MTG Splashing Explained: How to Splash in Draft?

Welcome to Learning Limited, a new series of articles, in which you’ll learn about various Magic concepts and how to apply them in Draft and Sealed. Today, we re going to talk about MTG splashing. This concept is hard to master, but can significantly affect your win rate. Either in a positive or in a negative way, depending on how well you can use it.

There are two goals for articles in this series:

  1. Explain a concept, (typically part of a Magic jargon) in a way that a complete beginner can understand.
  2. Provide easy-to-apply tips useful for both new and intermediate players.

Ideally, you’ll be able to use information provided in order to win more Draft games no matter your skill level. (Unless, you’ve already mastered Limited.)

Let’s get to it then. If you already know what splashing is, feel free to skip this next section.

What is MTG Splashing?

In most formats, players are drafting 2-color decks. Sometimes, they include a strong card of a third color. In that case, they add a small amount of appropriate lands to their mana base. This process is called splashing.

A bit more “official” explanation would be:

A splash (or splashing) is a deck-building process in which a player uses a small amount of cards of a color in a deck, mostly filled with cards of other colors.

Most of the time, players splash to play cards of higher power level. Occasionally, you might want to play a fun off-color rare. That might not be the optimal decision, if the goal is to increase your win rate, but you can certainly do so anyway.

So, now you know what splashing is. Now, let’s learn how to put it to best use.

Risk VS Reward

In Magic, every decision you make is a form of a risk assessment. However, it’s the most prominent when you’re deciding on splashing.

Rewards

The reward for splashing is access to cards of a higher power level. You’re replacing your 23rd best card in your main colors, with your best card from another color. The power level increase can sometimes be massive.

Go for the Throat MTG Splashing Tips Tricks

The other potential reward is fixing a weakness of your deck. Let’s say your blue-green doesn’t have any removal spells. That might be fixed by splashing two copies of Go for the Throat.

Risks

However, all magic comes with a price. (As any Once Upon a Time fan will tell you.) There’s plenty of risks associated with splashing, otherwise we’d always be doing it.

The biggest one is the strain you put on your mana base. Here’s a fact that many players don’t realize. Even a regular 2-color mana base is quite horrendous and inconsistent in Limited. When you add a third color to the mix, it gets even worse.

Of course, there are things you can do to mitigate those risks, such as picking up mana fixing lands, but then again you are “wasting” picks on stuff like off-color dual lands.

Nevertheless, if the rewards is high enough, taking the risks might be worth it. In the following sections, you’ll find some more applicable tips on how to splash. But essentially, it all boils down to maximizing rewards, while minimizing risks.

Tips for MTG Splashing

The tips and rules you’ll find here work in the vast majority of scenarios. Sure, there might be a rare occurrence when you need to break those rules. However, you need to first master this concepts before you can decide when you’re going to do it the other way.

Splashing is for Late Game

This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. You never want to splash cards that are only good in the early game. Why?

Because it’ll rarely happen that you draw both your mana source and the card you’re splashing early. The vast majority of the time you’ll assemble these two pieces later in the game. The splashed card could easily be stranded in your hand for some time.

Imagine you’re finally hitting your splashed mana source on turn 8. If you’re splashing a card that’s still insanely powerful on later turns, that’s great. However, if you’re splashing an aggressive two drop, chances are that it won’t do you any good when you finally draw the missing mana source. Most likely, it won’t be much better than an average two drop in your colors would be on that turn.

Quintorius Kand MTG Splashing Tips Tricks

Let’s say you’re playing black-red. Splashing blue for Spyglass Siren is far from optimal, while adding white to enable Quintorius Kand can very well be worth it.

For similar reason, you mostly want to splash in midrange and control decks. Aggressive decks don’t like to splash as much, as they prefer a smoother mana base. These decks need quick starts, and can’t afford to stumble early.

Only One Off-Color Mana Symbol

One thing you need to consider when splashing, is how many off-colored mana the card costs.

Let’s say you’re playing green-white in Lost Caverns of Ixalan draft. You could relatively easily splash for a Palani’s Hatcher, a powerful card, which need one one red mana. Now on the other hand, splashing Bonehoard Dracosaur is a much harder ordeal.

Thus, you should only ever splash cards that cost only a single off-colored mana. When you try to splash cards that cost more, you need additional mana sources. At that point, you aren’t playing a 2-color deck with a splash, but a full-on 3-color pile.

Seeing More Cards Help

Quick Study How to Splash MTG

Card draw (Quick Study) and various looting effects (Witch’s Mark) aren’t something one often thinks of when considering splashing. However, these effects can certainly decrease associated risks.

Since they allow you to see more cards, there’s a higher chance that you’ll hit both the splashed card and its mana sources. If you’re playing looting effects, you can also just discard the splashed card in a pinch, when you’re unable to cast it.

So, when you’re splashing, you should evaluate such cards slightly higher than you usually would.

Use Mana Fixing

A much more common way to splash is by using mana fixing, which can generally be divided into two main groups. Lands and non-lands.

Lands

Lands are typically the better way to enable splashing. That’s because they replace a basic land instead of an actual card in your deck. When you add a non-land mana fixer to your deck you might be diluting the overall quality of your cards. That doesn’t happen with lands.

Evolving Wilds

So, which lands can you use? Almost every set nowadays uses a Evolving Wilds variant of some sorts. It’s already good in 2-color decks, but even more so when you’re splashing.

Occasionally, a set includes tapped lands that provide two colors of mana, such as Haunted Mire. These are also quite useful, and relatively free inclusions. Of course, you might also pick up a rare land. They are especially good as they either have a clause that lets them enter untapped (Copperline Gorge), or they come with a bonus (Restless Bivouac).

Non-Lands

As far as non-land mana fixing goes, most of it can be found in green. Creatures that make mana, are useful in most sets. A couple of examples would be Rootrider Faun and Poison Dart Frog.

Cards that search your library for a land vary in power level. Return from the Wilds is a good one, as is both ramps you and comes with a token tacked onto it. Without, it becomes very mediocre card. One mana effects, such as Thirsting Roots can be perfectly fine inclusions.

What if you aren’t playing green? Some of the best non-rare options include Prophetic Prism and Skittering Surveyor. These cards replace themselves in one way or another, which is incredibly important. You don’t want to play a nonland card that only fixes your mana.

Don’t Splash for Mana Fixing

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is that they splash for mana fixing. Say, you want to splash for a Palani’s Hatcher in your red-white deck. One thing you could do is simply swap two lands in your deck for two Forests. A bit clunky splash, but it could still work.

Poison Dart Frog

What you don’t want to do is to play even more green lands in order to play stuff like Poison Dart Frog and Ixalli’s Lorekeeper. You can only to cast them when you already access your splashed colors. At that point, you don’t really need them. Sure, they can make the mana of your main colors too, but you’d rather just get that from your lands.

So, you only want to use mana fixing that’s in your main colors.

Don’t Overdue It

Now that you’re learning about splashing, it can be easy to force it in too many scenarios. If you splash when you shouldn’t, your win rate will suffer.

There is no hard and fast rule about how many times you should splash on average. In general, if you’re splashing just once every 20 games or never, that’s too low. However, if you’re splashing every other game that seems too high.

Here are some questions that might help you when, you’re deciding whether to splash a card in your deck or not:

  • Is the splashed card a bomb – a card that can often win on its own?
  • Do you have enough mana fixing?
  • Is your deck a bit weaker, and lacking some power level?
  • Will your deck typically play a long game?

The more of these questions you answer with “yes”, the better decision it is to splash.

Of course, this can also vary depending on the format. Some formats heavily encourage splashing. Those tend to provide lots of mana fixing, and are somewhat slower. On the other hand, you want to splash less in aggressive formats with little to no mana fixing.

How Many Sources do You Need for Splashing?

A typical rule of thumb would be to play at least X+1 sources of the splashed color, where X is the number of cards you’re splashing.

So, if you want to splash one red card, you want at least 2 sources. With two red cards splashed you’d want 3. Of course, that’s just the bare minimum. You should aim to increase this number further, without hurting sources of your main colors.

Example

In the following scenario, we’re playing a green-white deck and we’re splashing a single red card.

Here’s an example of a clunky mana base:

And here’s one I’d be happier with:

The left one is quite clunky, but sometimes necessary. On the other hand, the right one is already better, even though there are just two different lands. If there’s some good non-land fixing too, that’s particularly great.

Rugged Highlands How to Splash MTG

One thing you can do to make your mana bases even better is to play 18 lands. This way, you can add more off-colored mana sources, without decreasing the sources of your main colors. This “trick” is quite underused in my opinion.

MTG Splashing Depending on Limited Formats

Most of the advice you’ve read so far works for all Limited formats. Best-of-one, best-of-three, Draft, and Sealed. However, I wanted to mention some specifics about best-of-three and Sealed.

Best-of-Three

When you have access to sideboarding, you can also change your lands. This means that you can either get rid of your splash, or start to splash, depending on your matchup.

Imagine you’re playing a 2-color deck with a somewhat greedy splash for the late game. In order to enable it, you put a couple of dual tap lands in your deck. However, your opponent is playing an extremely aggressive deck. Since you can’t afford to stumble early, it might be a good idea to replace the splashed cards with lower-powered cards in your main colors. This allows you to streamline your mana base for your deck to play more smoothly early on.

Now the other side of the coin. Both you and your opponent are playing slower midrange decks. The game will go on, but the overall quality of your cards is lower compared to the opponent’s. If you have an off-color card that you decided not to include in your main deck, you can decide to splash it, in order to access more power for games 2 and 3.

Of course, the second scenario comes up less often, but the first one is quite common. So, when you’re sideboarding, you always want to reevaluate your splashing decisions.

Sealed

MTG Splashing in Sealed Explained

In Sealed, you don’t have any control over which cards are in your pool. Thus, it can be harder to build a streamlined 2-color deck. As a result, splashing is much more common than in Draft.

Often enough Sealed decks lack some power level, which can be fixed by splashing a rare from a color with low amount of playables. Splashing for additional removal spells is also a common occurrence.

When you’re building your Sealed decks, you should thus pay attention to possible splashes your deck enables. Perhaps you want to make a separate pile with all the fixing during the deckbulding process. That pile will largely influence how crazy you can go with splashing.

Conclusion

So, now you should have a good idea of what splashing is and how (perhaps even more importantly – when) you can use it to your advantage. As always, if something’s unclear to you, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might still have about splashing.

You’ll soon be able to test your splashing skills in the new format. You can learn all about the new cards in our Murders at Karlov Manor spoilers article.

Until next time time, have fun, improve in Limited, and may your splashes always be smart and optimal.

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