How do you design a deck? Build a core, then look at matchups and try to shore them up with cards from the sideboard?
Last year, Zaiem Beg addressed the topic of sideboarding, discussing the approach of designing a deck for each matchup, then bringing these decks together in a combined core and sideboard. In effect, the goal here is to pick out your likely matchups, then design a number of ideal versions of your deck, each suited to a given matchup. In the current environment, one might want to design to beat Faeries, Five-color Control, Kithkin, Red Deck Wins, and Reveillark.
That’s what I did here:
Click here to see the full spreadsheet in a separate window
Go to the extended entry to see where I went from there.
Sticking to a core theme of “overwhelming card advantage and disruption,” I tried to build the same theme to knock down each of the archetypes I mentioned above, without a lot of concern for how well the different builds mapped onto each other. That done, the next step, of course, is to map them onto each other. In the spreadsheet above, I marked in green those cards common to all builds, and then marked other cards in other colors based on how many builds shared them. You can see how I’ve extracted the “minimal core deck” on the right there, featuring only those cards that appear in all builds.
Here we see that there are 45 cards in the essential core, 25 of those being land (the land count is high, by the way, to fuel retrace on the Crimes). There are 40 other cards, putting us at 85 total, or 10 over the 75 that we’re allowed for deck plus sideboard. What, then, to cut?
There are obvious redundancies here. Quadruple Wrath plus quadruple Burial is an artifact of my “ideal” desire to have the Burials for Lark and Demigod, but use the faster Wrath everywhere else. On balance, it’s more important to clear the board sooner in the game, so we lose the Burials. Similarly, the Tenders shore up one matchup that we can probably handle without them, so they’re out. That pulls us down to 77 cards, which is pretty close to our final tally. At this point, it’s time to really think about what the starting deck is going to look like. The spreadsheet suggests a couple of things immediately. First, the Scullers show up in three important matchups out of the ones we considered — they go in. Second, the Finks show up in four of the matchups, so they’re in as well. Third, if we replace Burials with Wraths, then Wraths appear in four of the five matchups as well. Wraths are in. We also see that most builds run four Unmakes and four Crimes, so let’s go four and four on those as well. We round out the maindeck with a single Muse, which seems fine as it’ll turn up in long games when we’ll want the card advantage boost.
Now, what about the sideboard?
The Wispmares and Macabres go straight to the sideboard. That’s eight slots down already, leaving seven open. On top of this, we’ll store those three Infests for the Kithkin matchup in the sideboard. Four slots left. Let’s keep those two extra Muses for Five-color. The last two slots go to a card that wasn’t in any of the builds above — Oblivion Ring. I want two Rings because Planeswalkers are popular enough to worry about, and because it’s always handy to pack the most generic solution in the world in case someone does something weird.
In this process, we’ve culled out a fourth Liliana, a singleton Ajani, Tenders, Shriekmaws, and Hallowed Burials, and arrived at our final build, which looks like this:
|4× Tidehollow Sculler|
|4× Kitchen Finks|
|4× Battlegrace Angel|
|4× Raven’s Crime|
|3× Elspeth, Knight-Errant|
|4× Wrath of God|
|3× Liliana Vess|
|4× Caves of Koilos|
|4× Fetid Heath|
|2× Oblivion Ring|
|4× Faerie Macabre|
|2× Graveborn Muse|
From this core, how do we sideboard?
-4 Kitchen Finks
-2 Wrath of God
+2 Graveborn Muse
-4 Kitchen Finks
+4 Faerie Macabre
-1 Graveborn Muse
-2 Raven’s Crime
Red Deck Wins
-1 Graveborn Muse
+1 Oblivion Ring
Unless additional inspiration strikes, this is the deck I’ll take to the $1K at Superstars this weekend. In my limited testing to date, it’s done reasonably well, and there’s something satisfying about piling on the disruption and discard with Seizes, Scullers, Crimes, and Liliana.
As a coda to this post, two notes:
Battlegrace Angel is great in this deck. Plays like “play Angel, swing with 4/3 Lifelinked Kitchen Finks” are wonderful.
You can activate a Mutavault to have more Zombies when the Muse’s trigger resolves, if you need more cards and have life to spare.