This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Decksplanations

Grandpa (Eric)

by Eric, aka Grandpa Growth


Today’s article is part two of a series about designing more consistent decks by building around three key concepts: access, velocity, and selection. With these powers combined you are Captain Planet going to have a more consistent deck. Last week on “Decksplanations,” I talked about access, so if you missed it I encourage you to go back and catch up.


Now that you are back, let’s talk velocity, starting with a quote:


Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” – Jeremy Clarkson


What is card velocity in Magic?


You have probably noticed a recurring theme in Commander: when you draw more cards, you tend to win more. Well, what happens in those games where you get stalled out? You have nothing to do and you never really go anywhere. I think that this is a good problem to have, because solving it means doing one of my favorite things: drawing cards.


Your deck’s card velocity, simply put, is a measure of how quickly it can draw through the library. You don’t need to draw more cards than your opponent(s). You don’t even need to end up with any cards in hand. Velocity simply cares about how many cards you can pick up every turn of the game.


Trying goldfishing with your favorite Commander deck. How many extra cards have you drawn by turn five? Turn ten? Turn twenty? Did you run out of things to play, and when did that happen?


Now think about your mana curve. Did you use all of your mana on every turn? Having extra cards will allow for more options in sequencing, fewer missed spots on the curve, and a more powerful game plan at each phase of the game.


So now you get how velocity can help improve your decks and we have identified a need that you didn’t know you had. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that you have a need…a need for speeeeeeeed!

Showing up to the card shop in a fighter jet won’t help you win, but it will make you feel pretty dang cool.



How can we measure our results?


In order to compare the relative velocities of two different decks, we need to measure them. There are quite a few methods, but I would suggest this: count how many cards you drew during the course of a game. Simple, right? I try to keep it easy like Sunday morning. Now this number that you get is just going to be one data point and it will change from game to game. It isn’t a pure metric, because it is influenced by many other factors. This method isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across.


Compare that card drawing number to a car speed. Are your decks usually moving at parking lot speeds or highway speeds? If you are drawing 50+ cards in an average game you are moving through your deck pretty quickly. Again, I stress: this isn’t a perfect method for evaluating velocity, but it is simple. Let’s leave it at that and move on to…


How to increase the velocity of a deck


So how do you we get your decks up to speed? Start removing cards from your deck according to their proportionate representation. If you want to dedicate 10% of your deck to cards that increase velocity, just take out 10% of every other kind of nonland card. 10% of your threats, 10% of the removal, etc. Once your decks are fit and trim, it is time to start experimenting.


Any Commander player worth his or her salt has a Howling Mine laying around. I am not actually advocating that you play Howling Mine in every deck, but it is an illustrative example. It will singlehandedly draw you an extra card on every single turn of the game while in play.


Think back to that goldfish experiment we did earlier. Can your deck outpace a Howling Mine? You should be able to do this consistently, or you should be prepared to lose.


Some key considerations are:


  • Card drawing engines will outperform one-shot effects like Opportunity over time.
  • Low cost, low impact alternatives are generally better than giant splashy cards like Enter the Infinite. They will help you get started early and maintain a consistent card flow throughout the game.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of cantrips. Netting 2-3 extra draws from effects you were going to use anyway will add to your win percentage.


Here are some good options in each color to increase velocity. These aren’t the best, but they are reasonable for most Commander decks and should be available on any budget. Most of these cards should be in any Magic players collection.



Syphon Mind

Night’s Whisper

Grim Discovery

Sign in Blood

Read the Bones





Masked Admirers

Life from the Loam

Yavimaya Elder





Compulsive Research

Fact or Fiction

Merfolk Looter

Rhystic Study

Think Twice



Endless Horizons

Mentor of the Meek or Puresteel Paladin in certain decks.

Mesa Enchantress in certain other decks.

Emeria, the Sky Ruin

Survival Cache




Mask of Memory

Bottled Cloister

Culling Dais

Scrying Sheets


Given the restrictions I mentioned above, Red doesn’t really have any velocity cards worth mentioning…or worth playing. Wheel of Fortune is great, but costs that money honey. Sadly, the options with lower price tags also have lower quality. I don’t know how to fix it. I am not the authority on Red. Don’t ask me. Ask Calvin. Or heck, ask Rosewater. I can’t wait to hear about this in the comments. It is fitting that Red players are the most likely to burst into flame about the things I say on the internet.


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. In each article I will share one idea that shapes how I approach creating a new deck.

Series Navigation<< Strategy: “Decksplanations” – SelectionStrategy: “Decksplanations” – Access >>