Superior Numbers - Taking Your Deck from Alpha to Revised
Welcome to Superior Numbers, where I try to do numerical analysis on cards and deckbuilding trends using a little bit of math.
We talk a lot about deck brewing in the content creation community. Entire articles, podcasts, YouTube channels, and Twitch streams might do nothing else but brew up a new list for the entire episode. They might also talk about making swaps for whatever new piece of hot cardboard gets released in the current biweekly expansion. X card is an upgrade over Y, etc.
What doesn't really get talked about as much is what happens once you play that new brew. That spot where the deck is technically working, but not quite to the point of stability, where you'd struggle to find room for that newest card. Those formative weeks when you sand down the rough edges are really important, transforming a deck from something that feels good in theory to something that works right in reality.
So, to analyze this a little more, I decided to log those formative weeks.
I've been tinkering with building an Equipment deck for years, ever since I tried alist back during the time of the original Theros block. I didn't keep the deck together, but I kept the parts, like the Swords of Kick and Butt, the , and the . A few years back, I briefly gave a try, since her protection made her quite potent at holding weapons, but even just recasting her once was miserable, so I dismantled the deck.
The itch was still there, though.
The recent deluge of Boros Equipment commanders rekindled my spark to brew an Equipment list, though I knew I didn't want to do it in Boros colors. After messing around a bit, I settled on tryingand . Ardenn was an obvious choice in the zone, always providing a way to bypass Equip costs, because rebuilding after a setback - especially reattaching Equipment - is one of the most brutal parts of an Equipment deck. Finding a Partner was trickier. I eventually settled on Esior. Evasion and the low mana cost made abilities like haste and trample less necessary when suited up, and the pseudo-Ward ability protected both the owl and Ardenn early on, making things like almost unnecessary.
Limited Edition Alpha
With the commanders chosen, here's where the list began:
Ardenn/Esior: Suit Up Alpha Edition
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Game 1 Observations
- I want more card draw. I mean, I generally always want more draw, but here, I not only wanted it, but also felt like I needed it. Dropping a helped, but that only draws off Equipment, which means it only generates a draw trigger off 17 cards in the deck, and that's why I pulled during brewing. The question becomes, do I try to play this like an Enchantress deck, or just run a typical suite of draw spells?
- The timing on wasn't quite right, but I can see how it's going to be a bomb in a lot of situations. It just accidentally makes three copies of stuff like .
- I already knew was good, but the ability to bring back every Equipment but and is really helpful, and it also returns a handful of useful creatures. Hammer probably isn't sticking around long-term, either.
- Added : I'm losing one more way to Equip a win-con for free, and double strike and evasion is nice, but I have a handful of other ways to Equip for no mana, including one in the zone that's cheap to recast. , removed doesn't Equip for free, but it does have evasion and protection if I need to suit it up, and the ability to tap any Equipment or mana rocks to draw cards feels pretty beneficial.
- Added : Swordsmith really isn't worth casting unless it can tutor, which means seven mana for a Sword. Yeah, I can spend five mana to get , removed , but long term, I think drawing off of 1/3 of my spells has more upside. And honestly, tutors are boring for me anyway.
- Added : The free Equip isn't a big deal, and 'protection from X and Y' makes the Equipped creature semi-indestructible anyway if it prevents a removal spell from being cast in the first place. Plus, it adds evasion. Most importantly, there's baked-in draw here. Not sure why I wasn't running it previously, if I'm honest. I think it was just an oversight. , removed
- Added : This one was the hardest. , removed phases out the attacking creature and everything attached to it, which protects them from removal. Protecting half a dozen pieces of Equipment seems useful in theory, but since I never got to use it, I'm not sure if that's true. Plus, I do have things like and for protection. It feels like the least useful piece though, and is really good in a deck where I can tap Equipment, making it just UU to draw three cards.
Limited Edition Beta
Game 2 Observations
In both this game and the previous one, I found myself in a late-game position where, after a board wipe, I could cast Ardenn, Equip something for free, and swing for lethal... but I didn't have any haste enablers. I think the work-around here might be creature lands. Drop them early, then later on when I need to one-shot someone after a board wipe, I can just activate aor , load it up with Equipment for free with Ardenn or another of the free Equip enablers, and swing for the game.
- Added : I needed to cut something, and this doesn't feel like a slow, defensive deck that would use , removed .
- Added : I still have two land removal lands, plus a , removed to deal with problematic real estate. I'd prefer having three, but I'll survive.
- Added : When in doubt, cut a basic. Not really, but that's what I'm doing anyway. , removed
- Added : See above. , removed
- Added : Cave, along with Colonnade, are the ones I'm least sold on. Both ETB tapped and cost a good bit of mana to activate, which doesn't leave much room to also recast Ardenn in the same turn. I can see myself cutting these eventually, but I want to test them. , removed
Game 3 Observations
The creature lands idea worked quite nicely. I suited up both aand at varying times to good success. However, I remain convinced that the activation cost on and prevents them from playing the way I would have liked.
felt good, even when I had it out at fairly lousy times, with only two pieces of Equipment. It will shine in the right situation. That said, I still felt like I needed more draw sources. I have , , , , and for straight spell-based draw effects; , and as bonus card advantage; and for Equipment-based draw triggers; and , , , and as triggered draw. Plus there's a for quick draw on a land. That should be enough, but I still just felt starved.
continues to be a bomb. I made three copies of in one game, and three copies of an opponent's in another. I'm now strongly considering adding to transform all my stuff into the best Equipment in play before suiting up for an alpha strike.
- Added : Protecting Equipment seems more useful than having one more way to make them cheaper. Danitha is a great attacker, though, in addition to making things cheaper to cast, so I could see her rotating back into the deck at some point. , removed
- Added : Ugh, this feels bad. I love Lantern, and hate to have my only source of graveyard hate be a lone , removed . Still, with trample and haste and a gazillion other keywords, Sword just helps kill people.
- Added : Shadowspear is a great card that never felt impactful. , removed
- Added : I run Denial in two other decks where it's challenging to spend blue mana on my turn while also needing to keep up two blue mana for a , removed , so I just defaulted to using Denial here as well. In this deck, however, keeping up blue mana doesn't seem to be a problem in my games so far, so I'm trying the OG.
Game 4 Observations
I knowis a great card in other formats, but it's been super medium here. Tutors are boring, but the problem is that it doesn't do much beyond tutoring. Yeah, I can save 1-2 mana by using its ability to cheat Equipment into play, but a lot of the Equipment is really cheap already, and the pseudo-flash portion of that effect is way less useful when you just want to slam things into play for Ardenn to auto-attach. Short of tutoring with the Mystic and then blinking it with , it's kinda functioned like a bad . The interaction with is great, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't feel particularly interesting. It's staying in for now, I've just got my eye on it.
worked well again, so much so that I definitely want to test now.
At four mana, I find that I don't really castas an instant very often in any deck, but especially here. removes one more thing for one less mana. I lose the possibility of instant speed, and lose exile, but I'm hoping the added value makes up for it.
- Added : I can't imagine I'll ever be Cycling this, but if I almost never cast Crush as an instant anyway, then Wave is cheaper and hits more stuff. , removed
- Added : I know I said I wanted more draw, but I also want ways to end games. , removed
- Added : I'm wondering if the ability to occasionally turn something into an artifact to help pump up a , removed is worth swapping out , which I usually play as a two-mana rock, but can also sometimes be cast for six mana late game. Tough toss-up, but Torque piques interest because in a pinch, I can also use it to turn my commanders into artifacts, which will protect them if I have cards like in play.
Game 5 and 6 Observations
Ugh,is disgusting. Just disgusting. It felt like cheating when I was just tapping swords to draw cards, but tapping Treasures too? This card is bonkers.
is equally nasty. I turned a dozen Treasures and another half-dozen artifact lands and mana rocks into copies of , which I then Equipped with Ardenn for free, letting me blow someone apart with the swing while also doming a second player with all the Sword's damage triggers, and drawing 18 cards.
Still haven't seenor yet, but has twice kept my board safe, while also serving as a backup Equipment carrier.
The vigilance granted bywas welcome since it leaves a blocker up that almost always has protection from a couple of colors. also adds vigilance, as does a flipped . It's really nice whenever I hit one of those, but that's probably enough vigilance sources.
and continue to feel too expensive to activate and use the way I want, enough so that they're coming out.
I'm going to givea go here. Vanish's draw effect tracks the creature's last known power on the battlefield, so I could net a lot of cards when exiling an Equipped creature, without prompting tons of discard when it returns to play. There are enough times late game where it doesn't really matter who is wearing the swords, so blinking out a 12-power Esior to draw 12 cards, then just letting Ardenn Equip something else, seems pretty great. Plus, on occasion, Vanish can draw a pile of cards off of an enemy creature that's covered in +1/+1 counters or Auras.
- Added , removed
- Added , removed
- Added , removed
Game 7 and 8 Observations
"Before the end of your turn,, draw 16?" was a phrase I got to utter, so that card's staying in. For the first time, I don't have any changes. I think we've reached the Revised Edition.
did exactly what I had hoped, letting me give Esior hexproof with in play. Glad I made that swap.
Lock It In
So that's the saga of the first 2-3 weeks of tinkering and tweaking a new deck. That's pretty much how the process goes with anything I've put together in recent years. Play, evaluate, swap, play, repeat.
I'd be interested in hearing how you out there spend the first couple weeks with a deck, and what your process looks like. Do you like to keep things in stasis for a couple of weeks, or do you start shifting pieces around immediately, like me? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading, and as always, may your numbers be superior.
Ardenn/Esior: Suit Up
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