Thoughts on Consistency

I have to admit that the following is a particularly badly thought out rant. How consistently does your deck perform? How often does your awesome deck tech work? How often does your combo go off?

When I first started playing Magic, I was never concerned over how consistent something was. Neither did I give much thought to mind games. In fact, due to budget constraints, I was playing preconstructed decks. Of course, this was the age when preconstructed decks were pretty good, although they were still far from consistent. This was also during the block known for being broken – Urza block.

At this period in time, while I only had one or two decks, most people had several. Looking back, I know why I won as many games as I did – everyone I played with was toting around 120-150 card decks. I was only using 60. Despite my lack of experience at the time, my preconstructed decks seemed to be winning more often than it should have. It was consistent with its plays, and forced the less consistent decks to play catch up all the time – not something to do easily, considering we were all playing cards of similar power/quality.

Over time, I’ve become more interested in building more consistent decks. I’ve built surprising consistent (although not resilient) decks during Onslaught-Mirrodin, Mirrodin-Kamigawa and Kamigawa-Ravnica periods, although recently I haven’t tried anything new. Zendikar feels weak, and Alara feels restrictive. I’m sure it’s just a matter of getting used to it after the insanity of Time Spiral, but it feels like I can build less decks I like to play – so I started looking at Extended.

I missed about 2 and a half blocks (Planar Chaos – Alara Reborn), but I find that a lot of my cards are still pretty good in Extended. Barring me missing all-so-important [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s, I could still build a decent Extended deck. Not something that’d win any tournaments, but nevertheless consistent. But I realized I’m digressing, so moving along.

A deck can become consistent by either consistently drawing the cards it wants or making sure it always has the cards it wants. You can do the former only one way. Do a lot of testing and know a lot of theory. There is always a right number for a given metagame – while you can’t predict the metagame to a very high certainty, you can certainly guess quite well. The latter is the same – tutors. Tutors have always fascinated me, as they allow you to fill your deck with 1-ofs. They also allow and enable interesting decks using (or abusing) [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] or [card]Mystical Teachings[/card]. More recently, Wizards printed [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], all very interesting cards in their own right.

You can also be consistent by being resilient. If they can’t destroy what you’re attacking with, they’ll lose eventually. Attacking with a [card]Sphinx of Jwar Isle[/card] or even [card]Kor Firewalker[/card] seems like a rather mundane idea, but if they can’t deal with it easily, they’re still going to lose.

Drawing a lot cards, while being a strange idea, does work for consistency. How else can a deck like Turbofog continue to keep drawing [card]Fog[/card]s? The more cards from your library in your hand the more likely you are to find the card you want. Some combo decks go to the extreme of making your entire library available, but that’s another story altogether. (Those decks, while fun to play, take too damn long because playing your entire library isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.