The Best Deck vs. the Deck You Want to Play

Most people who have played in the competitive Magic scene are familiar with the concept of the ‘best deck.’ We all remember not too long ago when Thoughtseize Pack Rat was the best thing you could be doing, and if you weren’t doing that then you probably weren’t winning the tournament. Not to say there weren’t other decks around at the time: Mono-Blue Devotion made a splash, and Sphinx’s Revelation decks were also a part of the meta game at the time. However, no one could possibly argue against what was the most dominant deck of that format.

This last weekend at the Legacy Grand Prix in Columbus, Ohio, I came to a crossroads that most find themselves at before a big tournament. Do I play my version of my pet deck that I know isn’t the most powerful thing I could be doing, but I know it like the back of my hand? Or do I play a deck that is like my deck, but is a much more popularized list that everyone knows? Legacy is a format where your play style should effect your deck decision more so than other formats. If you are a Red mage in playstyle and preference and the best deck is a Blue Control deck,  you shouldn’t play it; just find another deck that plays like the decks you know and are proficient with. I knew going into the event I wanted to play Tarmogoyf, Abrupt Decay, and Deathrite Shaman.  I put together a Punishing Jund list that I thought I could do well with.

4 Tarmogoyf
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Dark Confidant
3 Scavenging Ooze

3 Liliana of the Veil

1 Sylvan Library

4 Abrupt Decay
2 Lightning Bolt
3 Punishing Fire
2 Hymn to Tourach
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Thoughtseize
1 Toxic Deluge

1 Forest
1 Swamp
2 Badlands
3 Bayou
3 Bloodstained Mire
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Wooded Foothills
3 Wasteland

4 Grove of the Burnwillows

 

Sideboard
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Choke
1 Sylvan Library
1 Chains of Mephistopheles
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Krosan Grip
1 Kolaghan’s Command
1 Pithing Needle
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Hymn to Tourach

This deck was lean and sweet. We cut the Bloodbraid Elves to lower our deck to the ground. Our Dark Confidants were going to be good against everything, eat our opponents’ swords so our Goyfs live, and draw us a lot of cards, as well as never deal us more than three damage. We could go up to fifteen discard spells post-board against combo, and I didn’t really know what I could lose to. The one problem with my pet deck was that it didn’t play the necessary evil of the format: Force of Will or Brainstorm.

I am not saying that you have to be playing those two cards if you want to win in the format. There are plenty of good decks that never need blue cards: Lands and Death and Taxes come to mind immediately.  However, if you want to guarantee consistency, you have to have defense against the glass cannons and Brainstorm to fix your draws. I ended up with this list after much deliberation.

4 Brainstorm
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Shardless Agent
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Force of Will
3 Baleful Strix
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Ancestral Vision
2 Hymn to Tourach
1 Thoughtseize
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
2 Bayou
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Polluted Delta
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Swamp
4 Wasteland

Sideboard
3 Thoughtseize
2 Hymn to Tourach
1 Liliana of the Veil
2 Toxic Deluge
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Sylvan Library
1 Dread of Night
1 Null Rod
1 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Dismember

Before I go any further, some changes I would make to this deck if you intend to play it: Cut the fourth Ancestral Vision and main deck the Tar Pit, and add a Pithing Needle to your sideboard. I came to the conclusion, after much theorycrafting with my best friend and roommate, that it would just be the better decision to play the Shardless BUG deck, because it was the best deck playing the cards I wanted to play.

At the end of the day, if I had to make the decision all over again, I like to think I would have played the BUG deck again.  For the type of player I am (the kind that plays Magic every weekend grinding events with the intention to win), I believe I should just be playing the best deck every weekend.  Even though, throughout my entire Magic career, I normally pick a deck and stick with it through thick and thin, when it’s a great call and when it’s a bad call, I just can’t do that anymore. In a tournament, the amount of equity you risk by playing a suboptimal deck on principle is too great. What I mean is: There are a lot of games that you would have just won if you were playing the best deck, because what it was doing would have been too powerful for your opponent to keep up. You are instead playing the deck you brewed, and your opponent is drawing his crazy one outer to beat you, but it would have done nothing if you were playing the best deck.

An example is: If I play against Storm and rip their payoff spell with a turn one discard spell, and I proceed to beat them down and they draw the card I ripped earlier (or just what they happen to need in that one spot), I could be dead that turn. However, if I am playing Shardless BUG, they have to consider: What if I have Force of Will? I could also just have something to keep myself from dying, because I am doing the best thing I could be. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. If the most powerful thing is not a huge amount better than what you are doing, then it may be justifiable to continue playing your own deck as long as you have a good plan for that matchup. Going into this Standard weekend, it is very obvious GW Tokens is the best deck: it has won, I think, every Grand Prix since the Pro Tour, and nothing seems to beat it that can beat anything else. There is almost no argument I could imagine for playing any other deck.  However, if Standard was a toss up, a different deck has been winning every major event, and they have all been vastly different, then, sure!  Play what you like. But when there is clearly a best thing you can be doing, we, as competitive Magic players, have no reason not to do it.

To sum it up, if you want to win, play the best deck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s