Size it up

November 16, 2018

Let’s continue our journey through the fundamentals of drafting.

Samuele Estratti

26 year old
Italian player
Studies economy
PT Philadelphia winner
4 GP top 8s
Italian nationals top 4.

More Posts (15)

Hi everybody!
Let’s continue our journey through the fundamentals of drafting…

We already looked at the importance of some basics and last time I suggested my own method to work out the mana-base for your draft. A solid mix of lands is fundamental and if their colors are balanced it will help you a lot, by reducing mana difficulties like color screw!
What I didn’t talk about is actually “picking” those lands, and this can be really difficult because it depends so much on what you already picked, if your archetype is 2, 3 or 5 colors and so on.
Anyway I hope you understand the importance of having good mana. Sometimes when you basically “die without playing” due to a bad mana situation try to think if a different mana-base would’ve helped avoiding that problem!
I also hope you understand when you really need fixers, just keep in mind how important they are!

This time I’d like to talk about creatures.
Creatures are what make you lose or win in limited.
I know, there are some cards that can win the game with no combat damage (Mind Grind, Debt to the Deathless), but creatures help you with those plans too, ensuring you have a backup plan or by buying you time to realize it.
So, again , what is the ideal number of creatures for a deck?
Here, as always in limited, it depends on many variables but the most important one is your game-plan.
Every deck needs a “game-plan” that connects all (or most of) your cards , When every card works in the same direction we obtain synergy. Synergy is something that links your cards and makes them better than they would be individually, increasing their power level, your deck’s power level and your win %.

I’m going to analyze strategies that lead you to common game-plans, but first let’s talk about creature fundamentals
– curve and number of creatures
we already talked about the mana-curve, and now we are going to argue about creature-curve, as you can easily imagine, you can’t (usually) play only creatures with mana-cost >3 otherwise the early creatures from your opponent will start a quick race that can easily lead to your defeat if backed up with a few tricks / removal; you can’t play only 2 drops too otherwise your opponent will gain too much advantage when he starts to play heavier drops (in general remember that a deck with nothing more expensive than 3 mana can be strong, but a deck with nothing cheaper than 3 is a disaster), so you have to play early creatures (converted mana cost 2 or less), heavy drops (5 or more) and many middle cost (3 and 4 drops) so if you plot it on a graph you will obtain a curve like the following:

This is a good starting point: 4 drops that cost 1-2, 8 with cost 3-4 and 4 with cost 5 or 6 for a total of 16 creatures!

How to evaluate creatures in limited:
evaluating cards in limited is fundamental for your success, facilitating your pick order and granting a higher power level, but how can you do this? These are the factors you need to take into consideration:
a) Casting cost: remember to always get 2-drops, and when you need to choose among creatures with the same power level (but with different costs) always try to fulfill your curve!

b) Impact on the game depending on the turn: here you need to evaluate how impressive the card will be in any turn of the game. Cards with a lower cost but that are really good not only during first turns, but also during the late-game, are really strong (Figure Of Destiny, Guul Draz Assassin, Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage etc.). Here you must consider evasion abilities too; a 3-drop with flying like Drakewing Krasis is incredible on turn 3 but still strong on turn 6.

c) Take into consideration what you already picked: as I already said synergy is a good way to improve your power level. Try to figure out as many synergies as you can for every draft, even if they are quite simple this does not mean they are not strong! A card like Nephalia Smuggler is playable by itself but gains a lot of value if you already have cards like Mist Raven or Cathedral Sanctifier in your pool.

d) Imagine having access to however many copies you want of that card: if you would play 16 of the same creature with no regrets, and still be excited, this is probably the best pick, this is an extreme example but it can help you figure out your pick orders giving the right priority to some cards, in this way you pick those cards higher than other ones ; picking cards higher means that you pick them in your first picks, having the chance to take more of them especially in drafts with the same 3 boosters.

Ok folks now we can start to analyze what creatures you generally need for each strategy (I’m going to talk about general strategies with examples of creatures, it’s obvious that every expansion has its own cards/better strategies depending on the cards it includes!)

Control: utilizes cards that can neutralize the opponent’s threats. This way it stops the opponent’s race and starts his mid-long plan by playing cards with a higher cost and with a bigger impact on the game: counterspells, removals and 2 kinds of creatures:
-walls: any kind of creature whose goal is stop opposing threats. These cards don’t have to be defenders, but are usually creatures with a higher toughness than power. It’s clearly better if these creatures can also help out to kill your opponent (Doorkeeper, Lobber Crew
-finishers: If your control plan is to kill with creatures you need some of them to be good enough to easily kill your opponent. Without considering bombs, generally these creatures are hard to block, either because they have an evasive ability or because they work without attacking . Sometimes these creatures are not so important because they can be substituted by some mechanics that are perfect for control strategies (extort).

Aggressive: characterized by many creatures with a low cost, their main plan is to put a lot of pressure on the opponent and try to gain more advantage with spells that make their creatures hit more and more!
Generally the backbone of the strategy is a lot of creatures, so remember to always reach 16-17 of them, many of which should have a low cost and with a high power (not always true): cards like Bane Alley Blackguard are truly bad for this strategy while Lobber Crew is good because it deals damage every turn even if your opponent manages to reach his goal of stalling your attack!
As this example suggests, alternative way to deal damage are really good in aggressive decks, if the initial swarm strategy fails you need to win with cards that deal direct damage or with evasive abilities: remember that aggressive strategies often work out with only (or with a majority of) ground guys because they usually have bigger stats than a flyer guy with the same cost. You should still try to always get some evasive guys (or tricks) to finish off your opponent.

Aggro-control: these strategies abuse evasive guys to win the game, like the typical UW Flyers that you can build in many draft blocks, especially core sets.
Why aggro? The aggressive component is important, this strategy is always on the edge of racing and plays different roles depending on the opponent’s game-plan. A lot of creatures are necessary to gain full advantage of your control components. Creatures should be evasive, otherwise you need too many spells to pass through your enemy’s defenses! Anyway remember to pick evasive 2-drops really high because there are usually few of them.
Why control? Spells that normally gain you a “tempo” advantage (Crippling Chill , Silent Departure) complete the aggressive strategy by granting you the time you need.
Creatures that you need to control the board while you smash with evasion are usually “stoppers” like Pillarfield Ox or, if you are lucky, stoppers that support the aggressive part like Guardians of Akrasa

Remember to always follow a strategy and keep in mind that many cards that may look unplayable, like walls, can fit perfectly in your strategy: be open minded!

See you next time,
Samuele Estratti

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