I apologize for the lack of words from me as of late. I’ve been having a rough time navigating everything life’s been throwing at me as well as finding time for Magic as well. As a result of that I’ve been finding myself having a lack of inspiration for deckbuilding as well as the drive to work on MTG content. So I set out trying to find a way to remedy this problem and get to work having fun and bringing you guys content again. In today’s article I’m going to discuss creativity in deckbuilding, ways we express ourselves in the game as well as finding inspiration and ways to get out of deckbuilding slumps with some tips that I’ve used to help myself and some that you can apply to both Magic and your everyday life. If you don’t define yourself as a “Brewer” or a “Deck Builder” this section might not necessarily be for you. For myself building decks is one of my favorite things about this game. It gives you so much freedom to express yourself as an MTG player. You have a near limitless amount of choices that you can make from the format you choose all the way to which basic lands you put in your deck; Unhinged, Foils, White Borders, Guru’s. The list can go on and on which can be intimidating, or you can even slap together whatever basic lands are sitting on your desk and play. But at the end of the day all these choices you make are you choosing how you express yourself within the game. Which for me personally, makes falling into a deckbuilding slump or losing your inspiration to brew and to play the game quite impactful on my life.
Finding your Inspiration:
The Oxford English dictionary describes inspiration as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. This definition checks off almost all the components of deck building. Researching cards to put in your deck, finding cool synergies or combos to use even choosing what power-level you’re playing are all mental choices we’re actively making as deck builders. Then we can start to look at some of the creative choices that we as the player get to make. The choice of sleeves we use to the style of card we put in the deck and thanks to Wotc there are even more stylistic choices to make. But what happens when you can’t find that inspiration? When you’re struggling to find even the first card for the deck let alone the hundredth. Here are some of the steps that I use to help get out of a MTG Slump and some you can apply to your day to day life outside of Magic as well.
1. Take a Step back:
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and allow ourselves to breathe. I’ll be trying to force an idea into fruition for a while and it’s simply not working, which gets frustrating but simply leaving it on the table and going for a walk can be enough to give us a fresh start and find the cards we need to finish the deck. Take the time to declutter your head as well as your workspace, whether you choose to use meditation or another hobby going into a project clear headed as well as having a clean workspace I’ve found to be extremely helpful. I work with MTG on a daily basis and when I come home it can be hard to focus on deckbuilding or even writing these articles, when all you’ve done is deal with cards all day. It can leave you drained and not wanting to enjoy this game as a hobby.
2. Hold yourself accountable:
You need to be the one to get yourself started, put away the distractions and the excuses and start your project. Having the courage to push through the resistance of starting can have a huge impact on overcoming your slump in MTG as well as in the rest of your life. Acknowledge the small wins that you accomplish each day whether it be choosing the commander for your deck or writing the first ten words of an article. Appreciate what you’ve done and use that momentum to push yourself forward and find your creative bubble. Work on not getting hung up on how it was supposed to be, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, you will make mistakes and normalize telling yourself that it’s okay. Don’t become overly attached to a project if it’s not right or it didn’t work move on and try something new, you can always come back to it later. I’ve put together and taken apart countless decks in the almost decade of my life I’ve spent playing this game.
3. Challenge yourself:
I find my most interesting brews come from when I challenge myself to build something outside the box. Applying deckbuilding constraints to yourself can be great for inspiring yourself to start a new brew. They can be anything from budget builds, cheap or expensive. Theme decks, you could choose to build your favorite tribe in the game or go for something wacky like people sitting in chairs, it’s a thing look it up. I also enjoy trying to brew up what I call “Hidden Commanders” where I’ll try to build a deck around a commander than I’m a fan of but add a color and play that card in the 99 instead of the commander and mess around with the different benefits or downsides are. At the end of the day it’s okay to build a bit of a fun deck rather than build nothing at all. Just learn from your mistakes, it’s okay if it lost you can focus on different things than your W/L ratio, focus on did it perform the way it was supposed to, did it’s synergies work properly or did you maybe but a card in the deck that didn’t perform how it was supposed to. At the end of the day make sure you’re having fun with deckbuilding.
Personally, I find it boring to net-deck in commander, I believe it has it’s place in more competitive formats and this is fine. I don’t feel like it’s wrong to use online resources for deckbuilding. I just find it tends to stagnate your builds and winds up with an overuse of staples and the same cards put into your 99 over and over again. Saffron Olive recently tweeted
“I’ve said this many times before, but it’s probably worth saying again: I view net decking as an essential part of learning how to play Magic and build decks. The idea that it is somehow a bad thing seems incredibly backwards to me.”
Whether you’re a fan of it or not, having access to the countless online resources can definitely help us break out of a slump. I enjoy using tools online like EDHREC or MTG Goldfish to get me started on a project. I think it’s good to use these as steppingstones and to look for cards outside of them as well to complete your deck. Lots of these sites even have some fun functions that can get us inspired to build something new or different to what you are used to. Many have a “random” function which I find to help whenever I’m stuck on an idea. I don’t entirely agree with Seth better known as Saffron Olive. (Yes I’m reading this in his voice you can as well) I think that properly learning how to build a deck from scratch can lend to a better understanding of how it functions than with an online brew. It most certainly will stifle your creativity. In my time working in my LGS I’ll pluck countless numbers of the same decks for customers with barely any change between them, I’ll even see players in the same playgroups play the exact same decklist they found online because it was the flavor of the week and more importantly struggle with creativity and deckbuilding skills. This doesn’t make them a bad player, everyone just excels at different portions of the game and everyone has their own level of time invested into it.
Hopefully this has been helpful if you’ve been struggling with deck building or have issues finding inspiration to start a new brew. Try to consider things like art, the abilities of the card or even the lore surrounding them when making choices. Don’t forget to give yourself time to breathe, don’t stress out over it. Especially Magic, for many of you it’s a game you use to escape your day to day troubles. Have Fun! If you stop having fun walk away for a bit and come back later. Don’t be scared to use online resources but try not to overuse them, if you have access to a playgroup ask for their opinions or even ask the employees at your LGS for help. Many of my favorite decks started from other people’s ideas, especially when I was new to the format. Don’t forget to explore new options and keep creating.
‘All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players’
— As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 7, lines 139-40; Jacques to Duke Senior and his companions
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I will do better to hold myself accountable in the future to bring you more articles. Continue the discussion with me over on Instagram (CommandTax) as well as here on the Into the 99 website.