I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.
Why Is Learning How to Draft So Important in Magic: The Gathering?
The draft is the "bread and butter" playing format of Magic: The Gathering. Playing a draft of a new expansion at prerelease or release has always been considered one of the best and most exciting moments for your local Magic community, be it a club or a comic store, etc.
Themed challenges are often proposed, depending on the expansion, with the possibility of obtaining gadgets or other MTG-themed items. In addition, the limited formats (sealed and draft) can help new Magic players learn how to play and start building a collection of cards.
The draft is also important for pro players, as in several tournaments they offer it both alone and side by side with other formats in the case of particularly large and important tournaments. As of 2022, unfortunately, these activities have suffered a sharp decline due to the pandemic, but they can still be done thanks to digital media such as Magic: The Gathering Online (aka MTGO) or with Magic: The Gathering Arena (MTGA).
Therefore, learning how to play the draft format is important for every noteworthy player.
The BREAD System for Drafting
The first sentence of this article refers, not surprisingly, to bread and butter precisely because I was taught the acronym BREAD to learn how to play a draft.
The acronym stands for Bombs, Removal, Evasiveness, Aggressive and Dust, and it allows you to prioritize the picks you make in the draft.
"B" Stands for Bombs
Bombs are the first picks. "Bombs" refer to those cards that, if left on the battlefield for a relatively short time, can win the game by themselves. Very often Planeswalkers can fall into this category, as well as many creatures with particular values of power and toughness and important abilities. Bombs can even include spells that can shift the balance of the game a lot to make victory a mere formality.
My Example: Baneslayer Angel
The card I chose to represent the category is the Baneslayer Angel precisely due to the fact that it has a very, very good ratio in terms of cost and skill. I chose a card from the set core as it is more focused for new players, but the same consideration remains valid for each new set.
A card like the Baneslayer Angel can impose a clock on the opponent (this term is used to indicate how many turns the opponent has left in order to find a solution to our threat or lose the game). Usually it is said to be a four-turn clock because it can win in four attacks, considering the initial 20 life points (it can become a two-turn clock or a three-turn clock if we have already dealt damage to the opponent).
How to Recognize a Bomb Card
To easily recognize a bomb, we need to start comparing the card's mana cost with what the card can offer us.
- A Creature must have an adequate ratio of power and toughness in relation to cost and, if possible, have skills that allow it to impose itself in deadlock situations such as flying, trample, hexproof, etc. Often it needs to be at least 4/4 or higher so you can take less risk of losing it at the first opportunity.
- A Planeswalker can easily fall into this category if they have a way to provide an ongoing advantage over time and often have ways to protect themselves (such as creating creatures or weakening opposing creatures). In these cases, evaluate the skills that add loyalty more carefully and less so the ultimate ones, because in many situations they will be attacked on sight, and it is not certain that you can always exploit them to 100%.
- Other spells depend on the effects they can offer us, and for this reason it is not easy to define a unique category. The questions you have to ask yourself to assess whether a spell falls into the bomb category is whether it generates enough advantage to dominate the game; for example, does it generate many tokens that can win the game in a few turns? Does casting this spell guarantee me to win the game?
"R" Stands for Removal
The second choice is made by removals. The purpose of the removals is to neutralize the opposing bombs, and therefore the removals become fundamental in order to be able to win the game.
Removals are divided into three categories: global, single unconditional and single conditional.
- Global removals are removals that affect all creatures in play (both ours and the opponent's) and are called wrath in honor of the first card of this type: Wrath of God. These cards have symmetrical effects (in the sense that they affect both us and the opponent equally) but we can use them to our advantage when the opponent has more creatures than us or are of higher quality.
- Single unconditional removals (like the one in the image above) allows the removal of a single target without placing restrictions on use. These first two types are the most useful and therefore have a higher priority.
- Single conditional removals are the least powerful as they can only remove a target if the target matches a certain prerequisite (such as converted mana cost less than 3, or strength less than 2, etc.).
The latter can still be useful for eliminating small key creatures with annoying abilities. Their value also depends on what is contained in the set being drafted.
"E" Stands for Evasiveness
If at some point the bombs and removals run out, you'll need to start looking for cards in the third category, evasiveness.
In this case, look for those cards that offer evasive abilities that can benefit you in stalemate situations; flying is one of the easiest to recognize (as in the card above), but there may also be others, such as menace, trample, etc., depending on the colors and cards in the expansion set.
Creatures with such abilities can end up in this category, or even cards that can provide these abilities to others for a small mana cost (aka mana sink).
"A" Stands for Aggressive
The important resources are starting to dry up, and we are reaching the aggressive category where we try to take the cards that still offer some advantage in the aggressive phase, such as being slightly larger than average for the corresponding mana cost.
We can also try to take those cards that we need to give consistency to the mana curve, such as a 3-cost creature to have enough 3-cost cards, or cards that we may need to adjust the mana if we have decided to play more colors.
"D" Stands for Dust
We have arrived at the last category where all the cards that did not fit into the previous categories—and that all our fellow drafters have considered uninteresting—end up.
They can be useful at times, but they often come in as fillers to reach the minimum 40-card count for the draft deck (never exceed this number to avoid weakening the deck).
Let's put the above card (Fierce Empath) for example: It could be useful if we play a bomb at a cost of six or higher, but otherwise it could end up outside our 40.
Try the BREAD Method and Keep Learning About the Draft
With this ends this small guide on the possible categories of cards to help us make the best picks. The topics to be treated on the subject are still many!
© 2020 Christian Allasia