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Building A Deck From the Ground Up and my Standard Sell List

Alright, so lets say I was heading to the latest Pro Tour. How would I build my deck? Let's walk through the deck building process together.

Building a Deck from the Ground Up


Step 1: Where to start?

To start, there are three ways to build a deck. Alone, with your team/friends, or net-deck ideas. To each their own and everyone has their own personal way of building a deck. Me personally, I like to make my own decks and then get input from teammates. Sadly, the last time I asked for help from my teammates I ended up playing Grixis Twin. Not a good idea. 

Step 2: What kind of player are you?

Thoughtseize [LRW]Celestial Colonnade [WWK]Wild Nacatl [ALA]Lightning Bolt [LEA]Pyromancer Ascension [ZEN]Liliana of the Veil [ISD]Scapeshift [MOR]Remand [RAV]

You then break down your deck in order of format, meta, play style, and any recent changes. Also take into account your budget since not everyone has an unlimited amount of resources. 

So I broke down Modern into the following: 

  • Control
  • Tempo
  • Aggro
  • Combo
  • Midrange
  • All-or-Nothing

Control usually has a blue base, focuses on countermagic, and plays the late game. In Modern, I consider there to be a few control style decks. Usually those decks rely on Remand, Snapcaster Mage, and 1-1 creature removal. The endgame is slow and usually requires you to be in complete control of the game to protect your win-conditions while you stop your opponent from what he is doing.

Tempo is an odd thing in Modern. When Delver of Secrets was in Standard, the UW version was considered a tempo deck. Turn 1 Delver attacked while you bounced your opponents spells with cards like Vapor Snag. But I wouldn't say the Modern version of Delver is Tempo. Tempo is more like a Scapeshift style deck where you use your counterspells to stop your opponent and killing them on turn 7.

Aggro is simple enough. There are plenty of aggro decks out there. They are fast, agressive, and want to win with creatures above all else, only using spells as a way of getting your creatures through defenses. Zoo tries to overwhelm your opponent with small creatures and uses cards like Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix to either push through blockers and deal the last essential points of damage. The premium Aggro deck in the format is Affinity/Robots. While it has Galvanic Blast to push through damage, it uses on-board combat tricks to push through damage with cards like Arcbound Ravager

Combo is pretty self explanitory. There are a myriad of combo decks out there in Modern. Some known, some unknown. The main combos are Pyromancer's Ascension Storm, Jeskai Ascendancy combo, and Splinter Twin. Splinter Twin is a deck that can be a pure combo, tempo (RUG Twin), or control (UWR Twin). So there are a lot of ways to break down the deck. But I'll go with combo for now because that is the best version of the deck from my perspective. Another combo deck  that is gaining in popularity is Living End

Midrange can be anything that is larger than aggro but has the same idea in mind. Midrange usually plays larger creatures, has more removal, and can compete in the late game. I would say Merfolk is midrange because it tries to slow down your opponent until you get enough creatures large enough to attack. It disrupts your opponent in the form of Spell Pierce and Speading Seas. Other midrange decks turning up are Junk decks that used to be Birthing Pod. Another good and very efficient midrange deck is Hatebears.  

All-or-Nothing is hard to define. They're decks that do what other decks do, but try to go all-in with no back up plan. Burn is a good example. It has to burn you out and does a pretty good job of it, but if they run into Leyline of Sanctity, or Kor Firewalker, they have no plan B. 

Step 3: Figure out the metagame

The easiest way to do this is to check recent tournament results and see what most people are playing. Bannings shook up the metagame, so another way to check out what people are playing is to go to the tournament practice rooms on Magic Online and see if people have comments that say "Post-Ban Only". It gives you an interesting look into what cards and styles people are playing with the banned cards unavailable to them. 

Step 4: Building your deck

Well I'm a control player, and my favorite deck of all time is Jund, so I start with a base shell.

A) Hand Disruption

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

B) Creatures

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

C) Removal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00  or  $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Now this is where you determine what direction your deck is going. Other creature removal:

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00    or maybe   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

I want the reach of red, but white gives you access to a lot of strong cards. Here is the example of why I want to add red. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00       VS         $ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you compare these two cards, Raging Ravine is much more powerful than Stirring Wildwood. On an empty board, Raging Ravine only needs one attack to get out of lightning bolt range, and is much scarier for an opponent to deal with. Luckily the deck still has Treetop Village to not hurt the mana base entirely.  

D) Mana

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Step 5: Filling out the deck

Now that I have my base of what I want to play, the rest of the deck will be filled out based on the metagame. I have a lot of options, especially if I play 4 colors.  


Scavenging Ooze, Knight of the Reliquary, Siege Rhino, Huntmaster of the Fells, Fulminator MageKitchen Finks, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Auriok Champion, or Anafenza, the Foremost.


Lingering Souls, Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, Swords (of the equipment variety), Golgari Charm, or Bitterblossom


Garruk Relentless, Elspeth, Knight Errant 


Based on what I like to play, here's an initial decklist. It's rough and would need testing, but it's a good start.


Now while not a lot of you might agree with the red addition, it really increases your access to essential sideboard cards. I took out a Path to Exile and added a Murderous Cut because I don't want to fix my opponent's mana. I'm not a huge fan of Slaughter Pact, and you already have access to a lot of cards in your graveyard from fetch lands and removal spells, so why not abuse some Delve cards?

Step 6: Sideboards

Now when I build a sideboard, I start off with close to 75 different cards. I then break them down according to what deck they are good against and make a bet against what the metagame will look like. Here is the initial sideboard; it can be broken down through playtesting and some math. 


There are a ton of cards here and it will take weeks to whittle these down to 15, and most players, regardless of skill level, will end up making changes or just barely finish their sideboards by the time deck registration takes place.

Just a few notes about some of the cards:

Standard Buy / Sell

Alright, now that Modern is sorted out, onto my Standard Buy/Sell list — but in terms of eternal formats. 


  1. Brimaz, King of Oreskos: Not only is this a good card at the moment that should see more play, but I think this is an amazing creature going forward. It fits perfectly into the new Modern. Its ability to make tokens when it attacks diminishes the value of Liliana of the Veil. And it has the magical toughness of 4, which in Modern is very important. That puts it out of Lighning Bolt range, so your opponent will have to use an Abrupt Decay. Either way it's one of the best creatures in terms of finishers with a very affordable CMC.
  2. Keranos, God of Storms: This card will be seeing play for years to come. It's almost impossible to get off the board once you cast it, and it either takes a land off the top of your deck or lightning bolts something. This card is amazing. I have even beaten Joe Lossett in a Magic Online Legacy Daily Event using Keranos, God of Storms in a Miracles mirror-match. He played Entreat the Angels at the end of turn, and I brainstormed into Terminus with Counterbalance in play. I put Keranos, God of Storms on top of my library, and when he Force of Will'd my Force of Will, I flipped over Keranos, God of Storms. I then bolted with Keranos, God of Storms for the win. 
  3. Sidisi, Blood Tyrant: Maybe this is just a pet card, but I have been looking for a finisher for BUG Control for years now. But this isn't it. It does fit really well into a BUG Dredge Deck. A deck running Hedron Crab and maybe Golgari-Grave Troll
  4. Clever Impersonator: I think this card is just scratching the surface. It can do a lot of stuff, and I would love to try this against a Karn Liberated. Copy their Karn Liberated and exile it! I'm sure there are other uses, but it has a ton of potential. 
  5. Eidolon of the Great Revel: It's a card that has made mono red in Legacy real again. I think this will eventually be $20-$30, and who knows where it will go from there. In a format based around 1-CMC draw spells, this card is very strong. Plus if they Swords to Plowshares it, they lose 2 life and you gain 2 life.

 Sell Now (or later if you like losing money)

  1. Courser of Kruphix: I think this is one of the most overhyped/overrated cards ever made. It won't see play outside of this current standard. I hate it when my opponent gets information, and the minimal life gain won't win many games. There are better versions of this card in Modern, and Legacy doesn't need it. This is why I don't like it in Modern: Crack fetchland, Thoughtseize, take Courser of Kruphix. Play Tarmogoyf, a 4/5 on turn 2.
  2. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker: Planeswalkers, especially 5-CMC planeswalkers not named Tezzeret the Seeker and can die to exile spells like Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, etc. aren't very good. I would wait for a deck to use this and then get rid of them. He's very similar to Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage was a great Planeswalker, and where is she now? And that includes having one of the most powerful ultimates of any planeswalker out there. Also for reference, check out past planeswalkers that were good at the time, but have now been relegated to binders and EDH decks: Venser, the Sojouner, Koth of the Hammer, Jace Berelen, Jace, Architect of Thought, even Gideon Jura
  3. Stormbreath Dragon. While it's alright in Standard at the moment, it's trumped by a card as simple as Arbor Colossus. In eternal formats, it is just worse than Inferno Titan even though protection from white is relevant.
  4. Hero's Downfall - While this card is useful now, it's relatively expensive at $8, and I see no way this fits into any eternal formats. 
  5. Temples. These are fine as Guildgate replacements, but I hate nothing more than lands that enter the battlefield tapped. The scry ability is minimal, and will never see play in eternal formats where there is much better mana fixing. It will have a place in Amulet of Vigor decks, but as a 2-of mostly. Otherwise, if you don't play Standard, avoid these cards like the plague. If you aren't using any, sell them immediately. 


Until next time, I'm Josh Kaufman, AKA TERROl2 on Twitch. Next week I'll talk about whether or not control is the best deck in Standard.

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