Hello, dear Eternal reader. If you are here then you have probably played at least a couple of drafts. If you have not and would like to know more about drafting in general, you can start by reading my extensive drafting guide. In this article I would like to talk in more detail about splashing additional colors in your draft decks – why do it, when to do it, and – most importantly – when not to do it.
I will not be talking here about the drafting process itself. I assume you already have chosen your 48 cards and are now unsure of what to do next. Which cards to cut, which ones to leave in – that is the usual dilemma at this stage.
To start your journey into deckbuilding in drafts you have got to know what your deck is going to be about. Is it a fast deck or a slow deck? What does your power curve look like? What is your main win condition – a ton of removal, building up one big unit, evading blockers, going big or going wide? How do you deal with your opponent when they have a ton of removal, a big unit with a lot of weapons, evasive attackers, big boards or wide boards?
Splashing in general means adding cards from colors outside your main range in order to add raw power or synergy to the deck while sacrificing consistency. Sometimes your deck is powerful enough that it does not require outside help. Other times the best cards you drafted are in the splash zone and you need to know if you will be able to squeeze them in. That is why next you have to see if your card pool includes a lot of fixing, thus letting you splash easier, i.e. without putting a strain on your resources. You still need to draw all the appropriate quantities and qualities of power, right?
Okay, that is a lot of theory and unanswered questions already. Let us now dive into some real-life examples.
Here you can see an Ixtun deck with some really good cards, good color fixing, but a bad curve. Howling Peak is the clear stand-out bomb here, but you have to live to turn six and have double Fire double Primal influence at the ready. The unit count is good, but I would rather have two more 2-drops instead of a 3-drop and a 6-drop – even mediocre 2/2s. There are only three Renown units here – with two of them counting the cost of the thing played – with not a lot of good weapon / trick support. There is also a Primal Market with some late game options – you can read more about Markets in draft in my Market Theory article. We also have a case of the bomb-in-a-splash-color Display, but I will get to it in a moment.
The question you should ask yourself at this point is – how does this deck win? Here it has a ton of value cards like the above-mentioned Howling Peak, Display of Ambition, Warband Skald, Imperial Loyalist, Linebreaker’s Shield, Mirror Image and a good Market, so the most probable outcome is to just out-value the opponents card for card.
Where is the problem then? Well, this is just the first example, so the problem is a minor one. Counting down from power – which we need 18 of – we have space for 27 other cards, and our deck consists of 28 non-power cards. We only need to cut one. For the sake of this example, the rest of the card pool consists of unplayable Time cards – which means this is all we can work with. We could dip into the Market and exchange some cards, but that is not the dilemma here.
To put it bluntly – do we have enough tools to justify splashing for the Display and cut a weak card e.g. Hoof Slash, Gruanform of Crystal Dirk, or do we just get rid of the fourth color splash? To answer the question we need to look at two aspects first. One – how much consistency are we sacrificing for the sake of the splash and two – will this deck win without the Display?
To answer question number one – we have two Banners which include Shadow influence … and that is it. Given that you usually need between three and five sources for a small splash, this is not enough. We would have to supplement it with one or two Shadow Sigils. On the other hand, the rest of the card require a total of FFJJPP, which is already putting a strain on our resources even despite the lack of an additional S at the end.
Now, for number two – what is better, an on-color Gruanform or a splashed Display of Ambition? To be honest, given the resource strain we might lose a game or two because we will be unable to play cards from our hand, while if we do play the Display, it will not necessarily win us the game outright. As a result, I would opt to skip the Display and play the following list:
The second draft example gives us a much wider pool and more to work with. We are quite deep with an Auralian deck and a lot of Relic-matter synergies inside, such as triple Acantha’s Outrider, Consuming Greed and Tumbling Sloth. We also have three Justice cards that we might be thinking of including – Paladin Oathbook, Sanguine Sword and Slay – with the Sword being the weakest of the three. The rest of the deck looks quite good with some decent fixing and another bomb in the form of Bloodlust.
How does this deck win? It has good early game, as it can curve out Araktodon Egg into a unit into an Acantha’s Outrider into the Egg hatching while playing another unit. It has a lot of evasion with up to six flying units. It has the swingiest card in the form of Bloodlust. It also obviously can have the amazing buff relic that is the Oathbook.
Now, before we get to decide whether to keep Justice or not, we want to cut the obvious weak links. The power base is 18, minus one for the Cargo. We have four potential Pledge units, but if we want to get into four colors we have to include one more power, which still puts us at 17 power cards and 28 non-power cards. With nine cards to cut, we could forego some of the unnecessary attachments and weak units. This means we are cutting Reinforced Towershield, Cobalt Ring, Icebow and Sanguine Sword for sure, along with Skeeter and Umbren Coaxer. Backlash can also go away. Still there are two too many cards in here.
Now this is the pivot point. We could get rid of both Oathbook and Slay, but let us look at the other option and compare them. 19 units plus two Eggs is on the higher end, with the lower part of the curve being overrepresented. Four 1-drops and ten 2-drops (including Relics) mean that we can easily get rid of a 1-drop and a 2-drop. Mischief Yeti is the clear-cut, with the other being Campfire Watchman or Rakano Stranger.
What does our fixing and influence requirements look like? Two Banners, one Token, one good Cargo, four Strangers and a Bannerman is a lot, with our cards needing a total of TJPPSS. This can easily support our Justice splash – even without the Rakano Stranger.
To sum up – the power level of Paladin Oathboook and Slay, combined with a ton of fixing allow us to play them instead of clearly weaker Mischief Yeti and Rakano Stranger. There is also a small combo in here, that is Elvish Swindler fetching Paladin Oathbook. The resulting deck looks like this:
Playing Jennev in draft is usually playing big Time units with some ramping, but that is not always the case. In draft number three we end up with a healthy Skycrag pool with a splash of Time for some great cards – Display of Instinct, Infused Guardian, Monolith Guardian to name some. Other notables include Chunk Chunk, Parapet Sentry, Shapeshifter’s Mask, Burn Them All and triple Mighty Strikes. Add to that a quite aggressive curve starting out at one and we have the makings of a good draft deck.
How does this deck win? By applying pressure to the opponent, with the help of good on-curve units, supported by three Mighty Strikes & Co. That is usually more than enough.
What we do not need here is being clunky. We also do not have a lot of Relic-matter cards, with Monolith Guardian and Sirocco Glider being the exceptions. We also do not have a lot of fixing, with only a Praxis Banner and two Skycrag Strangers, with an addition of two Pledge units we really do not want to pledge out.
Base power number stays at 18, so we have to cut nine cards. We could get rid of most of the Relics and Relic-matter cards. We could also cut all the Time out and include something from the rest of the card pool, but do we really need to? Let us start from the top by cutting Cryptic Etchings, Wind Cloak, Cobalt Ring, Lens of Clarity, Sirocco Glider and Monolith Guardian. We could also cut Shingane Forge, but the sheer potential of turning our late game Assembly Line, Grenadin Drone and Lazy Firemane into powerhouses and enabling all Renowns on its own is too much to pass. This leaves us with three cards to cut. Given that Time consists now of five cards, getting rid of three of those will help us with our splash a lot. And so we say farewell to Towertop Patrol, Be Gone and Dispel, leaving Infused Guardian and Display of Instinct as the only two Time cards.
Our influence requirements are now FFTPP, but we still need three to five sources for those two cards. Given that this is a small splash and we need this color in the later stages of the game, four should be enough. Behold what we have accomplished:
Ah, Kerendon. Quite powerful and empowering – especially here, where we can see seven Empower units, with the support of two Lost Scrolls and a Display of Vision. The curve is very aggressive, one of the three colors is a clear splash – seems quite good. Unfortunately, the fixing here is terrible. One Seek Power is ok, but the Token acts as a bad Xenan Banner, while Lost Scrolls and Display of Vision can only give you colors that you already have. There is the Pledge Sadistic Ritualist, but I would not count on him to get rid of our influence problems.
How does this deck win? By curving out very aggressively, starting with District Infantries and Resolute Monks and backing them all up with a lot of tricks. You got to remember, though, that going very aggressive from turn one on is quite difficult when you have little-to-no fixing.
The power level here is 17 – we have a discount for Seek Power. That leaves us with 28 non-power cards, meaning cutting out just seven cards. We could cut down most of the splashed Shadow cards leaving us with the likes of Mob Rule, Bleak Basin Guide, Display of Vision and Bloodlust. The only problem is that the highest-impact card is a 6-drop with a double Shadow requirement, and we have – as I have already said – not a lot of fixing.
To be honest, neither Mob Rule, Bleak Basin Guide nor Display of Vision are needed for a quick Combrei rush victory. The only standout is Bloodlust, but leaving in a single double-color splash card is too crazy, even for me! Out with the Shadow then!
Upon further examination we were left one card short. After looking back at the rest of the card pool I have found two previously cut cards that could benefit this Combrei rush strategy. One of them was a second Unmoored Valkyrie, which quickly took the place of our 7-drop Dormant Sentinel – we want to get in quick! The other was Pistolwhip – not as powerful as a Bloodlust, but certainly enough to get a couple of jobs done at once – buffing a unit, stunning an enemy AND triggering Renown.
Let this be a reminder to all of you – when in doubt, take a look back at the rest of your card pool. And again. And again, until you get a deck that is perfect. And yes, this one went 7-2:
Okay, last example … at least for now! The good ol’ four colors, no Justice control. Side note – in the current draft format most of the successful four color decks I have drafted did not include Justice. Anyway – very good curve, a lot of good cards, just … what to build?
A strong Elysian base with a small Fire splash and an even smaller Shadow splash. The funniest part of these splashes is that two cards – Jekk’s Choice and Smuggler’s Stash – are in both splash colors. We also have Rock Carapace in the pool. This is a gigantic Legendary Weapon with a double Fire requirement, but let us be honest – how often do we get to draft a Legendary from a curated pack and have a deck as well prepared for it as possible? Here the synergy is at its peak – with four Endurance units to boot, we will be sure to win at least one game with this specific combo.
Power lever and cuteness aside, there are a lot of highly rated cards in this pool. Cutting seven (17 power and a Cargo) should be fairly easy. We could obviously just get rid of one of the splash colors, but with two additional sources of Fire and three additional sources of Shadow – do we really need to? Or do we just get rid of the weak cards?
Well let us analyze the Elysian base. We only have one Relic, so the synergistic Tumbling Sloth, Pompous Historian, Acantha’s Outrider and Tunneling Gargantua are worth a bit less now. While Sloth has a very good stat line and Historian can get his value out of Sentinels (of which we have five), the other two are gone, as is our only Relic – Spitfire. We can also get rid of an unnecessary Master Cartographer – the weakest 2-drop – leaving us with six 1- and 2-drops, which should be enough for a control deck. Two cards are left to cut. Assembly Line does has no synergies with anything else and is the next cut. After much deliberation the axe goes to Wisdom of the Elders – the card needs double Primal in a four color deck and does not do a lot by itself.
To sum up – when you are building your draft deck you need to ask yourself some very important questions. What does your deck do best? How does it win? Does it have a lot of fixing? Does it stand a better chance with worse on-color cards or better splashed cards? Remember – if you are still not sure – you can always catch me on my stream or Discord channel to guide you further.