08/08/2011 Feature: "Developing Event Decks"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Feature Article, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
As a fan of event decks I liked the article. From what I've seen they seem to provide a great stepping stone into the world of competive magic. As you said, they weren't made to win every game, but giving a fighting chance and allow room to change the deck. My only problem with them is I wish the decks didn't seem so off balanced in power level (Vampire Onslaught and War of Attrition both seem a lot stronger then the deck they came out along side of) however making them a year in the future obviously makes things hard.
I thought Vampire Outcasts was constructed unplayable?
Dark Ritual, because slow and steady does not win the race.
As formats get close to rotating, we're more likely to try and get one last hurrah out of the previous block's Constructed All-Star list...



I can see why you'd want to do this. However, I think it's a terrible idea. The point of Event Decks is to give players without FNM-viable decks a product they can pick up upon arrival and play, and still have a chance to win. The thing is, these decks won't necessarily all be sold within their 3-month window (or 2-month, since they don't release immediately). Having a deck, like the Vampire one (which loses all but 7 cards to rotation), that is completely unplayable outside of this window is just a rip-off, whether to the customers or the store-owners. You're asking your store owners to play a huge guessing game - how many of these should I order, knowing that they're not going to sell at all in just two months so I only get this next two months to recoup the costs. You're asking your newer players, the ones who probably don't have the budget to build their own decks (else they wouldn't need the Event Decks), to drop money on something that will only get them through a handful of events (even if they attend every single one) and then suddenly become worthless.

Worse yet, the appeal of the decks is that it gives you a baseline to then tweak. Tweak, not completely gut and rebuild. It's fine to include some cards that aren't going to be around much longer; it makes the hard choice of cutting cards for replacements that much easier. Including 29 cards like that, however, is not asking for tweaking. It's asking the new player, who is inexperienced with deck-building, to understand - from the few games he gets to play this deck - how it works well enough that he can replace just about every single card and still have a working deck. I haven't bought an Event Deck (building my own unique decks is my absolute favorite part of the game), so I don't know how amazing the booklet that comes with them may be at giving deck-building and altering advice, but it takes a lot of knowledge to properly build a deck. Mana curve, land count, creature to non-creature ratios, win conditions, card synergy... This is a lot of stuff for a newbie to learn in two months.

As for the point in the article, where they can always just buy another Event Deck in three months... That's greedy, Wizards. I completely support your need to make money - you're a business. However, it's dishonest to prey on new players in this manner. "Check out this awesome new deck you can play. See how well it works? Oops, can't play it anymore, but we've got this new new deck you can play..." Unless you want to put an expiration date on your product's packaging, like Milk does, you should not do this.

It's a shame. I love what you were doing with Event Decks, and I still think it's a really nice idea. It's great to see you willing to put some of your best cards into an affordable product. But don't cheat your customers. Don't release a product that will be absolutely worthless for the marketed purpose in just two months. I know you got a lot of backlash for the Stoneforge Mystic fiasco but I was completely on your side there. I don't believe you possibly could have known you'd have to ban it back when you were making the deck. But you have no such excuse for the Vampire deck. I sincerely hope you're not planning on doing this every year. Making money should never come at the cost of company-customer trust. You'll do more damage to yourself in the long-run than the profit you make in the short-term.
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As for the point in the article, where they can always just buy another Event Deck in three months... That's greedy, Wizards. I completely support your need to make money - you're a business. However, it's dishonest to prey on new players in this manner. "Check out this awesome new deck you can play. See how well it works? Oops, can't play it anymore, but we've got this new new deck you can play..."

To be fair, a $25 buy-in that's good for two months or so isn't that bad of a deal.  It's roughly the same buy-in as a single Sealed pool, and the huge majority of those cards are going to usable for only a few hours.

I support what you're trying to do, but I take issue with the card counts in these decks. Even a beginning player won't take long to figure out that Goblin Guide is very good in the Into the Breach deck. Their first question will be, why aren't there four of these? I think "because they're rare" is a pretty poor reason. Also, Contested War Zone makes the deck hum, and yet there's only one copy. Because it's rare? Everything I hear about this deck is "Hey, it's pretty good if you guy two and smash them together."

When the Stone Forge Mystic deck came out, clearly SFM was the best card in the deck. The reason it wasn't 4x instead of 2x? "IDK, you may want to use deckbuilding skills to 'improve' the deck." There's clearly no innovation on the players part filling out these slots. The player is aware enough to realize that there's supposed to be 4x of the best card in the deck not 2x. It's not rocket science. Sure, there's interesting choices to make down the line, but some of them are no brainers that do nothing more than frustrate players and make them feel like WotC is being cheap. Then again, maybe that is the reason? I do wonder what the terrible impact of having 4x of Goblin Guide or SFM (banning etc aside) would have on the game. Would it be a huge terrible impact if players could get their hands on a few cards they're interested in more easily?

I really don't think you should be stuck buying 2x just so you don't go 0-3 at FNM... or 1-3, as the case may be. Then again, I've always played at highly competitive stores.

For myself, I was once a heavy player, grinding PTQs, every format, blah blah. Life took over, etc, MtG got pushed to the side. I draft, but I'm not committed to the cash upkeep required for the Type 2 cycling. However, if these decks were a bit more competitive and I didn't have to "take two and smash them together" to make a borderline playable deck, I might consider a little Type 2 in addition to drafting.
I like Zac so I won't be too harsh. But I have a tip for the designers: If you find yourself thinking "Let's put one in so they can experience playing with it and figure out to add more," that means you're designing a theme deck, not an event deck.

Oh and that "we don't want it to dominate the format" bit? Well congratulations on a job well done there, but maybe just don't have a single dominant Standard deck.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

the thing I don't get is why the decks themselves are so unbalanced...playwise they might be good, but pricewise this doesn't even make sence!!


the goblin guide deck was obviously better money then the other one..



Stoneforge mystic deck was obviously better money spent then the Inkmoth nexus deck...


the vampire deck is obviously better fetchland/bloodghast/highborn AND dismembers, vs 2 grand architects ?!

spread the wealth please...

I for one love the idea and the build of the event decks, and what others have said seem to be true about one being alot more 'buyable' than the other. The points some have made here I really do agree with, but, that doesn't change my thoughts on how great the decks can be.

Not too long ago, I bought the SFM event deck for a 'fellow player' of our play group, and tbh, he wasn't really playing with us much before that, he had learned how to play years before, but had stoped playing because he would continuously(sp :S) loose to his brother who was keeping up with cards and use to playing a couple of his competitive lvl playing friends. So needless to say, he lost alot to his older brother, lost enough to the point where he had stopped playing. After so long of asking him to join us in some games, and getting a no for an answer, I thought i would try a new aproach. :P Turns out it was a pretty good idea, being a white player to begin with, he liked the idea, he loved how it played, but knew from his experience it could be tweaked to be better. This was however right at the time where SFM was two weeks out from being banned.

Since then, he has joined us in FNM games, bought cards, and has built a few decks of his own that play more than decent, and i believe the event deck didn't last longer than a month w/o changging lol, but....isn't that how it was suppose to go? From what I got out of the article, after getting the event deck you could play at such an event as FNM and feel like you did play the game, not show up to waste time and money sitting across the table from someone you were giving a win.

So I say, Yes, the event decks are a great idea, well designed, and do well in competitive enviroments (at least for a moment). This example of how an event deck worked, however, was dealing with a player who had knew the game, loved it, and had been avoiding playing in our somewhat competitive playgroup.

From what others have posted about the decks themselfs, and the design of them....hmmm yea, I think I can agree with them.

In my oppinion, overall, great job with this product so far WoTC! ^.^
It would be nice if the decks were a little more even within the pairs, but it's a valid counterpoint that they don't have a crystal ball of pricing in R&D. I haven't counted up the rares, but I suspect there's a fairly consistent number, and at least in the vampire deck, a lot of the impressive singles value comes from 4x Dismember, an uncommon.

Zac does great work here in fudging over what previous posters have said, but Wizards cannot say: there is some known downgrading of card selections in each deck to avoid releasing something that actually discourages obtaining more cards. The explanation---that if there were too many powerful (not expensive) cards, veterans would buy them before new players got a chance---is certainly less accurate than a desire to avoid crashing the secondary market. Zac said they got the green light to include power cards; he didn't say that permission was unlimited, and, since a product like this severely threatens their broader business model, we should all appreciate what a fine line that is.

I like Event Decks a lot as a concept. There's an odd dilemma that Standard is less intimidating to a new player than drafting, even if it has several times as many cards legal, due to the intimidating drafting procedure itself. Having such a great access point to Standard is worth the effort.
The article started to bore me so I just skimmed through it. I'm terrible, I know. But it's the summer.

Anyway I really like the event decks. They are actually competitive, which we rarely see out of preconstructed products. The one thing that kinda bothers me is that one is always obviously way out of the league of the one released alongside it. The kuldotha deck in besieged, the stoneforge deck in new phyrexia, and now the vampire deck in M12 easily and irrefutably outclass their counterparts.

You probably explained why that is in the article, but, like I said, I was to lazy to read it.
I'm definitely interested in behind the scenes articles, but how can you justify that one deck can completely steanroll when looking at the deck lists?

I think most of what chronego said is true as well. Deck-building isn't the easiest thing in the world. It requires experience with the game and how the game is played where you live to make an effective deck, from what I've read. But I'm repeating chronego here.
I'm torn about the Event Decks. I like the idea and I think they accomplish their goal but I don't like how one deck is clearly better than the other and they shouldn't be so full of cards that are going to rotate soon. That is just greedy asking people to either a) invest the money in cards to replace the outdated ones even though they just started the game or 2) invest money in the next event deck that comes out, in which case they'll probably run in to the same problem. Suddenly endless cycle.

On the other hand, $25 for two months of use out of something isn't terrible. Most people have no qualms spending that amount of money on consumable forms of entertainment and it isn't like new players are going to throw them in the trash after they rotate. They will still get some use in the form of casual play.


The article itself was very insightful. I love reading the behind-the-scenes articles. I have NEVER played in a standard constructed tournament and I have been playing for 4 years; maybe i'll give it a shot now.
I thought Vampire Outcasts was constructed unplayable?



It is. that's one of the cards you're supposed to cut when you find out it sucks.
Check out my magic blog: http://magicthemusing.wordpress.com/
I hear people complaining about the non-use of four-of of some of the better cards and the price disparity between the decks and it seems there are reason for both of these.

First, the decks can't make too liberal use out of the four-of specifically because they are designed to be available to newer players. If the deck has a 4-of of some chase rare, for example, then new players wouldn't be able to by it because experienced players would in order to get a cheap and easy playset. Just from the New phyrexia event decks I can tell you that if a new player wanted to play the War of Attrition deck he would be out of luck. The fact it contained 2 stoneforges meant that it was sold out almost as soon as it hit the shelf, while on the other hand the mono-green infect deck has lingered on shelves longer, meaning a new player could actually walk into the store at any given FNM and use it. Its a lot like card design, if you make a card super efficient everyone wants to play it because its good, but if you make it less efficient than only people who want the effect (the people the card is targeted towards) will bother to pick it up.

As for the price disparity between deck I think you missing the point of the decks if thats what your looking at. Price of contained card matters only if you are buying with intent to resell. These are for people without such intents and therefore aiming at giving them a more synergistic deck is more important than making sure there is a quota of value rares with them.
I love the idea of Event Decks; I don't play FNM but I am an avid casual player, so I see an Event Decks more as a quick, cheap way of getting a good number of quality cards - Goblin Guide and Stoner at the top of that list, but also stuff like Goblin Wardriver, Phyrexian Vatmother, Mirran Crusader, Go for the Throat, etc - which can be cannabalised and added to my own decks, but even then I'd like to play a few games with the Event Deck in its "raw" form, just for giggles.

The power/quality balace has already been brought up; Kuldotha vs U/B Infect, Stoneforge vs G Infect, and now Vampires vs some kind of Illusion/artifact mess.

The blue M12 Event Deck just boggles my mind; I really can't wrap my head around the whole random artifact sub-theme going on. Precursor Golem? Why!? There's nothing in the deck to benefit it! The Grand Architect boosts your Illusions, but couldn't those 2 slots be better used on a second Lord of the Unreal and another Phantasmal Image? Some Mental Misteps or Spell Pierces would've been pretty sweet too, but Mana Leak, so can't complain.

However the Spined Thopters easily could've been Aether Figments, or Phantom Warriors, or Phantom Beasts; they've used Preordain, so clearly using M11 cards isn't an issue. Pfff, I dunno.  

The Vampire deck though is pants-tighteningly awesome. I'll be picking that up alone for a playset of Dismember and another playset of Gatekeeper and Nighthawk; the Highborn, Hexmages and Blade of the Bloodchief are just sexy sangrophilic icing.

Edit - derp, Phantom Warrior wasn't in M11.... >_< 
"Waaah there's a few cards I don't like in the latest set! This game sucks now! Everything should just always stay the same because I'm threatened by change! I'm going to quit! I'm quitting! SOMEONE PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEE" - approximately 10% of MtG players on all forums, ever. Read my thoughts, feed my ego! - www.tzaphiel.wordpress.com I'm also a writer! Search for "Gareth Topping" on Amazon!
If the deck has a 4-of of some chase rare, for example, then new players wouldn't be able to by it because experienced players would in order to get a cheap and easy playset.

Seems to me that putting in four-of's would mean the poachers would buy half as many.
The reason the SFM and Goblin Guide decks were so hard to find is because someone looking to poach Stoneforges or Guides had to buy two decks (and still pretty much come out ahead, at least with SFM, for a couple weeks).

I would like to play FNM, only there's no Magic store here on the Big Island on Hawaii. If I wanted to play Friday Night Magic I'd have to go to Honolulu ... I have to be happy playing Magic with my brothers.

from the New phyrexia event decks I can tell you that if a new player wanted to play the War of Attrition deck he would be out of luck. The fact it contained 2 stoneforges meant that it was sold out almost as soon as it hit the shelf, while on the other hand the mono-green infect deck has lingered on shelves longer.

...


As for the price disparity between deck I think you missing the point of the decks if thats what your looking at. Price of contained card matters only if you are buying with intent to resell. These are for people without such intents and therefore aiming at giving them a more synergistic deck is more important than making sure there is a quota of value rares with them.



The answer to your second statement ... is your first statement.


As you may know, Wizards sells these decks to stores in pairs.  They can't get one without also purchasing the other.  So when one is more desireable (a.k.a. more valuable), it sells out.  But the store can't afford to restock because they haven't made back their money on the "lesser" one.  This means it's impossible for the decks to both be available as desired.  It's not a matter of re-selling, it's a matter of original-selling.


If both decks have roughly the same appeal then they will sell about equal and the stores can always keep ordering more.  It's win/win/win - more orders from Wizards, more sales for the store, and more variety for customers.


Now that said, for M12 decks we have a Vampires that's hotter but rotates out in 3 months and an Illusions that's weaker but stable.  It may be that one sells well now and the other gets scooped up if Innistrad's ghosts are creature-type Illusion.  That wouldn't be so bad, except that by then it would be too late to reorder supplies.


I know they can't predict perfectly, but when one of the deck's rares is a triple-reprinted Glacial Fortress in a deck that shouldn't even be playing White, I don't feel it's their best effort, either.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Price of contained card matters only if you are buying with intent to resell. These are for people without such intents and therefore aiming at giving them a more synergistic deck is more important than making sure there is a quota of value rares with them.



If you were looking to get cards contained in an event deck, the event deck might be the cheapest way to get them for cash at the time. I don't have to be planning to resell the cards to save some money. On the other hand, if they print up a very powerful Event Deck but the contents are worth $10, why not just go buy the decklist as singles and save some cash? Obviously, they need to hit some value to make the product worth it to buy. There's nothing new in the decks so they compete directly with the secondary market for the cost of the contents.

As far as what that value of any event deck is, the author stated that these are prepared way in advance of knowing what the prices actually are on the secondary market.They didn't just toss those cards in there two weeks before the product hit the shelves.

It is obvious from Tom L.'s column they thought green infect was going to be a real deck. However, it hasn't panned out that way. If it had, then the contents of that event deck would have totalled quite a bit more than it did. The two lands would probably be worth MSRP on the product if infect was regularly performing well at high-level events.
Awesome article Zach, I can relate to a lot of this, and I think the event decks are a great product
Dear Zac Hill,
Regarding your article "Developing Event Decks":

First I'd like to say the email author option at the end of your article didn't work and said "unknown author" every time I tried sending the following message so I came here instead.

Your article was very interesting and helped me understand many of the inner workings of event deck creation. I myself purchase all the event decks because of the great rares in there and recommend them to new players. Which now bring me to my question that you didn't mention in your article.

Why aren't there any mythic rares in event decks? There are enough low to medium powered ones to still make it fair. Some rares you include are more expensive than a lot of mythics.
Also will you ever put mythics or a single one in future event decks because I think it expands the new players arsenal of abilities without being too powerful. For example you could include a Garruk Wildspeaker in one but not Garruk Primal Hunter because of the power and price difference; as well as the fact that Wildspeaker is cycling out very soon so the damage is minimal. But my mythic suggestion isn't limited to planes walkers. It's possible to include lesser mythics to spice up decks or needed sideboards.
The mythic inclusion also makes the regular standard player more interested in the overall product (while I understand from your article that isn't your target it is still viable).

So what is your take on mythics in event decks?

Thanks for you time!
As for the point in the article, where they can always just buy another Event Deck in three months... That's greedy, Wizards. I completely support your need to make money - you're a business. However, it's dishonest to prey on new players in this manner. "Check out this awesome new deck you can play. See how well it works? Oops, can't play it anymore, but we've got this new new deck you can play..."

To be fair, a $25 buy-in that's good for two months or so isn't that bad of a deal.  It's roughly the same buy-in as a single Sealed pool, and the huge majority of those cards are going to usable for only a few hours.



Assuming, of course, that Mr. New Player buys the deck IMMEDIATELY and shows up to every FNM afterwards. As time crunches on, the investment of $25 doesn't change, but the value you get out of it drops drastically. First week you lose 1/8 the value, then 1/7 on top of that, then another 1/6... If you show up a month and a half late and see this deck, you are buying a product that lasts you two weeks, two events. If you show up two months late, you're either being told by the store manager (who is losing a sale to tell you) that it's expired... or you're buying it, then sitting down to play and being told you can't.

I'm not saying don't put any cards that are rotating soon into the deck. That's perfectly fine, in small numbers, 8 to 10 maximum. Making the deck go from fully-playable to seven-cards-only overnight, however, is just not cool. You're screwing over the store owners, the new players and yourselves in the long run, Wizards. Creating bad experiences with this product (especially after all the hard feelings you earned over the bannings, though you probably finished these designs before you knew about that) is not a wise move.
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While you're at it, replace the "perfect for FNM" with "perfect for SOME Friday Night Magic events". Buying an event deck, going to a store, and being told you can't play it (or worse, and probaly apocryphal... for now... pulling it out and getting disqualified) doesn't create good experiences.
I do have to wonder at some of the choices they make in the event decks.

For example, take the green infect deck, "Rot From Within".  My store owner buddy has a bunch of these sitting on his shelf.  They don't sell.  It isn't necessarily because it is a bad, bad deck or because it has cards people don't want.  Crack the deck apart, sell it for singles, and the parts would sell.  The deck itself is decent, even if it does make some questionable choices.  The problem is that it lacks draw, not card draw, but something to draw a customer to wanting to purchase that deck.  If you look at other event decks, for example, well, the stoneforge deck had a pair of stoneforges.  The Kuldotha red deck had 2 goblin guides.  You want that pair of rares that people have a bit of trouble getting.  And the sad part is, the green infect deck could so easily have had that draw.  All they'd have needed to do was cut 1 baloth from the sideboard and bring in a second inkmoth nexus mainboard.  Still at 7 rares, but people would buy the thing just to get 2 inkmoth nexus.

As to the new two, I feel both of those could have been made more appealing as well.  The illusion one, for example, would be more appealing to purchase with 2 illusion lords and two illusion clones, at the cost of the precursor and a grand architect.  And Vampires, seriously?  I might be wrong, but unless I'm mistaken, this is not a Zendikar block event deck.  Nor is it an Innistrad one, where vamps will show up again.  Nope, this is an M12 one, a core set which will see itself still in play when the Zendikar block rotates out.  An M12 deck should contain mostly cards that are T2 playable for M12s lifespan.

That said, I expect the vampire one will sell and sell well.  4 Dismembers will see to that, as well as the vampire uncommons (nighthawks, gatekeepers, hexmages) casuals have had trouble acquiring.  At the very least, stores can crack them and sell 'em as singles.

Why aren't there any mythic rares in event decks? There are enough low to medium powered ones to still make it fair. Some rares you include are more expensive than a lot of mythics. Also will you ever put mythics or a single one in future event decks because I think it expands the new players arsenal of abilities without being too powerful. For example you could include a Garruk Wildspeaker in one but not Garruk Primal Hunter because of the power and price difference; as well as the fact that Wildspeaker is cycling out very soon so the damage is minimal. But my mythic suggestion isn't limited to planes walkers. It's possible to include lesser mythics to spice up decks or needed sideboards. The mythic inclusion also makes the regular standard player more interested in the overall product (while I understand from your article that isn't your target it is still viable). So what is your take on mythics in event decks? Thanks for you time!



Problem is most of the lower priced mythics are low priced because they are not competitive enough.  There's a few exceptions, like some of the original planeswalkers, but their price has to do with how often they've been reprinted.  If they'd only been printed once...



Why aren't there any mythic rares in event decks? There are enough low to medium powered ones to still make it fair. Some rares you include are more expensive than a lot of mythics. Also will you ever put mythics or a single one in future event decks because I think it expands the new players arsenal of abilities without being too powerful. For example you could include a Garruk Wildspeaker in one but not Garruk Primal Hunter because of the power and price difference; as well as the fact that Wildspeaker is cycling out very soon so the damage is minimal. But my mythic suggestion isn't limited to planes walkers. It's possible to include lesser mythics to spice up decks or needed sideboards. The mythic inclusion also makes the regular standard player more interested in the overall product (while I understand from your article that isn't your target it is still viable). So what is your take on mythics in event decks? Thanks for you time!



Problem is most of the lower priced mythics are low priced because they are not competitive enough.  There's a few exceptions, like some of the original planeswalkers, but their price has to do with how often they've been reprinted.  If they'd only been printed once...




What do you mean by that there are plenty of competitive mythics that would be fine candidates for the event decks.
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