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MTG: Drafting Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Limited Play

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.

Drafting at a local store

Drafting at a local store

How to Draft Better in Magic

When drafting in MTG, first you need to understand how to prioritize your picks by using the BREAD method or a similar strategy. After that, there are many other considerations that go into determining the best cards for your deck. In this article, we're going to explore all that other knowledge you need to improve the way you play Limited.

  • Determining How Many Colors to Play
  • Determining How Many Lands, Creatures, Etc. to Play
  • Building the Mana Curve
  • Choosing the Right Creatures for Each Slot
  • Analyzing the Cards Before the Draft
  • Recognizing the Signals
  • Rare Drafting and Hate Drafting

(You may want a refresher on the BREAD method before you dive into these tips.)

Determining How Many Colors to Play

The recommended number of colors, especially for new players, is no higher than two. For more experienced players, it's no higher than three (two primary and one secondary).

Exceptions to the Rule

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when we're drafting an expansion that can provide adequate support for lands that can produce different colored mana. In some cases, there are expansions that are based on playing three colors together, and therefore this can temporarily become the standard.

Risks of Playing Too Many Colors

The values ​​indicated are precautionary as playing too many colors could lead to greater difficulties in the construction of the deck to balance the lands or in its gameplay. This happens when there are too many lands that come into play tapped on the total or if we draw lands of the wrong colors.

Another risk of playing too many colors is that the strategy of the deck is too diluted and poorly linear. Therefore, it is better to focus on a couple of colors that share a strategy for greater efficiency.

Splash a Color

If we have a noteworthy pool, we can add secondary colors; this operation is called splash a color. When performing this activity, you only use cards that require a single-colored, specific mana (i.e. 2G, 3R, 4B, 5U, etc.). Cards with specific double colors are reserved only for the main colors (i.e. WW, 1GG, 2RR, etc.). This tends to facilitate the task of the lands.

Determining How Many Lands, Creatures, Etc. to Play

A rule of thumb is to always play 17–18 lands, and it turns out to be a valid option in most cases. Personally, I play between 16 and 18 cards, depending on the average costs of cards in my deck—16 if I have a particularly fast and aggressive deck, and 18 for a deck that tends to play control. Seventeen is perfect for everyone.

One of the most frequent mistakes I see from beginners (but which sometimes affects even more experienced players) is to create a deck that contains more than 40 cards. The problem with doing this is diluting the cards in the deck and making it harder to find the best cards, since they get lost among the numerous low-powered cards.

Creatures and Other Cards

By removing the 17 lands from the total of 40, we arrive at a value of 23 other cards. Creatures are essential to winning, and therefore most of the available slots must be aimed at them—again, 17–18 may be the right number. The last 5–6 slots are for planeswalkers, removals, etc.

Building the Mana Curve

Building the Mana Curve means making sure that we have at least one play available for every single turn.

In a resource game like Magic: The Gathering it becomes an extremely important factor to win by exploiting the best resources in every single round.

That is, we must be able to play cards consistently turn after turn until we reach an advantage situation.

To find out which cards you can play in each turn, the Converted Mana Cost is often used (obtained by adding all the mana symbols in the top right of a card, ie "G" equals CMC "1", while "1GG" or "2R "is equivalent to CMC " 3 ", etc.).

The cards at converted mana cost 1 are not very impactful (in the Limited format) so we can choose to play a few or leave room to play a tapped land so as not to block us in subsequent turns.

From converted mana cost 2 up to cost 5-6 (or at most the converted mana cost we have available) you need to have as much consistency as possible. The largest number of cards in our deck must fall within the cost ranges 2 to 4.

In this example you can see a possible curve for your deck

In this example you can see a possible curve for your deck

Choosing the Right Creatures for Each Slot

A common problem for new players trying to draft for the first time is being able to choose the best creatures for each casting cost. What requirements must a card that costs 3 have to be considered playable? How can I tell if a card is a bomb or is barely playable if I'm playing for the first time?

For this purpose I have created a table with reference values to understand the correspondence between the converted mana cost and the desired power and toughness values.

Creatures above this threshold tend to end up in the higher categories while those below end up being fillers for reaching the minimum number of 40 cards per deck.

Furthermore, it can be a way to be able to evaluate in a limited perspective the new cards that are spoiled from time to time before being able to play them at the prerelease.

As "+ Ability" we consider an upside that can help the creature to been relevant even in the following turn, as Menace, Flying, Lifelink, deathtouch, etc.
A 1/1 + Ability can be a 1/1 with Deathtouch, a 2/2 + Ability can be a 2/2 with Lifelink and s

Converted Mana Cost (CMC)Median P/T ratio


1/2 or 1/1 + Ability


2/2 or 2/1 + Ability


2/3 or 3/2 or 2/2 + Ability


3/3 or 3/2 + Ability or 2/4 + Ability


3/4 or 3/3 + Ability


4/4 or 3/4 + Ability

Analyzing the Cards Before the Draft

This activity is done by many more experienced players looking for information that can help them to better evaluate their options and improve their final win rate.

For example, if they see that many removals deal 3 damage to creatures at most, then all those with toughness of 4 or higher can be favored as they can survive more easily.

Likewise, they can see which colors are best equipped to play fast or which colors work best together or are related to related game mechanics.

All this information helps them make their choices during a draft and helps them win more consistently.

For example, many consider more the interactions and strength levels of common and uncommon cards rather than those of rare or mythic ones because statistically they are the ones that make up more Limited decks.

Recognizing the Signals

This is one of the activities that pro players often do, that is to understand if there are colors that are not of interest to nearby players during the draft.

This activity allows them to understand if it is worthwhile to choose those colors for their deck and therefore rely on less competition to get the best cards of those colors.

For example, if the player on the right always hands you many white cards (and especially if they are of a high level) he could mean that the color could be available to you.

Conversely, if you are thinking of making a black deck and no black cards come from the neighbors it could mean that they have chosen black as their color and therefore all of you compete for the same resources.

In these cases it might be interesting to evaluate the color change if we are still at the beginning. Better to lose a few picks and not the whole draft.

Digital Drafting in Magic: The Gathering Arena

Digital Drafting in Magic: The Gathering Arena

Rare Drafting and Hate Drafting

In some cases it happens that some players are tempted to Draft all the rare cards or all the powerful cards they see regardless of the colors they intend to play.

Rare Drafting is when you are looking for good value cards to resell them while Hate Drafting is taking powerful cards with the purpose of not playing them and taking them away from neighbors.

This is a common behavior but very often leads to missing good opportunities to structure your deck and you end up with a weakened deck.

Maybe you have taken something good but it will most likely lead to you losing the tournament or having to play with a deck that is not too fun to play and ruining the playing experience.

Good Luck Improving Your Draft Skills!

We have come to the conclusion of this article, which was very thorough and technical and could be difficult to understand for a novice. I recommend rereading it several time between game sessions to gain a better understanding of the advice.

I hope this information is useful for you to improve your draft skills; let me know in the comments what you think!

© 2020 Christian Allasia