Booster Draft 101

A Magic: the Gathering Booster Draft is a tournament where people play decks made from cards picked from boosters which are passed around until no cards are left. The instructions on how to hold a booster draft are as follows:

  • Each person rolls a dice to see where they sit around a table. It would be unfair if a more veteran player always sits next to a less adept player to possibly collect more valuable cards fed from the latter. Rolling a die will at least ensure an equal chance in sitting arrangements between players.
  • Each person gets 3 boosters. As of the Shards of Alara expansion set, each booster pack contains 1 marketing card, 1 basic land, 10 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 rare or mythic rare. Therefore, each person will have about 39 normal cards at the end of the drafting or the card selection phase.
  • Each person opens their first booster pack, picks a card from the booster, and passes the booster to the person on their left without showing the cards that they have picked. As the remaining cards are passed down, each person picks a card and passes it down again until there are no more remaining cards. A 30 second card picking time limit may be enforced per passing to prevent a bottle neck where a person takes a very long time to read all the cards.
  • Once the first boosters are drafted, the second boosters are drafted in the opposite direction to the right. Each person opens their second booster pack, picks a card from the booster, and passes the booster to the person on their right again without showing the cards that they have picked.
  • Once the second boosters are drafted, the third boosters are drafted to the left. Changing the direction of the passing reduces the possibility of a color being cut from one direction or not appearing because two people passing down the cards are playing that color.
  • Each person makes a deck of at least 40 cards and plays each person twice.
  • Add up the winnings for each person. Each person returns the rares and mystic rares to the table. Finally, each person picks, in the order of their winnings, the rares as prizes for the draft until none are left.
  • If there is a tie for the same number of winnings, the person who beats the higher ranking person wins. If there is no higher ranking person, then the two will play a tie breaker match of 1 game.


Winning a draft depends on many things. Most significant is your ability to play the cards you picked. If you pick a rare but don’t know how to use it then it is useless to you. Therefore it is good to research the spoiler lists and new card rulings beforehand. With each expansion set, new card abilities will appear and most opponents will expect you to know them. Also, older abilities are seldom printed with instructions, so review what scry (look at the top X cards of your library, put them on the top and bottom of your library in any order) is and what other old abilities are. Secondly, rules are constantly being updated. For example, you use to be able to have white enchantments auras on creatures with protection from white, but now if you cast Flickering Ward on a creature with Chosen by Heliod, Chosen by Heliod will fall off. The best way to get familiarized with the cards you are drafting is playing them, even if you have to play by yourself. There are several benchmark decks which you can buy to test your deck. At the Theros Game Day event, a challenge deck named Face the Hydra was sold as the final part to the Hero’s Path trilogy. On the other hand if you don’t want to buy challenge decks, a game which I came up with is to make a deck consisting of one of each card from the sets that you are going to draft. You can purchase full common sets on Ebay. You and a friend can play from the same deck except you may play a colored card from your hand as a basic land producing the color(s) of the card and looses all its abilities but still counts both as that card and as basic land(s) of the color(s).

Synergy and Solutions

After you have drafted many times or familiarized yourself with the cards, you know which cards work well together and which cards are bombs or valuable cards during a draft. You should pick cards according to how valuable they are given the cards you already picked and what people are passing up. Cards that often work well together tend to be cards within in your guild. However, if you are being cut or don’t see cards of the color that you have committed to, you should hate pick or pick a card that you feel would be a problem for you. Look at the cards that you already picked and if they cannot provide a sufficient solution if that card was used against you, then you have to hate pick that card.


In draft, you need to have solutions against other guilds, fast creatures, permanents that lock you down, and, if your game lasts long enough, big creatures. You should have several creature removal spells, such as cards that destroy, exile, disable, or deal damage to creatures. Enchantment and artifact removal spells or cards that can deal with enchantments or artifacts should be in your sideboard. You should have removal spells or solutions for the good cards that you are passing up. Having a removal spell will free you from having to pick things that you are not going to put in your deck, such as a high casting cost creature not in your color. Most draft games end before such a high casting cost creature is played. You should generally favor cards with lower casting costs.

Good Cards and Trends

If you play constructed or pre-constructed decks, there are trends in draft which are not intuitive. In draft, you should not try to pick cards to build a combo deck like a mill (puts cards from library to graveyard) deck, unless it is a feature of your guild, such as battalion, or you see lots of cards floating around with that feature. Good cards make your deck more versatile, such as cards that have more than one ability or an ability that can be used in many contexts. Boros Charm, for example, can make all your creatures indestructible for a large attack or be played defensively to protect all your creatures if your opponent plays creature destruction spells. Cards picked earlier in the pass have a higher probability of being played. So, simply having cards that do different things can come in handy especially if they provide solutions to cards that your opponents are going to play, such as having a creature with reach if you do not see a flying creature come back around in the pass. Also, make sure to pick mana fixing cards or cards that allow you to produce different types of mana if you are going to make a deck with 3 or more colors.


Juggling colors and portions of spells types are issues you should be an expert in dealing with during a draft. If you have two colors, you should have about 9 lands and 11 spells of each color. Half of your spells should be creatures, and half of your creatures should be low in casting cost. A majority of the other half of your spells should be removal spells. Shuffle at least 8 times and let the games begin!