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Part 2 – Understanding Draft Play
by Tim Kotula
Introduction to Booster Draft
Booster Draft is a popular Limited format in which players
are seated around a table and choose the cards to draft for
their decks one by one, rather than work with a random card
pool. It is generally less expensive than Sealed Deck, but
is also more challenging, requires better card analysis and,
because you will be interacting with other players to build
your card pool, an awareness of your surroundings. (If you
are new to Limited formats, I highly recommend that you or
your group begin with the Sealed Deck format and work your
way up from there. Skip down for an explanation of Sealed.)
When you begin, you will receive 3 booster packs from the
current block. These boosters will vary depending on how
much of the block has been released so far. As of this
update (Feb 2006), you'd receive two Ravnica packs and
one Guildpact pack. Each
player is then seated around the table (assume you have 8
players**) in the following fashion:
Upon a signal from the judge (or whoever is in charge), each
player opens their first booster (in this case, CHK),
studies the cards for a few moments, picks a card and then
passes the pack to the player on his or her immediate left.
He or she then receives a pack from the player to his or her
immediate right, chooses another card, passes left, etc.
until there are no more cards remaining.
At that point, everyone opens their second booster (BoK, in
this case) and picks a card, however the passing order
reverses - players now pass to the right and receive from
the left. Drafting continues until all cards are drafted.
The third pack (SoK) is then opened and the order then
reverses again, back to normal - pass left, receive right.
Once all three packs have been drafted, each player should
have a pool of 45 cards. At this point, all players go into
the deck building phase, which is essentially the same as
Sealed Deck - min. 40-card decks, as much basic land as you
need (see the tournament organizer for land), etc. At a
sanctioned event, there will likely be a 30-minute time
limit on deck construction. If you are just starting out
with drafting and playing casual, I would advise omitting
the time limit to allow new drafters time to sort things
Just a few 'rules of thumb' when building your deck...
1. Don't run decks larger than the 40-card minimum -
by including unnecessary cards in your deck, you merely
decrease your chances of drawing into your best,
2. Don't run 4 and 5-color decks - this is a surefire
way to lose a tournament. It's highly unlikely you will be
able to draft & build a single-color deck. When you drafted,
you probably got settled into a couple of main colors, so it
makes sense to stick to those colors. Sometimes, you may
want to make a small splash for a third color, which is OK.
But don't build decks involving more than 3 colors. You
should also avoid excessive numbers of spells with a double
3. Don't forget your mana curve! You will need to
determine the best ratio of lands for Color X : Color Y :
Color Z, so that if you do lose a game, it was because you
were outplayed and lost 20 life - not because you got
manascrewed. Things to account for include how many cards of
each color are in your deck, whether or not any of those
cards have a double colored mana requirement and the color
which your primary win condition is in. 17-18 lands combined
with 22-23 creatures and spells is the generally accepted
**Note: It is generally desirable to have the maximum of 8
players to draft as that is the sanctioned number, however I
have casually booster drafted with as few as 4. Odd numbers
also work alright and the above rules do not change.
Some General Tips...
It can be very tempting, but avoid raredrafting
(unless, of course, the rare is good in Limited). Sure, that
Boseiju may be worth more than that
Nezumi Cutthroat or
Order of the Sacred Bell, but which one is more likely
to win you the tournament?
The remaining 17-18 cards that you drafted and didn't maindeck automatically become your sideboard,
which you can access after the 1st game. Effective
sideboarding can be important in Limited and can
actually help you win a match you otherwise wouldn't.
Sideboarding is covered in greater detail in the
Since you are only allowed to view the cards you've
already drafted in-between packs, it's a good idea to learn
to memorize what you've drafted, so you can make
smart card choices. This will also help prepare you to learn
how to read signals, which I've also saved for the advanced
I hope you found this article helpful. Good
luck at your next Limited event!
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