Drafting 101 Part 2: Building the Deck

Hi everyone! Flash2351 here with the second article in my introduction to draft series. If you haven’t had a chance, I would highly recommend that you check out the first article in this series. In this article, I will cover the second aspect of draft, constructing a draft deck from the 48 cards that you’ve picked previously. I will talk you through the step-by-step process that I use when trimming down my deck in the following sections.

To splash or not to splash

When looking at decks asking for cuts on #draft channel on the Eternal discord, the first thing I always do is count the number of splashed cards using the pie and see if there are enough playable cards without splashing. Following that, I look at is the amount of fixing available in the deck. Only after all that do I look at the quality of the splashed cards. There are 5 possible cases:

  1. Not enough playable cards in your main factions
    In this case, there’s no choice but to splash, so hopefully you have some good fixing to compensate!
  2. Bombs in your splashed faction with good fixing
    My definition of good fixing would be sufficient sources of splashed faction such that you can run 2 or less sigils of your splashed faction. Strangers in your main factions also helps to mitigate some of the risk of splashing. In these cases, I would almost always go ahead and play the bombs because their benefits strongly outweigh the cost.
  3. Bombs in your splashed faction without good fixing
    This is where the situation gets a bit dicey and requires a judgement call. What I would usually do is make two copies of the deck, one with the splash and one without, and compare them. Do the added bombs significantly improve the deck to the extent that it justifies the taxing of the powerbase?
  4. Above average cards in your splashed faction with good fixing
    Similar to the above case, this is a scenario where you will need to decide. Does splashing improve your deck significantly such that it’s worth the risk of potentially dead cards in hand?
  5. All other cases
    Do not splash! If your splashed cards aren’t good and will severely tax your powerbase, splashing will generally lose you more games than it will help you win.

What to splash

If you have concluded that you want to splash, the next step is to decide which cards to splash. It is important to remember that even if you are splashing a faction, you don’t have to and in most cases, shouldn’t, play all the cards in that faction.

Cards NOT to splash

  1. Any 2-drop that you want to play on curve
    On turn 2, you are unlikely to have influence for your splashed faction, and thus, you won’t be able to play the splashed cards. A similar problem exists for 3-drops but to a smaller extent. Notable 2-drops that are exceptions to the above rule and you can splash for include Kothon, the Far-Watcher, Desert Marshal and Awakened Student. (Splashing Awakened Student has been a source of huge debate among drafters and I will be going into an in-depth discussion on this for a future article). In general, these are cards that are valuable at all stages of the game and hence is less important to be played on curve. However, if you are splashing these 2-drops, they should not be added to the 2-drop tally for curve considerations since they rarely come down on turn 2.
  2. Double or Triple Influence Cards
    Without some incredible fixing, it will be way too hard to tailor your mana base to ensure you don’t get faction screwed initially and be able to play these double/triple influence cards before you die.
  3. Any card that has an equivalent/comparable card in the main factions
    Running any splashed card carries the inherent risk that you will not be able to play it on curve, and potentially never during the game. As such, it is always better to run an equivalent, or even slightly worse, card in your main factions to ensure that you will be able to play it. For example, I would happily run a Ridgeline Watcher in my Skycrag deck instead of splashing for a Xenan Guardian.

Cards to splash

  1. High cost game ending bombs
    High cost cards have the benefit where since you’ve drawn a significant amount of your sigils, it’s likely that you have the influence to play them. These cards also have the potential to just wreck your opponent when played that makes it worth the risk of not being able to play it in other games. Examples include: Mistveil Drake, Mystic Ascendent, The Great Parliament
  2. Removal
    Removal is always sparse in limited format, and this draft mode is no different. Being able to remove one of your opponent’s game-winning card is quintessential for your own victory. Like the cards in the next category, removal generally does not have to be played on curve, and hence will remain relevant throughout the game. Examples include: Permafrost, Slay, Execute, Vanquish
  3. Cards that remain relevant throughout the game
    This category of cards are relevantly cheap cards that are amazing whether you play them on curve, or in the late game. They come in many forms, including evasive threats, board-wide buffs or even recurring weapons. Examples include: Xenan Obelisk, Eye of Winter, Steelfang Chakram, Bartholo, the Seducer.
  4. Good synergy cards
    Sometimes, splashing is not just about the quality of the splashed card, but also how well the card synergizes with your game plan. For example, Karmic Guardian is an average splash most of the time, but if you had a deck with Katra, the Devoted, and a good number of other lifeforce cards, it suddenly becomes an amazing splash.

lg3l9yx

What makes a good curve?

After cutting or reducing your splash, the next thing to do would be removing the obviously bad cards from your deck. I will go through cards from each faction in subsequent articles but for now, I would recommend going through my tier list to understand how your cards stack up against each other.

Now, you should be left with a deck needing approximately 3 to 8 more cuts. At this point, it’s time to look at your curve and your deck. Depending on how aggressive your deck is, you would ideally want your curve to look like one of the curves on the left.

curves When making cuts, try to avoid falling into traps illustrated by the curves on the right in the above figure. Curve D might seem fine at first glance, but for an aggressive deck that stops at 4, you don’t want the bulk of your playables to be at 4 cost as well. You ideally want more 2-drops to ensure that you can curve out aggressively. Playing 2 2-drops at 4 power might also sometimes be better than just slamming a 4-drop on curve. Curve E has an obvious lack of 3-4 drops. While this can sometimes be mitigated by very impactful 2-drops (e.g. Awakened Student, Argenport Instigator), you really don’t want to be put in a situation where your opponent is playing increasingly powerful creatures while you are stuck playing 2 power 2/2s. The solid late game does not matter if you have to keep taking bad trades to stay alive. Similarly, while a deck with Curve F is probably unbeatable late-game, it can very easily get run over by an average aggressive deck. To reiterate a point from the previous article, bombs are only bombs if you live long enough to play them.

Key things to note when making your final cuts:

  • Make sure that you retain enough 2-drops
    5 2-drops for a midrange or control deck and 6 2-drops for an aggressive deck is the lowest I am ever happy to go down to in my decks. This is extremely important because tempo is very important in draft and running fewer 2 drops makes your deck highly prone to getting run over. Moreover, there is always a risk of being stuck on 2 power after mulligan and being able to play at least a few cards is better than just getting ran over. A point to note, good quality 1-drops can pass for 2-drops. For example, if I have an aggressive deck with 4 Oni Ronin and 2 Pyroknight, I won’t be too worried if I only had 4 2-drops.
  • Make sure that you run enough units
    I like to have at least 16 units in my deck, regardless of how aggressive or defensive the deck is. The draft format is very unit centric and if you are unable to stick a single unit to the board, it would be a steep climb to victory. It’s also important to remember that the unit count at the top of the chart is not necessarily accurate as some units are essentially spells, e.g. Scorpion Wasp, Dark Wisp, while other non-units can contribute to the unit count, e.g. Monuments, Assembly Line.
  • Cut from the most bloated area of your curve first
    Sometimes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of cards that it’s hard to know where to start. My advice is to look at your curve and see which cost level is the most bloated and start there. For example, with a deck that has a curve like Curve E, I would be looking to cut a few 2-drops and some of my topend.
  • Cut cards that don’t fit the game plan of your deck
    It is always important to have a game plan when constructing your deck so that your whole deck has a coherent strategy. Cards that are strong, but don’t fit with your deck strategy should definitely be cut. For example, while it is a bomb in the right deck, Lumen Defender is probably the one of the worst 5-drop to run in a hyper-aggressive Praxis deck. Similarly, while I would jam as many copies of Rapid Shot as I can get in an aggressive Feln deck, I might remove it from a control Xenan deck.
  • Don’t forget about fliers
    While flying units are generally overcosted compared to their non-flying counterparts, they are an integral part of any deck because it’s an additional dimension of attack. As the beatdown, fliers are an additional way to get in extra damage or even push for lethal. Board stalls are also a common occurrence in draft and flying units provide a way to break the stall. Thus, even as a control player, you should make sure to have some way of interacting or stopping fliers, such as Dispel, Violent Gust, Bring Down, Towertop Patrol, Sandstorm Titan.
  • Narrow cards are generally bad cards
    Narrow cards refer to cards that are only good in very specific situations. For example, Bloodcall Invocation is useless unless I’ve managed to gain a significant amount of life over the course of 1 turn. Similarly, Ruin does not hit anything if my opponent does not play any weapons. Running a large number of narrow cards can result in multiple dead cards simply sitting in your hand, unable to do anything.
  • Don’t play a weaker, more expensive card just to smooth out your curve
    An important thing to remember is that the curve isn’t everything. Ideally, you want a smooth curve. However, that doesn’t mean you should always cut good cards for weaker one. This is especially true if the good card has a lower casting cost. For example, I would be more than happy to run a 2/1 Oni Ronin over a 2/2 off-faction Stranger. Similarly, unless I have some crazy weapon synergy, I would much rather run a 3 power 2/2 Stormcrasher rather than a 4 power 2/2 Valkyrie Militant.

This is often the toughest part of deck-building and a good place to seek advice is #draft on the Eternal discord.

How many power to run?

This is another one of the biggest questions that new players struggle with. For those of you interested in the math, check out this reddit thread that I’ve made a while back. The short answer though, is somewhere between 16 to 19. I tend to play somewhere between 17 to 18 usually, depending on how aggressive my deck is. I only go down to 16 when I’m playing a hyper-aggressive deck with a similar curve as curve A above. 19 is a region where I go to when I have a lot of big threats and power sinks (e.g. Xenan Guardian, Highwind Glider), but not enough early game. In those cases, I really want to hit every power drop early on and would much rather flood than screw.

The tally at the top of the deck might also be slightly inaccurate. Firstly, I would count Seek Power as an additional power. Amber Acolyte and cheap cantrips (Levitate, Inspire) should be counted as a half power. Monuments are another variable factor and depending on how much you want to play them as a unit or weapon, you shouldd weigh them differently. In general, I count both Amber and Cobalt Monument as 0.2 power, Emerald Monument as 0.5 power and Amethyst and Granite Monument as 0.7 power.

How many of each influence?

The first thing to do is define some terminology. Each Sigil, Banner and Stranger that provides an influence of that faction would be counted as 1 source. If you are running a Sigil of that faction, you should also count Seek Power and Amber Acolytes as additional sources. If your splash is 5 cost or more, Amaran Archaeologist would also count as an additional source. For example, a deck with 1 Skycrag Stranger, 1 Hooru Banner, 1 Primal Sigil and 1 Amber Acolyte would be taken to have 4 primal sources.

When deciding how many sigils of each faction to run, the first thing you should do is to fix for my splash. For splashing cards with only a single influence cost, the ideal target is 5 sources, but would go down to 4 if the deck is low on fixing Strangers and Banners. For splashing cards with double influence cost, a minimum of 7 sources is needed.

icaria_the_liberator
She may be a bae and a bomb, but boy does she require some heavy influence fixing!

After determining the number of splashed sigils, the next thing to check for is any triple influence cost cards in your main factions (e.g. Predatory Carnosaur, Flameblast). Ideally, 11 sources is the minimum that I would want in factions that have triple influence cost. That also means if you are drafting and intending to run the XXXYYY cycle cards (e.g. Icaria, The Liberator; Heart of the Vault; Vodakhan, Temple Speaker), I would recommend heavily prioritizing Strangers in the drafting phase.

If my deck doesn’t run any triple influence cost cards, I generally try to run equal number of sources for each of my main factions. There will be slight tweaking needed sometimes, especially if most of your early game is in 1 faction or you require double influence in 1 faction early, such as for Spirit Guide or Striped Araktodon.

Why 45 cards only?

45 cards is the optimal deck size. This is especially true for draft because the difference in power level between your best card in your entire deck and the 46th or 47th card is usually sizable. As such, why would you dilute your chances of drawing your best card to include a much worse card in your deck?

Conclusion

Well, hopefully I’ve given you some insight into constructing the best possible draft deck out of the 48 cards you drafted! Once again, if you have any questions, feel free to comment here or on the reddit thread! Alternatively, you can look for me on the Eternal discord. If you need any further help or suggestions, #draft on discord is a great place to look for help and there’s generally someone there who’s willing to help you out with your draft! Stay tuned for the final article in the series coming up next week!

 

May your draft decks always resemble constructed highlander decks,
Flash2351

4 thoughts on “Drafting 101 Part 2: Building the Deck

    1. The intention is that this series of 3 articles should be read together as a general introduction to drafting basics, hence the 101. Going 101 to 102 to 103 suggests that each article is at a more advanced level than the previous which is not the intention.

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