I watch a lot of people pay entry fees for Magic: the Gathering draft tournaments only to walk away disheartened with plans to completely trash or trade away their losing decks. I also see several folks win draft tournaments or place in the top three fairly consistently; the concept of drafting cards doesn’t seem all that difficult, so why are some folks better than others?
Drafting is something of an art-form, and it also includes a little bit of luck. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the best choices at your next Magic: the Gathering draft tournament.
- Stick as closely to two mana colors as you possibly can. This may seem like an obvious statement, but you’d be shocked at how many players I see playing three and four color decks! If you’re playing more than three colors in a draft tournament, you’ve basically already lost the game (unless you are incredibly lucky). Even if you have to fall close to the minimum required 40 card deck, try to stick with two colors.
- Avoid those rares and mythic rares and select cards that are good for your deck. I know how tempting it can be to want to pick up that Master Biomancer in the third round of the draft after you’ve already started building a Gruul deck, but if you’re planning on winning, don’t do it! There’s nothing wrong with picking up a rare to put into one of your constructed decks as long as there isn’t anything better to choose, but don’t pass up a Ghor-Clan Rampager if you’re playing Gruul, it’s just a bad choice 10 times out of 10.
- Select dual-lands and guildgates when they’re available and you can afford to skip other cards passed to you. Magic: the Gathering is all about being able to put cards into play, and you simply cannot do that if you don’t have the mana to play them. Dual-lands and guildgates can make your life a lot easier, so if you’re stuck with three cards you simply can’t use, one that MAY work in your deck, and a guildgate, pick the guildgate!
- Select as many low-mana cost cards early, especially creatures, as you can. In my experience some of the most successful decks in a draft are aggro-style decks. If you can load up on a couple playsets of 2 mana drop creatures, you have plenty of things you can put out early, a good number of cards you can block with, and less worries about getting the right color of mana.
- Talk to the people sitting beside you. Gathering information can always be a powerful tool during a draft. If the people sitting around you are willing to tell you what they’re playing, then you can either help or hurt each other. From this point, you have two different strategies you can use. First, either trade information with your opponents and agree to pass on color-specific cards and then do so, or simply lie about what you’re doing and draft cards to put your opponents at a disadvantage.
- Get into your opponents head. A poker face isn’t only useful in games of poker, you’re going to need to bluff and trick your opponent in order to bend them to your will. Learn to read your opponents, find out if they have a good hand by watching their mannerisms and facial expressions, but make sure that they can’t read yours. Bluff when you have a good hand, always act disappointed in the cards you draw and the hands you receive. By getting into your opponents head you’ll be able to control the tempo of the game and to constantly keep them on the edge of their seat, Magic: the Gathering is a game for thinkers, and keeping someone in an emotionally turbulent state will only disrupt their thinking patterns.
I hope some of this information is helpful to you, and I hope that you can perform well on your next draft. If you’re a new player, or a player who routinely performs badly, watch some of the more experienced players for additional tricks. Remember to keep your mana-costs low and your decks simple, also try to play colors that compliment each other, such as green/blue or black/red, don’t mix and match unusual colors (although in the current format most any combination can work). Most of all, chalk up all of your bad tournament nights as a learning experience, try not to be to disappointed in your performance, you will improve over time. See you at FNM!