3 Steps to More Drafters
My first-ever Magic: The Gathering organized play experience was a Booster Draft event. I was terrified.
I had just learned how to play a few weeks prior and wanted to join my friend at an official event. Fortunately for me, my friend taught me how to draft beforehand—both strategically and mechanically—to help me gain the confidence I needed to participate.
Thanks to that learning session, I had a wonderful time and I've drafted hundreds of times since.
With Ixalan Draft Weekend coming up on September 30–October 1, a learn-to-draft session—maybe at FNM the night before, or as part of Draft Weekend itself—can build a new player's confidence, just like it did for me.
Here are three keys to preparing new players for their first draft:
1. Set Expectations
I was used to playing with 60-card preconstructed decks. Building a deck was a strange concept to me, let alone building a deck on the spot. Land-to-spell ratios, the ideal number of creatures—I had no clue.
Knowing what to expect went a long way to relieving the anxiety. My friend clearly defined the end goal (pick cards one at a time for a 40-card deck, don't draft basic lands), the process (left-right-left, don't stack draft piles), and the basics of deckbuilding (17 lands, 23 spells, around 15 creatures).
If you've been drafting for decades, it's easy to forget how daunting it is. But with new drafters, you can't take anything for granted.
2. Discuss Simple Strategies
Avoid overloading players with too much information. Stuff like signaling, memorizing picks—skip that entirely. But some simple strategy makes the experience less intimidating.
For example, my friend taught me "Two-Color BREAD."
You're probably familiar with the acronym. It's a way to simplify draft decisions and guarantee a viable deck. The two tenets are 1) limit yourself to two colors and 2) prioritize picks in this order:
Consider turning this strategy into a personal cheat-sheet to hand out to newer players.
(B)ombs: These cards are usually big and powerful and have a way of winning the game on their own. They're usually rares or mythics and they're usually creatures or planeswalkers.
(R)emoval: Cards that remove or otherwise nullify your opponent's creatures should be considered next. Look for cards that deal damage to creatures, lock them out from attacking or blocking, or outright destroy them.
(E)vasion: After removal comes creatures with evasive abilities. That means flying, menace, unblockable—anything that makes it difficult for the opponent to block.
(A)ggro: Next, look for creatures with aggressive (or low) casting costs. Generally, you want the bulk of your creatures to cost between two and four mana.
(D)uds: As the draft continues, good options will begin to dwindle leaving you with only the duds. Here is where you should look for sideboard cards. Usually cards with artifact and enchantment removal effects.
3. Encourage Mentorship
I was fortunate to have my friend help me build a deck and it comforted me knowing that I wouldn't have a total mess. Other players also offered me friendly advice during the event and were very welcoming overall.
You can lower the pressure by running the learn-to-play draft event as open play rather than a tournament. Otherwise, you can have WER pair players outside their pod so they're less likely to play against someone who helped them draft.
I would have been too nervous to participate in a draft on my own, but thanks to my friend's help, the practice beforehand, and the welcoming community, I will always treasure that experience.