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[Editor's note: The opinions expressed on this page are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CompanyLongName or its agents.  The author takes full responsibility for his own words, and we encourage you to contact him if you have any comments about this posting.]

by Jeff Kearns (
Web posted November 21, 2000

So you’ve played in few tournaments and have tried the various constructed formats.  Not having a massive collection to draw from you’ve decided that booster draft gives you a better chance of winning.  You’ve tried a few and kind of like them (at least I do; it’s my best format). Now you’re ready for the next step – Rochester.

It has been said that draft is the best tournament format to show your real skill as a rounded Magic player.  Some of the most successful players in the world have little to no input into the decks they play, they are very skilled players but not so good designers.  Booster draft as a tournament format fixes some of those problems but you can still be wiped out by surprise power cards that your opponent manages to top deck at the wrong moment (for you anyway).  Rochester draft fixes that problem.  You know what cards are in every deck you’ll play against.

First let’s take a look at the DCI floor rules describing this unique format (from the DCI Comprehensive Tournament Rules)

75. Rochester Draft Rules

Once a player has indicated his or her drafting selection by touching a card, he or she may not select a different card.

Before the tournament begins, the head judge must announce how much time each player has to select a card. If a player fails to select a card in the time given, the pod judge issues that player the "oldest" card still remaining from the booster pack.

Example: The pod judge lays out cards from a booster pack. The cards can be considered to be in chronological order (1-15), where 1 is the first card placed on the table and 15 is the last card placed on the table. If a player fails to draft in a timely manner, the cards on the table are examined by the pod judge and the first card that was placed on the table is given to the player. If that card has already been selected, the second card that was placed on the table is given, and so on.

During a Rochester Draft, players must always display the most recent card they drafted in the current pack face up. When all cards are drafted from the current pack, players may move their cards from that pack to any position.

77. Rochester Draft-Active Player Rotation

The player drafting first from the cards presented on the table is called the active player. The first active player is the participant in the first seat, designated by the judge. All players in each drafting pod serve as the active player once for each booster pack group, with the active player moving between players as follows:

in a clockwise direction for the first booster-pack group (beginning with the first active player);  in a counterclockwise direction for the second booster-pack group (starting with the last active player in the first group);  and returns to a clockwise direction for the third booster-pack group (beginning again with the first active player).

78. Draft Order

The draft order moves in a horseshoe pattern, beginning with the active player, continuing around the table to the last participant in the group who has not yet drafted a card. The last player in the group selects two cards, instead of one, before drafting continues in reverse order, moving back to the player who began the drafting (the first person who drafted from the pack). After all cards are drafted or each player has two cards from the current booster pack (whichever comes first), the table judge clears the drafting area and prepares for the next booster-pack draft.

Example #1: Eight players are seated around a table. They are numbered 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 in a clockwise order. The active player is Player 1. The first booster pack for Player 1 is opened and placed face up in front of Player 1. After the twenty-second review period has expired, the draft order is as follows:

Player 1-card 1

Player 2-card 2

Player 3-card 3

Player 4-card 4

Player 5-card 5

Player 6-card 6

Player 7-card 7

Player 8-card 8

Player 8-card 9

Player 7-card 10

Player 6-card 11

Player 5-card 12

Player 4-card 13

Player 3-card 14

Player 2-card 15

[Editor's note: Notice that Player 1 only gets one card from this booster!]

The next pack to be opened would be Player #2's first booster.

Example #2: Seven players are seated around a table. They are numbered 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 in a clockwise order. The active player is Player 1. The first booster pack for Player 1 is opened and placed face up in front of Player 1. After the twenty-second review period has expired, the draft order is as follows:

Player 1-card 1

Player 2-card 2

Player 3-card 3

Player 4-card 4

Player 5-card 5

Player 6-card 6

Player 7-card 7

Player 7-card 8

Player 6-card 9

Player 5-card 10

Player 4-card 11

Player 3-card 12

Player 2-card 13

Player 1-card 14

Card number 15 is then removed from the draft.

The next pack to be opened would be Player #2's first booster.

So how does this really work and what does it mean for the drafters?  Unlike booster draft everyone sees every card, there is no hidden information.  A pack is opened and laid out on the table. Everyone takes a look and then the player who opened it takes a card, the next player takes a card, and so on.  It is here the similarity to booster draft ends.  Instead of the player who opened the pack getting the ninth pick (assuming 8 players at the table) it “bounces” back in the other direction.  Let me make that clear, the player who opens a pack gets the first pick but doesn’t get any of the other cards from that pack, even if there are less than eight players at the table, the judge removes any that are left before they get back to the player who opened it.  There’s no hoping you’ll see some of those commons come back to you.

The other big difference between Rochester and booster draft is the fact that only one pack is opened at a time.  This is more important than you think.  In booster draft it is common to open your first pack, get a powerful rare or uncommon, and then take cards of the same color from the next few packs passed to you.  If the right colors don’t come along you can easily switch colors after a few packs have passed.  Rochester doesn’t give you that luxury.  Think about it.  Player 1 picks his rare as the first card, for the next pack he will be last in the horseshoe and get card number 8.  If that first pick was a Devouring Strossus then he’s already committed to black and everyone else knows it.  It might be four more packs before anyone else lets him get another black card.  Of course the other end of the table doesn’t have it much better.  Player 8 has to pick 14 cards before he gets to open a pack.  That means a serious color commitment before he gets serious chance at a rare pick.

What it come down to is seating and politics.  If the ends are bad the middle must be better.  It is generally agreed that fourth and fifth seats are the best positions in Rochester.  You get to make early picks from the first couple of packs which means higher-end cards but still have enough flexibility to switch colors if you open a broken rare.  Politics comes in when committing to a color.  If player 4 takes green as his first four picks then players to his left don’t have much chance of ever getting a powerful green deck but they can still annoy him by taking a Kavu Titan when previously they had a different color.  Of course, they may never see either of those colors again now that it looks like they might be rare drafting.  Of course they might just be counter-drafting.  Generally if you pick your colors early (two or three for Invasion) and stick to those as much as you can you won’t make any enemies.  That often means the last few players have no say in what colors they get.  The key to Rochester is flexibility.

Let’s do a quick comparison:

Booster Draft

Rochester Draft

Open packs at the same time

Open packs one at a time

Cards are hidden

Cards stay visible (even after you pick)

Pass in a circle

Pass in a horseshoe

Equal chance of powerful cards

First seats get better picks

Choose colors early

Be flexible for first 4 or 5 cards

One or two color decks

Two or three color decks

Ignore your neighbors

Respect your neighbors

A lot of players like Rochester because it gives the excitement of draft without the downside of getting hosed by broken rares.  Well, you might still get hosed but you saw them coming and should have been prepared.

Now you’re ready to Rochester!



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