Hi everyone! Today I'm going to talk about one of the most important aspects of drafting, building the power base for your deck. Having powerful cards in your hand is great, but that wouldn't matter if you don't have the power to cast it! Thus, it's important to ensure that you have enough power AND influence to be able to cast the cards in your deck. But fret not! I will spend the rest of the article going over both number of power and number of each influence to run in your deck. I will then wrap it up with a few examples, and explain the trade-offs that each deck makes.
How much power to run?
If you've read my Drafting 101 series, you'll remember that I recommended 17~18 power in most decks. While that is true in general, I think that most of Set 4 decks should be running 18 power. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, most decks in this format tend to have a reasonably high curve, so you would want to run more power to support that. Secondly, this format has a huge number of power sinks between actual high activation cost cards, such as Sky Crew, Xenan Guardian and Herald of the Parliament, and pseudo-sinks in the form of Spellcraft weapons. Not only so, the increase in amount of looting and pseudo-looting available in the format allows you to discard your excess power for real cards, thus helping to mitigate flood.
Thus, I would tend to err on the side of playing a slightly higher power count since between the numerous factors I listed above since with the tools in the format, I would much rather be flooded than screwed. It's also important to remember that the curve indicators in the Deck profile doesn't take into account Spellcraft effects, so while Changeestik appears as a 2 on the plot, it is much closer to a 6 in reality.
Unfortunately, counting power isn't as simple as just looking at the number in brackets next to the word Power at the top of the screen. There are power that aren't really power, and spells that are actually power!
With the exception of Temple Standard, I would not count my Standards as power at all. The rest of the Standards are extremely powerful spells that is often going to be much more impactful compared to your 27th card in the deck. As such, rather than thinking of standards as a sigil that can become a spell, it's much better to think of it as a spell, that you can occasionally play as a sigil in the event that you are power screwed.
Moving on to non-power cards that are actually power, Seek Power and Petition are easily top of the list. These cards are great, and they effectively count as an extra sigil. The true math is slightly more complicated, since they inflate your post-mulligan power count, but then playing the Seek reduces the odds of drawing power subsequently. So effectively, Seek Power and Petition actually help you to hit your power drops early and while also reducing your odds of flooding out in the late game. Thus, even if you are playing a Mono Faction deck in draft for whatever reason, you should still run Seek Power most of the time (unless you think that the "depleted" power is a real cost).
However, Petition is A LOT worse than Seek Power. Being at 1-cost, Seek Power is a lot easier to weave into your plays, such as playing it on turn 1, or doing turn 3 2-drop+Seek Power. In contrast, Petition is much harder and often eats up a good chunk of your turn. Thus, I would want to have mutliple Crests/Banners/Standards or very poor fixing before I run Petition in my deck.
Initiate of the Sands
Initiate of the Sands is another card that I would count as a sigil in deckbuilding, though it's more complicated than that. It has the upside of ramping to allow you to play a turn ahead of your opponent, but the downside is that it gives no influence and can be killed/silenced by your opponent to set you back. The influence part is a significant drawback in this format; if your deck has difficult influence requirements (is running a splash or has several double influence cards), this card makes it harder to hit them, and I often find that running it in those decks over another sigil isn't worth it.
Amber Acolyte is a tricky card to count. It's a 3 drop that draws a sigil, so you should technically count it as an extra source of power. However, the fact that it doesn't draw you out of a 2-power screw and is a pretty weak turn 3 play makes me inclined to count it as less than a sigil. I'm currently counting Amber Acolyte as 0.6 of a power source.
Herbalist is in a similar spot as Amber Acolyte, except that it is way slower, taking up 5 power, only giving you a 2/2 on board AND costing a card. Often, it might also be correct to simply not get Secret Pages off Herbalist if you have no good discard targets. Thus, I often ignore Learned Herbalist when counting power for my deck.
How many sources for each faction?
There really isn't a hard or fast rule that you can just apply to decks. Often, building power bases is a trade-off. Do I want a 9th Time source or a 5th Primal source for my splash? Do I want to increase the odds of a turn 1 Oathkeeper or a turn 4 Corrupted Umbren?
For my 2 main factions, I would run at least 7 sources of each faction. If I have multiple double influence cards or turn 1 plays in that faction, I would be much more comfortable with 8 or 9. This number further escalates to 9~11 when I'm running early double influence cards (such as Temple Shihan or Kosul Battlemage) or triple influence cards.
Moreover, if I have Time-based fixing (Learned Herbalist, Amber Acolyte), I would also actively slant my power base towards Time, since Time-based fixing can't fetch the first Time, but it can always fetch the first source of my secondary influence. (On a side note, this is why Lingering Influence is bad unless you have 10+ sources of J. Trading scout for a depleted power is good, but not when it can't fetch your first influence.)
The general principle that I use for splashing is 4 sources for up to 2 cards on the splash, +1 source for every 2 cards above that. In mathematical terms,
No. of Sources = 3+ (No. of splashed cards/2)
Again, this is not a hard and fast rule, I might cheat and go down to 3 sources for a single card splash that I'm only intending to play late (such as Surgeon's Saw), or I could go up to 5 sources splash for 2 cards if I expect to play them relatively early.
The main reason for increasing our number of splashed sources with the number of splashed cards is to reduce the odds of having unplayable cards stuck in your hand. A side-effect of this is that you should tend towards picking on-faction cards over splashed cards (especially if you aren't sure if your power base can support it).
It’s also important to count the number of sources of each card accurately. To begin with, each sigil count as a source for that influence. Similarly, a banner/crest would count as a source for both influence that it provides.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I generally want to play standards as spells rather than power. However, being able to play your other splash cards is often a good incentive to play standards as power, so while I don’t count standards as sources of power, I would count them as 0.5 of a source.
Faction-less Mono Fetches (Seek Power/Veteran Strategist)
These cards are a lot trickier to evaluate because the number of sources of influence that they provide is dependent on your deck itself:
- Straight 2F deck
A straight 2F deck is the simplest to evaluate. These fetches simply count as an additional source for both factions. This may seem counter-intuitive but if you think about it; when you are influence screwed, you will always be able to fetch the other faction, so it's basically correct to think of it as +1 to each faction's sources, since if you are screwed out of 1, you'll be flooded on the other. It might not be true in the odd case (such as you open with 2 T sigils, fetch a J, and then end up flooding on J sigils and die with a Carnosaur stuck in hand), but those are extremely rare fringe cases.
- 2F+splash deck
In a 2F+splash deck, the fetch is generally used for the splash faction, so I often count it as 1 source for the splash faction. On the off chance that you are either screwed out of one of your main factions or already have your splashed sigil in hand, you can use the fetch for your main faction instead, so I would count it as 0.7 sources for the main factions.
- Heavy influence decks (3F+)
In such decks, you often want A LOT out of your fetches, wanting it to get multiple influences. As such, it is pretty inaccurate to count it as a source for each of your factions. I generally approximate it such that the total amount of sources that each fetch provides sums to 2 (e.g. I might count a Seek as 0.3 of my 2 primary factions and 0.7 of my 2 splash factions).
Time Mono Fetches (Amber Acolyte/Learned Herbalist)
These cards are very similar to the above category, except that they require your deck to have a decent Time sources count to begin with because they do not fix for your first Time. So, I would not count them as a source for the purposes of considering my first Time drop, but they can be counted as my second or third Time source for cards like Predatory Carnosaur.
Petition is a very interesting card because the amount of fixing it provides is dependent on how many dual-faction powers you have. In the worst case scenario (0 duals), Petition is basically a Seek Power, except that it costs twice as much. In the best case scenario (0 sigils deck), Petition is basically Seek Power on steriods, and you can basically count it as a source for all your factions. In reality though, it's somewhere in the middle, but as long as you have 2+ duals, it's often closer to the latter case, especially since if you've drawn your duals (and therefore unable to fetch them), you are probably missing only 1 of your influence at most. And if you haven't draw duals, you can fetch them for double the fixing!
Next, I will be going through some example decks and talk about their power bases to showcase how the calculations work out and why did I choose that distribution of sigils.
Deck 1 (Combrei Splash Shadow and Primal)
For this deck, we are base Combrei, so I would like to have 8 sources for both Time and Justice. I have 7 shadow cards, so plugging in the previous formula, that means I would like 7 sources for shadow as well. A single Primal card means I just need 4 sources of Primal.
Looking at the actual power base, we have 4 duals, so we can easily count this Petition as +1 for all sources. Our greedy power base Herbalist is kind of stretched, so I would count her as +0.7 for each of the non-Time factions. So, that gives us 9 sources of Time (5 sigils, 3 duals and 1 Petition), 8.2 sources of Justice (6 sigils, 1 Petition, 0.5 for Standard and 0.7 from Herbalist), 6.7 sources of Shadow (2 sigils, 3 duals, 1 Petition and 0.7 from Herbalist) and 4.7 sources of Primal (1 sigil, 2 duals, 1 Petition and 0.7 from Herbalist).
This is pretty close to our ideal power base, and even has an extra T source to help ensure that we are able to play our Herbalist. Ideally, we would like 1 more source of Shadow, but given our surplus in the Primal department, we will probably end up using our fetches for Shadow more often than not. It's also worth noting that this deck is effectively running 19 power (19 power cards - 1 standard + 1 Petition), and this is in part due to our high curve, but it also has the added benefit of giving us one additional source of influence for our deck.
Deck 2 (Combrei Splash Fire)
For this deck, we have a 4 card Fire splash, and that means we would ideally like to run 5 fire sources. Our fixing is based in Time, which makes our first Time very important, but we also have multiple JJ cards, including Valkyrie Spireguard on 4, so Justice sources are just as important. With the power base in the picture, this gives us 9 sources of our first Time sigil, and ~10.4 sources of double Time for our Pensive Lumen and Vital Arcana, which is a decent amount. Our Justice count is similar, giving us 10.4 sources and exactly 5 sources of Fire between the power count and the Herbalists.
There is some argument for going -1 Justice Sigil, +1 Time Sigil because hitting the first Time sigil is so important. However, I think this power base is fine because most of our bombs are JJ, and going down to 9.4 sources of Justice is probably more costly than the benefit of going to 10 sources of our first Time sigil.
Deck 3 (Feln Splash Fire)
The first thing to notice about this deck is that the curve is actually extremely high. There are 6 6 drops (2 Changeestik, 3 Cut Ties, 1 Slimespitter Slug) and 2 7 drops (Welding Torch and Enraged Araktodon). Thus, this deck definitely wants to run 19 power. Moreover, between the scout of Fearless Yeti and the looting of Crafty Yeti, Slope Sergeant and Jennev Merchant, this deck is capable of reducing the drawbacks of flood. Importantly, running 19 power also gives us more influence so we could play this Welding Torch with our mediocre fixing.
Looking at our influence base, we would normally want 4 Fire sources to splash this Welding Torch. Moving on to our base influence, we would want at least 8 Shadow sources for our Shadow cards. This is already pushing it given our Hair-Trigger Pistol is SS, but we generally want to spellcraft that and so hitting SS on 6+ power isn't that taxing. For Primal, I want at least 9 sources, especially given that our Slope Sergeant could come down as early as turn 3. Moreover, all our looting abilities are tied to our Primal cards, thus it is extremely important to make sure that we can play them.
Of course, with just 1 banner, a 9/8/4 power base isn't doable. As such, I decided to cut a Fire source. Since I only have 1 Fire card in the entire deck, I could easily discard it to one of my loot effects if I don't have the influence to play it. Moreover, Welding Torch is often a 7 power play, so drawing 1 of my 3 Fire sources on turn 7+ is reasonable. In contrast, cutting either Primal or Shadow would make it much more likely that a double influence card ends up stranded in my hand.
Deck 4 (5F Dumpster Fire)
Do you remember the Wyatt emote "It's not garbage... it's GLORIOUS!"? Well, I'm pretty sure this is what he had in mind when he said it. Signals in this draft were pretty all over the place, and I also got passed a lot of empty packs (i.e. packs with no playables in them). Thus, I ended up taking a lot of fixing and coupled with the 2 Learned Herbalist and Veteran Strategist I picked up early on, I decided to just build the deck as a 5F "good" stuff. Regardless, this was the final deck. With the severe shortage of playables and ridiculous influence demands (FTTJJPS) of this deck, I went up to 20 power effectively. I would've loved to cut another filler (e.g. Loyal Watchwing) for another power, but with only 15 units and a lot of good weapons, I didn't want to end up with a hand full of weapons and no units to play them on.
Shadow, Primal and Fire were the splashes, and all of these splashes are generally played late, so 4 sources of each would suffice. If possible, I would like to go up to 5 sources of Shadow because it is the biggest splash and Extinguish gets worse later on in the game. Time being both my base faction and the faction with the majority of my fixing means going anything below 9 sources was crazy. Justice was a sizeable part of the deck, but with only Herald as my double Justice card, I was comfortable with 8 sources of Justice. Since Herald is often a turn 7 play, I wasn't as worried about missing the 2nd Justice on 3.
Counting sources with a Seek Power, Veteran Strategist and 3 Learned Herbalist isn't easy, and probably way off since all the simplifying estimations will compound. I estimated Seek Power and Strategist as a 0.4 source of each influence, and each Learned Herbalist as 0.2 source for Justice and 0.5 source for the rest. Tallying this up with the sigils, that gives me 8.8 Time sources, 8.4 Justice sources, 4.3 Fire sources, 4.3 Primal sources and 5.3 Shadow sources. Thats a little lower than I would like for my Time sources, but I could use seek and Strategist to fetch Time in a pitch, so I'm not too worried about it. Cutting any of my other sources is likely to hurt my power base more, so this was what I went with.
Building the right power base is often tricky, and all about deciding what sort of trade-offs do you want to make. I would advise players to err on the side of running more power though, because of the increased amount of looting and loot-like effects in the current format. Don't simply run less power because you aren't sure what your last cut should be. It is definitely worth the effort figuring out the correct number and distribution of sigils to run, and is an easy win to increase your winrate. As always, let me know what you think in the reddit thread! Also, if you ever have any problems with building your draft decks, #draft on the eternal is a great place to go for help.
Great buildings need strong foundations, Great decks need solid (power) bases,