Patrick Hoban: The Forty Card Maximum

hobanEver since YCS San Diego when Long Dao topped with 48 cards in his Mermail deck, we’ve been beginning to see Mermails all over the place run more than the 40 card minimum. This past weekend in France, Long Dao won after adding 5 more cards to his deck bringing it up to a grand total of 53 cards. This week I’m going to talk about why I don’t think that’s a good idea and why I don’t think you should follow the trend.

The idea behind this tower of power is that every card searches another giving you rapid access to any resource in your deck, even if you don’t draw them. At the same time it mitigates drawing bad cards like [ccProd]Genex Undine[/ccProd].

DarkHoleSYE-NA-C-1EThe Best Card and the Worst Card

There are several problems with this strategy. In every scenario in every game played there is a definite best card to draw in your deck. If your opponent has a field full of Mermails it’s [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] and if they have a couple of sets it is likely [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]. Whatever the actual card in your deck is that you would rather draw over any other card in your deck doesn’t matter, it just matters that there is a card in your deck that you’d rather draw over any of them.

Every time you add a card to make your deck over 40 cards you are decreasing the chance of drawing the best card in your deck in a specific scenario by the same amount that you are increasing your chance of drawing the worst card in your deck in that specific scenario.

This is why I will no longer run more than 40 cards in my deck.  The 41st card is always going to be the worst card in your deck. A lot of people claim that they don’t know what to cut from their deck to drop it to 40. I see that as a poor excuse for a lack of playtesting. Just because you don’t know what the worst card in your deck is because you haven’t tested enough to realize, does not mean that there is not a worst card.

maxx cMitigated Side Deck Cards

Let’s say Mermails had attempted this strategy last format. You side deck in 3 [ccProd]Maxx “C” [/ccProd] in an attempt to stop a potential Magician Shark play when they are going first. In a 40 card deck, you would have a 33.8% chance of opening [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd] in your first 5 cards. In a 53 card deck, you have a 26.2% chance of opening at least 1 [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd] in your first 5 cards.

That’s a very significant decrease in the number of times you’ll open a [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd]. This applies for any card you would side in to counter another deck. If you side in [ccProd]Snowman Eater[/ccProd] against Rabbit, you’re going to experience the same decreased chances of opening with a [ccProd]Snowman Eater[/ccProd].

Countering Their Side Deck

One of the big ideas behind why a 53 card Mermail deck was viable was that each piece searches others in a toolbox manor. The idea is that you can get to the cards you need even if you don’t draw them. If they have Ophion, search out Undine. If they have a set card, search out Marksman. This is a legitimate point when we look at game 1s only.

If we start taking game 2 and 3s into account, this point loses a lot of the merit it had. Exactly how are you going to search out your deck for Undine to kill Ophion when they have [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] on the field? The deck does not have the same toolbox aspect when cards like [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] are on the field.

dimensional fissure[ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] are not only problem cards for the 53 card Mermail deck, they are also problem cards for the 40 card Mermail deck as well, but it’s not as big of a problem. Let’s say that your opponent is going first and started the game by playing a [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd]. In your 53 card Mermail deck, you’ve got 2 [ccProd]Dust Torando[/ccProd], 3 [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd], and 1 [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] as an out to the [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd]. You’ve got a 53.2% chance of opening with at least 1 of those outs to it. If you were playing a 40 card Mermail deck, you’d have a 65.0% chance of opening with at least 1 of the six outs to Fissure. Considering that you play more games with your side deck than without, this drop in consistency cannot be ignored. You’re going to not open outs to problem cards like [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] a significantly higher percentage of the time than you would have not had you been running 40 cards instead. This negates the idea of toolboxing for whatever you need because [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] is not a searchable card.

I’d like to bring this full circle and expand on the last situation. They open [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] and you don’t draw [ccProd]Dust Tornado[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] in your opening 6 cards. By running 53 cards, you now have decreased your chance of your 7th card being one of the aforementioned outs by the same amount you increased your chance of the 7th card being the worst card in your deck in that scenario. This continues for your 8th card, 9th card, and so on.

While I do congratulate Long Dao on both his top in San Diego and his win in France, the theory behind this deck is just not there. Decreasing your chance of drawing the best card by the same chance you draw your worst card, mitigating what you side against your opponent’s deck, and the drop in percentages for what you are able to side against what they side against you are too great for this deck to consistently do well. He may have won the YCS with 53 cards, but there are about 120 other YCSes that attest to 40 cards being better. Instead of looking at 40 cards as the minimum, look at it as a 40 card maximum. Until next time everybody, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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