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Building an Eight Point List: Part 2

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Hi all! This is the second part of a series, check out part 1 here!

Applied Theory: How do you choose your eight points when building a deck?

So we know why we’re playing eight points, but which points are we playing? There is no point in imposing a restriction on deck by not playing Reserved List cards, if the advantage we should be gaining isn’t maximised. Spending eight points on a Mana Crypt and a Sol Ring won’t do us any good if all of our cards cost R to cast and our most expensive card is two mana.

In the previous article, I presented four methods of improving our point expenditure; pushing individual point value and increasing our point density, frequency and potency. It is crucial to consider these concepts when viewing both the Points List and the rest of the available options in the format. Personally, I have mentally created “packages” of cards that either create or support archetypes and are at the centre of my deckbuilding strategy. These typically contain several cards that include or work alongside specific pointed cards to establish the foundation of a deck. From here, additional synergies can be pushed, and individually powerful cards can be slotted into the curve as needed.

A Practical Example: Stoneforge Saga

We’ve decided to play Urza’s Saga due to it’s individual power level and being a very strong usage of just one point.
We now need to add some (1) cost artifacts, so why not Shadowspear? It gives lifelink and trample to a token, allowing us to recoup some of the tempo we lost spending six mana for some creatures.
We can now add Stoneforge Mystic as it has a solid equipment to get, and playing creatures alongside equipment has been a proven formula for years.

Pre-War Formalwear is the next inclusion, as we are committing to playing creatures for our equipment, and Pre-War Formalwear works very well with a critical mass of creatures.
This leads us to Flickerwisp, a decently strong card made more powerful by creating synergy. Flickerwisp can flicker our Stoneforge for another equipment, Pre-War Formalwear can reanimate our Flickerwisp, which can flicker the Pre-War Formalwear to reanimate something else with more value.
Oh look, we’ve got a critical mass of white cards and we’re playing creatures and flicker effects, Solitude is now way stronger than it normally would be.

We’ve spent one of our eight points and created a strong core to a Wx midrange deck, with multiple emergent synergies and incredible individual power per card. From here, we have seven points to play with, which can include cards like Karakas, White Plume Adventurer and even Sol Ring! All we have to do is examine the points list, determine the deck direction and colours and the deck will build itself.

A Second Example: Green Midrange

We’ve decided to play Deathrite Shaman because it’s powerful, supports multiple play patterns and will rarely be a wasted point.
We want to have multiple copies of Deathrite Shaman, and better ways to spend our increased mana, so we add Green Sun’s Zenith. This will give us flow on effects like allowing us to play toolbox creatures, and having fewer dead draws after inevitably filling our deck with mana dorks.
We are playing green, but Deathrite Shaman incentivizes us to play at least one black source. Grist, the Hunger Tide is one of the best Golgari cards in the format, and conveniently curves out of Deathrite Shaman perfectly as a three drop. Additionally, Green Sun’s Zenith can now tutor for a planeswalker!

We’re looking to spend lots of mana, and will need to play a few mana dorks to support this. Delighted Halfling is very sturdy at 1/2, curves into three drops and makes Grist, the Hunger Tide and any other legendary spells uncounterable.
In comes Questing Beast. It’s uncounterable off Delighted Halfling, tutorable and hasty off Green Sun’s Zenith to threaten planeswalkers and your opponent’s life total, and puts pressure on that can be supported by Deathrite Shaman’s damage ability.
Fiend Artisan is part of the support cast. It is an additional way to tutor for hatebears, it can turn our Insect tokens and mana dorks into real cards and can threaten to attack for serious damage the longer the game goes.

From here, we have a Gbx core, multiple ways to tutor for specific cards while maintaining individual power per card and can develop the decklist in any number of directions, all for the low price of one point. We can add red and spend some points on Minsc and Boo, Timeless Heroes or Wrenn and Six, we can add blue for Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns, or go much bigger and play Natural Order and a massive threat like Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Hannah’s decklist collection! They are an incredible deck designer and you would struggle not to find some guidance if you’re planning on building something with Green Sun’s Zenith and some green creatures.

One Final Example: Blue Lutri

I’m including this example as a case study, as these cards compose a core used in one of the most popular decks in the format, Busstop Grixis. What is notable is that while these cards are synonymous with a deck that has firmly established itself in Highlander, they are perfectly capable of acting as the foundation for a variety of unexplored decks and archetypes. These cards, and those that exist around them, can easily slot into an eight point shell with multiple colour combinations available. Let’s discuss this core.

We want to play Lutri, the Spellchaser so we have access to two of our eight points each game. This will cost us a sideboard slot and ask us to play a critical mass of instants and sorceries, but should balance out in our favour overall.
Gush is one of the most powerful cards at one point. Gush when copied is backbreaking. Spending lots of mana and slowing your land development to draw cards isn’t as painful when it’s a LOT of cards.
Mystic Sanctuary is a fetchable land that can generate minor value on its own, by granting a guaranteed spell drawn on a particular turn. However, the strength of Mystic Sanctuary is its snowballing impact when played multiple times per game. Bouncing it with Gush is a very powerful combination that you will likely have played against at some point already.
Daze is free counter magic to gain tempo, that has the small upside of resetting a Mystic Sanctuary if played late enough. Critically, your deck should have a certain amount of cheap and/or free interaction if you plan on undoing land drops.
Counterspell is your bread and butter, and will be a staple of most decks that want this effect and can support it. Nothing flashy but definitely one of the best in the business.
Speaking of counter magic, enter the biggest bad of them all; Mental Misstep. It’s free, it’s good and will help you get the extra time you need to take advantage of the card generation over a longer game.

While this particular core contains three points, we still have five left available to us. We can add any number of colours (we’re mono blue so far!). We can spread our points thin with Murktide Regent, Mana Drain and Force of Will to play aggressively. We can dump our points into a heavy hitter like Thassa’s Oracle and build a combo deck. We can split the difference with some two point cards like Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time.

In summary, this approach to the Points List and ensuring the maximum value from each of your seven or eight points when building your deck. By creating your own foundational cores using this method and combining a few or a lot of them, you can make your decks more cohesive, powerful and most importantly, fun!
I personally do this with every deck I create, and try my hardest to guarantee a functional and exciting experience. Click here to see plenty of examples of decks made with this philosophy!

Tune in next time for eight point specific deckbuilding tips and tricks and plenty of example decklists!


Melbourne based MtG grinder and content creator. Ex L2 Judge, ex Twitch streamer, multiple PT attendee and team member on team Australia for the World Magic Cup.