By: Kate Thompson
I’m sure that many of you have heard of Magic: The Gathering. Your familiarity could span from a vague nostalgia-tinged memory from the 90’s all the way to a deep-seated passion that drives you to attend new set releases even to this day. Most of you probably fall somewhere in the middle, so I thought it would be fun to write about Magic and some of the different ways that it can be played.
When you imagine playing Magic, you probably picture two people playing against each other with decks they had created beforehand. This is certainly a common way to play, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the possible ways to play.
In this article, I’m going to be talking about drafting in Magic, and specifically, a draft format called a Winston Draft, which is designed to work with smaller numbers of players (about 2-4). I used a Winson Draft as a method of opening boosters so that I can create what is called a Cube, which is another draft format. I’ll describe that in my next blog post!
As you’ll see, drafting in Magic really puts everyone on an even playing field. You never have to worry that you’ll lose to someone who dumped their wallet into their Magic deck… If that sounds appealing to you, read on, my friend!
What is a draft?
In a draft, everyone builds their decks at the same time by opening booster packs and choosing cards from them. Everyone starts with three boosters, opens the first one, and chooses one card from that booster. Then, everyone passes the booster they opened to the person on their right. This process repeats until there are no cards left in the booster. So, each time you get handed a booster you choose one card from it and then pass it along.
Once the first booster is gone, everyone opens their second booster and repeats the process, this time passing the booster to the left. For the third booster, passing goes to the right again.
After this drafting process, everyone has a curated mini-collection of 45 cards from which to create a 40 card deck (this 40 card deck includes land cards that can be added as needed to fit the deck you have created). Once everyone has built their deck, a tournament is had to determine a winner.
Drafts have a few benefits in my mind. First of all, like I mentioned, everyone is on an even playing field with respect to the cards they have to build their decks. This means that performance in the tournament is primarily based on how well players constructed and played their decks, not how long they have been collecting Magic cards, or how much money they are willing to spend on cards for their collection.
In addition, drafts are just a really fun way to open new booster packs! That’s the reason I decided to get some friends together for a draft of some Iconic Masters boosters I had. My end goal is to use the cards to build a Cube (more on this in my next post), but I didn’t want to just bust them all open and start sorting. I contacted friends who play Magic to see who was interested in drafting this special set, but because we are all busy boring adults, I only managed to get four people together to play. For a normal draft to work well, it’s generally advisable to have about 8 people. So, we decided to use a variant draft format known as a Winston draft.
The Winston Draft
In a Winston draft, there are still three boosters for each player, but the way the cards are drafted works a little differently. You open ALL of the boosters right away, remove the token and land cards from the pack, and then shuffle all the boosters together into one stack (try not to look at any of the cards in the process). Then, you create three piles of cards by putting one card from the top of the stack in each pile.
Whoever is chosen as first player looks at the card in the first pile. They choose to either keep that card or not. If they keep it, they place it in front of them and replace it with a card from the top of the stack. Play then moves on to the next player.
If they do not keep it, they place it back in its pile and then place a card from the top of the stack in that same pile. Then, they look at the card in the second pile and make the same decision. If they keep it, they replace it with a card from the stack. Play then moves on to the next player.
If they do not keep it, they put it back and add a card from the stack to the pile. Then they look at the card in the third pile and make the same decision. This time, however, if they do not take the card, not only do they put it back in its pile and add a card from the stack, but they then take the next card from the top of the stack and add that to their collection -- essentially they receive a random card if they did not choose any of the three piles.
That’s basically it! Continue in this way until all of the cards have been selected. The only special thing to note is that eventually, the piles will have more than one card in them. When it’s your turn, you look at a whole pile of cards and decide whether to take ALL or NONE of them. That means that people will end up with a different number of cards in their mini-collection at the end of the draft. This shouldn’t matter much since everyone is still creating a 40 card deck in the end.
Our Iconic Masters Winston Draft
Here are pictures of the draft decks that everyone created in our Winston draft:
After we drafted and constructed our decks, we decided to play a three-round tournament in a Round Robin style. The winner of each round was whoever won two out of three games. For the first round, we paired up randomly, but from then on we tried to make pairs based on wins and losses.
Chris (2 wins) vs. Kate (0 wins)
Travis (2 wins) vs. Paul (0 wins)
Kate (2 wins) vs. Paul (0 wins)
Chris (2 wins) vs. Travis (0 wins)
Travis (2 wins) vs. Kate (0 wins)
Chris (2 wins) vs. Paul (0 wins)
To determine final standings, we tallied up everyone's wins:
Chris: 6 wins
Travis: 4 wins
Kate: 2 wins
Paul: 0 wins
Normally after a draft, you get to keep the deck you made, but in this case I wanted to keep the cards we opened for my cube. Since I was stealing all the cards back, I decided to provide some prizes in the form of boosters from other sets. I let everyone take one booster of their choice just for playing, and then allowed Chris (1st place) to choose 6 boosters, and Travis (2nd place) to choose 3.
Tune in next time to learn more about this cube I am building!
Leave a comment and let me know of any interesting ways you know of to play Magic, or ask any questions you might have!
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