these two encyclopedic knowledges together, and I would be able to build entire decklists without looking up anything and pull all the cards together later.

Currently I'm much, much worse at it. I don't play as often, so there's less reason to know so much about Magic offhand. And with the number of decks I've built over time, I've at least dabbled in every strategy. Despite not playing often, I still...well...play my decks...against each other. I don't feel like I learn very much by goldfishing decks, at least as much as I'd like to learn. So instead I play three or four decks against each other. I've been meaning to make a video series about it, but I don't have good camera equipment for an overhead shot. Maybe someday...

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 Post subject: Re: How do you test your deck? Deciding what goes In or Out.
AgePosted: 2016-Mar-09 1:42 am 

Joined: 2015-Apr-23 11:27 pm
Age: Drake
Location: Antwerp, Belgium
Segrus wrote:
The natural result of this, of course, is when I was actively going through my collection and looking up cards, I could name just about any card based on virtually no information. A person could mention a Blue card with a picture of someone coming out of a portal, and I'd say, "Oh, you mean Abduction? Yeah, it's from...umm...Weatherlight?" I also used to spend a lot of time keeping track of various combos and deck strategies in every format. So combine these two encyclopedic knowledges together, and I would be able to build entire decklists without looking up anything and pull all the cards together later.


Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if the part in my brain that manages to remember thousands of cards was instead used for something, you know, useful, like a cool foreign language or the complete Mendeljev's table. I can hardly remember my relatives' birthdays, but I remember Odyssey cards that I haven't played in fifteen years.

Ok, back on topic. I build decks in a more emotional way, I guess. I sacrifice power to flavor every day, and I cut cards for new ones if I feel they belong more in my deck. If I can't feel Greek mythology in the card, it's not going into my Ephara deck. I don't actively look for replacements for cards that disappoint, but I remember their underachieving asses when I come across a new card that fits the theme.

So, which cards to take out? Any card that is a) generally disliked by other players, and b)not clearly fitting the theme and/or c)have disappointed several times.

I tried testing on my own, by pitting a couple of my decks against each other in a FFA, and then try to do something else for a while between turns so I don't remember what's in each player's hand. Obviously this isn't a very efficient test environment. Most of the time I meet one of the guys in our play group, and I try the deck against some of his tweaked decks.

This is only for decks that were built from scratch, if I just switched a couple of cards I don't bother testing, and choose a trial by combat next game day.


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