How To Build A Magic Deck – 5 MTG Deck Building Tips

How To Build A Magic Deck – 5 MTG Deck Building Tips | Deck Building 101

Deck building process can be incomprehensible and daunting. There are too many elements involved and people don’t even know how and where to start. Yet, it’s absolutely vital, and you have to learn it to be good at MTG.

Below you will find 5 MTG deck building tips that will help you to understand and master (hopefully) process of deck building.

On a side note – everyone has their own idea on how to build a Magic deck. Some people base new decks on land cards, some on creature groups and their interactions, some center their deck around certain spells and artifacts. It’s all good if you know the following MTG deck building tips.

how to build a magic deck cover image

MTG Deck Building Principle #1 – Create a purpose.

Decide what your deck will be good at.

Simply putting all your best cards together won’t create a good deck – it will be a compilation of cards instead. That’s why so much people fail right from the beginning. You should have a very specific goal in mind.

It’s easier than you think it is. Just think why you are creating a deck. There’s your purpose, right there! Decide what your deck would be doing overall and what it will be good at. It’s a good idea to write it down. So when you will be adding new cards you will be able to look at your deck’s purpose and see if your new card(-s) will fit the overall goal. If it doesn’t fit, you should really question this new addition. You don’t want to add cards just because they’re rare, “awesome”, or legendary.

If you’re still unsure, here are some helpful “missions statements” for possible decks.

“This is red-blue deck that aims at early aggression with direct damage spells and small creatures to destroy your opponent as quickly as possible.”

“This is red-black discard deck, that discards opponent’s hand from the early turns and makes his options more and more limited as the game progresses.”

“This is a blue-black deck with great control options – good at destroying the opponents that rely on mirror images/duplication and tricks like Pestermite/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker”

“This is a green-black deck based around cheap elf creatures and unit enchantments, it will be good for swarming your opponent with creatures, and winning the game asap”

“This is a blue-green deck with focus on drawing more lands and cards that relies on big units and wide variety of options in mid-end game”

And now here are some useless “mission statements” that you should avoid (just for example):

“This is a deck with great instants.”

“This is a white-black deck.”

“This deck is aimed at winning the game.”

“This is a legendary deck.”

Now that you have an idea about creating a precise purpose for your deck, let’s move onto the next step.


MTG Deck Building principle #2 – Identify your cards.

If you decided to build your deck around a particular card or cards, you have to have a good plan B. That means if you were unlucky and you didn’t draw your card fast enough you still can win – your deck must be solid on its own.

There are only few exceptions like Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki deck, where these cards are pretty much all you need, in order to win. But in other decks where your game depends on particular card (like Timberwatch Elf or Priest of Titania), your deck should be working well even without these cards. You want your deck to go bananas when you get your card, but it shouldn’t be your only trick.

pestermite card mtg deck building tips
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker mtg deck building tips


If your deck isn’t based around a particular type of creature or artifact, but more on a general strategy (like red-blue deck for early aggression), start looking for cheap (mana wise) cards that will be the foundation of your deck. In our example, it could be cheap blue creatures and cheap red damage spells. Don’t forget to add some enchantments to improve your creatures. Since main goal of this deck is to rush your opponent down and win asap, you shouldn’t include big creatures or costly spells – you’re not planning for longer games anyways.

One of the great MTG deck building tips is to not limit yourself with your personal collection of cards. Go out and search the web for all cards that might be useful for your strategy.

This is the tool you should be using for searching – Magic The Gathering Card Database

If you base your strategy around vampire creatures and control spells, go and find all the cards in those particular categories and manually review each one. Note down every card you like. Don’t worry if you’ve ended up with more than 100+ favorites.

That’s where the next step comes in.


MTG Deck Building principle #3 – Refine your cards

By now you should have a bunch of options. It’s time to trim down and make your choices.

As you know, your deck can contain any number of cards beyond 60… But a golden rule of deckbuilding is – don’t go above 60.


Because with every additional card your chances of drawing good cards at the right time are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Another golden rule is – your deck must have 23-26 land cards in it. With few possible exceptions, like aggressive rush decks, where it’s okay to have 21-22 lands and use more cheap creatures and spells.

What this means is – amount of non-land cards generally will be around 34-37.

So now you must choose. First of all ask yourself a question –what are the cards that really want to be in that deck? Which ones work the best with your deck purpose? Are there cards that work well together?

This will remove some of the options.

When you are in doubt, just make sure to look at your deck’s purpose again and see if the card fits your description.

The next step is to lay down a mana curve. A lot of people miss this completely. This will ensure that your deck is balanced and there are no “holes” or “clogs” at any point of the game.

This process is simple – just look at the overall mana cost (converted mana cost) and start grouping your cards together, from left to right. Cards with 1 mana cost will be first, then cards with 2, 3, 4 etc. Put them in groups.

One important thing – there will be cards that have additional cost (and you plan to use this ability asap), like Bloodhusk Ritualist or Desolation Giant. So put them in adjusted category (4 mana instead of 3, for example).

Cards that have an additional mana cost, but aren’t likely to be used immediately should be put in a separate mana curve underneath (like “Explosive Growth” for example). These cards are more flexible and you can choose if you want to activate the ability, depending on your current situation.

When all of this is done, you should end up with something like this:

how to build a magic deck good mana curve

click on the image to view it in full-size

Since everything is clearly laid out it’s easy to spot any problems. When players don’t have a clear purpose for the deck they naturally gather a lot of great, high-costing cards that are powerful, but are completely redundant. If you include a lot of expensive cards in your deck, you will often find yourself with great cards in hand, without ability to cast them. And of course you’ll end up losing.

This is an example of a bad mana curve:

how to build a magic deck bad mana curve

click on the image to view it in full-size

It’s quite obvious that this deck won’t go far. Even though creatures and spells are powerful, there are far too many cards that cost 4 mana. Because of this your opening hand will suck and you will have incredible difficulties in the first few turns.

Another great rule to keep in mind – don’t get more than 10 cards with a cost of 4 mana and above. It’s better to keep it at 8-9 cards actually. There are some possible exceptions of course.

In aggressive rush-decks you will need more cheap cards (the ones that cost 1 and 2 mana), and less expensive ones. Total number of cards with converted mana cost of 4 and more could be around 5-6.

Another rule of thumb – you don’t want to stack up too much cards for particular slot on mana curve. 12 is a good number. With exception of 1-mana cost cards (you can have more than 12, if necessary). You should have options for any slot.

By now you should have a fairly good idea on how to build a magic deck. You should have a strong card foundation, ideally, with few holes here and there.


MTG Deck Building principle #4 – Fill the holes.

Look at your deck and identify few possible weaknesses.

This is the stage where you add some instants and sorceries that will help to aid your deck in battle. Depending on your deck’s purpose you might add some control spells, discard spells or just direct damage spells/enchantments.

Again, depending on your deck, you should have balanced spells for early game/ mid-game/end-game. If all your control spells are too expensive, consider adding some cheap ones, to help you in first stages of the game.

And it’s not just about spells either. Consider adding some creatures that will work well together with what you’ve created so far. Since you should be having a pretty clear picture by now, it will be significantly easier to find additional card.

Don’t be afraid to add few weaker cards, multi-purpose cards like Æther Adept, Borderland Ranger, etc. Better have some options on each of your turns, than sit with great cards in hand without ability to play them in time.

Borderland Ranger mtg deck building tips
aether adept mtg deck building tips


Also look for similarities in your creatures. If a lot of your creatures are flyers, you might get Favorable Winds. If a lot of creatures are vampires, you might want to get Vampiric Fury. Makes sense, right?


MTG Deck Building principle #5 – Choose your lands carefully.

This is arguably the most important part in deck building process. Many completely overlook lands, because they are boring and they just sit there whole game without doing anything.

Or do they?

First of all, you should look at the options available to you. Get your hands on some non-basic lands like Rishadan Port and City Of Brass, etc. Such lands will give you far more flexibility than standard common lands. However, these come with a price and you should consider possible drawbacks (like coming into play tapped).

rishadan port how to build a magic deck
city of brass mtg deck building tips


Also consider lands like Barbarian ring, which give you options besides boring mana generation. Don’t stuff your deck with these custom lands though – you should have a good number of “normal” mana-generating lands.

 barbarian ring how to build a magic deck

It’s a good idea to limit yourself with 3 colors. Playing anything more than 3 won’t do you any good. In most cases your options will be exhausted. And you will have too few cards for one of your colors anyway.

So try to be reasonable and use colors you really need – don’t pick few different color cards just because they’re “awesome”.

And as we already discussed, you should have 23-26 lands in your library.


MTG Deck Building conclusion.

That’s it! Now you have 5 crucial components for successful deck building in Magic The Gathering.

This should be the base of all your new creations. Try this strategy for yourself and you will recognize the benefits soon enough!


how to build a magic deck, mtg deck building tips, deck building


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