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This page is about card collection. For the slang term meaning "to run out of cards", see Decking.

A deck is the collection of cards that a player plays with; it becomes that player’s library.

Description and history[ | ]

A regular deck needs a minimum of 60 cards. While the maximum is technically infinite, a player must be able to shuffle satisfactorily within the normal time frame; this puts the upper bound to something around 250 cards. When Magic first began, the rules dictated a 40-card deck, and there was no restriction for the number of copies of each card.[1][2] Constructed and Limited had the same deck size. It quickly became apparent that 40 was too small for Constructed as it both made the game too repetitive and made it too easy to pull off key combos.[3] There is a maximum of 4 cards with the same name in each deck.

The only exceptions to this rule are the basic lands or if a card's text contradicts this rule (such as Relentless Rats). The four-of-limit was not originally part of the game. That rule didn't roll around until WotC started pushing organized play more than half a year after the release of Alpha.

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

The collection of cards a player starts the game with; it becomes that player’s library. See rule 100, “General,” and rule 103, “Starting the Game.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 100.2. To play, each player needs their own deck of traditional Magic cards, small items to represent any tokens and counters, and some way to clearly track life totals.
    • 100.2a In constructed play (a way of playing in which each player creates their own deck ahead of time), each deck has a minimum deck size of 60 cards. A constructed deck may contain any number of basic land cards and no more than four of any card with a particular English name other than basic land cards. For the purposes of deck construction, cards with interchangeable names have the same English name (see rule 201.3).
    • 100.2b In limited play (a way of playing in which each player gets the same quantity of unopened Magic product such as booster packs and creates their own deck using only this product and basic land cards), each deck has a minimum deck size of 40 cards. A limited deck may contain as many duplicates of a card as are included with the product.
    • 100.2c Commander decks are subject to additional deckbuilding restrictions and requirements. See rule 903, “Commander,” for details.
    • 100.2d Some formats and casual play variants allow players to use a supplementary deck of nontraditional Magic cards (see rule 108.2a). These supplementary decks have their own deck construction rules. See rule 717, “Attraction Cards;” rule 901, “Planechase;” and rule 904, “Archenemy.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 100.4. Each player may also have a sideboard, which is a group of additional cards the player may use to modify their deck between games of a match.
    • 100.4a In constructed play, a sideboard may contain no more than fifteen cards. The four-card limit (see rule 100.2a) applies to the combined deck and sideboard.
    • 100.4b In limited play involving individual players, all cards in a player’s card pool not included in their deck are in that player’s sideboard.
    • 100.4c In limited play involving the Two-Headed Giant multiplayer variant, all cards in a team’s card pool but not in either player’s deck are in that team’s sideboard.
    • 100.4d In limited play involving other multiplayer team variants, each card in a team’s card pool but not in any player’s deck is assigned to the sideboard of one of those players. Each player has their own sideboard; cards may not be transferred between players.

Minimum deck size[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Minimum Deck Size
If a rule or effect states that a player’s deck must contain at least a specific number of cards, that number is the player’s minimum deck size.

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 100.5. If a deck must contain at least a certain number of cards, that number is referred to as a minimum deck size. There is no maximum deck size for non-Commander decks.

Starting deck[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Starting Deck
After a player has set aside their sideboard, their remaining deck becomes their starting deck. See rule 103.2a.

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 103.1. At the start of a game, the players determine which one of them will choose who takes the first turn. In the first game of a match (including a single-game match), the players may use any mutually agreeable method (flipping a coin, rolling dice, etc.) to do so. In a match of several games, the loser of the previous game chooses who takes the first turn. If the previous game was a draw, the player who made the choice in that game makes the choice in this game. The player chosen to take the first turn is the starting player. The game’s default turn order begins with the starting player and proceeds clockwise.
    • 103.1a In a game using the shared team turns option, there is a starting team rather than a starting player.
    • 103.1b In an Archenemy game, these methods aren’t used to determine who takes the first turn. Rather, the archenemy takes the first turn.
    • 103.1c One card (Power Play) states that its controller is the starting player. This effect applies after this determination has happened and supersedes these methods.

Supplementary decks[ | ]

Supplementary decks, or side decks, are separated card decks that may be played in casual games to enhance the gaming experience. They are recognizable by alternate card sizes and/or alternate card backs.

The first side deck was the planar deck that was introduced for the Planechase format. It contains oversized Plane and Phenomenon cards.

Un-sets featured the Attraction deck and the Contraption deck. They have alternate card backs and are not Eternal legal.

Thunder Junction Commander introduced the Bounty deck.

Glossary[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Attraction Deck
An optional deck of at least three (in limited play) or ten (in constructed play) Attraction cards that can be used to support play with some cards from the Unfinity expansion. See rule 717.2.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Planar Deck
A deck of at least ten plane cards needed to play the Planechase casual variant. See rule 901.3.

Parts of a deck[ | ]

A deck can be commonly organized in two fashions:

This section will deal with the latter. The former is often employed on websites uniformly because not all of the following categories are featured in all decks. Cards within categories are usually listed alphabetically or from lowest to highest converted mana cost.

Mana base[ | ]

The Mana base are all cards, which can either produce mana or give access to cards that do without requiring a mana cost to be paid. While a mana base is necessary for all decks, there are many ways to achieve it depending on the environment of the deck, but in almost all cases Lands make up the majority of mana sources. Conventional wisdom is to have 40% of a deck being mana (16/40 in Limited, 24/60 in Constructed, 40/100 in Highlander), but curve, mana sinks, and game plan may shift it up to 50% or down to 30%.

A subcategory that may be included here is mana acceleration with cards that do cost mana themselves but yield an amount of mana as their effect.

Win condition[ | ]

The Win condition is simply the way the deck plans to win the game it participates in. Since there are multiple ways to force an opponent to lose a deck is usually trimmed to achieve just one of them.[5] The most common win condition is dealing more damage to an opponent than their starting life total. However, combo decks or prison decks may target the opponent's library instead and attempt to force them to draw more cards than their library contains. Some cards provide an alternate win condition which a deck may employ.

Interaction[ | ]

The third large portion of a deck is usually used to either shield oneself from attempts by the opponent to halt the game plan or cards that do so to the opponent.

  • Counters are predominantly blue and prevent a spell by the opponent from resolving and usually have the card representing the spell be put in the graveyard.
  • Discard is usually black and is a proactive way to stop the opponent by removing cards out of their hand.
  • Removal is used to put a permanent on the Battlefield into a different zone. This includes direct damage spells that can target creatures, though they may also be used as a win condition.

Card advantage[ | ]

This category is for cards that simply make other cards accessible either by putting additional cards in hand or manipulating the library. This may include Tutors, cards such as Ponder to alter what cards will be drawn next, or card draw such as Divination. Not all decks require this category, though most competitive sideboards will have some form of them.

Utility[ | ]

Utility cards are cards that may serve more than one function in a deck. A utility category may be named if categories such as Protection or Card Advantage do not include enough cards to warrant a distinction in any one given deck.

Deckbuilding[ | ]

Deckbuilding is creating a deck.[6][7][8][9]

  • A little more than 1/3 of your deck should be mana. In a 60-card deck, 24 mana will suffice.
  • If you have too many different colors in your deck, the chance that you'll draw the right color reduces. Therefore, it is better to create a deck with 1, 2, or maybe 3 different colors. Artifacts and multicolor spells reduces the danger of mana screw.
  • Most people have more creatures than other spells in their deck.
  • Competitive players should consider their sideboard as part of their deck rather than an afterthought.

Decklist[ | ]

Main article: Deck registration

A decklist is the written version of a deck. Most tournaments require a decklist submission, but this has moved from paper to digital in the late 2010s.

Deck names[ | ]

In the earlier years of the Pro Tour, decks often had esoteric and opaque naming schemes, but this was later discarded as the viewer's experience was worsened. Additionally, as mechanical or strategic theming became the stronger deckbuilding norm and online decklist proliferation more widespread, weird deck names became less prevalent as players would often not keep the nickname when porting decks.

There are no hard and fast rules to deck naming. Some popular decks get their unique nickname, but in sanctioned formats, decks are usually described by their color, archetype, and sometimes format.

  • The deck's color comes from the colors of its cards, being some combination of Black, Blue, White, Green, and Red (or colorless if all cards lack a color). If the deck uses only one color, it is referred to as mono (for example, mono-red). Multi-color decks are also sometimes referred to using the associated two-colored Ravnican guild, or three-colored shard or wedge.
  • The deck's archetype refers to its strategy or theme. The main archetypes are Aggro, Combo and Control. Combo decks are usually named after the cards that form their combo. Decks centered around using a certain creature type or mechanic will often use their name instead.
  • When it isn't clear what format a deck is intended to be played in, it can be included in the deck's name. The most popular sanctioned formats are Vintage, Legacy, Standard, Modern, Block and Limited.

Some example deck names are "mono-blue Eye of the Storm combo", "extended green/blue aggro-control deck", and "Rakdos vampires".

In the Commander format, decks are usually referred to by their Commander, since that's usually enough to determine a deck's color and archetype. For example, you might have a "The Most Dangerous Gamer deck" or a "Tom Bombadil deck".

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (August 5, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (June 20, 2016). "25 More Random Things About Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (August 17, 2009). "In My Day". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Reid Duke (August 31, 2015). "When to Cast Your Spells". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Gavin Verhey (February 8, 2018). "My Most Important Deck-Building Rule". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Ted Knutson (October 28, 2006). "Building Your First Deck". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. The Official Deckbuilders' Guide
  8. Reid Duke (June 8, 2015). "Choosing Your Deck". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Gavin Verhey (June 16, 2015). "You Will Be Upgraded". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[ | ]