Tangent: Drafting and Other Fun Card Mechanics

So a few months back I got back into Magic the Gathering, getting revved up and attending the Theros release stuff, and getting super-excited I had a deck with two Abhorrent Overlords (Even though I built the rest of the deck like crap and won diddly). While I have fallen off of the wagon in the intervening months due to the holidays and a busy work and home life, something I really, really like about Magic is the system for Drafting.

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Drafting is also a mechanic I really like about Seven Wonders as well, and the mechanic is a great way in general to ensure that players get a good gradient of cards, from “Oh God I need dis” to cards that are downright horrible and completely unwanted/loved (Well Hello There, Mr. Chimney Imp!). In Magic, the choices range from the gotta-have-it to the completely unusable (Be it color or general usefulness in your deck), and Seven Wonders mostly ranges from very-useful to somewhat-useful or, at worst, marginally-useful. Another wonderful aspect is the balancing factor it presents, as you can’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on dual lands, black lotuses (Loti?), and the like in order to have a massive leg-up on your opponent. True, luck can sometimes play heavily into the success of a draft deck, but in general a seasoned Magic player can draft against a less-experienced player and expect to usually win, or at least be on an even footing.

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A Magic player’s reaction when opening a pack and finding a God or a planeswalker

Another fun card-picking mechanic similar to drafting is setting out a number of “piles” of cards, initially starting at 1 card each. When a player gets to pick, they select one pile and take it, and add a card to the other piles. In this way players eventually end up adding more cards to a “bad” pile until it gets so attractive a player just ups and takes it. This is essentially the basis of the Winchester drafting for Magic, but I’m fairly sure I’ve seen similar mechanics elsewhere (For cards at least. Non-card versions of this can be seen with Smallworld’s “Pay a gold to each race you skip when picking a race” mechanic and Lords of Waterdeep “Put a Victory Point on unbought buildings” mechanic).

Something I want to eventually try (Since I’m not currently familiar with a game that does it) is have drafting in a game where A) You have to use all of the cards you draft, not just some of them, and B) Some cards suck, for you the player playing them. Normally in Magic, people often “hate-draft,” which refers to purposefully picking cards you don’t want/need because they hamper your opponent’s plans for deck-building. While the use-all-of-the-cards game concept would need to use a Winchester-style draft (Since single-card drafting would basically feel and end up exactly how regular drafting ends up, with the dregs cards always being picked last), I think there could be some interesting mechanics there.

Hell, you could even have the cards drafted become immediately available for use, so the drafting is in real-time as you’re playing, and some cards affect the stacks being drafted (Like discard the top X cards, or discard X cards from the stack, etc). This would be in addition to the battle aspects of the card game as well, and…huh. I think this will work well with a card game I’ve been working on for a few months. Now to scurry off and figure out how best to integrate this drafting into the card game…

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