Welcome back to Owning the Arena, the series where I break down the basics of Magic: The Gathering for newer players. In this segment, we’re going to cover drafting on Magic: The Gathering Arena. Let’s hop into the MTG Arena draft guide!
What is drafting?
Drafting is a very unique and different way to play Magic when compared to constructed formats such as Standard or Modern. When you draft, you and the members in your draft group are each handed three packs of whatever set you’re drafting from. For example, if you were drafting Ravnica Allegiance, you would each have three packs of Ravnica Allegiance. Then everyone would open one of their three packs, pick a card, and pass the pack to the next person. This cycle continues until every card from every pack has been picked. Then you construct a deck from the cards you selected from all the packs. Once everyone has a deck assembled, you compete against each other!
Here is some more information regarding drafting:
Decks can be any size as long as they have a minimum of 40 cards in them.
You generally want between 15 and 17 lands in your deck if you plan on not going over 40 cards.
You can have any number of a card in your deck. If you really wanted you could run five or more of the same card.
A draft is a Limited format because the cards you have access to are limited to the set you draft from.
Preparing for a draft
Sometimes it can be fun to just jump into a draft with no prior research. However, if you’re looking to get good rewards on MTG Arena through drafting, sometimes doing research is a great way to get an edge.
Here are a few ways you can learn about a draft format before even playing in it:
Look at a spoiler page: Every new set that gets released is spoiled ahead of time on the Magic: The Gathering official website. For example, here is the one for Ravnica Allegiance. If you’re drafting a new set, reading through the available cards can be a very good way to find synergies, combos, or even just cool cards you may want to look out for in the draft. Of course, you’re not guaranteed to open exactly what you want, but having prior knowledge of what you may see can be very helpful.
Join in discussion: Before going into a draft, it may be a good idea to read up on other people’s experiences or talk with other people about what they think may be strong. Good resources for public discussion of this nature are the general Magic subreddit, the MTG Arena subreddit, and the official Draft & Sealed Arena forums.
Watch others: If you’re doing a draft on MTG Arena, chances are that there are some pretty big streamers on Twitch who have done the same draft event on stream. You can watch their Twitch streams, VoDs, and YouTube content to see what the draft may look like once you’re in it. Some of my favorites to watch out for are CalebD and Day9.
Drafting can be hard to grasp at first, but there are a few guidelines you can follow to make it a little easier on yourself:
Look for “Build around”cards: These are cards that you want to draft so that your deck has a definite direction. For example, if I open High Alert, then I want to make sure I draft cards with high toughness like Concordia Pegasus or Junktroller. High Alert, by itself, sets a goal for my deck. Another example would be the 4cmc cards like Frilled Mystic or Rakdos Firewheeler. These cards reward you heavily for dedicating your whole deck to just two colors, so you want to draft in those colors and look out for lands that would let you cast them better.
Look for synergistic cards: These are cards that work well together, but not to the point that you should warp your deck around them like with High Alert or the 4-mana cards mentioned above. If you drafted a couple of flying creatures, then maybe it’s a good idea to pick up some cards with the Spectacle mechanic on them like Blade Juggler. Flying creatures are hard to block for a lot of decks, which means they can often chip in for a little damage, which helps trigger Spectacle.
Always draft removal: You will always need removal of some kind, and you should never forget that. Sometimes it’s easy to think, “I don’t need it,” so you can pick a card that may fit your deck better, but if you run no removal you will lose more often than not. This can be counter spells, exile effects, destroy effects, bounce effects, sacrifice effects, etc. You just need some way to interact with and remove your opponent’s biggest threats, even if you’re drafting an aggressive deck.
Look for “Finisher” cards: This is important for every deck, but especially if you draft control. It’s always good insurance to have a late-game threat that is hard to interact with such as Sphinx of the Guildpact or The Haunt of Hightower. After a long game, sometimes one big creature that can’t be blocked well or is hard to get rid of can absolutely seal a game.
These are the basics of how to prepare for and participate in a draft for new players on MTG Arena. Drafting can get very complicated. This is really just scratching the surface, but it should serve as a good starting point for those looking to get into drafting on Arena and in Magic: The Gathering in general. Thank you all for reading this draft guide, and I’ll see you in the arena!