This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Decksplanations

Grandpa (Eric)

By Eric (AKA Grandpa Growth)

Last time on “Decksplanations,” I talked about threat density in Control decks, or more accurately the lack of threat density. Control decks excel when they have a steady stream of answers. Once your opponent has exhausted their resources, you can cast a ham sandwich as your finisher and still win. How do you accomplish this? Do you just cram more and more answer cards into your deck until it is bursting at the seams with counterspells? I have a better way. There are three ideas that help drive consistency and power in my decks: velocity, selection, and access. Today, I will be talking about access.

“A man has no ears for that to which experience has given him no access.” – Nietzsche


What is Access?

When I say “access” in the context of Magic, I don’t mean card availability. Card availability is the ease with which you can acquire a physical/digital card through trade or from a vendor. What I mean is how easily you can access the contents of your deck within a game. Your opponent has just played a game-ending threat. There are removal spells left in your deck, but how easily can you access them?

Simply put, having a high amount of access means having what you need, when you need it – not through sheer luck, but through the design and construction of your deck. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, but I can think of one card that makes it a lot easier:

This guy is the poster child for access. If you have two mana, you have possibilities. Having a DT in your hand makes you feel like you just can’t lose. What can your opponent do? If you have the answer somewhere in your deck, you now have it in your hand. If you know that they don’t have the answer to a particular threat, you can just grab that card and win the game on the spot. That kind of power is tough to come by. They don’t make them like this anymore.

If you read my last article, you had a chance to participate in the thought experiment I presented at the end. Demonic Tutor was one possible choice of some several cards you could take off of a Dig Through Time. There is still time to jump into the the debate here: “Threat Density in Control Decks”.

In a future article I will be discussing the puzzle in detail, its design, potential solutions, and the conclusions we can draw from it. Having access to the cards you need is a good thing. It is going to help you win more games and overcome a wider variety of obstacles. Before we dive into how to build access into our decks, let’s take a look at how we can evaluate access as a characteristic in our decks.


Measuring Access

There really isn’t a clean way to measure access, but there are some messy alternatives that I am happy to discuss. But first a word: I am predisposed to like measurements that have a [0 – 100] scale, with 100 being the best. That is just a convenient way for my brain to think about things, because we use this scale in many other parts of our lives. Spoiler alert: these methods do not meet this criterion.

‘Shuffle’ Method: Simply count how many times you go into your deck to look for something. The higher the number, the more you are accessing your deck each game and thus, in theory, the more access you have to individual cards. It doesn’t so much matter what you go to get. You put Rampant Growth in your deck BECAUSE it allowed you to search for a land. It is not a problem that it can ‘only’ get lands. I call this the shuffle method because someone tutoring is always followed by them taking a half hour to shuffle. Double-digit numbers are a good sign for this measurement method.

‘Turnstile’ Method: For testing purposes, when you encounter a situation where you find yourself in need of a specific card, start flipping over the top card of your deck until you either find the thing you need or a card that gives you access to that thing. If you have very few ways to access your deck, you will find that you often have to dig dozens of cards deep to find what you are looking for. This is an indicator that you will most likely have lost the game before the card that you need shows up. That is not a good thing and is going to hurt your deck’s performance. The name is evocative of both what the process of flipping the top card of your deck looks like and it is also a malapropism of “turns till”. We are actually counting the number of turns until you find the specific card that you were looking for.

Like all metrics, these methods have their problems. I never claim to be perfect; I claim to be improving. Start gathering some data on your own decks. Take notes in game and compare against your other decks and your competition. This will give you at least some feel of your deck’s level of access relative to its closest neighbors. From here, we are going to try and increase that access using the ideas and cards below.


Building An Accessway

Here are some ideas on how to increase the access you have within your decks:

Tutors are the best. Some people hate them because they make games ‘samey’ and slow the process down with excessive shuffling, but there really is no better way to access your deck. When it comes to tutors, unrestricted ones are better, but even restricted ones are better than card drawing.

Remove redundancy. If you need a removal spell, you may be tempted to add more removal spells. Instead, consider only playing the best removal and using the other spots for more access cards.

As always, efficiency is your friend. Repeatable effects are great, but they are often expensive. A few cheap ways to access will win more games than an expensive splashy one.

Here are a few cards in each color that are reasonable and should be available on most any budget.


Three Dreams
Auratouched Mage
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Taj-Nar Swordsmith


Muddle the Mixture
Parallel Thoughts
Mystical Teachings
Kaho, Minamo Historian


Wild Pair
Chord of Calling
Living Wish
Summoner’s Pact


Demonic Collusion
Demonic Consultation
Beseech the Queen
Diabolic Tutor

Red: (the only two real players in this category are Burning Wish and Gamble, but they are expensive enough to turn off some more casual players)

Wild Research
Goblin Matron
Dwarven Recruiter I think you will be surprised all the fun tricks that this can pull in budget lists.
Homing Sliver
Godo, Bandit Warlord


Journeyer’s Kite
Erratic Portal
Armillary Sphere
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Skyship Weatherlight

There are plenty of multicolor options as well, but I won’t be going into a discussion of each different multicolor identity’s options. The quality of these options vary widely, but they are worth looking into on your own if you have a specific deck that you want to work on.



Decksplanations is all about sharing my deckbuilding philosophy. If you want to change how you behave, you must change how you think. The same is true of your decks. My goal is you give you the foundation to analyze and improve your decks. My approach is data-driven and goal -oriented. I care about more than just the results; optimizing the process will produce sustainable results.

Series Navigation<< Strategy: “Decksplanations” – VelocityStrategy: “Decksplanations” – Threat Density in Aggressive Decks >>

5 Responses to “Strategy: “Decksplanations” – Access”

  1. Epiksheep said

    Nice Article, really goes into the ‘pro’ argument for tutors. I ascribe more to the theory that part of the draw to the format is it’s high variance making playing the same deck many times not feel like the same deck, even across multiple plays, but if you want to build the ‘strongest’ or ‘best’ deck you can, even with a limited budget, tutors work wonders. by slimming the deck down to the best options and making them more available at each game.

    Couple of nitpicks, just to keep my post in line with the others. Erratic portal should be planar portal, and of course, article is not nearly long enough.

    • Grandpa Growth said

      It should in fact be Planar Portal. Sadly this conforms pretty exactly to my word count standards. This is roughly the length all articles will be for the foreseeable future ~12 weeks

  2. Jacco Hop said

    I like mycosynth wellspring and pilgrim’s eye. Also I think you mean planar portal and not erratic portal. I love to play trinket mage too although narrow having access to sol ring, sensei’s divining top, relic of progenitis, artifact land can really help you out.

    With is reprint in modern master stonehewer giant also became a great choice because the price dropped.

  3. Hayes Pierson said

    Great article! Keep up the great work.

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