In my Draft Guides, I like to provide example decks to show how the ideas I present can be put into concrete form. When I do this, I’ll often talk about some card inclusions and how they over or underperform. Today I want to delve a little deeper. What’s the thought process when determining the final cards to include in a draft deck? I’ll use the following as a case study:

RW 2-1

(Click to un-suppress.)

Here we see the final main deck I submitted and the other options that were available to me in the sideboard. Let’s go through the controversial options I included, and then see how the other sideboard options compare.

First you’ll see I have an 18-land, aggressive deck. This is definitely unorthodox, but my intent was clear. The first reason for this was simply to have enough sources of colored mana. With 2 Foundry of the Consuls in the mana base I’m already taking away two basic land slots, though I gain back another colored source with Battlefield Forge.

Assuming I played 17 lands with a straight split mana base that would leave me playing 8 white sources and 8 red sources, which I just don’t think is good enough for this deck. Ideally I’d be looking for 10 white sources with my Consul’s Lieutenant, but with this many early red drops, that just isn’t going to be possible. Additionally I have two Ampryn Tactician, and a double-colored 4-drop definitely comes into the equation when building a mana base, since it isn’t trivial to have two Plains on turn 4 like it is for a later spell like Gideon’s Phalanx on turn 7. All this said, I went to 18 land so I could play a 9/8 mana base favoring white.

Another reason to include 18 lands is the two Foundry of the Consuls themselves. They help prevent flooding and are very real 6-mana threats. Imagining two more 6-drops on this curve definitely makes 18 land look more reasonable, though 17 could still work well.

There are a two other deck specific reasons besides the Foundry of the Consuls that encourage 18 lands. The first is Akroan Jailer.

After many many Origins drafts, this is the very first time I included Akroan Jailer in my deck. Normally, I just don’t think he is worth a card, but here he actually is. His tap cost is prohibitively expensive, but that will be less of a problem in a deck low to the ground that has excess mana. Additionally, this deck is extremely low on removal with a whopping 19 creatures if you include Dragon Fodder! Akroan Jailer actually works well under these conditions.

The second reason is the 3 Infectious Bloodlust. Infectious Bloodlust will often work as a 5- or 6-mana spell in this deck since I would play a 3- or 4-drop then cast a Bloodlust on it.

Playing multiple spells in a turn is one of the most powerful things you can do in Limited and Infectious Bloodlust is the perfect second spell.

Bonded Construct is the last maindeck card that is somewhat questionable, but the deck is very capable of fast starts, and getting Bonded Construct to attack on turn 3 with this deck is very easy.

Under those settings, Bonded Construct is a big payoff card and I’m very happy with it in this style of deck despite the fact that it ironically is usually a better blocker than attacker.

The Cards that Didn’t Make the Cut

This card always looks better than it plays out. The fact is that the 2/1 body is a liability in this format due to Thopter tokens and Eyeblight Assassin. Additionally, the Wingmare has a difficult time attacking through many of the other fliers in the format including fellow 3-drops Scrapskin Drake and Stalwart Aven.

This is a classic example of examining a card in context—looking past the card itself and seeing how its stats line up with the surrounding cards in the format.

On top of these base problems, the static ability on the Wingmare can be a downside in this deck! Remember the ideal of playing Infectious Bloodlust in the same turn as another creature? That play suddenly is delayed by a whole turn, and in the rare cases this deck wants to curve into Suppression Bonds it now can’t. I’m being slightly unfair here since the effect is symmetrical and will often be slightly annoying to the opponent, but the rest of the downsides just don’t make up for this fact.

I’ve found this guy to be perfectly serviceable but nothing special, and isn’t really something we’re interested in with our low-to-the-ground deck. If I had fewer playables I wouldn’t be embarrassed by the Infantry’s inclusion.

I have to say that this card has exceeded my expectations in the format. A 3/3 flier is just big enough to make up for the fact that the card is overcosted. Additionally, the 3 life helps you get back into games. Finally, a selling point for the Battle Priest is that it’s a white card, and lets you keep up aggression after you’ve traded off a bunch of resources and it can sometimes close a game.

All that being said, I still don’t think the card is particularly great. I do think it’s worth more consideration in deckbuilding and can be completely playable. We’re not interested in it here (though I did sideboard it in against a bunch of smaller fliers).

This was my last cut from the main deck, and I even played the first War Horn. But while the card is good in this deck due to its strengths with Foundry of the Consuls and Dragon Fodder alongside harder-to-block first strikers, it still plays awkwardly in a deck trying to go big with Infectious Bloodlust. Making a big creature a bit bigger on attacks is fine, and more often than not the War Horn will help this deck win, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to draw 2 War Horns and I think each of the final included cards just do more. Lastly, the 2 Ampryn Tactician also fill a similar role but leave behind a solid body and that makes the War Horn’s ability much more replaceable.

Act of Treason is good at stealing wins but just isn’t consistent enough to include in a very solid deck without abusable sacrifice effects. It’s a pretty good sideboard card against green decks to take their one big blocker and win, but drawing it when you’re behind is just terrible and I wasn’t willing to take that risk.

There’s certainly a lot to consider with the finer details of deckbuilding in draft, but the most important thing is to have reasons for each card’s spot in the final 40 cards. In one draft a card might not be reasonable to include and then the very next draft it could be one you’re happy to play. Consider how your deck will play out and what effects will maximize your chances of winning! Good luck in your drafts.