Hello everybody! Allow me to introduce myself: my name is MasterMoon and I have been an avid follower and supporter of LandSayGo for a little under a year by now. You’ll often see me in the chat talking up a storm about whatever the day’s flavor is and I’m excited to be your newest contributor to LandSayGo!
So today, I wanted to talk about how to approach your first draft, either in paper or digital. While I know many of you have already played before in constructed, either taking one of our decks out for a spin or doing what you do best, there are many times where constructed players have never tried the thrilling experience of a draft. I know this for experience: it was over a year after playing that I got to try my hand at it myself! I’m not going to go over how to win here, nor what cards to look out for. This is just a general overview as to what to expect. But before we get into it, remember this: the main goal of a draft or any Magic event is to have fun! If you don’t have the best pulls but still have a great time with friends, you have already succeeded!
But first, we must ask ourselves this: what is a draft? I know most of Magic players may already know, but this is for those who don’t and are curious. A Magic: the Gathering draft is a limited format where you and a group of other players (preferably 8 in total) get together in a “pod” and build decks out of booster packs coincidentally called “draft packs”. In this scenario, you each get three packs and open them up one at a time. Once opened, you pick one card from among them, not counting tokens, and pass the remaining cards to the person next to you, going to the left, then right, then left again. The person from the side you didn’t pass cards to will give you their pack to pick from again and begin the cycle anew. You do this until all the cards have been taken, open up another pack, and do this again! While this may sound like people just taking random cards, players can take whatever cards they want that will help them build the best deck in the pod. Once all the packs are exhausted, you then take your cards, now called your “pool” and begin constructing a 40-card deck from among those cards, basic lands usually being provided by the store. What’s next, you may ask? Simple: you battle against your fellow pod mates so see which deck is the best! Overall, it is a fun, cheap, and simple way to play the game and is one of my favorite ways to play! With that out of the way, let’s get into how you may go into your first draft experience and what to expect from them.
Digital can be divided into two categories: bot drafting and league drafting. Officially called “Quick Draft”, bot drafting is an Arena exclusive and pits you against the machine. It looks like this on the Arena client:
You still get passed packs like you normally do and the experience looks about the same as any other draft on Arena. However, there are several key differences. First, bots are not humans; bots do not adjust their “game plan” according to what’s in the packs. According to WotC, the bots have certain draft archetypes in their programming and that’s all they go for. Because of this, you can get some really insane pulls relatively late in a pack (I once got Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood in a pack 1, pick 8 in Dominaria). Secondly, you don’t really have to know the general draft archetypes all that well. Because the bots are so locked in to their style, you don’t need to know what the most optimal picks are for certain decks; instead, you just need to know how to game the bots to get a good deck and have a good record. An example of this was the beginning of Throne of Eldraine, where the bots passed all the mill cards all the time and caused the meta to be very mill heavy. You could reasonably get away with not knowing how the other archetypes worked because the bots gave you all the blue and black cards. Lastly, there are the actual games. The biggest drawback when it comes to bot drafting is how unbalanced games can be. You can have a nice synergistic deck with one or two rares in it and go up against an opponent who has six to seven rares and even a mythic or two. This leads most games to rather luck dependent on just what the bots pass to you and how their programming determines the picks. It should also be noted that all bot drafts are best of one games; unless you have a wish in your deck, you do not have access to your sideboard in between games. It is recommended to take a look at your board after every game to see what would do well in the last match to improve your deck. Of course, the possibility always exists of you taking something out that would have been the perfect answer to what your current opponent has, so it’s always a risk when you do so. So long as you don’t compromise the synergy or consistency of your deck too much, you should be fine with a little bit of adjustment.
League drafting is very different than bot drafting. The term “league draft” comes from MTGO, as that is how you play it there. Arena has two versions of it: premier draft and traditional draft. The only difference between these two is premier is best of one while traditional is best of three (MTGO is also best of three). Here’s what an Arena page will look like:
Aside from that, all three have the same setup and structure. Once you have signed up for the draft of your choice, you will be put into a room and wait for seats to fill up. These seats can be taken from players all over the world, so you never know who you’ll be paired up with! Once filled, the draft begins and you’ll be given a digital pack to begin your experience! One of the key differences when it comes to league drafting is that you are paired against actual humans in the drafting stage. These people, while they likely have a preferred archetype, will probably have fluid strategies and will be able to adjust when necessary. You could be trying to build a really cool W/R aggro deck only to find that most of those cards are being taken by other people. Furthermore, green could be really open in instead, so people may try and evolve their strategies to incorporate that color instead. Whatever the case may be, you will have a much more dynamic experience as you will get as full of a real draft as you can. The other key difference from paper draft is the league system. Once you are all done getting your pool together, you will most likely not be paired up against the people in your pod, whether it be on MTGO or Arena. This is because it is impossible for those platforms to hold all those people from different parts of the world together for this event, as life can happen around them and they may have to postpone playing. Because of this, both platforms allow you to play with other players from different pods as long as you drafted the same set or block. The benefit of this system is that it allows you to play whenever you want and not wait for the exact people in your pod. The drawback, however, is similar to bot drafting in that you have no idea what you could be up against. Your pod may have sucked all the black and blue cards out and yet you still play against 3 opponents who all have some variation of it. Regardless, league drafting is the closest you can get to paper play, and I heavily encourage it to be able to get as close to the real thing as possible!
Drafting in paper is truly the best way to experience a limited environment to its fullest. I’ve already explained how this style of drafting works, so I’ll just go over the advantages of this method. First, it’s best of three. It should go without saying that playing best of three in any paper capacity is the most optimal way to play, barring commander. That way, you not only get a chance to live past some bad openings, but you just get to play with your cards more! Any way to play with your physical cards more is worth it in my book! Secondly, you only get to play with and against the cards in your pod. If there are multiple pods going on at a given location, you will only get to play with the cards in your pod and not any other. This is to ensure a balance between what you see and what you experience on the battlefield. If you have a pod with only one mythic between you while another has multiple God-packs and have 6 mythics between them, on average, you would have a lesser chance of winning by playing against their pulls. Lastly, there’s just the fun aspect of it! It’s really fun to sit down with a group of other players and joke around and laugh with them as your trying to build decks to beat each other with! You can be a Spike and try and gain information as to what your opponents will be doing, but, above all, just have fun with it and enjoy yourself!
From time to time, Wizards likes to release a special draft format or event to shake things up a bit and offer a new experience to try. Formats like Omniscience draft on Arena or Battlebond in paper are perfect examples of this. There you either have tweaked draft and/or playing rules in order to test the boundaries of what drafting really is. In those cases, it’s best you do some research into what the specific rules are so you can have fun in these unique formats!
Well that does it for me this week! I hope you liked my thoughts on initial drafts and want to try one out for yourself. I hope to keep talking about limited in general as well as talk about some specific formats in the future. I’ll see y’all later!