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By Jordan Gallant
Drafting is the best way to improve your level of play. Drafting requires you to be very decisive, good at deck building, and a highly skilled player. It doesn't matter whether or not you have good or bad cards because you don't have to bring your own deck for draft. Hopefully this article will improve your level of drafting.
First you are seated around a table called a POD. Usually you will play within your pod; at other times, youíll play against totally random people from other pods. Each person will be given three booster packs to start with. The judge will announce when to begin and then you will open your first pack. Once itís opened, you should look at the cards in it and evaluate each card carefully, but don't take too long. Then decide which card you would like to choose to put in the deck you will be constructing afterwards. At this point you should be deciding what colors you will be drafting. Once everybody has chosen a card, the judge will tell you to pass your pack to the left. Once everybody has passed their pack you will pick up the pack that is to your right. Repeat this process until there are no cards left. After the first pack you should have a clear idea of what kind of deck you will be playing and what color you are drafting.
You should only be drafting a maximum of two or three colors by now, but in the next two packs you could start drafting another color if you think it is being underdrafted (not many people taking that color of card). It is a good idea to splash a third color in your deck, but never a fourth. The next pack will be passed to the right. This means that you will probably be getting a different assortment of cards from those passed to you previously because different people are passing packs to you. This can be either for better or for worse. In this next part of the draft you will be receiving packs from the left. After all the cards are gone you will have a review period in which to look at the cards you have drafted. By now it's a bit late to splash a color or be taking cards that aren't your color. Your deck should be pretty solid by now and you should only need to fill up a few gaps in your deck. Also remember that a good deck always needs around 17 creatures and 6 spells to be effective, so if you've only drafted 7 creatures so far I suggest that you jump on every creature you can.
At the start of the draft, everybody in your pod will be seated around a table in a specific order with three boosters. Only the first player will open a booster, but instead of keeping the cards to himself, he will lay them face up in the middle of the table. Everybody will be given around 30 seconds to look over the cards. After the 30 seconds, the first player has 5 more seconds to pick a card. If he doesn't choose one within the time limit he must take the card at the top left corner; this applies to everybody. After the first player has a card, the second player (the player to the left of player 1) will be given 5 seconds to pick a card. This will repeat until everybody has picked one card. Then the last player to pick will get to pick again and the draft will reverse order (this is shown in the diagram below). The draft will continue until everybody has two cards or there are no cards left, whichever of this occurs first depends on the number of players in each pod.
After the first pack is finished, player 2 will open his or her pack. The same process as the first pack is repeated except now the draft will reverse direction at player 1 instead of player 8. This continues until each player has two packs left. Then the last player to open a pack will open another pack and the process of opening packs will reverse direction. After player 1 has finished with his second pack he will open his last pack and the direction will reverse again. When all the packs are finished, you will count your cards to make sure you have 45 cards, then it's deck building time. (See ďBuilding Your DeckĒ below.)
Rochester drafting requires a lot more skill than booster drafting. It requires you to be aware of what people around you are drafting and to determine what cards to pick based on other people's picks. The same strategies apply from booster drafting, but you should also be trying to draft answers to other playersí bombs (very amazing cards) so that you don't get stuck in a situation where you are totally helpless. You can also put in protection for green, red, blue, etc. creatures in your deck if you see lots of people playing certain colors. It is also a very good idea to draft a different color from the people beside you so that you don't compete for the same cards. It is easy to figure out what they are drafting because unlike in booster draft, you can see what everybody drafts. Another good strategy is to select the colors you are going to draft right away to send a message to everybody else around you so they will be cooperative and go for different colors. To be a good sport, if someone beside you is drafting one of the same colors as you are, you should be friendly and pass them some good cards if you find that your deck is turning out a lot better than his. Then in return, he might pass you some good cards you may be lacking. Never stop paying attention to what's going on in the draft because then you might pick a card that you don't need but that someone else does. If this happens don't expect to get many good cards to get past that player.
Building Your Deck
Your draft deck must have a minimum of 40 cards. You can get lands of your choice from the judge. There is no limit to the amount of lands you use or the amount of cards in your deck. You should try to have 17 creatures and 6 spells in your deck. Try not to put cards like Disenchants, Circles of Protection or other inconsistent spells. Leave them in your sideboard so you can put them in where they will be necessary. (The definition of a sideboard is just below). A deck should have around 17 lands but the right amount can vary depending on the average casting cost of the cards in your decks. Remember that your deck needs a good mana curve with some small creatures, some medium-costed creatures and a few big, fat monsters
Your sideboard consists of the cards that arenít in your deck. You can use the cards in your sideboard only after the first game against an opponent. At the beginning of each round, you canít have any sideboard cards left in your deck. You can also take cards out of your deck after the first game if you think they are useless against your opponent's deck, but make sure you still have the 40 card minimum. I can't stress how important sideboarding is. Some people think that they don't have to sideboard and/or they can't be bothered. Remember, laziness loses games.
The DOs and DONíTs of Drafting!
It takes some practice to become good at drafting so don't be discouraged. The key is to decide quickly, but carefully. Learn the cards and watch the other players to improve your skill. Remember to have lots of fun!