By Sean aka SwordsToPlow
You can’t have a marriage with just one person. Building a lasting relationship is like creating a strong structure or making a successful Commander deck. If you really want to build something that lasts, it needs to be built on a solid foundation. Collaborate with your friends and you can build your Commander deck into a monument to your love of Magic. There are a variety of different tools on the web available. You can use these tools to collaborate, design, and improve decks.
Someday there may be a tool that combines all of these aspects into one convenient location. There many tools out there. Finding the ones that work for you can be a daunting task. Have no fear. I will show you which tools I like to use with my friends. I use these tools to guarantee I get to have as much fun as possible before I start buying and trading for cards.
If you are still using the Gatherer search engine to look for cards, stop. Grow up and use a real Magic the Gathering search engine. Magiccards.info boasts a more powerful, user friendly advanced search engine. It also shows you the prices of the cards and links you to TCGplayer. Magiccards.info gained a special place in my heart when they added the filter for color identity. This is great is it lets you identify an Obama card like Revenant Patriarch. Revenant Patriarch may look like a black card, but deep down there is a little white in there.
When I design a deck, most of my time is spent looking at cards on MagicCards.info. I do this to make sure I don’t miss any secret tech. You should skip to the ‘advanced search’ feature. The basic search will help you find cards by name. The advanced search lets you search in nearly unlimited ways. This will take a little practice to be able to use to the full potential. Keep at it. The rewards will shower upon you once you figure it out. How else would you discover gems like Caustic Wasps for your Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck?
Google Docs are the top tools to use when collaborating online. If you have not heard of Google, well how the hell are you reading this? Did a friend print it out and hand it to you or were they forced to use a quill and parchment? When brainstorming a deck list I use the spreadsheets more than anything. There is even a neat little chat window you can use while filling out the deck. Friends don’t let friends build bad decks.
Google Docs work very similarly to the Microsoft Office package. Work you have in Microsoft Office can be easily exported into Google Docs for others to see. Google Docs can also be exported easily back into Microsoft Windows, if you find it easier to work in those programs. My articles are a great example of this. I write all of my articles in Microsoft Word 2010. The articles are imported into Google Docs for editing and comments. When the editing process is over, I download the article back into word and then publish as a draft to the website.
The one feature you must learn to use in Google Docs is the privacy setting. If you are working on a super secret project, you can protect it so only certain people can see. I usually share everything I do openly and let anyone with the link read, comment, and even make changes. The last article I ran, Budget Inferno, was made possible because of the spreadsheet module in Google Docs.
I thank our friend, Andrew Magrini, for introducing me to this site. This is the perfect site for inserting rough drafts of deck lists. Anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably noticed that I have the spelling skills of a concussed orangutan. If it wasn’t for spell check, most of my articles would look like they were written by a cat stepping on the keyboard. I am glad I was born during the age of computers. If I had been born any earlier, there is a good chance I would be required, by law, to wear a helmet for my own protection. Deckstats.net takes all the card names that I have inevitably butchered and corrects them. Unlike Google, they don’t even do the snaky, insulting, “did you mean?” maneuver. Look Google, you know what I mean, stop asking.
Deckstats.net gives you exactly what you would expect from the name, great deck statistics. You can see your curve and mana distribution to help you build a proper mana base for your decks. Using the share/export feature you can share the data with your deck building partners. We have to call them partners in California, because it’s not legal to be married to them yet. Deckstats is great at keeping secret your grammatical faults. When you share or export from Deckstats, it just shows the correct spellings. You never have to admit that you really entered “Gaint Shrak” or “Soul Rings”
Deckstats has one cool function I have not seen on other deck building websites. Deckstats lets you choose your own categories for cards. Instead of always seeing ‘creatures’, ’planeswalkers’, ‘spells’, or whatever, you get the option of choosing your own category. If you use Neales 7×9 theory, you can have each of your 9 categories by a heading and have land be another. You do this simply by putting ‘ // ‘ before the heading title when typing up your deck list. You will see those markings throughout my previous work as a hang-on from using the site.
Once you get a list completed with lands, you are going to want to play solitaire with it a few times to see if it feels right. This is the Magic equivalent of kicking the tires on a car before taking it out on a test drive. Solitaire won’t let you see if the deck is good against other decks, but it will show if there are any major problems with the mana distribution or the curve of the deck.
Tappedout is good because you can store you decks for later without having to write down a web address. Tappedout lets you sign in using your facebook account and requires no additional password or information. If I am designing a deck for someone else, you will be able to find it on my Tappedout profile.
After several games on Tappedout, you will undoubtedly have a few tweaks to make to the deck. Once those tweaks have been made it is time to export the deck to Cockatrice for a test drive. This is another step that shows where you need friends to benefit. Cockatrice really lets you drag your decklist through the gauntlet. The best thing to do is to pass your decklist on to your friends and take turns playing it against as many different decks as possible. There is no substitution for actually playing with a deck to see what it really needs and what it doesn’t.
I would NEVER play with strangers on the Cockatrice server. I will only play with friends and only as a way to test cards before buying them. The random players who are looking for games with strangers are only on Cockatrice because they can’t afford Magic Online and no one wants to be near them in real life. Cockatrice is not a place where you make friends. Stick to people you know and don’t let Cockatrice become the final resting place of joy in your life.
You now know my secrets to online deck design. Use them freely and use them wisely. Commander can be a group activity while you play and while you design. It can be hard for me to decide which one I like more. If you ever need help with these programs, feel free to shoot me an email or message on twitter. Helping people is my favorite part of being affiliated with CommanderCast. If anyone was wondering about the special picture in place of my usual mug shot, I am getting married this Sunday, May 20th. If you don’t hear from me for a week or so, it is because I am on my honeymoon.
For anyone who knew all of this already, I have included my favorite Beer themed drinking song at the bottom of the page.