No experienced advise to offer but I'm pondering the same question for a first build. My brain is telling me to go the cheap blank route but my heart is suggesting otherwise. I may have a compromise, for me. When I bought my 10 wgt DFR I test cast a number of rods and the only two that stood out for me were the DFR and the 9 wgt, 2 piece Backwater (the 3 piece Backwater didn't do it for me). The Backwater blank and components seem relatively reasonable for a rod I really like and I think that is the direction I'll go in.