One of the most common complaints I run into from drafters at local events is that they got mana screwed all night long. Although it is mathematically possible to draw bad mana for an entire event, there’s usually a deeper cause than just bad luck. Many times after someone complains about their mana situation at an FNM I ask if they mind if I take a look at their deck. Many things can be learned by analyzing a mana base of a draft deck, and it is surprising how many people just slap lands into their deck and hope for the best.
40 cards! No more, no less.
The first two things that I look at is the total land count and total card count. Forty cards are the legal minimum number of cards in a draft deck and it is highly recommended that this number is adhered to. A 40 card draft deck will give you the most chance of drawing the cards you need to win and the lands you need to cast them. It is surprising how many people up there card counts to 45 or 50, without considering the impact on their mana.
The accepted standard for land count is 17, and I have seen many successful draft decks with 18. Anymore, there is a risk of getting flooded and any less there is a risk for not drawing enough lands. I usually will up my land count to 18 if I have a high-cost spell or creature that I know will win me the game and I want to make sure I draw enough lands throughout the course of the game.
Stick to two colors
Another major mistake I see is drafters forcing three colors. In the current format, there is little mana fixing to help with this. Being greedy with three different colors is a surefire way to guarantee not drawing the proper mana when it is needed. There are many arguments that can be made against my stance on this, but I see all too often people saying ‘I would have won that game if I only drew the right mana for my bomb.’ Splashing for a win condition is useless if the card becomes uncastable in most games because of diluted mana. Two-color decks are far more consistent and give you a higher percent chance to win your match than spiking just once or twice throughout the night.
Determining Land Count
Throughout the years I have heard and observed dozens of different approaches to deciding how many of each basic land type to add to a deck. I prefer simple math to figure out my mana base. It is far easier than most people think. I simply add up the total mana symbols for each symbol in my deck and look at the ratios.
Let us use my 3-0 draft deck from last night as an example. I had 15 white mana symbols and 10 green symbols. Simple math tells me that I have a 3 to 2 ratio of white spells to green spells and my mana base should be 3 to 2 in favor of plans. I split my lands out to be 10 plains and 7 forests. A 10 to 7 split isn’t inherently a 3 to 2 ratio, but I simply added lands in that ratio until I was over my count of 17 lands. This left me with a count of 12 and 9, and I took 2 out from each to get to my number of 17. This math isn’t exact, but it brings me close enough to where I felt confident.
When I started implementing these simple guidelines for my mana base I found that my issues around being able to cast my cards seemed to almost go away. Magic is a game of variance, so there is always random bad draws and rough runs on mana. I prefer to ensure that when I lose to variance, it really is variance and not poor deck building.
I hope you learned something from my mistakes. Please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter and let me know what you liked in this article, what you hated or what you would rather have read about.
Don’t Forget to laugh,
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