Running an 8-Player Zone Draft

Posted in NEWS on December 17, 1999

By Wizards of the Coast

Chris Page

Hello Fellow Judges,

This is an effort to help pass along what I have been able to learn over the 350+ 8 man drafts I have run. If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to contact me at

The number one problem you will encounter at larger events is players not reporting to the start of the draft. A few simple precautions can help reduce this. As players sign up for the draft:

1. Tell them number of the event.
2. Approximately how long before it starts.
3. Where the players will be assembled by their judge.
4. That they need to listen for their event being called.

Once the 8th person has signed up, announce the number and type of draft, and that is now starting. In larger events a P.A system will greatly increase your range and effectiveness. Have the judge that will be running the draft signify themselves, by waving a clipboard or hands in the air.

If a player doesn't not come forth when the draft is announced the judge should ask the other players if they know of this person. More often then not one of the people will be able to help you with some form of information. If you still have players missing, announce their name specifically over the P.A. Wait approximately 3 minutes then announce their name again. With still no one showing you can elect to "open" the tournament back up. Taking names from the next booster draft of the exact same format will help start the draft as soon as possible. Switch the names on the tournament record form, allowing the missing person to be entered into the next available slot of the same format.

Now you have 8 people, the judge should direct them to a clean and open space. Asking non-tournament people to move should only be done as a last resort. The judge is best served by having numbered cards from 1 to 8 which are used as random seating assignments. The cards are laid out and players are directed to draw one of the cards and keep it with them till all players reach their seat. Make sure to collect the seating cards as will need them again. A large round table serves as the best area if there is a choice.

As you distribute the boosters to be drafted indicate that there are several simple rules to the draft procedure:

1. The judge should introduce themself and their level. Ask if anyone is unfamiliar with how a booster draft is run. If you do have someone indicate they are unsure about the rules of the draft, keep eye contact with those people while you continue to explain the following procedure. This insures that they will not proceed without a direct understanding of the draft rules.

2. Announce the order in which the packs are to be drafted. It is done in the order that the packs were released, starting with the earliest pack first. When packs are of the same edition but different languages, start with the most common language first. This will allow for fewer questions about exactly what does a card do.

3. Explain that upon opening each pack that the players first count the cards. If a player has an incorrect number of cards replace the whole pack. If a player has miscut backs to their cards you have 3 choices: ask if everyone will be playing with opaque sleevs; the judge should mass-proxy the pack after all cards have been drafted; or replace the pack. Depending on your tournament organizer any replaced packs should be added to the first place prize.

4. The rotation of the packs is clockwise for the first pack, counter-clockwise for the second, and back to clockwise for the last. Also know as left-right-left.

5. Explain next there are 3 different zones during the draft. Each zone can only hold ONE stack of cards.

They are:

1. IN HAND zone. This is the current pack that players are drafting from.

2. DRAFTED zone. This is zone collects the drafted cards a player has selected. This pile of cards should be stacked in a single pile face down with all card backs facing the same direction. The only time a player may examine this zone, is when they are between drafting packs and this should be for approximately 1 minute.

3. PASS zone. Here a player shares this zone with another to the same side as that zone. After drafting a single card from a pack, the pack can be placed in this zone making sure it follows the current rotation. If the PASS zone is still full the player cannot add a second stack. They must wait until the zone is clear. This will also cause their IN HAND zone to remain full, stopping them from recieving the next pack.

6. Next the players should be notified that they will be playing the person sitting across the "circle" in the first round. This will cause the following matches: 1-5 2-6 3-7 4-8.

7. Players then should be directed where the extra land box is. Keeping this box near the judges station will help insure it stays more sorted and intact. Also that if players could return the land they use when they are done it would be greatly appreciated.

8. Placing the empty booster box in the middle of the players to collect the wrappers helps maintain a clean area.

9. Inform the players that they are to report their match results as they conclude. This greatly reduces the problem of "I won the tournament but I forget who I played in the second round".

10. Announce the number of the event to all players. Stress to them this will be helpful when reporting their match results.

11. Tell the players they are not to recieve any outside information while drafting or constructing their decks.

12. Explain that all matches inside this draft tournament will take place at or very near the table they drafted at. This insures that players stay close together and will know where they should be playing for the start of the next round.

13. Announce what places will recieve prizes and what the prizes are.

14. Ask if anyone has any last questions before the draft starts.

If there is an ample amount of judges for the 8 person drafts, the judge should stay at the current drafting area. They can insure that players correctly play the ZONE DRAFT. Upon conclusion of the drafting, players are required to build there decks in the immediate area. The judge should be aware of which people are in their draft and insure that no one is sitting with them while they form their deck. During this time the judge can clean up the draft table, making it ready for use again.

If there is a shortage of judges, it is best to remain with the current draft players until you are sure they have the idea of ZONE DRAFT. Usually this will take 4-5 card selections. Even if the judge is busy he must try and maintain a watchful eye on all the events he is currently running.

As the players report their match results indicate who their next opponent is. If they will be waiting to play a winner of a match, encourage the player to introduce themself to the unresolved match. But not to stay near by and watch such match.

A judge is best served by locating drafts in a selected area. Keeping them together will increase response time to rulings questions and help discourage any "foul" play.

Several ideas can be employed by the judge to make for a fun and relaxing draft. These are only examples of ideas that have worked for me, every judge should be able to find things that will work with their personality.

1. If a player has improperly added a second stack of cards to the PASS ZONE. I will say something like "Oooops just one stack at a time"
2. Give the players "nicknames" like "crusher" (for a quick winning player) or "The Bad Man" (for a player who commits several infractions during the draft portion)
3. During the explanation of who they will be playing in the first round, encourage the players to show their opponents their "WAR-FACE".
4. Wear a funny hat or something that will be quickly indentifiable to players as "thats my judge".
5. Threats of "The flying elbow" or "Defenestration" can cause some smiles.

Lastly maintain an open and positive attitude during your judging. Booster drafts at Large Events usually account for the majority of the side events. Keeping players happy and playing are your major objectives. If a player loses, encourage them to get some revenge by signing up for the next draft.

Chris Page
Level 3 Certified Judge