(Cover image source: ClaudiaQH)

One question I often get from players brewing Force of Will decks is, “How do you decide on initial numbers?”

This post provides a guide on the mindset for choosing numbers when creating an initial list and concludes with a couple of testing tips.

What Does This Do In My Deck?

Deciding the initial number is usually a matter of determining where the card best fits based on the points below:


  • You want this card in your opening hand, even if it is a ‘bad’ draw later on (e.g. Elvish Priest).
  • This card is good at almost any point in the game, even when behind (e.g. Cheshire Cat).
  • This card can take over the game when played (e.g. Morgiana in Reflect).
  • It is a core part of your deck’s strategy or provides necessary synergy (e.g. Book of Eibon or Forty Thieves in a reanimator deck).


  • You want to see at least one for certain matchups, but the second has diminishing returns (e.g. Flame King’s Shout).
  • This card is great individually but bad if multiples are in your hand (e.g. Adombrali).


  • This card is effective against certain moderately popular decks but mediocre against others (e.g. Barrier of Shadows).
  • This is a mid- to late-game wincon (e.g. Mephistopheles).


  • This is a tutor target for specific situations (e.g. Susanowo).
  • This is a card you want for a very long game but generally don’t want to see two of (e.g. Pitch Black Moon in non-Gill Lapis decks).
  • This is a card that doesn’t fit any of the above but something you want to try out in testing.

Note: You will often have to trim some cards because space is tight and you need to make room for other cards that fulfill specific roles.

Should I Test With 41 Cards?

No, unless you plan on playing 41 cards in the final list.
To test your deck’s consistency and determine final counts, you should cap the initial list at the number you plan to end up with.

You should almost always play 40 because of situational power, a concept I first heard from Magic pro Patrick Chapin.
He says, “If one card contributes to winning a matchup a higher percentage of the time, then another card in your deck contributes to winning that matchup less often.” While Force of Will plays a bit differently than Magic, it is still true that some cards are better in some situations than others. Playing above the minimum decreases the percentage you will see the cards that are good at a given time.

Be Wary of Inbreeding

It’s important to test with stock lists (netdecks are fine) and to keep track of what you’re testing against compared to the expected field.
For example, if you test against a lot of swarm decks, you’ll find that you want to increase your number of Sign to the Future. However, Sign is awful against many strategies and you should not want to weaken those matchups unless they comprise a significant portion of the competition. Your gauntlet should consist of locked lists to keep your deck from getting too far ahead of the actual meta.

Deckbuilding Takes Time

Deckbuilding is as much of an art as it is a skill, and it takes many trials to arrive at a solid list.
I hope this guide serves as a great resource for you.

Happy brewing!