There are many ways to get an edge in Limited, and the best way is simple: play a lot. Getting a good feel of the format is your best option to maximize your win percentage. The other advantage of so many reps is that you start to understand what can happen when your opponent passes the turn with 3 mana up or attacks his 2/2 into your 3/3, and so on.
It’s not just about playing around cards—it is also about drafting cards in the right order. Say you are drafting a white deck and your cards are good, but you’re clearly missing 2-drops. Next time you see a 2-drop, it is alongside a powerful 5-mana uncommon. What should you do? If you know there are 4 common 2-drops in the set, then you wouldn’t mind taking the powerful card as it is likely you’ll see another 2-drop. Keep in mind that the average number of each commons opened in a draft is 2.
Unfortunately for me, memory is not my best skill. If I could play 50 drafts before an event, my brain would get it, but it’s nearly impossible to draft that much before the Pro Tour and so, over the years, I’ve developed a few tools that help me shortcut what I should be remembering. Today I’m sharing these tricks, but before I do, a few stipulations.
Commons and Uncommons Only
Playing around rares and mythics is loose unless you have an excellent reason to think they have it (you saw it in the draft). If you are a master, you can afford playing around a rare if that’s literally the only card that beats you. Still, be extremely careful because it can cost you the game to play around a rare that they don’t have in such a way that now you’re in a bad spot against a common or uncommon they are likely to have.
I ran the numbers so I know the average common and uncommon cards opened in a draft (flip cards set aside for now):
- Average number of each common opened in a draft (with 105 different commons in the set), 24 packs opened, 9 per pack = 216 per draft = 2.05 of each common per draft.
- Average number of each uncommon opened in a draft (with 100 different uncommons in the set), 24 packs opened, 3 per pack = 72 per draft = 0.72 of each uncommon per draft.
There are 20 uncommon and 4 common flip cards. The distribution for these is weird, especially considering there are fewer commons than uncommons—luckily, I got Aaron Forsythe himself to tell me the ratio.
2/3 of the time you get an uncommon and 1/3 of the time a common (there is always exactly one C/U flip card in every pack).
- Average number of each common flip card opened in a draft (with 4 different flip commons in the set), 24 packs opened, 1/3 per pack = 8 per draft = 2 of each flip common per draft.
- Average number of each uncommon flip card opened in a draft (with 20 different flip uncommons in the set), 24 packs opened, 2/3 per pack = 16 per draft = 0.8 of each flip uncommon per draft.
Creatures on Curve
Now that I have the numbers, let’s look at the actual creatures you want in your curve.
1- and 2-drops are together as one category because no one is actively looking for a 1-drop—you just want enough plays by turn 2.
Commons are listed first and those are the ones you should refer to first, then take the uncommons with a smaller grain of salt (1.32 smaller, to be exact).
As you saw with the average number of flip cards opened, it’s very similar to the regular common and uncommon, so they can easily be put in the same category.
To sum up:
- White has a total of 4 two-drops, 6 three-drops, 5 four-drops, 2 five-drops
- Blue has a total of 4 two-drops, 4 three-drops, 5 four-drops, 2 five-drops
- Black has a total of 5 two-drops, 5 three-drops, 5 four-drops, 3 five-drops, 1 six-drop
- Red has a total of 6 two-drops, 5 three-drops, 4 four-drops, 2 five-drops
- Green has a total of 7 two-drops, 5 three-drops, 4 four-drops, 3 five-drops, 1 six-drop
Clearly, when drafting green, you can afford to skip on the 2-drops for powerful card as you should see enough. The same goes for white and 3-drops.
Instant-Speed Cards to Play Around
Those should be assessed differently. In fact, I have a list of these in my phone and immediately after the draft (and after registering my deck), I’ll look at it and type in the number of each I saw in the draft. Most of the clean removal are cards you will likely not have seen since people pick them highly, so that’s the only one you really have to remember. Cards like Strength of Arms won’t be picked highly and so you’re usually able to see them.
For a mediocre card like Survive the Night, if you saw 0 in the draft, you can basically assume you will never face it and shouldn’t bother to play around it.