I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I’ve been playing Magic the Gathering for 17 years now. I started around ‘Unlimited and Revised’ and have taken a few breaks along the way, but I just can’t seem to escape this cardboard crack. Back when I first started, I remember going to book stores to buy strategy guides, buying magazines for price guides, and keeping all my decks written down in a spiral notebook. It recently occurred to me to see if there were any alternatives on iOS or Mac to modernize this process a bit more.

I looked around in the Mac app store, first, and found a lite version of a program called Decked Builder. After checking the lite version out (which only gives you access to cards from the three most recent sets), I knew the full version would be just what I needed. I plopped down my $7.99 and looked forward to getting to work.

Though the review says it’s for the iPad release, I’m actually going to be discussing all three versions (Mac, iPhone and iPad) since they do exactly the same things seamlessly and I own all three.

My first purpose for this app was keeping my deck lists organized. Decked Builder had me scouted and knew exactly what I wanted. You can search for cards by title, words in the text box, types, and filter the results in just about any way you can think of. When you find the card you wanted, you can add it to the deck or sideboard easily, but have to manually add it each time you want (which becomes a pain in the butt when adding large amounts of basic lands). Each card you search for will pull up a picture of the card from each set it was printed in, so it’s easy to search by pictures in the case of your foreign language cards. The only sets I found to be missing were odd-ball promotional cards with alternate art or full card art. This is a bit of gap, but can be forgiven. Every time a new set is released, an update to the app is released very quickly with access to all the new cards.

Once you put a deck together, or even during, you can pull up statistics to see what your mana curve is, the average rarity of your cards, the color breakdown, how many of each mana symbol are present, and even the value of your deck. What’s even better (for people like me who don’t buy packs) is a link to buy every card in your new deck from TCGplayer.com with very little effort. The shop feature can be a bit dangerous, obviously. 😉 You also have the options to email your deck, print a deck list (formatted on a DCI deck list sheet), and even run test draws to see how it performs. Almost nothing is left to be desired.

Now I bet you’re wondering, why would you want to enter the same deck into three different apps? Well, you don’t. The developer has thought ahead and allowed you to save your deck files into Dropbox (free) so that you can access them from all three programs and from any location. This is a brilliant integration and I found that it works perfectly.

So other than building decks, what else is this app good for? Quite a bit!

How many times have you been in a game, playing with an old version of a card, and someone tells you the wording has been erratta’d or clarified? In the same search you use to build, you can get the most recent oracle text for the card in question. In fact, I’ve used this so much at my local shop that everyone in the shop with an iPhone has bought Decked Builder for just this function.

Trading can also be the bane of the uninformed. Decked Builder has the answer you need. Every card you search for will pull an average price from very reputable sites (ie: Star City or Cool Stuff) and display the average low, median, and high values broken down by set. You can also add several cards to a temporary deck list and see a total value for everything you want or have to offer. I keep a wantlist.dec file in my dropbox account to quickly look up any cards I want to trade for (and remember what they are). It saves me a lot of time, plus I can just hand my iPhone to the person next to me who always wants to trade while I’m in the middle of a game.

The last feature of note is a news section, which features articles from every major Magic site about strategy, events, upcoming sets, and more. A great deal of time can be spent browsing this section. It has completely eliminated my need to keep these websites in my Google Reader account.

About the only thing Decked Builder doesn’t do, is keep score during games. That said, I have plenty of apps that do (although a way to keep track of scores in standard and commander would be awesome). The only complaint I can find is that you have to pay for three versions of the app to be able to get the full value out of it (although it is certainly worth it).

In Conclusion

Decked Builder is the absolute pinnacle of what a Magic the Gathering accessory app should be. There’s almost nothing that I need, that this app can’t do for me. I honestly don’t know how I played Magic for so many years without it.