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Magic, The Gathering: Limited play is a new thing for me. I didn’t participate in this format until just a few months ago. However, I have really come to love it. The gist of limited play is that you and any other players participating buy packs, open them, and construct decks with them (keeping a pile of basic lands on hand for this purpose). This method of play adds a layer of strategy and surprise to deck construction, which takes me back to my very earliest days of magic, when I had so few cards that I had to play with the ones I had just bought, rather than pull from a large library of cards, or supplement my powerful decks with the best cards in my new packs. Additionally, limited play allows you to get more value from a pack of cards, as you get to keep the cards after you are done, so they still go into your library of cards for constructing decks. Finally, Limited play can lead you to new ideas, as you might pair cards in ways that hadn’t occurred to you to do so when sifting through your collection.
There are two forms of limited play that I’ve participated in, Drafting and Sealed games. Drafting requires 3 packs per person, whereas sealed games are done with 6 packs. Both have different strong points, which I will highlight here for the pure joy of talking about magic. In general, I'm just sort of riffing with these posts, and they aren't designed for brand new players who don't know the rules to magic.
Drafting has an entry fee of 3 packs per player, however, it also requires more than 2 players to work appropriately, and is generally played with 8 players (I usually draft with just 3). Each player opens a pack, picks one card, and then passes the rest to the next player. Then this process is repeated until you reach the end of the pack. Then you do the same for the remaining packs, switching the pass direction. Typically, the first few picks are very exciting and important, but by the end of a pack, mostly junk remains. It is like a mini game even before the actual game of magic, and I really enjoy it. It can be very tricky to know what to take and when, and sometimes if you are pursuing a given color or strategy, it may turn out another person in the group is chasing those same cards, and that can make it harder for you. A lot has been written on this subject, and my favorite MTG podcast, Limited Resources, is dedicated to drafting strategy.
In a sense, drafting is like a blind trade. Whenever you choose a card, the remaining cards are up for grabs, and there’s always a few other cards you have your eye on. It’s like you traded for them, but you don’t know who took them.
After you have been through all three packs, each player constructs a 40-card deck to play with. This usually means they choose about 23 cards out of 45 to go in the deck, and the rest goes into your sideboard, so there is plenty of wiggle room when making your selections. In between games you can switch out cards from your sideboard if you so choose.
The other Limited format I’ve played is called Sealed, though not nearly as often as I have played draft games. Sealed is similar to Draft, but different. In Sealed, every player opens 6 packs and makes a 40 card deck out of them. That’s 23 cards out of 90 this time, so there are a lot more cards, and your sideboard is huge. Because there is no draft, you play with the cards you open, which can feel a lot safer. At first I preferred this method greatly, however, I’ve found that the joy of pursuit that comes from drafting is really appealing, and, of course drafting is cheaper with just 3 packs. Additionally, in Sealed games I notice I often don't have enough cards in any given color to build a strong 2-color deck.
Most agree that two colors is the best in Limited Format. It gives you variety, but not so much that you might not get the mana you need. However, you don’t just want to take cards in your chosen color, willy-nilly. You want to take the best cards available, and craft a strategy on the fly. This strategy will inform your choices, as a new card may fit the dynamic of other cards you’ve chosen. However, you have to know when to let a good card pass by, if picking it up means going outside the colors you're focusing on, and potentially missing out on cards that are more directly useful to you, if not as powerful on their own.
Limited play a lot of fun, and there is a level playing field because everyone plays the same set, and no one knows what will be in the packs. This satisfies my first criteria of maximum fun, but it doesn't really work for the second criteria of saving money. However, this is where Cube drafting comes in, and I love cube drafting.
Cube drafting is, in essence, drafting from packs of cards you already own. A Cube is a name for a set of cards assembled for the express purpose of drafting. These cards are shuffled and dealt out in virtual packs for the purpose of drafting. I think that this is the next logical step for an MTG fan like myself, and I will talk about that more in my next post! Thanks for Reading,