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Brewer's Minute: Bad Cards

Hey, everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute. When it comes to evaluating cards and building decks, it's all too easy to fall into a trap where we think of certain cards as bad without giving much thought to the reason why we think they are bad. This has a tendency to lead to situations where we don't even see the cards when we are searching for cards to fill out our deck—we just casually look right over them, almost like they aren't even there. But as brewers, we need to change our perceptions about what makes a card bad and learn to look at cards in a different, more positive light! And this is our Brewer's Minute topic for the week: what makes a card truly bad and how we, as brewers, should think about cards during the card-evaluation process.

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Deck building is quite literally the process of evaluating cards. We query up a big list of cards, search over them, and evaluate which ones are good enough to find a home in our deck. The problem is that we tend to think of way too many cards as bad. Today, the Magic media is huge, and a perception forms as soon as a card is previewed. Almost immediately, there are hundreds or even thousands of voices in set reviews and on social media and YouTube saying cards are good or bad (but most often bad). Because of this, our perception of a card forms early, and after our mind is made up about a card, it's usually hard for it to be changed.

While it is true that many cards won't find a home in a deck, it's important to remember that there are about 1,500 cards in Standard right now, and maybe 100 see consistent tournament play, which means if people are using "consistent tournament-level play" as their guideline for judging which cards are good and which are bad, over 90% of cards are bad. Unfortunately, looking at cards in this manner isn't really beneficial for a brewer. What often ends up happening is that we form an idea about a card almost immediately after its preview, and we think of it as either good or bad for the rest of that card's life. If it's "bad," we don't even consider it when we are building our decks because we don't want to play bad cards, which often leads to us missing out on some really cool and powerful cards and synergies, with the end result being that we build worse decks.

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So, what really makes a card bad, to the point where we should literally cross if off of our list of potential playables during the deck-building process? Here, from a brewer's perspective, the answer is that there's a strictly better option in the format. Lightning Strike is a bad card in a format with Lightning Bolt, and Open Fire is a bad card in a format with Lightning Strike. We can even see this in Standard, where Khenra Eternal is a strictly better version of Walking Corpse—if you're looking to fill out your two-drop slot in a Zombie deck, there's no good argument that Walking Corpse is the right choice. Beyond these strictly worse situations, the best thing we can do as brewers is to train ourselves to look for the good in all cards.

For example, Aethertide Whale is a card that is easy to write off as bad. It look like an Intro Pack rare, doesn't impact the battlefield immediately, and doesn't even have a great body for its converted mana cost. As such, it's easy to fall into the trap of just thinking of it as bad and not ever considering it again during our deck-building process. The problem is that we often miss out on amazing things when we write off too many cards as bad, like the fact that Aethertide Whale is the perfect card for making six energy to get another Aetherworks Marvel spin, in conjunction with Paradox Engine

As a result, one of the most important things a brewer can do is to train themselves to look for the good in all cards, rather than falling into the trap of having our mind made up that a card is bad as soon as it is spoiled. Instead of looking at a card and thinking about all the reasons it can't work, try to find the reasons a card can work, and build from there. While you'll find that many cards really can't work, the biggest danger of writing off cards too early without really thinking about their possibilities is that you'll miss out on the Aethertide Whales of the Magic world—seeming "bad" cards that can do amazing things in the right situation!


Anyway, that's all for today. Next time you sit down to look over some cards and find inspiration for building a deck, instead of immediately tossing cards aside as bad, look for the good in each and every one. In the end, not only will you make better decks, but you'll be much happier if you learn to live life this way as well!

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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