Building a Deck Around a Bad Card

Building a Deck Around a Bad Card

Deck Around a Bad Cards

We’ve all seen them: cards that are so awful you immediately think, “This will never see play anywhere.” Perhaps the mana value is too high for the effect it offers, or the effect doesn’t offer any meaningful impact on the board state. These cards are generally relegated to bulk bins at local game stores and sad listings on online marketplaces for less than ten cents. However, when one of these cards takes your attention and you give it the time no one else will, you may find a fun gameplay experience you’d otherwise have missed. And who knows, you might actually win a game or two with the darn thing.

Recently, I built a deck around one such card and found it to be surprisingly effective. The card in question was Evolving Door. If you’re not familiar with Evolving Door, you’re better off, but for the sake of this article I’ll explain it. It’s a 3-drop artifact that lets you sacrifice a creature and then search your library for a creature with one color more than the sacrificed creature and exile it. You may then cast the creature from exile. Note, you need to cast the creature immediately or it is lost to exile for the remainder of the game.

The reason I’m willing to say this card is bad is because there is a significant deckbuilding restriction and it doesn’t save you any mana on the creatures you’re theoretically trying to “cheat out.” The fact that you have to spend three mana to play the artifact – that is vulnerable to being removed – and then you have to sacrifice a creature to essentially draw a card is just too much setup cost for not enough payoff.

However, in trying to build the deck, I had to find the positive aspects of the card and lean into those. For starters, you can sacrifice a 1-drop and go fetch up whatever creature fits on your curve as long as the color requirement is met. Also, you can sacrifice a colorless creature like a Circuit Mender or Iron Apprentice to fetch up any single-color creature you have the mana for. Additionally, because the door searches your library for a creature, we can fill our deck with single copies of creatures with sideboard-style effects and fetch them up as needed even in a best-of-one or game-one environment.

With these in mind, I picked a three-color combination that had great creatures of one-, two-, and three-color identities: Jund. The deck was primarily inspired by the combination of Reckless Stormseeker and Halana and Alena, Partners. When this one-color creature joins forces with this two-color creature, you get an engine that can distribute 3 counters each turn and basically give any creature that enters the fray haste. Add in top-end threats like the 3-color Ziatora or Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder, and you have a recipe for a good aggro deck that can take advantage of the Evolving Door.

In the end, three Evolving Doors proved to be the right number. We want to draw one in most games, but we definitely do not want to have an additional copy stranded in our hand. The deck proved very effective in my first outing with it going 6-1 in best-of-one. You can see the list here:

But what does this story have to do with you? Well, you probably have a card in your collection that appears to be just not good enough for the above reasons, but you keep coming back to it. This is understandable, and I would encourage you to go through the same thought process that I did with Evolving Door. Consider the merits of the card in question, even if the effect is over costed, there’s probably something unique about it that can be exploited to good effect. Also, don’t be afraid to run great cards alongside it. Just because you’re building a deck around a janky card doesn’t mean the other cards in the deck need to be of the same mold. The truth is, for example, black decks running The Meathook Massacre win more games than black decks not running The Meathook Massacre. Just run the meathook; it’s okay. When janky deck construction meets quality cardboard, you can create a unique gameplan that your opponents will not see coming while also having the finishing power to win a game.

In the case of the Evolving Door deck, a number of creative lines open up because of how diverse the main deck is. For example, in the below Twitch clip, I was able to use a Soul Transfer to raise an Orcus from the graveyard which reanimated a Ziatora with haste for lethal. This type of line required three cards, two of which were one-ofs in the deck.

Creativity lies in both the deck construction as well as the piloting of the deck itself. Give yourself permission to experiment in both areas and you can be surprised with what you find. Also, if you’d like to connect with me about your janky deckbuilding ideas, you can find me here: I look forward to hearing about the janky cards you’re looking to build around and I’d be happy to lend a hand.

Best of luck, and happy brewing.

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