An important element of deckbuilding in Magic is constructing a mana base that allows you to consistently cast your spells on curve. This is true not only in Constructed, but also in Limited. Throne of Eldraine Limited introduces several payoffs for staying nearly mono-color, and knowing the mana base requirements is even more important than ever. Let’s run some numbers.
How reliably can you pay the Adamant cost?
Throne of Eldraine features five common adamant creatures that get a boost when you pay three mana of their color when casting them:
In addition, there are five common adamant instants or sorceries (Silverflame Ritual, Unexplained Vision, Foreboding Fruit, Searing Barrage, and Outmuscle) as well as several uncommons and artifacts. So the mechanic is an important element of Throne of Eldraine Limited.
To run some numbers, let’s take blue as an example for concreteness and consider 17-land, 40-card draft decks with a given number of Islands and a single adamant spell. For various mana bases, the following table shows the probability of drawing at least three Islands by turn T (for turns 4, 5, or 6) conditional on drawing at least T lands and an adamant spell by that turn. The numbers assume that play/draw is randomized and that reasonable mulligan decisions are made, as described in more detail in the corresponding Python script.
|Number of Islands||Turn-4 probability||Turn-5 probability||Turn-6 probability|
What it Means
For example, consider a deck with 8 Islands, 9 Plains, 1 Vantress Paladin, and 22 non-adamant spells. For turn 4, the table lists 41.2% as the probability of drawing at least three Islands by turn 4 is conditional on drawing at least 4 lands and the Vantress Paladin by that turn.
This probability only pertains to “relevant” games. A game where we draw 2 Island, 1 Plains, Vantress Paladin, and 6 non-adamant spells is not counted as relevant because we haven’t drawn at least 4 lands (so we wouldn’t be able to cast Vantress Paladin in the first place). Likewise, a game where we draw 3 Island, 1 Plains, and 6 non-adamant spells is not counted as relevant because we haven’t drawn an adamant spell (so having three Islands is irrelevant).
The “relevant” games are split between successes and failures. An example success game is one where we drew 4 Island, 1 Plains, 1 Vantress Paladin, and 4 non-adamant spells. An example failure game is one where we drew 2 Island, 2 Plains, 1 Vantress Paladin, and 5 non-adamant spells. The 41.2% number represents the fraction of successes among relevant games.
How many basics do I recommend for adamant spells?
The adamant cards only require a single mana of a color to cast, so they’re never unplayable, but their power scales with your emphasis on their color.
For concreteness, consider Vantress Paladin. Suppose we want to cast it on-curve on turn 4, represented by the first column in the table.
- In a deck with 7 or fewer Islands, I would be very unhappy to run Vantress Paladin. It’ll be a 2/2 flier the vast majority of time, which is a rather weak card.
- In a deck with 8 Islands, a turn-4 Vantress Paladin is close to a 2.4/2.4, which is playable as a filler but far from great.
- In a deck with 9 Islands, a turn-4 Vantress Paladin is close to a 2.5/2.5, which gets to the level of a fine common. Especially since its expected size gets larger in the late game.
- In a deck with 10 Islands, a turn-4 Vantress Paladin is close to a 2.6/2.6, at which point it becomes a good-to-great common. This is where the card really starts to shine.
- In a deck with 11 or more Islands, I would be very happy to run Vantress Paladin. It’ll be a 3/3 flier most of the time, which is awesome for a four-drop.
Ultimately, there is not a clear cutoff for how many Vantress Paladin needs, as every additional Island makes its expected size slightly larger. But basically, if blue is your main color, then Vantress Paladin is always a good card to put in your deck, and the more Islands the better. And likewise for the Paladins in the other colors. This means that this is a format where two-color drafters may want to try to end up with a 10-7 mana base rather than a 9-8 mana base, which preferably means double-colored spells only in your main color.
Note that even though I have been talking about Islands, it would have been more accurate to talk about colored sources. A Rosethorn Acolyte or Spinning Wheel can effectively count as an Island as well for the purpose of adamant.
How reliably can you trigger the common lands?
Throne of Eldraine features five common lands that require three lands of a certain basic type to enter untapped and provide some effect:
To run some numbers, let’s take red as an example for concreteness and consider 17-land, 40-card draft decks with a given number of Mountains and a single Dwarven Mine. For each deck, the following table shows the probability of drawing at least three Mountains by turn T (for turns 4, 5, or 6) conditional on drawing Dwarven Mine by that turn. The numbers assume that play/draw is randomized and that reasonable mulligan decisions are made, as described in more detail in the corresponding Python script.
|Number of Mountains||Turn-4 probability||Turn-5 probability||Turn-6 probability|
For example, in a deck with 8 Forest, 8 Mountain, and 1 Dwarven Mine, the probability of drawing at least three Mountains by turn 4 is 25.6%, assuming you also drew Dwarven Mine by that turn under a reasonable mulligan strategy.
How do these probabilities differ from the one for adamant spells?
There are three major differences:
- I no longer condition on drawing at least 4 lands. That condition was reasonable when trying to cast adamant spells, but it’s unnecessary when trying to make untapped land drops.
- Instead of conditioning on drawing an adamant spell like Embereth Paladin, I now condition on drawing Dwarven Mine.
- The Dwarven Mine replaces a Mountain, so a 10 Mountain, 7 Forest mana base turns into a 9 Mountain, 1 Dwarven Mine, 7 Forest mana base. Hence, 7-Forest decks would have 10 red sources for the purpose of casting Embereth Paladin with Adamant but only 9 Mountains for the purpose of triggering Dwarven Mine. This is a huge difference.
How many basics would I recommend for the common lands?
Determining the probabilities was relatively easy, but weighing the ups and downs is not. That part is subjective. One perspective is to say that the free value is worth one mana (Hordeling Outburst minus Dragon Fodder equals Dwarven Mine) and that entering tapped is worth negative one mana, at least when you’re playing the land at any point before turn 6. This is obviously a simplification because a tap-land on turn one or any turn where you’re not curving out basically has no downside, whereas a tap-land on turn four could be the difference between spending four mana on a four-drop or having no legal plays at all. Yet I don’t see another option that seems more reasonable than pegging a tap-land at negative one mana.
If you accept this perspective that the upside is equal to the downside in terms of mana, then we must look in the table for the number of Mountains where the turn-6 probability exceeds 50%. This turns out to be the case with 9 Mountains, but only barely—there it’s 51.3%. Hence, I would say that if I drafted a deck that requires a 10-7 mana base, I would be relatively indifferent between playing 10 Mountain, 7 Forest or 9 Mountain, 1 Dwarven Mine, and 7 Forest. I might run the Mine in a deck that will often go to the late game and cut it for a curve-out aggro deck. If I had drafted a deck that wanted a 9-8 mana base, I would almost never replace a Mountain with a Dwarven Mine.
Only once I’m drafting a red-heavy deck that desires a 11-6 or more intense mana base (which means that my second color is only a minor splash) would I look to actively pick up Dwarven Mine. Given that these decks are relatively rare, I believe that many people are currently playing the common lands far more often than they should. It is hard to trigger them if you’re not very heavy in one color.
The adamant spells are relatively easy to support, but the common lands require a heavier commitment to that color. One way to remember this is by considering the realistic scenario where you drew exactly four lands by turn 4. For Embereth Paladin, drawing 3 Mountain and 1 Forest is fine. For Dwarven Mine, drawing 2 Mountain, Dwarven Mine, and 1 Forest is terrible.
In any case, Throne of Eldraine Limited is a format that rewards you for sticking to one color, whether that’s a 10-7 mana base, a purely mono-color mana base, or anything in between. Make your draft picks with that in mind.