Beginner Planeswalker Guide: DraftingNovember 15, 2018
This is an ongoing series of Magic articles aimed at welcoming people into Magic: The Gathering!
Drafting is my all-time favorite way to play Magic! Everyone starts out on the same playing field and gets to decide what to build their deck around based on what they open and what cards are passed to them from the other players. It adds a different form of strategy that is unique to this format by adding in the complexity of building your deck through a series of choices while other players are making hidden choices from the same card pool.
In this format, every player has 3 booster packs and sits in a circle. Drafting is best with circles of 6-8 people but can work with more. First, everyone opens their first pack at the same time and chooses one card to keep, passing the rest of the cards to the left. Be sure to take out any basic lands or ad cards from the pack, as they will not be included in the draft. You continue this process, taking one card per pack until all the cards have been drafted. Then, you open pack 2, passing to the right this time. Lastly, you open pack 3, passing back to the left. You should finish the draft with the same amount of cards as everyone else (usually around 45 cards, depending on the set you are drafting from). Everyone builds their decks from these drafted cards, and no other cards, with the exception of basic land.
What makes drafting so interesting and fun is that you have to consider what you want your finished deck to be while you are choosing every card. You don’t have to play every card that you draft, but it’s best to take cards that will work well together. A huge part of this is deciding what colors you are playing fairly early on. If you are new to drafting, I recommend going in with an idea of what colors you’d like to play.
Another strategy is to base your deck on the best card you have when you open pack 1. For example, if you open a really good rare card in red, pick that card and try to pick the rest of your cards in red or with abilities and mechanics that work well with that first pick. I recommend having your 2 colors narrowed down by the time you have made your first pick in pack 2.
After the draft, finished decks need to be 40 cards, including basic land cards. Deck size is measured as a minimum amount of cards in a deck, but I recommend staying as close to the minimum as possible to increase the variance of drawing your best cards. For a 40 card deck, you generally want to stay in 1-3 colors (2 is the best choice in my opinion). For your ratio of creatures, spells, and lands, the guideline is 17 lands and 23 spells/creatures. I don’t recommend playing less than 12-14 creatures in a deck and I highly recommend focusing heavy on good creatures and removal spells (spells that destroy or deal damage to creatures).
The biggest challenge in drafting is that the person next to you might be playing the same deck that you are, meaning they are getting the good cards before you. Advanced drafters learn to pay attention to what cards and colors seem to be missing as packs come to them. This is called listening to signals and can help you determine what to draft or not draft based on what colors and archetypes of cards are open (not getting picked by other players). I do not recommend worrying about signals until you feel comfortable with the concept of drafting.
I hope this helps you to try out one of the most popular formats of Magic!