Netdecking vs homebrews, and how to maximize your chances of winning a tournament


by Erik Henriksen

Netdecking or homebrewing, what is the «right» thing to do? Well, that depends on a lot of things I would say. There's always some people who rip on those who netdeck, certainly more in new formats, but also in oldschool. I would not recommend bringing your tier 1 netdeck to the local pub for casual playing, when your friend are playing their Scarwood Hag/Gaea's Liege brew, but in tournaments it's a different story. I think this should come down to what kind of player you are. There are a few different types of Magic players I believe:

1: Players with great playing skills, but having a hard time brewing a brand new deck from scratch

2: Players who come up with cool brews for almost every tournament, but can't tune the decks to be optimal.

3: Players who can take any existing deck, old or new and tune it to the max.

Obviously, every player has a bit of everything, but most tend to lean to one of these groups. A few awesome souls are very skilled in all 3, but these freaks of nature I'm not going to write about here. I'll put 70% of myself in group 3, with 25% in group 1 and 5% in 2, but I'm working hard on my brewing skills.

The goal of every player that's not playing just for fun should be to become more complete, because there are a few advantages to playing a homebrew once in a while. First and foremost, many players have a firm gameplan when going into a match. They have played against every standard archetype a number of times, and know what line to take vs these decks. They can spot which deck they're playing against within the first couple of turns, and adjust accordingly. When playing with a homebrew you take away the opponents edge of knowing the right play in every situation. This can also be done to some extent if you take an existing deck and make your own version of it, and this is what I personally love to do. Playing a well known deck with a few surprise cards to catch an opponent off guard, suits my style of playing perfectly. Playing homebrews from time to time can also be a stress reliever as these decks tend to make fun and interesting matches.

Which brings me to what I wanted to express in this article. Play whatever you want to play, and what you have the most fun with. We oldschoolers are lucky enough to mostly play tournaments with little but honor on the line, so you shouldn't feel the need to do well every tournament. If you feel comfortable playing homebrews and maybe lose most of the time, but are still having fun, do so. If you 're really competitive by nature, take losses really hard or are bad at brewing from scratch, by all means netdeck. I would however recommend to try to play fun decks once in a while, at least in casual matches. Trust me it's awesome.

From a competitive point of view, and to maximize your chances of winning a tournament, you should first try to find which group you feel you belong to the most, then maybe gather a playtesting team with people having different skills than yourself. Players that belong to groups 2 and 3 are a really great match, and if you add the skillful player, you might just have the winner in your team. By all means, you can go on a solo run and still win the tournament, but the advantages of being on a team will make it more likely. It's really hard to cover all bases by yourself, and having access to other players thoughts and ideas can be the difference between getting to the knockout stages, or to scrub out in the lower half of the standings. Another advantage to having a testing team is the social aspect. Talking/discussing with other players, maybe over a beer at the pub, is one hell of a upgrade to reading deck techs on the web in your basement by yourself if you ask me. In these corona-times this might be difficult for some people, but there's always the possibility of discussing via webcam.

Hope this article can be of use to someone, and feel free to comment and ask questions.