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Brewer's Minute: Brewing Prompts

Hey, everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute. Lately, we've been discussing various cards, decks, and combos here on Brewer's Minute, so this week, we are changing things up a bit and looking at some concrete ways you can improve as a deck builder: brewing prompts. I was a creative writing major for while, and one thing that comes up in a lot of creative writing classes is various writing prompts. When you first go into a creative writing class, it's easy to get stuck on the idea that you are going to write the great American novel or a killer short story and forget that to actually (eventually) do either of these things, the first step is to just starting writing. Writing prompts force you to put words together into sentences and maybe even sentences into paragraphs, but they are unlikely to give you a finished short story or novel. Having a finished product isn't really part of the goal of writing prompts; instead, the whole idea is to make you spend some time writing because the more you write, the more you recognize how words fit together, and the more likely you are to eventually write that story or novel. 

Brewing is the same way. It's easy to get caught up on the idea of making a great deck and miss out on the fact that making a great deck requires putting cards and synergies together. So today, we are going to discuss a few categories of brewing prompts, which are basically some starting points that will get you thinking about a certain synergy or group of cards and force you to put them together. While you probably won't end up with a tier deck as a result of these prompts, it's possible that some of the ideas you get from working through the prompts will lead to something special down the road, if not immediately. However, the main goal is to force you to brew, put together cards and synergies, learn the card pools of various formats, and recognize how different types of cards work together. Even if none of the prompts ever lead to a real deck, they are a great way to sharpen your deck-building skills and prepare for building that FNM, Grand Prix, or Pro Tour breaking deck in the future.

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So today, I have five somewhat broad categories of brewing prompts for you, along with a couple of examples of specific prompts that fall into each category. Our goal is twofold. First, if you're interested in working through some of the example prompts, do it and let me know in the comments what you came up with! Second, if you have some ideas for other brewing prompts that fit under the various categories (or whole entire categories), make sure to let me know about them too! Ideally, with our powers combined, we can have a sweet brewing prompt worksheet that will be invaluable for both people learning how to brew and for long-time brewers looking to sharpen their skills.

#1: Off-Color Tribal

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  • Green Merfolk
  • Black Goblins
  • White Vampires
  • Red Humans

When we think of popular tribes in Magic, we normally think of their primary color (like blue for Merfolk), but building around a tribe based on their secondary color is a great way to sharpen your skills and learn some of the more fringe cards in various formats. 

#2: Flip a Color

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  • Blue Aggro
  • Black Burn
  • White Counterspells
  • Red Lifegain
  • Green Control

Similar to off-color tribal, we often lock ourselves into looking at colors based on what they do best, which leads to us missing out on a lot of cool cards and ideas. So, instead of building blue control or red burn, try flipping a color on its head and building around its worst attributes rather than its best. While it might take some work, it's certainly possible to build blue aggro or black burn, but can you find a mono-green control deck? How about mono-red lifegain? Flip-a-color prompts are great ways to find new cards, and even if you don't end up with a deck, it's very possible and even likely that some of the cards you discover will end up in the sideboard or main deck of other decks you build in the future.

#3: Merit Badge Challenges

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  • Gain 1,000 life.
  • Deal infinite damage.
  • Take infinite turns in Modern without using blue cards. 

There are a ton of potential prompts that fit under this category. The basic idea is to come up with some seemingly far-fetched achievement (like gain 1,000 life) and then figure out a way to do it. This will not only help you to start generating a list of combos and synergies that might show up in other decks you build but also force you to dig really deep into the card pool and learn the cards.

Against the Odds

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Since we do this every week for the namesake Against the Odds series, I'm not going to bother to write out a list of prompts (just pick any Against the Odds episode and build your own deck around the winning card!). The basic idea of this category is to pick a card, preferably an underused and underplayed card, and go all-in on building around it. While you might not end up with a super-competitive deck all that often, you'll learn a ton of new synergies and have a huge pile of janky brews to play with!

#5: Stretch a Card

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One of the downsides of playing with tournament decks is that we often lock ourselves into thinking about cards in a specific light. Blood Moon is for one- or two-color decks. Dowsing Dagger is to make a bunch of mana when we flip it. But what happens when you push cards (and yourself) out of the comfort zone of using cards in the "right" way? No one knows for sure, but you'll certainly learn a lot along the way. So, try building a five-color Blood Moon deck. Can it even work? Look for cards like Dowsing Dagger that have what seems to be a downside (giving your opponent free creatures) and turn it into an upside!


Like we talked about in the intro, the main idea of using brewing prompts isn't to end up with finished decks, so don't worry if you start building around one of the prompts and fall short of having a full deck—that's the plan. The whole idea is just to force yourself to put together cards and synergies to improve your deck-building process and sharpen your deck-building skills. If you have some other prompts, make sure to let me know in the comments so I can add them to our brewing prompts list. And if you come up with some sweet synergies or decks using the example prompts, share those as well!

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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