I’m a pretty casual Magic: The Gathering player. While I don’t regularly attend drafts or challenge other players at Friday Night Magic, I love collecting cards, constructing unique decks and playing with my friends. When I started playing Magic about five years ago, keeping my cards compartmentalized was a big priority for me. At first, it was easy. I could sort each card by color, type and converted mana cost if I wanted. This level of organization made deck creation exceptionally fast, and the number of (sub-par, let’s be honest) decks I owned began to grow. It didn’t take long before I simply could not keep track of it all. Not only was it too hard to continuously catalog every card in my collection, but as the number of decks on my list rose higher, it became surprisingly difficult to remember what each deck was designed to do. Thus, I began looking for a better way to build, catalog and organize my expanding collection. While I’m sure I have yet to try every possible option, I’ve narrowed it down to three shining examples of deck creation and organization apps that can help you take your Magic collection to the next level.
Best Value – TappedOut Deck Builder
The first option to make our list is the online TappedOut deck builder system. This is the only option on the list that is both completely free and completely web-based. While this online functionality brings a lot to the table, TappedOut isn’t perfect. Still, if you’re looking to keep some cash in your wallet, there’s no better value than free.
Make no mistake, while the TappedOut website is free, it is still feature-rich and incredibly useful. Second only to the price, TappedOut’s biggest strength lies in how it allows you to share and receive feedback on your creations. After registering your account, you can quickly put together a card list and share it with the world. Once the deck list is put together, it is not only easy to edit and view (including detailed mana curves, card prices, color breakdowns and more), but TappedOut includes a robust testing platform, allowing you to measure the actual performance of your deck.
Now let’s talk about some of the problems with TappedOut. First and foremost, ads. The real cost of using a free product is that you won’t be able to escape the ads. While they aren’t too obtrusive and are mostly tasteful, this may be a dealbreaker for you. Next, while sharing and viewing a deck is seamless, deck creation takes some getting used to. Searching for specific cards or abilities is easy, sure, but things like card organization and deck viewing prior to publishing are difficult. Yes, it’s very functional, but I actually prefer creating decks in other places, then bringing them to TappedOut to receive feedback and auto-suggestions.
Finally, my main issue with TappedOut is that it’s online-only. While this means I can access my deck lists from anywhere, it also means that if I don’t have access to the internet, I’m out of luck. Even a slow connection can make the process unbearable. Especially on mobile where the website can be fickle, a bad signal can make for an incredibly frustrating experience.
Best All-Around – Decked Builder
Decked Builder is the next creation and organization app to make our list. While this application does cost money, its greatest strength is its versatility and compatibility. Decked Builder can be purchased for almost any system—Android, iOS, MacOS or Windows. While the functionality and design aren’t entirely consistent across devices, they’re actually quite close. On top of this, it is without a doubt the most user-friendly, and easy-to-learn option available. Decked Builder does exactly what its name suggests: Help you build more decks. And when it comes to actually building a deck, especially on mobile, Decked Builder is the best.
Speaking of this app’s versatility, Decked Builder works seamlessly with online or offline file storage. You can store your decks locally on your device, or on any cloud-based service like DropBox or Google Drive, allowing for easy access to your collection no matter where you are. Decked Builder also allows you to catalog your entire collection (something unique to other options on this list), making it easier to see if you need to purchase new cards, or already have the needed cards stashed away.
But alas, Decked Builder has some serious flaws. For starters, it costs $4.99 on mobile and $9.99 on the computer. What’s more, you have to pay for the software separately on each device. While it is worth it, in my opinion, $15 just to organize your cards is a lot of money. Not to mention, it costs even more money if you want to unlock the entire feature set (though, full disclosure, the camera capture add-on is useless). If money isn’t a problem for you, my biggest gripe with Decked Builder is its lackluster test functionality. Not only is it buggy and difficult to navigate, but it doesn’t feel very random. On more than one occasion, it’s taken me three or four tries before I got a hand that wasn’t seven lands. That seems more than a little fishy to me.
Best Features – Virtual Play Table
The final option on my list is Virtual Play Table, and it is without a doubt my top pick for the most robust building and testing program available. It’s so good, in fact, that despite being Windows-exclusive, I couldn’t help but include it. When it comes to the basics, Virtual Playtable is on par with virtually (no pun intended) any other software out there. However, where Virtual Playtable really stands out, is its completely unique playtesting capabilities. The application is entirely customizable, incredibly complex and yet easy to learn. It allows you to test two of your decks against each other at the same time, even offering an online option to play against other people (though I have never used this function personally). Virtual Playtable mimics Magic in a way that no other program I’ve found can do.
And the best part? You can download and try Virtual Playtable for free. While a full license costs $30, the trial version does not restrict your ability to use the software in any way. I should also mention, while there’s no guarantee the trial version will be available to use forever, it currently does not have an expiration date.
As for the negatives, I’ve already mentioned one of Virtual Play Table’s biggest flaws—It’s only available for Windows, meaning no mobile version exists. Second, while the deck building experience is good, there are some annoying quirks with the system, like lack of automatic card sorting and suboptimal keyword search functionality to name a few. Finally, the software in its current state requires you to manually update it for each new release of cards. If you can get passed these minor flaws and you own a Windows machine, however, Virtual Play Table is an absolute no-brainer.
There you have it. This is my list of the three top contenders for the best way to build, catalog, organize and share your MtG decks and creations. What do you think? Have I missed your favorite MtG tool? Let me know in the comments below.