Cranial Insertion: First Draft

Cranial Insertion
First Draft
or, Picky Picky

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler

On the tournament floor at Grand Prix Phoenix, the other judges and I noticed something about RAV-block limited: there are simply no new questions. This format's been a tad overexposed, and while it's fun to play, it's bad for Cranial Insertion!

Some of the common questions that came up during the weekend came from the side events, where relatively new players from around the Southwest drifted in to play Standard, 2HG, and drafts. I'm sure the best questions came from the Legacy side events, but at that time I was on the other side of the building running 2HG for iPods, where the pros got surprisingly beaten down. But never fear, Time Spiral looks to be all of the wackiness of Legacy crammed into one set, and its prerelease is less than two weeks away! Start sending in your temporal questions to [email][email protected][/email]. We'll send back an answer as soon as we have a FAQ, and we can include your question in our big Time Spiral article last month!

Don't pick that card.
Q: What exactly is drafting?

A: Booster drafting (or just "drafting") is a form of limited tournaments in which players pass around packs and pick out a card to use as the packs go around. Unlike sealed deck tournaments, where you use what you open, draft tournaments rely on skilled card selection (or opening one bomb rare).

For sanctioned events, each player receives any configuration of packs in any number – as long as each player has the same set of packs. The order in which to open the packs is decided by the tournament official. At his signal, each player opens their first pack and selects one card. Then they pass that pack to their left, and select one card from the pack they just received from their right. Repeat this until the first packs are gone. After that, the organizer will signal to open the second pack, and you repeat the whole thing again, except that this time you pass to your right. Continue this alternation between left and right until all of the packs have been opened, drafted, and cursed at.

Once all of the packs have been sufficiently blasphemed, players construct a 40 card deck using only the cards they've opened and any amount of non-snow basic lands. With decks in hand, the players play against the other players with whom they drafted. So if you're drafting in a circle (called a "pod") with John and Joe, but Bob is drafting in another pod, you'll play against John or Joe but never Bob.

Q: What sets can we use for drafts?

A: Any and all sets are legal for draft, but Un- sets can't be drafted for sanctioned events. So for a sanctioned draft, you could have one pack of Alpha, one pack of Homelands, one pack of Urza's Saga, and one pack of Legions, so long as each player has one of each of those packs. (Most drafts use three packs out of convenience and cost, but this is not a requirement!)

For unsanctioned drafts, you can break free and do some really weird things. One popular draft format is Free-for-all Draft, where each player brings any three 15-card boosters to the table and opens them in chronological order of release date. This can't be sanctioned because each player does not have the same packs, but it's very interesting to mix up all of the weird cards. Try Ice Age, Apocalypse, and Ninth Edition to open up painlands.

Another sort of draft is tournament pack draft. Instead of opening boosters, you open one tournament pack each and only pass in one direction. Take out the basic lands, first, even if they're shiny. This can't be sanctioned because booster drafts require, well, booster packs.

A third type of draft is repack draft. Either take real repacks (one rare, three uncommons, eleven commons), all rares (preferably terribly bad rares for a Reject Rare Draft), or focus on some other theme, and draft with those. This one can't be sanctioned because all limited formats require sealed product.

Q: Can I look at the cards I've picked?

A: No, never. You must build your deck with the cards face-down in front of you. Good luck.

Well, okay, you can look at them for deck building. You can also look at your cards after a pack is entirely drafted but before the next pack is opened. But never, ever while cards are going around the table. Imagine how easy it would be to accidentally pass your drafted cards.

Yes, you can see what you've already picked on MTGO. This is because there is nothing to stop you from taking notes on what you've picked and referring to them, and no one can see you because you're in your office/bedroom/pool. However, do note that in real life you can not take any sort of notes during the draft.

Q: What is Rochester draft?

A: Rochester draft is much like Licids. It doesn't exist. *waves hand*

Rochester draft used to be a finisher for premier events, but everyone hated it so much that is it no longer used except for a modified version for team drafts. In this draft, the fifteen cards were laid out face-up on a table, and players took turns picking one.

Do you see the problems?

Not only do you see what everyone else picks, you also have to wait for them to make those picks. And then repeat this for (in an 8-man, 3-pack-per-player pod) 24 packs. Not the most exciting of formats.

Q: Is there any use in drafting ten of the same card other than to stop other people from getting them?

A: Well, you could play with them. In limited formats, the 4-of rule does not exist. Anything you open or draft is fair game for your deck!

Q: Is it bad if I peek at what the guy next to me is drafting?

A: That would be what is called "The Nosy Goblin". Nosy Goblins will find themselves disqualified for either Unsporting Conduct -- Severe or Cheating -- Other. Either way, they won't find themselves finishing their draft.

What does everyone else do if a Nosy Goblin gets Swatted? They keep on going. The Goblin takes the cards he's drafted and goes to the graveyard.

"I want to draft this card!"
"No, let's draft THIS card!"
Q: Can we run a sanctioned 2HG draft?

A: Not yet. Wizards posted a preliminary design for 2HG draft in this article, but it is by no means final – they're still tinkering.

For those who haven't seen it, the first draft of 2HG drafting seats four teams around a table, and each team receives six packs. Each team opens one pack, picks two cards, passes them and picks two more from the pack they're given, and so on. Feel free to run casual events like this – it's fun!

Q: Starting a 2HG tournament, we're really hungry. Can my teammate build my deck while I get us food?

A: That is acceptable. Deck building is a shared duty, so one player can foist it upon the other.

Q: Can my teammate play my turn for me while I run to the bathroom?

A: This, however, is not acceptable. Each player must play for him- or herself. At no time in a game may a player manipulate a teammate's cards in any way or touch them except to point one out. (There are obvious exceptions, though, such as your teammate playing an enchantment on one of your creatures or if his card falls off the table. Use common sense to parse this rule and you should be fine.)

Q: There are a hundred million creatures on the board, and we want to be really careful to make sure that we don't lose. Is it really that bad if we spend a lot of time thinking?

A: It's still slow play, and you can receive warnings for it. There may be a hundred million creatures on the board, but they're probably either all the same token creature or they didn't get there all at once. In general, a complicated game state is not a reason to play slowly because those complications built up little by little. If it's down to do-or-die and someone's going to win in by the next turn, you can play just a bit slower than usual – because the appropriate pace of play is no longer the same as it was on turn 2 - but not SLOW slow.

Q: If I cast Bond of Agony with X as 10, the other team takes 20, right?

A: Sure, and so does yours. First you'll pay 10 life, and then your teammate will lose 10 life from Bond since it hits each other player.

Q: What will Sway of the Stars do in 2HG?

A: It will probably get you beaten. First everyone shuffles things and draws seven, then each player's life becomes 7. Since both of your life totals are being set to 7, the team's life becomes 14.

Q: If game one of a 2HG match ends in a draw, and we have time for game two, can we sideboard for that?

A: No. At no point in any 2HG format do you have a sideboard.

Q: Can I show my teammate what I see with Lurking Informant?

A: Sure. Any information in-game available to you is also available to your teammate.

Note that this is not necessarily true in other team formats. In three-player team tournaments, where you play three simultaneous matches, you can't peek at your teammate's opponent's library and tell him. You did not gain this information from inside the game, so you can't pass it on.

Deepthroat is apparently
a member of House Dimir.
Q: My opponent hit me with Lurking Informant, but when I picked up the card to show him, I accidentally flipped it all the way up and saw it, too. What now?

A: That would be "Looking at Extra Cards". The resolution is to shuffle all previously unknown cards in the library and put previously known cards back where they were known to be. Then the Informant player looks at the new top card.

Of course, if the judge thinks you did this on purpose to shuffle the top card away from the Informant's knife, you're in deep, deep trouble. The best solution is to let your opponent pick up the card. If he accidentally reveals it, that's not a problem – and if he otherwise messes up, it's not YOUR problem.

Q: I look at the top card of my opponent's library with Mishra's Bauble, and it's Kokusho, the Evening Star. He has some dredge cards in his graveyard, so I want him to dredge Kokusho away. Can I say "Oh, just a Swamp," and put it back?

A: That is a legal move. The top card of your opponent's library is hidden information, and you are not required to make truthful statements about hidden information.

Q: If I reveal cards for Martyr of Ashes, can I put them back in my hand before my opponent realizes what cards they are?

A: No, that entirely defeats the purpose of revealing them. You show them, they get to look and read, and then when they're done, you can put them back.

Q: If I Shining Shoal for 10 in response to Wildfire, can I save more than one creature?

A: Unless your creatures are all matchsticks, yes. You can choose how to split up the damage prevention from Shining Shoal in any way so long as 10 damage is prevented (or less if you have only one or two creatures).

Q: Will Ivory Mask save me from the damage from Cryoclasm?

A: No, but it'll make you look pretty. Cryoclasm can not target you unless you somehow become a land – it only targets the land that's getting blown up. The damage to you is incidental and untargeted.

Q: What do I do if Karplusan Minotaur gets dealt three damage by its flips and there are still flips to do?

A: You stop playing it that way and do it correctly, which is much more fun. For a Minotaur with 45 age counters on it, you flip all 45 coins first, and then after all of the flipping is done, the triggered abilities all go on the stack.

We'll be back next week with our last article before Time Spiral takes us on the wayback machine. You won't want to miss this one, since Thijs has a very special announcement for you all. One which does not involve llamas AT ALL.

I know, I know. How can it be that special without any llamas? Trust me, it's important.

Until next time, remember: You can pick your nose, and you can pick your cards, but you can't pick cards with your nose, and picking your nose with cards will hurt.

-Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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