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About EL

Welcome to Ertai’s Lament!

The universe of Magic: the Gathering is a vast and varied one, and while the ever-evolving nature of Standard yields endless material for commentary, so many creative worlds suffer from a two-year shelf life.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Standard. But each time we’ve returned to the game we’ve had just as much delight in exploring the sets we’ve missed, and we’ve found the most enjoyable way to do that is through the preconstructed decks.

The preconstructed decks, between 3-5 per set, we liken to a fly trapped in amber… a snapshot frozen in time to what Wizards wanted to showcase from a particular set. Some click and are a joy to play. Others are terrible, either through a lackluster mechanic or poor construction.

This weblog will review and score them all. A look back through time, and an exploration of the present.

How we Work

Every precon deck review we write is divided into two columns. First we break the deck apart and analyse its card selection, looking to see what its trying to do and how well it looks to accomplish it. Then the second half of the review consists of us taking the deck to the table against another deck from the set, and giving it a playtest before issuing a final score.

We are committed to offering new content every 48 hours, and review decks in blocks. We also have a number of other occasional features:

Ertai’s Meddling: Our most popular occasional feature, Meddlings take a precon deck and try and rebuild it, cutting weak cards and adding better ones. Intended to respect both a player’s budget as well as card pool, we follow two rules. First, we can’t add any rares or mythics. Second, we can only add cards from sets already present in the deck.

Ertai’s Trickery: Ever found a few theme decks that seemed to be a good fit together? Ertai’s Trickery takes those decks, dumps their cards into a pile and looks to construct a single, 60-card deck from them with the best the decks had to offer.

Whispers of the Muse: We have a very active community here at Ertai’s Lament, and there is no shortage of expertise on offer. The Whispers series allows you, the reader, to submit a theme deck you’ve been trying to tinker with, and solicit ideas and suggestions from other readers. Trying to improve that theme deck, but not sure how? Let us know, and we’ll be happy to help!

Precon Championships: Another popular series, this one asks the question, “what if you took all the decks from a given block season and pitted them against each other, March Madness style? Which deck would emerge the champion?”

So have a look, and above all else enjoy yourself here. We’re always happy to get feedback and suggestions too!

In addition to Ertai’s Lament, our articles on Preconstructed Magic have also been featured on Quiet Speculation, Red Site Wins, and 60 Cards.

30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 21 2010

    Is there anyway to contact you guys directly besides twitter? I have some some business opportunites I would like to discuss, but not through the comments section.

  2. Tony
    Jan 6 2011

    Hello there. I just found this sight and I must say… I LIKE IT!
    I’ve been playing since ’94 and never really got into the precons until bout 2 years ago when I got “Kithkin Militia”, I’ve been collecting them ever since. Planeshift is my favorite of these theme sets and I was pretty excited to see that you reviewed them.
    Keep up the good work!

    • Jan 7 2011

      Thanks for the comment, and glad to meet another member of the Preconstructed Community! What was it about Kithkin Militia that got you hooked on precons?

      Don’t tell anyone, but a review of Morningtide’s precons isn’t far off… 😀

      • Tony
        Jan 7 2011

        My friends started getting into the game and I wanted a current deck to play against theirs. Lorwyn just came out so I decided to get the “Kithkin Militia” precon because

        A. They had the elemental, elf, and goblin decks

        B. I was interested in trying out this new tribe

        Well, this particular deck far exceeded my expectations and pretty much opened my eyes to this whole new world precons that I had been ignoring all these years.
        Soon after I went out and bought “Unraveling Mind” and “Sliver Evolution” and thus began my fascination with these decks.

  3. Paul
    Jan 11 2011

    Hello sir, I’ve been looking at your site, and I enjoy reading your articles about preconstructed and on the site quiet speculation, I was curious in your opinion which decks you would recommend to a player looking for a good solid preconstructed out of all the ones you have reviewed and played thus in this blog+. I know thats a big thing to ask but I am curious what you think is the best overall from all those that you have tested in your humble opinion. Keep up the good work.

  4. Tony
    Jan 12 2011

    Hi, its me again.

    I recently acquired the Scars of Mirrodin intro decks. These are my first intro decks and I didn’t realize that they don’t come with their own boxes.

    I know that you have many of these decks and I was just curious as to how you store them. Do you sleeve them and put them in those plastic boxes you can buy at the store? Do you rubber band them together? Do you put them back into the larger package that they come in? Or are you like me and make your own precon size boxes from frozen pizza boxes?

    • Jan 12 2011

      Hey Tony-

      I’m a bit of an obsessive, I’ll be the first to admit, and may not be the best role model for storage. But as you asked, here’s what I do.

      There’s a specific design of Ultra Pro sleeves that I use to sleeve all of my decks. Then I store them in a flat black Ultra Pro deck box. Finally, each Fat Pack has a card box that can hold three decks this way. So for a set, I’ll buy two Fat Packs and use the boxes to store my sleeved/boxed decks.

      For specialty products like the Duel Decks, I’ll use the official Ultra Pro deck box for that set.

      So long as your cards are safe from damage, there’s no wrong way to store them, but for me I like to give them the “archival” treatment as I regard them as something like museum pieces.

  5. Margaret
    Mar 31 2012

    I am looking at your blog with much interest….more interest than experience.
    How does a beginner start?

    • Icehawk
      Apr 1 2012

      Can’t speak for E, but if you’re looking into getting into casual gaming, I’d grab one of the newest Duel Decks. I don’t think you can go wrong with either Ajani vs. Bolas or Venser vs. Koth. The latter has less colors and is probably easier to start off with. I wish Knights vs Dragons was still easy to find at 20 bucks. That’d be the perfect one to start with then grow into AvB and/or VvK.

  6. Evan
    Apr 17 2012

    More Ertai’s Meddling! Why are there not more of these?

  7. Laurent
    Apr 29 2012

    Being a dedicated reader of the site, I’ve also managed to convince some friends to do something really ‘Ertai-ish’ next week : we shall play the FNM in…Avacyn Preconstructed. Meaning, each player will buy a Preconstructed AR deck and play it right out of the box, without adding the cards from the booster included inside, like if it was a Standard tournament. This will change from our usual Booster Draft, should be funnier and will bring more new players to the goodness that are Preconstructed. I don’t know if I’ll write a report, but in case any of you guys be interested, just let me know 😉

  8. Jun 10 2012

    I’ve been enjoying vicariously reliving my M:tG days reading this site and was even inspired to purchase a set of M2012’s intro decks as a result as well as some duel decks. I was wondering, when we finally reach 16 planeswalker duel decks or 16 non-planeswalker duel decks, will we see a precon tournament between them? I think that might be a fun alternative to the yearly precon tournaments.

  9. Robin
    Aug 24 2012

    Really enjoying the theme deck reviews. They have helped me narrow down my buying selections. But there still seem to be a lot of theme decks missing from your reviews. You have Urza’s saga reviews but no Urza’s legacy reviews. Same with many other expansions. Are you going to get around to these decks in the future?

    • Aug 24 2012

      Hi Robin, glad you’re enjoying! Since we started the site a couple years ago, we’ve held to a particular release schedule:

      1. Each deck gets a two-article review, with the first breaking down the deck, and the second being a playtest/final score.
      2. A new review-oriented article must go up every other day. We post a lot of non-review content as well (Whispers of the Muse, the Meddlings, Championships, and now occasional reviews of non-MtG games), but these all go up on “off days” and don’t replace a regular review.
      3. New sets get reviewed upon release.
      4. We try to spread out ages (new, old, mid) as we go. That means we might do an Alara set, then a Mirrodin set, then a Masques set, rather than lumping, say, Mirrodin and Kamigawa back to back.

      Over time, we’ve added a couple more.

      5. We’ll review all decks in a set together rather than jumping around a deck at a time through different sets, and
      6. We’ll review sets in block order now. That means no Exodus until we’ve done Tempest and Stronghold, so that we can assess the evolutionary path of the block’s themes and mechanics across sets.

      What you see on this site right now is the result of that, but of course there are still plenty of decks to come! I think we once ballparked it at about another two years before we finally have hit all the old decks and would have to wait for sets to release for new stuff, so quite a ways to go. Keep an eye out too for the “Thoughtsieze” poll on the right of the main page, since we’ll occasionally let readers vote on what set they want to see next!

      TLDR: Think of EL like a webcomic you enjoy, where you get a new installment every other day rather than the enttire series all at once.

  10. Robin
    Aug 24 2012

    That’s great. Hard to find any reviews of the 200 theme decks. There is just so much to go through. I have not played since 1998. Have a lot of catching up to do. Problem now is I have spent $250 so far on buying assorted Theme decks! Lol! I’m trying to keep it in the $6- $12 range. If decks get too expensive I buy them as singles which is what I did or at least five old theme decks like the sparkler, the plague. What bugs me is when I place an order with an online retailer and I find five of the decks half the price somewhere else two days later.

  11. Robin
    Aug 24 2012

    Yes, read that article. Very good. I was supposed to stop once I built my pauper cube for $100 bucks. That was what I told my wife. The idea was to get back in but get back in cheap. Now I’m up to $400 total and my wife’s already looking at me like “why do you need all these decks?” for variety of course! Probably start building some duel decks from scratch now too as some of them are getting ridiculously expensive.

  12. Robin
    Aug 24 2012

    A question about your theme deck rating system: are you basically recommending any deck that goes over 4.0? That’s how I am looking at it.

    • Aug 24 2012

      That’s entirely up to the reader, wherever they draw that line. We don’t really look to give a ‘recommend’ rating, because of the wide variety of decks and players. One of the best decks we ever rated was Coldsnap’s Beyond the Grave, but for a very aggro-minded Red/Green player, playing that deck might be the very essence of tedium! It’s so subjective, the best thing I can say is that when we rate them, we start on a 100 point scale (like school), then divide by 20. I’ve tinkered with the idea of going with broad-based categories as well (“mythic,” “rare”, “uncommon,” and “common”) since it’s hard to pinpoint. What makes a deck get a 4.1 instead of a 4.15, for instance.

      I hear you on the Duel Decks… those too are pretty outrageous, though if you look for played copies on eBay you might find some luck from time to time.

  13. Robin
    Aug 24 2012

    Got oubid on an ebay Elspeth/tezzeret at $47 I tried building your revamped Tezzeret deck from scratch. $40! I think I will proxy that one. Lol!

  14. Paul
    Oct 30 2012

    I just stopped by Target and, as always, swung by the trading card section on the way out. The new thing is a clear plastic box with a variety of cards in it for $30. They are from a variety of older sets so I figured, “Why not?” It turns out that they old precon decks. The box I purchased had two from M12 and one each from Scars and from Mirrodin Besieged. For $7.50 each, it seems like a pretty good deal. I love preconstructed for playing with my kids. There were a bunch of older sets in the other boxes. For the ones which I purchased, foil rare is on the front.

  15. Icehawk7
    Oct 30 2012

    Random questions: What’s your take on Magic Online and is it worth it? Might make an interesting article.

    • Nov 3 2012

      I’ve hardly ever logged into it, as a matter of fact. I’m not sure I can justify the same hobby in two places. That said, I have considered jumping into the occasional draft. I think it can be worth it, for me it’s just a matter of time. If I ever find that mythical eighth day of the week I’ve been looking for, I’d definitely give it a second look.

  16. Icehawk7
    Nov 3 2012

    Yeah. The cost to me is what bugs me most. I like how I could easily play a few commander games, but I have to imagine it’s a pain to reacquire the cards you need. I may not have great lands or any of the expensive cards, but my funds aren’t unlimited.

    • Nov 3 2012

      You can put together a solid commander deck pretty easily for 10 tix or less. The vast majority of singles are far, far cheaper on MTGO. Even the rares are usually between 5–10 cents. There are also bots who give out commons for free.

      I have a friend who made a pretty nice Hazezon Tamar deck using only the tix his account started with. I have another friend who went a step further and made his deck using only the free cards from bots! If you spend more money, you can power up the deck, but you don’t need to pay through the nose to have a good time.

  17. the_blue_ghost
    Jan 27 2013

    Hey all, I’ve lurked here for awhile. I’m an on-again, off-again MTG player since 4th ed. Recently getting back into it, thanks to my son. This go-round, I’m sticking with precons, though I’ve won local tourneys in the past. Last round of purchases includes Graveborn, Fire and Lightning, Izzet vs Golgari, and the Golgari and Selesneya deck from RTR. I love the “instants/sorceries matter” nature of the Niv Mizzet deck. I was wondering which precons I might pick up that are similarly complex and fun. And if it happens to have a blue base, or be mono blue, all the better.

  18. Margaret
    Mar 23 2013

    This is such a great site….great online community……great information! Thanks to everyone!

  19. Flamingo
    Apr 4 2016

    okay, so I have this idea. not sure if it is great. but please, consider doing a article or even series on this:

    I have virtually no magic cards at all. I am thinking about buying all five of the intropacks of the latest set, and using all ten boosters inside them to create five reasonable decks for casual FNM. could this work?

    my thinking is this: intro decks are weak, we all know that. and buying just one of them makes the boosters fairly useless, since the odds of the cards fitting is very slim indeed.

    but with all five decks, the odds of the booster cards at least fitting in one of the decks increases. A lot. My goal is to get the variety of five playable decks, sure none will be very strong, but still able to win a game or match here and there.

    can you try it out? as a challenge and new twist on a Ertai’s Meddling, perhaps? taking the five intro packs of a recent set, limiting yourself only to the cards pulled from the boosters, and see if you can make the decks good enough to have a reasonable chance against event decks and such that one is likely to face at casual FNM.

    of course what you pull from your boosters will not equal what I pull, but it will still give a general idea if this can work. Is it reasonable to expect the decks, given that the pulls from the boosters are average and random, to become FNM playable?

    • insidious
      Apr 13 2016

      Your reasoning is sound. Of course, it depends on the cards in the boosters whether the quality of the deck will improve much, but most intro packs contain at least a few cards that are sub-par and can be easily replaced by better ones.
      Also, intro packs from some sets are notably better than those from other sets. For example, Magic Origins has pretty good intro packs, while Magic 2015 and especially Magic 2014 had rather weak decks (at least in my opinion). That seems to depend on the development team.
      The FNM playability, however, depends less on the quality of your deck but on the types of players that are around. If there are mostly casual gamers who play for fun, almost any deck will do, if most of your players are netdecking and spending way more than $100 on their deck, even Event decks will be hopelessly outclassed. Let us know how you fared.
      It´s a shame that there will be no more Event decks. I am actually thinking of quitting Magic because of that.

      • Apr 13 2016

        Thanks for the comment! I am intrigued about your remark about quitting Magic on account of the loss of Event Decks. Are you already on the fence, or were you that attached to the product line?


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