Introducing Supreme Draft

Posted in Magic Online on August 24, 2020

By Alli Steele

We're always excited to introduce brand-new things to the game of Magic via Magic Online. Historically, MTGO's role has been transliterating the tabletop game into a digital space as faithfully as possible. So, when the tabletop game adopts a new fan-favorite format with 100-card Singleton decks, a legendary creature starting outside the game, and some deck restrictions, we implement the Commander format. When the tabletop design department releases a new format halfway between Modern and Standard, we implement Pioneer. And when a set's design team says that a new Draft format needs to let players draft two picks at the start of every pack, our engineers do a lot of work on the Draft server to make Double Masters play properly.

And with that Draft server work came a rare opportunity to do something genuinely brand-new.

Let me tell you a little story about it.

Supreme Origins

I met my wife, in part, because we both play Magic. Our second date was a pre-Battlebond Two-Headed Giant Draft. We go to MagicFests together, we watch premier play coverage together, and we help each other draft on MTG Arena and Magic Online. We rarely play tabletop Magic at home, though, because our favorite formats—Draft and Commander—aren't optimized for two players.

So, it's fair to say I've thought about this question a lot: how do you draft with only two people? Winston works, but there's a lot of downtime. At any given moment during a Winston Draft, one player will be sitting there doing nothing. Playing Sealed, we lose out on the excitement of picking cards. And sure, on Arena there's bot drafting, but that's hardly an option with physical cards. You just can't simulate other drafters.

But what if you don't have to. What if you opened a pack, made your pick, and then that was it? You set the rest of the pack aside. You just opened another pack, made another pick. Repeat until complete. So many first picks.

Not long after, several members of the Magic Online team were having a late-afternoon discussion about riffs on Chaos Draft. After exploring several ideas, I pitched the "all first picks solo Draft" idea. We talked through it as a team, and the more we talked, the more we liked it. We talked about how many packs to include, how to pick the packs in the Draft experience, how many picks you should get per pack, etc.

It occurred to us then that we could offer this as a truly on-demand experience. Players wouldn't need to wait for a Draft queue to fire. It's like there's always seven in the queue, but for real. The only challenge is that we didn't have any of the tech in place yet.

Now, the biggest hurdle for any new feature on Magic Online is fitting it into our release schedule. It's packed with card set releases, not leaving much room for new things like a totally new Draft mode. Fortunately, Double Masters was right around the corner, requiring us to do a lot of work on the Draft server already. The Draft server was where we'd need to spend most of our effort, so we investigated how much more work it would be to build Supreme Draft alongside Double Masters. Turns out: not much! Given that happy news, we signed up for the work to make it happen.

Months later, while playtesting the early Supreme Drafts, we kept getting great, positive feedback. People from other teams at Wizards were making time to help us test the Draft server update just so they could test out this new Draft experience. We tried different formats, shaking things up. We iterated based on playtest feedback and ironed out a few bugs that cropped up.

Once we were settled and had our format, my wife and I did a few Supreme Drafts with packs we had lying around the house. It was her first time with Supreme, and my first time Supreme-ing with physical cards, but we drafted, played, and had a great evening playing Magic. (Original problem: solved!)

And so here we are, months later, ready to present this brand-new experience to all of you starting this Wednesday. Welcome . . . to Supreme Draft.

How to Supreme Draft

Here's how the Magic Online Supreme Draft experience works:

  • You'll join the Draft league, same as you would any other.
  • When you join the Draft queue, it will launch immediately because you're drafting solo.
  • You'll be presented with a full pack of cards. Just like a Double Masters Draft, you'll pick two cards and then submit your picks.
  • You'll then get another full pack of cards. Pick two of these, then submit. Repeat this process until you've drafted 36 cards from 18 packs.
  • Once you have your picks, you'll build a 40-card deck with the cards you drafted plus as many basic lands as you want.
  • After completing your deck, you'll play in the Draft League just as you would any other.

While developing the experience, we identified three ways to use Supreme Draft:

  • Supreme Draft makes a heck of a Chaos Draft. When you're taking two cards from eighteen different packs, all from different sets, you end up with some really wild decks and combos from across Magic's history. It's all the fun of Chaos Draft without anybody interfering with your dream picks.
  • When you put a single set into a Supreme Draft, you create some of the most high-powered Limited decks ever. These decks look and play like a normal Draft deck, using the same synergies that other drafts use, except amped up.
  • With a small cluster of thematically linked sets, decks play like a cross between Block Constructed and the deck you might build for a new Magic player with the handful of packs they picked up to try out the game. This hybrid of Limited and casual Constructed lets those themes come through loudly in a way that shows off some of Magic's greatest strengths.

We see Supreme Draft as a useful tool that Magic Online can use to create a wide range of new things to do and ways to play. How it ends up being used depends on all of you, of course, but I'm personally optimistic that it'll make its way to evergreen status.

For now, though, we're launching Supreme Draft with a two-week event to show off two of those modes: single set and small cluster. Because of the timing of the launch, immediately following a traditional Chaos Draft, we're waiting to run a Chaos Supreme Draft until later in the year. Likely, that means early November.

Supreme Launch

The first week is RAVNIXTRAVAGANZA, featuring a cluster of the eight sets from Ravnica that feature the guilds (so that's Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze, Guilds of Ravnica, and Ravnica Allegiance). No War of the Spark this time. You'll get two or three packs from each of those guild sets, then draft your very Ravnica deck. Sticking to a single guild might be hard with each guild represented in only half the packs, but picking three guilds that share all their colors (like Boros, Orzhov, and Rakdos) is just as much of a plan as it was for the original RAV full-block Draft format. Although, if you stretch a bit for fixing (or get lucky with Transguild Promenade), you might be able to splash a fourth color.

After that, fan-favorite high-synergy format Modern Horizons is returning for a week to Supreme Draft. You'll get the first and second picks from eighteen packs of that set. The set already encouraged you to chase dreams, but this event will be a unique opportunity to achieve them. Imagine seeing and taking four King of the Prides. Or splicing Splicer's Skill onto a Weather the Storm to make a whole storm of Golems in a turn? Or making the perfect Iceberg Cancrix mill deck with Soulherder to blink your Ice-Fang Coatl?

A few pieces of advice: since every pack gives you a first and second pick, it can be very tempting to take the rare or mythic rare in every pack. And you can if you want to. You probably shouldn't, though. Early testing shows that after a certain point (8-10, we think) decks with fewer rares tend to perform better than decks with more. Don't pass any bombs, but don't feel obligated to take a rare that's not right for your deck even if it's in-color.

(Though, if someone wants to stream a Supreme stipulation Draft where they have to take every rare, let us know. That should be fun to watch!)

Also, with only 36 picks total, you're down (depending on the set) 20% of the total cards taken. That makes picking up nonbasic lands for fixing notably more costly, since there's almost certainly a powerful card in the same pack you could use. It also makes drafting sideboard cards more complicated. You need to be deliberate even when taking sideboard cards. There are no free picks in Supreme Draft; there's an opportunity cost to everything.

Event Details

Both Supreme Draft events are Phantom and will use the standard alternative play prize schedule. You can join them at any time during the week, draft immediately, then hop into a game.

  • RAVNIXTRAVAGANZA begins August 26 and will go until September 2.
  • Supreme Draft: MH1 begins September 2 and will last until September 9.

Entry Options:

  • 10 Event Tickets
  • 100 Play Points

Product: Based on event

Structure: Draft, then up to 3 matches played at your convenience

Prize Structure:

  • 3 wins: 150 Play Points + 2 Qualifier Points + 1 Friendly Trophy + 1 Treasure Chest
  • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
  • 1 win: 50 Play Points

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