Five Quick Drafting Tips

Keyser Soze!!! Keyser Soze!!! These words from the fantastic movie “The Usual Suspects” run through my head every time I begin to draft find a really good rare to set the tone of my dastardly good deck. Unfortunately, this scenario happening for me is as elusive as the evil mastermind Soze. The majority of the time, that gold symbol is NOT something that makes a positive impact on your draft. In fact, sometimes, that rare might be worth a dollar and its only use would be to help “pay” for your draft, which indicates that this is probably a constructed card and not a ringer for the limited format.

What does a person do when they open the WORST rare in the set? How does a person determine whether or not Merfolk is really the tribe to go after for their draft? Let’s see if we can answer that for all of us. I was recently in a draft where the person to my right took a Judge of Currents FIRST PICK over Austere Command!!! He forced Merfolk all draft and did actually end up getting a decent deck. However, 101% of the time, I’d say this is a bad move, unless you already have 23 Austere Commands and a Judge of Currents is really your ONLY win condition.

As there are a myriad of “powerful” cards, I will NOT be saying “look for these 20 cards” or “this card will win 73% of the time for you” as it’s just not possible to provide an accurate assessment of every situation. Thanks.

Let’s start with a general philosophy. For new players, I say take Creatures and things that Kill (or neutralize) Creatures, with a priority for Creature Removal. The reason for this is that in Limited formats removal is a true premium and usually disappears from drafts extremely quickly. Now with this theory (as well as all others) there are exceptions, you open a “Bomb” creature such as Shriekmaw (which is also removal), Mulldrifter, or Imperious Perfect. These cards tend to trump the majority of your Rares and must be noted when passing. In the majority of cases, you take removal early. Newbies will probably not be able to identify above average creatures that have abilities which truly impact the game, but you’ll learn those things with time.

Quick Picks:

Nameless Inversion
Eyeblight’s Ending
Lash Out
Oblivion Ring
Neck Snap

Silvergill Douser
Stonybrook Angler
Cloudcrown Oak
Goldmeadow Harrier
Dreamspoiler Witches

This is just a few of the cards you may want to consider EARLY because they probably won’t table, which means you most likely won’t get them back.

Now, let’s say you’ve made your first pick. What’s next???

As an experienced drafter, my strategy is that I tend to always take the “Best” card regardless of color. I will probably do that until the pack is over. Then, in the second pack I can begin focusing on a theme and build on my color options. This can be good or bad, the good is that you gain a more powerful card pool or selection to base your 22-24 cards for your deck. The bad is that you may miss/pass cards that support the eventual or inevitable deck. With that being said, you must always consider your possible directions whether it be drafting Elves, Kithkin or drafting by color. Conversely, if the second pack doesn’t fit my color or Merfolk choice, drafting the “best” cards allows me to be more flexible and continue drafting the best card regardless of color.

Make note that many people LOSE drafts because they’re either ManaScrewed (the typical excuse) or they get lands of the wrong color. Since we already talked about color ratios in my last article, let’s address Manascrew or a lack of on color mana. Some people never pay attention to the CASTING COST of their cards. As you can imagine, picking 10 cards that cost 4 or more will have an impact on your deck’s performance. You didn’t get manascewed from your deck, you screwed yourself. There’s an old saying “Speed Kills” and Magic is NO different. You can win matches through sheer speed alone. A great example is Jon Finkel’s draft, (which we discussed in a recent episode here at where he decided to go Kithkin early. This obviously worked for him and can work easily for you. Typically, Goblins, Merfolk, Kithkin are the cheaper Clans to play with MOST of the players being 3cc or less. With Treefolk and Giants being the most expensive, I recommend you pass these guys, with the exception of opening a good Rare. So the message here is mind your casting costs and Keep It Cheap! If you don’t get removal, you will probably be overrun by bigger creatures so keep that in mind as well.

Let’s look at some Uncommon or Common reasons why you’d choose a certain Race or Clan in your draft:

Summon the School
Merrow Reejery

Lys Alana Huntmaster

Wizened Cenn

Spellstutter Sprite


Stinkdrinker Daredevil

Thorntooth Witch

You may say where’s this card? Where’s that card? What I’m trying to do is simplify your choices and allow you to make yourself more flexible for mistakes as well as choices. The cards mentioned are cards that depend on other cards of that same Clan to really provide benefit to you and are NOT Rare. Sure Pestermite is a good card, but you don’t HAVE to have other Faeries to make it good, unlike Thorntooth Witch which is terrible without the help of other Treefolk.

So let’s summarize what you’ve learned.

  1. Pick Removal
  2. Pick “High” quality cards
  3. Pick cheap cost cards
  4. Pick cards of your clan or race

When you DON’T have a bomb rare, these 5 rules will surely help you with your pursuit of victory. Wait here’s rule 5 for those of you going to the Shadowmor prerelease:

  1. Pick the RARE

I can hear you all laughing. However, I am dead serious and here’s the reason why. During prereleases, you will find many people who play MTG for many different reasons. Some are competitive, some play for fun, some just want to see cards and others want to build sets. Even the MOST skilled players can’t always identify tomorrow’s best card. Nor do they often pick the right “High Dollar” cards for you to hurry and get. If you pick the rare (whether that be Rule 1 or Rule 5) you may either have someone’s missing card for their SET or Constructed’s next Tarmagoyf, and this can NET you some cash. I won’t lie to you; during prereleases even I tend to pick the Gold Symbol much earlier than I do after the product is released. Merely to use as a trade item for cards I KNOW I need or something that can recoup costs for my expensive addiction 99% of the time, I draft to win and so should you. But, in this case I can forgive you.

-- Lee