Thursday, 16 April 2009

The fundamental rules of drafting - #1

By Jim Marlow

Hey Everyone,

So having spoken to a few people at WNM i have had some great feedback about the blog and its awesome to hear that people are reading the articles we are writing for it, i was worried that people hadnt been paying much attention because there had been fewer comments made on each article, but its great to have any feedback about the blog, especially if its positive.

The feedback i got reminded me that i have somewhat forgotten the players of Team Leeds that are'nt currently as competative as some of the more experianced players in our group, so i decided that i would write a set of articles with some very basic rules that i think will help people of all skill levels to increase their drafting and play skill.

Just to let people know that i am no Finkel or Ruel when it comes to drafting, and in my limited rating is certainly not very impressive, so please dont blame me if following these rules leads to a bad perfomance.

The fundamental rules of drafting

rule 1) Pick order

I basically follow this rough guide in the order i pick things

- bombs
- removal
- mana fixing
- creatures
- combat tricks (giant growth etc)
- hate drafting

I must first say that, as with all of the rules i have listed, is subject to the type of deck you are drafting, for example if your deck is mono-coloured, mana fixing is less important to you than other cards.

I was told this rough order by Robertas Azulas the first time i ever drafted, and although every format and deck within that format is different, sticking to this guide of the importance of certain types of cards has served me well since i heard it.

There are a number of cards that i would consider bombs in the current Ala/Ala/Con format, for example -

- flameblast dragon
- vein drinker
- battlegrace angel
- broodmate dragon
- bull ceredon
- hellkite overlord
- sigil of distinction
- martial coup

These are quite clearly cards that you would almost never pass pick, 1, pack 1, because the power level is so high. Obviously, opening a broodmate dragon in pack 2 when you have solidly drafted esper is not the best thing in the world, but in my opinion, you should almost always take a card thats better for your deck than hate draft - but i will talk about this more in another section.

rule 2) Your first few picks

The first few picks in a draft are in my opinion the most important of all. In my first few picks, roughly the first 4-5, i hope to have solidified my place at the table into a colour/shard/tribe or whatever depending on the format (for the purposes of this article i will refer to the current Ala/Ala/Con format), as well as hopefully putting my person(s) to my left into a different shard, as well as knowing what shard the person(s) to my right are in because of whats missing from the pack - i will speak about signalling in a different section.

There are two main arguments about what to do in your first couple of picks in draft, basically whether to commit; or whether to stay open.

By this i mean from your first pick do you pick something like a sanctum gargoyle, or a naya charm, or something that immediately commits you to a particular drafting strategy that you can force yourself into from the word go.

Commiting or forcing a shard can be very productive, because if by coincidence the shard is open from your right anyway, you can end up with simply ridiculous decks, meaning literally unbeatable in the pod. Similarly however, you may end up having to switch shards, if your shard dries up mid way through the pack, meaning that your first picks will be wasted, and as will be mentioned later, you may end up in the same shard as the guy to your left.

My personal preference in approaching a draft is to try to stay as open as possible for the first 3 picks, by which i can generally tell what colour or colours are open from the right, even though this may mean passing some objectively more powerful cards to my left. By this i mean that i very rarely like first picking a charm or a battlemage, or really any card that puts me firmly into 3 colours, and my favourite thing is staying mono for as long as possible for the first couple picks.

Of course, because some cards are just plain bombs, you can be forgiven for taking them, even if they are 2 or 3 coloured. Take broodmate dragon for example, the card is so powerful that you would take him, because even if you end up esper, it is only 1 missed pick, and at least your opponants dont have it. If you first pick a 2 or 3 coloured bomb, this also makes it far more acceptable to force yourself into a shard, because even if your deck is slightly worse than it could have been had you been more objective, the fact you have an extremely powerful card in your deck makes up for this.

For the record my all time favourite card to open in ala/ala/con draft is . . . .

- Sigil of Distinction

This is a big bomb, it wins games, and goes in any deck, what more can you want!, this is simply amazing.

this is followed closely by

- flameblast dragon
- caldera hellion
- mycoloth
- vein drinker
- battlegrace angel

Notice anything...yep all 1 colour, why? because i can play my battlegrace angel in a naya, esper or bant deck, whichever seems the most open after a couple of picks.


There is a fair amount of information to swallow in this article so i decided to split the fundamental rules of drafting into 3 parts.

The next 2 article will cover the following rules

rule 3) - signalling
rule 4) - when to abandon the pick order
rule 5) - mana fixing
rule 6) - building your deck and manabase
rule 7) - hate drafting

I hope the first couple rules help people to draft more succesfully, i will post the next two articles in the next day or 2, so everyone who wishes to will have enough time to digest and remember all the rules for the next WNM draft in Leeds, which i believe to be in 4 weeks time, due to the 5 week month meaning it will be

Standard on the 22nd April
Block constructed on the 29th April
Standard on the 6th of May
Draft on the 13th May

Thanks for reading


As always, feel free to comment on anything about this article, or anything unrelated to magic whatsoever. If you would like to contribute to the TLM blog, please email any ideas, articles, pictures or anything else to

No comments:

Post a Comment