You said it, Cap! But where do you start? I’m going to do something a little different than most “first draft” articles. I’m not going to tell you how to build a draft deck, or what cards you should be taking. Instead, what I want to do is create a more broad “how to approach your first draft” primer.
Just in case you’re new to this, the tl:dr on Drafting is that you open a pack, take a card and pass the pack around. You do that for three packs, and then build a deck from what you picked. Simples, right? But Drafting is, arguably, the most skill challenging format in all of Magic.
You are going to get a TON of advice when you first go to draft, and some of it will be contradictory. Some of it will be wrong (but, you know, not mine). Some of it will be correct, but not helpful. What I want to do here is give you some guidance toward finding the information you need to make your first draft feel productive – regardless of how many games you actually win.
1. Seek out reliable sources. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet will be quick to give you advice. One of the true constants about Magic players is that they like to talk, LOL. They also love to help other players. I realize it’s a broad generalization, and those are never completely true, but most of us really love this game, and we want to share our passion. We like to help other players get better, because they you’ve got more challenging games, which makes for more fun.
But not everyone knows what they’re talking about, especially when it comes to drafting. As Polonius said, “Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene III) Of course, he ended up getting himself killed, so maybe not the most reliable adviser. Take the time to look for people with proven track records. There’s plenty of great websites with professional players who’ve written about Limited, like Channel Fireball, and Star City Games. On Wizard’s mothership site, they have a series of articles on Drafting. I’ve linked to some of these at the end of this post.
2. Familiarize yourself with the set you’re going to draft. This is tremendously important. Every Magic set has its own feel, and archetypes. Some are more linear, some are faster, some have interesting synergies. Drafting a Magic set without ever looking at it is like playing in a sports match without knowing any of the rules of the sport. Sure you’ll figure some of it out as you go, but you’ll do much better if you prepare.
Most big content producers put out set reviews when the sets are spoiled. I’d recommend concentrating on the ones which are written for Limited play, like the Limited Resources set reviews. Most of them will still touch on which cards are good in Limited, but they’ll be less focused. Pay special attention to any archetypes which are talked about. If the set’s been out for a while, some people also do follow-up reviews, after they’ve drafted it.
Read through the set yourself. This can be daunting, but if you take it in chunks, like looking at one color at a time, that can make it more manageable. It helps to see all the cards, because we often use the art, or overall card appearance as a shortcut to remembering what it is. If you do this after checking out a set review, then some of the cards may click, and you’ll remember what was said about them in the review.
3. Watch draft streams or videos. Again, choosing quality content is important here. I highly recommend Ryan Spain’s “Going Optimal” Twitch stream, but there’s plenty of others. Ben Stark is known as one of the best Limited players the game has ever seen. Kenji Egashira (aka Numot the Nummy) is another long-time Limited streamer. Channel Fireball puts out regular videos on YouTube. Look especially for people who explain why they’re making the picks that they’re making.
4. Learn the basics. Although every format is unique, there are some basics to Drafting which will help you on your way. Learning about things like deck size, mana curves, CABS theory, and common pitfalls is important before you get started. I can’t recommend a better resource for this than the Limited Resources podcast. I’m going to include my list of “essential” nuts-and-bolts episodes at the end of this post.
5. Most of all, just have fun with it. Don’t focus on your record, it’s unlikely that you’re going to crush it on your first outing. As I said, Drafting is arguably the most skill-intensive format in all of Magic. Every set is different. You need to evaluate each card, not only in the Limited environment, but also in the deck you’re drafting, and what it needs in the moment you make your choice. You need to learn how to “read” what the players around you are doing, and look for the open colors. You need to adapt to an environment where – unlike Standard – you won’t know reliably what cards your opponent may have in their deck. You have to expect the unexpected.
Thanks for taking the time to hang. I hope this helps you get started in the awesome format that is Drafting. I’ll post links and my list of LR Episodes at the end of this post.
Limited Resources starter episodes: http://lrcast.com/
Limited Resources 56 – Back to Basics: Card Evaluation
Limited Resources 64 – Breaking Bread
Limited Resources 65 – Bread Crumbs
Limited Resources 95 – Card Evaluation Revisited
Limited Resources 113 – Limited Deckbuilding Primer
Limited Resources 184 – Card Evaluation With Brian Wong
Limited Resources 189 – Mana Bases
Limited Resources 198 – Brian Wong Level-Ups
Limited Resources 214 – Common Mistakes
Limited Resources 226 – ROTTY And Application of Tools
Limited Resources 248 – Quadrant Theory Revisited
Limited Resources 273 – Have a Plan
Limited Resources 286 – Top 10 Traps for Limited (And How To Avoid Them)
Limited Resources 296 – A Fundamental Approach to Limited
Limited Resources 301 – UBER Theory and Exclusive BFZ Preview Cards
Limited Resources 482 – A Fresh Look BREAD (And Why You Shouldn’t Use It)
Limited Resources 486 – Arena Check In, M19, and CABS Theory
Star City Games
Ryan Spain’s Going Optimal Twitch
Numot the Nummy
Ben Stark on Twitter