When a Deck Doesn’t Look Right

You’ve done it! You built that new Commander deck. You went through your whole collection pulling out cards for the idea. Maybe you bought or traded for key cards. Maybe you cannibalized (took cards from) other existing decks. You made the hard cuts and it’s finally done. You expect to feel excitement and relief that the idea is made real, but something is wrong. The deck just doesn’t look right. Now what?

Just Try It Out

Sometimes the deck list doesn’t read right, but in the game it is actually humming just like you wanted. Playing it with your friends may help you find what the missing pieces weren’t right and with minor refinement its back on. My original Sek’Kuar Death Keeper deck looked janky to me on paper, but one game at the LGS and it proved aggressively oppressive. Just go play.


Build Out a Second Version

When I deck build I’ve got a handful of subthemes or cards I want to showcase. If one doesn’t work, have the handful of cards to switch out. Some of the utility and most of the mana will remain the same, but maybe the token version is more fun than the voltron version. If you have the cards ready you can switch it out between games and test it out a second time.


Find People to Look at The List

Find a friend to look at your list. Run it by them and see what kind of chaff they see. I’ve got a friend that I run almost every list by before I play it. By the time we’ve gone back and forth on it the deck is significantly better. If you don’t have a friend whose deck building abilities you trust, find someone online. Everyone has opinions about Commander. A set of eyes from someone in the community can trim the fat out of a deck and get it more on track, just be sure you include your ideas and budget when you ask the internet.


Let It Sit

Sometimes the best thing you can do is let it sit. Best case is if you have a safe place to keep it spread out. Come back in a few hours or days and take a second look. Glance through your last few cuts. Sometimes just putting it away for a while can give clarity to the process. Occasionally there is nothing wrong with it at all.


Tweak a Cornerstone

You’ve got your mind set on building Athreos, God of Passage. You’ve selected your Commander right reasons. It’s going to be the best Orzhov (W/B) your LGS has ever seen, but you lay it all out and there’s something wrong. Maybe the right call is switch to a different Orzhov legend, say Karlov of the Ghost Council. Maybe you add or remove a color and bring the deck into Karador, Ghost Chieftain or Sheoldred, Whispering One. Suddenly it all clicks into place. Don’t be afraid to tweak things, even something you saw as a foundation of the deck.


Trust Your Instincts

If you’re like me, you’ve built many Magic decks. Deck building skills are something that are honed over time. If you’re looking down and the deck just looks terrible, it might very well be. This sucks. Time, and sometimes money, has been sunk into this deck. If this is the case, I have two pieces of advice. The first is try to learn something. What did you think would work but really won’t? If you can learn something, some of the costs can be recouped as experience. The second is that sometimes you need to cut your losses. It sucks when something becomes a sunk cost, but by the nature of the cost it can’t be recouped. Don’t exaggerate your losses banging your head against your table trying to make it work. Just walk away and have fun with a different deck.


Wrap Up


This has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit, even some where I’ve spent my Magic money on pieces that never actually got played. I’ve used all of these strategies. What do you do when things don’t look right? I’m always curious about how people take on problems. You can find me on Twitter @KyleCCarson. Until next week, happy brewing.

– Cowboy Kyle


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