If you haven’t heard the terms net decking or brewing until now, you will eventually and it can be a hot topic at times in the MTG community depending on who you ask and how they prefer to play the game. Net decking refers to the act of going online and picking a decklist and putting it together as it is, card for card or with very few changes. Brewing refers to making your own deck; it is your creation, your unique decklist that you did not simply copy from someone else. Lots of casual players hate net decking while most of the competitive players hardly ever try to brew something original for FNM. Rather than being two opposite sides, these deck building approaches should go hand in hand.
Net decking is a newer development that came about with the widespread availability of the internet. Tournament results can be viewed at as soon as the event is completed. Heck, we can even watch some events in real-time thanks to streaming services and the rise of e-sports. Commentators at events like the Magic World Championship spend time analyzing the decks of the competitors, going over the cards that can help them win, possible sideboard options, etc. As I said above, net decking refers to copying a deck list, card for card or with very few changes, usually from a site that posts tournament results or tracks the meta game. Since the deck is not your creation, there is a possibility that there are hidden synergies that may not be prominent at first. Taking a deck to a tournament that you don’t fully know how to pilot can result in disaster. Of course with experience it’s easier to see these synergies, but if you have only played Magic for a year or so and you decide to take a more complex deck like Ad Nauseam to your first Modern event, you’re gonna have a bad time. However, if you don’t do your research to get an idea of what the meta is like and you bring some kind of untested home brewed deck, you’re also gonna have a bad time.
Net decking is a tool that you can use to understand the meta and prepare for it. You can and should use it to build a deck library that you can test other decks against. Don’t go out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to put these together, USE PROXIES. It’ll save you a ton of money. To make proxies, you can either print off images of the cards, cut them out and sleeve them up with a basic land card behind them for stability, or just write down the important information on a card sized piece of paper and put it in a sleeve with a basic land. You can use this deck library as a gauntlet for testing your own creations, learning how to beat a particular deck, or learning how to pilot a particular deck. Maintaining a library of the top 5 to 10 decks in a format can give you an edge against the competition. If you do have some of the cards that go into one of the decks in your library and you plan on building it some day, you can use it as a starting point for collecting that deck.
Now this is where brewing comes in. With a deck library, you can test all kinds of deck ideas and get an idea of how they will perform in the meta. It’s always satisfying when your build, your unique creation, carries you to victory. I think everyone can agree that brewing is fun, but doing it correctly requires an in-depth understanding of the meta for which you are brewing. An understanding like that comes from experience and hours of testing and study. I’ll give you an example.
Before Pioneer was created, Modern was the next format for Standard cards to see continued play. Players tried to take some of the best of these cards and use them in Modern. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Lots of players, myself included, tried to get Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror from Shadows Over Innistrad to work in Modern. After several failed attempts I learned that it’s too predictable of a strategy which makes it easy for most decks to play around. Let’s compare Thing to Tarmogoyf, another popular two mana creature in Modern. Tarmogofy usually comes in as a 2/3, a 3/4, or even bigger at the right time and, if left unanswered, attacks on the next turn. Thing is just a 0/4 for at least 2 turns if you are playing fairly. Neither can protect themselves, but the possibility of being hit with a 7/8 will prompt some kind of removal response from the opponent before it’s too late. Tarmogoyf can get up that high in the right match up, but it takes awhile. It’s less of a threat so most players would ignore it over Thing. You want to play Thing on turn 2, but you can only produce 3 mana on the next turn so you can only cast a maximum of 3 spells out of the necessary 4 needed to flip Thing. One option is to use a Storm deck or ritual cards like Manamorphose, but in that case it would make more sense to just run Storm as it’s a deck that has already proven itself, plus it already has a price tag that’s on the cheap side, minus the lands. Putting Thing in the Ice into the current Storm deck would add an additional $24-$30 to the deck’s already cheap price tag for something that the deck doesn’t even need in order for it to win. Another option is to use Vampire Hexmage, but then you have to be lucky enough to get both in your starting hand or by turn 3 when a flipped Thing can attack and that’s leaving too much to chance in my opinion. There are probably more options but those are the only two that immediately come to mind. I’m not saying that there is no way to make Thing in the Ice work in Modern, but there is a strong argument to support that it cannot.
Understanding the meta goes beyond simply knowing what others are playing. At any given time, Jund may be the most popular deck in Modern, but it isn’t necessarily the strongest. Tron can beat Jund and, in fact, usually keeps it in check. What do you do when Tron begins to take over? You can keep playing Jund and ignore the data, switch to Tron, or find something that can beat both decks like Ponza which disrupts lands while ramping itself. It’s like a very complex game of rock paper scissors. When side boarding is brought into the mix it gets even more complex. Each deck has its strengths and weaknesses and if that wasn’t the case, it would be a pretty boring game. Every deck would be the same and that’s the reason why Wizards maintains a banned and restricted list; it keeps the meta balanced and diverse.
That wraps up net decking and brewing. To recap, they are tools that should be used together to lead to a deeper understanding of the meta and deck building. If you want to know more about some of the decks I mentioned, be sure to check out my deck analysis for Modern. I also have one for Pioneer if you prefer that format. Let me know what decks or topics you want to see next in the comments down below.