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A standard draft deck has 40 cards in it; a 4-booster sealed deck has 30 cards. How many lands should I put in each of these formats? And why do I need this ratio?

The conventional wisdom that I received for a 60-card constructed deck is to have 20 lands, suggesting that 1/3 of the deck should be land. However, I was also told to include 17 lands in a draft deck, which is higher than 1/3. But a smaller draft deck will have a lower variance (fewer ways to shuffle a deck and get mana-screwed), so shouldn't you be able to get away with fewer lands than the 1/3 ratio?

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"20 lands in a 60-card constructed deck" is a dangerous and almost certainly wrong piece of "conventional wisdom". Unless there's something unusual going on (lots of mana creatures, for instance), I'd anticipate 26 lands being a good number for a 60-card deck. –  thesunneversets Oct 3 '11 at 14:16
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I think there's a lot more flexibility in a 60-card deck, as you are able to tune it more than a limited deck and depending on the deck's strategy, you may not need a large mana base. I believe "conventional wisdom" is anywhere from 18 to 28 lands. Most people I know run 23-25 lands in a 60 card constructed deck. –  ghoppe Oct 3 '11 at 15:15
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FYI, all the Innistrad and New Phyrexia Intro Packs run 24 lands, three out of five of the Magic 2012 Core Set Intro Packs run 24 lands, with the other two running 25. –  ghoppe Oct 3 '11 at 15:25
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@ghoppe, great idea to look at the Innistrad precons. I think that mana curves are a little bit lower than they were in my day, due to today's card packing more bang for their buck! In my day we got 1 power for 1 mana and 2 power for 3 mana and counted ourselves lucky... –  thesunneversets Oct 3 '11 at 15:42
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The 1/3 land makes sense as a baseline if you think that in your first 3 turns you see 9-10 cards (depending if you go first), and you'd like to play 3 lands. That'd be great if most of what you wanted to play has CMC < 4, but as @David points out, that probably doesn't cut it anymore, so you'll probably want to see 4 lands in your first 4 turns (10-11 cards), which is getting up to 24 lands in your deck (ignoring variance). Bolster against a little bad luck, add another land or two depending on how bad you need it. Add a little mana fixing and take some out. –  Gregor Nov 3 '11 at 19:20
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Conventional wisdom is to run around 40% lands in Limited. This means around 12-13 lands for a 30-card deck, and 17-18 lands for a 40-card deck.

Respectively, decks will typically to run 12/17 lands if running a typical two-color, standard-curve deck and 13/18 lands (if running a three-color or color-heavy cards). Mana fixing is always very imporant - anytime you can run a mana creature/artifact or filter lands of some kind, it's likely in your favor to do so.

As far as why, in Limited your reliance on never missing a land drop in the first four-six turns is much higher than usual. That consistent ramp up to four-six lands means dropping those higher-cost creatures and game-winning bombs.

EDIT: On the subject of mana acceleration, as I previously mentioned, it's almost always in your favor to run what you can (mana fetch spells, mana creatures and artifacts, filter lands, etc.), but depending on how many of them you run, you can sometimes decrease your land count. Some people reduce by one land per mana/land-generating spell, others say one land per two spells - however, this is usually to a minimum of 15-16 lands in 40-card and 11 lands in 30-card (11 is very uncommon).

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So what's the magic number for a 30-card sealed deck? –  JSBձոգչ Oct 3 '11 at 13:53
    
@JSBᾶngs 30-card sealed deck isn't a standard format, so there is no "magic number". I would just go with a similar percentage: 12-13 lands. –  ghoppe Oct 3 '11 at 14:11
    
@JSB, a Sealed deck should run to the same number of cards/lands as a Draft deck: 40 cards, of which 17-18 are lands. –  thesunneversets Oct 3 '11 at 14:11
    
I agree with this answer, although you could drop it by one if you have 2 or more mana producing artifacts or land fetching effects. –  ghoppe Oct 3 '11 at 14:13
    
Oh, okay, if 30-card Sealed is some strange new format I've never heard of, then my comment doesn't apply. You'd be looking at the same ratio as a 40-card deck: 12-13 lands out of 30 cards? –  thesunneversets Oct 3 '11 at 14:14
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