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How many creatures should the average, typical draft deck contain?

Obviously this depends on a multitude of factors, including the kinds of creatures in your deck, the kinds of non-creatures you have available, and the overall composition of the block you're drafting. Nonetheless, what's a good baseline for the number of creatures in a draft deck? And how should I decide if I need to run more or fewer creatures than the baseline?

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I created the tag mtg-drafting for this question, as MTG draft is a distinct enough creature to warrant its own tag IMHO. –  JSBձոգչ Oct 30 '11 at 17:43
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Usually, my draft decks tend to aim for 16-17, 6-7 other spells, and 17 lands. Generally, if you end up with 19-20+ creatures your deck is going to be aggressive but insufficiently versatile. If you end up with 11 or fewer creatures your deck may have lots of "answers" but a shortage of ways to actually win the game. As ever, striking a balance is key.

There's nothing wrong with having 12 creatures or something if your deck is packed with sweet removal: take a red/black deck for instance; the creature quality in these colours tends to be low, but you make up for it in the strength of the removal cards. Obviously it'd be daft to be adding bad creatures to a deck to "make up the numbers" when you have excellent removal at your disposal: being able to take out one of the opponent's best creatures is almost as good as playing a creature of your own.

Also, make a note of cards in your pool which aren't creatures but basically count as creature cards. Mind Control is one of the very best cards in the latest Core Set because not only does it remove an opponent's creature, it gives you one as well! And most sets have an instant or sorcery that generates token creatures these days. If you draft a lot on Magic Online where it keeps a running total of creatures for you, you'll be familiar with having to take that figure with a pinch of salt - because often it lies!

Anyway, 16-17 creatures or equivalent is definitely "average and typical". If you're often drastically over- or undershooting that baseline, then (unless you've created some kind of insanely broken rogue decks that crush all comers 3-0) I'd definitely try to steer closer to the 40% creatures mark and see if that works out better for you.

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Creatures are what makes you win and what makes you lose games in Limited. Therefore I would consider the baseline types of spells for Limited not only creatures, but creatures + creature removals. Creatures with evasion are powerful in Limited, so sometimes the only solution to a sticky situation is a targeted removal.

So, assuming a 23-17 distribution, you want a total of 23 creatures and creature removals as the baseline.

Then you start replacing your worst creatures with, in this order:

  • Non-creature bombs (such as equipments, token generators),
  • Direct Damage (might already count as removal depending on card and environment)
  • and finally, if you still have room, a little utility, such as mana fixing/acceleration, card drawing/searching, graveyard recycling, or cheap cantrips for thinning the deck.

You probably shouldn't go below ca. 15 creatures + removals in most cases. There is nothing worse than sitting on a hand and battlefield full of utility and equipments and getting beaten to death by a 2/2.

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LOL. Looking at a hand full of utility cards while I'm dying to a 2/2 is exactly what happened to me in my last game, and the thing that prompted me to ask this question. –  JSBձոգչ Oct 30 '11 at 22:25
    
I feel your pain :) –  Hackworth Oct 30 '11 at 22:35
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Decks usually have a number of control/defensive cards, evenly balanced between anti-creatures, anti-instants, anti-enchantments etc. I found more useful to put my attacking cards only in one category (creatures, enchantments, sorceries, etc.), so that a big part of my opponent's deck defenses becomes useless or less useful. You can see that, if you follow this phylosophy, there is no "proportionate" or "disproportionate" number of creatures, but it would be rather more interesting having significantly more or significantly less creatures than "normal". Or even no creatures at all. :-)

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You could argue this for decks in general, but I think draft (as the question specifies) tends to be particularly creature-heavy. –  shujaa Feb 7 '12 at 23:50
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