by Terence Jason Dorman
Trimming the Fat
As some of you may know, I used to be a much heftier man that I am now. At the start of the new year I decided to begin losing weight and have been successful thus far.
While it has been a long and often difficult road (Taco Bell is so hard to say “no” to), a recent discussion about my weight loss strategies reminded me that many of them translate to card gaming.
Whether they be Constructed or Limited decks, many early versions of decks have tons of fat that needs to be trimmed. Heck, even some finished decks have fat that can be cut and replaced with lean and strong muscle. The trick, though, is being able to figure out what cards qualify as “fat” cards and removing them in time, be it the days before a Constructed event or the half hour of deck construction during a Limited event.
“This Would Be Great If....”
This kind of fat card usually comes up when you're looking through your Draft or Sealed pool as you're always looking for the ways you can use each card you have access to. If you find yourself saying “this card would be great if,” though, then it is probably a card that you can cut. Cards like these are ones that you are putting in your deck hoping that a very particular situation will come up in which the card in question will be an absolute bomb. While it would certainly be amazing for this situation to arise during a tournament, more often than not the “great” card will just be a dead one in your deck and hand.
An example of an “this would be great if” fat card would be my recent experience at Gen Con. During one of the Limited events I chose to put a Subsection 5 Paragraph 12 in my deck hoping that it would be a game changer. The card, however, ended up being a resource in every game that I played and never came up.
Win More Cards
The concept of a “win more” card is one that I came up with years ago (at least at my local store, I'm sure somebody else thought of it before me) and has plagued me ever since. Despite the fact that I coined the term at Grasshopper's, I constantly put “win more” cards in my decks and can't seem to shake the habit.
A “win more” card is one that takes your particular deck strategy to another level, a level that is usually not necessary. They are the cards that amp up what you are already doing successfully, piling on when it isn't needed. “Win more” cards can easily look necessary as they make you win quicker or make it harder for your opponent to fight back, but they don't provide you anything should you be losing or your opponent does make a comeback. If that is your play style then please ignore this section, but I personally try to avoid “win more” cards as I'd rather have solid defense in my deck than overkill offense.
This kind of fat problem is usually found in decks created by new Spoils players who don't have much deck building experience. I also see it occur with former/current Magic: the Gathering players because, to my knowledge, decks for that game require more resources than The Spoils does.
Resources become fat when they are added because either A) the reasons mentioned above, B) you're running too many high threshold cards for too many trades, or C) you couldn't think of anything better to put in. Problem A can be solved simply through time and experience playing the game as you will realize that decks do not need a grand amount of resources to function properly. B is more a deck building issue that may be unavoidable if you are really committed to those high threshold cards (although, maybe they are fat too). C just requires a little more effort as there should always be cards you can think of to add to your deck instead of resources, they should never be filler.
Sometimes you'll build a deck with a certain theme in mind but there just doesn't seem to be enough cards to go along with that theme. Maybe the theme isn't supported enough yet, maybe some of the theme cards are just bad, whatever the reason is, there isn't enough to fill out a deck. As a result, you may throw in some cards that work really well together but aren't a part of your theme. These are what I call clash cards.
While the cards may certainly be good in their own right (and work well together), you may find the deck difficult to play if they do not mesh well with the theme you were striving for. You'll probably end up feeling like you are playing two decks at once but neither deck is running with a full tank of gas. If that's the case, cut the fatty clash cards and try to incorporate cards that mesh better, even if it is just more support or utility (item destruction, location hate, etc.).
Just Plain Garbage
I say this without trying to offend the designers at all because I know how hard it is to be one, but some cards are just flat out bad. They're the kinds of cards you look at and just cannot fathom what they creators were thinking when they came up with the card. Perfect examples of “just plain garbage” are Mau Consultant and Costly Filcher.
I don't think I need to tell you why cards like this are fat and need to be cut. If your collection isn't too big and cards like this get forced in because you have nothing better then that's okay, but do remember to take them out once you acquire more cards. They just need to be taken out of decks as soon as possible and, if possible, thrown right in the garbage.
Don't Look Back
Always remember to cut the fat and never look back. Just like your body, fat slows your decks down and causes them to under-perform. Your decks will never be as big and strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger if they contain too much fat, nor will they take down the competitions (tournaments) like he did. In essence, think of deck building like body building: work out each muscle equally and make sure to have as little fat as possible.