In this edition of Joes to Pros, we’ll take a look at some basic principles of Draft-format Magic that should improve your overall performance and take you from the bottom of the pack to the prize pool in no time.
Pictured: Prize Pool
Rule 1: Study UpYou may think that due to the nature of draft, there’s no point in studying the format in advance. I mean, the cards are pretty much all random, right? This is true, but giving the set you plan to draft at least a cursory glance before you get started will help you establish a personal ranking system. Go ahead and look up a spoiler of the set. Determine which are the best creatures in each color, the best removal spells in each color, etc. Some cards are just all-around better than others, and the colors that have more of these cards are just all-around better than the others. Knowing what to look for in advance will help streamline your decisions and plan your deck as you make your picks. This is important because it will save you time during the deckbuilding portion of the draft, and you can use that time to get a good shuffle in and draw some practice hands. If you can get some last minute info about how your deck will draw, make some tweaks to the mana base if necessary, you’ll find you have a much better tournament as a result.
Rule 2: Let the Cards Talk To You
While study is important, don’t allow your preconceptions based on looking at the set to completely cloud your judgment. When you sit down in your draft pod, the most important information you’re going to have is the cards sitting right in front of you. You should be dedicated to making the best deck you possibly can, and not some notion like “I’m going to play Blue, because Blue is the best.”
Rule 3: Choose the Best Ingredients
Draft Magic is a completely different animal from “normal” or Constructed-style Magic that you might be used to, in the sense that some cards that are good in 60-card Constructed are absolutely terrible in Draft, and vice-versa. Luckily, Draft is normally a simpler game, and the aspects that make up a good Draft deck (the ones that should inform your picks) are not hard to understand. First of all, you need creatures. You should try to have some cheap, efficient ones, but you also want to try and get some bigger, tougher creatures that can end a game quickly. It’s important that you try to have an offensive play (usually a creature) on each of your turns, or at least the capability to play one.
Pictured: Offensive Play
Next, you want removal. In fact, sometimes you want to lock down decent removal even before you consider picking up powerful creatures, depending on how prevalent each is in the set you’re drafting at the time (another reason why researching the set in advance is a good choice). Draft is all about creatures. Some sets might have decently quick and efficient means for milling an opponent, but in general draft games come down to creatures of various sizes bashing into each other. This makes removal INCREDIBLY important, so the best removal spells should be high on your pick list.
Third, your deck needs a class of card I like to call “combat tricks.” This is a prime example of what I mean about some cards just being inherently good for Draft, even if you’d never play them in Constructed. A combat trick is any card that throws off the “battle math,” or the calculations you do in your head before you decide to attack or block. If you’ve ever played Magic of any sort, you know what I’m talking about. Before you turn your creatures sideways, you run through all the scenarios you can think of to determine how the combat is going to play out. Cards like Apostle’s Blessing, Mutagenic Growth and Stave Off are all good examples. They take your opponent’s conception of how combat is going to play out and turn it on its ear by making one of your creatures unblockable, invulnerable to damage or simply stronger than it was. These are all also great examples of cards that excel in Draft but fall short in limited. Apostle’s Blessing just isn’t powerful enough to warrant play in a Constructed deck, but it can swing the outcome of a Draft game all by itself.
Pictured: Draft Powerhouse...Constructed Nightmare
Of course, there’s more to Draft than this, and I intend to ramp up into some more complicated topics as the weeks progress, but this should be enough to digest for now, and enough to make your next Draft tourney a little more productive.
Until next time, peace, gamers.