Building with the Brainstorm Box

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

I like to keep my cards organized. I wasn’t always good at it, and everything I’ve learned about organizing I’ve learned the hard way. Having a system to organize your Magic card collection is important. Organizing Magic cards is a tricky business for players. I have written on this topic before, and if you’re ready to take the deep dive into deck building, then I highly suggest you go read my other article about sorting for brewing. Today I’m going to provide you with an alternative way to build your Commander decks. Building a deck all at once can be instantly satisfying, but you might not always have a few hours strung together to do it. Perhaps you have several ideas for building Commander decks, and you just can’t finish them all. Whatever the reason, I have the deck building solution for you—the brainstorm box. I started doing this back in January. I needed a way to build multiple decks at once, but also be able to come back to them whenever I had time to spare. The brainstorm box allows you to build several decks at once without having to finish any in a single session.

The reasoning behind doing this particular style of deck construction is really two-fold. One benefit of the brainstorm box is keeping track of your ideas in a tangible and obvious location. It helps keep ideas from getting lost in the shuffle. I try to write my deck ideas down in my brainstorming notebook, but I don’t always remember to look them back up in time to build them. I sometimes stumble across them while I’m searching for a blank page, and then I’m down the Brownie-Tribal meets Kithkin alliance rabbit hole again. Basically, you need a place to physically keep your deck ideas while you are building them. The box helps make sure your decks have a shot of actually being finished. Forgotten deck lists do exist, and they are often buried beneath piles of paperwork. As nice as it is to unearth your Draganimation (Dragon Reanimation) decklist from 2003, it’s just a bummer to realize you never actually built it in the first place. The brainstorm box fixes this issue. You begin building even when you haven’t finished planning. It functions like a brainstorm session; you put your cards (read ideas) in a deck as you go. Your decks don’t have to be finished and you don’t have to abandon your paper plans. Use them together, but also allow yourself to begin building prior to finishing your planning. The deck begins to come together in an organic and natural fashion. 

The other main function that the brainstorm box fixes for building Commander decks is the time crunch. Responsibilities intrude on our Magic time more often than not. Unfortunately, some of us may end up abandoning deck building altogether, as we never have more than an hour or two free. Whenever we have more free time, then we’d prefer to actually be playing Magic, rather than building the deck to play the game. I get it. Not everyone has the time to build a deck from start to finish, and so we plan and plan and then forget. We pine for more time, and we may or may not get it. Having your deck physically waiting for you to finish it is highly motivating. Having a few cards and maybe all the lands it needs set aside in your brainstorm box really helps to visualize your goals. The idea behind this is simple, if you start building it, the deck will come. It’s a veritable field of dreamhalls waiting to happen. Being able to drop a few minutes here and there always helps to build your deck ever closer to its first form. I’ve built over eight decks so far this year using this very method. I currently have about twelve more in various stages of completion. I’m inching, in some cases quite literally, closer to completing my new decks each day. When you have small amounts of time that you can utilize well, then you are able to maximize your results. We all want to maximize our free time.

The reason for needing a brainstorm box is really something that can be blamed on Commander Legends. That set is amazing, but it also has given us so many new tools, new Commanders, and new tricks to play, that an explosion of deck building is still occurring over one set. That set has really helped explode the variety of Commanders that people have easy access to. Sure, you could play Ur-Drago or Tolsimir Wolf Blood, or even Gosta Dirk, but you probably prefer to play the newer “designed for Commander” legends instead. So, it’s no wonder that we all have so many more decks we want to build. Having such an explosion of unique and mechanically inspiring legends is wonderful. Thus, I started using the brainstorm box.

The brainstorm box is a physical plan for drafting your Commander decks. The plan for organizing Commander decks is simple. You start with a card or two that will represent your idea. If you are inspired by your Commander, then sleeve it up and toss it in the box. You can use a bundle case, a fat pack box, or any other card box that is large enough to house several Magic decks at once. Once you have a box dedicated toward Commander deck brainstorming, then you go ahead and start breaking it up into sections. I suggest using either dividers, sleeved cards, or paper slips with notes scrawled on them. I honestly prefer using my scraps of paper, because they are easily read, and feel a bit primitive. I like to consider myself an educated brute. So, when I open the lid of my brainstorm box I am greeted with scrawled names that denote which sections are dedicated to my budding dreams of Commander glory.

Once you have labels and dividers set, now you can start tossing together the cards for each deck idea. You can have as many or as few cards as you want to start the deck building process. I have deck ideas with as few as five measly cards and others that need only five cards to finish them. The way the box helps you move toward completion is highly satisfying. Seeing your decks get built feels good. A little tip for seeing added progress is to fill in the basic lands your deck needs so that it starts looking like a stack of cards early on. Seeing a wider stack makes you more inclined to keep it going and finish it up as soon as possible. Nothing quite like tricking you into doing work, which is fun, to avoid thinking of fun as work. Yeah…that was a bit much, sorry. Whenever I get cards in from a mail order, or a pick up from my LGS, then I come home and drop them into their appointed slots. I don’t even need minutes to do this sort of organizing. This takes moments. I may not have the time to even sleeve the cards into a rare binder, but I do have the time to drop them into the appropriate brainstorming slot in my Commander deck-building box.

Using the brainstorming box is fun. I highly suggest you try it out and maybe do so by snagging those uncommon legends you have from Commander Legends and start brewing those decks today. All it takes is a few scraps of paper and a spare box. This is a great way to maximize your time and efforts when you are deck building with limited free time. I know that several weeks or even a month can pass by, and I’m unable to carve out a multi-hour session for deck brewing. However, the brainstorming box allows me to chip in a few minutes whenever I have them. I am able to build multiple decks simultaneously. I can even clean up an entire brewing session early if I have to run off somewhere. I simply scoop up the deck, toss it in the box with its brutish label attached, and I can pick it up later right where I left off. A few additional pointers I’d like to suggest include keeping sleeves or basic lands in half the box to help fill it out when you are just starting off. As your number of decks increase in number and size then you may not need the filler space, and you can adjust accordingly. Also, as you finish builds it’s nice to have a checklist taped to the underside of the box to help you keep track of all your deck building accomplishments. I hope you find this useful and I know that the brainstorming box keeps me motivated and excited about deck building even when I’m crunched for time. Keep on magictating my friends, and I’ll see you at the Commander table again soon enough. 

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