Seventeen years ago, I was eleven years old and on the hunt for some booster packs. My mom called around one Friday afternoon trying to find a game shop near the small town where I lived. Somewhere that had the Magic cards I so needed.
Eventually, she struck gold! A place that claimed to have not just new booster packs but ones from sets I had never even heard of—not to mention plenty of supplies.
My brother and I convinced my mom to drive over immediately.
When we walked inside, my eyes grew wide. Booster boxes lined the walls like tiled wallpaper, magazines featuring the latest and greatest information were on display at the counter, and long white boxes full of cards sat on tables. I had never seen so many Magic cards in one place!
We went up to the counter, and I began to select a few packs. The person behind the counter recommended a few. And as we were paying up, he asked a world-changing question: "Are you coming to FNM to draft tonight?"
"What's FNM? What's a draft?"
He explained this exciting new format to me where you play with only the cards you open during the draft. I looked at my mom. She nodded.
"I'll be there!"
That night, I came back and played in my very first booster draft. I met some of my first Magic friends—that shopkeeper is still a friend of mine today—was introduced to the wider world of Magic, and in a huge move, tried out drafting.
Seventeen years later, it's still one of my favorite ways to play Magic.
To recap, Booster Draft is where you sit around a table with seven other Magic players. You have three sealed booster packs in front of you. You open one up, pick out a card you like, put it face down, and pass the rest of the pack to your left. Then, you pick up the cards the person to your right passed to you, pick another card you like, and pass those to the left. Repeat until the pack is gone. You then open the second pack and go through the same process (passing to the right this time), and finally open the third pack and do it again to the left. Once finished, build a 40-card deck out of any of the cards you took, plus any basic lands you want to add. (For more detailed information on how Booster Draft works, check out this page.)
The prospect can be scary. All the work you've put into building your favorite deck is cast aside in favor of whatever you open up in packs. You're going to be making a sequence of on-the-fly decisions.
And yet, it is so much fun.
If you're unsure about the idea of drafting though, Core Set 2019 is a great place to start! Here are five big reasons why you should definitely give Draft a try:
1. You Get So Many New Cards!
Whether you're starting out and have a smaller collection or have been playing for a while and have boxes full of cards, Draft is one of the greatest ways to build your collection full of cards from the newest set.
You're going to be opening three packs and selecting the cards you want out of them, so you get first crack at whatever awesome (and perhaps rare) goodies lie within. In addition to that, you will get to look at everyone else's opened packs during the process as they're passed around the table. One person's passed Draft pick is another person's treasure—and you will often be passed cards you want. You get to keep all the cards you draft, so you will end up with so many great cards by the end!
It's like opening three packs
With a new set, one of the ways I always started getting the cards I wanted was just by drafting. It's a really fun way to play Magic that also gives you a ton of new cards. Perfect!
2. It Teaches You Magic Fundamentals
If you want to get better at Magic, Booster Draft is one of the best ways to do it.
The pieces Booster Draft teaches you are all keys to what make typical Magic with your Constructed deck work out as well. Playing a lot of Draft really honed my skills to make me a better player.
How so? Well, just a few of the elements Draft teaches:
- Evaluating Cards – Is this new card good for your deck? Well, in Draft, you are going to be asking that question over and over again. As you build new decks and new sets come out, you're going to be asking yourself this a lot, and Draft really helps you gain an understanding of the baseline power level each card has.
- Deck Building – You have to build a new deck every time. Instead of just sticking with the tried-and-true deck you know works, you repeatedly get to see why a deck you drafted does (or doesn't) work and what pieces to improve for next time.
- Cornerstone Gameplay – Draft gameplay is Magic at its most fundamental: attacking, blocking, using spells to destroy creatures or enhance yours in combat, and so on. This is Magic at its core. By learning how to do these things well, it will trickle back up into your normal deck building.
- Finding New Interactions – Our brains tend to like to do things the same way we've done them before. Drafting sometimes forces you to try out new color combinations or play with cards you normally wouldn't. This can show you entirely new combinations of abilities or interactions you've never played with before. I know I've certainly drafted before, found a cool combination, and thought, "Huh—I should build a deck around this!"
And speaking of building new decks
3. It Gives You the Start to a New Deck
At the end of a draft, once all the games are played, you're going to have your 40-card deck.
Well, sometimes you'll just sort those cards into your collection or take pieces apart to put into decks. But, especially if you're newer and you're just starting to build your own decks, this Draft deck could be the seed of a brand-new deck!
With a 40-card deck of about 23 nonlands and seventeen or so lands (the amount which is typical for a Draft deck), upgrading it into a full 60-card deck is pretty easy: add in about twelve more nonlands and eight more lands, and you're good to go!
This is a perfectly solid way around which to build up a stable of casual decks. Especially if you want a lot of variety, some decks to hand out to friends, or any other reason you may want a ton of decks, this works out great.
4. It's an Even Playing Field
Everybody going into a draft has access to exactly the same things: three packs.
I know when I was starting Magic and my collection was small, fighting against some of the tricked-out decks people were wielding in Constructed Magic seemed daunting. Draft rolls it back to the basics, meaning that I have the same process to build this deck as the person across the table from me.
Now, of course experience plays a factor: there's a lot of skill in Draft, and experienced drafters still tend to do fairly well. But it means that they're all playing with the same selection of cards and that you have all the tools you need to fight in this battle.
5. It's New Every Time
I think what has captured me the most about drafting over my life as a Magic player is that it is different. Every. Single. Time. No two drafts are identical. You will play against different decks, draft different decks, and even if you end up with exactly the same two colors, you will have different cards.
This means it isn't just fun to do once or twice, but over and over. This kind of variety keeps it exciting. And if you try it once and you don't like the deck you ended up with, no problem: you can do it again and build something entirely different!
Is There a Draft in Here?
Hopefully after reading this, you feel excited and ready to give Draft a try! It's a blast—and I hope you really have fun with it.
Three quick tips if you're trying it for your first time:
- You're going to want to play about 23 of your drafted cards and seventeen lands. Try to aim for at least fifteen creatures.
- I'd recommend sticking to two colors. You want to make sure your deck is consistent and you draw the right mix of lands and spells, and two colors is a great way to do that.
- Making sure you can remove your opponent's powerful creatures is important. Prioritize "removal spells" (cards that destroy one or more creatures) highly.
Looking for additional tips on Booster Draft? I strongly recommend this article by Magic pro player Reid Duke, which covers a lot of the basics to drafting.
Have fun drafting—and may you, too, reflect fondly on your first draft after many years.