How to Prepare for a Draft in 5 Easy Steps (and Sit Down with Confidence at Your Next Match)

prepareShowing up to a draft unprepared is overwhelming. When I did my first booster draft I had many questions such as: Which cards are good? How much are cards worth? What’s a good strategy? Are there new rules or abilities? What do they do?

Answering these questions ahead of time, and showing up prepared, will increase your chances of winning and help you have more fun because you can focus on the draft, deck building and game play.

Let’s look at five things you can do to prepare for a booster draft. The are:
1) Determine your goal
2) Review the format
3) Check in with the experts
4) Practice
5) Take the right gear 

Let’s begin.

1. Determine Your Goal

Before you start your draft, it is important to define your goals. What do you want to get out of the draft? What are you looking for when you open your packs? For me, there are three criteria I try to meet when I draft: winning the draft (and getting more cards as a reward), pulling money cards, and pulling cards I can use in other decks. If I get any two of these three, I consider the draft a success.

If my goal is to win, I will consciously pass up cards that are worth more money in order to pick cards that fit my strategy and help me win the draft.

If my goal is to pull money cards, then when I rip an expensive card, I will take it even if it is unplayable in my draft deck. I will use these cards to trade with others after the draft or sell them to the store for store credit (I rarely do this though because stores offer a fraction of what the card is worth).

If my goal is to pull cards I need in other decks, then when I see one, I’ll take it even if it doesn’t fit in my draft deck. This is similar to pulling money cards, only the card might not have a high monetary value, and I take it home to use it instead of trading it.

For example, I have a Ghave, Guru of Spores Commander deck that abuses +1/+1 counters and tokens. If I had the third goal in mind while drafting and opened a Hydra Broodmaster, I would take it, even if I’m drafting a white/blue deck, so I could take it home and use it.

Choosing a goal and sticking to it is the first step to preparing for your draft.

2. Review the Format

Once you know what you want out of the draft, you must familiarize yourself with the cards you might see when you open your packs. I use the Gatherer or MTG Salvations spoiler pages to look over the entire set.

When using the Gatherer, sometimes they have the set or block pre-filtered and put a shortcut on the main page as seen in the screen shot.

prepare for a booster draft

If there is no shortcut, then follow these steps to filter out the set you want to review.

1) Click on “Advanced” above the search bar
2) Select “or” from the drop down box next to Expansion
3) Type the set you are looking for in the search box next to “expansion” and click “add”
4) You’ll see the criteria appear on the right; click the “search” button and let it do its magic.


MTG Salvation is a great site. In addition to a very active forum, they post the cards from each new set as soon as they are leaked. When a new set is about to come out I always check this site to see what’s new.

I would read through every card at least once to become familiar with the mechanics and keywords of the set. Look for synergies and combos.

For example, the mechanic Constellation was first introduced in Journey Into Nyx. It is an ability that triggers whenever an enchantment enters the battlefield. I made sure to take note of how many enchantments there were in the set so I could get an idea of how often I could reasonably expect a Constellation card to trigger.

If your goal is to pull money cards, make sure you review prices before you play. Sites like TCG Player and Star City Games will tell you how much cards are going for. If you intend to sell your cards for store credit ask, the store if they have a buy list for the cards in the format you are playing.

If drafting online check MTGO Traders for prices. I know it’s weird but MTGO card prices are different then the prices for paper cards. In fact, MTGO cards are valued in terms of Tickets. So a card with a price of 1.75 is actually 1.75 MTGO tickets (or Tix). These tickets are used to enter events.

Finally, take the time to evaluate the cards so you have an idea of what’s good and what’s junk.

3. Check In with The Experts

After you review the set, it’s a great idea to review what the experts say about the cards. By tapping into the knowledge of pros, you will raise your level of understanding and see the set in an elevated light.

I recommend reading Luis Scott-Vargas’ (LSV) and Conley Woods’ reviews as well as listening to the Limited Resources podcast episodes that review the set.

For example, when I was preparing to draft Journey Into Nyx, I read LSV’s articles here, Conley’s articles, posted here, and listened to Limited Resources episodes #230 and #231. With each new set, Limited Resources does a rules podcast and a review of the commons, uncommons and rares. These are a must-listen!

Seeing what the experts say provides a sanity check to your own review and will prepare you for when you open that first pack.

4. Practice

Once you have an understanding of the cards and how strong they are, it’s time to practice. The more you practice the more prepared you’ll be.

I recommend using draft simulators because they are a free way to sharpen your skills. There are many draft simulators out there, but the one I like the most is Beastaire. I like it because you can pick the three packs you want to draft, and after you’ve made your selections, you can build a deck and compare it to the others who were at your table. (All bots). The other simulator I like is Wizards draft simulator because you can draft the same pack all week and improve your picks.

Practice evaluating cards and making the best selection. Practice drafting different strategies and color combinations. Practice as much as you can (at least three times) before you go to your actual draft, and you will be more confident and ready to play.

5. Take the Right Gear

Having the right accessories can make your drafting experience smoother and more enjoyable. Before you leave for the store, make sure you have your DCI card, sleeves, counters, tokens, a playmat and basic lands.

Your DCI card (Duelists’ Convocation International) has your DCI number on it and is used to track your points when you participate in any sanctioned events. If you do not have a DCI card, no problem. Arrive a few minutes early, and ask your store for one. They will be happy to set you up.

I have a set of 40 card sleeves I take to every Limited tournament. I count them multiple times before I go to make sure there are exactly 40. That way when I sleeve my deck there is no doubt I’ve met the 40 card minimum. This also restricts me to playing exactly 40 cards, no more. (You should never play more because it dilutes the consistency of your deck.)

COUNTERS (optional)
The most common counters these days are dice. Having a few on hand never hurts.

TOKENS (optional)
Most sets have cards that create tokens. IF you have tokens of the current set lying around, feel free to take a few. This is completely optional since anything can be used to represent tokens. (I’ll take cards from my sideboard and turn them face down if I don’t have the right token.)

Playmats are a great way to protect your cards from rough tables and are a fun way to spice up your side of the board.

Taking your own basic land cards saves you from rushing to the land station and being caught in the crowd of people trying to pull lands for their decks. When you have your own lands, you can remain seated, build your deck and have more time to play test your deck before the first round starts. I take 10 lands of each color. This has worked great for me so far.

Wrapping Up

By following these five easy steps:
1) Determine your goal
2) Review the format
3) Check in with the experts
4) Practice
5) Take the right gear

You will show up at your next draft with more confidence. You won’t have the bewildered feeling I felt at my first draft having no idea what the cards did or how much they were worth. By preparing and having more knowledge you increase your chances of winning the draft and taking home more prizes.

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