MM2: How many drafters can each archetype support?

While Modern Masters 2015 has an archetype for each color pair, it doesn’t have equal numbers of cards for each of those archetypes. And sometimes, the key cards for one archetype are also valued by other archetypes, which means you’re less likely to get passed that card. Let’s take a look at how many cards are available for each archetype, and how many other archetypes are likely to want those cards, to try to get a rough estimate of how many drafters each archetype can support at a table.

The table below lists what I think are the key commons and uncommons for each archetype, as well as the other archetypes those cards are shared with. If a card is listed with italics, that means the card is a splash for that archetype. If the other archetype is listed in parentheses, it means it is slightly less valued by the other archetype. “all” (which I’ve also highlighted in yellow) means that the card is valued highly by most or all of archetypes in those colors.

Some observations from this table:
– The artifacts archetype has the most number of key cards at 24, while elementals has the least at 4 (primarily because I’m only including elementals with tribal abilities or that are key to the archetype). The rest of the archetypes have between 10 and 17 key cards.
– The domain/sunburst archetype has the most number of cards that are valued by other archetypes (Evolving Wilds, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Skyreach Manta, and Savage Twister). This means that you should prioritize taking these cards, especially the mana fixing, in the early portion of the draft. Shortly after the set was released, I had a draft where I did the opposite, taking Tribal Flames and Matca Rioters over the mana fixing in pack 1, because I didn’t want someone else at the table to go into the archetype. I ended up with 4 Matca Rioters, 3 Tribal Flames, and 2 Skyreach Mantas, but the only mana fixing I saw after the first pack was a Fiery Fall and a Sylvan Bounty, and my domain count was frequently 2 😦
– The artifacts and equipment archetypes share a number of key cards, primarily equipment. While these archetypes can be drafted in adjacent seats, you may want to prioritize good equipment if you suspect you’re next to a player in the other archetypes, since you’re less likely to see those cards late.
– The sacrifice archetype share cards with both the tokens and the domain/sunburst archetypes. While there may be enough of these cards to support each archetype, you may need to prioritize the shared cards if you believe you’re drafting next to a player in one of those archetypes. (Nest Invader, Kozilek’s Predator, and Bone Splinters are shared with tokens, and Ulamog’s Crusher, Artisan of Kozilek, and Pelakka Wurm are shared with domain/sunburst.)
– Graft and proliferate share a lot of cards, primarily the blue and black spells with proliferate. (While graft is base G/U, it can easily splash Spread the Sickness and Grim Affliction since they only require 1 black mana.) These cards are often better in graft, since they can proliferate +1/+1 and charge counters on your permanents, while proliferating -1/-1 counters on opponents’ permanents. The bloodthirst and domain/sunburst archetypes are also likely to take the black proliferate cards highly since they are likely to have creatures with +1/+1 counters. Because of this, and because U/B proliferate is usually a very slow control deck (although I have seen aggro builds with Vampire Lacerators and Duskhunter Bats), I don’t think it is a viable archetype in this format.

Next, I’m going to attempt an exercise to help get a rough estimate of how many drafters each of these archetypes can support. There are an average of 2.5 copies of any given common and 1.0 copies of any given uncommon in an 8-person draft. The Unshared #Cards column computes the number of cards available to an archetype in an 8-person draft by computing (#commons * 2.5) + (#uncommons * 1.0), ignoring the fact that some cards are shared with other archetypes. The Unshared #Drafters uses this to compute the average number of players the archetype can support in an 8-person draft. The Shared #Cards column assumes that this is the average number of players for each archetype, and assumes that an archetype’s chance of ending up with a card is proportional to its representation at the table. And the Shared #Drafters column uses the relative proportions of Shared #Cards to try to estimate how many drafters each archetype can support. (Ideally, this computation would be repeated until it converged, but I didn’t have time to do that.)

Archetype Unshared #Cards Unshared #Drafters Shared #Cards Shared #Drafters
Artifacts 48.0 1.5 40.9 1.7
Bloodthirst 20.5 0.6 15.6 0.7
Domain/sunburst 31.0 1.0 20.8 0.9
Elementals 8.5 0.3 8.5 0.4
Equipment 26.0 0.8 18.5 0.8
Graft 22.0 0.7 12.3 0.5
Proliferate 19.0 0.6 11.8 0.5
Sacrifice 29.0 0.9 19.9 0.8
Spirits 23.0 0.7 19.0 0.8
Tokens 28.5 0.9 21.5 0.9

Based on this rough computation, it seems that artifacts can support about 2 drafters in an 8-person draft, and that bloodthirst, domain/sunburst, equipment, sacrifice, spirits, and tokens can usually support 1 drafter each. However, in every other draft, elementals and/or graft (and perhaps also proliferate) might take the place of 1 or more of these decks.

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