Return to Ravnica: Why Draft?



Ravnica is back, gentlemen and ladies.  We had an overwhelmingly successful set of pre-releases this weekend and I managed to play in all of them.  I thought I’d take a moment here to talk a little bit about why this new set is fantastic, what makes it so fun to play in, and why drafting is going to be even better than before.  For anyone who’s just reading this post because of the cool looking demon up top, his name is Rakdos, and he makes a splashy return this set.  He  really just wants to snuggle.

Tim plays Azorius.  Seriously guys, it isn't a prison deck!

What is drafting?  Well, I’m glad I rhetorically asked.  In a Magic draft, players sit in a circle around a table, each open a pack of cards, pick one card, and pass the remainder of the pack to an adjacent player.  This continues until all cards in each pack are taken, and then the process is repeated (switching direction of pass each time) until players have “drafted” three packs worth of cards.  Players then toss in some basic lands, try to make a playable deck with a minimum of 40 cards, and get paired up to play.  Drafting is a limited format, which just means its a type of Magic where players don’t get to bring their own cards.

Okay, that’s how to draft, but are there any tricks to it?  Why yes, rhetorical Tim.  There are as many “secrets” to drafting as playing poker, but I’ll lead with a few basics.  These are basics, and pro players or even experienced folks will have more to add or adjust.  While there is subtlety, this is a good place to start or to come back to with a new set.

  • Value cards that remove enemy creature highly.  These effects are key to not losing, which is the first step to winning.
  • Value creatures highly, and creatures with some kind of evasion highest.  Flying or even trample mean your creature often gets to do damage even if your opponent has a blocker.
  • Build a 40 card deck, with 23 of your best cards from the draft and 17 land cards.  The fewer cards in a deck, the better your odds of seeing that bomb rare.
  • Don’t pick your colours in the first pack.  If the best card in the set is in that pack, it’s natural to want to play it.  Be patient and see what cards are being passed to you.  Keep an open mind.

Hey man, I’ve drafted before.  What’s so exciting about Return to Ravnica?  Good point.  RTR is what we call a “gold set,” meaning it encourages players to draft in colour pairs.  Successful drafting is all about having a game-plan, drafting an archetype.  In RTR, the simplest version of these archetypes are already spelled out for players.  Anyone playing the Rakdos guild during the pre-release this weekend knows their deck had a game-plan, even without having it spelled out.  The same is true in drafts.  Players of all skill levels will have an easier time seeing what is open to them in a draft.  These guilds also all share a similar power level, so matches will tend to be closer, and game play will need to be tighter.

When can I start?  Black Knight hosts a bi-weekly draft on alternating FNMs (Friday Night Magic) at 5:30pm.  The first Ravnica one is tomorrow!  Stronghold members buy in for the low cost of $12 and all players keep the cards they drafted.  At the end of the event players who did well get some store credit and special promo cards.  If you were thinking about buying some packs of the new set, why not come play at a draft instead?  The cost is similar and you get an evening’s entertainment.

Alternatively, buy three packs each with a group of friends and draft in the comfort of your kitchen.  Or hold your own mini-draft on another night here at the store.

Please leave some comments on this post if you have drafting tips, Ravnica feedback, or questions.  Log into the forum and return to this post to comment.

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