Rogue Deckbuilder's Toolkit: The Idea

Written by Weedmonkey on December 19, 2009

Rogue Deckbuilder's Toolkit:

The Idea

Howdy folks. This will be the first on a series of articles aimed at the rogue builder. When I put the call out for what people want to read about, it was good to see what people wanted to read about.

The purpose of this series of articles is to go through the entire deckbuilding process - from ideas to implementation. This includes deckbuilding, playtesting results and an in-depth play primer for the deck.

Know Thyself

It's easy to think that everyone else thinks the same way you do when playing. Coverage often talks about the 'right play', players often talk about misplaying as though there's only one correct answer to a problem.

As a rogue deckbuilder, an important skill is being accustomed to thinking outside the box. It's a term that is tossed around every now and then when speaking about innovation in deckbuilding or something similar. By seeing where the boundaries have been set (by both other people and yourself), you can also see where there is room to innovate.

How do you find the boundaries though?

The answer lies within yourself. Ultimately, the end product is going to be a deck that you are piloting. You will be selecting the cards, playtesting, tuning and refining it. To that end, you must understand what your own strengths and limitations are, so that you know what possibilities there are.

Here's an exercise for you: Play a few matches, then think about how you played those matches. Think about how you felt while playing those matches, as your feelings can help you understand who you are Magic-wise. Then, come up with a number of statements that describe yourself as a player. Here are a few of mine:

  • I'm best suited to playing attrition or similar archetypes where I can control the tempo of the game.
  • I'm more comfortable with a deck that can switch strategies compared to one which modifies one strategy.
  • I'm more competent at analyzing what is known than predicting what is unknown.
  • I make more of my plays based on board position than considering future plays
  • The longer the list, the more you have to draw from when brainstorming ideas for a deck. When you are satisfied, move on to the fun part - brainstorming!

    Find Your Base

    There are many ways a player can potentially go about finding an idea - about as many ways as there are ways of thinking! Here is one possible approach though:

    First, take one of the points from the above exercise. This is to give you a starting point so that when you begin to brainstorm ideas you know what you need to look for. I'm going to take this one:

  • I'm more comfortable with a deck that can switch strategies compared to one which modifies one strategy.
  • For me, this means that I want to look for cards that are flexible; they don't need to be built around - they can be one element of a broader strategy.

    It's a difficult concept to explain well. What you want to do is take a point, consider how you want to explore ideas for it, then explore potential cards or card combinations that could be used as a base for a deck while keeping that point in mind. Use it as a criteria if you will.

    To apply it in a case study of sorts, I have been over the past weeks contemplating ideas for a new extended deck. For those who haven't had the joy of playing me, I prefer to take the road less travelled and play decks that aren't mainstream.

    So, for the above point, I'm looking for a card that could be a possible path to victory, but can also fit into a broader strategy without needing to dedicate resources specifically to it. Flexibility is key.

    As for how to go about finding cards to use? It can come from a range of sources. Some people may dig through filters card by card, looking for anything that may go unnoticed. Others may cruise forums, taking decklists that are posted on there and trying to turn them into tournament contenders.

    For me though, my inspiration came from building a different deck. Recently there was a Random Format Trial. Entries were open for a week. After some time, I began to settle on Loam Rock for the format, as it seemed to have the best potential metagame spread, and had no overly weak or strong matchups. As I began to play with potential ideas and tested the deck, I found this card to be very much a sleeper:

    Blooodchief Ascension [B}
    At the beginning of each end step, if an opponent lost 2 or more life this turn, you may put a quest counter on Bloodchief Ascension. (Damage causes loss of life.)
    Whenever a card is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, if Bloodchief Ascension has three or more quest counters on it, you may have that player lose 2 life. If you do, you gain 2 life.

    It impressed me. It single-handedly shut down dredge, as well as shutting down any Grove of the Burnwillows + Punishing Fire shenanigans. It also slotted in well to my major Loam Rock strategy, as I could accumulate counters with Bloodghast (with a little help from Tangle Wire) and the Ravnica dual lands. It was a great card.

    The question was, could I achieve the same thing in Extended?

    Once you think you have something to work with, you should consider the strengths and weaknesses. For Bloodchief Ascension:

    - Single-handedly shuts down multiple strategies (Burnwillow + Punishing Fire, Thopter Foundry, Dredge)
    - Cheap, so doesn't significantly impact on anything else and can slip under counters.

    - The effect is not immediate. It takes time to come online.
    - It's fragile. If it gets somehow removed or bounced you need to start again from the beginning.

    There are more, but those are the most significant points.

    It is always good to bounce these ideas off other people. When considering whether Bloodchief Ascension could work in Extended, i brought it up in conversation with other players. Don't take what other players say as gospel - question and ask why. Consider what their points are, then go from there. You can bring up other points of your own. This all contributes to a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of the card.

    Some players may also consider what cards would work best with it when considering whether a card or cards could work as a base. Based on my prior experience with it in the RFT deck, I knew that cards that could tie up resources such as Tangle Wire worked best with it. It allowed me to then spend cards that have minimal mana investment (such as Bloodghast) to begin acquiring counters for the Ascension. On a more specific note, I also knew that Raven's Crime worked well as recursive discard, which could be used as a path to victory in tandem with an active Ascension.

    Where to Next?

    From here, you could repeat the process with different cards for a while. Brainstorming can take time until you find something that works for you. The next article will explore how to take your base for a deck and begin building it up to your initial build.

    And until the next article?

    Initiate discussions! I don't claim to be a master deckbuilder, nor do I believe what I've explored in this article is the way to do it. Question what's been said here, see what works for you. These are only some of the tools that can be used, and there is so much room for exploration.

    Until next time, take the road less travelled.


    Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

    by proxie404 on 2009-12-19 15:47 CET

    nice Articles

    by Femt on 2009-12-19 15:57 CET

    Awsome article Weedmonkey!!! =D

    by JacobMatthew on 2009-12-19 17:34 CET

    Where's the decklist?

    by Sebas_ on 2009-12-19 18:31 CET


    by Davi on 2009-12-19 22:35 CET

    Very nice articles

    by Weedmonkey on 2009-12-19 23:35 CET

    The decklist mentioned in the article? Can be found @

    As for a rogue decklist? An initial build will be explored in the next article, followed by tuning in future articles.

    by Conkisstador on 2009-12-20 07:39 CET

    i'd like to be part of this, if you see me in channels please holler

    by r4nd0m1 on 2009-12-20 08:09 CET

    lookin forward to the articles to come
    rogue ftw))

    by GaryOak on 2009-12-20 16:35 CET

    Awesome article! I like the clear way of thinking you present to us here! Keep em Coming Roo, TY!

    by TheOrb on 2009-12-23 22:44 CET

    "I'm more competent at analyzing what is known than predicting what is unknown."

    This is me in a nutshell. When it comes to deckbuilding, I've found that one of the best strategies (for myself, at least) is to find a way to remove as many variables in a given situation or to make those variables less important. The less randomness I come across in a game, the more competent and in control I feel with my situation and play decisions.

    And kudos on the articles dude. Very informational.

    by totolcc on 2009-12-27 03:06 CET

    I'm thinking about opening a blog where i post budget decks (based on the idea of building on a budget from the official mtg site) and some deck techs... but i don't know if there are readers or if i can even pub my blog on the site...

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