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MTG Draft Guide – Draft Rules, Strategy & Tips to Win!

There are so many different formats to play as an MTG player, but none are quite like Draft. Draft is a completely different format that turns MTG on its head. If you like Magic and you’ve never played in a Draft, you’re missing out.

Let’s find out what Draft is all about. In this MTG Draft guide, we look at the MTG Draft rules, how to choose great cards, the ideal deck ratio, and share our best Draft tips that win games!

choosing a card from a mtg draft booster pack

What is Draft?

Draft is an MTG format where the deck building process is part of the game rather than being something you do before a game starts. Rather than use cards from your existing collection, you create a deck on the fly with a handful of booster packs.

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It can be played by 2-8 players, takes about 120 minutes to play and each deck has 40 cards.

There are many great things about Draft, but I personally like that everyone is starting from the same place, and having the highest budget will not get you the best cards!

How Do You Play Draft?

Drafting Phase

A typical Draft tournament starts with eight players in a group called a ‘pod’.

  • The players all sit down at a table together, each with three booster packs in front of them.
  • Each player opens their first booster pack, chooses a card, then passes the rest of the cards to the player next to them.
  • They receive cards from the player passing to them and choose another card and pass them along again.
  • This happens for all three booster packs until all cards have been drafted.

Deck Building Phase

Once the drafting phase is over, each player should have about 45 cards (three booster packs worth of cards). Using the cards you picked during the drafting phase and as many basic lands as you choose, you then have to build the best 40-card deck you can.

Playing Phase

Now that you’ve built your deck, it’s time to play! Players take their 40-card decks that they just built and play them against one another to see which one is the best. Sometimes, there are even prizes for winning!

MTG Draft Rules

Here are the step-by-step rules for playing MTG draft!

  1. Assemble 2-8 players around a table.
  2. Place 3 Booster Packs in front of each player.
  3. Each player opens their 1st Booster Pack and removes all tokens, adverts and non-playable cards.
  4. Choose one card and pass the remaining cards to the player on your left.
  5. Receive cards from the player on your right.
  6. Choose another card and pass the pack to the player on your left again.
  7. Keep drafting until no cards remain.
  8. Review your chosen cards for up to 60 seconds.
  9. Open the 2nd Booster Pack and remove non-playable cards.
  10. Choose a card, pass the reminder to the player on your right.
  11. Receive cards from the player on your left.
  12. Keep drafting until no cards remain.
  13. Review your chosen cards for up to 60 seconds.
  14. Open the 3rd Booster Pack and remove non-playable cards.
  15. Choose a card and pass it to the player on your left.
  16. Receive cards from the player on your right.
  17. Keep drafting until no cards remain.
  18. Build your deck!
  19. Play it against the other players!
Image: Wizards of the Coast.

MTG Draft Deck Ratio

The MTG Draft deck size is at least 40 cards. Since you want to maximize your chances of drawing your best cards, it’s typically best to stick to the minimum number of cards in your deck.

Since you’re playing 40 cards instead of 60, the distribution of lands, creatures, and spells needs to be adjusted. Here’s a little guide Magic released with its Dominaria Sealed event. I know, Sealed and Draft are different formats, but since they both use 40 cards, the card distribution rules are the same.

The ideal MTG draft deck ratio is:

  • 15-18 Creatures
  • 5-8 Other Spells
  • 17 Lands

The most important number you should focus on is the 17 lands. Most experienced MTG players will agree that 17 is the optimal number of lands to put in your 40-card deck, as that will maximize your chance of being able to play all your cards.

From there, you’ll want to mostly play creatures along with some spells to deal with your opponent’s creatures. If you look at the image, you’ll notice that you should mostly play 2- and 3-cost cards. That’s to give you the best chances of having something to play in the early turns.

The cards you choose not to put in your deck become your sideboard.

MTG Draft Tips

Drafting well is a super difficult experience that takes lots of practice. Thankfully, there are a few easy tips to learn to improve your game if you’re still getting the hang of it.

Know Your Set

The most important part of drafting well is learning what cards are in the set beforehand. For example, if you’re going to be opening some booster packs from a particular set, you’ll want to take a look at all the cards that are in that set. That way, you’ll know what cards you can expect to find once the drafting process begins.

Know Your Strategies

Next, you’ll want to identify the set’s core strategies. For example in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, the main strategies you’ll find when looking at the cards are blue-black Zombies, red-green Werewolves, green-white Humans, blue-white Spirits, and red-black Vampires, among a few others. I know how fun it is to get creative and try to create something new, but if winning is your goal, sticking to an established strategy will be your best bet.

Know Your Cards

After you’ve figured out what strategies are the best, you’ll want to look at specific cards. It’s tempting to look at those mythic rare planeswalkers and think about how good your Draft deck would be if you had a couple of those, but remember that the rarer a card is, the less likely you are to open it in a booster pack. For this reason, I would look at the best common and uncommon cards in a set, as opposed to looking at what the best rares and mythic rares are.

(However, if you are lucky enough to come across a planeswalker in a booster pack, by all means, take it! Just know that you can’t always rely on being lucky.)

Remember your cards

You’ll need to remember which cards you’ve picked because you can only look at your cards when you’re in between packs!

Know the Draft Archetypes

Draft sets have draft archetypes which can be a quick guide to the strategies that can work with the cards available. You may find a breakdown of the archetypes for your draft set listed on the back of a token card in a draft booster pack. Below is a photo of the draft archetypes from an Adventures in the Forgotten Realms draft booster I opened.

To familiarize yourself further with the draft archetypes, you can actually do simulated drafts for free. Use Draftsim to practice whatever format you’re planning on playing to learn the cards and the types of decks you can build.

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms MTG Draft Archetypes card from a draft booster pack

Stay open

You might hear other Magic players saying ‘stay open’ at the start of a Draft. They mean that don’t commit to your strategy from the very first couple of cards. Keep your options open.

If the same color cards keep coming your way, there’s a good chance that no-one is playing that color so you have a better chance of getting great cards.

It can also mean choosing cards that aren’t necessarily the strongest but can give you more options during play. Let’s get into what this means when you’re playing Draft and how to choose great cards.

Choosing Draft Cards

Whether you win or lose in draft comes down to your card choices. You want to choose the best cards and avoid the worst ones, obviously. But what makes for a good card in Standard, is not necessarily the same as what makes a good card in Draft.

Here are my top tips for making winning card choices!

Identifying Great Cards

Organ Hoarder

For example, in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, the best Draft card to look out for was Organ Hoarder. It’s only a common, which means you’re likely to come across it a couple of times in a Draft, and it greatly improves the reliability of your deck.

How do you know which cards make great commons?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer, since so many cards in Magic are unique, and each card suits a different strategy. That being said, most good Draft cards can fit into a few categories.

Removal spells, particularly ones that don’t cost a lot of mana, are always great. Just make sure you don’t waste them on small creatures, and instead save them for your opponent’s biggest, scariest creatures!

Creatures that draw you cards are also excellent resources. Typically, cards can either give you tempo (generate a presence on the board) or give you value (keep your hand full of cards to play later). If a creature does both without costing too much mana, then you know it’s a good card.

Similarly, creatures that can deal with an opponent’s threat are great ways to pull ahead in a game. Rather than play a creature spell to build your ranks and play a removal spell to deal with an opponent’s annoying creature, why not do both with one card?

Identifying Bad Cards

Almost as important as knowing what cards to look for is knowing which ones to avoid. Some cards that might fit very well in 60-card decks just don’t do well in Draft. Here are a few ineffective cards to look out for:

Cancel

Counterspells, while great in 60-card decks, simply aren’t what you want in your Draft deck. They force you into a reactive playstyle, but creature-dominated formats like Draft reward proactive playstyles instead.

Plummet

Situational cards, or cards that only work against certain strategies, are tempting because they have the potential to be great. On the other hand, a card that does nothing but sit around in your hand is the last thing you want, especially in Draft. I would often play slightly weaker cards if they’re more versatile just to make sure all my cards are playable.

Bramble Armor

There are exceptions to this one, but equipment cards are generally bad for Draft. That’s because they only improve the value of one of your creatures rather than provide a threat in and of themselves.

Summary of MTG Draft Tips

Okay, that’s a lot of advice for getting better at drafting! Here’s a brief rundown of how to become a better Draft player:

  • Know your set before starting a draft. In particular, focus on strategies (usually two colors), and learn what commons and uncommons are the best.
  • Stick to two colors at most.
  • Look out for cheap removal spells, creatures that generate value, and creatures that deal with your opponent’s cards.
  • Avoid reactive cards, situational cards, and cards that have low impact.

How Do You Do a Magic Draft at Home?

If you have a bunch of friends you want to draft with, there are two directions you can take: First, you can either buy a booster box so that everyone has enough packs to play, or you can build a cube.

And no, I don’t mean a physical cube out of Magic cards, that would be quite silly. A cube is a set of 360 predetermined cards which you shuffle together into sets of 15 cards. Basically, when you have a cube, it’s like creating your own booster packs that you can use as many times as you want. If you and your friends really enjoy drafting together, creating a cube might be a worthwhile investment.

Building a cube has its own set of difficulties and guidelines to consider, so here’s an article on the Magic website that talks all about cubes and how to build them for the best playing experience.

How Much Does a Magic Draft Cost?

The cost of a Draft really depends on your local card store and how much they charge for events. Expect them to be around the cost of three booster packs, since that’s what the store’s giving out to each player. They might charge a little more than that if there’s a prize pool involved.

How Do You Do a Magic Draft With 2 People?

Doing a proper draft with two people isn’t really possible, but there are some adjustments you can make to the format if you’re just playing with one friend.

Sealed

The first option is to play Sealed instead. In Sealed, you open six packs and work from that pool of cards, and that doesn’t necessitate a whole lot of players to get going.

Pack Wars

Alternatively, you can play something called Pack Wars. Pack Wars isn’t an official format, but it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s almost like sealed, but instead of opening six packs, you only open one. Then, without looking at any of your cards, you add three of each basic land, shuffle up your deck, and play!

If you want to make Pack Wars even more interesting for yourself and your friend, don’t look at the cards you open in your booster pack. This will make the game fun and full of surprises.

Jumpstart

Jumpstart is like Magic’s official version of Pack Wars. Jumpstart boosters are made specifically for this format. You take two separate Jumpstart boosters, open them, shuffle them together, and play! That’s right, you don’t need to add basic lands or anything like that.

What’s the Difference Between Draft and Sealed?

In Draft, you start with three packs and pass cards along to the player next to you. In Sealed, you start with six packs, but you don’t pass cards along.

Basically, Sealed will leave you with way more cards than Draft, but those cards are less likely to synergize with one another since you don’t get to pick and choose which cards are available to you. As a result, Sealed decks tend to be more full of powerful cards, whereas Draft decks are more focused towards a certain strategy.

Conclusion – MTG Draft Guide – How to Draft and Win

As you can see, Draft is a nuanced format that adds a completely new dimension to the game of Magic. What I find great about Draft is that it can vary so much depending on what set you’re drafting. You can also play variations of that format, depending on what you and your friends are into. And, if you’ve never tried Draft before, I highly recommend it. I believe that any Magic player who has never drafted before is missing out!

If you like trying out new ways to play and build decks, see our Fun MTG Ideas and Themes for some ideas!

You might like these MTG articles

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Emily
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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