A Beginners Guide to Magic the Gathering

How to Assess a Good Card, Build a Beatdown Deck, and Improve Play

Greetings!

My old friend Matias is getting into Magic Online and we've been searching for a good resource that helps starting magic players. There are many useful guides for those completely new to the game, not the least of which are the Getting-Started walk-throughs provided by Wizards right in the Starter Decks. And there are many advanced web columns that debate the pros and cons of complex strategy decks with rare cards. But what seems to be missing is a straightward guide for the player somewhere in between newbie and expert. That's the audience this Beginner's Guide is aimed for; we assume you already know the basic rules and lingo, like the order of phases in a turn and steps of combat. You've had a lot of fun just messing around, and now you want to learn and play more.

So what's in this guide and how will it help our Magic game? Our primary goal is to get a feel for what a good card is like, which is one of the most valuable skills to have and one of the longest it takes to get from experience. After that, we'll start in on the fundamentals of building a solid creature deck, which is a prevalent type of deck out there and also the easiest to build and understand. Then we'll elaborate on some time tested tactics that will improve your play by getting the most use out of your cards. You're in for excitement once you learn these skills, since a well-built and well-played beatdown deck can fairly contest against many different deck types.

Lastly, to save a lot of time and hassle for the beginning player, we've listed all the good cards that were available in 2003. The lists focus on Pre-Mirrodin commons and uncommons, in the Online formats of Magic Online (so we ignore editions earlier than 7th). However, you can apply the principles developed in this guide to any card, either past or future.

Enjoy!

Assessing a Good Card

Card Value depends on Deck Type(s)

The very first thing to realize is that cards have greater or lesser value depending on what type of deck you are playing them in, and also what types of decks you play them against. A card might have an ability that is essential in one type of deck but worthless in a different kind of deck. For example, Scrabbling Claws has dubious value in most decks, but has definite value in a Mist of Stagnation deck. So when we ask the question what a "good card" is, we are also implicitly asking "good in / against what type of decks". We'll be focusing on just one deck type in this guide: the brute-force creature deck. It's the most common type of deck, and the easiest to get up and running with.

Now, even though cards don't have an "absolute scale" of goodness, some cards are clearly better than others. We can identify which cards are better than others by comparing them to equivalent cards. Consider the two cards Eager Cadet and Honor Guard. They are both 1/1 Soldier commons for (even their edition is the same!) Honor Guard is simply a better card than Eager Cadet is, because it has a beneficial ability that Eager Cadet lacks. In a sense, Honor Guard is a "good card" insofar as it is better than its comparable counterparts.

Every type of deck has one or more winning strategies, along with a play profile of what to expect while playing the deck. The basic winning strategy of a brute force creature deck is simple: field lots of creatures quickly and use them to smash the opponent. (Creature decks are also fondly known as beatdown decks :-) Our play profile is standard: we can expect to have many cards and little mana in the early game; later in the game we'll have ample mana but be starved for cards to play. Thus, our creature deck must have two essentials: a strong early play, and later game card drawing. So, yet a third way to assess the value of a "good card" is how well it supports our winning strategies and play profile.

Basics of Assessing a Good Card

Let's begin with some guidelines for assessing cards. Essentially we want threat, versatility, multiplicity, and / or economy in our cards. What do these mean? Let's elaborate on these criteria and look at their most common interpretations.

Market Rate for Abilities

So, how much are effects and abilities "worth"? Every color has its strengths and weaknesses, so the mana cost of certain abilities varies. Here's a chart to give you a feel for different abilities and their respective mana costs. In the next section we'll discuss in more depth which abilities we'll want in our creature deck.

Ability Typical Cost
Examples, with Commentary            

Draw A Card  2  2  1  1.5  2  1
Rune of Protection: Black, Cycling is a common card drawing ability.
Tranquil Thicket, It's possible to cycle for less...
Gempalm Polluter, ... but preferable to cycle with an effect...
Stun, ... or to play a cantrip.
Thieving Magpie, Best of all is repeated card drawing...
Mask of Memory, ... which can be found in many ways.
Curiosity, Blue is the undisputed champion of card drawing.

Creature Removal  2.5  1.5  1  2.5  1.5  2
Ghastly Demise, Black is the master of outright creature destruction.
Nekrataal, You can find many good black creatures with smack down.
Other colors do creature removal in other ways.
Unsummon, Blue does cheap unsummoning.
Pacifism, White neutralizes creatures in various ways.
Firebolt, Red just deals damage, and lots of it.
Wallop, Green has very limited creature removal.

Enchantment Removal  2  2  1.5  1.5  2  1
Demystify, White is the enchantment king.
Elvish Lyrist, Green comes in a close second, though.
Annul, Blue counters spells at casting time.
Quagmire Druid, Red and Black have no real enchantment removal.

Artifact Removal  2  2  1  1.5  1.5  1.5
Naturalize, Green is equally good at enchantment and artifact smack down.
Overload, Red is no slouch at artifact removal.
Shrapnel Blast, Though it is often destroying its own artifacts, too!
Blue counters, and Black has no real artifact removal.

Land Removal  4  3  4  4  3  4
Stone Rain, Red is the premiere land killing color...
Dwarven Driller, ... with many ways to destroy lands.
Rancid Earth, Black comes in second, though with fewer cards.
Creeping Mold, Land removal for green is more expensive...
Spreading Algae, ... with some notable exceptions.
Benalish Emissary, White has virtually no land removal on its own...
Dream Thrush, ... and blue mainly tries mucking with colors.

Tutor Specific  2  2  2  2  2  2
Diabolic Tutor, Tutoring is named after this card, which searches for anything.
Shoreline Ranger, Landcycling is a specific tutoring for land.
Fierce Empath, Most tutoring is very specific.
Morgue Theft, You can also tutor the graveyard.
Misery Charm, Very specific tutoring can be very cheap.
Wood Elves, Tutoring can also put cards into play!
Dark Supplicant, Which occasionally is just awesome.

Now, there are many abilities favored by each color which cost around mana in general and less for the favored color. Here's a little chart of common abilities by color (where we've omitted those already mentioned unless they are really cheap).

Creature gets -1/-1
Discard Card
Fear
Lose Life
Regenerate
Sacrifice Creature
"Use" Graveyard


Flashback
Landwalk
Protection from Color
Can't be Blocked
Countering
Creature Alters Type
Draw Cards
Flying
Land Alters Type
Look at Hands
Index Library
"Move" Creature
Removal (most)
Retarget
Block Flying
Can't Counter
Creature gets +1/+1
"Instants"
Land Effects
Play Token
Pump on Block/ed
Regenerate
Trample
Creature gets +1/0
Deal Damage
First Strike
Haste
Provoke
"Random" Effects
Attack w/o tap
Creature gets 0/+1
First Strike
Flying
Gain Life
Prevent Damage
Protection
Tap Creature

A special class of effects worthy of mention are mana to life conversions. For the most part, mana and life are in a one-to-one correspondence; there are many cards where you can deal damage / lose life for around +/point of damage. If you think about it, that's why we want P near CMC, so that we can approach the 1:1 value. Creatures can potentially deal damage many times, and in addition have special abilities, making them more valuable than just a straight damage card. Given this conversion, consider life losing abilities like "lose 1 life, draw a card". Many beginning players will shy away from such cards, thinking that anything that damages oneself must be bad. However, would you pay mana to draw a card? Of course! So you've effectively turned your life into a mana pool for card drawing (arguably the most essential ability). Lastly, despite their high mana to life ratios, one-shot white life gain cards (e.g. Sacred Nectar) are not good as they do not claim the initiative, offer a threat, or beatdown the opponent. These cards certainly don't belong in our creature deck; at a stretch, they might possibly have value in a themed life gain deck. What is more useful is to gain life in the course of doing something that advances your beatdown, like maybe Vicious Hunger or the awesome Exalted Angel.

Wrapping up, there is a subtle distinction between the play cost to put an attribute into play and the activation cost to use it. In most cases we can measure both resources on the same scale; it's the mana we've listed plus the card that has the effect or ability. In certain cases the two are dramatically different: either cost may require many cards, or involve turns or tapping as resources. So keep in mind that the charts above are aimed for getting a feel instead of being exact measurements. The "feel" is useful for the beginning player, and as you become more experienced you will tend to become more exacting about these distinctions. It was a hallmark day in my own Magic play when I started seriously considering the difference between "dealing damage" and "losing life". ;-)

Building a Beatdown Deck

So, how do we go about building a brute force creature deck? There are four basic stages. The first stage involves finding complementary abilities. Having good cards in your deck is good, but having cards that play well together is even better. Thus, we'll want to develop a theme for the deck and find cards that fit the theme. The second stage is the creation of a strategic deck, which are decks designed around their winning strategies. It's desirable to have multiple strategies in a single deck, as well as an effective coup de grace. The third stage aims at card economy, attempting to get the most abilities with the least cards. Here is where we make the tough decisions about what to maindeck and what to sideboard, and what we must regrettably omit from the deck altogether. The final "stage" is ongoing refinement; as we play the deck we'll find some things are more or less effective than we thought, and we'll constantly be tweaking things for maximal performance.

Now, even though we'd like to put everything into our deck, we'll be operating under several constraints. The most straightforward of these is color choice; we'll want to choose color(s) for our deck and stick with them. Our cards should also have a reasonable effective play cost (EPC) distribution curve, to ensure we can play cards on every turn. We'll also want certain essential abilities in our deck so it can address the most common dangers, as well as a themed winning strategy. Let's discuss the details of these constraints first, then work through a deck building example to illustrate the general process.

EPC Distribution Curve

The Effective Play Cost (EPC) is how much mana it takes to play the card. This is usually equal to the Converted Mana Cost (CMC), but not always. For example, technically the CMC of Fire/Ice is , but one only ever plays it for . More saliently, cards like Gempalm Polluter are rarely if ever played for their CMC, so their EPC is just . Some cards legitimately have multiple EPCs, like Choking Tethers or Skinthinner. In those cases, we'll consider the EPC to be around half each way.

Why are we concerned with the EPC at all? It turns out that we want our deck to have a reasonable mix of both low and high EPCs. We need the lower EPCs for the strong early play; we need the higher EPCs for the later game. A deck weighted too much toward the lower EPC will start awesome and then fizzle out as it gets beat down by buffer creatures in the later game. A deck weighted toward the higher EPC will constantly fight a rearward battle from the start and rarely get the upper hand. So, we want to make sure that we have a good mix of EPCs in our deck to ensure we can play our best card possible each turn.

So how many of each card should we have? Here's a guideline:

 Basic 
Land
Non-
 Basic 
 EPC= 
 EPC= 
 EPC= 
 EPC= 
 EPC= 
+
Range   14-24   0-8   6-10   7-12   6-12   7-12   4-8 
Example   18   4   7   9   6   9   5 

The ranges above are recommendations to get you started; as you become more experienced you are likely to become more adventurous in stretching the boundaries. Maybe you'll concoct a good strategy for a fast spam deck and find you can get away with just 16 lands if you have 20 EPC= creatures. Or maybe you'll play a control deck with a dozen CMC=+ cards in it. However, you'll probably get more entertaining play value if you start with the suggested ranges and then experiment as you gain more confidence.

The workhorses of our beatdown deck are typically the EPC , , and especially mana creatures. The s are usually too weak and are highly disposable. The + rarely get played; in most games, you'll get to play one, maybe two. Quite often the cards will be the heart of the deck; there are many EPC cards with solid abilities. What abilities should we have? Let's talk about that some more.

Talk about Magic Online statistics tool; show some pictures

Components of a Solid Creature Deck

There are two standard deck sizes: Limited 40 card decks and Constructed 60 card decks. In limited play, we can expect the game to go longer (say, more than 10 turns) and thus sacrificing early play to weight your deck with more powerful cards is reasonable. In constructed play, games are usually decided before turn 10, and thus we'll want a strong early lead. The charts in this section are for constructed decks only.

Let's look at the components we'd like in our beatdown deck.

Essential Recommended Bonus
Main
Deck
22-24 Lands
Lots Creatures near P=CMC
2-10 Card Drawing
2-6 Creature Removal
1-8 Free Damage

2-8 Color Management
2-6 Mana Acceleration
2-6 Flying Counter
1-4 Enchantment Removal
1-4 Artifact Removal
1-4 Coup De Grace
Themed Winning Strategy
1+ Player Hosing
1+ Sacrifice Recouping
1+ Graveyard Management
Multiple Winning Strategies
Side
Board
5+ Color Countering
2+ Player Hosing
1+ Extra Flying Counter
2+ Extra Removal
2+ Anti-Stalement
1+ Alternate Coup De Grace
Stalemate Winning Strategy

The ranges above are recommendations on how many cards to have of each type. The low end of the range is a minimum: it sucks when an opponent plays a Worship and you have no Enchantment Removal in your deck. However, you don't want to go overboard, either. If you have too much enchantment removal, it's wasted against a deck that has no enchantments. Usually the safest course of action is to try to meet the minimums and then sideboard some extra stuff just in case. But if in the course of creating the theme for your deck you find you have more than the minimum of some category, then more power to you. What "Lots" of creatures means deserves special mention; it means lots, 30+ if you can manage it. How are we going to do that when we need so many other things as well?

We want many features in our deck and we have a limited number of cards, so card economy becomes important. Consider the case of a Creeping Mold. It's way too expensive for any single one of the abilities; however, it is still a good card because it is highly versatile and crams many desirable features into a single card. So, with a single Creeping Mold you have Artifact, Enchantment, and bonus Land Removal all in one card. Many of the good cards on the lists below are there primarily because of this card economy. In fact, some of the best cards are creature cards that also have a desirable ability, i.e. Nekrataal counts both a creature and as creature removal. So, where possible, try to favor creatures that also meet our component requirements; it maximizes the number of creatures while minimizing the number of cards.

Most of the components are self-explanatory, but let's look at a few in more detail.

Mana Acceleration. Mana is most often produced by lands, but there are a smattering of other cards that allow the generation of mana. With 24 lands in a 60 card deck, here's a probabilistic chart of number of lands by turn (assuming one card drawn per turn):

Chance  Turn 1  Turn 2  Turn 3  Turn 4  Turn 5  Turn 6  Turn 7  Turn 8  Turn 9  Measured In
75% 1 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 # Lands
Typical 1 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 # Lands
50% 1 2 3 4 4 5 5 6 6 # Lands
w/MA 1 2 4 4 5 5 6 6 7 # Mana

The goal of Mana Acceleration (MA) is to get the lucky 4 Mana play on Turn 3, and to whip out the 5 Mana coup de grace on Turn 5, which would be two turns earlier that when it would typically happen. So, we want to favor mana generating cards that are either CMC= or less. (Consider the awesome card Chrome Mox!) The rule of thumb is that if you have 2-3 MA cards, you can reduce to 23 lands; and if you have 4-6 MA cards, you can reduce to 22. Past that we need other special cards in the deck (like tutoring or landcycling) to make sure that we don't get land starved. Note that lands that come into play tapped are mana deceleration; so, we want to limit the number of these in our deck to say, at most two cards.

Free Damage. A crucial feature in every deck is the ability to repeatably deal damage directly to creatures or players. What commonly happens between two decks is a faceoff, where neither opponent can effectively attack the other without losing out in the exchange. So, the ability to "pick off" the enemy creatures freely or deal damage directly to the player without attacking becomes important.

Color Management. When playing a multi-color deck one frequently runs into the problem of not having the right colors. So, it's important to build safeguards against this directly into your deck. For two color decks, this can often be accomplished just through multi-purpose lands like Tainted Wood. For three color or spectrum decks, reliance on search cards like Primal Growth is usually necessary, or on prismatic cards like City of Brass. For a standard deck, you'll usually want 8+ lands to support each major color; you can also splash a deck with a color and just 6 lands. In general, two color decks are common and easily managed, and three color decks require more intensive color management. Single color decks, of course, need no color management at all.

Coup De Grace. These are later game cards (usually rare) that completely change the balance of power. In your favor, of course. :-) Often your play strategy will be affected by your coup de grace; for example, a tribe deck with Patriach's Bidding could be a lot more liberal with creature sacrifice than a typical deck. However, we shouldn't overrely on it. With two cards devoted to coup de grace, there is only a one-third chance we'll get to play it in any given game; with four cards, it's only half the time.

Player Hosing. Many play strategies revolve around preventing the opponent from effectively playing their deck. Player hosing often assaults lands; consider a Quicksilver Fountain in a predominantly blue deck against a non-blue deck. However, players can be hosed in many ways. Interfering with winning strategies is common, e.g. Worship, as well as outright changing the winning conditions, a la Platinum Angel. Decks that rely on player hosing are typically built around the hose strategy, and often have rapid card drawing / tutoring to find the field the appropriate cards quickly.

Sacrifice Recouping. When I was a beginning player, one of the concepts it was difficult for me to grasp was that sacrificing one's own creatures was often a good thing. Killing your own creatures? Why? There are two main reasons. First, a creature dealt mortal damage in combat is going to go to the graveyard anyway; if you sacrifice it right at the end of the Combat Damage phase then it has already dealt its damage to an opponent. Second, there are many good cards out there that give special abilities on creature sacrifice. For example, a card like Cabal Archon makes creature sacrifice very dangerous, and an awesome card like Rotlung Reanimator makes sacrifice a net beneficial thing. Often you'll be made to sacrifice a creature by your opponent; it's always useful to be able to recoup some benefit in those cases as well.

Graveyard Management. Quite frequently cards in the graveyard are still relevant to play because of special abilities they possess. Most common are things like flashback (Reckless Charge) and graveyard tutoring (Zombify), but there are a smattering of cards that have direct effect in the graveyard, for example Valor. Being able to manage both your and your opponents' graveyard is very useful, which is the reason why cards like Withered Wretch are highly prized. Ultimately, graveyard management is a tradeoff: many decks don't even use their graveyard in any way, and so cards spent on graveyard management against these decks take away card space from other more suitable abilities.

Stalemate. Often a deck will rely on stalemating the opponent until such time as a coup de grace or a massive hose can be whipped out. Common tactics involve creating a faceoff, say through the use of walls like Wall of Hope or Wall of Souls or other cards like Caltrops. Having the ability to bypass or remove a stalemate is very useful against these types of decks. Often this is achieved through plentiful removal; having a non-attack winning strategy as well is even better.

Winning Strategies. Having a themed strategy for your deck in addition to a bunch of good creatures dramatically increases your chances of success. How do we create these winning strategies? Let's work through an example.

Deck Building Example

At the heart of the joy of playing Magic the Gathering is deck construction. Both beginning and experienced players enjoy finding new and fiendish ways to put abilities together. Finding complementary abilities is how we create a theme for the deck.

Suppose we were sifting through the cards and decided we wanted to build a white deck. We notice that several good cards have an ability like "deal damage to target attacking or blocking creature", like Crossbow Infantry. Now, this isn't as buff as red's famed "deal damage to target creature or player", but we notice that most cards with this ability cost or more, whereas the white cards start at just . If we can field these abilities early, then it makes it very dangerous for the opponent to attack us, since we can just kill their creatures without even blocking. But how are we going to do damage to them?

After browsing some more we come across a different ability called gustcloak which says: "Whenever gustcloak becomes blocked, you may untap it and remove it from combat". Hmmm... now, just by itself it's an interesting ability; it means that we can attack every turn and then back off if we are going to lose in the exchange. But combined with the ability above, it becomes extra dangerous: we can back off, and then do free damage to the creature that just blocked us. Or, we aren't blocked and the attack goes through unhindered. Hey, this looks like a good complement of abilities! So, let's build a deck around it. As our first pass, let's just find as many cards as we can with the two abilities and throw them in.

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
4 Elite Javelineer
4 Gustcloak Harrier
4 Heavy Ballista
4 Gustcloak Skirkmisher
4 Gustcloak Sentinel
[4] [8] [8] [12] [0]

24 Plains [24 Lands] [32 Creatures] [0 Other] [56 Total]

Of course, we now have a nearly full deck with no other abilities except the two we just mentioned. We'll need to clear away some of these cards in order to make room for things like artifact removal. How many of each do we need to keep around to be effective? What are the chances we'll get to play our complementary abilities? Here's a little card drawing probability chart to help us out:

Ability 1 Has Chance Chance by Turn 5 with Ability 2, with
with by Turn 5 2 Cards 4 Cards 6 Cards 8 Cards 10 Cards
2 Cards 33% 10% 16% 22% 26% 28%
4 Cards 54% 16% 28% 37% 42% 46%
6 Cards 70% 22% 37% 48% 55% 60%
8 Cards 81% 26% 42% 55% 64% 70%
10 Cards 88% 28% 46% 60% 70% 75%

We can see that a good middle ground is 8 cards of each ability, since that gives us a 64% chance of getting to have drawn both by Turn 5; if the cards are cheap enough, we are likely to be able to play both by then, too. Moreover, we can see that some of the cards are just more useful that others in this deck. For example, a single Catapult Squad effectively gives our damage dealing ability to every soldier, whereas the Elite Javelineer's ability is dubious to begin with. So let's pare down our deck to just

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
4 Gustcloak Harrier
[4] [8] [4] [0] [0]

24 Plains [24 Lands] [16 Creatures] [0 Other] [40 Total]

Now we have some room to play with! Let's see what else we need to toss in. First, we'll want some card drawing. We notice that we already have a soldier motif going; let's make our deck a soldier tribe deck as well. That means that a card like Gempalm Avenger becomes very useful. Let's add some cantrips and some cycling land, and then we have:

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
4 Gustcloak Harrier
{2 Gempalm Avenger}
{1 Aura Blast}
{1 Hobble}
{1 Lashknife Barrier}
[4] [8] [9] [0] [0]

{23 Plains}
{1 Secluded Steppe}
[24 Lands] [18 Creatures] [3 Other] [45 Total]

That ends up putting not only some cycling into the deck, but also a bit of removal as well as a nifty enchantment. What else do we need? Mana acceleration will be a hard one for us. There aren't any white mana acceleration cards, and it isn't worth making this a white / green deck just for the mana acceleration alone. We'll toss on a token plainscycling card, say Noble Templar. Hey, this guy also has a nifty ability for our deck, namely, attacking doesn't cause the creature to tap. Let's add on a couple more cards like that for fun:

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
{1 Noble Templar}
4 Gustcloak Harrier
2 Gempalm Avenger
1 Aura Blast
1 Hobble
1 Lashknife Barrier
{2 Liege of the Axe}
[4] [9] [9] [2] [0]

23 Plains
1 Secluded Steppe
[24 Lands] [21 Creatures] [3 Other] [48 Total]

We note that our deck is weak on studly cards. Well, every tribe deck needs a warchief, so let's put in some classic soldier tribe cards:

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
{1 Frontline Strategist}
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
1 Noble Templar
4 Gustcloak Harrier
2 Gempalm Avenger
1 Aura Blast
1 Hobble
1 Lashknife Barrier
{3 Frontline Strategist}
{4 Daru Warchief}
2 Liege of the Axe
[5] [9] [12] [6] [0]

{19 Plains}
{4 Daru Encampment}
1 Secluded Steppe
[24 Lands] [29 Creatures] [3 Other] [56 Total]

What else are we missing? We've got free damage up the wazoo, and we don't need color management for a single color deck. We've got four flying creatures as well as the ability to kill small creatures when they attack, which is fine for flying countering. Some more creature removal might be nice, but we'll probably be killing droves of them the old fashioned way. Ahh, but some more enchantment and artifact removal is in order. Let's put in a Disenchant and that will cover both in the same card.

We now have a deck with 57 cards and we are lacking any rare coup de grace. Well, two cards immediately recommend themselves. The first is Gustcloak Savior, which gives the gustcloak ability to every creature we have. Plus, they are buff 3/4 flying creatures, which is always nice. We'll put in a couple of those. Another good card is Mobilization, which will not only give us the ability to attack without tapping but also to generate droves of little soldiers, each of which will hopefully be able to deal free damage and / or gustcloak. We'd like a couple of those as well. Hmmm... so, we'll need to cut out a card. Let's make it a Frontline Strategist, since our column is getting too full. Let's see if we can trade a for a . Well, we still haven't hosed our opponent, so let's add on a Worship. So, nearing completion our deck looks like

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
1 Frontline Strategist
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
1 Noble Templar
{1 Disenchant}
4 Gustcloak Harrier
2 Gempalm Avenger
1 Aura Blast
1 Hobble
1 Lashknife Barrier
1 Frontline Strategist
{2 Mobilization}
4 Daru Warchief
2 Liege of the Axe
{1 Worship}
{2 Gustcloak Savior}
[5] [10] [12] [7] [2]

19 Plains
4 Daru Encampment
1 Secluded Steppe
[24 Lands] [31 Creatures] [5 Other] [60 Total]

Our deck is becoming really solid. Is there anything else we could do with it? Let's think about how our deck will play. We note that our winning strategy will require a lot of attacking; it'd be nice to haste our creatures. So, let's add on a Lightning Greaves. The Greaves are a particularly good addition because we also note that our early deck play will rely on fielding a Catapult Squad; the Greaves also allows us to protect him from most creature removal. What card should we remove to fit him in? With great regret we decide on Mobilization. We can't remove another Strategist because then we'd have only 5 cards, which erodes our first turn play.

Now, we also think that we'll be tapping our creatures a lot, which will leave us exposed to counterattack if we can't clear all the opposing creatures each turn. Let's put in a surprise for our opponents in the form of Roar of the Kha, which begs the question what else we should remove. With the Disenchant in our deck, we don't really need the Aura Blast for enchantment removal, but we do need the card drawing. So, we decide to take a gamble on changing our land, bringing our deck finally to:

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
1 Frontline Strategist
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
1 Noble Templar
1 Disenchant
{1 Lightning Greaves}
{.5 Roar of the Kha}
4 Gustcloak Harrier
2 Gempalm Avenger
1 Hobble
1 Lashknife Barrier
1 Frontline Strategist
1 Mobilization
4 Daru Warchief
2 Liege of the Axe
1 Worship
{.5 Roar of the Kha}
2 Gustcloak Savior
[5] [11.5] [10] [7.5] [2]

{18 Plains}
4 Daru Encampment
{2 Secluded Steppe}
[24 Lands] [29 Creatures] [7 Other] [60 Total]

Now, suppose we've been playing this deck for awhile and we want to refine it according to our play experience. What we discovered was that tapping is our crucial resource. Near the end game we have ample mana but can't tap enough. Mobilization was a kick butt card in this deck; we could attack with everyone and then kill off the creatures once they blocked before they even dealt damage, without even needing gustcloak in some cases. We were fools, fools not to have two in the deck from the start. Let's ditch both of the Liege of the Axes to make some room. Our initial concern was that we needed them to fill up the ECP= slot, but what we found in actual practice was that we were using the mana effectively for combat shakeups. In fact, Roar of the Kha was our big winner; for just two mana we could effectively double the damage dealt using our Catapult Squad, which surprised our opponents to say the least. We didn't really need the Lashknife Barrier; what happened was that we were in the zone and didn't need it, or it didn't actually come in useful to save our creatures. We also didn't need the Lightning Greaves, because lo and behold we could use the Catapult Squad ability on creatures just played this turn without needing to haste them. Noble Templar is out, too; we didn't really need him either early or later game.

We also found we got a lot of mileage just from tapping cheap creatures; what would be nice would be to have more of them early on. And wowsers, once that Warchief comes out to play all our spuds became real threats. So, let's shave off a land and make some lighter additions:

EPC=  EPC=  EPC=  ECP=  ECP=+
4 Gustcloak Runner
{2 Frontline Strategist}
4 Crossbow Infantry
4 Catapult Squad
{2 Raise the Alarm}
1 Disenchant
{1 Roar of the Kha}
4 Gustcloak Harrier
{3 Gempalm Avenger}
1 Hobble
1 Frontline Strategist
{2 Mobilization}
4 Daru Warchief
1 Worship
{1 Roar of the Kha}
2 Gustcloak Savior
[6] [12] [11] [6] [2]

{17 Plains}
4 Daru Encampment
2 Secluded Steppe
[23 Lands] [28 Creatures] [9 Other] [60 Total]

Now, normally we might be concerned that this is too few creatures, especially since we mainly use the Gempalms for card drawing. But on the flipside, four Other cards are used to put tokens into play. So all in all, it balanced out.

Voila! Now that's a fine beginning deck! If you wanted to toss more rare cards at it, a Shared Triumph would be good at upgrading your weenies, just like the Warchief but potentially much earlier. And then maybe... well, let's just say that the possible refinements are never-ending. Which, of course, is part of the fun of the game. ;-)

Work through the sideboard, too?
  Compensate for possible weaknesses of deck; more removal

Improving Game Play

So you've had some fun making your deck and now you are itching to play it. You naturally want to get the most out of your cards by playing them effectively. Here's a hodgepodge of sound, time-tested tactics to help improve your game play. The best tactics, of course, are ones complementing your winning strategy; the following tactics are more generic in nature, and apply widely to most creature decks.

General Tactics

Mulligan a Slow Starting Hand. To mulligan or not to mulligan, that is the crucial question that every player faces before play even begins. Most beginning players err on the side of keeping hands that they shouldn't, hoping that they will draw "one more land" or "the right card"; what often ends up happening is that they are starved for land or have too much of it. For a beatdown deck a strong early play is essential, so mulligan any hand that doesn't have one showing. Optimally, you want the first three starting turn plays in your hand (first turn, second turn, and third turn), though you can settle for three out of the first four turns. A hand that can only play cards for two out of the first three turns is on the edge: keep it only if it has a solid second or third turn play. Otherwise, mulligan. Note that by implication this places a constraint of 2-4 lands in our starting seven card hand; the sweet spot is 3 lands. Counting lands is a good first indicator of whether to mulligan, but whether you can play cards is more important. You could have 3 lands and 4 CMC=+ cards in your hand, which starts too slow and should be mulliganed. Alternatively, you could have only 2 lands with 2 s, 2 s, and a which is a fine starting hand despite having only two lands. There are many factors that affect when to mulligan (whether you start first or get to draw a card, the EPC curve of your deck, etc.), but the essential thing for a brute force creature deck to look for is to field cards quickly in a strong early play.

Favor the Main Phase after Combat. As much as possible, try to field creatures and play sorceries in the second main phase after combat. This has many advantages to it. First, you'll have more mana available to you during the combat itself, to use for special abilities or instants. Second, it reduces the impact of defensive Storm spells like Wing Shards. Third, you reduce exposure to mass creature wiping abilities activated during combat, like say a Plague Spitter going into the graveyard. Of course, sometimes you'll want to play in the Main Phase before combat, as an aid to your attack for that turn. Fielding a Krosan Warchief might be necessary to save a beast you expect to die, or perhaps you just want some fodder for your Nantuko Husk. However, as much as possible make your pre-combat Main Phase plays devoted to just those things that will impact combat.

Use Resources at the end your Opponent's Turn. Recall that at the beginning of your turn you will untap all your creatures and lands. So, if at the end of your opponent's turn you have any creatures that you can tap to good effect or cards that can be played, it's usually a good time to do it. A classic example is cycling; suppose you were going to cycle a card, and you can't get any benefit from it on your turn. You can leave the mana open in case you need it for something else during your opponent's turn (which often gives them pause), but then still maximally use your mana as intended at the end of their turn. BTW, this type of timed resource management is much more of a concern with control decks than beatdown decks, since creature decks typically use all their mana fielding creatures every turn. However, if you are playing against a control deck it is good to know the common tactics they will be employing as well.

Threaten the Opponent with Initiative. The standard way that a creature deck will threaten an opponent is to lay down creature cards as a prelude to attack, using brute force and special abilities. As long as you can keep pressure on your opponent you have the initiative; that means that you are playing cards that your opponent is responding to. Maintaining the initiative is vital in a beatdown deck; if you are playing versus a control deck, once you've lost the initiative they will often play a threat to which you cannot adequately respond. Don't worry too much if you keep playing creatures and they keep getting Countered and Unsummoned; you still have the upper hand insofar as you are making your opponent answer your threat instead of vice versa.

Avoid Overextending a Good Board Position. Now, keeping the pressure on doesn't necessarily mean playing every card you can every chance you can. There are times when you want to hold on to cards in your hand that you could otherwise play. Suppose that you've got four creatures out and can do five points of damage a turn for free, and your opponent has two creatures that can't effectively respond. That's a good board position for you. At that point, it is in your opponent's best interest to wipe the board (even though they would lose their own creatures) since you have the advantage. You are already exerting a lot of pressure with your five point threat, so playing more cards isn't necessary to keep the initiative. When you have a superior board position, you must beware the brilliant mass maneuver that neutralizes everything on the board; hold onto your cards to rebuild after the holocaust. Now, when you have a good board position, sometimes you might still want to play cards. The main cases when you should are: if you can protect against mass removal, if you can further inhibit your opponent's play, and if you can put away your opponent this turn.

Get "Free" Effects from Threat. Let's take an in-depth look at a great card just printed in Mirrodin, the Crystal Shard. Just by being on the board this card presents a constant threat to your opponent, namely that you'll remove one of his nice creatures. But wait! You could play this once at the end of their turn, and then right at the beginning your turn. So, they need to keep two mana open in order to prevent their creatures from being bounced back to their hand. You have effectively lowered their available mana just by presenting the threat, and more specifically without further investment of your resources. This is the best type of effect: one where you get the benefit pretty much for free. Where possible, strive for this type of threat: maximal inhibition to your opponent at minimal cost to yourself.

Get "Free" Effects from Threat: Redux. Let's explore the important topic of threat with a protection oriented example. The bane of many creature decks is mass creature removal like Infest, Pyroclasm, or the famed Wrath of God. You spend a great deal of time fielding creature cards... and then your opponent cheaply disposes of all of them. Now suppose you played a card like Vengeful Dead in a zombie tribe deck, suddenly creature removal becomes painful. Moreover, it becomes more painful the more creatures you have (which is when a mass removal card is normally most useful). Your Vengeful is now protecting your creatures using the threat of retaliation; it may not prevent your opponent from wiping your creatures, but it has now inhibited their strategy by forcing a consideration. Other cards along these lines are so good (e.g. Rotlung Reanimator) that you will probably sack your own 1/1 creatures just to upgrade them!

Combat Tactics

Get "Free" Effects from Threat: Combat Remix. Let's see how something like free effects would work in a combat situation. Suppose you and your opponent both had three 1/1 creatures on the board. Usually, that means that neither can attack the other without a mass slaughter ensuing. But suppose that one of your creatures was a Angelic Page. Now you can mount an attack with your two other 1/1s, because you've presented the threat that one of them might become a 2/2. Either your opponent lets the attack through, or they block and come out a card less than you. The threat has materialized a free attack without even tapping the Page, or a card advantage from using the ability. Either of those alternatives is good, so you can go on the assault in a normally stalemated situation.

Tap your Blockers to Good Effect. Continuing the Angelic Page example, we can see that we also haven't left ourselves open for an unequal trade of damage. Supposing that our opponent swarms with all three 1/1s. We can block one with our Page, and then at the end of the blockers phase, we tap it and apply the effect to itself, making it a 2/2. (Usually, of course, we would field more creatures after our attack, thus further amplifying the Page's benefit.) Another classic block-and-tap example are abilities like Battlefield Medic. You can block with it, then tap and apply the ability to the same card. This is useful besides the neutralization of damage; it also prevents abilities like "deals combat damage to a player" from being activated. Remember, after your opponent's turn all your creatures will untap; so, using your cards' tappable abilities on the opponent's turn makes sense. If you can squeeze a good effect during combat, so much the better.

Surprise the Opponent, especially during Combat. In addition to threat, part of what makes the above tactic effective is the opponent doesn't know what we are going to do. Most people would be happy to trade equivalent cards... if they could guarantee what gets traded for what. Keeping your opponent guessing is always to your advantage. There are many ways this can be done: combat related instants (say Stun), morph cards (like our friend Frontline Strategist), and pumping (a la Timberwatch Elf), to name a few. Cards with instant speed (either effects or abilities) are what to look for to shake up combat. Thus, we can see that cards like Gempalm Avenger and cantrips have more advantages than just card drawing; they also maintain surprise during combat.

Muck with Creatures after Combat Damage is Assigned. A supremely useful tactic is to somehow alter your creatures after combat damage is assigned. We've already mentioned sacrifice recouping: namely, getting a benefit from sacrificing your creatures. You can also take them back into your hand, using a card like Crystal Shard. That allows the creature to deal damage, and then rescue it for recasting later. It is particularly effectively if you construct your deck around "comes into play" abilities, e.g. Wood Elves.

Combine Tactics into your Winning Strategy. Knowledge of these tactics enlarges the space in which you can look for complementary abilities. For example, suppose you really like the whole Crystal Shard threat / rescuing idea. Well, add a bunch of cards with "comes into play" like Flametongue Kavu, Goblin Matron, with an eye toward Siege-Gang Commander, and then suddenly you have a nice red/blue deck in the works. Toss on some more blue Unsummon-esque cards and maybe a Triskelion for fun and you're in business! You can then really squeeze the creature sacrifice / taking back into hand right after the combat damage is assigned, making the deck much more offensive that it would be without using these tactics.

Learn the Wily Ways of your Rare Cards. Usually the best rare cards lend themselves well to specific tactics. (Some even create new ones!) When you get your hands on a rare card, experiment with it heavily and get to know it inside and out. To wit, consider our Pentavite friend Pentavus. For he can neutralize an attack by creating a Pentavite token, block, and then remerge the token. Or he can field a bunch of tokens and swarm around a defender, remerging those blocked. If he didn't attack himself, he could do that, remerge all the tapped tokens, and leave a good blocker in place. Of course, he makes an attractive target for creature removal, so when someone destroys him move all the tokens off and you still have a pretty decent flying corps. Just this one rare card has many different useful tactics. Furthermore, if you were to support Pentavus with some other cards, like maybe a Serum Tank and Power Conduit combo, or plain "add counters when comes into play" then you've got yourself a theme for a deck right there. Know your rares, plan decks around them, and play them well, and you are on your way to becoming a serious Magic player.

Well, I hope that learning these tactics helps you play a keener and more engaging game, which is often the more enjoyable. :-)

Good Card Lists

So to simplify the life of beginning players I've compiled a list of all the good cards up to Mirrodin in 2003. If you play Magic Online, here's a zip file of the lists in deck format, to make it easier for you to keep track of the cards online. As you get cards, you can delete them from the deck, so you'll always have a "wish list" that's current. The files go into your Magic/decks/ folder; if you unzip it there it makes it's own subfolder.

Note that the lists focus on commons and uncommons. The reason why is because rare cards are difficult to guage. There are some rare cards that are just junk, but the others fall into several different categories. Some are good in creature decks; others are good in creatureless decks. Some are good only in conjunction with other rare cards. Others have odd abilities that are useless in most decks but are kick butt in the right strategic deck. At some point I'll compile a list of rares good in creature decks, but that _won't_ be the list of all good rares.

Even among good cards, not all are the same. Some are really good cards, and others are awesome cards, which are emphasized in the lists below. Any card on the list has made the first cut: it's a decent card to consider within the context of a creature deck, whether constructed or limited play. Several cards are essential sideboard cards that are good to have but are rarely maindecked. In any event, the lists are a good place to start your collection: get these cards, and you'll have a mighty versatile base to start your Magic play from.

Here's a legend to make sense of the abbreviations:

Now, if you happen to find a card with an ability that you like, the chances are that it is part of a cycle of similar cards. Here's a link for you in case you want to hunt down complete Sets of Five.

Lastly, I've twiddled with the layout of the tables in order to make them fit the screen and print nicely. They all follow the same basic layout with a few notable exceptions (green and white) due to really long / short columns.

Enjoy!

Put in colors on mana cards

Black Cards

Good Black Commons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
1/1 Blood Celebrant
1/1 Carrion Feeder
1/1 Disciple of the Vault
1/1 Festering Goblin
Ins Ghastly Demise
Src Innocent Blood
1/1 Maggot Carrier
Ins Misery Charm
1/1 Necra Disciple
1/1 Nightscape Apprentice
1/1 Plague Beetle
1/1 Putrid Imp
Src Raise Dead
1/1 Zombie Cannibal

CMC=
4/3 Anurid Murkdiver
Src Corrupt
4/3 Gempalm Polluter
5/3 Twisted Abomination
1/1 Bog Initiate
EC Contaminated Bond
EC Crown of Suspicion
2/1 Crypt Creeper
1/1 Crypt Sliver
1/2 Disciple of Malice
EC Dragon Shadow
1/1 Drudge Skeletons
1/1 Frightcrawler
2/1 Goblin Turncoat
EC Lingering Death
1/1 Mesmeric Fiend
Src Morgue Theft
EC Mourning
Src Nausea
1/1 Nightscape Familiar
1/1 Ravenous Rats
2/1 Skinthinner
Src Skulltap
2/2 Spineless Thug
Ins Terror
1/1 Unworthy Dead
Src Vicious Hunger
Ins Afflict
Src Crippling Fatigue
Ins Dark Banishing
2/1 Death's-Head Buzzard
Src Dirge of Dread
2/2 Gravegouger
Src Last Caress
1/1 Looming Shade
2/2 Nantuko Husk
3/1 Organ Grinder
2/2 Phyrexian Rager
Ins Reaping the Graves
Src Recover
EC Scavenged Weaponry
2/2 Severed Legion
EC Shade's Form
3/1 Smokespew Invoker
3/1 Spined Basher
Ins Swat
EL Tainted Well
Ins Wail of the Nim
2/3 Faceless Butcher
2/2 Firescreamer
4/2 Giant Cockroach
2/2 Gravedigger
2/2 Infernal Caretaker
2/3 Moriok Scavenger
2/2 Phyrexian Slayer
2/2 Screeching Buzzard
3/2 Vengeful Dead
2/2 Vile Deacon
1/1 Whispering Shade

CMC=
4/2 Fallen Cleric
3/3 Hollow Dogs
3/3 Phyrexian Bloodstock
3/3 Phyrexian Reaper
3/2 Soul Scourge
3/2 Zombie Assassin
3/3 Zombie Boa

Good Black Uncommons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
Src Cabal Therapy
Ins Cremate
1/1 Dark Supplicant

CMC=
6/5 Carrion Wurm
3/3 Corpse Harvester
3/3 Grotesque Hybrid
3/3 Noxious Ghoul
3/3 Primeval Shambler
6/5 Prowling Pangolin
2/2 Sadistic Hypnotist
Src Sever Soul
4/4 Treacherous Vampire

CMC=
EL Caustic Tar
4/4 Phyrexian Gargantua
4/4 Putrid Raptor
Src Addle
Em Bereavement
1/1 Cabal Interrogator
Src Chainer's Edict
Ins Grave Consequences
2/1 Hate Weaver
1/1 Headhunter
Src Life/Death
Ins Shade's Breath
Src Sickening Dreams
1/1 Slith Bloodletter
Ins Smother
Src Stitch Together
EC Strength of Lunacy
2/2 Withered Wretch
Em Yawgmoth's Edict
3/1 Aphetto Exterminator
Src Buried Alive
2/2 Cabal Archon
3/2 Carrion Wall
Em Engineered Plague
Ins Execute
Em Megrim
Em Malevolent Awakening
2/2 Nightscape Battlemage
2/2 Plague Spitter
2/2 Sanguine Guard
Ins Slay
1/1 Slithery Stalker
2/2 Spectral Sliver
Src Suppress
3/1 Urborg Emissary
Src Victimize
1/1 Walking Desecration
1/4 Wall of Bone
2/2 Zombie Trailblazer
2/3 Abyssal Specter
3/3 Bladewing's Thrall
3/3 Bog Wraith
2/2 Cabal Executioner
Ins Death Pulse
2/2 Filth
2/2 Flayed Nim
2/2 Gloomdrifter
2/1 Grave Defiler
2/1 Nekrataal
*/* Soulless One
Src Tendrils of Agony
1/1 Undead Warchief

CMC=
5/4 Zombie Brute

CMC=
Ins Skeletal Scrying

Blue Cards

Good Blue Commons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
Ins Annul
Src Careful Study
1/1 Ceta Disciple
EC Coral Net
Ins Defy Gravity
1/1 Faerie Squadron
EC Flight
Ins Force Spike
1/1 Hapless Researcher
Ins Mental Note
Ins Opt
Ins Peek
0/2 Reef Shaman
EC Shimmering Wings
Src Sleight of Hand
Ins Spy Network
1/1 Stormscape Apprentice
Ins Unsummon

CMC=
Ins Power Sink
Ins Boomerang
1/1 Coast Watcher
2/1 Coral Eel
2/1 Coral Merfolk
Ins Counterspell
EC Crown of Ascension
EC Dragon Wings
1/1 Dream Thrush
EC Ghostly Wings
Ins Grip of Amnesia
EA Inertia Bubble
Ins Mana Leak
1/1 Metathran Zombie
Ins Remove Soul
1/1 Sage Owl
Ins Shimmering Mirage
1/1 Sneaky Homunculus
1/2 Storm Crow
1/1 Stormscape Familiar
1/2 Vodalian Merchant
1/1 Whirlpool Rider
2/2 Wormfang Newt
2/1 Cephalid Looter
1/1 Disruptive Pitmage
Ins Exclude
2/2 Hydromorph Guardian
2/2 Neurok Spy
1/1 Prodigal Sorcerer
Ins Regress
Ins Repulse
Ins Rewind
2/2 Shoreline Raider
2/1 Skywing Aven
2/1 Tower Drake
2/2 Wind Drake
3/4 Wormfang Drake
3/2 Ascending Aven
2/2 Aven Fisher
Ins Choking Tethers
4/3 Dreamwinder
3/3 Giant Octopus
2/3 Keeneye Aven
2/2 Mercurial Kite
3/4 Mirror Wall
2/2 Vodalian Serpent

CMC=
3/3 Aven Windreader
3/3 Coastal Hornclaw
3/2 Covert Operative
Src Thoughtcast
3/3 Vigilant Drake

CMC=
3/4 Shoreline Ranger
3/2 Somber Hoverguard

CMC=
6/6 Slipstream Eel

Good Blue Uncommons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
EC Curiosity
Ins Disrupt
EP Essence Leak
Em Telepathy

CMC=
Src Breakthrough
1/2 Aphetto Alchemist
Em Compulsion
Ins Fire/Ice
EC Invisibility
Src Merchant Scroll
1/1 Merfolk Looter
Src Quiet Speculation
2/1 Sky Weaver
1/1 Spiketail Hatchling
Em Standstill
EC Stupefying Touch
Ins Sway of Illusion
0/5 Wall of Deceit
1/2 Willbender
1/1 Wind Dancer
Em Arcane Laboratory
Em Ceta Sanctuary
Ins Complicate
Ins Deluge
EAC Domineer
Src Fabricate
2/2 Fleeting Aven
0/7 Glacial Wall
Ins Hibernation
1/2 Lumengrid Sentinel
1/3 Mistform Warchief
EC Pemmin's Aura
2/2 Phantom Warrior
0/3 Psychic Membrane
1/2 Puppeteer
1/1 Slith Strider
2/2 Stormscape Battlemage
Em Think Tank
Ins Thirst for Knowledge
1/5 Wall of Air
Em Web of Inertia
2/3 Aphetto Runecaster
2/3 Aven Smokeweaver
2/2 Balshan Collaborator
*/* Nameless One
1/3 Thieving Magpie
2/3 Treetop Sentinel
Src Wash Out
2/2 Wonder
3/6 Wormfang Crab

CMC=
4/4 Air Elemental
3/3 Riptide Shapeshifter
3/4 Warped Researcher
Em Wrath of Marit Lage

CMC=
3/2 Crookclaw Elder

CMC=
4/4 Primoc Escapee

Green Cards

Good Green Commons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
1/1 Ana Disciple
1/1 Basking Rootwalla
Ins Battlegrowth
1/1 Birchlore Rangers
Ins Canopy Claws
Src Chatter of the Squirrel
1/1 Defiant Elf
1/1 Diligant Farmhand
1/1 Druid Lyrist
1/1 Elvish Pioneer
Ins Fog
Src Lay of the Land
1/1 Llanowar Elves
2/2 Pouncing Jaguar
1/1 Shanodin Dryads
Src Simplify
0/1 Taunting Elf
1/1 Thornscape Apprentice
1/1 Treetop Scout
Ins Turn to Dust
EC Whip Silk
Ins Wirewood Pride

CMC=
6/5 Krosan Tusker
6/6 Wirewood Guardian
2/2 Wurmskin Forger
Ins Aggressive Urge
1/3 Canopy Spider
EC Crown of Vigor
EC Dragon Fangs
2/3 Elvish Warrior
2/2 Grizzly Bears
1/1 Harvester Druid
1/1 Ironshell Beetle
Ins Moment's Peace
Ins Naturalize
1/1 Nomadic Elf
Ins Predator's Strike
1/1 Quirion Elves
1/1 Quirion Explorer
2/1 Quirion Sentinel
Ins Rampant Growth
EC Regeneration
2/1 Rushwood Dryad
2/1 Seeker of Skybreak
2/2 Stonewood Invoker
2/1 Tel-Jilad Chosen
2/1 Thornscape Familiar
1/1 Urborg Elf
0/4 Vine Trellis
1/1 Wellwisher
1/1 Werebear
2/2 Wild Mongrel
1/2 Wirewood Elf
1/1 Wirewood Herald
2/2 Amphibious Kavu
2/2 Anurid Barkripper
Src Deconstruct
1/1 Fierce Empath
2/2 Giant Badger
Ins Harrow
2/2 Horned Troll
3/1 Krosan Avenger
2/2 Lone Wolf
2/1 Penumbra Bobcat
1/0 Phantom Bobcat
2/3 Pincer Spider
EC Seton's Desire
Src Squall
Ins Strength of Night
1/2 Timberwatch Elf
3/3 Trained Armadon
Src Tranquility
2/2 Treetop Rangers
1/2 Viridian Joiner
2/2 Wirewood Savage
1/1 Wood Elves

CMC=
5/5 Giant Warthog
6/4 Craw Wurm
3/6 Needleshot Gourna
2/2 Centaur Rootcaster
2/4 Giant Spider
Ins Elephant Ambush
3/3 Gorilla Chieftain
2/3 Krosan Archer
2/2 Krosan Constrictor
3/2 Krosan Vorine
2/2 Nantuko Disciple
3/2 Nantuko Vigilante
2/3 Tel-Jilad Exile
3/3 Snarling Undorak
1/2 Pygmy Kavu

CMC=
4/4 Barkhide Mauler
3/3 Berserk Murlodont
4/4 Fangren Hunter
3/3 Kavu Climber
3/4 Rabid Elephant
4/4 Serpentine Kavu
5/4 Spined Wurm
3/3 Stone Kavu
2/4 Tel-Jilad Archers

Good Green Uncommons

CMC=, X  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
1/1 Brown Ouphe
1/1 Elvish Lyrist
1/1 Elvish Scrapper
Src Life/Death
EC Multani's Harmony
1/1 Nimble Mongoose
EC One with Nature
Src Piper's Melody
1/1 Scavenger Folk
EL Spreading Algae
1/1 Wirewood Symbiote

CMC=
4/4 Arrogant Wurm
Ins Beast Attack
Em Centaur Glade
3/3 Elven Riders
Src Grizzly Fate
4/4 Gorilla Titan
4/4 Llanowar Behemoth
Src Overrun
3/3 Penumbra Kavu
4/4 Pride of Lions
5/5 Silverback Ape
3/5 Spitting Spider
1/1 Bloodline Shaman
1/1 Broodhatch Nantuko
Src Canopy Surge
Em Compost
Em Crosswinds
EC Druid's Call
2/1 Forcemage Advocate
2/2 Gempalm Strider
Ins Howling Gale
Em Invigorating Boon
2/1 Might Weaver
Src Revive
2/1 Seton's Scout
1/2 Skyshooter
1/1 Slith Predator
Ins Sylvan Might
Src Sylvan Scrying
Ins Tangle
0/4 Wall of Mulch
1/1 Wirewood Hivemaster

CMC=
Ins Serene Sunset
2/2 Alpha Kavu
EC Alpha Status
3/3 Anurid Scavenger
1/4 Anurid Swarmsnapper
EC Blanchwood Armor
4/1 Branchsnap Lorian
Em Choke
Src Deep Reconnaisance
EC Elephant Guide
Em Familiar Ground
2/2 Femeref Archers
1/1 Fyndhorn Elder
2/2 Krosan Warchief
1/2 Nantuko Elder
Em Overwhelming Instinct
Ins Primal Boost
EL Squirrel Nest
2/2 Thornscape Battlemage
2/2 Twigwalker
2/2 Viridian Shaman
Ins Vivify
2/2 Yaviyama Enchantress
3/3 Anaconda
3/3 Brawn
3/3 Bull Hippo
2/2 Canopy Crawler
3/3 Centaur Chieftain
Src Claws of Wirewood
Src Gaea's Balance
*/* Heedless One
EL Living Terrain
2/0 Phantom Centaur
2/0 Pulse of Llanowar
4/3 Rooting Kavu
2/2 Sylvan Messenger
2/2 Wirewood Channeler

CMC=
5/4 Brontotherium
5/4 Gang of Elk
Src One Dozen Eyes
4/4 Symbiotic Beast

CMC=
7/7 Enormous Baloth
Ins Hunting Pack
6/6 Krosan Groundshaker
Src Roar of the Wurm
5/5 Venomspout Brackus

Red Cards

Good Red Commons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
Ins Blazing Salvo
1/1 Bloodfire Dwarf
3/3 Cinder Wall
EC Crown of Flames
1/1 Dwarven Grunt
1/1 Dwarven Scorcher
Ins Electrostatic Bolt
Src Firebolt
1/1 Goblin Grappler
1/1 Goblin Sledder
1/1 Goblin Taskmaster
1/1 Orcish Spy
1/1 Raging Goblin
1/1 Raka Disciple
Src Reckless Charge
Ins Shock
1/1 Skirk Prospector
Ins Spark Spray
1/1 Thunderscape Apprentice
Src Tremor

CMC=
Src Wave of Indifference
Ins Accelerate
2/2 Barbarian Outcast
2/1 Canyon Wildcat
EC Crown of Fury
EC Dragon Breath
Ins Flame Burst
2/2 Goblin Brigand
1/2 Goblin Lookout
2/2 Goblin Raider
EC Keldon Mantle
EC Lavamancer's Skill
2/2 Mad Dog
1/1 Pygmy Pyrosaur
Src Savage Offensive
Ins Shatter
2/1 Skirk Marauder
Ins Stun
1/1 Thunderscape Familiar
Src Volcanic Hammer
EC Arcane Teachings
3/2 Balduvian Barbarians
2/2 Caldera Kavu
3/4 Ember Beast
2/2 Flamewave Invoker
1/1 Goblin Matron
2/2 Goblin Spelunkers
2/2 Hooded Kavu
Ins Incite War
3/2 Kavu Aggressor
2/2 Kavu Recluse
Src Molten Rain
3/2 Longhorn Firebeast
1/2 Ridgeline Rager
3/3 Rock Jockey
2/1 Sabretooth Tiger
Src Sizzle
2/1 Skirk Commando
2/2 Slimy Kavu
Ins Smash
1/2 Spikeshot Goblin
2/2 Tundra Kavu
3/1 Viashino Grappler
Ins Zap
2/2 Anaba Shaman
3/3 Ancient Kavu
3/1 Battering Craighorn
2/2 Chainflinger
2/1 Goblin Gardener
3/3 Hill Giant
4/1 Lightning Elemental
3/2 Mire Kavu
2/3 Pardic Firecat
2/2 Petravark
2/2 Shock Troops
2/2 Skirk Outrider
Ins Solar Blast

CMC=
4/2 Bonethorn Valesk
4/3 Charging Slateback
4/1 Crested Craighorn
Src Lava Axe
3/3 Ogre Leadefoot

CMC=
4/4 Chartooth Cougar
2/2 Goretusk Firebeast

Good Red Uncommons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
Src Assault/Battery
Ins Engulfing Flames
1/1 Spark Mage
Src Strafe
1/1 Warbreak Trumpeter

CMC=
5/4 Rustmouth Ogre
Src Searing Flesh
Src Slice and Dice

CMC=
Src Blaze
Src Detonate
1/2 Atog
Em Battle Strain
Src Breath of Darigaaz
Ins Chaotic Strike
Src Disorder
1/1 Dwarven Blastminer
Ins Fire/Ice
2/1 Firebrand Ranger
EC Fractured Loyalty
Ins Guerilla Tactics
Em Lightning Rift
Src Pyroclasm
2/1 Rage Weaver
Src Recoup
Ins Shrapnel Blast
2/1 Skirk Drill Sergeant
1/1 Slith Firewalker
1/1 Spitfire Handler
Src Volcanic Spray
2/2 Blade Sliver
Src Browbeat
Ins Carbonize
2/2 Dragonspeaker Shaman
4/2 Dwarven Patrol
2/2 Dwarven Recruiter
2/1 Gempalm Incinerator
2/2 Ghitu Fire-Eater
Em Goblin War Drums
2/2 Goblin Warchief
Src Pillage
2/5 Pitchstone Wall
Em Price of Glory
Em Raka Sanctuary
Src Searing Rays
Src Threaten
2/2 Thunderscape Battlemage
4/2 Viashino Sandstalker
0/5 Wall of Fire
0/8 Wall of Stone
Em Aether Flash
2/2 Bloodfire Kavu
Ins Boil
2/2 Dwarven Driller
2/2 Goblin Ringleader
Ins Grab the Reins
4/2 Flametongue Kavu
Src Flashfires
4/3 Ogre Taskmaster
2/2 Pardic Collaborator
*/* Reckless One
Ins Violent Eruption

CMC=
Em Aether Charge
3/3 Avarax
5/4 Fire Elemental
5/5 Hulking Cyclops
Src Shower of Coals
3/3 Snapping Thragg

White Cards

Good White Commons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=, Continued  CMC= 
1/1 Auriok Transfixer
Ins Benevolent Bodyguard
1/1 Dedicated Martyr
1/1 Deftblade Elite
Ins Demystify
Src Divine Light
1/1 Foothill Guide
1/1 Frontline Strategist
EC Guilty Conscience
1/1 Gustcloak Runner
Ins Holy Day
1/1 Honor Guard
1/1 Honorable Scout
1/1 Leonin Elder
Src Piety Charm
1/1 Plated Sliver
Ins Pollen Remedy
1/1 Sunscape Apprentice
1/1 Suntail Hawk
1/1 Tundra Wolves
0/3 Wall of Hope

CMC=
3/3 Daunting Defender
2/2 Lowland Tracker
1/1 Angelic Page
0/4 Angelic Wall
Ins Aura Blast
1/1 Aven Farseer
1/1 Battlefield Medic
1/2 Benalish Trapper
1/1 Crimson Acolyte
1/1 Crossbow Infantry
EC Crown of Awe
1/1 Daru Spiritualist
1/2 Disciple of Grace
Ins Disenchant
EC Dragon Scales
2/2 Glory Seeker
Ins Guided Strike
2/2 Knight Errant
1/3 Leonin Den-Guard
1/2 Master Decoy
1/2 Mystic Familiar
2/1 Mystic Visionary
1/1 Obsidian Acolyte
EC Pacifism
2/2 Patrol Hound
0/0 Phantom Nomad
1/3 Prison Barricade
Ins Redeem
1/1 Samite Healer
Ins Shelter
1/1 Skyshroud Falcon
0/3 Sunscape Familiar
2/1 Youthful Knight

CMC=
2/3 Angelfire Crusader
2/2 Aven Cloudchaser
2/3 Aven Liberator
2/2 Aven Redeemer
2/2 Battlewise Aven
2/2 Cloudchaser Eagle
2/2 Daru Cavalier
2/4 Mystic Zealot
2/2 Razorfoot Griffin
2/3 Skyhunter Patrol
Em Sphere of Purity
Ins Solidarity

CMC=
3/5 Gempalm Avenger
3/4 Daru Lancer
3/6 Noble Templar
EC Arrest
2/2 Auramancer
Ins Blinding Beam
Ins Cease-Fire
2/2 Diving Griffin
Ins Embolden
2/2 Gustcloak Harrier
1/1 Hallowed Healer
EC Hobble
2/1 Militant Monk
1/3 Pilgrim of Justice
1/3 Pilgrim of Virtue
Ins Prismatic Strands
Ins Renewed Faith
Ins Restrain
EC Shackles
2/2 Skyhunter Cub
2/2 Vigilant Sentry
1/3 Whipgrass Entangler
2/1 Wingbeat Warrior
2/2 Zealous Inquisitor

Good White Uncommons

CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
1/1 Daru Mender
1/1 Mystic Penitent
1/2 Nova Cleric
Ins Rain of Blades
EC Spirit Link

CMC=
3/3 Angel of Mercy
3/3 Aven Soulgazer
3/3 Dragonstalker
0/0 Phantom Flock
Em Righteous Cause
3/4 Staunch Defenders

CMC=
4/4 Ancestor's Chosen

CMC=
Ins Temper
1/1 Auriok Bladewarden
1/1 Beloved Chaplain
2/1 Catapult Squad
Em Circle of Protection: Black
Em Circle of Protection: Blue
Em Circle of Protection: Green
Em Circle of Protection: Red
Em Circle of Protection: White
1/1 Cloudreach Cavalry
Ins Gallantry
2/2 Leonin Skyhunter
Ins Liberate
2/2 Longbow Archer
Ins Roar of the Kha
Ins Samite Ministration
Em Sanctimony
2/2 Silver Knight
1/1 Soulcatcher
Em Soulcatcher's Aerie
2/2 Stoic Champion
2/2 Whipcorder
2/2 White Knight
Em Astral Slide
Src Blinding Light
Src Cleansing Meditation
2/2 Dawning Purist
Ins Inspirit
Em Lashknife Barrier
1/1 Slith Ascendant
Em Spirit Cairn
Ins Spiritualize
2/2 Stern Judge
Ins Sunfire Balm
EC Tattoo Ward
Src Tempest of Light
EC Unquestioned Authority
Ins Wing Shards
2/4 Akroma's Devoted
Src Battle Screech
1/4 Blessed Orator
Src Breath of Life
4/5 Crude Rampart
1/1 Daru Warchief
*/* Doubtless One
2/3 Enlistment Officer
3/3 Gustcloak Sentinel
Em Karma
2/3 Liege of the Axe
2/2 Serra Advocate
EC Serra's Embrace
Em Sphere of Duty
Em Sphere of Grace
Em Sphere of Law
Em Sphere of Reason
Em Sphere of Truth
2/3 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
2/3 Teroh's Vanguard
2/2 Valor
Src Vengeance
2/2 Voice of All
3/5 Wall of Swords

Other Cards

Good Other Commons

LAND and Land Sets
Artifact Lands  Tapped Color Cycling  Tapped Sack Prismatic  Tapped Sack Dual 
Ancient Den
Great Furnace
Seat of the Synod
Tree of Tales
Vault of Whispers
Barren Moor
Forgotten Cave
Lonely Sandbar
Secluded Steppe
Tranquil Thicket
Abandoned Outpost
Bog Wreckage
Ravaged Highlands
Seafloor Debris
Timberland Ruins
Ancient Spring
Geothermal Crevice
Irrigation Ditch
Sulfur Vent
Tinder Farm

COLORLESS (Artifacts)
CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC= 
Art Aether Spellbomb
AE Bonesplitter
AE Leonin Scimitar
Art Lifespark Spellbomb
Art Necrogen Spellbomb
AE Neurok Hoversail
Art Pyrite Spellbomb
Art Sunbeam Spellbomb

LL Cloudpost

2/1 Alpha Myr
1/1 Copper Myr
1/1 Gold Myr
1/1 Iron Myr
1/1 Leaden Myr
1/1 Silver Myr

CMC=
4/2 Pewter Golem
3/3 Titaniam Golem
2/2 Elf Replica
3/1 Nim Replica
1/3 Soldier Replica
Art Tooth of Chiss-Goria
1/4 Yotian Soldier

CMC=
5/3 Malachite Golem
0/0 Clockwork Condor
2/3 Cobalt Golem
3/1 Dross Scorpion
3/3 Goblin War Wagon
1/4 Hematite Golem

CMC=
4/4 Myr Enforcer

MIXED by Color Combo
         
2/2 Llanowar Dead
Ins Consume Strength
1/1 Razorfin Hunter
EC Quicksilver Dagger
2/2 Putrid Warrior
EC Soul Link
2/2 Gaea's Skyfolk
EC Squee's Embrace
         
2/2 Shivan Zombie
Ins Terminate
4/3 Lava Zombie
2/1 Cavern Harpy
2/2 Vodalian Zombie
Ins Recoil
2/2 Galina's Knight
3/3 Silver Drake
Ins Gerrard's Command
2/2 Llanowar Knight
EC Armadillo Cloak
4/4 Steel Leaf Paladin
3/4 Horned Kavu
Src Hull Breach
2/2 Yaviyama Barbarian

Good Other Uncommons

LAND and Land Sets
Triple Lairs  Tapped Double  Tainted Lands  Special Powers  Urza's and Colorless 
Crosis's Catacombs
Darigaaz's Caldera
Dromar's Cavern
Rith's Grove
Treva's Ruins
Archaeological Dig
Terminal Moraine
Coastal Tower
Elfhame Palace
Salt Marsh
Shivan Oasis
Urborg Volcano
Riftstone Portal
Krosan Verge
Tainted Field
Tainted Isle
Tainted Peak
Tainted Wood
Cabal Coffers
Daru Encampment
Goblin Burrows
Seaside Haven
Starlit Sanctum
Wirewood Lodge
Nantuko Monastery
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower
Blinkmoth Well
Stalking Stones

COLORLESS (Artifacts)
CMC=  CMC=  CMC=  CMC=+ 
AE Banshee's Blade
Art Isochron Scepter
AE Lightning Greaves
AE Mask of Memory
0/1 Millikin
1/1 Myr Retriever
Art Power Conduit
AE Sun Droplet
Art Talisman of Dominance
Art Talisman of Impulse
Art Talisman of Indulgence
Art Talisman of Progress
Art Talisman of Unity
Art Caltrops
3/3 Cathodion
Art Crystal Shard
AE Fireshrieker
AE Loxodon Warhammer
2/2 Proteus Machine
Art Serum Tank
Art Skeleton Shard
2/2 Sparring Golem

CMC=
AE Dead Iron Sledge
3/3 Dodecapod
2/2 Duskworker
Art Icy Manipulator
2/2 Needlebug
4/4 Rust Elemental
0/0 Clockwork Vorrac
Art Dragon Arch

CMC=
5/4 Phyrexian Hulk
4/4 Goblin Dirigible
3/4 Mirror Golem

MIXED by Color Combo
         
3/3 Ebony Treefolk
Src Gerrard's Verdict
2/2 Edgewalker
2/6 Jungle Barrier
         
Ins Backlash
1/1 Cinder Shade
1/2 Sarcatog
2/2 Vicious Kavu
Em Smoldering Tar
EC Sleeper's Robe
1/2 Psychatog
2/3 Urborg Drake
1/3 Riptide Crab
1/1 Samite Archer
Em Sterling Grove
Em Aura Shards
3/4 Fleetfoot Panther
Ins Rith's Charm
3/3 Charging Troll
2/2 Horned Cheetah
Ins Simoon
1/2 Lithatog
5/3 Sparkcaster
2/2 Voracious Cobra
*/* Yaviyama Kavu