by J.R. Hunter
The First Draft
A Magic the Gathering draft is a type of Magic card tournament where all players select the cards to be included in their decks from randomized card packs they open at the beginning of the tournament. The average casual Magic the Gathering player is familiar with how to play the game, and can build a deck from the cards in their collection, but building a deck from cards selected in a draft is something that few people know how to do and it can be intimidating to the magic player who has not drafted before. These instructions will explain the draft process including the draft, deck building, and then tournament play.
The Draft Process
|1. The tournament organizer will seat all the players in a random order at one table.
|· This is to prevent collusion or unbalance among players|
|2. Each player will be given 3 unopened Magic the Gathering packs. The packs are typically of the most recently released edition and will contain 16 total cards, 1 basic land card, 1 marketing card, and the 14 cards that will be used for the draft.
|· Sometimes the packs will be of different sets and the organizer will instruct everyone on which pack to open 1st 2nd and 3rd .|
|3. Once the tournament organizer gives the go ahead, all 8 players will open their first pack only and immediately remove the basic land and the marketing card as these cards are not part of the draft.||· The marketing card is often a “token” card that is used to represent a creature featured in the current set and may be useful.|
|4. Now each player has 14 cards to choose from. Everyone will select one card and place the remaining 13 cards on the table between them and the player to their left.
|· Prioritize rare and epic cards as they are more powerful and can also be worth more money.|
|5. Once every drafter has selected their first card, the tournament organizer will say “pass” or “go” or “Expelliarmus” or some other word to indicate they can pick up the 13 cards the person on their right just set down next to them.
|· (Pro Tip) When you select cards from the first pack, simply select the best card overall each time and don’t limit yourself to one or two colors.|
|6. This process is repeated until all the cards of the first packs are selected. Then this process is repeated for packs 2 and 3 with one small difference. The direction the cards are passed is changed during the second pack so the first pack is left second is right and third is left again (Figure 1)
|· After the first pack is completed you should then make a decision on what colors you would want to focus on for the remaining two.|
Building Your Deck
During the draft process, you will select a total of 42 cards that could be used in your deck. You will not use all these cards but instead will select 23 of them to use in conjunction with the free basic land that will be provided for you by the tournament organizer. You will then have a total of 40 cards in your deck. It sounds simple until you begin the task and realize that there are over a trillion ways your 42 cards could be narrowed down to 23. So this is often the place where new players become overwhelmed. It is much easier than it seems, simply follow these steps
- Separate your cards into colors, include one pile for colorless.
- Determine your best two colors and only use those cards.
- Add ALL the removal spells of those two colors to your deck.
- Add ALL the creatures of those two colors to your deck.
Then count your deck of only creatures and removal, if it is over 23, thin the herd by removing creatures until you have 23. If it is under 23 then you can add other cards of those two colors or colorless cards until you have 23.
Once you have narrowed your drafted cards to 23 you need to select 17 land cards. You may have drafted one or more non-basic lands and if they fit your colors use them as some of the 17 land cards. The basic land cards can be selected by a simple process of ratio analysis.
(If your 23 cards include 17 green and 6 blue cards then a 17/6 ratio would equal roughly 12.5/4.5 ratio of your 17 land. You could then use 12 or 13 forest and 4 or 5 island confidently.)
Before you move onto tournament play SLEEVE YOUR DECK!
Here are two Beta Mox Pearls the one on the right was sleeved and is worth $3999.99, the one on the left was played without sleeves and is worth $900.00
You have a deck! Great! Now we get to play. The tournament organizer will pair players together for each round and you will play a best 2 out of 3 match with your newly created deck each round. All the cards you drafted and did not use are now part of your sideboard and can be added between games throughout the tournament if you feel your deck needs adjustment. Don’t panic if your first match doesn’t go how you had hoped, stick with your game plan unless there is an obvious problem. Drafting is a learned and practiced skill and there is likely someone at your tournament that is good at it and will beat a first time player almost always. Focus on learning what you have done that works well and what you can do better next time.
Every step of these instructions can be adjusted for many different reasons, but as a general rule for a player’s first draft, following these instructions will guide you to success. Understanding how to participate in a draft is helpful for the casual magic player to expand their understanding and development as a player. Knowing the draft process, how to build a drafted deck, and what to do during the tournament ahead of time will make the new drafter more comfortable and can make draft night a regular occurrence.
© 2018, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.