This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Decksplanations

Grandpa (Eric)

By Eric (AKA Grandpa Growth)

Decksplanations is all about sharing my deckbuilding philosophy. If you want to change how you behave, you must change how you think. The same is true of your decks. My goal is you give you the foundation to analyze and improve your decks.   Let’s begin with a quote:

“Begin with the end in mind.”

How do you decide how many threats your deck will need? The first step would be to figure out how you see your deck winning and then work backwards. If you want to have several creatures in play by turn five, then you needed to keep a hand that has 2-3 early creatures. If you want to regularly draw hands that have three creatures without mulliganing, how many creatures should your deck have?

But, Grandpa, I hate math…

If you are unfamiliar with this type of statistical analysis, I suggest you read this article: Probability: Drawing Cards from a Deck. For further reading, look at Alexander Shearer’s work on

In the above probability article, the author Jon Prywes goes into a discussion of how many lands you should have in a 60 card deck, given that you want to hit your fourth land on turn four. According to his chart, you need 27 lands to have a 75% shot of sticking your fourth land on time. That seems high right? Most constructed decks don’t play 27 lands.

This analysis assumes that you have no way to draw extra cards, ramp, or filter through your library, which really isn’t all that much of a stretch if we apply those same numbers to aggressive decks. Mono-Red Goblins doesn’t really have access to Divination, Rampant Growth, or Ponder.

Let’s apply this analysis to an aggressive Commander deck. If you want to ensure that you draw four creatures by turn four, you need to have ((27*100)/60) = 45 Creatures in your deck. We don’t need to worry too much about mana curve because, logically, if you want those four creatures you drew to be IN PLAY by turn four, they must cost less than four. Realistically, you should have about three times as many one-drops as you do three-drops, twice as many ones as twos, etc. This math is all quite rudimentary, but it is still informative.


45 = x + (x/2) + (x/3)

This would dictate that you have 24.5 one-drops. Let’s call it 25 one drops, 13 two-drops, 7 three-drops.

So there it is. If you want to beat down, you need to have 45 creatures in your deck. I am assuming you also want to hit that fourth land, so you probably need 45 lands in your deck as well. That is 90 cards already. That leaves you 9 other cards for removal, disruption, ramp, card advantage, equipment, expensive creatures, and everything else. Quite frankly, there aren’t even 45 aggressive creatures that are good enough to play in Commander.


This explains mathematically why people say that it is difficult to play aggro in this format. You simply can’t make the numbers work.


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