Turning The Key To Mastering Draft – Kyle McGinty

Turning The Key To Mastering Draft

The competitive season is upon us. Although the first North American Crystal Cup has finished, there will be many more following soon.  A few of those Crystal Cups will contain one of my favorite formats - DRAFT.

Draft is a special limited format where players open packs and select one card from a pack and proceed to pass the cards to other players in your pod.  Each choice made from the pack has many factors to consider - making draft a challenging format to master.

The most well known card game that has a draft format is Magic.  With magic, players refer to an acronym “BREAD” which can be used to prioritize what type of cards should be selected during a draft in order to craft a cohesive deck:

B - Bombs, Big bodies (e.g. forwards) that end games quick.  Other cards that could fall under the “Bombs” category are backups or summons that have unique game altering effects (e.g. Ark).  Early on, Bombs can be used to identify what elements you should focus your deck towards.

R - Removal, These are the cards that answer questions.  Generally these are your summons that help you remove other forwards or win combats.  In some cases, forwards, backups, and monsters could also fall under this category (e.g. Sakura, Deathgaze).

E - Evasion, Remember Red Mage of opus 1, yeah those types of cards are very good.  These cards can be used to force damage through especially on board stalls.  

A - Aggression, Turning bodies sideways wins games. Brave is a strong keyword when it comes to winning attrition, as it allows you to attack and defend. The best offense is sometimes a good defense.  These cards generally correspond to forwards with on-curve (or above curve) stats with respect to cost that can be used to apply pressure to your opponent’s life.

D - Duds, These are the cards that no one wants, the leftovers. Usually, all the cards in a set for this game can be used for one archetype or another. But sometimes you will have cards that just won’t work for you or anyone else at the table.  (e.g. Doctor Cid :D)

Although Magic has been used to explain how draft works In Final Fantasy, we have to draft an additional card type that Magic players do not have to worry about - backups.  In Magic, packs generally have 0-2 lands in their packs based on the set/format.  After a Magic draft has been completed, players are free to add as many lands into their deck (with any configuration) as they wish on top of any lands they choose to draft during the actual draft. This allows players to focus on drafting cards that can be used to win games rather than the resources used to cast those cards. In contrast, we as Final Fantasy players will generally benefit from drafting Backups.  Because it is possible to play a game without any backups by discarding cards to create CP. Unless your deck strategy is super aggressive, a deck without any backups will generally lose the long game to another deck with backups because of the card advantage the backup-playing player obtains over time.

With this in mind, I think it would be appropriate to create an acronym for us Final Fantasy players.  I present TOAST!

T - Threats, This is the combination of both Bombs, Aggression, and Evasion from Magic. Limited is a 6 damage format in FFTCG, which means the game rewards those who can properly angle their aggressive assaults. Take big body bombs first, then the cards that help you get through in other ways (e.g. can’t be blocked, dull/freeze effects).  I like to prioritize cards that create questions (e.g. forwards that deal damage) over the ones that are answers (e.g. removal spells).

O - Ongoings, These are all the cards you plan to remain in play for most of the game, most of the time that means backups, but some monsters (e.g. Lava Spider) and even a few forwards will fit this category. Amassing a board at a better rate than your opponent is a sure fire way to secure victory.

A - Answers, These are the cards that solve potential problems. Most of the time in the form of removal of some sort. But cards that help you win combat (e.g. Gippal, Iroha, Light Rain) can also be viewed as an Answer as this helps you win combats and break open board stalls.

S - Synergies, Each set has a handful of archetypes and sub cycles that create high impact synergy plays. Knowing these combos and being able to capitalize on their existence will make you a more adapt drafter.  For example, drafting mono dragoons in Opus 8 allows you to take advantage of the 4 cp (8k) haste forwards and Water Freya giving it haste.

T - The rest of the cards, The rest of the cards.  These could be cards that are limited in effect or have sub-optimal stats.  Sometimes you just need to play some of these cards if your draft is bad so that you have on-color CP or enough forwards for the deck.  

In addition to becoming very intimate with Bread or Toast, there are also a few more rules to walking away with a great draft deck. Stay tuned next time... just kidding here they are below in sequential order:

  1. Stay Hydrated and Fed
    • A draft is a constant flow of thought which can be taxing on the mind. Be prepared to have the energy you need to get through it.
  2. Know the Archetypes
    • Each set will present a series of archetypes. Learning these comes best through exploration and playing the format. I can say that opus 8 makes good use of a few different types of Standard Unit archetypes. Look into them...
  3. Prioritize your Picks
    • The takeaway here from me is this, follow Toast to the point that it makes a cohesive picture. If your missing one element of it try to fill that hole by prioritizing the missing link. Be adapting during the draft process so that what may have been a bad draft at the start will turn into a great one.
  4. Read the Room
    • React to the picks from your left.  If you see that certain colors are not coming from that direction, you can guess that the player may be actively picking cards in that element .
    • Force the picks on your right
      • This is about sending the right signal to your opponent, try not to leave good cards that are in your archetype in the pack when you pass it.
    • Set up reasonable expectations
      • By reading the signals and sending the right ones you can get a great idea of what is to come.
  5. Turn away from your intended plan
    • Last but not least. I fully believe that turning away and taking on different directions is key. Recognizing which archetype is open based on the picks that are remaining will allow you to create the best deck possible.

In the spirit of keeping it short, that’s all final fantasy folks.

- Kyle McGinty


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