Team Rochester Drafts: Basic And Advanced Strategies

Magic players are notorious for complaining about bad luck and wishing that skill was a bigger factor in determining the winner of the game. What’s that old expression?”Be careful what you wish for”? Team Rochester Draft is the most skill-intensive format Magic has to offer. That’s great news if your team is better prepared than the opposing team, and really bad news if you’re not. There are no excuses. If you want the edge (and in this format, it can be a big one), you’re going to have to work for it – and I’ll show you how.

Last time, I talked about Team Limited in general, and gave specifics on the often-ignored half of the Team Limited format: Team Sealed deck. This time, the focus shifts to Team Rochester draft.

As I said before, I feel Team Rochester draft is the best draft format of all time. It doesn’t have the”blind picks” problem of booster draft or the”get seated next to J. Random Drafter” problem of regular Rochester draft. You also have the additional coolness of drafting to play against one opponent when you each know all of each others’ picks, while at the same time thinking about the needs of the team as a whole. All these things are accomplished, it’s a format that’s faster and has less”dead” time then regular Rochester draft.

How Team Rochester Works

When you sign your team up for a team event, each of the three players on your team gets a letter designation: A, B, or C. The purpose of this letter designation is to determine who plays who when two teams face off.

When you sit down for Rochester draft, Player A will be on the right, Player B in the center, and Player C on the left. The other team will do the same from the perspective of their side of the table, so you will be seated diagonally opposite from your counterpart.



The winner of the coin flip determines which team opens the first pack. Opening the fist packs is often refereed to as”kicking off,” and the other team is said to be”receiving.” Player B of the opening team lays out the first pack. There is a thirty-second review period. Players can look at (and show their teammates) cards they drafted during this review. After the thirty-second review, players have four seconds for each pick. Picks proceed in a clockwise fashion, with each player taking one card; after all six players get a card from the pack, the sixth player takes a second cards and the draft continues in a counter-clockwise fashion. The change of direction is called”the bounce.” After all six players have gotten their second card from the pack, there is another bounce returning to clockwise picks.

The opening pack goes as follows: Kicking team player B takes a card. Kicking team player C takes a card. Receiving team player A takes a card. Receiving team player B takes a card. Receiving team player C takes a card. Kicking team player A takes a card. The bounce, kicking team player A takes their second card. Receiving team player C takes their second card. Receiving team player B takes their second card. Receiving team player A takes their second card. Kicking team player C takes their second card. Kicking team player B takes their second card. Bounce, kicking team player B takes their third card. Kicking team player C takes their third card. Receiving team player A takes the last card.

After finishing the kicking team’s player B’s packs, kicking team player C opens their first pack – and the draft continues in the same clockwise fashion. Each player in turn opens their first pack. After kicking player A finishes their first pack, there is a bounce in pack opening. Player A opens their second pack and the drafting is done in a counterclockwise fashion. After all six players have finished with their second pack, there is another bounce. Kicking player B will open their third pack and the draft will return to clockwise picks for the final six packs.

(It is simpler than it looks once you see it in action – The Ferrett)

During the entire course of the draft, there is no talking allowed. Players are allowed to communicate non-verbally with body language and hand signals.

Preparation For Team Draft

Get Ready To Work

Part 1 covered the importance of choosing teammates who work well together, are of the same skill level, and want put in equivalent amounts of work. The team you chose will be put though the paces in getting ready for Team Rochester draft.

Magic players are notorious for complaining about bad luck and wishing that skill was a bigger factor in determining the winner of the game. What’s that old expression?”Be careful what you wish for”? Team Rochester Draft is the most skill-intensive format Magic has to offer. That’s great news if your team is better prepared than the opposing team, and really bad news if you’re not. There are no excuses. If you want the edge (and in this format, it can be a big one), you’re going to have to work for it.

Know The Matchups, Card-By-Card

In Team Rochester, it is critically important to know the matchups and card interaction. As the draft progresses, you will see every card the only person you have to play against drafts, and he will see yours. What will determine who will win the match is not whose deck is better, but whose deck is better against the other player’s deck. It doesn’t matter if your deck would be horrible in a regular tournament; all that matters is if it can beat the guy across the draft table.

You will need to test every color combination and archetype to determine what has an edge over what and why. For example, you may find in the course of your testing that Black/White Clerics defeats Green/Red Beasts most of the time because Beast deck gets locked down on the ground by the Clerics’ Damage prevention. Once you know why the cleric deck is winning, try adding cards that might mess with their lockdown strategy of the beast deck (like Wave of Indifference or Centaur Glade). Does that change the outcome? If it does, are there cards you can add to the Cleric deck to defeat those new strategies?

This knowledge will allow you to do two things: First, you can set your team up with favorable deck types against your opponents. Secondly, knowing how each deck type wins in a given matchup will allow you to draft intelligently against your opponent. You can concentrate on picking the creatures and spells that will give them the most trouble, and try to prevent them from drafting the cards that will be a big problem for you.

Memory Skills

Memory is a big part of team Rochester Draft. During your practice drafts, try and remember the cards that will have an effect on your match. Big bombs like Insurrection or Akroma’s Vengeance are the most important; next on the list are instants that can be used as combat tricks, like Wirewood Pride or Shock. The final important category to remember is Morph creatures. If you can remember these cards, you will have a much better chance of winning your match.

Non-Verbal Communication

This is the skill that defines Team Rochester Draft. If you have ever get a chance to watch a established team like Illuminati or Your Move Games draft against first-timers, you’ll see the incredible edge honed non-verbal communication skills give. A practiced team can communicate every nuance of the draft, while a novice team has trouble communicate the most basic ideas to each other.

In order to make best use of your practice time to give your team an edge in the communication department, you will need two decide on two things with your teammates: What do we want to be able to say and how do we want to say it?

Once you have established your team’s sign language, try it out in practice drafts. You may find you want to communicate something you don’t have a signal for; if that comes up enough, make up a sign for it and add it to your language.

Remember to keep your signals simple and distinct. You don’t want to have two signs that can be easily confused with one another! As I said before, your team will want to develop its own list of things you want to be able to say, but here is a list of basic concepts you will want to be able to communicate:

  • “I want this card.”

  • “You should take this card.”

  • “What cards do you guys want?”

  • “Counterdraft this card.”

  • “What colors is that player playing?”

  • “Black.”

  • “Blue.”

  • “Green.”

  • “Red.”

  • “White.”

  • “Remember the card that player just picked.”

Advanced Draft Theory And Strategies:

Kicking Vs. Receiving

While there is some debate on the issue, I am of the feeling that it is better to receive than to kick. If the other team is forced to open, you get to see what card their B and C player take before your team has to make any picks. This can give you insight into their color preferences, and allow your team to react to them.

Protected Seats And Bounce Seats

Unlike regular Rochester Draft, in Team Rochester Draft entire sides of the table are working together. This means when player A opens a pack with clockwise pick direction, he and player B will not take the card Player C wants for his deck. So in Onslaught and Scourge, Seat C will get three first picks, while seat B gets two in each, and seat A will only get one. Obviously, those numbers are reversed when the direction of the picks shifts to counterclockwise in Legions.

The more protected a seat is for its first picks, the worse off it is for its second pick out of the pack, because the pack moves though enemy territory for the bounce. The draft seats that are unprotected for their 1st picks have more protection for the bounce.

This means that if a color has a great disparity in power of cards, it does better in a protected seat. The protected seat will allow the player to grab the first pick, and the second cards of that color is probably bad enough that it’s okay that the other team will have an opportunity to take it away.

For the more balanced colors with few bombs and few bad cards, the unprotected seat is the place to be. Sure, you won’t get the first picks, but they aren’t that much better than the 2nd and 3rd picks of that color. Your teammates to your left will allow you to pick up the extra card on the bounce so you can take advantage of your color’s depth.

Fixing Colors

If you feel very strongly about the best seat for a color, or your team members are not very versatile in what decks they play well, it may be a good idea for you to fix some or all of your color picks before the draft. In this scenario, you decide before the draft who will play what color regardless of how the packs open.

This will give you the advantage of no wasted picks, good color seating, and playing to the strengths of your team. It also has the substantial drawbacks of not being able to react to the packs or the opposing team. If you use this strategy, your team should be well aware of what cards they need to pick up to win the otherwise-disadvantageous matchups.


This is something you shouldn’t try until you are very comfortable with your team’s communication skills. The idea behind misinformation is to mess with the opposing team’s head and not give them time to react or cause them to mispick. In a scenario where you have some extra time and your team knows what they want to pick, you may be able to throw your opponents off with a little misinformation.

A good time for this is the thirty-second review period. The team who gets the first picks out of the pack often make it clear to everyone, including the opponents, what cards they are going to take. The opposing team will then take advantage of the extra time to plan out what they will take.

Once your team knows what they will pick, the you can give your teammate the”Misinformation.” signal and start motioning as if your team has changed their minds and are taking different cards. Your opponents will have to change their plans in response. Then, when your picks come up, they will have to react on the fly, and may make some mistakes.

Another misinformation tool is to act like you are afraid of a card you aren’t really afraid of. Signal as if you want to take a card because you’re afraid your opponent might get it. Your teammates will insist you take a different card. With any luck, your opponent will snatch up (and perhaps even play) the card in question, leaving you to get back the card you really wanted as a bounce pick.

Running The Draft

Back in the early days of Team Rochester Draft, the great Jon Finkel originated the concept of one man running the draft. Jon was the leader of Team Antarctica, which also featured Steve and Dan OMS. Despite the very high skill level of his teammates, Jon would run his entire team’s draft practically on his own. Every time Steve or Dan’s picks came up, Jon would point to a card, and they would pick it.

Jon kept track of what cards his teammates had, what their opponents had, and what he had. He would attempt to manipulate the draft such that his team had two or preferably three favorable matchups. It was the most impressive display of memory and Magic skill I’ve ever seen.

This one-man-in-charge system has some clear advantages. It’s easier for one person to make quick decisions, and there is no room for miscommunication in those decisions. It’s also easier for a single person to think of the big picture, such as taking a hit in one matchup for the benefit of the other two.

While I expect few (if any) players could pull of what Jon did for Team Antarctica, a leader with a slightly lesser role can retain some of the advantages. He could determine what colors the players on your team will play, or to make final decisions if there are disagreements.

If you do decide to try having someone run your draft, they should sit in the middle (the B seat) so they can easily see all the cards and communicate with the other players on the team.