The game Magic: The Gathering requires each player to have their own deck in order to play. There are thousands of unique cards which can be used for this purpose, thus a considerable number of different decks can be constructed. However, decks can usually be loosely classified based on their play style and mode of victory.
Basic Deck typesEdit
Most decks can be roughly classified by three basic deck types, used by many Magic authors and strategists. These three types can be further broken down into a number of subtypes.
- Aggro is a strategy that aims to win as quickly as possible. This is usually done by aiming for maximum damage output in the early turns and often places a heavy emphasis on using creatures as efficient damage sources. Aggro strategies are normally Tempo based; they force opposing decks to respond quickly or be overwhelmed.
- Control is a strategy that aims to slow the game down and "not lose." To do this, control decks attempt to interfere with, prevent, deny, or otherwise cancel the opponent's actions. Once a superior board position has been established, it can then deploy expensive threats that opposing decks would be unlikely to stop. Some variants are often called "Permission" because of the tendency to not allow the opposing player to do anything, thus making your opponent feel like they need your permission to play something.
- Combo is a strategy that utilizes the interaction between two or more cards to create a powerful effect. This strategy can also refer to using a singular, powerful spell to instantly win the game while the rest of the deck is designed to ensure its success. Preferably, combo decks should also have at least some way of protecting the combo against minimal disruption to obtain consistency. Many decks have smaller, combo-like interactions between its cards, which is better described as synergy. A good combo should be fast (achievable early enough in the game to matter), consistent (repeatable from game to game), and powerful (so the effect translates into victory).
Decktype and Subtype BreakdownEdit
Aggro ("aggressive") decks attack the opponent by producing maximum damage output in the shortest number of turns, usually with fast hitting creatures, often supplemented by direct damage. Aggro decks are notorious for "running out of gas", as they often use more short-sighted cards at the expense of long-game efficacy. Minor control is sometimes included in the form of resource denial via cards such as (create), Armageddon or Sinkhole which can help keep control and combo decks from gaining momentum.
- Example cards: Goblin Cadets, (create), Rancor, Incinerate
- Example decks:
- Goblins, which uses cards like (create), Goblin Ringleader and Siege-Gang Commander
- White Weenie, which uses cards like Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Savannah Lions and Soltari Priest (sample decklists: Kamigawa Block and Old Standard)
- Affinity, which uses cards like Arcbound Ravager, (create) and (create)
- Red-Green Beats (some versions are also called Zoo), which uses cards like Kird Ape, Flametongue Kavu or (create)
- Sligh, which uses cards like (create), Ball Lightning and Cursed Scroll
- Suicide Black, which uses cards like Dark Ritual, (create), (create), and (create).
Control decks seek to enforce the pace and rules of the game. They are reactionary and often extremely disruptive to the opponent, protecting their resources and prolonging the game at all costs. Control decks require a large amount of mana over many turns to build up control over the game, and eventually become unbeatable via an academic win condition (a resilient creature) or through inevitability (recursion). Most control decks exercise the concept of card advantage; that is, gaining more cards than the opponent, or making uneven card-for-card trades. Blue and White together are the classic Control colors, though Black is also more than capable.
- Example cards: Counterspell, Wrath of God, Fact or Fiction, Pernicious Deed
- Example decks:
- Mono Blue Control (Draw-Go), which uses a heavy suite of counterspells with card advantage like (create) or (create) and a finisher like Morphling or (create)
- Blue-White Control, which is similar to Mono-Blue Control, but features more board control with cards like Wrath of God and Holy Day
- Psychatog, which uses Psychatog with card advantage like Fact or Fiction and a number of disruptive spells
- Slide, which uses (create), Wrath of God, Eternal Dragon and Decree of Justice
- The Rock, which uses Genesis, Eternal Witness, Living Wish and Pernicious Deed.
- Mono-Black Control, which uses cards like Phyrexian Arena, Mutilate, Mind Sludge and Consume Spirit.
Aggro-Control (often referred to as "Tempo") is a hybrid archetype that contains both aggressive creatures and control elements. Aggro-control is well-typified by Blue-Green Madness and Threshold. These decks attempt to deploy quick threats while protecting them with light permission and disruption long enough to win. Attempts have been made to classify the more controlling versions into a completely different archetype, known as midrange. 
- Example cards:Duress, Meddling Mage, Daze
- Example decks:
Normally, control-combo is a control deck with a combo finisher that it can spring quickly if need be. A notable subtype of combo-control is "prison," which institutes control through resource denial and tap/untap effects (usually via a combo).
- Example cards: Isochron Scepter, Opposition, Winter Orb
- Example decks:
- Squirrel Opposition, which uses Opposition with token generators such as Squirrel Nest
- Stax, which uses cards such as Smokestack, Tangle Wire and Goblin Welder
- Stasis, which uses Stasis and cards such as Forsaken City or Boomerang
- Scepter-Chant, which uses Isochron Scepter and Orim's Chant
- Trix, which uses the Illusions of Grandeur/Donate combo
- Oath, which uses Oath of Druids with cards such as Akroma, Angel of Wrath/Razia, Boros Archangel and Gaea's Blessing
- Pickles, which uses Brine Elemental and [Vesuvan Shapeshifter] combo.
Aggro-Combo is a relatively rare archetype that usually stems from a typical Aggro deck that has a notable, but non-critical combo. For the sake of simplicity, Aggro-Combo decks are usually regarded simply as Aggro decks with a "trick" that can suddenly win the game. They can be dangerous due to the fact that this can give them an edge against simple Aggro decks while giving them some possibility of matching speed against Combo decks.
- Example cards: Berserk, Food Chain, Hatred
- Example decks:
- Fling Affinity, which uses Arcbound Ravager or Atog and Fling along with Disciple of the Vault
- Food Chain Goblins, which uses Food Chain and Goblin Recruiter and Goblin Ringleader
- Suicide Black, which uses small creatures such as Dauthi Slayer with Hatred
- Fires, which uses Fires of Yavimaya with Saproling Burst and Blastoderm
Some Magic decks are adaptable enough to perform all three roles. By utilizing strong "engines", playing only the best cards for sheer power level, or using a large "toolbox" of silver bullet cards, decks that can claim to be all archetypes at once are usually both adaptive and unpredictable in nature. Generally lacking the full speed of an aggro deck, the constant disruption of a control deck and the pure focus of a combo deck, the extremely rare Aggro-Control-Combo archetype attempts to make up for any shortcomings with metagame adaptability and/or sheer power.
- Example cards: Tinker, Survival of the Fittest, Cunning Wish
- Example decks:
- Gro-A-Tog, which uses Psychatog, Quirion Dryad, Mana Drain, Gush, Fastbond and Berserk
- Full English Breakfast, which originally used Survival of the Fittest, Volrath's Shapeshifter, Phyrexian Dreadnought, Flowstone Hellion and various counters
- Tinker, which used Masticore, Rishadan Port, Tangle Wire and Tinker
- ↑ Aggro, Combo, and Control by Jeff Cunningham
- ↑ Asking Permission by Randy Buehler
- ↑ We've Got the Beatdown by Mark Rosewater
- ↑ Gob-volution by Brian David-Marshall
- ↑ Deconstructing White Weenie by Brian David-Marshall
- ↑ Famous Red Decks in Magic History by Alex Shvartsman
- ↑ Chicago-Style U/W Control by Zvi Mowshowitz
- ↑ Giant-Sized Regionals Primer: Psychatog by Mike Flores
- ↑ "What's in a Midrange" by Richard Feldman
- ↑ Deconstructing Stasis by Brian David-Marshall
- ↑ Chaining Goblins by Paul Sottosanti
- ↑ Deconstructing Suicide Black by Brian David-Marshall
- ↑ Deconstructing Fires by Brian David-Marshall
- ↑ Gardening In Vintage: How To Gro-A-Tog And Clip A Lotus by Stephen Menendian and Paul Mastriano