Booster Draft 101 – How to draft, or something like that.

drafting for dummies

I got asked by a few people for some strategy tips regarding Booster Drafting. This is actually a good place to start so I don’t have to explain everything from 0: Booster Draft Basics. If you already know all the basics of Booster Drafting then you can skip that article, but I would still recommend you read it. It will take less than 5 minutes if you already know what’s up.

So onto the strategy that I use. One cool thing about booster drafting is that you can always try to build the deck that you want. It won’t happen in 100% of the games, but if you REALLY want to build Red/Black aggro every draft, you will get the chance in about 60% of them. Why? Because you will inevitably force people into other colors if you cut both red and black from the start. Does that mean you will have a great deck for drafting? Hardly. See, there’s a problem with constantly drafting the same thing that you say “I like this deck. It’s fun for me. I want to play that all the time“. The first thing that comes to my mind is that people might put you on those exact colors all the time and taking the best cards out of red and black just as a hate pick, although they might have had the option of picking a card that would strengthen their blue/white deck.

Another example would be that you never really know how to play a different archetype. Blue/white flyers has been a solid choice for a long, long time. But if you can’t bring yourself to ever play it, you will never understand it either. You gain a lot more experience by stepping out of your comfort zone, then you get by playing the same thing over and over again. It is a good thing to try to master a specific archetype, but much more so in Constructed, than in Limited. Try to learn the basics of every archetype you can build. Then slowly over the course of many drafts you will be able to add more experience and knowledge to everything. Take note though: never force yourself to draft a specific color before the draft starts. Just because you wanted to draft green/white, if you get signs that black is open, switch to black and don’t draft what the guys next to you are drafting.

Speaking of other people drafting…”Why do I always get such bad cards? I can’t seem to draft a good deck“. I believe most of the times players fail to properly identify what the people next to them are drafting. This comes with experience though, but you have to try to follow a few signs. Let’s say you are half way through your first booster. In the next 7 picks you see a constant flow of green cards. This could mean that maybe the pool of the first packs was incredibly rich in green cards, or, much more plausible, that nobody or maybe 1 person is drafting green. This gives you the pick of the litter. If you are 2 people drafting green at a table of 8, I expect to see you in the finals of that draft.

Cool stuff bro, but how do I know who is drafting what?“. You open your first pack and get Dragonlord Silumgar. You smile and think it’s a definite black/blue deck for you. In the next 3-5 picks you do not get a playable black card, no removal but you get a blue flyer. This should sound a bit of an alarm in your drafting corner of the brain. Black isn’t flowing in your direction. It is quite rare that you can’t get any good cards in your color in the first 3-5 picks, unless someone else is taking them. By pick 7 you should have already abandoned black to go into anything else that you saw open.

What happens if I get black again in the second booster?“. There is a chance that might happens since you will be passing your booster to the right. You will have to make a choice that you won’t really like. You might get black now, but in your third booster you won’t get anything again. If you get enough strong black cards you can play it as a support color, for blue or whatever else you drafted. But the cards that you draft should be very strong to make that happen. If you just get black cards that don’t do much you will have guaranteed loses versus any deck that chose to draft what was open. You could take just a few black cards to maybe splash as a third color, or you could just end up hate-picking because by now you know that the guy on your left is drafting black.

On that note: hate-picking usually leads to sub optimal decks. But on the flip-side, if you open a Dragonlord Dromoka in your second booster, but you have drafted Black/Blue, you can’t just pass it. What should go through your head if this happens: “Can I pick a card from this booster that has a similar power level for my deck? Can I deal with this dragon if I pass it and pick my card?”. I always think like that, because if you actually have a deck filled with counters or removal, maybe, just maybe you might pass it and pick up another counter or something that strengthens your deck. In my opinion though: never pass something like that. Read the card. Then read it again closely. Try to discern if behind the actual oracle text on the card you can somewhat see the next sentence: “You will lose the game if someone plays this against you. Don’t pass it“. Is hate-picking bad? It’s unhealthy for the general development of decks. Is it necessary? By far yes. 

This week there will be two booster drafts: a Dragons of Tarkir draft on Tuesday and a Cube Draft on Thursday. Drop by and try out a new color. Or burn opponents away with your awesome mono-red deck!


See you in the Arena! 🙂


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