Picks & Bans

Contributors: Writing: Octopuses & JMJWilson23; Review & Editing: Kochua & SwanDive

Welcome Aretuza Novice! You have already learned a lot about the basics of tournament play, ranging from the various formats you may encounter in tournaments to some of the finer details such as preparing a matchup table in advance of the tournament. Here, we will expand on those lessons and move forward to discussing the strategies for tournament preparation, including selecting your own lineup and deciding which of your opponent’s decks to ban accordingly.


Deck Selection

The first decision to make is the general strategy you will employ when selecting your own decks. Typically this is divided into three basic categories:

  1. “Hard targeting” or countering a specific deck of the opponent
  2. Selecting a lineup that is difficult for opponents to target themselves and
  3. Bringing a collection of the current strongest “meta” decks.

Every strategy has its own benefits and it can be hard to tell before a tournament which strategy will end up being the most successful. Here, we will detail the strengths and weaknesses of each while also addressing the preferred ban strategy for all three.


Targeting Strategy

The strategy of building your entire lineup to defeat one or possibly two particular decks is considered a “high risk/high reward” strategy. When you meet an opponent who has the deck(s) you are targeting in his or her lineup, you are almost assured to win the series. At the same time, running into opponents that did not bring the deck you have targeted can possibly result in a swift exit because targeting a single deck generally lowers the overall power level of your lineup vs the rest of the decks in the field.

In terms of the accompanying ban strategy, you should be looking to ban the deck you perceive to be the strongest in your opponent’s lineup, excluding the deck that you are targeting of course! Your hope with this ban strategy is to lower the power level of your opponent’s remaining lineup so that you may hopefully win an “extra” game against one of the decks that you are not targeting to make the series even more in your favor.


Dodging Counter Strategies

Bringing a lineup which is difficult for the opponent to target or “dodging” other players’ own targeting strategies is considered the “medium risk” option of the three. This strategy allows you to bring decks which are still quite powerful and unlikely to be shut down by the opponent’s whole lineup, yet may lack the power ceiling of the top meta decks. You are likely to defeat those opponents who are looking to target one of the powerful (perhaps “greedy”) decks and are likely to lose to those who have brought the absolute strongest decks themselves, since your lineup is slightly weaker compared to theirs.

In terms of bans, this strategy is perhaps the most straightforward one. You should simply ban the strongest deck the opponent has in his or her lineup to bring its power level down in line with your own. You need not really concern yourself with potential weaknesses of your own lineup since you should have already selected a lineup that has few glaring holes.


Bringing Top Meta Decks

This strategy is considered to be the lowest risk option, but also the one with the lowest potential reward. The idea is simple: look at the current meta and pick a collection of decks that you deem to be the most powerful. With this strategy, you should be heavily favored vs anyone in the field who brought perhaps a slightly weaker lineup and those who brought a lineup meant to be difficult to target. The true skill in this strategy comes in navigating the matchups where the opponent is clearly targeting one or more of your decks. These series are likely to take place in the early stages before the weaker target lineups that miss their target have fallen to the lower places in the standings. As a result, receiving favorable early matchups in the bracket is a big boost to your overall chances with this strategy.

The ban strategy that accompanies this is perhaps the most complex and requires the most practice. Since your decks may have weak matchups vs some “non-meta” decks, you must weigh your options and ban either:

  1. The opponent’s strongest deck or
  2. A deck you feel might be especially problematic to your lineup.

This is something that comes with practice and we recommend discussing this with experienced players before the tournament starts so that you are as prepared as possible.


Deck Order

Once the series begins, you are faced with the choice of which deck to play first. This is another consideration you should have made in advance of the tournament and it pertains to your own lineup strategy and that of the opponent.

If you brought a targeting lineup, the order you play your decks matters less since in the end the most important part is defeating the one deck you are targeting. We recommend starting with the deck you feel has the highest chance to defeat one of the other deck(s) in your opponent’s lineup so that you have the best chance possible of sneaking in the “extra” win we mentioned earlier.

In the case of the “difficult to counter” lineup, the decision is fairly simple. You should lead with your strongest deck so the opponent doesn’t have a chance to play one of their weaker decks first and get an easy victory with it. Additionally, winning the first match gives you some breathing room in case you lose an unexpected matchup later in the series.

With the meta deck strategy, the decision is again tricky because you are likely to have a mixture of favored and unfavored matchups. In the end, a lot of the decisions here come to down to luck. However, we can try to read the opponent’s lineup to gauge what deck they may lead with. For example, if the opponent has a “difficult to counter” lineup they are likely to lead on their strongest overall deck so you should lead with your deck that has the most favorable matchup against it.



Regardless of what strategy you employ, you should make sure to keep a few things in mind, namely the importance of analyzing your opponents in the tournament. In the case of most tournaments, it is impossible to know in advance which opponent you may end up facing so in this case it is probably more appropriate to look at the overall meta on ladder and choose a strategy you feel appropriate to defeat common lineups you expect from the meta. In some cases, though, you do know or have a rough idea about the opponents you may face in the tournament. If this is true, you can analyze the player specifically, from the lineups he or she may have brought to tournaments in the past to the decks they often play on ladder. With this information in hand, you should be able to make an informed choice of the best strategy to defeat them.

Which of these is not a generally recommended tournament deck picking strategy?

When playing a hard-to-counter lineup, what opposing deck should you usually ban?

When playing a targeting strategy, which of these is true?