Net-decking: Why it Happens, Why you Shouldn’t Care

The practice of net-decking is a subject of mild controversy, but it really doesn’t need to be. Part of the beauty of CCGs is that you can bring any pile of cards (within deckbuilding guidelines) to a game and call it a deck. And sometimes, that pile looks an awful lot like someone else’s.

What would push a reasonable player into doing something as egregious as copying someone else’s decklist?

Maybe the player is uncreative? Sucks at the game? Just plain stupid?

Or maybe it’s the most rational, simplest reason: They want to win.

Pictured: Winning
Pictured: Winning

People rarely copy losing decklists on purpose, after all–and those that do aren’t the source of anyone’s complaints. When you move beyond the kitchen table and enter competitive play, you’re presumably playing to win. And you’re presumably going to use the best deck you can, which could very well be a list someone else came up with.

Disrespecting a player’s ability to net-deck is disrespecting the spirit of competition.

Yeah, you read that right. If you’re in competition, as in events that have significant and tangible prizes or qualify you for even bigger events, you’re just wasting your time and money if you’re not bringing the best tools. Sometimes, but rarely, the best deck is the one you came up with all on your own.

We can’t all come up with the next “Charlotte’s Tower,” so there’s no shame in running a version of it. We’re not all Brian Kibler or Luis Scott-Vargas (but if you are, hi!).

Why handicap yourself by bringing anything less than the best? Think Fluttershy, Guidance Counselor and Rarity, Truly Outrageous are OP? Use them! DJ-Pon-3’s version of One Pace better than the original? It’s legal, so run it! Think the meta has shifted and it’s time for Merfolk to return to Legacy? Wrong game!

“Just for fun.”

Fluttershy, Guidance Counselor
The opposite of fun.

I get it–People sometimes play this game of magical talking colorful equines for fun or whatever. The game is fun, and brewing casual decks with wacky card interactions is wrapped into that.

Problem is, too many players lean on this excuse as a reason to never improve their play or grow their personal collection. And then they complain when they lose.

It’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between the kitchen table level and the competitive level. The former is geared toward fun and learning, the latter is geared toward proving who is the best player (with prize incentives).

And unless you’re specifically testing a homebrew for competition and want to run it against a gauntlet of winning deck archetypes, there is no reason for you to bring your Spike x Rarity Fanfic.dec to a competitive event and expect to win. Pick-up games with nothing on the line? Have at it. It’ll probably be more entertaining than an actual tournament.

If you never plan on taking the game beyond the kitchen table level (or the casual, weekly store event level), then why worry about net-decking and the people who do it? Chances are, they don’t give a damn about you.


Airquotes Airquotes is a snarky, sarcastic source of useful opinions that are never wrong. His author is some sort of published journalist or whatever.

3 thoughts on “Net-decking: Why it Happens, Why you Shouldn’t Care”

  1. Netdecking begats netdecking. Competition will arise, and you will end up with two groups, Competitors and Casuals, and the rift’ll be so huge between them, the game they’ll be playing will have the same cards, but’ll have nothing in common.

    Stop posting winning decklists for people to copy. Let the winners win through effort, not copy and paste.

    1. Hello, and thanks for reading! We both seem to agree that there’s a distinction between Competitors and Casuals. We also agree that the rift between them will lead to a game with “same cards, but nothing in common.” I disagree that this is inherently bad.

      The article is pretty clear: If you’re playing in a tournament with prizes on the line, you sure as hell should be expecting something different from derping around at the kitchen table with your friends.

      That said, if you’re all about the derping, then have fun doing it! Build something with Rarity, Big Sister and somehow make it work with Sweetie Belle! But if you or another player in your kitchen table group brings a competitive deck and crushes that deck, that is neither the game’s fault nor the fault of “Competitors”: That group member is simply violating the social contract of your kitchen table.

      No such contract exists in competition. You should not expect such a restriction. When prizes are on the line, you’re expected to play to win within the rules of the tournament.

      As for your second point: I sincerely hope you’re not putting forth the argument that winning with a decklist you didn’t come up with entirely on your own requires no effort. Don’t marginalize the amount of effort it takes to learn how to pilot a refined list. I guarantee you that if I handed you Charlotte’s Tower or One Pace, you will not win against a practiced player in a competitive event.

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