Magic Drafting Primer

Designer: Richard Garfield

Today I am going over a Magic drafting primer.  The intention is to give new drafters a foundation on which to build but I’m hoping some veterans can compare their drafting technique to mine and get something out of this too.  Lately, the most popular technique is B.R.E.A.D., so I will use that as a basis, then discuss when to stick to it and when to stray from it.  The Magic world is huge, so today I will be talking about this in terms of the core set, but I am staying fairly general so that this will be applicable to other sets too.  Check out the video above or the text below.

Keys to Drafting:

  • You need to be able to value the cards in each pack based on your previously drafted cards.
  • Your cards need to work well together.
  • You need the correct balance of creatures, spells/abilities, and mana.

Sounds simple, right?  Kind of.  Perfecting these comes with time and experience, but keeping in mind the following guildelines can get you close.


B.R.E.A.D. gives you a drafting priority order and stands for Bombs, Removal, Effective/Efficient/Evasive, [Card] Advantage, and Dregs.  This isn’t the silver bullet, but it serves as a good foundation for your drafting.  Next, I will go through each of them along with some examples of each.


When these drop, you take control of the game.  They cannot be ridiculously expensive because then it’s hard to get them onto the battlefield.  This would be something like Garruk, Caller of Beasts, Jace, Memory Adept, Nightmare, or Shivan Dragon. Some cards, like Serra Angel or Air Servant are bordering on bombs, but usually won’t completely take over a game.  When those are available to you, the pick is not quite as straightforward, forcing you to consider more factors in making your pick, such as previously drafted colors and possible combos, but you’ll still usually pick the borderline bombs first too.


This is direct removal, like a Pacifism, Doom Blade, Shock, or Flames of the Firebrand.  Some, like Windstorm and Quag Sickness, have some conditions and restrictions, while others are expensive, like Chandra’s Outrage, but they are all still very effective removal and should be drafted after bombs.  The borderline removal cards are temporary ones like Disperse or Master of Diversion, but still create an opportunity to get through opponent defenses.


Evasive creatures are those that cannot be easily blocked, like when they have flying, unblockable, or deathtouch.  (examples: Charging Griffin, Phantom Warrior, Deadly Recluse)  The “E” category also includes Effective and Efficient creatures, often “two drops”, like Young Pyromancer and Child of the Night, and also creatures like Rootwalla, Voracious Wurm, and Giant Spider.  These types should be drafted after removal cards.

Aggressive/Card Advantage

“A” is for [Card] Advantage and refers to getting you extra cards from your deck or reducing the number your opponent gets.  The idea is that if you have more cards available to you than your opponent, you can get more onto the battlefield and increase your chances of winning.  This would include cards like Messenger Drake, Scroll Thief, or Divination.  It would also be a card like Flames of the Firebrand because a single card can get rid of multiple opponent cards.  Mana accelerators, like Verdant Haven also fit into this category.  On the flip side, drafting aura’s (creature enchantments) can really hurt your card advantage because a single removal card can take out two of your cards.  The “A” is sometimes referred to as Aggressive, and would include creatures like Rumbline Baloth.


These are usually sideboard cards that may help against some specific decks.  If there is a particularly dominant type of deck in a set, like UW flying, you may choose cards that will kill fliers, or if aggressive decks are likely to be used, maybe Crippling Blight would be worth grabbing if you see one late in a round.

Common Pitfalls

Following are some common pitfalls that newer drafters should keep in mind.

  • Do not pre-choose your colors.  If you go in saying “I’m going mono black no matter what!” you will almost surely lose.  Of course there is a small chance that mono black is actually the correct color set for you with the cards available, but you will lose far more than you will win if you do that.
  • Newer players often over-value big creatures and under-value smaller, more efficient creatures.  The latter should make up most of your creature set.
  • Do not spend too much effort hate drafting.  Keep in mind which colors players around you are pulling from the packs, but do not let it influence your decisions beyond helping you decide between two relatively equivalent cards.  Focus on which cards will help your deck instead of spending too much time trying to figure out which type of deck those around you are drafting.  Also, don’t rare draft if you’re serious about winning.
  • 17 land is your target, but if you have a very quick deck, you can manage with 16 to improve your non-land card advantage.  Sometimes you have to go with 18 if you have a particularly expensive deck, but this all depends on how much mana acceleration you include as well.  16 is your target for creatures, with more being just fine and less starting to get risky.


I have to reiterate that this is a framework to use as mastering Magic drafting cannot be done with a few rules alone.  It takes tons of tournament experience to know when to break them, like overlooking a removal card for one that will be extremely effective in your deck.  But overall, B.R.E.A.D. is a great starting point.  I hope this helped some of you – hopefully I will see you on the battlefield!

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