MTG Deck Building Guide – 9 Tips To Win More Games

You think you’ve got a good Magic the Gathering deck, but you just can’t seem to win with it… Do you want to become better at MTG deck building and win more? This article will help you do just that, with these 9 easy deck building tips.

Remember if any of those steps aren’t fun for you, feel free to ignore them. The main purpose of Magic the Gathering is to have fun. 🙂 But if you also want to win more, this rules will help you to do just that.

1. Have a Deck Building Plan

Every good deck has a plan that can be described easily. Try to answer a question: “How is my deck trying to win?”

Chart a Course
Chart a Course by James Ryman

Good Examples

  • I play a lot of smaller creatures and try to defeat opponent before they get to their more expensive cards.
  • I try to kill or counter every threat from my opponent and then win with a powerful finisher.
  • I play strong creatures and try to out-value cards from my opponent.
  • I try to win with cards that care about gaining life and synergies well with one another.

Bad Examples

  • I play Dinosaur tribal and some cards that put cards in my opponents’ graveyard.
  • I play cards that want plenty of instant and sorcery cards in my graveyard. I also have more than 25 creatures in my deck. 
  • I play every card in my collection and sometimes I manage to win.
  • I don’t know.

Single Theme

So what do good plans have in common? They all focus on a single theme and so should yours. All the cards in your deck should work towards it. 

Of course you can have a theme and a couple of subthemes but be careful that they can work together.

2. Play the Correct Amount of Cards

You can play up to four copies of a single card in your deck. But how should you decide between playing two or three copies. Here are some general guidelines which should help you with that.

Four Copies

This cards should be your most powerful cards which you want to draw every game. You don’t mind drawing multiples of them.

They might be cards that you always want to see in your starting hand such as Llanowar Elves or Runaway Steamkin. On the other hand these can be corner-pieces of your deck, let’s say Venerated Loxodon or Crackling Drake.

Llanowar Elves
If you want Llanowar Elves, you want four of them.

Three Copies

You want to draw the card every game but you don’t want to get multiples of them. Think of legendary creatures – first copy is often powerful, but second one does absolutely nothing while the first is still alive. The same goes for Planeswalkers and that’s why many control days cap at three copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Two Copies

Two is the most mediocre number in MTG deck building. It’s often used for a card that accompanies other. For instance let’s say you are playing green-black deck which wants to play 6 copies of Merfolk Branchwalker. You can’t do that, so you play 4 of them and two copies of slightly worse Seekers’ Squire.

One Copy

There are some cards that you don’t want to draw until very late in the game. Control deck might play one Nezahal, Primal Tide to help finish the game earlier. But it certainly doesn’t want to draw it in early turns.

If you play a card that tutors, such as Mastermind’s Acquisition you want some “silver-bullets”. These are cards very good in specific situations for example Naturalize. You want exactly one in your deck, which you can acquire with Acquisition when you need it.

3. Play Good Cards

Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory. If each your cards is good on its own, your deck just can’t be that bad. Building around synergies can be fun, but there are obvious problems with your three card combo of weak cards.

Yes, Naru Meha, Master Wizard, Ghitu Journeymage and Illusionist’s Stratagem can win you the game, but what happens when your opponent has a removal spell or you don’t draw all three of them? You’re probably going to lose those games.

4. Do NOT Play Extra Cards

Most formats (Commander excluded) allow you to play X or more cards in your deck. But beware, this is a trap!

It’s impossible to build a deck of equally powerful cards. Usually there are some cards that are the best in your deck. And you want to draw them each game because you’ll win with them. Each card you add to your deck after the minimal requirement will decrease your chance of drawing that powerful card.

So if you want to build better MTG deck you have to play the minimal number of cards you’re allowed to.

Number of Cards

Just for quick reminder how many cards should you play in each format:

  • Draft: 40 cards
  • Sealed: 40 cards
  • Casual: 60 cards
  • Standard: 60 cards + 15 sideboard
  • Modern: 60 cards + 15 sideboard
  • Commander: 99 cards + 1 commander
Battle of Wits
Okay, okay, this is the ONLY time you can play more cards..

5. Remember the Mana Curve

The mana curve is essentially a curve you get when you make a graph of how many cards of a certain mana cost there are in a deck. Let’s take a look at some average examples.


Correlation of number of cards and their mana cost in aggro deck builds

As we see there are a lot of one and two drops. After that, there are some three and four drops and the curve ends at five.

Therefore when building an aggro deck, you should always pay attention that you deck has a lot of one and two drops. Also, don’t play 6+ drops, but you might get to squeeze a powerful five drop or two in there.


Correlation of number of cards and their mana cost in midrange deck builds

Curve of midrange decks is – as expected – heavier on the late game than the one we saw before. Importantly that doesn’t mean that you play a ton of four and five costing cards. You need enough early plays to pressure control and keep up with aggro decks.


Correlation of number of cards and their mana cost in control deck builds

Newer players often think of control as a slower deck. Yes, control deck wins slowly, but that doesn’t mean that it plays slow cards. On the contrary as you can see, control decks play a lot of cheap interaction.

So don’t build your control decks without it. Otherwise you won’t be able to compete with aggressive and midrange decks.

6. Have Great Manabase

There are three major things you should get in order:

  • Play enough lands.
  • Play correct colors of lands.
  • Consider playing utility lands.

Enough Lands

There’s nothing worse than staring at your hand full of spells you can’t cast. Therefore, you should always play enough lands. The amount of lands depends on the type of deck you play.

In general you should follow this numbers for 60-card decks:

  • Aggro – 22 lands
  • Midrange – 24 lands
  • Control – 26 lands

For 100-card Commander decks, it’s usually good to start with around 38 lands. You can always adjust that number depending on how many ramp spells you’re playing.

Correct Colors

Colors of Mana

Let’s say you’re playing a red-white deck. You shouldn’t just play 4 dual lands, 10 Mountains, 10 Plains and call it a day. You should play more Mountains than Plains if:

  • your cheaper cards are mostly red.
  • some cards require double red, but no cards require double white.

You might be wondering if there is some exact numbers you can apply. Well, you’re in luck. There’s a great article by Frank Karsten on that topic.

Utility Lands

You’ll often hear players complain how they lost when they drew 5 lands in a row. That’s why utility lands are great. This are lands which do something besides just produce mana.

Some great examples are:

8. Find New Cards for Deck Building

When you’re working on your MTG deck building, you probably won’t remember every single card in existence. But sometimes you need to know if there is a certain effect available in your colors. Or if there is another playable one drop for your aggro deck. That’s where Scryfall helps.

Compulsive Research
Compulsive Research by Sara Winters


What Google is for websites – Scryfall is for Magic the Gathering cards. Their advanced search is great.

You can search based on any criteria you can imagine – such as:

  • Mana cost
  • Creature type
  • Color
  • Rules text
  • Format legality

9. Reevaluate Your Deck

When you finish your deck building – it might not work yet. Don’t give up immediately. No one builds a perfect deck from a scratch. You should rather try some changes and experiment more.

On the other hand you shouldn’t change everything at once because that way you won’t know which chance is causing your deck to behave differently.

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what adjustments you should make. Ask your friends for feedback. They might see something you overlooked.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.


We hope that we helped you figure out how to build better MTG decks. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment bellow. Also, you should check our Mulligan Guide – this way you’ll mulligan better and win more games.

Have you just started with Magic the Gathering? You might want to take a look at best buys for beginners, including a way to get a free sample deck.

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7 thoughts on “MTG Deck Building Guide – 9 Tips To Win More Games”

  1. Also: leave time for solo play testing. In constructed this is far easier, but in sealed or draft or some other limited format, it is more challenging, but worth the time invested. You can basically build a deck in limited by collecting your main color/theme cards + lands into the deck in a few minutes. then start shuffling and play out a few hands and replace cards that seem bad.

  2. The graphics shown here are for Modern / Standard decks, right? For Commander decks, there are other rules I guess.

    I am currently trying to build a Commander deck around Anax, Hardened in the Forge. Friends of mine think it is hard to build a good Commander deck around red only, but I wanted to challenge this idea. Anyway, any tipps are welcome.


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