Introducing the Sample Hand Generator

Posted in Feature on November 9, 2005

By Doug Beyer

Senior creative designer on Magic's creative team and lover of writing and worldbuilding. Doug blogs about Magic flavor and story at

Decklists are the heart and soul of Magic data on the Internet; they provide the mortar for all those cardboard bricks you find in booster packs. But in a way, a list of cards isn't enough. Just from the decklist, you don't really get a sense of how the deck plays, how it implements a plan, how it wins. To get the real feel of a deck, you have to shuffle it up, draw seven, and start seeing possibilities.

That's why I'm proud to introduce's new Sample Hand Generator.

How do I find it?

All the decks on now have a little icon in the upper right-hand corner. It looks like a fanned hand of Magic cards.

How to find the Sample Hand Generator button

Click that icon to launch the Sample Hand Generator. Here's a sample deck. Try it -- click that little fanned-cards icon. It'll launch a new window, so you can flip back and continue reading here.

Bennie Smith

Okay, I have the thingy open. What's going on here?

You'll see a hand of Magic cards, a large preview card, a decklist, and some buttons. Mouse over the cards in the sample hand to preview them in a larger size, just like in the Draft Viewer.

Sample Hand Generator screenshot

Above the decklist are three buttons.

  • The New Hand button: Click that button to draw a new hand of seven cards.

  • The Mulligan button: Click this button to Paris mulligan your hand, drawing a new hand of one less card than before.

  • The Draw Card button: Click this button to draw an extra card, up to three.

Below the decklist are three more buttons. Click these buttons to change the size of the cards in your hand, depending on how large your screen resolution is. If you choose the largest size, the preview card will disappear, since your whole hand will become the size of the preview card. Click a smaller card size button to make the preview card reappear.

What can I do with this?

Play around with it -- generate sample hands of decks and learn some of their ins and outs. Want to see some Standard sample hands? Explore the 2005 Champs decklists. Extended? Try the Pro Tour Los Angeles coverage, or last weekend's three Extended Grand Prixs. Vintage? Check out the 2005 Vintage Championships from back in August. For casual decks, try looking through the archives of the Building on a Budget or House of Cards columns, or take a peek at, I don't know, a Prismatic article :)

How accurate a model is this?

Nothing takes the place of actually playing a deck. But steps were taken to ensure that the Generator represents a realistic model of Magic opening hands. Its shuffler is random (well, as random as your browser's implementation of Javascript lets it be). Its deck model keeps track of what cards you've drawn, so you can't draw two copies of a 1-of. If you get mana-screwed a lot, it's likely due to the decklist, not the Generator.

What if something doesn't work?

Caveat time. First of all, the Sample Hand Generator relies on some client-side XML processing through Javascript, which means you'll need an up-to-date browser such as Internet Explorer 5+, Firefox, Safari 1.2+, or Netscape 7+ to take advantage of it.

Second of all, there may be quirks with certain decklists -- card name misspellings, weird characters, or other strangeness -- that may cause the tool to choke. Some very old articles (before approximately May, 2002) used a different format to store decklists, and so won't jibe with the tool. Also, the card borders are all displayed as black, even if the cards shown are from a core set -- apologies for inaccuracies there.

Third of all, there are some things you can't do with the tool. There's no sideboarding -- all the sample hands are drawn from the maindeck. And you can't draw past three extra cards, or actually move cards around on the board; it's not meant to be a goldfishing tool, just a way to get a feel for how the deck's opening hands look.

Fourth of all, I'd really like it to work as well as possible. If you have a suggestion or complaint about the Generator, or you find a decklist that has a problem with the Generator, you can use this email form to email me about it, and I will try to fix it.

Enjoy the Sample Hand Generator.

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