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Ender Wiggins
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Why do a draft?

Do you like the deck-building element of Dominion? Then you're a prime candidate for just loving the deck-building of Magic the Gathering! If you're a Dominion fan, you might just need to try a Magic the Gathering draft!

But isn't Magic the Gathering expensive?

Some of you are reading the subject line of this review and are wondering if I'm losing my sanity. Magic the Gathering...affordable? Magic the Gathering is usually associated with spending a lot of money, and is usually regarded as a money pit rather than an affordable family game! Maybe you have already read my earlier review, in which I suggested that there is an affordable and fun option for families wanting to play Magic the Gathering, namely, pre-constructed theme decks:

Affordable Family Fun Option #1: Theme decks ...and their limitation

Pre-constructed theme decks are great ... but only to a point. Because once in a while every Magic player gets an itch to build his own decks. If you've ever played Magic the Gathering, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, often it's more than an itch, it can easily become a passion! Even an obsession. Here I have to make a confession: I've only built a few constructed Magic the Gathering decks in my time. Why? The reason is because for me personally it quickly became an obsession. When deck-building for the constructed format, I found that crafting a particular deck quickly began to consume my thoughts and my time. That's not good. Magic can be great fun, and it deserves a place in my life, but it shouldn't be all-consuming.



Fortunately, there are ways that allow for deck-building without it being all-consuming. Ladies and gentlemen ... drumroll ... I give you ... drumroll ... the draft! Drafting is the perfect solution for families wanting the fun of deck-building, without the pain of obsession or cost. "Ah," cries the sceptic, his mind filled with visions of hundreds of costly boosters, "but what about your wallet?" Well, what about my wallet? I know exactly what you're thinking: since when is it affordable to do a draft on a regular basis? For four players, isn't it pretty much $40 each time you do it?

Affordable Family Fun Option #2: Drafts ...and their appeal

See drafting puts everyone one a level playing field, as players rip open booster packs, pass out cards, and build their own decks, and then pit them against each other. It's tense, and it's exciting, and it's truly one of the most fun ways to play Magic. The only difficulty is that it's going to set you back $10 each time you do it. For a four player draft, you're looking at $40 a shot. How about if I told you that I regularly do drafts for under $50? That's not the cost for just one draft. That's the total cost for multiple drafts. All for under $50. A one-time $50! What's the secret? I don't buy boosters. I make my own draft pool from a particular set. Want to know how it's done? That's what this article is about.



As I have mentioned previously, I have a family with five children ages 4 to 12. The oldest three (age 8, 10 and 12) all love playing Magic the Gathering, as do I, but that hasn't put me in the poor house just yet! Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to play Magic without getting a second mortgage - the good news is that Magic the Gathering doesn't have to be an expensive hobby, and that pre-constructed theme decks are not the only affordable option for families. Pre-constructed theme decks are great as self-contained games, but we all know that from time to time every Magic player wants to build his own decks. It's this deck-building that is at the heart of a Magic the Gathering draft, and they have been a real hit in our family. And despite what you might think, this doesn't have to break the bank.



What is a draft?

For those who are not completely familiar with Magic the Gathering, the most common way that cards are sold (aside from buying "singles", i.e. individual cards that you are after by name) is through booster packs. Here are two examples from a recent set, Lorwyn:



Booster packs consist of 15 cards, and typically contain 1 rare card, 3 uncommons, and 11 commons. Aside from these rarities, the cards themselves are random. So the rare you get might be a junk rare. But it might also be a power rare worth more than $20!

So what do you do with the booster packs in a draft? Here's the short version: Players open boosters, and select cards from which they then build their own deck. Typically a draft involves each player opening a booster, taking a card, then passing the remainder of the cards to the person on their left, until every player has 15 cards (a process repeated three times, so each player has 45 cards). Then you build your own deck, and play them against each other. Now for the longer version:

Phase 1: Drafting

Each player pays for three booster packs. The usual cost for this would be around $10 per person. Everyone opens a booster pack, takes the card of their choice, and passes the remaining 14 cards to the left. You choose one of the 14 cards that were passed to you from the guy on the right, and pass the remaining 13 to the guy on your left. The process repeats itself, until everyone has 15 cards. That's booster pack number #1! This happens again with booster pack #2, this time passing to the right. With booster pack #3, the cards are passed to the left again.

The result of the drafting phase is that each player should have "drafted" or chosen 45 cards. The trick is to try to "draft" cards that will work together well, and make a great deck. For most players, the drafting is one of the highlights of the whole experience, and is tremendous fun, because of the agonizing and strategic decisions it involves. Usually you'll try to pick from two colours, unless you decide to take a fantastic card in a third or fourth colour, just to stop someone else from getting it and using it against you! (such a "pick" is called "hate drafting"). And there are all kinds of things to think about: limiting your choices to just a few colours, making sure you take powerful cards if they show up (= bombs), ensuring that you have enough cards that will let you remove opponents creatures (= removal), and creatures of your own that can evade his (= evasion), and a balanced mana curve - just to name a few!

Phase 2: Deck-building

By now everyone should have 45 cards, ideally with enough cards in one, two, or at most three colours, with the potential to build a good deck. At this point the deck-building starts. A typical deck might contain 40 cards altogether, with 23 spells and 17 lands. So that means you won't be using all those 45 cards - they are just your starting pool, and you'll only use about half of them, and then add land cards.

Phase 3: Playing

Finally, the actual gameplay starts. By this point, you will have started a mini love affair with your deck. After all, you have lovingly drafted the cards, and lovingly built the deck. It's all yours baby! There is a very "personal" aspect that comes into play, because the deck you are playing is in a very real sense a product of your own choices and decisions, and so there's a real sense of "ownership".



What is the appeal of a draft?

Evaluating the time

So how long does all this take? The drafting might take a little over an hour. The deck-building might take half an hour. So the first two phases should easily be done in 90-120 minutes, depending on how leisurely you draft. And then of course you can do your head-to-head games, usually with a "best-of-three" challenge against each other player! So with a four player draft, if you play each other player at least once, you could be looking at least 4-5 hours. When drafting with two players (using the Winston draft format described later in this article), the entire thing can be done and over with in only 1-2 hours.

Evaluating the experience

So is this fun? It's an absolute blast, and one of the very best ways to play Magic. You never know what cards you'll end up with. Plus you don't know exactly what colours others are drafting. So there are lots of interesting decisions to make when drafting cards: Do you take a card that could be a potential bomb for another player, or stick to cards in the colours that your own deck is shaping up to be? Do you get big creatures, evasion, or removal? What colours are other players drafting? One of the real attractions of this format is that it packs several different aspects into one session: drafting, deck-building, and playing - so there's lots of variety. It also offers a level playing field for all players, so the winner is not just the person who can afford the most expensive cards and construct his deck accordingly, or who just copies his deck from a netdeck downloaded from the internet. Of course you can get somewhat fortunate if there's a real bomb in a booster you open, but for the most part it's very fair and even. And it's different every time! So there's much that's very attractive about a draft!

Evaluating the cost

For $10 per player, that's pretty good mileage. Where else can you get 5 hours of fun for a mere $10? What's more, you get to keep the cards you drafted at the end of the day, so you even get to take home something from your evening of fun! (typically the "rares" are re-drafted, with players picking in turns, starting with the winner). For a group of four people, it's still $40 altogether for an evening of fun. Admittedly, if you're splitting the cost between you, that's quite affordable. If you're one of four guys spending a night out, then $10 isn't too bad.

But now for the downside: what if you're talking about a family, and it's dad who has to front the bill for 3-4 kids playing? Then $40 each time quickly becomes more substantial. Spending forty bucks on a board game which you can play multiple times is one thing, but spending forty bucks to play Magic the Gathering with the kids just for one evening, and another forty bucks to do the same thing again tomorrow night? That quickly starts getting rather painful!



How do you build your own draft set?

So is there a way to make this more affordable if you're doing this regularly with the same people, or in a family? Well there is a solution, and that's to build your own draft set. Here's how I build my own draft set from a single expansion block of Magic:

Step 1: Commons

I hunt around on eBay for a playset of commons. A fortune? Nope. Right now, at the moment I'm writing this, you can buy a complete playset of Lorwyn and Morningtide commons for $9.99. That's right, only $9.99! Okay, so shipping isn't cheap, but for under $20, over 700 cards are delivered to your door! That's impressive isn't it?!

Step 2: Uncommons

I buy a stack of cheap uncommons. For a fun time, we don't need all the power rares, or even all the expensive uncommons. You just need a good variety. So I usually head to an online retailer like bigfireball.com, and buy myself a large amount of uncommons. Most of them are selling at 5 or 10 cents each. So even if I spend only $20, I'll be getting around 300-400 uncommons. That's almost 40 in each colour of Lorwyn, and 40 in each colour of Morningtide. More than enough for a draft!

Step 3: Lands

I make sure I have enough lands in each colour (these are usually inexpensive), for the deck-building phase.

Overview

So let's just recap: now I have over 1000 cards from the Lorwyn/Morningtide block. And I've only spent $40. So what do I do next? It's time to make boosters!



How do you make boosters?

Brand new booster packs typically contain 11 commons, 3 uncommons and 1 rare. I'm not using rares, so I go with 11 commons and 4 uncommons. From here it's pretty straight-forward: I enlist the help of my enthusiastic children, who are only too happy to help prepare for a draft. I shuffle all the Lorwyn commons together in a massive pile shuffle operation (accomplished very quickly, with the help of my little elves!), and deal them into piles of 11. Then I shuffle all the Lorwyn uncommons, and add 4 to each pile. Presto, I've just made a couple of dozen Lorwyn boosters with 15 cards each. I pop each of them in a plastic sleeve, so I can store them easily:



Admittedly, they're not wrapped in shiny foil packaging like the official boosters from Wizards of the Coast. And they don't have rares. But for the purposes of a draft, my home-made family booster packs work just fine:



So that takes care of the Lorwyn cards, now I do exactly the same thing with my Morningtide cards. Now I've got Lorwyn boosters and Morningtide boosters. So I can do a Lorwyn draft. Or a Morningtide draft. Or a Lorwyn and Morningtide draft. Whatever I'm in the mood for! Ahh, you're catching on here, and can see the potential for replay value already can't you?!

Do I want more variety? Then I just build another draft pool. I've done the same thing with the Time Spiral block. This block had three sets, so it cost me slightly more - around $50. But with that, I have a Time Spiral set, a Planar Chaos set, and a Future Sight set, as you see here (the smaller piles are uncommons, the larger piles are commons):



Do you see the possibilities now? We can play a draft using just one expansion set. Or we can play a block draft using all three of the Time Spiral sets together. Or if we're feeling really creative, we could draft boosters from the Lorwyn block and the Time Spiral block. Lots of possibilities! And how much did these two draft blocks set me back altogether? Under $100.

I'll concede that $100 is more than your average board game. But think about the hours of fun I've had with these draft blocks! Think about the endless replayability! My kids love it! In fact, it's easily their favourite way to play Magic the Gathering. And think about the variety: on a given afternoon, we might first spend an hour drafting, then half an hour deck-building, and finally an hour or two playing. The decks are put into deck boxes, and pulled out on another day, for more matchups. And when we're sick of those decks, we repeat the whole process, drafting from different sets or a different combination of sets! Fantastic, and fun!

How do you enhance your own draft set?

If you like, you can enhance your draft set with a few little extras, like a storage container, deck boxes, and card sleeves. Here's how:

Storing the cards

I store all the cards in a storage case that my wife kindly bought for my birthday last year:



This particular storage case holds over 1000 cards - which is more than enough for the entire play-set of Lorwyn & Morningtide commons (top two compartments), my uncommons (bottom right compartments), and my lands:



Boxing the decks

Some people insist on using sleeves for all their Magic cards. This can make sense, particularly if the cards are valuable, in order to preserve their value. Now the cards in my home-made draft sets are hardly valuable - they are only commons and uncommons after all! But for my purposes, I'm more interested in deck boxes. I have five different coloured deck boxes:



These Ultra-Pro brand boxes are very inexpensive, and readily available in US department stores like Meijer. As an extra bonus, they each come with 50 matching coloured plastic sleeves:



Most of the time you are building 40 card decks in a draft, so having 50 sleeves is just right, and gives some latitude for building slightly larger decks. So after we've drafted and built our decks, we quickly sleeve our decks. There are several advantages to this:
1. Of course the obvious - it protects your cards, if you're really into doing that.
2. Some of my lands are becoming somewhat "worn", so it prevents players from identifying them while upside-down in the deck.
3. It makes it easy to see which cards belong to which player when playing, because they're all different colours.



But there's an even better reason for getting these deck-boxes and sleeves. Best of all, is the fact that each box holds about 100 cards - which is perfect for storing your deck and the sideboard of extra cards! So we can start the draft on one day, but if we don't get done playing all the match-ups, or even any of them, it's not a big deal. Each player just puts their cards or their deck and extra side-board cards in their box, and we can haul it out on a different day to play again. Works fantastic!



This does add slightly to the cost, but I think the advantages make it more than worthwhile. Particularly the advantage of being able to easily store your draft decks, put them away and pull them out and play them on another day is a great plus!

Winston Draft: How do you draft with two players?

Can you draft with only two players?

Usually a draft requires at least four players to work. But the good news is that there's an excellent draft variant that makes drafting possible for two players. It's called a Winston Draft, and was invented by the creator of Magic the Gathering, Richard Garfield. It's also suitable for drafting with three players.

What is a Winston draft?

Six boosters or equivalent (90 cards) are shuffled together - in other words, the equivalent of three boosters per player, the same as a regular booster draft. Then a card is dealt face down into three positions—A, B, and C.



The first player looks at the contents of pile A and can keep it. If he doesn't want it, he returns it and adds another card facedown to pile A. He can then look at pile B and has the same choice: keep it, or leave it and add a card. The same happens with Pile C, and if he doesn't like Pile B or Pile C, he takes a random card from the top of the deck. When he's taken a card, play passes to the second player, who repeats the process. So every time a pile is not chosen, it gains a card, thus increasing in quantity and quality.

How good is a Winston draft?

Does it work? It works great! The net result is that each player sees only about half the cards, so it makes drafting exciting, because you don't always know what cards your opponent is getting. You do tend to get quite a few cards in other colours, but another advantage of the Winston draft is that it plays very quickly and works well. We typically manage to pull off a Winston draft, complete with drafting, deck-building, and three games, in 45-90 minutes! In fact, once you're done playing, you can always shuffle up the cards into one pile, and do it again. I highly recommend it if you're looking to do a draft with just two players.



For more information, see this article from the publisher of Magic the Gathering here.

Cube Draft: Can you build an alternative draft set?

What is a Cube draft?

Instead of making a home-made draft set with commons and uncommons of the same set, as I've described above, another option is to build yourself a Cube Draft. You'll find a good explanation of the concept here and here. Unlike regular drafts, which use booster packs, a Cube Draft is a carefully constructed draft pool of several hundred singles chosen individually for their excellence in game play, particularly drafts, and taken from all the sets in Magic. So with a Cube, cards don't come from one expansion, but from the entire history of Magic, which means that you can build your own draft pool with cards that are all excellent for drafting. The draft pool for a Cube Draft as originally conceived has well been described as follows: “The cube is, quite simply, the 50 best cards of each color, the 50 best multicolor and artifact cards, and the 50 best lands ever printed.” The cards are then are shuffled at random to make 15 card packs for the players to draft from, but since every card is good for drafting, there's no need to ensure a certain proportionate mix of rares, uncommons and commons - all the cards can simply be shuffled together.



What is an affordable Cube draft?

Not everyone owns big money cards like the Moxes of The Power Nine. Certainly a draft cube using the best cards for drafting ever designed in the history of Magic is going to be out of the question if we're on a budget. But since the inception of the format, many people have started creating their own Cubes, limiting themselves to commons and uncommons, and simply using the cards that they have available. This is precisely what my gamer-buddy, more infamously known as The Masked Man, has done. His Cube consists of about 65 cards each colour, along with a similar number of gold cards, artifacts, special lands, and other mana fixing cards – approximately 500 cards altogether, all great for drafts. It's all packed in one oblong box of goodness:



It is a collection of precisely 500 cards, and has a lovely mix of all colours, including gold. Everything is nicely sleeved, to protect them and keep it all looking nice. And it has all the cards you'd want in a draft: evasion, removal, burn, control, bounce, mana-fixing, and more. It uses only commons and uncommons, so that keeps the cost reasonable. But it features cards from virtually every single Magic set ever printed. And what's more, the Masked Man has made an effort to include every single mechanic the game has ever had. So it's truly magnificent.

Where can I find an card list of a Cube draft?

I knew you would ask. Certainly you can make your own card list, because there's no absolute rules about what must go in it and what must not go in it. But if you're looking for ideas to start with, the Masked Man has kindly allowed me to share the precise contents of his draft cube, and you'll find it here:

The Masked Man's Draft Cube of Awesomeness (500 Commons and Uncommons)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/file/39310

There are a few uncommons in here that are worth a dollar or two a piece, so some might question whether this is affordable. But you can just include whatever cards you get your hands on, and even if you only have a cube of 250 cards, you can still have a lot of fun and replayability out of it. The best part of a Cube draft is that there are no bad cards in it - when you're drafting, every card is a good card. In a regular booster draft you sometimes end up with cards in your hand that only work in a constructed format; but that will never happen with a Cube draft, and this means your choices are so much more, and at times more difficult and more fun, and the possibilities for deck-building are greater.



How well do these home made drafts work?

Maybe the skeptic in you thinks that this all sounds fine in theory, but you want to know how it works in practice! Sure. I've written two pictorial session reports describing drafts with home-made draft pools. Both happen to be using the cube draft pool, but I can honestly say that my TimeSpiral block drafts and Lorwyn block drafts have been equally successful and fun.

The Ender family opens Rectangular boxes and does a Cube draft!
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/347909

This was a five-player draft with three of my children:



The Masked Man goes homeless and hungry after drafting his beloved Cube
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/378604

This was a two-player Winston draft:



In short, they work very well. And the replayability is excellent. For example, for well under $50 you can build yourself a Lorwyn/Morningtide block draft pool of commons and uncommons that you can play over and over, and it will be different every time. Essentially it is the equivalent of a self-contained game that gets multiple plays.

The final word

Magic the Gathering does have some downsides, some of which I've listed in my previous review, including affordability, obsession, and theme. But that doesn't mean that it's a game to avoid entirely. With a spirit of moderation and discernment, I think this has the potential to be a great game for families. Magic the Gathering remains one of my all-time favorite games. Although it's true that the game has some objectionable cards that one may need to avoid for children, for the most part the scope of the game is incredibly rich, and the mechanics diverse, and the notion of playing with assymetrical decks that are still balanced is particularly admirable. Deck building is one of the most fun parts about Magic, and making your own draft pool is both an affordable and fun way to do this in a family.

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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Eric Jome
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Drafting Magic cards is an excellent way to enjoy the game. It's a skill admired by veteran players as well as being easily enjoyable for the new player. It is among the most popular of tournament formats, so should you find yourself at a big event, you are likely to have the opportunity to draft with new friends... many people who play Magic are enthusiastic fans of drafting.

In addition to buying cards cheaply by picking up common and uncommon lots from Internet auctions, the secondary market for boxes of cards can quickly become another option. The primary interest for most Magic players is a format that involves the most recently released sets; the format is called Standard. As older sets rotate out of Standard when new sets are added, cards from those older sets are often available at discounts. Thus, if you are looking to form a draft set, you can sometimes get a bargain on cards from a set that has rotated out of Standard format.

Magic over the years has changed a great deal from what older players may remember. A great deal more care is taken to design integrated cards with interesting interactions - very powerful cards that ruin the game are fewer and further between then ever. Colors are more diverse, strategies more interesting and varied. Drafting Magic on the cheap can be a great way to get back in touch with a game that has made great improvements over the years and offers a lot of clever and fun play.

And best of all, if you have an old shoebox of cards laying around, you can build draft sets out of that for the ultimate in low cost Magic - you've already paid for it, why not enjoy it?
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Steven D
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To make it even more affordable... go to
http://magiccards.info/
...and print out the proxy cards.

Just sleeve the printouts backed by your less favorite "real" commons and you can build draft cubes with almost any card you want!

If you are just playing at home, no need to buy the mythic rare planes walkers... but they can be fun to play with.

Have fun!
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Viranga Ratnaike
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This is especially true when I am close to the centre of the universe.
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I hope to replace the photo with a drawing of my own.
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Do you ever draft with people of varying skill levels?

Every three months I have friends over for a day of playing Magic. Everyone uses a sub-collection (cube) of my cards. But we do `sealed deck' instead of draft. With each new set of magic, I buy several commons and uncommons. This keeps my ongoing costs low, while providing my friends with a bit of variety.

I've been wondering how to draft with my friends as there's a wide spectrum of familiarity with the cards. From a friend who looks after a magic website, to the friend who introduced me to magic, through to people who've only experienced Magic on the three monthly magic days, to a couple of people who are only just beginning. The beginners have the option of playing with very `broken' pre-constructed decks that I have available.

With `sealed', everyone has a similar base to build their decks from. And they always have a sideboard of lots of good cards with which to improve their deck. I'm worried that with draft, some people might get stuck with naively chosen cards for the whole day. As I'm the host, my win condition is seeing everyone happy

So I'd love to learn ways of drafting for different skill/familiarity levels.

The article was very nice btw
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Markus A
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My only ever Magic purchase was a box of around 400 Lorwyn commons/uncommons + 20 of each basic land. It was very cheap and provided a great many evenings of fun Winston Drafting.

A great way to scratch the occasional deckbuilding/ccg/magic itch
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Dan
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I must think over my position and how I may improve it.
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I played Magic many years ago but quit because the cost was too prohibitive. You've piqued my interest again though and I've dug out all my old cards: a shoebox full of cards from 4th ed and Ice Age.

What's a good way to start organizing? Should I separate by color or edition? I'd like to try to make something happen with these cards and try it out with my friends before I make any purchases. If I were to order them by rarity, what's the best resource? the online lookup at WotC?

(humorous aside: Richard Garfield taught at the college I went to before quitting and selling his idea to WotC. My classics prof remembered fondly that they laughed him out of their poker game when he offered them a share for an early investment)
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I've never played Magic despite being interested because I was turned off by the win-by-spending-the-most model.

However, with your how to keep it affordable descriptions and with board games hitting near $70 I might give this a shot.

Anyone care to give some hints for a brand new player on what set(s) would be best to buy from? I would like to have a taste of the rules as they now exist without being overly complex in order to see if my wife would be interested.

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Eric Jome
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oeolycus wrote:
I played Magic many years ago but quit because the cost was too prohibitive. You've piqued my interest again though and I've dug out all my old cards: a shoebox full of cards from 4th ed and Ice Age.

What's a good way to start organizing? Should I separate by color or edition? I'd like to try to make something happen with these cards and try it out with my friends before I make any purchases. If I were to order them by rarity, what's the best resource? the online lookup at WotC?


Rarity isn't really very important at all. Don't bother trying to pick out cards by rarity if you already own them.

Sort the cards by color. Figure you want to end up with about 400 cards in a drafting cube. Plus or minus about 20. But, equal distributions by color are important. So, I often like 70 in each of 5 colors (350 total) plus about 50 artifacts/special lands.

So, once separated, take a color. Separate into creatures and not-creatures. At least half of the cards in every color should be creatures; so 35 creatures and 35 not-creatures and err on the side of more creatures - even 50 to 20 is fine. Most cards should have a cost of one colored mana plus mana of any color; don't include cards that require more than 2 specific mana of the same color. Select cards in such a way that they form a pyramid in terms of cost. That is, there should be mostly cards that cost 2, slightly less that cost 3, slightly less than that costing 4, and so on. Avoid including cards that cost more than 6.

And choose interesting and fun cards. Cards that interact with the other player's cards. Things that lock down the game or cancel the opponent's turns and such are boring to play against, even if they are very effective at winning the game. Wrath of God? Great card to include. Stasis? Horrible card to include.

These rules will build you a basic, simple drafting cube. It will be easy to play with and offer a lot of fun. As you feel more comfortable with drafting and building, you can start to break the rules, including cards that cost a lot of specific mana or very expensive cards or more artifacts or whatever.

Good luck!
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Eric Jome
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GamePlayer wrote:
Anyone care to give some hints for a brand new player on what set(s) would be best to buy from? I would like to have a taste of the rules as they now exist without being overly complex in order to see if my wife would be interested.


Wizards releases what it calls "core sets" usually with names like Ninth Edition, Tenth Edition, and so on. These core sets are made up of generally more basic cards - not less powerful, just easier to understand. Meat and potatoes cards. These sets are meant as the entry point for new players in general

When a new core set is produced, interest among Magic players in the previous core set drops nearly to zero. Even though many of the cards remain the same from one core set to the next, I would imagine you can pick up bulk cards for older core sets for very cheap prices. And, it is possible you could find the commons/uncommons sets that are mentioned above for core sets.

I'd say start with a core set, perhaps Ninth, which I think is the most recently defunct set, replaced by Tenth.
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John Owen
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Ender,

Articles like this one are why we all love you.

I eagerly await my own children growing old enough to want to play draft Magic.

The only thing I'd add to your article is the idea that it is relatively cheap to buy entire playsets of not only commons, but uncommons, too. On Ebay right now, there are a few listings for complete Lorwyn Common and Uncommon playsets listed at 99 cents. The one ending in a few hours is up to $8 and change, but even if it ends up shooting up to around $20, that's still a great bargain.

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Tim Fiscus
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Love it! This is a valuable resource, Ender and one I'm sure to reference many times.

I've been running cube drafts from my collection (only commons and uncommons, all unique cards with color-hosers and universally bad cards removed) for at least 5 years now to great success.

Also, Winston draft rocks for two players. I've been using a 2P version called Cunningham Draft as well, but it takes a bit to explain. I think I'll add that to this post later when I have more time.

Cheers!
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Joe Niezelski
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This is an excellent post. I think I might actually get back into Magic because of it.
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Kenneth Rasch
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Winston Draft is a nice way to play 2 player "draft" but I'm usually playing another 2 player draft variant.
You have a "cube" or random cards just like in winston, and then each of the 2 players draws 4 cards. They keep 1 of the cards, and hand the 3 other cards over to the other player. Now the players each pick 2 of the remaining cards, and give the last card to the other player...
Repeat like this until you have a bunch of cards, and then deckbuilding is the same as any other draft (basic lands are added, and deck must be minimum 40 cards)

This variant may not have as much hidden info about what players are drafting (compared to winston draft) but it's much faster.

And I agree.. Magic doesn't HAVE to be expensive if you just want some casual fun.

Another variant is to have 1 huge deck of random cards (no lands). There is no drafting or deckbuilding - but each player draws cards from the same cube - and can play cards as either land (red cards = mountains, blue cards = islands, and so on) or they can play the card as the spell it is.
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David Gardner
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Ender, such a great posting. Thank you. I have lots of Magic cards -- probably "too many" (though I'm sure the # is nothing compared to many people reading the Geek) -- and lots of love for the game, but I hadn't thought of using these kinds of formats until your posting laid out all so accessibly. Now this all feels like a really easy way to get my kids into the game in a regular and engaging way, and for us to play Magic half as much as we do Dominion, again! Your keying this posting into Dominion's popularity was thoughtful and timely.

One question: Do you typically encourage opponents in a Winston draft to have familiarity with the cards going into the draft, or not? Is there a 15-minute period of "look over all the cards we're about to shuffle together," or is it generally blind? Of course it could work either way -- I'm just curious what the standard is that you or others favor.
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David Gardner
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A separate drafting question: I see in the Masked Man's list and I'm assuming from much of Ender's thinking above that the cards being drafted are generally singles. In other words, am I right in supposing that the general approach and aim are to keep duplicates (e.g. four Drudge Skeletons, instead of just one) few or not at all?
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Eric Jome
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David Gardner wrote:
One question: Do you typically encourage opponents in a Winston draft to have familiarity with the cards going into the draft, or not?


Generally no. The skill of the draft is in being able to quickly assess the value of the cards.

But then, I would be inclined to give some impression of the cards to prospective players. I would say something like "These cards are all from Ravnica and nothing occurs more than twice - most are singles." Or "These cards are all from core sets and many of them are in there at least 4 times."

A little guidance on the era and build style can go a long way in making drafters feel more comfortable.
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Eric Jome
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David Gardner wrote:
In other words, am I right in supposing that the general approach and aim are to keep duplicates (e.g. four Drudge Skeletons, instead of just one) few or not at all?


I guess different strokes for different folks. It will be more challenging to build and to play if every card is different. I see some of the innovators and advocates of the format online are gung ho about only one of each card... but I guess I wouldn't force that rule on myself if I didn't want to.

Especially if you are building your first cube or draft pool. There are core cards that are very good and very useful in just about every set. Commons. In most drafts you'd see a lot of them. So, I don't think it's really against the spirit of the game to have cards in multiples.

I might not go much over 4 copies though. Then you have to deal with the annoying issue of "what if I draft 6 copies of something?" - do you make only legal decks or allow all copies?

One of the core ideas of this thread is doing this on a budget. So, it's better to assume you'll probably use a few of the better cards over because you have them, even if you might want to use other stuff. Then again, you said you have a lot of cards... so sure, one of each if you prefer!
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David Gardner
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Ender,

Two followups:

I may have missed this, but for larger block drafts (for which you build your boosters), do you maintain the ratio of 3-boosters-per-player? The Winston Draft does that. I'm assuming if you have four players (say, a Dad and his three kids!), do we make 12 boosters for the draft?

And second, assuming that's the way you do it, do you have a process beyond just randomly including a bunch of cards and then mass-shuffling (which is fine by me) whereby you decide which cards/colors fill those boosters? I read somewhere else about maybe putting in one blue card in each booster, then one black card, etc. etc., and if you do something like that, I'd like to hear it.

If you don't have time to follow up, I completely understand. I'd like to thank you once again for eloquently, enthusiastically, and visually presenting step-by-step how you've made Magic work for your family, and I have done so in mine for the past 2 weeks and it's really a great format! I had never drafted from a limited pool before, but it makes things fair, fun, and very replayable. We have only done one Winston Draft so far, deck box and card sleeves and all, just from 10th Edition boosters. It made for a very fun week. My plan is to continue opening up all the boosters I got (box of 36) and then eventually have those cards as the larger "block draft," which is why I'm asking the questions I ask above.

Foolish best wishes,

David G.
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Pokke
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Yes, same here. Excellent article indeed.
 
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Karim Chakroun
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EndersGame wrote:
Step 1: Commons

I hunt around on eBay for a playset of commons. A fortune? Nope. Right now, at the moment I'm writing this, you can buy a complete playset of Lorwyn and Morningtide commons for $9.99. That's right, only $9.99! Okay, so shipping isn't cheap, but for under $20, over 700 cards are delivered to your door! That's impressive isn't it?!


Great article! A question though : by "a complete playset of Lowryn" you mean :
1- a bunch of commons which happen to have at least one of each kind of cards?
2- a precise collection of one of each common in that set?
3- something else?

 
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Jeremy Beck
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GamePlayer wrote:

Anyone care to give some hints for a brand new player on what set(s) would be best to buy from? I would like to have a taste of the rules as they now exist without being overly complex in order to see if my wife would be interested.


easiest thing for a starter to do:
1. go to a cardshop on a magic day and just watch.
2. buy a couple of premade decks and just go nuts *reccomendation*
3. follow the idea that the author just wrote about (drafting for $10)
4. wiki the rules, and talk to a friend who plays

I personally perfer the 1st option because I like to see the action of a card game. It helps if you go into the place and say that you would like to learn how to play. A great majority of the peeps will "take you under their wing for a minute or two and then have at it with their opponent. I say a great majority because there is always that *one guy who ruins your day by being an a-holio to, as he puts it, "newbs". I personaly want to belittle that guy and call him out. (Generally followed by me splitting the Wins with that a-holio because they usually are decent builders or rich)

However, for most new players, stick with a pre-made. It does two things that no one else can outrightly teach you. It shows you how a deck can truely come together, and it gives you your first mana.
ADDED BONUS: new card smell
 
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Jeremy Beck
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Cheap cards...
1600 cards mostly common no more then 4 of each 10 bucks
i had no idea that they were so cheap... i guess that i should use that thing called the internets more often. (btw i work as a computer technician, that's why that comment matters)
 
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Ender Wiggins
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GamePlayer wrote:
Anyone care to give some hints for a brand new player on what set(s) would be best to buy from? I would like to have a taste of the rules as they now exist without being overly complex in order to see if my wife would be interested.

Starting with a draft is probably not the place a new player who knows nothing about the game should begin. If you're completely new to MtG, I would start with the free tutorial software available online, and a couple of theme decks just to learn the game and see if you'd both like it. I have made some recommendations for specific theme decks here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/359860
If that works, then you could consider the Lorwyn block as a good place to start.

carthaginian wrote:
Great article! A question though : by "a complete playset of Lowryn" you mean :
1- a bunch of commons which happen to have at least one of each kind of cards?
2- a precise collection of one of each common in that set?
3- something else?

A commons playset is a set of four of all the commons in a set. For example, since there are 121 different Lorwyn commons, a Lorwyn commons playset would be 121 x 4 = 484 cards. This is what I have used (along with some random uncommons) to make the block drafts described in the main part of the article. (Note that a Cube draft is slightly different: for a Cube draft you only use singles of your choice from a variety of sets, rather than four of every common from a single set.)
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Tim Burnett
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A great introduction to MtG is the new XBox Live game "Duels of the Planeswalkers". Of course it isn't free (there is a demo) and requires an XBox 360 and an XBox Live account. But it got my wife interested and got me back into the game. Now I'm debating whether to play MtG Online or buy a ton of commons and play Winston and Cube drafts. I'm leaning the cheaper draft option, since it involves, you know, real interpersonal people? And it's cheaper.
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Hugh Grotius
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Wonderful post! My two tweener kids have just started playing Magic with me, and I'm pretty new to the game too. That said, I'm not sure we're ready for drafting yet; we're still learning the mechanics. Also, I've been unsure how to organize all the cards I've bought - the M10 core set, a couple theme decks, some booster packs, etc.

Oh, and the XBox game has helped us all learn the basics -- and it's fun (and cheap).
 
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