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Things to Track When Drafting Shadows over Innistrad


When drafting core sets, raw power tends to be more important than synergy. I mostly focus on getting a good creature curve and some removal. When drafting expansion sets, a card's desirability can vary drastically depending on what you've drafted so far. For instance, in Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn draft, Trinket Mage, Leonin Squire, and Auriok Salvagers are excellent if you have a number of 0- and 1- mana cost artifacts, but much less impressive otherwise, so it was important to know roughly how many such artifacts you had drafted so far.

Shadows over Innistrad seems to have even more things you need to keep track of than other expansions: Madness and discard outlets, Delirium and Delirium enablers, noncreature spells, several tribal abilities, etc. It's difficult to keep track of all these categories, especially under the time constraints of a draft. Today I'll use some heuristics to make the task easier.

I started by enumerating the cards in the format that get better if you have certain other cards, and grouped them by theme. I then determined the average number you would expect to see of cards in that group in an eight-person draft, by color. We care more about themes that we are more likely to encounter when drafting, so the list is sorted by the average number of cards for that theme in an eight-person draft.

Some explanations are necessary before we dive into this table:

  • I only enumerate how many cards care about an attribute, not the prevalence of the attribute itself, e.g., I look at Spirit tribal effects, but not at how many Spirits are present in the set. This is because I'm not trying to determine at this time whether it's worth prioritizing Spirit tribal effects early in a draft, just whether it's worth keeping track of the number of Spirits you have so far, in case you see a Spirit tribal card later. If there are few or no Spirit tribal cards, then there may not be much reason to keep track of the number of Spirits you have so far. Conversely, if there are a relevant number of Spirit tribal cards in the format, it makes sense to know roughly how many Spirits and how many Spirit tribal cards you have drafted so far.
  • Delirium and Madness are a bit different than the other categories in the table. The other categories count the cards that get better if you have more cards that match that theme (e.g., if you have more noncreature spells, more Humans, or more Clues or Investigate triggers), whereas the Delirium and Madness categories just track the expected number of cards with those abilities. However, these two categories serve a similar purpose to the other categories since they help you determine how highly to value enablers for these abilities.
  • Since the goal is to help navigate the draft experience, I only look at cards that get better based on what you've drafted, not based on what your opponent might have drafted. For instance, Humble the Brute isn't counted in the "Creatures with high power" theme since it doesn't get better (or worse) if you have more creatures with high power in your own deck.
  • Some cards are counted in multiple categories, e.g., Daring Sleuth interacts with Clues before it transforms, and with noncreature spells after it transforms. In addition, all cards in the instants/sorceries category are also counted in the noncreature spells category.
  • Some cards are not counted if I don't think they're relevant in Limited formats, e.g., Alms of the Vein.
  • The values under the count for each color lists how many cards there are at each rarity for this theme (e.g. 2U = 2 Uncommons, 1M = 1 Mythic).

 

Cards that Care About

Total

White

Blue

Black

Red

Green

Multicolor

Artifacts

Lands

Delirium

25.6

7.5
(2C, 3U, 1R, 1M)

0.9
(1U)

6.2
(2C, 2U, 1M)

1.3
(1U, 1R)

9.7
(3C, 2U, 4R)

 

 

 

Madness

21.7

 

5.5
(2C, 1U, 1R)

6.8
(2C, 2U, 2R)

9.4
(3C, 3U, 1R)

 

 

 

 

Noncreature spells
(including instants/sorceries)

18.3

2.1
(1C)

10.3
(3C, 5U, 1R)

 

5.5
(2C, 1U, 1R)

 

 

0.4
(1R)

 

Number of creatures you control

12.0

9.4
(3C, 3U, 1R)

 

0.9
(1U)

0.9
(1U)

0.4
(1R)

 

 

0.4
(1R)

Humans

9.1

1.3
(1U, 1R)

 

 

0

5.1
(2C, 1U)

0.2

2.5
(1C, 1R)

 

Instants/sorceries

9.0

 

5.2
(1C, 3U, 1R)

 

3.4
(1C, 1U, 1R)

 

 

0.4
(1R)

 

Wolves/Werewolves

7.4

 

 

 

3.4
(1C, 1U, 1R)

3.1
(3U, 1R)

 

0.9
(1U)

 

Clues/Investigate

7.4

 

2.7
(3U)

 

 

4.3
(1C, 2U, 1R)

 

0.4
(1R)

 

Equipment

6.0

6.0
(2C, 2U)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vampires

5.2

 

 

3.9
(1C, 2U)

1.3
(1U, 1R)

 

 

 

 

Spirits

4.7

3.4
(1C, 1U, 1R)

1.3
(1U, 1R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zombies

4.5

 

3.9
(1C, 2U)

0.6
(1R, 1M)

 

 

 

 

 

Creatures with high power

4.1

 

 

 

 

3.9
(1C, 1U)

0.2
(1M)

 

 

Lands in your graveyard

3.0

 

 

 

 

3.0
(1C, 1U)

 

 

 

Number of creatures in deck

1.8

 

 

0.9
(1U)

 

0.9
(1U)

 

 

 

Nontoken creatures

1.3

0.4
(1R)

 

 

 

0.9
(1U)

 

 

 

High CMC cards

0.8

 

 

 

0.6
(1R, 1M)

 

0.2
(1M)

 

 

Different CMC cards

0.6

 

 

 

 

0.2
(1M)

 

0.4
(1R)

 

Token creatures

0.4

 

 

 

 

0.4
(1R)

 

 

 

Creatures with CMC <= 3

0.4

0.4
(1R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ETB effects

0.4

0.4
(1R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

# of keyword mechanics

0.4

0.4
(1R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horrors

0.4

 

0.4
(1R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creature played from
graveyard or reanimated

0.4

 

 

 

 

 

0.4
(1R)

 

 

Angels

0.2

0.2
(1M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This table can help us determine what attributes are most important to track while drafting, and how this can change based on the colors you're drafting. Some observations:

  • If we ignore themes with an average of fewer than four copies in an eight-person draft, we cut the list down in half. These 13 remaining subthemes are Delirium, Madness, Clues/Investigate, instant/sorcery/noncreature spells, equipment, the number of creatures you control, creatures with high power, and five tribal effects (Humans, Wolves/Werewolves, Vampires, Spirits, and Zombies).
  • Delirum is the most common subtheme, with an average of 26 cards in an eight-person draft, or about 7.7% of all cards in an eight-person draft. Delirium cards are almost entirely in White, Black, and Green, so it's especially important to keep track of how many Delirium cards you have, and how many enablers you have, if you're drafting some mix of those three colors.
  • Madness is next, with an average of 22 cards in an eight-person draft, or about 6.5% of all cards in an eight-person draft. Madness cards are only available in Blue, Black, and Red, and you usually only need to keep track of them if you're drafting a mix of these three colors.
  • An average of 18 cards care about how many noncreature spells you have, and half of those specifically care about instants and sorceries. Blue has about two-thirds of cards in both categories, while Red has most of the rest.
  • An average of 12 cards care about the number of creatures you control.  About four-fifths are in White, and the rest are shared by Black, Red, and Green.
  • An average of 7.4 cards care about Clues and Investigate triggers. About three-fifths are in Green, and most of the rest are in Blue.
  • An average of six cards care about Equipment, all of which are White. This means that you don't need to keep track of how many pieces of Equipment you have unless you're playing White.
  • An average of four cards care about creatures with high power, almost all of which are Green. 
  • Shadows over Innistrad has an average of 31 tribal cards in an eight-person draft. Each of the five tribes has an average of between 4.5 to 9 creatures. The Wolf/Werewolf tribal cards are split evenly between their two colors, but the remaining tribes have about four-fifths of their tribal cards in the first color of the color pair (White for White/Blue and Green for Green/White):
    • There are an average of nine Human tribal cards in an eight-person draft, 56% are Green, 28% are artifacts, and 14% are White, a ratio of 4:2:1.
    • There are an average of 7.4 Wolf/Werewolf tribal cards, split about evenly between Red and Green, plus an Uncommon artifact. Cult of the Waxing Moon and Neglected Heirloom are included here, even though they aren't actually Wolf/Werewolf tribal cards, because they work especially well in this archetype.
    • There are an average of 5.2 Vampire tribal cards. About three-quarters are Black, and the rest are Red.
    • There are an average of 4.7 Spirit tribal cards. About three-quarters are White, and the rest are Blue.
    • There are an average of 4.5 Zombie tribal cards. Surprisingly, 87% of them are Blue and only 13% are Black.

Conclusions

In an ideal world, we'd be able to instantly recall how many Spirits we've drafted so far when we get passed a Spectral Shepherd. In practice, there's a lot to think about when drafting, so we would like to minimize the number of different attributes that we have to keep track of while drafting so we can focus on choosing the best card for our emerging deck. Lets repivot by color the 13 most common themes in Shadows over Innistrad.

  • White (four themes): Delirum, number of creatures you control, Equipment, Spirit tribal
  • Blue (four themes): Madness, noncreature spells, Clues/Investigate, Zombie tribal
  • Black (three themes): Delirum, Madness, Vampire tribal
  • Red (three themes): Madness, noncreature spells, Wolf/Werewolf tribal
  • Green (five themes): Delirum, Clues/Investigate, high power creatures, Human tribal, Wolf/Werewolf tribal

Each color only has three to five themes you need to keep track of, and the color pairs have five to eight themes, a much more manageable number than the 25 themes we started with. Also, the tribes other than Wolves/Werewolves have about four-fifths of their tribal cards in one of their colors, so there's less need to keep track of how many creatures you have with that creature type unless you're in that color.


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