Goldfishing and Testing Decks By Yourself

Testing deck ideas and builds is an essential skill for trading card game players. Much like in a scientific experiment, testing decks in card games proves or disproves the validity of certain hypothetical builds. Although this process of testing is important, testing a deck build usually requires two players. Is there a way to test with one player? The answer: goldfishing.

Goldfishing is a term from players in the Magic: The Gathering community that describes the solo-testing process of one player playing a deck solitaire-style as if playing against a goldfish, as if one is playing against their pet. For the sake of this article, the fictional opponent that the player will face in a solo game will be referred to as a “goldfish”. This process is executed in the following steps:

  • Define player behavior for the goldfish. This behavior can vary from only giving a damage per turn to destroying creatures and other conditions. In addition to this, the behavior the player sets for the goldfish to do each turn may vary depending on what one wishes to test. if the player is testing for tournament validity, the behavior of the goldfish should replicate the kind of turn-to-turn play that one expects to see in a current tournament. If the player wants to see if the deck in question will function at all, the goldfish should replicate a player that is doing close to nothing during the solitaire game.
  • Play games with the goldfish. Play games as normal with the exception that the goldfish behavior is happening on the opponent’s turn. Also, play enough games that one can determine how consistent the deck can function as the player desires in the scenario set up in the solitaire game scenarios.

That sums up the process of goldfishing in a nutshell. If anyone has any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section.


Goldfishing is defined on this wiki: https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Goldfishing

Strategic Deck Archetypes

In trading card games, players build decks with a win condition in mind. A win condition is a game state that a player reaches in a game where he or she is deemed a winner by the rules. In this article, win conditions will refer to the typical and modern forms of such conditions, mainly through dealing lethal combat damage of causing the opponent to deck out. Since inception of trading card games, the deck building strategies of players can be divided among three archetypes, which are defined either on the speed at which a win condition is met or how interactions between cards achieve a win condition. These archetypes are:

  • Aggro. This archetypal strategy focuses on winning fast win in early game by methods that are too quick for an opponent to respond or defend against. Examples of decks that fit into this archetype are weenie* decks or burn** decks.
  • Control. While aggro strategies focus on the early game, this archetype focuses on the slow buildup of resources for the sake of winning in the late game. Examples of this strategy are decks with high-cost creatures.
  • Combo. When other strategies focus on the speed at which a win condition is met, this strategy uses strong synergy between cards as a win condition. Decks under this archetype mainly rely on the effect interactions between certain cards in the deck to win the game on their own.

According to many players, aggro, combo, and control are the most common strategical archetypes for deck building in trading card games to date. Other decks may appear at your local card shop, but most of them will fall into one or more these three categories. Some examples of uncommon strategies that are not covered by the main three include:

  • Midrange. Defined by its flexibility, decks that fall into this strategic archetype have the ability to speed up or slow down against opponents when the need arises.
  • Mill. While many strategies focus on dealing the required combat damage to win the game, this strategic archetype solely focuses on forcing the opponent to discard cards off of the top of his or her deck until the player cannot draw any more cards out of deck.

Thanks for your continued support! If you have any questions or comments, please place them in the comments section.


*Weenie decks focus their efforts on generating many small creatures for a low cost and/or early in the game.

**Burn decks mainly focus on dealing a large amount of damage to the opponent through the use of card effects alone.</sup>