Hello, my name is Micah, and I want to talk to you about a problem that is not bound by the limits of a specific card game. Instead, it’s an insidious disease that eventually seeps into every TCG and CCG alike. Netdecking. Ugh. I don’t even like to say the word, it’s so vile. Who could do such a thing? Just go onto the internet and download a deck? If you wouldn’t download a car why would you download a deck? And for that matter, why do people even use recipes to cook? Wait a minute…
At least, that is how I used to think. It’s what I learned from reading /r/magictcg and /r/hearthstone after all. It would be easy to blame the users of those subreddits, but the truth and the real problem with “netdecking” is the mindset of those of us who use the term.
The uncomfortable reality is that it says more about us than it does the netdeckers.
You’re one of “THOSE GUYS” huh? Netdeckers. *sigh*
I still vividly remember (and cringe about) the first and last time I called someone a netdecker. It was my second trip to my Local Game Store. The first had been a draft in which I got destroyed, but the sly LGS owner had passed me a mythic which was cool. I also got some great advice about not playing 4 colors in a draft (to be fair, it was triple Khans of Tarkir, so 4 color wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, I just needed more fixing and a much deeper understanding of how to draft) from a guy named Phil. Phil was awesome, helpful, genuinely kind and excited to talk to a newbie like me.
So I sit down with my terrible Abzan Outlast deck for my first standard Magic event. I proceed to get ricketyREKT by an Ensoul Artifact deck that killed me on turn three in the first game. The next round I faced a true control deck for the first time. I’d experienced them a bit in Hearthstone, but nothing like this. Counter, Kill or Exile all your cards, steal them with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and use your own cards against you. It was an enlightening experience, to say the least.
I sit down for my last round and I’m relieved to be facing Phil, who was so helpful the week before. As you can imagine, I got destroyed again. The games played out with Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix setting up the Xenagos, God of Revels and Stormbreath Dragons.
You’re one of “THOSE GUYS” huh? Netdeckers. *sigh*
Phil was offended because of course, he hated netdeckers too. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he considered his deck to be a brew.
Using netdecking in a negative context tells everyone in ear-shot that you’re frustrated. And to be honest, there is a lot to be frustrated about in TCG/CCG’s. I was frustrated because it felt like I was playing a different game. My deck was built from a starter deck and the contents of a fat pack. I priced out Phil’s deck when I got home and realized it was almost $400 of just singles.
Many times though, the frustration comes from outside of the games we play. I started playing Magic, in part, as a much-needed break from my real life. At the time I was a stay-at-home Dad. As it turns out staying home with 3 children under the age of 3 is incredibly difficult (Duh, said every stay-at-home Mom ever). So I was going to the LGS to escape the frustrations that come with cleaning up after, caring for, and nurturing the three embodiments of Entropy that lived in my home.
If you find yourself feeling deeply frustrated about your hobbies, take some time and examine those feelings. Did you have different expectations than others when you started? Were your expectations reasonable, or do you need to re-evaluate them? Are you playing for different reasons than others? Is it time for a break?
Inflated Ego and Insecurity
Let’s assume that the internet has gone dark. There is no MTGGoldfish, no EternalWarcry. Everyone builds their own decks. Are you now a top-level player? The reality is that no, you probably aren’t. And you aren’t likely to ever be.
Hiding behind excuses like “netdecking is the problem” allows you to put off confronting that uncomfortable reality. Instead, it allows you to live in a fantasy world where the only thing holding you back is everyone else.
I fancied myself a competitive Magic player. I would go to SCG Opens and PPTQs in my area but I would always bring a brew or my own variation on a tier deck. Why did I do it? One because I legitimately believed I had an angle that somehow EVERYONE else missed. Two, if I failed I got to say, well I wasn’t playing a tier deck. If only I had sleeved up the same 75 as Brad Nelson or LSV, I would suddenly be on their level. It’s an absurdity and everyone around you knows it. The only person you’re convincing is yourself.
Last February, I traveled to my first Grand Prix (Pittsburgh). As it turned out, I hadn’t been playing much standard so my friend Matt offered to let me take his Mardu Vehicles deck out for a spin. This was it! My time to shine! A 100% full stop Tier 1 monster was mine to pilot. I had played zero games with the deck. I hadn’t played standard in months. I had this in the bag.
And for a moment it felt like I really did. I started the day at 5-1. I was going to Day 2 my first Grand Prix. It was all true, all the little deceits I had told myself were actually true! And then I lost every single win-and-in I had. Three losses in a row. There were no bad beats to be seen. Just my own misplays. And that’s the rub. It takes WORK to be really good. Perhaps if I had put in more time I would have seen different lines and made more optimal plays. But I didn’t and I didn’t.
Knowing Yourself is Half the Battle
The other half is getting over yourself. There is good news though and I am happy to report from the other side. Once you embrace netdecking as a positive aspect of card gaming, you can start to benefit from it. One of the first and most beneficial things I learned as I started to look at winning decks was how to create an appropriate mana-base/power-base. There are a ton of these aha! moments available to you if you’ll accept them.
Another was that there is an incredibly helpful and passionate community of players(formerly known as netdeckers). If you aspire to greatness, you’ll never do it alone. The hallmark of most magic pros(and really any profession) is the quality of the people they surround themselves with. If you don’t currently have a group try to find one (that is much better than you if possible).
Brewtania and Netdeckerland have never been at war.
Netdecking enables brewing and vice versa. Attacking a meta by brewing a rogue deck is only possible because almost everyone else is playing one of the best decks. Those best decks create bounds or constraints on a format. Those constraints? They become your medium. True artists are not bound by their medium, they transcend them. The same is true with brewing.
So what’s the point of all this? If you love brewing there is nothing stopping you. If you love to win, grab a netdeck. Brewing is such a complex and beautiful activity. Don’t cheapen it with your own frustrations and insecurities. Who knows one day our Brew and Savior, SaffronOlive might take notice.
The deck Saffron is talking about.
That’s all for today you filthy netdeckers. Go forth and brew and when you’ve done that go download a Tavrod deck.