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Magic the Gathering Theme Decks

Updated on March 7, 2011
Sure you may win your fancy-schmancy tournaments but can you get 237 mana in your mana pool? I thought not.
Sure you may win your fancy-schmancy tournaments but can you get 237 mana in your mana pool? I thought not.

Mtg Theme Deck: More than Winning

While the card game Magic the Gathering is built as a competitive game where decks are built to win, players not adhere to these principles. Rather than organize a deck with a direct strategy in mind, a more arbitrary goal/organizing principle is adhered to: the theme.

The Mtg Theme Deck Defined:

I don't wish to be too serious about just for fun theme decks but here's my general definition: In a theme deck winning and sound magic the gathering deck building principles are considered less important than adhering to another idea, the theme. The most ready is example is the difference between a goblin deck and an orc deck. In a goblin deck everything you need to win is ripe for the taking. There are goblins that pump other goblins (Goblin King) removal/direct damage (Goblin Grenade), supporting enchantments (Boggart Shenigans) and even goblin combos (Empty the Warrens). On the other hand, almost all orcs don't have more than two power. For the most part wizards gave up on orcs right after Ice Age (paradoxically after making many awesome orc cards). They don't have the support goblins do. So they're pretty much a theme deck.

Herein lies my suggestions for theme decks

1) Upsupported Tribes. These tribes include all the creature types that don't have much more than one or two support cards (any card that benefits the tribe you're playing). Wurms and Sphinxes are some examples. The both have the power to win games but have a limited card set.

2) Novel/Unrealistic Win Conditions. In the beginning of magic, their were only two ways to win: get your opponent to zero life or get them to run out of cards and the second was so difficult it could count as a theme deck back then. As time has progressed more win conditions developed. With the Scars of Mirrodin set an early win condition (giving your opponent ten poison counters) has become a workable win condition. Others remain obscure enough to still be theme decks. These tend to be goal cards: you win when you have 20 creatures in play, 40 life, 200 cards in your library, etc.

3) A general theme:

A "justice deck" might include every card with the word justice, law, court procedures, etc. The card set can be quite loose and deck more competitive when only a general theme is followed.

4) A completely arbritary restriction: all cards whose name starts with Z, all cards from the same artist, etc.

5) A deck with a goal other than winning. Get a 100 mana in my pool all at once, have 20 cards in my hand etc. Just some boundary you're trying to push, whatever that might be.

The Pure or the Practical Mtg Theme Deck

Depending on the theme you've chosen, you may have an effective deck, a decent deck, or a deck with a rat's ass chance of winning. Do you stick to your theme 100% or do you include a practical card that is the one exception? In the creation of my orc deck, I had to deal with this problem. Orcs are simply too weak to win by attacking unless you have been extremely diplomatic in a big multiplayer game. There's only two other things orcs can do to let you win games: land destruction (orcish mine, orcish squatters, orcish settlers) and direct damage (orcish artillery and orcish cannoneers). The only way to do practical damage with these latter cards is to prevent the damage they do to you. Hence the one important addition: Circle of Protection Red. With this card I could blast the bejesus out of my opponent and not have to deal with the damage afterward. This was the only concession I made. I play to win so I deemed it necessary. (For tribal decks I recommend Coat of Arms, otherwise your deck may have some penalty you wish to curb/trait to exploit))

For the curious I'm including an approximation of my Orc deck (long since taken apart) it only won a single game, thanks to the glorious Orcish Squatters. I've always loved this card and it's easy to explain: if your opponent has no blockers and no removal, then your opponent has no land.

Brass Claw Orcs 4X
Ironclaw Orcs 4X
Orcish Conscripts 4X
Orcish Artillery 4X
Orcish Spy 4X
Orcish Librarian 4X
Orcish Squatters 4X
Orcish Cannoneers 4X
Circle of Protection: Red 4X
Mountain 16X
Plains 8X

Consider sprucing up the deck with: Orcish Settlers and Orcish Mine (for land destruction), and Sek'Kuar Deathkeeper (the only legendary orc). Orcish Oriflamme is a waste of time.

Share your Favorite Themes in the Comments Section


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I made a Barbarian tribe deck. It works only if i put lots of removals for the first turns and 4 marauders for 2nd turn

    • starvagrant profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Missouri

      Horror does seem to be an interesting theme. It seems to have a great variety of cards without having much tribal support. Horror creatures also seem to have a great deal of upkeep/sacrificial requirements, it would be interesting to learn how you manuvered around them.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My favorite deck I've been running is a Horror deck; combining a lot of the different flavors of "Horror" creature types from the different sets. There are other creature types mixed in, but it is dominantly tribal. I originally built it as accommodations for one of my favorite cards:

      "Flesh Reaver"


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